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ANGRY! LESBIAN! SPACE! PRISON!

Chapter Text

Spencer isn’t sorry she killed Toby. She’s just sorry she got blood on her favorite black hoodie in the process. Seriously, it was a bitch to wash out.

And it’s weird, because she remembers what happened -- the croquet mallet and the cracking sound his skull made (...all eighteen times) -- but after that, it’s a blur. She knows she’s missing time but doesn’t know how much, and where the hell is she, anyway? And why is there a fucking bag over her head?

If the two women dragging her around don’t let go soon and tell her what the hell is going on, she’ll be adding even more bodies to her count. That is, if she can get her strength back. Her senses are weakened, but Spencer can tell she’s groggy -- fuzzy, like her brain has been stuffed with cotton balls -- and seriously dehydrated. It scares her that she’s not sweating, given how damn hot her face is right now. Her throat is scratchy and dry, and the hot air she’s breathing inside this bag burns on its way down.

She hears what sounds like a heavy, metal door close behind her – but it’s hard to tell – and she’s slammed into a chair. One of the cops lets go of her arm and starts handcuffing her to something.

“Where is my mother!” Spencer yells. “This is bullshit! I’m a Hastings, goddamnit! You will never get away with treating me like this!”

There’s a sarcastic mumble from the cop furthest away, but Spencer can’t make it out over her grunting and the rattling against metal rings. The door opens again, and Spencer whips around even though everything is black. She’s going to run out of breathable air soon.

“Thank you, Eggs,” a new voice says. “Thank you, Detective Ravioli. You may go.”

“It’s Rizzoli.”

A brief pause. “I hear no difference.”

The door in the distance opens and closes again. Soft footsteps circle Spencer as she jerks furiously against the chains. Her wrists are killing her, but she’s not giving up without a fight. “Where the hell is my mother!” It’s time for answers, now.

Without warning, the hood is painfully ripped off, and Spencer gasps, startled, at the rush of cool air against her face. Her pupils constrict suddenly, as all her senses adjust to the sharp contrast of her new surroundings. She’s in a gray room with a giant curtain on the wall to her right, doors on two of the other sides, a table a few feet from her, and a bright light overhead. But mostly, all Spencer can see is a tall, blonde woman in a navy-blue tracksuit, six inches from her face.

“So,” the woman says very matter-of-factly, but friendly, “I hear you like to kill people.”

Spencer doesn’t so much as blink. No daughter of Veronica Hastings would ever respond to such obvious baiting. Still, something about this woman exudes power, despite the fact that she’s practically wearing pajamas. Through her haze -- much milder now, thankfully -- Spencer fixes on the woman’s eyes and just glares back. “Where. Is. My. Mother.”

The woman starts pacing around the room, and Spencer instantly feels the familiarity of a cat-and-mouse game.

“You’re a tough girl, Hastings. Determined, ambitious, mentally unstable but with an arrogant flair and cheekbones that could cut glass. You remind me of a young Sue Sylvester. Only…” The woman leans in close again to whisper, “At least I had the basic sense to dispose of the bodies.” Sue holds her gaze for a moment to let that sink in, then glances down. “And a better rack.” She taps Spencer’s forehead with her finger three times as she says, “I guess good grades aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.” And she grins, clearly enjoying herself.

“Don’t touch me,” Spencer growls, trying to back away even though there’s nowhere to go. “You can’t keep me here!”

What the hell kind of police interrogation is this?

“Ohh, I don’t think you’re going anywhere…” Sue says, resuming her pacing with a small skip in her step.

“I know my rights. You can’t question me without my lawyer present, and you clearly have no idea who you’re dealing with,” she laughs. Spencer gives her best Hastings glare, the one that makes babies cry and accidentally killed her pet fish when she was five.

Sue just laughs and says, “This is my favorite part,” like she’s sharing a special secret with an old friend. Walking over to the heavy, maroon curtain, she pauses and turns to Spencer. “Tell me again how your mother’s on her way here right now?”

And with a dramatic flourish, she throws the curtain back to reveal a giant window and the empty, terrifying vastness of space – still, dark, and infinite. A few distant stars shimmer against the black, but otherwise....

Spencer gapes in horror, frozen. There’s just...nothing.

Sue, meanwhile, looks like a kid on Christmas morning. “I’m sure she’s just stuck in traffic,” she says with feigned reassurance.

But Spencer can’t hear anything over the pounding in her ears, and if she had any food in her stomach, it’d surely be all over the floor right now. Her head is spinning, but she holds herself together. This isn’t real -- it can’t be. She’s not in space. How would she even get into space? It’s just some CGI bullshit intended to shock her into confessing a murder. There’s even a fake asteroid – a hanging piece of Styrofoam, no doubt – as an extra touch. It’s not even moving. Well, nice try, gym coach. Spencer’s seen better special effects at the Children’s Science Museum.

She steels her nerves and shoots back, “You really expect me to believe we’re actually in space?” She raises her eyebrows. “Do you think I’m stupid?”

“Maybe!” Sue says cheerfully. “And I think your inner Science Camp geek will cry tears of joy into her model rocket ship kit when she realizes what an opportunity this is. Life in space!” she exclaims, arms up. Sue pauses and lets her arms fall. “What, you think I can’t tell what a huge nerd you are just by looking at you? You should be kissing my Reeboks with that foul, over-privileged mouth.”

“Oh, give it up -- We’re not in space. There’s oxygen. And gravity,” Spencer retorts. She knows how space works. Four-year-olds know how space works.

“I’ve pulled some strings,” Sue replies, walking over to lean a hand on the table. “Can’t have my prisoners floating around all willy-nilly like balloons at a birthday party.”

“Prisoners,” Spencer repeats. Surely, she heard that wrong.

“Well, ‘prison bitches’ seems a little on the nose, even for this crowd,” says Sue.

The truth hits her like a ton of bricks. “This is a prison,” Spencer says soberly.

Sue leans forward a bit and smiles again, a twinkle in her eye. “Can’t get anything past you, can I?”

Suddenly, everything makes both perfect sense and no sense at all. They caught her, but how? Spencer had been meticulous in her planning and execution, except for the part where she smashed Toby’s skull to absolute smithereens instead of one generous thwap. The clean-up got away from her, but she did the best she could. And until this moment, she thought she’d pulled it off. Everyone gets away with murder in Rosewood. It’s kind of the town’s deal. Only, maybe this really isn’t Rosewood after all. The scenery’s a bit of a clue.

In that moment of acceptance, Spencer’s reality crashes down around her. She stares out the window again, but she’s not really looking at anything. Her brain is stuck on five simple words, which she says out loud if only to make sure she’s not dreaming, or dead. “I’m in prison. In space.

“Right again, Hastings.” Sue points with a smile. “You’re on fire today!”

Chapter Text

The next several minutes don’t really register with Spencer until she’s sitting on an exam table dressed in only a paper gown. Her hands and feet are cuffed and chained to another metal loop on the floor. For whatever reason, “regulation issue” here means “lined with black leather,” so they’re fairly comfortable, as far as handcuffs go. Or maybe that’s still the drugs talking. She can still feel them in her system (after the...space travel), so who knows what all transpired in that lost time.

Wait, how did I get changed? Was I strip searched?!

The door creaks open and in walks the most attractive woman Spencer’s ever seen, but still all she can think is, How the fuck did I end up in space prison?!

“So, Spencer Hastings,” the doctor – last name Lewis-Burke-Robbins, according to her lab coat – reads from a chart.  “I’m just going to run some routine tests, check to make sure you haven’t brought anything on board.”

Space?! Prison?!

“Just try to relax. I’d promise this won’t hurt, but some people get squeamish about getting blood drawn. I’m sorry if this seems invasive, but I have to be sure. Disease can spread quickly here.”

Spencer just glares at her and crosses her arms. “See lots of space diseases, do you?”

Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins just smiles. “Here and there. Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Alien flu?” She’s clinging to the familiarity of sarcasm like a lifeboat.

“Not typically, no,” the doctor replies. She seems resilient, yet gentle, like she deals with shitty attitudes every day but they don’t get to her. “Mostly…” She pauses. “You might say our population can be…aggressively promiscuous, which presents its own complications.”

Fantastic. Spencer’s mind is reeling with the implications of all this. It just keeps getting worse and worse.

As the doctor methodically checks her skin for who-knows-what, Spencer stares at the only color in the gray, metallic examination room. A sign about two feet tall hangs at eye-level on the wall beside her, a giant crest, like an old coat of arms or something. The emblem itself appears to be a large, golden...uterus?...against a maroon background. And is it that...chains with a lock wrapped around it? Clearly the drugs haven’t yet worn off completely.  She’s almost too distracted by the design to notice the large letters underneath.

USCSS BSG 27 SSV UD-4X SA-23DD USS UTERIUS

Where prisoners aren’t rehabilitated, they’re reborn.

A pinprick on the crook of her elbow snaps her attention away. “Uterius? Are you kidding me?”

“It’s a fitting name, given the nature of what we do here.” The doctor caps off the blood sample, labels it, and sets down the vial.

“Which is what, bleeding people for days at a time?” Spencer asks. She’s quiet for a moment, trying to make sense of it all. It’s not working.

“Not usually,” Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins says playfully. She shines a bright light in each of Spencer’s eyes, watching the pupils constrict, then checks in her ears. “If you see the ship from the outside, it makes perfect sense.” She grabs the Velcro cuff to take Spencer’s blood pressure.

Even with the drugs still in her system, Spencer feels her heart pounding hard. This all has to be a terrible dream. There is no such thing as space prison. Right?  She’s a well-read and highly skeptical girl. She would’ve heard about it. An article somewhere, surely, documenting NASA’s own little Guantanamo. No way something like that stays out of public knowledge. Unless maybe that was the point. Ship away dangerous people with rich, powerful families who’d bail them out if they had the chance.

And that’s when she knows. Her mother has no clue where she is. And she never will.

Spencer fights back the tears to keep her voice strong. A Hastings never shows weakness, even now, even to someone who doesn’t know what being a Hastings even means.

Her voice cracks anyway. “I’m never getting out of here, am I?”

“I’m the doctor, not the lawyer.” A small smile. She sets down her tool and changes gloves. “Lie back.”

Spencer sighs and flops back on the table. “I’m in Hell.” She stares at the ceiling as her vision blurs. “In space.”

“Wait til you try the tuna casserole.” The doctor reaches over and grabs an intensely scary, metal contraption. “Spread ‘em.”

Chapter Text

She’s back in the first room -- featuring the red curtain with space behind it -- waiting for who knows what. She’s getting used to the restraints, and it isn’t lost on Spencer that handcuffs -- not family -- might be the permanent fixture in her daily life from here on out.

They’ve assigned her a black, second-hand jumpsuit with no pockets that is suspiciously threadbare in the crotch area. It’s not the first thing about this place that seems shoddy, now that’s she really looking around. The floors haven’t been swept. The walls are unpainted. The doors make an awful squeak when they’re opened. The table in here has one leg a half-inch off the ground. And thankfully, the wall with the large crack in it isn’t the one with the window. This facility, whatever it is, doesn’t seem to have the budget for basic repairs or amenities. Must not be many people out in space to tax, Spencer muses. But she prays they at least have a sterilization machine for the doctor’s tools.

A shrieking noise sounds from inside the wall -- probably just steam pipes or something, but it’s threatening all the same. Everything about this shithole is a far cry from the spaceships she’s seen in movies; instead of clean, slick design, this is industrial and filthy. It feels real, and that’s rattling Spencer to her core. She’s never been claustrophobic before, but it seems like a great time to start.

After what feels like an hour, the far door opens and in walks yet another woman Spencer doesn’t know. She’s wearing a dark blazer and carrying a briefcase, which she slams on the wobbly table, sitting down across from Spencer without even looking at her.

“Spencer Hastings, I’m Melanie Marcus, your appointed attorney.” She opens the case and takes out several thick file folders. “And don’t even start about your goddamn mother, because she’s not here -- I am. Got it?”

She looks up at Spencer now, and, whoa. There is clearly a somewhere else she’d rather be. Maybe lying on a bed of nails, or washing down dinner with a gallon of bleach. Something cheerful like that.

Spencer shifts uncomfortably in her chair, chains clinking as she moves. “Yeah.”

“You’re here” -- A file slams down -- “on charges of first-degree murder and seventeen counts of excessive bitchery.”

Spencer blinks. “Excuse me?”  Who the fuck does this lady think she is? “That’s not even a real--”

“MY job” -- Another slam -- She’s just moving them in and out of the open briefcase now, back and forth, for no real reason -- “is to get YOUR sorry ass acquitted so I can get my first paycheck in eighteen goddamn months” -- slam -- “and feed my fucking wife and two-year-old child” -- slam -- “except, wait.” Angry Melanie stops and leans across the table, staring Spencer down hard, “YOU ALREADY CONFESSED TO MURDER. SO, THANKS A FUCKING LOT.”

“HE DESERVED IT,” Spencer yells back, arms struggling against the cuffs. “You don’t know! You have NO idea what he put me through, what he put my friends through. You know NOTHING.” But as she says it, Spencer realizes that she might be the one who doesn’t know anything. When the hell did she confess? She doesn’t remember getting here; it’s possible she was interrogated under the influence of sedatives or something. Or maybe this is all a trick to get her to confess now. This so-called lawyer doesn’t seem to be on Spencer’s side.

“Oh, boo hoo, poor little bi-curious girl with her boyfriend problems,” Angry Melanie mocks, pretending to cry. “God, for ONCE can you just keep your fucking mouth shut until we get to trial? Or, hey, NOT KILL PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE? Would that be too fucking much to ask?”

“What-curious?”  Spencer squints, confused. “Maybe you suck at your job because your gigantic files don’t have any actual facts in them.”

“Oh, please. You’re here.” She’s laughing, but she’s still spitting fire. “And hey, congratulations, now you’ve got all the time you need to work through your precious lady-feelings. You’ve got nothing but time.” She laughs again. “You stupid, little shit.”

“What the hell kind of lawyer are you?” Absolutely nothing about this place is right.

Angry Melanie throws the stack of files into the case one last time. “One who can’t get you out of a life-sentence in space prison, or even a hope of parole, thanks to your big, cock-sucking mouth.” She slams the briefcase shut. “Enjoy your stay.” And with that, she storms out the rusty door.

Spencer sits motionless. Her eyes fall on the crack in the wall, and she absently wonders if it’s leaking air, because she’s having trouble breathing.

Chapter Text

Minutes later, she’s led through what seems to be the entrance to a giant vault. The acoustics in here are strikingly different -- it’s loud, and voices of women boom and echo off the high, steel walls. Everything resonates, as there’s nothing to absorb the jeers and profane hollering. It’s a long hallway with barred cells on the right side and what appear to be scattered utility closets on the left. Spencer can’t tell how many cells there are, but the far end seems a mile away. There are more fluorescent lights high overhead but not in the individual cells. Enough light pours into them that Spencer can see the faces and living conditions of her new situation. Both are equally unsettling. And smelly. It’s warm in here, and quite ripe. Isn’t it supposed to be cold in space?  she wonders. Maybe the engines run hot, burning rocket fuel that’s surely pumping carcinogenic toxins into their limited air supply. And air conditioning must not fit into the limited budget. 

This place just gets better and better.

Her standard-issued black Keds squeak as a guard – a short, Asian woman with the name Boomer etched on a nametag – escorts her down the prison block. Spencer doesn’t know what the hell kind of name “Boomer” is or why the woman’s uniform has the letters P.M.S. stitched onto the pocket, but she doesn’t ask. All the answers to her questions thus far have left her more confused than before.

The first cell they pass, stenciled #20 painted above it, holds three older, seemingly well-adjusted women, who all watch Spencer as she shuffles by. They’re the ones in the cage, but she feels on-display like a damn zoo animal, and it’s horrible. Two of the women sit together on a bunk, but the third is standing up against the bars and leering at Spencer with a smile. Her short, dark curls match the black jumpsuit nicely.

“I have a tattoo.”

Spencer jumps at the woman’s gravelly whisper, stopping suddenly, but Boomer keeps walking and just says, “Nobody cares, Violet,” loudly behind her.

Violet seems unfazed, though, and licks her lips at Spencer, who is staring, frozen in place.“Would you like to see it?”

The woman’s fingers slowly start to unzip her jumpsuit, and at the first sight of side-boob, Spencer chokes on her own saliva and runs to catch up with that Boomer lady.

The population appears to consist largely of older women, all rough around the edges but surprisingly attractive, considering the circumstances. Spencer gives each passing cell a glance to scope out the scene but is mindful not to stare. If only Hanna, Aria, and Emily had helped her kill Toby instead of backing out on the plan like little bitches, then she wouldn’t be in this mess alone. Mostly, she regrets that his betrayal occurred after her eighteenth birthday. Any juvenile detention center would be preferable to this, even one on the damn moon.

There’s light coming from a cell up ahead, growing brighter as they approach. Once in sight, Spencer sees a huge sprawl of blazing candles in cell 16, what must be dozens of them. The heat emanating from inside is unbearable. The three occupants of the cell are younger than the other women Spencer has seen so far but just as intimidating. One girl is sitting on the toilet in the back, fully dressed and not using it as intended. Rather, her posture is very commanding, like she’s sitting on a throne. Her face is half-covered in black paint, giving her raccoon-eyes. She rises to her feet and watches Spencer pass by, expressionless as the flames flicker around her. It’s deeply unsettling, and Spencer’s all too glad to keep moving.

She can hear someone banging on the bars up ahead but can only see a pair of angry hands. As they approach cell 14, a short woman with a determined look on her face comes into view.

“Guard!” More banging. “I know you can hear me!” She’s just not stopping. “Why not put that skinny girl in here and move me to her destination? You know the number four is unlucky in Chinese culture! How can they do this?”

Boomer doesn’t stop to entertain the complaint or even look over. “No,” she says, loud enough for her to hear.

The woman punctuates each word with another clang as she screams, “I’M GOING TO DRIVE MY SHITTY VAN INTO YOUR HOME!” As Spencer moves on (gladly), she can hear more yelling behind her, “It will make your house look even worse than it does right now!”

Spencer says a silent prayer, grateful she’s dodged that bullet. This feeling lasts for maybe five seconds. A few cells later, she sees more girls closer to her age but significantly more terrifying. One seems to be on the worst fucking heroin trip of her life, with veins bulging from the sides of her ghostly face and curtains of pitch black hair.

Please, god, no.

Another girl in the cell is watching Spencer from the back wall. Her head is tilted, like an inquisitive child trying to figure out their newest addition. She’s thin with big eyes and long, stringy hair that she hasn’t washed in three months at least. Possibly six. 

“A is for accident,” the girl says plainly, looking right at her.

Spencer stops in her tracks and stares, wide-eyed. This nut would have fit right in at Radley.

Boomer takes a few steps back and yells into the cell, pointing, “And S is for shut the hell up!” She grabs Spencer’s arm forcefully. “Keep moving.”

Gladly, she thinks and takes another awkward step forward. Her shoes were broken in with someone else’s feet, and like everything about this place, they don’t feel right yet.

Over another squeak of the rubber sole, Spencer’s sure she hears the “A is for accident” girl add, “...but it wasn’t.”

That’s creepy as hell, Spencer thinks. Was there some kind of announcement about the more colorful points of her file before she arrived? A memo to everyone on official prison letterhead, perhaps? A fucking Powerpoint presentation?

Thankfully, the cast of characters in the next cell, number 10, looks almost familiar to her – a blonde (albeit with pink streaks) who oozes attitude, a cute, short brunette, and, well, a lesbian. It almost feels like home. You know, if Emily were black and they were all convicted felons.

So, naturally, this is Spencer’s stop. Of course, it is.

Amidst the random shouts from down the hall, Boomer barks, “Stand back! Stay up there, Quinn!” and unlocks the cell door, sliding the heavy bars just wide enough for Spencer to be shoved through. “Good luck,” Boomer laughs quietly as she turns the key.

Spencer quickly assesses the situation: Three sets of eyes, two bunk beds on opposite walls with the barest of linens, a wall-mounted sink with one toothbrush perched on the edge, and a silver bowl in the corner that, well, Spencer hopes at least has a flushing mechanism.

Home, sweet home.  In space prison. 

Awesome.

She can’t help but notice that her cellmates’ uniforms are also suspiciously thin and faded in the crotch area. Not that she’s staring at lady crotches. A Hastings would never.

Forcing herself to look away, she sees the word Aphasia scrawled in yellow chalk on the wall above the lesbian in the top-right bunk, surrounded by some green dollar signs, purple handguns, and a picture of what can only be...a blue giraffe?

Sure, why not.

“Where you been?” Aphasia snaps. She crosses her arms and gives Spencer a look that says, Oh well, you missed it, and says, “River’s got your book.” Then she turns back around and picks up an orange piece of chalk and starts drawing a friend for the giraffe.

Spencer just stands by the door, not sure what that means or what she should say or do. With all the shit she’s been through, teenage girls hardly scare her, but this is prison. Should she talk to these people? Would they beat her up if she didn’t? Was she supposed to have a shiv or a pack of Luckies to trade for soap? Were they going to pee in front of her in that bowl? Was one of the beds for her? It was, right? How do you jail?

 “That was fast,” says the brunette on the bottom-left bunk. She looks an awful lot like Aria, but with crazy eyes and much less hair product. “Fucking Sylvester can’t give us one goddamn day without some new, sad bitch yapping away.” 

Aphasia turns, confused. “Wait, this ain’t the same girl?”

The blonde with pink streaks, lying on the top left bed, flicks her lit cigarette at her cellmate. “No. Schecter got airlocked.” She looks Spencer up and down, licking her lips once, and smirks. “This is fresh meat.”

Okay, TWO lesbians.

Aphasia pats at the small fire in her hair like it’s a daily occurrence. “So, who the fuck are you?” she sasses.

Spencer opens her mouth but stops to consider her options. She could try her usual tactic of boasting her family name and GPA, but she’s getting the sense that these girls may have never set foot in a high school unless they were selling drugs. Nor would they have ever heard of the Hastings family -- or Rosewood, for that matter.

Plan B is to pretend she doesn’t speak English. So far, she’s leaning this way. She could pretend to be French for the rest of her life. Ça peut pas être si difficile que ça?

Plan C, kill them all and take the best bunk for herself. She’s already serving a life sentence for murder, so really, what would it matter? But if these girls regularly set each other on fire, it would probably take more than Spencer’s big brain and freshly trimmed nails to overtake one-against-three.

Plan D, let them kill her on the spot. At least before the tuna casserole does.

Or, Plan E, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. It’ll do for now.

“Spencer,” she says.

Chapter Text

Four hours later, Spencer’s on the bottom bunk under Aphasia’s, replaying their earlier conversation in her mind. It turns out these girls all knew each other and came here together. They had tried to rob a bank (“because that’s where they keep THE MONEY,” Aphasia explained). Quinn was the brains, Mack was the muscle, and Aphasia had driven the get-away vehicle…right into the back of a parked police car around the corner. They hadn’t even gotten any money out, or come close. Mack shot fourteen people just because she was bored waiting for Quinn to hack the computer system.

Spencer almost misses the higher-order thinking skills of the A Team.

The metal bunk across from her squeaks and snaps Spencer out of her daydream as Mack climbs up into Quinn’s bed. Spencer’s not looking to get close to any of these criminals, herself, but she doesn’t want to feel like a fourth wheel in her new home, either. She’s used to being somewhat in charge of her little gang, or at least on equal footing. For a moment, she lets herself try to imagine running this crew, which is both hilarious and sad.

But we’d all be rich and free right now, you bet your ass.

Spencer watches innocently as Quinn sets her book aside, quietly welcoming the company, but then Mack unzips her jumpsuit and straddles Quinn without hesitation, pinning her hands against the thin mattress.

Make that three lesbians.

“O-kay,” Spencer says to herself with raised eyebrows, quickly trying to find a Something Else to look at but failing. The thing about jail -- not much in the way of decor. Passing over the toilet and sink, she settles for a blank spot on the wall to fixate on. Oh, what Spencer wouldn’t give for some noise-canceling headphones. Without even realizing it, her eyes drift left again.

Is that hand going where I think it’s going? Shit, yep, Mack totally catches Spencer staring.

“Do you mind?!” Mack growls, her hand still definitely there.

“Sorry,” Spencer says quickly, turning over to face the wall. Her hipbone digs painfully into the frame beneath the flimsy mattress, but her groan is lost in the sea of sex noise. She closes her eyes and pictures a field hockey game or something equally interesting and violent. Tuning out the debauchery eight feet away is harder than she realizes; she’s in a fucking jail cell – there’s no escaping this.

They eventually get so loud that Spencer wonders why the guards don’t think someone’s being brutally murdered. She lets out an “UGH” of frustration and pulls her pillow over her head, face down.

Aphasia leans over from the top bunk and says, “Girl, this ain’t nothing. Quinn spanks her on Wednesdays.”

Spencer has never missed her friends and her mother and her dead ex-boyfriend and even her unhinged stalkers more than she does right now. And no, she is not about to admit that the Quinn girl sounds really hot when she moans. That is clearly the space dementia talking, or the drugs, whatever they gave her to get her here. (Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins had conveniently failed to mention the possibility of medically-induced lesbian tendencies. What else would it be?) However, Spencer does have a guess to whom the doctor was referring with the whole “aggressively promiscuous” bit.

I mean, just look at them. Or, wait, don’t. Because that is rude. And also kind of gay.

She lies on her back and stares at the underside of the bunk above. It’s a solid gray sheet of metal, boring as the day is long. It has a nice effect, though, as it provides a blank canvas for Spencer to daydream. She stares at it, allowing her eyes to unfocus like it’s one of those hidden pictures of a sailboat, hoping to reach a zen place. All it does, however, is heighten her hearing and make the situation even worse. After twenty long minutes of trying, she sits up, frustrated, and hits her head on the metal frame. She curses loudly, but it just blends in with the string of smutty expletives across the way. This bunk bed thing is going to take some getting used to. Rubbing her tender head, Spencer sighs and wraps her arms around her knees.

But then, she notices something at the end of the bed that she swears wasn’t there before -- a large spider web, spun between the vertical posts. Delighted to have something interesting to look at, Spencer scoots forward to examine the intricate design. Spiders are expert craftsmen, after all, and this web appears to go well beyond the standard fly-catching layout. In fact, unless Spencer’s dreaming, it seems to have writing in it. She angles her body so the light catches the threads just right. Sure enough, the words “FUCK YOU STACEY MERKIN” are there in clear, block letters.

A gray spider lurks nearby, looking quite pleased with herself. Spencer wonders why the fuck there are arachnids in space – ones who can write and curse, no less – never mind the insects to feed them. But who is she to question such things at this point? Nightmares aren’t supposed to make sense. For all she knows, the spider ate their previous cellmate…in this very bunk. And yet, staying put still feels safer than the violent lesbian sex-capades in the other.

Not that she’s still thinking about that. Really.

Spencer decides to take a chance on making a friend here in this bleak, new chapter of her existence. “Hi Charlotte,” she says quietly, remembering her favorite childhood book, “I’m Spencer. We both seem like strong, intelligent women who deserve better than this run-down sex prison.” She sighs and admires the handiwork of the shimmering thread in the glow of the corridor’s lights. “Whatever Stacey did to you, I hope you had the last laugh.”

Charlotte says nothing.

Chapter Text

It takes every ounce of restraint Spencer has not to push past Mack and huddle up against Quinn as they step into the Mess Hall for dinner that evening. (She’s not sure why, exactly; it’s not like Quinn is any safer.) Spencer had thought the handful of fellow prisoners from before was terrifying, but that is nothing compared to the sheer breadth of inmate insanity before her. Teenagers and middle-aged women and everything in between crowd in line to get their trays of suspicious-looking food. Some appear on the verge of a homicidal outburst, snarling “Fuck you!”s across the room every other second. Others seem calmer, but Spencer knows you have to watch out for the quiet ones. And frankly, based on what she’s gleaned of this place so far, Spencer’s surprised there isn’t a single mullet in sight.

She spots the women from her earlier entrance to the cell block -- the scary, veiny-faced one is pouting for some reason or other; the vaguely unwashed one who’d chattered about A is...staring into space, unaffected by the fistfight that breaks out behind her; and the tattoo lady catches Spencer looking and greets her with a lick of her lips.

Spencer shudders and grabs onto the closest thing in reach for some sense of safety from the leering. Unfortunately, it turns out to be Mack’s jumpsuit sleeve, and Spencer just barely dodges the sharp elbow aimed at her side.

“Get the fuck off, weirdo,” Mack growls.

The tuna casserole turns out to be every bit as bad as the doctor said. Crunchy, for some reason. And a little spongy? Spencer tries to stick close to her cellmates, for protection more than companionship. They have their own table carved out in the middle of the room -- a regular thing, it seems, just like fucking high school -- and Spencer takes a seat facing the walkway so she can get a lay of the land.

There’s a single metal clock in here, like an old school bell system. It’s the first clock she’s seen since she arrived, but she doesn’t even know when that is -- it’s still just the first day, right? She figures they’re keeping track of hours just to have a schedule and simulate the experience of still being on Earth, regardless of whether their location aligns with any specific orbit. God, what fucking solar system was she even in now? Was she in a solar system? No windows, no sunlight, no clue.

The inmates are all checking her out as they pass by, whispering to each other with little laughs. Spencer doesn’t want to know. She’s not in a mental state to deal with any bullshit. Nor does she want to deal with this “casserole,” but it’s either that or starve. Do they even get three meals a day?

Aphasia doesn’t seem to have any qualms about their meal, as that girl is just inhaling the stringy, gray mush without pausing for a breath. There are no utensils besides flimsy plastic spoons, and Spencer’s kind of amazed that Aphasia doesn’t snap hers clean in half as she saws through her food.

Across from her, Quinn hasn’t touched her dinner, puffing away on a cigarette instead. Spencer catches her eye once or twice, and Quinn smirks briefly before turning her attention back to whatever Mack is talking about. Well, at least Spencer’s not the only one suspicious of this tuna concoction.

Someone from another table hollers in their direction, and Aphasia pauses in her gusto to yell, “Bitch, I might be!” over her shoulder.

Quinn seizes the opportunity, taking one last drag and planting the cigarette butt deep into the remaining clump on Aphasia’s tray.

Before Spencer can say anything, however, Aphasia turns back with a grin. “She wants me so bad. Sucks to be you!” Without looking down, she shovels that last bit into her mouth -- ashes, cotton, and all.

Spencer scowls, unable to stop herself. She’s going to need to keep an eye on this Quinn girl. It shouldn’t be too hard, considering they live in the same room.

At seven o’clock, the bell rings loudly, and the prisoners begin to make their way toward the garbage can on the far side, still shouting obscenities and threats in every direction. Spencer hasn’t even heard many of these words before, not even from Alison (and that’s really saying something). In fact, it hasn’t been quiet for a moment the whole meal -- just a constant, dull roar of sexed-up profanity -- and none of the authorities seem to care that these women might be about to kill each other or screw each other. Or both.

Wait, where are the authorities?

The crowd merges into a single-file line to dump their trays, and Spencer follows Mack as closely as possible without getting elbowed again. Thankfully, the more aggressive prisoners seem to have their sights set on other targets, at least for now. The thought that this terror is going to be part of her daily life -- much less three times a day -- is overwhelming. And everyone else here seems so...used to it.

As she nears the door, Spencer notices a new guard waiting there -- a short, feisty blonde who looks like she should be in cheerleading camp, not a prison.

“Chow time’s over, ladies. We hope you enjoyed the tuna this evening.”

“Yeah, your mom says hi,” someone shouts from the back of the line, and the room erupts in laughter -- everyone but Spencer, who would rather eat fire ants than antagonize one of these people.

“My mother’s dead,” the guard replies. “But I’m glad you found her so delicious, Vasquez.”

The whole line “Oooooh”s and shuffles on, still snickering as they turn the corner. When Spencer gets close enough, she’s able to take a good look at B. Summers. The girl is absolutely tiny, and Spencer can’t imagine Little Miss Pom-Poms overtaking a puppy, much less any member of this population. Her uniform does say P.M.S. like Boomer’s, but it just seems crazy. Like everything else in this god-forsaken place.

And, wait, is that a wooden stake strapped to her belt? The fuck?

“Lights out in two hours, astro-nuts,” she calls cheerfully.

Much to Spencer’s surprise, everyone in line seems to be returning to her cell without protest. The noise has died down, too, she notices. The blonde’s the only guard in sight, standing watch at the end of the hall with her arms crossed, eyes daring someone to start something.

“Looking good tonight, Buffy,” Mack says to the guard, winking and licking her lips.

Buffy? What IS it with these names?

A loud buzzer sounds, and the cell bars slide shut in unison and lock with an echoing clank.

Spencer flops down onto her bed and barely misses getting kicked in the face when Aphasia takes a running leap up onto the top bunk. Settling into what must be their evening routine, Quinn pulls a book out from under her mattress, Aphasia starts freestyle beatboxing, and Mack draws on her left bicep with what seems to be a thick piece of charcoal. The result is more dirt smudge than intricate design, but she’s thoroughly engrossed in her process.

This is what passes for prime-time entertainment in space prison.

God, what Spencer wouldn’t give for a laptop right now. Or anything she could read. A newspaper. A cereal box. A shampoo bottle. Something. It feels weird not having a cell phone. They’re not a part of this new reality. She has only her thoughts, and right now, her thoughts suck. Does anyone in Rosewood miss her? Have they even noticed she’s gone? If so, they probably assume she’s as dead as Toby -- which, at this point, she might as well be.

Suddenly, a paperback book hits her in the head. “Ow!” Spencer reaches down to pick up Passion’s Burning Flame -- which features a scantily-clad woman in the arms of a ripped, female firefighter on its cover -- and throws it back at Quinn, hard. She misses.

Quinn arches an eyebrow but doesn’t react any more than that. “Thought you’d want something to do.”

I never realized how sexy an eyebrow can be.

...Wait, what?

“So, you throw it at my face?” Why does this girl like throwing things at people? And why lesbian romance novels?  Spencer would almost prefer a lit cigarette. “Social skills, much?”

Mack glances up from her full sleeve of “art,” which is just a solid black mess. “Is that the one with the spank inferno?” She turns to Spencer and says, “That one’s good.”

“I’ll pass.”

After a few awkwardly quiet minutes (beatboxing aside), Quinn props her head up and says, “So. What’d you do?”

It was only a matter of time, but Spencer doesn’t want to answer that or any other questions. She’s still half-convinced she’ll wake up from this nightmare any minute now, warm in her bed back home on Earth. She’ll shrug off A’s latest text and ace a pop quiz and eat lunch with her friends and get away with murder, and everything will be right again. Nothing in that plan involves talking to these people. So, Spencer finds a deep scratch in the metal underside of Aphasia’s bunk and gives it her full attention.

She really wants it to be lights-out already so she can just hide in the darkness and pretend she’s not there. But the lights are still on, and Quinn is still staring. “None of your business,” she finally says, if only to get Quinn to stop, and rolls over to face the wall.

Mack sounds thoroughly unimpressed. “I bet she just cheated on a test or something.”

Spencer whips back around, fire in her eyes. “Hey! I don’t cheat!” (Well, except for that one time with Melissa’s history paper.)

Quinn looks down at Mack with a grin and says, “Went for a little joyride in Daddy’s BMW without permission.”

“And blew the butler in the back seat,” Mack adds. She’s pointing at Spencer with the chunk of charcoal, quite thrilled at the chance to be mean to someone.

“How scandalous!” Quinn laughs back.

“I KILLED SOMEONE!” Spencer shoots upright, hitting her head again. “OW! GODDAMNIT!” She takes a breath and rubs the sore spot, wondering if the pain will subside before she’s done with this damn conversation. “I killed my boyfriend with a croquet mallet.”

Aphasia tuts and says, “Girl, we know that. They just messin’ wi’chu.”

The other two girls snicker to each other like Spencer’s existence is their own little inside joke. Mack’s condescending stare is downright hurtful, while Quinn just looks amused by the whole thing.

Spencer still doesn’t understand. “How did you --”

Suddenly, a blue file appears in front of her face as Aphasia holds it over the edge of the bunk. The name HASTINGS, SPENCER is printed on the label. A giant, red stamp of “CONFIDENTIAL: PROPERTY OF USCSS BSG 27 SSV UD-4X SA-23DD USS UTERIUS” covers the entire white front of the folder.

Spencer instantly recognizes it as one of the same files Angry Melanie had earlier. Curiosity gnaws at Spencer’s insides; God only knows what it says. What all do they have on her? She reaches for it but Aphasia yanks it away as quickly as it appeared. “How did you get that? Give it to me!” Spencer asks angrily.

Aphasia’s holding the file high over her head and kicking a foot at Spencer’s face to keep her at bay. She looks almost offended by the question. “You know magic people never say how they do shit.”

Mack chimes in, “Girl’s got skills.”

Spencer stops jumping and turns to her, incredulous. “And yet you failed to actually steal any money from the bank.”

“Hey, that ain’t my fault! She made me wait in the car!” Aphasia shouts at Quinn.

Spencer only looks away for a moment, but when she glances back at Aphasia, the file is gone. And she’s twiddling her thumbs. And whistling.

“Oh, here we go again,” Quinn drawls. “I told you, I can’t--”

COME ON, GIRLS!

Mack groans.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE?

Spencer looks around for the source of the voice, but there doesn’t seem to be an intercom speaker anywhere in their cell. Aphasia, however, is now bouncing on her bed at this latest development.

‘CAUSE I GOT SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT! AND IT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS...

When the music kicks in, Spencer realizes it’s coming from the main corridor, loud enough to carry to every cell.

There is radio in space prison. And it plays Madonna.

Aphasia cries, “Ooh, this my jam!” and jumps down, then busts into a full-blown dance routine that she’s clearly polished over time.

All thoughts of the file are quickly drowned out, as Spencer can’t even hear herself think anymore. “What is this?” she hollers over the booming beats. Quinn’s humming along in her bed, as if this were an everyday occurrence.

Shit, IS this an everyday occurrence?

“Sylvester made us wear these bracelets with WWMD on them,” Quinn says, rolling over to face Spencer. “She said it meant, ‘We Worship Madonna Daily.’”

Before Spencer can correct her, Mack says with a huff, “More like, ‘When Will Madonna Die?’”

“I haven’t seen one in months,” Quinn says. “I guess people flushed them.”

“No, they right here!” Aphasia says between dance moves and reaches into her jumpsuit to pull out a handful of twenty or so rubber bracelets from her bra or god knows where else. The bunch becomes a colorful prop as she starts doing the Macarena to “Express Yourself” without missing a beat. “Watch While Madonna Dances!”

“The fuck?” Mack says, launching herself off the bed, only to get smacked in the face by a flailing arm. “Gimme one!”

“Why?” Aphasia asks with a frown. “You know I’ll just steal it again.” She bends down and slowly drags fistfuls of bracelets up her body in time with the music, then punches the air in Mack’s direction with her tongue sticking out.

Mack gives up and flops back down with a huff. Spencer watches Aphasia for the rest of the song, at least until her eye catches Charlotte skittering around near the end of her bunk just as “This Used to Be My Playground” starts. She watches for a few seconds, almost mesmerized by the spider’s fluid movements, yet her eyes wander over and settle on Quinn.

Somehow, watching a girl quietly read romance novels interests Spencer more than dancing or drawing (as Mack has now started on her left foot with that charcoal). Quinn’s a bit of a puzzle, though. Spencer’s six hours into her life sentence and she feels she has a pretty good handle on Mack and Aphasia -- enough to know she really wishes she didn’t know them at all -- but Quinn remains a mystery.

“Hey, check this out!” Still stretched out in bed, Mack kicks her foot up in the air and catches her heel on the edge of Quinn’s bunk. “It’s good, right?”

Spencer can’t see what’s on Mack’s foot, but, judging by the array of smudges covering her arm and Quinn’s own impassive expression, it’s probably not a contemporary masterpiece.

“Right?!” Mack says again while wiggling her foot. “Quinn!”

But Quinn isn’t looking at Mack -- she’s looking at Spencer.

For a moment, they share the quiet amusement of ignoring Mack, whose frantic jerks are smearing black dust all over Quinn’s sheet. Not that either Spencer or Quinn even notices. Their eyes lock, and a silent conversation passes between them -- Can you believe these girls? What even is that on her foot? And what about that dancing? A smile starts to curl Spencer’s lips for the first time since she arrived here. It feels good. Almost good enough to let this sudden connection pierce the many walls she’s spent weeks, or even years, constructing.

“I’m fucking talking to you!” Mack shouts.

Quinn doesn’t seem to be in any rush to respond. Without breaking eye contact, she folds the corner of her current page and sets the book aside, then fishes a cigarette and Zippo lighter out of her bra. Spencer arches an eyebrow as she watches. Quinn lights it with a deft snap of her fingers and inhales deeply, then leans over and blows the smoke across Mack’s foot.

“Eat me,” Mack growls and yanks her foot back down.

Spencer starts to laugh but catches herself and pretends she’s been watching Aphasia instead. Which, wow. She’s doing some kind of slow-motion, interpretive dance that is more like yoga-meets-hip-hop, but drunk. At the line, “This used to be the place we ran to,” Aphasia breaks into a half-speed Running Man.

Charlotte, meanwhile, has finally fallen still on the outskirts of her latest creation. Clear as day, Spencer reads the words:

MY PLAYGROUND

She cocks her head to one side and studies the web. How curious for a spider to have a favorite Madonna song. Spencer wonders just how long Charlotte’s been on board and how many Power Hours this poor creature has suffered through.

How many will I suffer through? ~60 years remaining lifespan, times 365 days, equals...

“Material Girl” kicks in and distracts Spencer just enough to decide it’s time to get some answers about this place.  She looks up at Quinn. “Hey, why do the guards’ uniforms say P.M.S. on them?”

“Because that’s their Permanent Mental State,” Mack answers before anyone else can.

Quinn sets her book down. “Prison Maintenance & Security. Sylvester thinks she’s pretty clever.”

“Some security force,” Spencer says. “One of them has a tiny stick.” If these people are supposed to protect her, shouldn’t they have more than a glorified toothpick?

“Mmm,” Mack says wistfully, then, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I can think of a few places I’d like to stake her.”

“Buffy can’t hear you.” Quinn says, then turns to look at Spencer. “She’s hopeful. Buffy has a thing for murderous brunettes.” A shrug. “It happens.”

Mack gets up and leers at Quinn. “And we all know I have a thing for snarky, violent blondes.” She stands on the bottom bunk and starts to pull herself up, but Quinn’s already grabbed her by the jumpsuit, humming in agreement. She flips Mack and climbs on top, kissing her hard and tangling one hand in her hair. Maybe she’s about to try out some moves from Passion’s Burning Flame, but Spencer hopes they’ll literally catch on fire instead.

She turns back to face the wall and tries to lose herself in the music. But it’s hard to forget what’s happening behind her when “Like a Virgin” starts playing. Thankfully, Aphasia doesn’t have a dance to this one. But then the bunk jolts and Spencer hears the rustling of body movements with an accompanying “Hee!”  above her as her bunkmate sings along.

Nevermind.

A while later, just before it’s time for lights out, Spencer tries to piece together some semblance of a normal routine. There isn’t soap, but she splashes water on her face and tries to scrub away the layer of prison filth she can feel clogging her pores. When she reaches for the lone toothbrush by the sink, she hears a voice behind her.

“You don’t wanna do that.”

Aphasia jumps down from her bed and picks up Spencer’s pillow, reaching deep into the pillowcase. She fishes out a purple toothbrush, then walks over and hands it to Spencer. “This one’s yours.”

Spencer’s confused, but she slowly reaches out and takes it by the handle. The toothbrush is clearly used, probably due for the standard three-month replacing. “Thanks…”

Did this belong to Jenny?

Spencer stares at it, rotating it to examine different angles. There’s something morbid about holding a dead girl’s toothbrush. Is she really supposed to use this?

Aphasia puts the pillow back where it came from and hoists herself up with a step on Spencer’s bed. “Keep it hidden or they’ll take it. We all supposed to be sharing, but I ain’t about that life.”

Spencer looks back at the sink and sees the prison-issued toothbrush is absolutely disgusting. The handle was probably once white but now it’s grey with brown stains, just like the flattened bristles. Seeing it up close, she wouldn’t have put this in her mouth, anyway.

Quinn quietly climbs down from her bunk and pulls a pink toothbrush from her bra. She walks over to the other bunks and holds out a hand to Aphasia, who gives her a tube of toothpaste as she passes by. It seems routine, like they do it every day, and Spencer’s quite glad to see dental hygiene is high on the list of priorities here. It might be the first piece of good news she’s gotten all day.

Once Spencer’s brushed and curled up under her flimsy, white sheet, there’s another loud buzzer and most of the lights in the corridor go out, leaving only the emergency lights faintly glowing in the distance. She turns further on her side, facing the wall, and closes her eyes. If she tries hard enough, she can pretend she’s back at home in her own bed, happy and safe and sound. There’s school tomorrow. She has lunch plans with her friends. Her mom needs help carrying in the groceries before dinner. Everything is fine. She’ll be fine.

“G’night, Spanker,” Aphasia says overhead through the darkness. “Welcome to the Big Top.”

“It’s ‘Big House,’” Mack says.

The springs squeak overhead as Aphasia sits up. “You sure?”

Quinn rolls over. “‘Big Top’ is a circus.”

“Pssh.” Aphasia’s body slams back down as she settles in again. “I had it right.”

Chapter Text

It takes about a day and a half for the thrill (and terror) of being in space to wear off. Now Spencer’s just bored.

She finished Passion’s Burning Flame hours ago -- and dear god, what a travesty of literature that was -- so the reprieve from thinking is, sadly, short-lived. At least back in Rosewood she could use homework to distract her from how fucked up her life was. Or spy on people. Or masturbate. But no way is she doing that with people around.

She’s fine for now, but eventually she’s going to explode. A girl has needs.

Shower time is out of the question, as last night she learned they take showers as a group. -- A dozen women at a time, all just naked in there! Together! At once! Some not even bothering to wash! Or worse, very enthusiastically washing each other! -- After which she discovered that space prison has a “towel shortage.” Aphasia has one stashed under her mattress (secretly, it seems) that she shares with Quinn and Mack when they return to the cell. But guess who’s last on the seniority list and doesn’t even get offered the sopping final product, which would still be better than nothing?

Spencer really is just having the best time in here.

Mack’s voice interrupts her train of thought. “Hey, Princess, can you hold it til lunchtime? I’m making wine.” Mack’s behind her in the bathroom area, so that has to be a gross euphemism.

Except...what if it isn’t? Against her better judgment, Spencer looks back, praying Mack at least has her damn clothes on. “What?”

Mack’s dressed, but she’s on her knees with an arm shoulder-deep in the silver bowl, which is almost worse. “Hold. Your piss. Til lunch,” she says, irritated, and keeps digging.

Spencer blinks and tries to keep down the dinner she didn’t eat. “You’re making wine? In the toilet?”

“How the fuck else do you expect me to do it?” she snaps, like Spencer is thicker than the walls.

Aphasia calls out, “I want the Chardonnay-nay this time.”

Spencer looks at Quinn, who has quickly established herself as the voice of reason on this ship of fools. “Is she serious?”

Quinn turns another page in a tattered copy of Pleasure Mountains. “Unfortunately.”

A minute or so passes as Spencer watches in disgust. It appears she’s cleaning the basin, or at least trying to, considering all Mack has is a sock and some toothpaste.  Despite all the elbow grease Mack’s putting in, she’s mostly just tiring herself out. “You don’t wanna use that toothbrush to do that?” Spencer asks.

Mack gives a small laugh and scrubs harder. “Put it in your mouth for ten seconds and I’ll tell you where it’s been.”

Spencer can’t think of any place they could’ve put the toothbrush that would be worse than the inside of a toilet bowl, but now she doesn’t want to know. Another few minutes pass, watching Mack meticulously apply Colgate and scrub like it’s the most important task in the world. “How often do you do this? Drink from the toilet, I mean.”

“Beats that turpentine shit Raven makes in the engine room,” Mack says. She gestures to Aphasia, who tosses her bags of food bits from under her mattress one at a time. There must be at least a dozen under there, like a damn clown car. Spencer’s eyebrows inch a little higher with every toss. She can’t tell what kinds of food are in there, but she thinks she recognizes tuna casserole in two of them. Nothing about this can be good.

“And it hasn’t killed you yet,” Spencer says. “That’s shocking.”

Quinn folds a page corner down and turns to Mack. “My offer still stands.”

Mack makes a face at her and dumps the contents of the first bag in the toilet with loud, plopping sounds.

“What offer?” Spencer asks. Maybe if she talks enough, it’ll drown out those awful noises.

Quinn grins slightly. “If Mack’s just drinking that because she wants to get sent to the doctor’s office again, I’m happy to knock a few teeth out instead.” She shrugs. “It’d be faster.”

Aphasia looks at Mack. “She won’t want you then,” she offers helpfully.

“I met her the other day,” Spencer says, trying not to let it show how excited she is to finally know about something in group conversation. “She’s nice.”

“Oh, you got the nice one?” Mack says and dumps another bag in, casting the empty Ziploc aside.

“Dr. Lewis-something,” Spencer says. “She’s blonde, really pretty.”

“Lewis-Burke-Robbins,” Quinn says. She casts Mack a look that says, Doesn’t hearing her name just get you hot and bothered?

Spencer sees the next bag has a lot of green in it. But not vegetable-green, more like mold-green. “Yeah, her.”

“I never get the nice one,” Mack says.

It never occurred to Spencer that there’d be more than one doctor onboard. “Who’s the other one?”

“Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins,” Quinn repeats. She reaches into her bra and retrieves a half-cigarette she started yesterday.

Spencer looks at her now. “I thought she’s the nice one?”

The Zippo clinks closed, and Quinn takes a long, first drag, exhaling up toward the ceiling. “According to Mack, there’s the nice one and the mean one.” Quinn gives a small shrug and looks back at Spencer. “They’re both okay.”

Spencer’s still confused. “So, wait, who’s the mean one?”

“Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins,” Mack and Quinn say together.

“Then who’s the nice one?”

“Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins.”

“Okay, stop, both of you!” Spencer shouts. “It’s not funny.”

Mack rolls her eyes and tosses aside the final empty Ziplog bag, which still has trails of light-purple gravy in it. “We’re not fucking with you; that’s their name.” She stirs the concoction with a wooden spoon Aphasia pulled out of nowhere, carefully scraping the sides and keeping it even.

Spencer can’t see too well from her angle on the bottom bunk until Mack lifts a spoonful to her mouth to sample a taste. The liquid is brown and chunky and an insult to wine everywhere. And it smells.

“These really are different people,” Spencer clarifies, “who just happen to have the same weird name.”

“Yep.” Quinn exhales a final puff of smoke and flicks the butt skillfully across the room, right into the toilet sludge. Mack just keeps stirring. Looking at Spencer reassuringly, Quinn says, “Don’t worry about them.”

“Nuh uh,” says Aphasia. “One of them’s cray-cray.”

Quinn laughs softly and opens her book again. “I forgot you’re scared of her.”

“Not the nice one -- she alright.” Aphasia’s a bit defensive. Spencer hasn’t heard her nervous like this before. “Just the creepy one.” She clutches her abdomen and shivers.

Quinn looks back at Spencer and explains, “Aphasia went through a key-swallowing phase until one of the doctors got involved. She’s a big fan of Saw.”

Oh god.

“Instead, Mack and I had to dig the key out ourselves,” Quinn continues with more than a hint of disdain. She meets Spencer’s eyes as her voice drops. “Don’t use the toothbrush.”

OH GOD.

“Not our best day,” Mack agrees, spooning another test taste into her mouth. “Shoulda let her rip your guts out.”

Aphasia sits up and turns to face her, offended. “Oh, like I don’t have to see your bare ass every week?”

“Not inside of it!” Mack shakes off the frightful memory and resumes her stirring as the cell falls quiet again. A minute later, she turns to Quinn and asks, “D’you hear what the doctor did the other day?”

“The scary one?”

“Yeah.”

Quinn hums a no. “To who?”

“Sarah Connor,” says Mack.

“Which one?” asks Quinn.

“The scary one.”

“STOP IT,” Spencer screams. “EVERYBODY JUST STOP.”

Her cellmates stare at her like she’s lost her fucking mind. Spencer runs her hands through her hair and closes her eyes for a moment. She’s been in prison all of forty-eight hours, and she’s already about to cut a bitch.

Spencer takes a deep breath. “There’s more than one doctor.”

“Yes,” they say in unison.

“Who all happen to be blonde.”

“Yes.”

Spencer’s hands are up, as if trying to cling to her last shred of sanity. “And they’re all named Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins?”

“Yes.”

“...WHY?”

“HASTINGS!” Boomer’s voice startles all of them, but only Spencer jumps. “Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins needs to see you.”

Spencer screams into her hands.

****************

On the plus side, she doesn’t have to wear a paper gown this time.

“Spencer Hastings?” Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins asks as she confidently strides into the room.

Sure enough, it’s a different woman, though Spencer has no idea which one is which. She just nods.

“Your tests all came back clean. Hopefully you’ll be able to stay that way.” The doctor gives a friendly smile, flipping her clipped papers back to the start.

This probably isn’t the scary one. Yay?

“However,” she continues, “it seems my lovely wife failed to ask when your last menstrual cycle was.” She looks up expectantly, pen ready.

Spencer’s eyes widen. Wife?

“Um...last week, I think?” It’s hard to keep track of time considering she spent who knows how long in transit just getting here...wherever here really is.

The doctor jots down something in her file and says, “Okay. Eventually, you’ll end up on the same cycle as the other inmates, but it’ll probably take a month or two to adjust. They’re due next week, so...” She hesitates for a moment, then adds, gently, “Watch your back.” She sounds concerned, which certainly makes Spencer concerned as well.

“Watch my back?”

Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins closes the chart and makes her way to the door, opening it as she says, “Shit gets a little real around here during Shark Week.”

Chapter Text

Prison is like starting high school all over again, only with less homework and even meaner girls. There’s the ordeal of seating in the lunchroom, judgmental glares in the hall, and even the stress of choosing classes to take. Because, as it turns out, part of this “rebirth” boasted in the motto is academic. Or, at least vocational. Possibly technical? Something. (Spencer has yet to see an actual course catalog.) She asks Mack if there’s anything related to European History, her favorite subject, but the girl just laughs in her face.

Because each class happens once per week and is scheduled against something else, new inmates get to audit the classes they’re interested in before making a commitment. Even still, Spencer is too scared to walk into a prison classroom alone. It’s the first day at a new school, but she could be stabbed if she sits at the wrong desk. So, Mack begrudgingly agrees to let Spencer tag along for their one hour of allotted rec time each day this week. It seems to make the most sense, as Quinn and Aphasia have very light schedules and Mack takes practically everything, like the Honor Roll student who signs up for every AP course to get the maximum GPA. Upon learning this, Spencer immediately feels her competitive streak creep in.

If anyone is going to be the Spencer Hastings of space prison, it’s going to be Spencer Hastings, goddamnit.

It’s Thursday, and they’re using the group bathrooms outside the Mess Hall on their way to whatever will be Spencer’s first rec hour experience. The doors have been removed from most of the bathroom stalls, and the one and only mirror in the long line of sinks is behind an inch of Plexiglass. Spencer notices a piece of paper taped to the wall behind the first sink and steps forward to get a closer look. It’s a list of currently-running classes.

“Oh hey, they updated it,” Mack says. She scans her finger down until she finds two listings crossed out and new ones written in below them. “Sweet!”

_________________________

MONDAY

Knives 1 in Small Arms Room (Instructor: Faith)
Lucy’s Play-Doh Funhouse in Mess Hall (Instructor: Lucy F.) *See Becky to be added to waitlist*

TUESDAY

Knitting in Utility Room 2 (Instructor: Santana)
Zombies in Gym 2 (Instructor: Alice)

WEDNESDAY

Alcoholics in Library (Instructor: Starbuck)
Group Therapy in Small Arms Room (Instructor: Shaw)

THURSDAY

Knives 2 in Large Arms Room (Instructor: Octavia)
Pussy with Jenny Schecter in Library - INDEFINITELY POSTPONED
**DIY Piercings in Utility Room 1 (Instructor: Aphasia)

FRIDAY

Fisting in Gym 4 (Instructor: Graham)
Fires in Utility Room 2 (Instructor: Dark Willow)

SATURDAY

Bees in Utility Room 1 (Instructor: Idgie)
Jazzercise in Gym 3 (Instructor: Sue) CANCELLED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST
DIY Tattoos in Utility Room 2 (Instructor: Violet)

SUNDAY

Candlemaking in Utility Room 2 (Instructor: Lexa)
River Tam’s Book Club in Library Study Room

**Will start next week

_________________________

Spencer doesn’t want to be on the Honor Roll anymore.

She stares at the list for a moment, taking it all in. What the hell are these course topics? Why are inmates allowed into the arms lockers? Am I required to do any of this? Then, her mind fixates on the most unsettling question of all, and Spencer turns to Mack with raised eyebrows. “Lucy’s Play-Doh Funhouse? Really?”

Mack charges at her, slamming her hand loudly against the counter with eyes blazing. She brings a finger to Spencer’s face and grits her teeth. “Don’t you fucking talk about Lucy’s Play-Doh Funhouse. I’ve waited a year to get in there. You don’t KNOW!”

She hovers for a minute, daring Spencer to move or respond, or even breathe. Spencer’s quite terrified, but she isn’t sure if it’s because Mack might beat the crap out of her or because Mack is defending children’s modeling clay. It’s an awkward moment. Finally, Mack relents and checks the time, saying, “I got Knives on Thursdays,” before nodding for Spencer to follow.

“You don’t go to Aphasia’s class?” she asks. It seems odd that she wouldn’t support her friend, regardless of the topic.

“That’s a new one,” Mack points at the asterisk footnote like Spencer’s an idiot.

Without another word, they join the line of women filing out of the bathroom and head up the eastern hallway toward the rooms used for classes. Various inmates break off into the gyms, opting to spend their rec time working out. The rest of them, including Mack and Spencer, keep walking until they reach the Large Arms Room. Why a prison would give inmates access to a weapons locker is beyond her, much less for a weapons class, but she doesn’t make the rules.

Here goes nothing.

In many ways, Knives class is exactly as it sounds -- Identifying different kinds, discussing their various purposes, how to clean them, even how to throw them at targets. This last part worries her the most until she learns they, thankfully, don’t have any actual knives on board to use. In fact, the so-called Large Arms Room where the class is held is just an open space with no weapons of any kind. Spencer sees storage compartments big enough to hold assault weapons built into the walls, but all the doors have been removed, rendering them useless.

The Knives instructor, a girl named Octavia near Spencer’s age, describes in detail how she had to hunt and forage in a radioactive forest after living in a floor for most of her life. Spencer wants to ask her neighbor what the hell Octavia’s smoking, but then she remembers she’s surrounded by hardened criminals. The woman beside her, Sarah Connor, seems like a tough lady -- not as outwardly scary as some of the other inmates Spencer’s encountered, but definitely not someone with whom she wants to cross paths. It’s the crazy eyes. This woman has seen things. So, Spencer keeps her comments to herself. It reminds Spencer that, while she doesn’t plan on actually signing up for any of these “classes,” this is a learning opportunity, nonetheless. It’s more valuable for her to learn who to avoid in the common areas than to know what a Rampuri is or that a knife exists just to cut linoleum.

Over the next few days, Spencer audits other activities and meets other inmates, each as terrifying as the last. Mack’s Friday class is Fires, thank god. (Spencer really did not want to go to Fisting class.) First on her mind is why anyone would want to start fires here in the first place. There are a dozen basic safety concerns, not to mention the oxygen issue, since, you know, space. But Spencer keeps her mouth shut because it’s Day Four and she has a silent bet with herself to last at least three weeks before getting her ass kicked.

She’s not at all surprised to hear there is a firefighter on board -- some woman named Leslie Shay -- considering how very, very lesbian this population seems to be. But that’s not who’s teaching the class. It turns out Fires isn’t about how to extinguish them, it’s about how to start them. The class is led by the scary, veiny girl, Dark Willow that Spencer saw in the cell next to hers. But much to the dismay of an overeager girl named Clarke, Dark Willow doesn’t have any incendiary devices or accelerants of any kind, or even a Zippo -- just...telekinesis? Spencer refuses to believe it until a giant fireball flies from the Dark Willow’s hands across the galley, slamming into the far wall in a thick cloud of smoke as the onlookers “Ooooh” and politely applaud through hacking coughs.

This continues for forty-seven minutes. That’s Fires.

Just like she didn’t want to audit Fisting class, Spencer is equally relieved the next day to hear that Mack isn’t signed up for Bees.

Instead, Saturday is DIY Tattoos, which is a brand-new class just starting today. Spencer only accompanies Mack under the condition that she is not to be tattooed under any circumstances. (The dismissive, “Uh huh,” is very reassuring.) Spencer only barely manages to escape unscathed, as Mack holds up her end of the bargain but her classmates do not. The instructor, Violet, who had tried to show a tattoo to Spencer ten seconds into her prison sentence, spends twenty minutes displaying her inked breast to the class and rubbing it seductively. She’s sharpening up a rusty Bic pen and eyeing her desired subject when the forty-five minutes is up. Spencer calls it a win that she escapes the room without Hepatitis. At least, she’s pretty sure.

Sunday is River Tam’s Book Club. Of all the offerings this week, this one is definitely the most promising. As they enter the library, Mack mentions off-hand, “We’re starting a new book this week.”

Spencer turns the corner and freezes in place as her heart stops -- There’s the girl who said the freaky thing about A on Day One. “Whoa, wait, that’s River?”

Mack shoots her a glare. “So?”

The girl is leaning over someone’s shoulder to read along, but instead of crouching down, she bends at the waist with her back straight.

“She’s just...creepy,” Spencer says, staring. Too bad there isn’t a class on how to bathe yourself.

“You’re creepy,” Mack says and moves ahead of her to sit down.

They take the last two open seats in the circle, and River welcomes them and initiates a closing conversation about the previous assignment, Howliday Inn. A young woman with very short hair and a big smile jumps in first. She seems genuinely enthusiastic to discuss the various plot points and characters. It might be the closest thing Spencer gets to an academic conversation for a while, so she tries to tune in, despite being unfamiliar with both the text and her classmates. 

A minute later, however, Spencer is distracted by the graceful, fucking bizarro creature that is River Tam. She’s sitting in a weird yoga pose and speaking in careful, odd phrases when she chooses to speak at all. The other inmates act like she is reading their damn minds with her brilliant insights. The conversation quickly becomes more Crossing Over than Reading Rainbow.

Just as they begin a survey of how the setting could be considered its own character, the hour’s over and it’s time to get their new books and leave. All things considered, it hasn’t been that bad; Spencer's even thinking about joining. River’s “A” comment was probably a fluke, or Spencer was just making something out of nothing. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But on their way out, River silently hands her a copy of The Scarlet Letter. Spencer nearly throws it back in her face.

****************

Monday morning, they’re sitting at breakfast with a mix of girls and women from other cells. Spencer’s proud she has learned who most of them are in just a few days. She even figured out there are two women with the exact same name. It seemed quite the coincidence, but then, neither “Sarah” nor “Connor” is uncommon by any stretch. Spencer wonders if they’re good friends.

Speaking of friends, Mack certainly seems to have plenty at the moment. Nobody’s ever seen her in such a good mood, so it’s drawn a crowd, like she might do anything in between bites of her crusty waffles. Spencer’s not expecting much; her cellmate is only barely remembering to chew and swallow.

Mack stands on the table, hardly able to contain herself, and lifts her milk carton to signal a toast. “I want to say thank you to Jenny fucking Schechter,” -- crumbs spray across the table -- “for getting your stuck-up, know-it-all,” -- a fleck sticks to Spencer’s forehead --  “tightwad, pasty ass thrown OUTTA HERE!” The dozen or so women around her all raise their cartons as well and clink the paper boxes together. Mack throws her empty carton against the far wall for dramatic effect and holds her arms above her head with one foot on Aphasia’s tray. “NO MORE WAITLIST FOR ME, BITCHES!”

The room erupts in applause, and Spencer awkwardly slow claps but doesn’t really understand why. As the noise settles back to its usual dull roar, Mack gets down and takes another bite of her burnt sausage link.

“I mean,” she says, chomping hungrily, “how fucking stupid, right? You got a spot in Lucy’s class, and you fuck it up and get yourself killed?” She laughs and mutters, “Dumbass.”

All heads at the table nod and hum in agreement.

If there’s something Spencer hates, it’s not knowing what literally every other person around her seems to know. She doesn’t want to draw attention or look stupid, but she just can’t take it anymore. “Okay, what’s the deal with this Lucy?”

“What?” Lucy Diamond asks from the end of the table, hearing her name.

Graham, the sly-looking girl who’s been blatantly checking Spencer out all morning, waves a hand dismissively and calls down, “Other one!”

Lucy Diamond gives a look that says, Of course, and goes back to her breakfast.

“There’s more than one of her, too?” Spencer asks. She’s getting quite tired of multiple versions of people in this fucking place.

“Lucy?” Aphasia asks, then looks at Mack and mumbles, “You wish,” through a full mouth of food.

At that comment, Mack subtly glances across the room before quietly continuing to stuff her now very smug face.

Spencer’s eyes try to follow, but it’s just the same old mass of black uniforms and shitty haircuts. This mystical unicorn of a girl must be in here somewhere, but Spencer doesn’t see anyone who looks particularly special. No rays of sunlight magically shining down on anyone, no rainbows shooting out of anyone’s ass. Just a room full of angry, smelly women shouting their usual threats and slurs. “Where is she?”

Mack doesn’t seem to be listening anymore, lost in her own lustful thoughts, so Graham says, “Eight o’clock, far table.”

Spencer turns to her left and tries to see past the dozens of moving heads in the way. The view is crap, which probably explains why she hasn’t really noticed this section of tables before. But then she sees a splash of color – Is that a pink uniform?  Sure enough, through the rows of faces, Spencer can see a girl in a pink jumpsuit with long, wavy blonde hair sitting across from two fiercely attractive brunettes. They’re offset from the rest of the group by a few seat spaces. The blonde’s back is to Spencer, but she knows in her gut that’s Lucy.

Mack does have a thing for blondes.

Spencer stands briefly, wanting to see Lucy’s face, but Mack punches her in the thigh and hisses, “Sit down, shitbrain!”

A second later, Graham and Aphasia each grab Spencer by the shoulders and pull her back onto the bench before she can get a good look.

“Hey, let go of me!” She jerks out of their grip and settles into her seat with a huff and some pointed glares. Everyone is so damn violent here.

“You trying to get us killed?” Mack asks, pissed as nails.

“Yes,” Spencer says dryly, “behold my clever plan to murder you by standing.

Mack just scoffs and takes another bite of her sausage. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Spencer crosses her arms. “You worship this girl, yet you’re terrified of her. That sounds very healthy.” It was hypocritical and she knew it, considering what she and her friends went through with Alison, but they didn’t need to know that. “Why is she wearing pink?”

“Because she’s special, that’s why,” Mack huffs. Clearly frustrated, she looks around the group for assistance and says, “How do I begin to explain Lucy Fabray?”

Quinn glowers and puts out her cigarette in Aphasia’s syrup. “Don’t ask me.”

“She flawless,” says Aphasia, dunking her stepped-on waffle without a care.

The oldest inmate at the table, a regal looking woman named Regina Mills, leans in. “I hear her hair’s insured for ten thousand dollars.”

Lorna Morello smiles and says, “I hear she did mattress commercials in Ohio.” Spencer can’t tell what’s more laughable, the statement or her accent.

A few seats down, River repeatedly stabs her food with a plastic spork and speaks without breaking eye contact. “Her favorite movie is Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.”

“One time she met Portia di Rossi on a plane,” says Mack, green with envy.

“And she told Lucy she was pretty,” adds Dark Willow. “Whore.”

Sameen Shaw walks by with her tray, and, overhearing, stops to look at Spencer long enough to say, completely deadpanned, “One time she punched me in the face.” When Spencer’s eyes widen, Shaw gives a slight shrug and adds, “It was awesome.”

Okay, now Spencer is even more confused than before. “Yeah.” This Lucy girl sounds like a real piece of work. “So...what’s with the Play-Doh?”

Mack stops chewing, mouth open, and just stares for a moment. A second later, she’s on her feet, shouting angrily. “You don’t fucking know her! You don’t know her life!” She flips her breakfast tray at Spencer, then picks up Aphasia’s tray and throws it across the room.

“My waffles!” Aphasia screams and runs after them.

The clash and clang of utensils echo in the noisy Mess Hall, but nobody really turns to see what’s going on. It’s no more a disturbance than when Starbuck decked Kat at dinner last night or when two brunettes started going at it on the table during lunch on Wednesday. (Come to think of it, was that the same two brunettes sitting with Lucy?)

But, unlike then, Spencer now has syrup dripping down her jumpsuit and food all over her. She can already hear a few whispers of “Maple Tits” rippling through the room, and she just wants to get up and run away. No one here gives a shit about her. She’s completely on her own.

Aphasia sits back down with her restocked tray, then reaches over and starts gently picking pieces of egg out of Spencer’s hair one at a time.

“Thanks,” Spencer says quietly, closing her eyes. Maybe she’s found a prison friend after all. But then Aphasia starts eating the eggs, and Spencer gives up.

Aphasia mutters between bites, “The waffles are better.”

Chapter Text

Spencer spends her morning shower de-breakfasting herself. Aphasia, it turns out, was thorough in her grooming technique, so Spencer’s thankfully egg-free. But, the ten allotted minutes were only enough to scrub her sticky uniform and nothing else. Now, she’s just wet, not actually clean.

As Boomer’s collecting them to return to their cell, Sue comes charging around the corner in large strides. “Banger!” she yells, not slowing down as she nears them.

“It’s ‘Boomer,’ sir,” the guard replies, like she’s said it a hundred times.

“Until you stop calling me ‘sir,’ you can be Bibbity Bobbity Boo, for all I care,” says Sue. “What’s the status on 5?”

“Still code black, but we’re on it, sir -- Sue. Ma’am. Sylvester. Sir.”

Sue does not look even remotely pleased. She leans down until she’s right in Boomer’s face, awkwardly so, and speaks with an even calmness that gives Spencer a chill. “Move this chum out of my hallway and get your ass down to the galley until you’ve fixed our little problem.” She straightens, glancing quickly down the line of prisoners until she reaches Spencer. Sue casts her a disgusted look, then turns to walk away. “I’ve got the President on the phone, six conjugal visits in the next four days, and enough unfiled paperwork in my office to bury a small child alive.”

Spencer perks up. Not at the sex part (because, ew), but at the potential for office work. She’s overdue for a good, old-fashioned snooping around.

When they return to the cell, Spencer hangs by the door to talk to Boomer. After five minutes of negotiating through the guard’s almost impressive levels of ambivalence and apathy, Spencer manages to convince her to run an idea by Sue -- an hour of helping in the office in exchange for a few extra minutes in the shower. It feels like a win-win, not to mention the much-needed change of scenery. An hour later, Boomer comes back with a “whatever” and leads Spencer to a blissful five-minute rinse, saying that Sue will call her in soon. Getting a shower now is a gesture of good faith from the warden, who could smell the breakfast on her from ten feet away.

Three o’clock rolls around, and squeaky-clean Spencer files out for rec time as she’s done for the last four days. She’s finally reaching a point of routine, which is comforting, even though it’s a prison routine. She likes structure and schedules and all that; it helps her stay in control. But today feels different. Today, terror is bubbling violently in her stomach (though, that may be the “orange juice” from earlier), and Spencer has no goddamn clue what is waiting for her up ahead. Somehow, today’s agenda seems even scarier than Knives or Fires or anything else on that list.

Even Bees.

She takes small steps (as if stalling will do her any good), and tries to keep her face as blank as possible. Nobody else seems the least bit worried about their rec time. Regina has a stack of library books in her arms at least a foot high. Kat’s bragging loudly about her latest bench press load, which nobody’s buying, and Corky’s soliciting opponents for the billiard room -- though, for playing pool or “playing” on the pool table, Spencer doesn’t know. For that matter, she has yet to see either a gym or a pool table in this place.

As the prisoners pass through the main hall, a contingent starts to break off to the left. Mack leads the way yet again as Spencer follows timidly (in no small part because Mack grabbed her by the collar moments prior and growled, “If you fuck this up for me, I will kill you.”) A pair of beautiful inmates just behind them – Flaca and Maritza -- are chatting incessantly about beauty tips and DIY prison makeup. They’re practically finishing each other’s sentences in rapid fire, bopping from one topic to the next. Spencer wonder if this is the type of vapid conversation that regularly takes place in a Play-Doh Funhouse. She wouldn’t be surprised.

For all Mack’s bluster about this course, it doesn’t seem to be very popular. Spencer counts only a dozen students, including a few familiar faces like Dark Willow and one of the Sarah Connors, making it the smallest class she’s attended this week. They wait outside until a faint signal sounds -- a kind of ringing from inside, like a brass bell -- and they enter single-file with Spencer close behind Mack at the end of the line.

Yeah. She is absolutely fucking terrified.

Mack isn’t, and she enters with a spring in her step, breathing, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” over and over.

Spencer finally edges into the Mess Hall, takes one quick glance around, and echoes, “Oh...my god.”

The room has been completely redecorated since lunch. It would be unrecognizable if not for the perpetual smell of dirty dishwater hanging over everything. Hot pink drop cloths cover the four center tables with neon green on the benches. Crêpe paper streamers of every color twist overhead. Baskets of craft supplies line the walkway, filled with glitter and paint and beads and brushes and paste. On an easel in the middle of the room rests a purple chart with twelve names, each boasting several gold star stickers in a row under a checklist. (Spencer notices Mack’s name has been added to the bottom on a blank line and Jenny’s row is crossed out.) A string spans the length of the room like a clothesline, displaying maybe fifteen of what must be fingerpaintings on construction paper. But god only knows what they’re paintings of. One of them has eyes? Maybe?

No one with an IQ over sixty made those. And is that “Pop Goes the Weasel” playing in the background? ...On a cassette player?!

Spencer seems to have left prison behind and entered the world of kindergarten.

Kindergarten in Hell.

It’s even worse than she thought.

Two rows of six place settings rest on the tables -- replete with small tubs of neon Play-Doh -- and Mack pushes through the other inmates to get a seat on the end of the front row.

Spencer lingers in the back and watches out of morbid curiosity. A blonde woman she assumes is Lucy stands with her back turned as she makes final adjustments to the spread of supplies on the front table. She’s dressed not in the standard black uniform but a bright pink one. Definitely the same girl Spencer saw in the cafeteria. She sighs and resigns herself to an hour of arts and crafts, of all things, and walks up to nudge Mack over and sit next to her. Spencer figures since she doesn’t have a place setting to herself and she’s not technically a member of the class, she might as well sit with someone she knows. Even someone as embarrassing as Mack; she’s grinning like an idiot and literally bouncing in her seat, as is the happy Maybelline couple on the far end of their bench. Spencer notices the rest of the class behaving similarly, and casually looks around to see if there’s an espresso machine somewhere she missed.

One very long minute later, the instructor turns around with a flourish and smiles at her rapt audience, giving Spencer her first look at the mystery that is Lucy Fabray. Her breath catches in her chest. Smoldering hazel eyes, perfectly sculpted eyebrows, soft lips she recognizes, though they’re usually wrapped around a cigarette filter...

Spencer does a double-take, then leans over to Mack. “That’s Quinn!”

Mack looks at Spencer like she’s denser than concrete. “No...that’s Lucy.”

Spencer blinks hard and squints, but she’s not imagining things. She points this time and whispers, “It’s Quinn! They’re identical.” Well, aside from the longer, less-pink hair and the apparent personality transplant.

Mack slaps the pointing hand down before Lucy can see it. “What are you talking about?” she whispers angrily. “No, they’re not!”

“Are you fucking blind?” Spencer says it more loudly than she means to, but she’s not making this up.

Mack hisses, “Don’t say ‘fucking!’ Lucy doesn’t like cussing in here. So I’ve heard.”

Spencer stares at Mack in disbelief. Did she wander into some bizarro alternate universe? Or is this what going crazy feels like?

“Good afternoon, friends!” Lucy says, sweet as punch, before Spencer can say anything else. “Welcome to Lucy’s Play-Doh Funhouse! It’s a beautiful day to make art, don’t you think?”

“No,” Spencer says lowly. “It’s not even daytime. We’re in SPACE.”

Mack jams an elbow into her ribs and snaps, “Pay attention, this is important.”

Lucy puts her hands over her heart. “Today we will use the magic of Play-Doh to recreate a childhood pet. We want to celebrate and remember the love and warmth they brought into our lives.”

Spencer’s eyes nearly roll out of her head. Lucy Fabray is the Mr. Rogers of space prison.

“For many of us,” Lucy continues, “a pet is the most true and loyal friend a girl can have.”

Apparently, she’s never owned a vibrator.

But hey, at least Spencer is exempt from today’s assignment. After all, she killed her own pet with a death glare when she was five. She doesn’t imagine a dead guppy would meet any of Lucy’s expectations.

A voice rises from the table right behind them. Spencer recognizes it as Dark Willow’s and wonders what the hell this Creature of the Night is doing here. Hunting, perhaps? She’s probably about to flay Lucy’s skin off with a casual flick of her hand. (Spencer remembers that trick and the defenseless fried chicken on Friday.)

“What if I didn’t have a childhood pet?” Dark Willow asks timidly. She then whispers over her table to Spencer, “I wasn’t allowed to have fish for five years.”

Lucy just smiles. “That’s okay, you can borrow one of mine! I have plenty to share.” She gestures grandly to one of the fingerpaintings, the brown, spiky ball with two glowing red eyes. “Miss Lady Meowsers Scratchington the Third is wonderful inspiration for any artist!”

Spencer thinks it looks like a Tribble on crack, or something out of Pet Sematary, only scarier.

One of the Mary Kay wannabes, Flaca, raises a hand, and Lucy calls on her. “Question?”

“Does it have to be, like…exactly like how he was?” Flaca asks with a very serious tone. “Because I had this little chihuahua named Pepper, and he was always tryin’ to get up on the ass of the little poodle next door, because she liked to come into the yard flaunting it right in front of him even though he was chained to his leash, right?”

Next to her, Maritza asks, “Why she gotta be like that?”

Flaca continues, “And one day she got him chasing her in circles, just running around and around, and his chain got wrapped around his leg and it pulled so tight that it almost ripped it right off.”

Maritza gasps with a hand over her mouth.

“It got messed up real bad. Like, there wasn’t enough blood going into it anymore or something and it just hanged there,” Flaca says. “And then he couldn’t walk right or nothing anymore? It was kinda dragging along behind him. But we couldn’t take him to the vet because we were two weeks late on rent that month and the landlord’s sister was a assistant vet tech at the animal hospital and woulda been like, ‘Hey bitch, why you got money for a stupid dog leg but not for your fuckin’ house?’"

Maritza nods sympathetically, then turns to look at Lucy. “She would totally say that.”

“So, my cousin Marco gave Pepper some tequila – not enough to get him drunk, but just to take the edge off, you know? And then he tied a balloon around right here – “ She holds her hands against the top of her thigh at the hip joint. “-- and cut off Pepper’s whole leg using this really good knife we got on the Home Shopping Network --”

Martiza cuts in, “I love the Home Shopping Network. I get all my best turquoise earrings there.”

Flaca turns to Maritza, confused. “You don’t wear turquoise earrings.”

“It’s not my color,” she replies. “I just like to have them.”

Flaca nods like that makes all the sense in the world. “We could still use the knife after, too. It was kind of messy but Pepper lived through it.”

Putting her hand on Flaca’s arm, Maritza nods and says, “That’s so good. I never knew Marco could be so kind to animals.”

“Yeah,” Flaca agrees, “Me neither.” They close their eyes and share a moment together. “I think we were all better after that, you know?”

Spencer’s watching this tale play out, truly horrified by the story. She glances over at Lucy and sees she’s listening intently and nodding along, equally heartbroken on poor Pepper’s behalf.

“We grow stronger from the love they show us,” Lucy says, “but we also grow from the love we show them.”

“That’s it exactly,” Flaca says. “So, even though Pepper only had three legs when he died, technically in his heart he had four. So, that’s how I’m gonna make him today.”

Maritza puts her hand over her heart, overcome with emotion. “His true self.”

Lucy smiles at them both and says, “I think he would like that very much. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.” Then, looking up over the whole class, she announces, “You may now begin creating your masterpieces!” Right away there’s a flurry of hands grabbing Play-Doh jars and tops popping open, as everyone dives in. Well, everyone except Spencer.

Not one minute later, Lucy walks over to where she and Mack are sitting. Mack about pisses herself. Lucy locks eyes with Spencer and gives a warm, friendly smile. “Hi there! You must be Spencer. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Likewise,” Spencer says, unable to contain her passive-aggressive smarminess. She can’t imagine what Lucy could’ve heard about her other than her syrup-flavored breasts, but even that’s not as embarrassing as this class. “Quite the set-up you’ve got here.”

“It’s a very special place,” Lucy agrees. “Well, I hope your first few days here have been going well. Very nice to meet you.”

“You, too,” Spencer says with a vapid smile that fades the moment Lucy turns away. Being in this environment can’t be good for her health.

For the next twenty minutes, Spencer watches twelve convicted felons make a variety of animal-like creations using colors not found anywhere in nature. At one point, Mack asks her if she wants to try one herself, and Spencer declines with a firm, “No,” and goes back to judging every single thing around her like it’s her job.

Forty minutes in, she’s pretty sure she’s going to die of boredom. And it’s unnerving, watching a girl she’s followed to DIY Tattoos basically devolve into a five-year-old. Spencer wonders why all these supposed hardened criminals are taking such delight in neon modeling clay. Is “funhouse” just code for “nuthouse”? How long have they all been trapped up here? Isn’t there a library full of porn just down the hall? Why the fuck is there Play-Doh in space prison, anyway?

After doing several laps around the cafeteria, Lucy stops in front of their table again. “Great work, Mack!” she says and claps her hands. “Your artistry in creating such a fluffy puppy-dog is outstanding! Just look at those little ears! They’re perfect! I can tell you’re a truly gifted new addition to our wonderful little class.”

Mack beams so brightly she could power the sun, then elbows Spencer in the side just as hard. “Did you hear that?!”

Peering over them to the table behind, Lucy says, “And what a perfect depiction of Lady Meowsers! Whiskers and everything! I couldn’t have done it any better, myself.”

Even the veins on Dark Willow’s forehead are smiling.

Lucy then shifts gears, turning to Spencer with a tiny frown. “Is there a reason you haven’t gotten started? Do you need some help?” A pause. “Is Mack sharing?” she asks pointedly.

Spencer glares, wondering if her fingernail is sharp enough to slit throats. “I’m fine.” She also wonders how in the course of a week she went from a Georgetown acceptance to failing kindergarten.

Mack’s not coming to her rescue. “I asked!” she says defensively, then softens with a smile. “Sharing is caring.”

Lucy smiles back. “I couldn’t agree more.”

Spencer’s going to puke.

The moment Lucy turns her back, Mack grabs Spencer’s arm and bounces in her seat again. But before Spencer can shake her off, a graceful arpeggio sings out from the rainbow-colored chime on the front table, signaling the end of class.

“All right, ladies, it’s time to clean up!” Lucy calls, sweetly. “Be sure to put the lids tight on your cans! We’d hate for everything to dry out before our next class.”

Spencer hears a murmur as several heads dutifully nod. Play-Doh is serious business.

If we have class next week,” Lucy announces, “we’ll make chicks and bunnies for Easter!” Most of the room gasps in excitement. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed!”

Spencer leans over to Mack. “Why wouldn’t there be class next week?”

“What’s it to you?” Mack spits, pushing the cap tight on her tub and slamming it hard on the table. Without warning, she gets up and heads for the door, clearly trying to distance herself from the class dunce.

Spencer thanks Lucy with the fakest of smiles and chases after Mack. She can’t exit the room fast enough, really. Boomer’s dull, apathetic faces is a sight for sore eyes, and Spencer practically pulls Boomer along at her brisk pace to get back to 10. Who knew she’d be so excited to get into a jail cell?

Quinn’s in her bunk as usual and looks up from her book upon their return. “How was preschool?”

“Ignore her, Spencer,” Mack says, feet perched on the crossbeam of her bunk. “She’s just jealous.”

“Jealous of what?” Spencer asks. “The Crayola Cult? How can you not see how weird that all was?” But she has an even bigger bone to pick with Quinn, who so conveniently left out very fucking important details at breakfast that morning. Nobody keeps Spencer Hastings in the dark. “And you,” she angles up to Quinn, “is Lucy your evil twin or something? Because that was the creepiest part of the whole thing!”

Quinn sighs and doesn’t meet Spencer’s eyes, rolling over to the face the wall without a word.

“You take that back!” Mack shouts. Standing up, Mack gets in Spencer’s face for the eleventh time this week with that same sick, smug look. “You think you’re so damn smart, but you’re the dumbest bitch in this place. You had a chance to work with Lucy Fabray your first week here, and you just sat there like a fucking loser.”

Spencer finally snaps. “WELL, EXCUSE ME IF I’M NOT INTERESTED IN MARY POPPINS’ PLAY-DOH SHITHOUSE.”

For once, Mack doesn’t seem to know what to say. She throws herself onto her bunk with a huff, mumbling obscenities under her breath and mimicking Spencer in a nasty voice. Spencer lies down, too, and hears Quinn quietly laughing up in her bunk.

Thank god there’s someone else who hasn’t been sipping the Kool-Aid, she thinks. Even if her twin is the damn ringleader.

Without warning, Aphasia’s face pops into view from overhead and about scares the shit out of her. “Y’all watched Mary Poppins?”

Chapter Text

Aphasia wasn’t lying -- Quinn spanks Mack on Wednesdays.

Spencer’s curled up in her bunk with The Scarlet Letter. She resents having homework from a crazy person, but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t finish it by next Sunday all the same. She’s still Spencer Hastings, even in prison. Every other word reminds her of Toby’s betrayal, but at least it’s a more interesting read than Quinn’s next recommendation, Sweet Honey Valley. Even better, it’s a welcome distraction from the noise across the cell.

Thank you, River Tam, you deranged lunatic.

Three chapters later, a loud crack interrupts the monotonous drone of smacks and screams. Spencer glances cautiously over her shoulder and sees Quinn standing by her bunk. “Please tell me you’re done,” she mutters.

Quinn just chuckles as Aphasia hands her something resembling a cricket bat. “Riding crop broke.”

“Ah,” Spencer nods. “And she just lets you do...that...with her stuff?”

“I don’t mind!” Aphasia calls from above.

Quinn gives them both a grin and a wink before resuming her position over Mack. “Wait your turn.”

SMACK!

Spencer sucks in a breath, her eyes widening slightly as she feels a twinge of...something. Not annoyance, like she’d expect, but rather a jolt to her ladyparts which she is just not equipped to deal with right now. She rolls back to face the wall with a groan, hoping it sounds adequately like disgust. Which it is. Really.

Two paragraphs back into the world of Hester Prynne, Spencer notices something moving near her feet. She sets the book aside and sits up for a closer look, hoping it’s her eight-legged friend. Sure enough, Charlotte’s scurrying away on her web, faster than ever, and Spencer can kind of make out the beginning of a “T” before the intercom crackles to life overhead.

Plink-plink.

“What was that?” Spencer says. The riding crop is loud, but she’s pretty sure those tinny notes aren’t the start of any Madonna song. It sounds like the Fisher Price version of the Jaws theme.

Plink-plink.

Quinn curses and the paddle drops to the floor with a clunk.  “You’ve got to be kidding me...”

Plink-plink.

“I’m a LITTLE BUSY here!” Mack yells at the intercom, still on all fours and ass in the air.

Plink-plink, plink-plink.

“What’s going on?”

But Spencer’s cellmates are too busy huffing and putting their clothes back on. She watches a frustrated Quinn toss the various floggers back to Aphasia, who stores them beneath her mattress. As the plinks come faster and faster, Spencer turns to see Charlotte hovering over the largest web yet, which reads:

THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

Okay, now she’s officially freaked out.

Plink-plink, plink-plink.

“Hey! Guys?” Spencer yells over the incessant plinking. “Is there an emergency or something? Should I be worried here?” But her cellmates aren’t even paying attention, just reading and picking at scabs like nothing’s wrong.

Plinkplink, plinkplink, plinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplinkpl--CLANK!

“Ladies and gays,” comes Sue’s voice from the speaker. “Code Red. I repeat, Code Red.”  With a crackle, the intercom shuts off again.

“Uh. That can't be good.” Spencer’s even more concerned than before.

Aphasia leans over the edge of her bed. “Somebody bleeding.”

Sue’s voice continues. “Lockdown procedures are in effect for your own safety.”

“SAFETY, MY ASS,” Mack screams at the intercom.

But Spencer’s still clinging to what Aphasia said. “Like, stabbed?!”

“Naw,” she handwaves, then widens her eyes suggestively. “You know.” And she points down toward her stomach.

Just then, Buffy hurls a rectangular carton between the bars that lands in the middle of the cell with a dull thud. It’s a Tampax jumbo pack.

“Shark Week,” Quinn mutters, not looking up from chapter six of Rum Spring Break.

The doctor warned Spencer about this, she remembers, but it still doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Is there something dangerous about having your period in space? It’s not like there are any actual sharks nearby. She pauses for a moment to consider that, then wonders if this bunk’s previous tenant went crazy and that’s why she was airlocked.

Seems legit.

“So, what now?” Spencer asks.

Mack kicks the box hard against the back wall of the cell, and it bursts open on impact, setting off a fireworks show of flying peach tampons. “Lockdown.”

Glancing around the cell, Spencer asks, “How can we get any more locked down?”

“Less meals, less showers, NO CLASSES,” Mack shouts toward the empty hallway.

Spencer winces and almost corrects Mack’s grammar with “fewer,” but catches herself at the last second. She’s quickly learning just how many things Aphasia has under her mattress that could kill her, and Mack seems to be in a particularly foul mood over the cancellation of Play-Doh Dumbhouse.

“No breaks, no laundry service,” Quinn adds. “They’re scared to get us all in the same room. Some of the ladies can get a little...”

“Violent?” Spencer offers.

“Homicidal.”

Oh, great.

“Aphasia,” Mack says from the toilet, jumpsuit to her ankles. “Gimme a green one. I hate this orange light-day bullshit. Like, fuck you, Buffy. I’m hardcore.”

With a sigh, Aphasia pulls a small green package from her stash, tossing it to Mack. She then holds a second one over the edge for Spencer.

“I’m good, thanks.”

With a shrug, Aphasia tosses it to Quinn instead, who catches it one-handed without even looking and stashes it in her pillowcase.

Mack tends to her lady business right there in the open, and Spencer wonders how this has become her life. The state-of-the-art bathroom back home feels like a good dream she once had -- locking the door, shutting out the world, and washing her troubles away with a long, hot shower. She’d been taking her privacy for granted before now, where the concept no longer exists.

She zones out in Mack’s direction and only snaps back to reality when she hears the sassy, “You wanna help or something?”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, when she sleeps, Spencer feels like she’s floating. Like she’s fallen into a black hole, weightless and suspended in space. This seems to be one of those nights. She blames the insanity that is Shark Week, even though it’s only been a day and she isn’t even bleeding. But then her head smacks against the metal underside of Aphasia’s bunk and Spencer jolts awake, only to find that she is actually floating.

“Whoa!" she screams. Reaching out for the bed, Spencer realizes her pillow and mattress are floating as well. She grabs fistfuls of the white sheet and hangs in the air, feet rising up behind her to hit the frame again. The blood is rushing to her head, and it all feels too real to be another dream. She can’t get a good look at her cellmates from this angle, and they’re not making any noise. Kicking against the wall, she pushes herself out from under the frame and grabs on to the edge of the top bunk.

“The fuck are you doing?”

Spencer turns herself around to see a very angry, very not-floating Mack. Well, her feet are a few inches off the bed, but most of her is still flat on the mattress. Her arms are wrapped around her pillow, so it’s not going far. The mattress itself is rising a bit on the ends but seems pinned down in the middle. Maybe by Mack’s bruised, lumpy ass. But Quinn and Aphasia seem to be in the same situation.

“What is happening?!” Spencer cries, clinging to the frame for dear life.

Quinn grumbles and starts to roll over in her bunk, and Spencer now sees a belt strapped firmly across her stomach and chest holds her mostly in place. “Gravity’s out,” she mumbles, covering her eyes with an arm that just floats in mid-air.

“Obviously! Why didn’t I get strapped down?” She looks like a damn flying squirrel.

Mack groans into her pillow. “Go to SLEEP.”

“HOW. How am I supposed to do that?!”

But Mack just resumes snoring.

Making her way to the far end, Spencer manages to inch down the vertical rail and along the edge of her bed. There has to be a strap here somewhere that she’d missed all this time. Have the other girls been locking themselves in every night and she didn’t notice? It’s just a thin mattress with a single fitted sheet on a flimsy frame, so there isn’t much to investigate. Sure enough, no strap.

Of course.

Maybe Aphasia stole it. Maybe Mack took it so Quinn could use it for spanky times. And then maybe Jenny Schecter floated right off the bed, through the bars, and out the airlock without even waking up.

Spencer releases her grip for a moment to drift back up until she’s eye-level with Aphasia. “Where’s my strap?”

Blinking sleepily, Aphasia stretches into a yawn. “What kinda strap-on you need?”

“A STRAP. This belt thing,” she says, grabbing Aphasia’s and pulling hard to jostle the girl awake. “Why don’t I have one?”

“It’s from my ride,” she says sleepily, like it’s obvious.

Spencer now sees the buckle on the side and the second strap meeting it at a forty-five-degree angle. It’s a seat belt. How Aphasia managed to smuggle them into prison, she doesn’t want to know.

“I only got three,” Aphasia adds.

“What kind of car only has three seats?”

“MINE,” she says definitively.

The options don’t look good. There’s no way Spencer can hold the bed and sleep. Smacking her head repeatedly on the ceiling wouldn’t be much of a picnic, either. She loosely considers going between her bed and the floor, but god only knows what kind of nastiness is under there. (No offense, Charlotte.)

Aphasia smacks her across the arm. “I know!” She rummages around under her bed, only slightly hindered by her limited mobility.

Seconds later, Spencer feels pressure on her wrist and hears a ratcheting sound followed by a clink!

Oh no. 

She’s handcuffed to Aphasia’s bed. “Really?” Spencer asks, glaring daggers and jangling the cuff against the rail. “This is your solution to the fact that I can’t sleep floating?”

“You’re welcome,” Aphasia says dryly. Mack laughs against her pillow.

There’s a rustling as Quinn adjusts her position, sliding the nylon with a low zip sound. “C’mon.” Spencer turns and sees Quinn’s raised arm holding up a muchly loosened seat belt. “There’s room.”

Sold.

...provided Aphasia can release her first. “Please tell me you have the key.”

The instant the cuffs come off, Spencer launches herself through the air toward Quinn. She has to carve a bit of a path through floating tampons, of all things; one nearly goes right into her mouth. And her forward momentum sends her right over Quinn and head-first into the wall. “Shit!” 

Luckily, Quinn reaches up to catch her as she braces against the cold metal with her hands. They hold on to each other’s arms, Spencer still hanging in the air, laughing awkwardly. She looks down at the gap between the loosened belt and the bed, running a few quick calculus equations. Yeah, no. She arches her eyebrow. “I can’t fit in there.”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “Fine,” she says. “Hold on to me.” Working together, they clumsily find where Spencer’s hands can go that won’t be in Quinn’s way, eventually settling for her hips. “Don’t tickle me,” she says with a pointed finger before clutching the rail with one hand and releasing the buckle with the other. “Now!”

In one swift move, Spencer pulls herself against the warm body below as Quinn hurriedly throws the strap over them both and says, “Lock it.”

Spencer shifts onto her side and finds the loose end, buckling them in tight with a click. She exhales deeply and lets her body relax at the sensation of being grounded and still. It’s strange seeing her bunk empty -- right there, just a few feet away -- for what appears to be no reason at all. (Well, flying tampons, notwithstanding.) And with that, Spencer immediately tenses again. She’s strapped into a bed with someone else, this girl she barely knows. How is she supposed to sleep?

Right on cue, Quinn presses up against her back, rather snugly. An arm drapes over her side, curling lightly around her stomach. She’s used to Toby’s stupidly heavy arms (even more so when dead), but Quinn’s weight feels comfortable, like an extension of her own body. For the first time in weeks -- hell, maybe years -- Spencer feels safe.

There’s a light squeeze from Quinn’s fingers on her side, maybe deliberate, maybe just a spasm. Spencer softly sets her hand on Quinn’s, holding it in place as she half-turns to say, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Quinn deeply hums, “Mmhmm,” between slow, steady breaths.

Suddenly, Mack’s foot kicks the metal frame right under Spencer’s ass three times. “SHUT UPPP,” she groans.

Quinn smiles against the back of Spencer’s neck. “You’re welcome.”

Chapter Text

Spencer’s not entirely sure what she dreamed about that night, beyond a sensation of comfort and warmth, but when she wakes up the following morning, her first thought is, Why am I strapped down?  She feels breath against her neck and shifts as much, or as little, as she can to glance over her shoulder and sees Quinn almost nuzzling her.

Oh, right.

Her first instinct is to elbow Quinn square in the stomach and remove herself from the situation; the dumb part of her considers reaching down to curl her fingers gently around the hand Quinn has resting against her stomach. But before she can come to a decision, Quinn shifts and Spencer feels the belt loosen and fall to either side of the bed.

“G’morning,” Quinn mumbles as she rolls away and stretches.

Spencer can feel her heart pitter-patter as Quinn nudges her with an outstretched arm, but she instinctively pretends to still be asleep. It feels like the right thing to do, even if it is the gay thing to do. She’s not in any hurry to get out of this bed.

Mack growls, “Go fuck yourself,” from under them, just before Spencer can drift back off to a pleasant dream.

Spencer feels Quinn laugh against her neck, and it tickles, making her shift and shimmy to loosen Quinn’s grasp on her waist. But then it tickes there, and Spencer has to flip over to make it stop. She senses warmth close to her face, mere inches away. Sure enough, her eyes flicker open and gaze directly into Quinn’s.  “H-hi,” she says, low and raspy.

Sure, well done, Spencer. 

Quinn just smirks. “Hello to you, too,” she says.  “Sleep well?”

Spencer hums happily and smiles, stretching her arms downward along her body. “What was that all about, anyway? The gravity, I mean.” Not the cuddling part, which is even more confusing for her brain.

“Sue has Raven shut it off the first night of Shark Week,” Quinn replies. “She says it helps with cramps.”

It’s an absurd solution, Spencer thinks. Why not just give pain meds to the girls who need it, rather than keep the entire cell block from being able to sleep? Well, aside from the privileged few who happen to have a work-around. “And you didn't think it was worth giving me a heads-up?”

Suddenly, Aphasia leaps from her bed and starts a dance routine in the middle of the room. After about twenty beats of hip-hop moves, she finishes with a loud exclamation and both arms in the air. “Waffles!”

Spencer flips back over and stares, dumbfounded.

“It’s true love,” Quinn whispers in her ear. That sends a shiver down Spencer’s spine. Not that she knows why. “Lucky for her,” Quinn continues, “that’s all we get for breakfast during Shark Week, anyway.”

When Buffy comes around to deliver their cold, dry breakfast, Spencer’s certain that she’ll get shoved aside in favor of food, but Quinn doesn’t seem particularly eager to end their cuddlefest, either. The warmth of their closeness is more comfortable – and less awkward -- than she anticipated. In fact, Spencer’s perfectly content to hunker down in Quinn’s bunk for the whole day.

But then Buffy’s voice pierces through her otherwise lovely morning. “Hastings! Rise and shine.”

The cell door unlocks and Buffy slides it aside with barely more than a nudge of her finger. She watches Spencer impatiently, as if silently counting down in her head before she comes in there and drags Spencer off the bed.

Quinn pokes her in the side again. “Guess you’d better go,” she says, lips ghosting against Spencer’s neck.

Spencer groans and shoves off the bunk, landing on the cold, metal floor with a thud. “What?” she grumbles at the guard.

Buffy just shrugs. “Warden wants to see you. She looked hungry. Who knew shark bait was a breakfast food?” She sounds delighted by her own joke, but Spencer’s not laughing.

If prison has taught her anything so far, it’s that curbing her desire to correct people is good for her health, so Spencer puts on her shoes without saying a word. Is she really the only person in this place not on her period? And is that going to somehow be a bad thing? Should she pretend?

Buffy cuffs her and leads her down the corridor. Spencer hears a few whistles and catcalls from behind her, back in cells that can’t even see her walking, and she wonders if this place has turned into a damn zoo of crazy, hormonal psychopaths. River literally barks at her as they pass by.

Buffy turns the wheel on the door that seals the cell block like a vault, then leads Spencer down a long, narrow hall. Only the widest part between the Infirmary and the Processing room is familiar. The hallway curves sharply in this new territory, and there’s a door ten steps down on the left with a single chair outside it. A metal placard with “SUE SYLVESTER” and “WARDEN” is displayed at eye level.

Spencer sits down and doesn’t put up a fight when Buffy chains her handcuffs to the chair. It’s not like there’s anywhere to go even if she breaks free. This whole space gimmick is quite effective.

"Wait here," Buffy says and heads back the way they came.

After several minutes, a girl Spencer hasn’t seen before emerges from the office. She’s young, maybe Spencer’s age but very short. She’s wearing glasses and a navy-blue track suit identical to the one the warden wore on Spencer’s first day. The girl turns on her way out Sue’s door, salutes, and says, “You got it, boss!” enthusiastically. A beat later, she notices Spencer and spits, “What are you looking at, Bloody Mary?” before storming off. The abrupt shift in her tone is startling.

Spencer recoils and almost yells back at a complete stranger. But before she can get any words out, she hears the warden’s voice coming through the crack in the unclosed door, and quickly decides she doesn’t want to reveal her position.

“Madam President --”

Spencer blinks. Madam?

“ – We are talking about depraved criminals with homicidal tendencies, pent up in a space box like ticking, hormonal time bombs. Will they eventually claw each other’s eyes out? Yes. Fact.”  There’s a long silence from Sue with a faint, distorted mumbling in the background, and Spencer now knows she’s listening to one side of a phone call. “I disagree,”  Sue replies plainly. “Our turnover has been the lowest in this sector for ten straight years, and frankly I don’t understand why we’re even having this conversa-- ...You think she’s something special? Half our population are enemies of one state or another!”  Sue sounds more defiant now, and Spencer strains to make out any words of the other side of the conversation to no avail.

“...They don’t intimidate me,”  Sue says. “...If the Peacekeepers cared about Aeryn Sun so much, why’d they send her away in the first place? Sounds like a steaming hot pile of Not My Problem by lazy, whiny BABIES.”  Each word is dripping with disdain.

Spencer listens intently, trying to make sense of it, but it’s not adding up to much. She hasn’t met anyone named Aeryn Sun, and she has no idea what Peacekeepers are.

After a moment, Sue continues. “Well, you try telling an angry lesbian prison mob NOT to shiv the woman who spit in their fish tacos….No ma’am, that was not a euphemism. She worked in the kitchen…Most of what’s left of her is in Ziploc bags. I haven’t seen such sloppy work since the Carter administration.”  There’s another pause, then Sue begins again, much angrier. “Then tell them to shove their Coroner’s Transfer Request UP THEIR PEACEKEEPING ASSES.”  Spencer flinches, startled. “And if you can find time in your busy schedule of staring out windows, crying for no reason, please tell your Department of Justice to keep the Peace Princesses out of my freshly conditioned hair!”

Shit is getting real in there. How is Sue allowed to talk to a President this way, Spencer wonders? Then, her chest tightens at the realization that she might end up bearing the brunt of Sue’s anger when she’s eventually called inside.

“We are following protocol and taking appropriate measures to control the situation. Despite what you seem to believe, I do know how to run a prison.”

Spencer wonders what those supposed “measures and protocols” are, because everything about this prison is absurd.

Sue huffs and says, “Speaking of crazy people. You know, blame me all you like -- whatever helps you sleep at night alone and naked on your presidential sheets. I’d just like to point out that we’ve only seen this dramatic increase in violence since YOU transferred that horrifying belch of a woman to my ship…”

Oh god. Sue doesn’t mean Spencer, does she?

But, no – Spencer’s family might be connected, but not anywhere near that level. There’s no way this president of…wherever…knows who Spencer is.

…Right?

Sue’s flat out mad now. “I told you these mandatory psych evals are pointless, and now there’s a dead body to show for it. The way I see it, that’s every bit as much on her as anyone. Maybe she drove Sun to the brink and she snapped.”

Well, Spencer’s own conscience is clear, as she’s never interacted with this Sun woman. But she’s desperate to know who the warden’s talking about now – The doctor? A guard? Some other staff person Spencer hasn’t met yet? And is Sue really insinuating that this person is a suspect?

“Let me save you the time and taxpayer money: They’re all crazy! Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”

Based on what Spencer’s seen so far, she can’t disagree.

There’s a long pause, and then Sue’s voice drops. “Madam President, I find your venom and lack of faith absolutely intoxicating.”

Wait, what?

Sue’s sultry whispering continues. “How I do so look forward to our next conjugal angerbang.”  The next part is barely audible, and Spencer – regrettably – leans in to hear, “I may serve at the pleasure of the President, but this time tomorrow, you’ll be the one serving and pleasuring me.”

Wait, WHAT?!

Spencer hears the slamming sound of the phone call ending, and then the warden’s voice booms loud and clear, “BECKY!” A few steps, then the door flies open, and Sue looks left and right down the hall. Both Buffy and that girl, Becky, are long gone. Spencer’s envious that they escaped the mental images of what she just overheard. The warden pauses and squints, considering her next move, then seems to give up. “Get in here.”

“Um.” Spencer holds up her cuffed hands, fastened to the chain.

Sue sighs in frustration, then grabs a ring of what must be thirty nearly identical keys off her desk, finding the right one immediately and unlocking the hardware.

The office is larger than Spencer expected, and the shelves behind Sue aren’t lined with books or pictures or even weapons, but countless large, gold trophies -- an entire wall of acclaimed accomplishments. For a moment, Spencer’s not just intimidated but jealous, until she takes a closer look. The figurines on top are unlike any she’s ever seen before -- a woman holding a large rifle, a woman holding a large knife, a woman holding a rifle and a knife, a building on fire, a woman scolding a crying child, a person with a dozen arrows through them at different angles, a double female symbol, a woman wrestling an alligator, a man running away from a woman with a chainsaw, and about four with handcuffs on them. There is also a small cheerleading one on the far end. For some reason, that one scares her the most.

Spencer looks around and sees, hanging on the wall beside the trophy case, a single framed picture...of Sue with Olivia Newton-John, signed, “I love getting physical with you!”

Oh god.

“Gonna put that big brain of yours to work,” Sue says. “Banger-and-Mash says you owe me an hour of labor for some extra time in the showers.” She sits down in her large chair and leans back. “Look, I understand the perverted, primal desires to ogle the goods around here. We do have quite the delicious assortment, and I know you come from a background of severe sexual repression.”

Spencer opens her mouth to protest, but Sue continues.

“And the truth is, I could use a little extra help, administratively speaking. My assistant is a beautiful, gentle, compassionate soul with all the elegance of a stallion in the wind.” She pauses, seeming taken back by the thought of this, and Spencer wonders how in the hell Sue could be talking about the same girl that just yelled at Spencer a minute ago. “Unfortunately, her organizational skills are lacking such strength and grace.” She gestures with her head to several large stacks of messy files and papers on the floor by the smaller of her three trophy cases. Each stack has a post-it on it with the word “NO” scrawled in a different color crayon. Beside them, a small pile of ashes sits on a charred, black mark on the floor where a fourth pile presumably used to be. “You help me, you earn your Peek-a-Boo Shower Time. Five minutes for each hour of work. Can’t let you get too carried away in there.”

Spencer’s mouth falls open again, but Sue doesn’t seem to need a response from her.

“Today, you’re alphabetizing.” She pauses. “I’m assuming mastery of the ABC song was a requirement for your college applications. Do you need to practice first?”

Chapter Text

Spencer ends up working overtime because there are surely clues to be found, though she doesn’t realize it’s been two hours until Sue walks back in and says, “Impressive.” Spencer starts to smile, but then Sue continues, “I had no idea you were such the motivated pervert.”

She blinks hard and bites back the desire to argue, remembering how Hanna would say not to poke the bear. Sue can think whatever she wants as long as Spencer gets what she needs. But right now, what she needs is answers, and she’s found exactly zero in all her digging. Even if she felt brave enough to ask Sue for information, where would she start? If she only gets one question, it’ll have to be the right one. She’s barely begun to scratch the surface in here.

Still, Spencer can’t get back to her cell fast enough to relay this information about the disappearances. Mysteries are her anti-drug, and she always was the super-sleuth of the team. The list of questions in her mind is expanding rapidly, and maybe her cellmates will have some answers. They do kind of resemble Hanna, Emily, and Aria, if she squints a lot. Maybe she’ll get to relive some glory days and put an end to her boredom.

God help her, Spencer’s genuinely excited about something. And it beats reading more terrible lesbian smut from Quinn’s stash.

Boomer’s back on duty now, and she doesn’t seem to be leading Spencer back to the cell block. They go down a long hall that contains all the various rooms for rec time classes, ending with the library. There’s another woman in a P.M.S. uniform already standing outside the bathroom, someone Spencer hasn’t seen before named K. Greggs. The two guards acknowledge each other with a subtle nod, and Boomer unlocks the cuffs and gives Spencer a push into the locker room.

Oh, right, shower time. She’d honestly forgotten.

“Ten minutes!” Boomer calls from behind her before she closes the door.

Just what do these people think she does in here?

The showers are almost empty, anyway, so she strips down and bathes as best she can. There’s one other girl, someone Spencer hasn’t seen before -- a short brunette with bushy curls and a young-looking face -- halfway through her shampoo routine. It's a little weird seeing someone for the first time when they're naked, but Spencer realizes the girl's having the same experience, so it's probably not a big deal.

When Spencer approaches a shower head she hasn’t used before, one far enough away to give her some privacy, the girl turns and says, “The cold’s faulty on that one,” in a British accent.

“Thanks.” Spencer wonders how a new girl could possibly know that, but doesn’t ask. She can’t have been on the ship for too long, since, like Spencer, she's not under period quarantine either. Spencer wants to ask her name but thinks better of it. They’re alone, which makes her an easy target. This girl looks kind enough but could be a violent lunatic, for all she knows.

Spencer finishes her business and huffs in frustration as she dresses, because this uniform is the height of discomfort when wet. It’s ludicrous that a prison facility that can afford a gravity simulator can't buy even a few towels. And now she’s cold and soggy and dripping, and everything is just awesome.

“Time’s up!” Boomer’s voice echoes off the yellow tile, and Spencer is surprised when the girl turns her water off, too, and follows her out. The girl walks up to Greggs and holds her hands out to be cuffed, then they silently start toward the cell block with Boomer and Spencer right behind.

When the group reaches cell 10, Spencer notices Aphasia bolt upright in her bunk at the sight of them. For a moment, the air thickens with tension, though Spencer has no idea why. It’s like Aphasia is seeing a ghost, but she doesn’t exactly look scared. It’s not until Greggs leads the girl away and out of sight that Aphasia relaxes and settles back in. Boomer unlocks and slides the door open and shoves Spencer back inside.

Home, sweet home.

Quinn’s sitting on Mack’s bunk, pushing aside the cup waving in her face, muttering about vomit-flavored wine coolers. She focuses on Spencer, whose hair is dripping onto the floor as she sloshes over to her bunk, and casually says, “Go for a swim?”

Spencer ignores her. She turns to Aphasia and points into the empty hall. “Who was that?” Until now, it seemed all the connections between inmates were very superficial -- cellmates, lunchmates, enemies for stupid reasons, acquaintances on a last-name-basis only. This is clearly different.

Aphasia takes a deep breath, still staring through the bars, and quietly says, “Hermione.” Before Spencer can ask anything else, she picks up her orange chalk and resumes scribbling on the wall. It looks like some kind of deformed otter.

Something tells Spencer not to press. If Aphasia doesn’t have anything to say, it must be some pretty serious shit. No matter -- there are much more important things to discuss. Spencer sits next to Quinn on Mack’s bunk and says in a low voice, “You guys will never believe what I just heard.”

“Move your soggy ass!” Mack kicks her lower back twice, hard, forcing Spencer to squat on the floor in front of them instead.

She can’t help but hope the fabric in the crotch holds out just a little longer.

Spencer sorts through all the info clamoring in her head to present the most relevant bits first, and leads with, “Who’s Aeryn Sun?”

“Some mean lady,” Mack says, trying unsuccessfully to wipe the water stains off her sheets. “She was in my Knives class.”

“Do you know that she’s dead?”  Spencer asks.

Mack isn’t fazed. “Figures.”

“What? Why? What'd she do?”

“What do you care?” Mack asks, stretching out on the bed.

“If we can be offed at any minute in here, that's kind of relevant to my interests,” Spencer says. “I don’t want to live on high alert every day trying not to get stabbed.” It sounds weird saying it out loud, like she’s in a movie. How is this a part of her life now? Except, wait. This was absolutely what her life was like before.

Mack pffts and says, “Who'd want to stab you?  Besides me.”

“Maybe the same person who got to Aeryn Sun.”

Quinn seems to be waiting for Spencer to say something interesting.

“You knew that?” Spencer asks her. “The warden said somebody tore her apart.”

“She did just kind of disappear,” says Mack. “I figured she got out.”

“Like Stacey,” Quinn adds.

That rings a bell. “Wait, Stacey Merkin?” Spencer asks.

Quinn furrows her brow. “You know her?”

“She your ex?” Aphasia asks.

“No, I --” Spencer considers telling the truth, but saying, “I saw her name in a spider web”  feels like asking a bit too much from these three right now. “-- heard someone mention her in the caf.”

“Lots of girls get out,” says Mack. “Vause said Stacey got parole. She had high-up connections, press reporter and all that fancy shit.”

“So, you don't think she's dead,” Spencer confirms.

Mack rolls her eyes and starts doing push-ups on the floor, clearly bored with the conversation. “No skin off my ass.”

“Is this a regular thing, then? Girls going missing?” Spencer asks. She's not giving up on this yet. “What about that Jenny girl?”

Pushing up from the ground, Mack laughs and almost loses her balance. “Oh, she’s dead for sure.”

“You said she was vented outside, right?” asks Spencer. “But why?”

“Hell if I know.” Mack lowers herself again and grimaces. “Everyone fucking hated her.”

“Mmhmm,” Aphasia agrees with some attitude. She snips a piece of fingernail off with scissors, then files it down with sandpaper.

Quinn adjusts her position on the bed and shrugs. “I thought she was alright.”

“And the warden's the one who airlocks people?” Spencer stumbles a bit over the word “airlock” because this all seems way too science fiction right now.

“No, it's Little Bo Peep,” Mack huffs as she pushes through another rep. “You sure ask a lot of stupid questions. You writing a term paper, Brain Trust? Wait, you’ll need this for your bible-ography --” And she farts.

“It's important!” Spencer insists over their laughter; even Quinn’s biting back her reaction, trying to play it cool but failing. But Spencer's not going to just let them sweep this under the rug. She had enough of her share of girls going missing back in Rosewood. She’ll be damned if she just sits back and lets it happen again. Though, maybe shame on her for thinking things would be different in this next phase of her life. Is she cursed or something? She lies down and stares up at Aphasia’s bed frame like all the answers will become clear. “Asking questions is what keeps me alive.”

Mack laughs again and pushes up from number nineteen. “Sure. Until it gets you dead.”

There’s truth to that, but Spencer's looking at the bigger picture, even if her cellmates aren't. Either way it slices, Sue Sylvester's lying to someone. From what she said on the phone, it sounds like she's just chalking the disappearances up to random acts of prison violence. Spencer didn't hear anything about airlocking prisoners, though that certainly can’t be routine procedure. And if Sue's covering that up, who knows what else she's hiding?

It could be simple enough to kill prisoners herself and then lie about it to the authorities. Blame it on the violent, baseless inmates. Who would question that? Sue gets to throw out whomever she wants, building an environment of fear to keep the girls toeing the line, and there's no slap on the wrist for it. For all Spencer knows, there's some other perk or kickback that comes from knocking off a prisoner here and there, or bringing in someone new. Sounds like a pretty sweet arrangement.

Spencer's not going to take any chances where the warden's concerned. She dealt with enough dirty cops back home, and the feelings of helplessness and frustration still haven't gone away.

How great to discover that Earth doesn't hold a monopoly on corruption.

For now, Spencer's going to keep her head down and her eyes open. If there's one thing she's good at, it's staying alive when everything around her is crumbling.

“Who'd want to kill Aeryn?” Quinn asks Mack and Aphasia, looking from one to the other.

“Take your pick,” Mack says, standing and brushing herself off before heading to the toilet.

“I never heard anything about it,” says Quinn.

“Christmas?” Aphasia asks.

Mack clarifies for Spencer, “There's always a fight at Christmas.”

Spencer has a brief vision of inmates tearing each other apart over a sparse smattering of crappy, donated gifts under a fake tree in the Mess Hall.

Quinn shakes her head. “I saw her on New Year's. She was going around the Mess with that little bottle, that compatibility liquid or something,” but she sounds as confused as Spencer feels.

“Oh yeah!” Mack remembers excitedly. “And Vasquez decked her when she shoved her tongue in her mouth.”

“Okay, so, what, you think Vasquez did it?” Spencer asks.

“It's possible, I guess,” Quinn says without any hint of concern.

“She was in Knives class after that,” Aphasia adds. “We talked about the best blades for cutting out hearts for Valentine's Day.”

How lovely.

“So, Vasquez just hung on to that grudge for two months?” Spencer's assembling a timeline, and now she knows Aeryn went missing between Valentine's and her arrival in late March. …She’s pretty sure. But there’s no particular reason why they would hold to the same calendar a million miles into space. “It’s March, right?”

“Jesus, what’s your damage?” Mack asks.

Spencer ignores her. “Would Vasquez really kill someone just for kissing her? And why wait two months?”

Mack unzips and lowers her jumpsuit, looking very bored again. “Why should we care? Lotsa bitches in here got grudges. You can get shivved for looking at someone the wrong way. Here, I'll prove it. Look at me.” She glares at Spencer in a clear attempt to be intimidating, but much of the effect is lost with the whole peeing thing.

“Ew, no.” Spencer shakes it off and refocuses on Quinn, going into full recon mode. Lowering her voice, she breaks the big news. “This morning I overheard a phone call between the warden and the President --”

Quinn raises one eyebrow.

“How the fuck did you do that?” Mack wipes and stands, her jumpsuit dropping clear to her ankles and boobs just hanging out there.

Spencer really, really didn’t need to see any of that. “I was in the hall outside her door, and it wasn’t closed all the way. I heard her talking, but she was saying ‘Madam President.’ I can name a lot of foreign leaders, including the few I know who are women, but I have no idea who this one might’ve been.”

“Laura Roslin,” Quinn says without hesitation.

Spencer raises her eyebrows. “Never heard of her.” There’s a pause, but they’re not jumping in to fill in the blanks. “She’s the president of...?”

“Um, space, duh,” Mack says, laughing and looking to Quinn for backup, like Spencer just got shipped in from Stupidtown.

She’s starting to think that maybe she did. The look on her face clearly says, There’s a president of SPACE? but now isn’t the time to ask for more about that. “Okay, well, Miss President of Space was calling because Sylvester’s in trouble. It sounds like a lot of prisoners have been dying or disappearing lately.”

“Like since you arrived,” Mack leers. “How interesting.”

Quinn jumps in before Spencer can take the bait. “Stacey left months ago,” she says.

“And I don't think Aeryn was here when I arrived. The warden seemed to think someone new has been responsible for the violence, but I don’t know who that could be. Who else has come in?”

“Only you, princess,” Mack says, like she’s finally interested in this story. She’s walking toward Spencer now, getting up in her face. “So, Aeryn got jumped weeks ago and NOBODY --” she points to Quinn, herself, and Aphasia, “-- heard about it, that’s what you’re saying? Nobody took credit?”

“For all we know,” Spencer says, “the warden killed her herself. But supposedly there’s barely enough left of her to fill a Ziploc bag.”

“Bullshit,” Mack says. “If she was dead, they’d-a told us. But if someone just disappears, she’s back on the world. They keep it quiet so we forget it can happen.” She heads back over to the toilet and pulls out a bottle of brown sludge from behind it.

Spencer prays that’s the wine.

“She’s right,” says Quinn. “Sue’s all about putting the ‘fear’ in ‘atmosphere.’” Her face shifts, as if put off by her own pun.

Aphasia’s voice cuts into the conversation out of nowhere. With a proud smile, she turns and shouts, “Look at my turtle!” The new red sketch vaguely resembles an iguana. With eight arms. And wings.

Spencer’s losing her patience. “So, nobody else is worried that inmates have been disappearing without explanation and might be getting killed?”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” Mack growls, brown liquid smeared across her upper lip that she seems in no hurry to lick clean. “You’re in prison. People die.”

“You don’t want to find out what’s going on?” Nothing but blank, uninterested stares. “You’re really not going to help me with this,” Spencer says, softer, looking at Mack, then Aphasia, and finally Quinn. It’s this moment that reminds her, more than any yet, that she’s not in Rosewood and these aren’t her friends. Spencer's on her own.

“I’ve got Pruno to sell. Try the next sucker,” says Mack.

“Seriously,” Quinn says, exhaling smoke, “it’s fine. We’re the last people to hear anything, and it’s usually false anyway. This is just how things go around here.” Quinn sees Spencer is not appeased, then smiles and says, “Last night you were floating mid-air, surrounded by tampons. Weird shit happens. But that doesn't mean it's all weird. They’re probably out on parole.”

“Fine.” But Spencer knows that’s a load of crap, because she was there and she heard the phone call. She heard the fear in the warden’s voice -- and the arousal, but she’s choosing to forget that part. Something about all this isn’t adding up.

Borrowing a piece of chalk from Aphasia, she sits on her bunk facing the wall and draws a large bubble map with three big circles that say, “STACEY MERKIN,” “JENNY SCHECTER,” and “AERYN SUN” in the middle. Fast and furious, she adds connection lines with names, dates, facts, anything she can think of that might be related.

She’s quickly amassing a suspect list and soon realizes that everyone is on it. Any of the other prisoners certainly seem capable of kidnapping, assault, murder, you name it. She lists all the inmates she knows and makes descriptions of those she doesn’t, but she’s only covered maybe half the prison. The guards are fair game, too, given that they have access to all the prisoners.

Her mind drifts back to Quinn's comment about weirdness. How does the gravity work, exactly? It has to be some kind of device emitting a force that could be turned on and off. If so, could it be cut to create a diversion? Does anyone besides Raven have access to it?

And then there’s Sue Sylvester, herself. If she’s having issues with violence, why not bring in more guards? Why not strengthen security measures? What does she have to hide? Who’s this new person who she thinks is taking her people out? And who’s to say she isn’t behind the whole thing and just covering it up? If there was some financial or political motive behind it, like if she gets incentives for each new prisoner she admits, she could totally be knocking off inmates to make room for more. Not too many, and not all at once, just enough to keep it from looking suspicious. After all, Mack was right -- there are a lot of crazy bitches in here. Anything could happen.

After twenty minutes of furious scribbling, her yellow chalk piece is down to a nub and the wall is nearly full. It’s quite an impressive masterpiece, if she does say so. She turns to look for Charlotte, the only one in the cell who might appreciate her weaving of words, but both the spider and her web are nowhere to be found.

Boomer slides a plate of five stale peanut butter sandwiches under the bars. With classes canceled, Spencer isn’t going to get any time to work through her various theories free from distractions, and she's stuck with the very people refusing to help her.

This whole Shark Week thing is really starting to bite.

Chapter Text

Spencer’s used to the sound of Mack climbing up into Quinn’s bunk by now -- and the moans that ensue -- but this time, Saturday after dinner, she finds herself more than a little irritated.  “Ugh, seriously?” she yells at the two of them. “It’s Shark Week.”

Braced for the worst, Spencer pokes her head out from under her sheet and looks up. Surprisingly, Mack’s still fully clothed, even as she appears to be...well, grinding down with one thigh between Quinn’s legs. Spencer’s no prude; she knows exactly what those two are up to -- They’re ignoring her.

At least now she has an explanation now for why all the uniform crotches are so threadbare. She freezes for a moment wondering who may have done that in this uniform before she came around.

Oh god.

But then the noise starts back up again, and Spencer rolls onto her back with a huff. She’s choosing to ignore the side of herself that kind of wishes she were up in that bunk and not Mack. But a Hastings never dry humps (and especially not with women). “Why is this much sex even allowed? It’s prison. You’d think they’d want us to be miserable all the time...” Spencer mutters mostly to herself. Then again, there is a library full of porn just down the way.

Aphasia shifts around in the bed above her, then pokes her head over the side. “Girl, you don’t wanna see them when they frustrated,” she says.

Spencer can’t disagree with that. “Hey,” she asks, “who’s Hermione?”

Aphasia’s expression changes in an instant, and Spencer knows that she’s said the wrong thing. “I don’t talk about that.”

Then, just as quickly, Aphasia’s demeanor shifts back to the happy-go-lucky girl who’s content to make chalk drawings on her wall instead of talking – or thinking -- about anything real. If only Spencer could do the same.

****************

Late Sunday evening, Spencer hears the distant, now familiar clunk of the cell block door opening. But there is a sharp, clacking sound that has to be...Stilettos?

Huh, Spencer thinks. This is new. She slowly sits up in her bunk and leans forward, trying to see who’s approaching. Has her mother finally arrived to pull her from this homoerotic hellhole? About fucking time. “Mom?” she calls out, though she still can’t see anyone yet.

Suddenly, a whip cracks through the air, and Spencer falls off the bed.

The stranger strolls into view, a short brunette dressed in all black, skin-tight leather and a corset. Spencer, face-down on the cold floor, starts at the six-inch heels and slowly follows a chain of bedazzled gold stars up the knee-high boots to the edge of a dangerously short dress that isn’t hiding anything, at least from this angle. And now Spencer is very glad this woman is not, in fact, of any relation to her whatsoever.

“Until we have negotiated the full terms of a contractual agreement, you may not address me in this manner. Your legal representation can apply for a mommy/daughter relationship at the appropriate time.”

“I…” But Spencer doesn’t have any idea what to say to that.

Aphasia wakes up and looks out to see their visitor. “It’s Halloween again?! You trick-or-treatin’? Damn, where’s my candy!” She starts digging under her mattress frantically.

Quinn, up in her bunk, rolls her eyes and says, “Rachel, let it go. I am not coming back to Glee club.”

The dominatrix’s confidence vanishes instantly, and she looks left and right to see if anyone is watching. Then, she steps in close to the bars and sputters in a whisper, “That’s not why I’m here!”

“Uh huh,” Quinn replies and lies back down.

Rachel seems almost apologetic. “But since you brought it up, I’ll just say that Glee is there for you whenever you’re ready, and always will be.”

“I’M. IN. SPACE. PRISON.”

“Whenever you’re ready,” she repeats quickly, clearly needing the last word in this.

And with that, the authoritative demeanor returns. Rachel steps back again and cracks her whip, even louder this time. Spencer scrambles back onto her bed and wonders what the hell kind of Glee club these people were ever in together.

“Found it!” Aphasia shouts randomly, holding up an orange plastic pumpkin with a black handle. “Girl, I got you,” she says to Rachel. “You want Milky Way or Snickers?”

Rachel opens her mouth to make an announcement but stops mid-syllable, seeing the chocolate held out before her. She quickly reaches for a Milky Way and says, “Thank you,” politely and, “Happy Halloween.” She’s going with it.

Tucking the candy bar into one of her boots, Rachel clears her throat and holds her arms out. “May I have your attention, please!” Rachel shouts, addressing the entire block. “My name is Mistress Berry. As many of you surely know by now, I am here to present you with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I can make your wildest dreams come true.”

And yet Spencer gets the feeling this woman isn’t a cruise director.

“I will select one lucky lady to accompany me on a most exciting adventure.” She pauses and looks right at Spencer. “An adventure...of pain.”

Spencer gulps and brings her knees in a bit closer.

Mistress Berry continues, now pacing. “You will be at my service and under my control, to see to my every desire and whim and need.” A glance at Quinn. “And I do mean every.” She continues. “Each day we spend together will reduce your prison sentence accordingly. You can negotiate your release back here after two years, should you still have the strength to do so.” She stops pacing and turns halfway. “Not that anyone one ever has.”

Spencer is almost considering going along with it, if only to get away from the insanity of this place. She’s not feeling up to solving the mystery of disappearing prisoners alone right now -- a crime which she has dubbed the work of the ‘gAy Team,’ as that seems certain to fit no matter who’s the culprit. She considers whether or not this terrifying little woman could be a suspect, but it seems much more likely it’s someone who’s been here all along. If this were a legitimate way out of this deathtrap, would she take it? She could submit to someone, right? How hard could it be?

“You will not want to disappoint me,” the woman says with a hint of warning. “My fathers taught me the joy of rifle hunting at a young age, along with ballet and singing, of course. I always had a knack for eliminating my competition in pageants, one way or another.”

...What.

“Oh, just get on with it,” Quinn says under her breath.

Mistress Berry extends her arm. “Guard, bring me the names.”

Boomer cautiously approaches with a black leather drawstring pouch that perfectly matches its owner’s outfit, then quickly scurries away to safety.

“Each of your names is in this bag, some more times than others.”

Spencer glances up at Quinn, who is staring at the ceiling and mouthing along with every word, like she knows it by heart.

“I confess I do take significant pleasure in breaking a young, hopeful spirit, so the warden is always kind enough to tip the scales toward the newer inmates.” Mistress Berry grins at Spencer with a wink.

Spencer looks away and notices a new web Charlotte must have made during this spectacle.

BERRY’S BITCH.

She swears she can hear the spider laughing at her.

Mistress Berry reaches into the pouch with a gloved hand. “My newest companion will be --”

“I VOLUNTEER!”

Startled, Spencer turns toward the new voice behind her. A girl she’s never seen before pushes Mack and Aphasia out of the way and clamors toward the bars. “I VOLUNTEER AS SUBMISSIVE!!!”

The fuck?! Where did SHE come from?!

Mistress Berry stomps her foot. “But I haven’t even drawn a name yet!”

“I VOLUNTEER! TAKE ME! TAKE ME!” the girl shouts. She’s shaking the bars emphatically with each word.

With a huff, Mistress Berry withdraws her hand from the bag. “Fine, whatever.” Boomer unlocks the cell, and the girl can’t throw herself down fast enough at Rachel’s feet. The dominatrix lifts a boot and rests it on the girl’s shoulder as their eyes meet. “Mistress Berry is never interrupted.” With a swift push, she kicks the girl over and storms out.

Buffy and Boomer tie up the feisty volunteer and haul her away before she can change her mind.

Spencer looks at her cellmates, who don’t seem nearly as confused as she is. Apparently, this kind of thing happens all the time. Mack’s intently cleaning under her fingernails with her toothbrush, and Quinn’s already back asleep.

Aphasia breaks the silence and laughs to herself. “Man, I forgot Katniss was even in here!” At Spencer’s stunned expression, she adds, “She real good at hidin.’”

Chapter Text

It's enough to send Spencer into full-blown paranoia. Learning that someone has been living under her bed for two weeks -- other than Charlotte, of course – sets her skin crawling. She falls asleep that night with everything she's seen thus far whirling in her head.

Suddenly, she's in the Mess Hall, and there's too much happening at once to make any sense of it. Mistress Berry sits with a tray full of waffles, feeding them to Aphasia, who's strapped down on top of one of the tables as Becky watches, playing her xylophone. A group of women is throwing knives at other inmates, who are reaching up and catching them, then throwing them back. Spencer realizes that all the classes are happening at once. River's sitting in a circle of girls, reading aloud from Fifty Shades of Grey. Violet's finishing a full-body tattoo on Mack with her ballpoint pen. Lucy is constructing a gigantic Play-Doh animal, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, only not any recognizable species. Speaking of animals, a raccoon is chasing after Clarke, somehow carrying what must be a hundred lit candles all at once. And there's a woman walking around just completely covered in bees.

Spencer turns to run away, but the hallway goes dark. It's longer than she remembers, and she can't see or hear anything. And then, she runs face first into a giant spider web. She pushes through it, desperately brushing the thread away, but there's just more and more. It's never ending. And then the lights come on, and Spencer can see the entire corridor is covered in webbing. There are giant cocoons here and there, large enough to hold people in them. Screaming, Spencer runs back toward the Mess Hall to get the hell out, but as soon as she turns around, she sees a new web, this one in clear writing.

I KILLED JENNY SCHECTER.

Consumed with panic, Spencer screams again, this time loud enough to wake herself up. She scrambles out of the bed and runs to the toilet, standing on it and almost falling in. Her eyes dart around the cell, looking for any sign of Charlotte. She knows it was a dream, but it felt so real, and it doesn't seem like a stretch of the imagination that the spider could write something like that. Still, the notion of a tiny spider killing people in space is ridiculous. Spencer’s pulse isn’t slowing as quickly as she’d like, and she shivers again at how creepy the whole thing was.

Friendly to Animals Time is over now. Having a little pal’s been nice, but Spencer’s not going to take any chances, not after that dream. She should’ve squashed it on Day One.

“...The fuck, Hastings?”  she distantly hears Mack growl, accompanied by the rustling of sheets as the others wake.

Spencer whips around to face Mack. “There’s a spider in my bed, and I’d really, really rather there not be.” She’s pointing wildly at her bunk as she speaks, which probably isn’t helping her look any less crazy, perched up on the chrome throne.

Quinn sits up, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “What?”

Aphasia hangs over the side of her bunk and peers into Spencer’s own. “Where he at?”

“I don't know," Spencer says. "Somewhere over there. Maybe underneath. It's been there all week!”

Mack snarls, “Then why the fuck are you screaming about it now?” It's a fair question.

“Because I had a nightmare, okay? There was a giant web that said, 'I killed Jenny Schecter.’”

“Aww,” Mack says, “Wittle Spencer had a bad dweam? Jesus, fuck off.”

Boy, Spencer's so glad she's fully awake.

Mack pulls off her left shoe and chucks it at her with barely enough force to cover the distance. It hits Spencer's stomach and falls right into the toilet. “FUCK!”

Aphasia shakes her head and mutters, “I hate spiders!”

Quinn sighs, like she's the parent who has to go investigate the disturbance downstairs while the kids stay safely in bed. She climbs down and approaches Spencer's bunk, peering under the frame, then kneeling on the floor to check there. “I don't see anything.”

“She's there,” Spencer affirms.

“A space spider,” Quinn repeats. She's not buying it.

“Maybe Katniss taught it how to hide from your sorry ass,” Aphasia says. “Good luck.”

It’s all Spencer can do to keep herself from tearing her hair out in frustration. She climbs down from the toilet and sits on it, refusing to get any closer to her bunk. “Did Jenny ever say anything to you about a spider?”

Quinn's checking the underside of the frame again, banging it hard to see if anything scurries out. “No. She mostly just talked to herself.”

“About what?”

Another shrug. “Nothing, really. She was a bit...overdramatic. And angry. Really angry.”

But I’ve been talking to Charlotte here, Spencer thinks, so who’s to say Jenny wasn’t simply doing the same?

Quinn lifts the mattress and seems convinced there's nothing out of the ordinary there. “There’s something called night terrors. Where you think you’re seeing something real while you’re still half-asleep? That’s probably all it was.” She pauses for a beat. “There’s a lot of scary shit up here that will kill you, but not spiders.”

Spencer wants nothing more than to go back in time and show them the spider when it first appeared. Why was she so intent on keeping her fucking mouth shut? Now they think she’s crazy, and she has no way to establish any credibility unless the spider comes back. “I know what I saw,” she grumbles, crossing her arms.

“We’ve been here for a year and we’ve never seen no damn spiders,” Mack says. “Your dumb ass couldn’t even find a whole person, and she was right under your bed half the time.”

Oh, yes, thank you for the fucking reminder.

Mack’s having too much fun to stop now. “What would they even eat?  WE'RE IN SPACE.”

That group quietly ponders that for a moment, but then Aphasia looks aghast. “Oh shit!” she cries. “WHAT IF IT TOOK MY BUGS?!” She turns around, pulls the wall-side edge of her mattress up, and begins rummaging under it in a frenzy.

Spencer jumps back and out of the way. “You have bugs?!  WHY do you have bugs?!”

Aphasia pulls out a jar with holes punched in the lid, one hole much wider than the others. It’s empty. “SHUT THE FUCK DOOR,” she shouts angrily. She pushes a finger through the largest hole, like she’s never seen it before, then looks through it into the empty jar. “IT ATE MY BUGS!” She turns to Spencer. “You kill that bitch dead.”

Well, at least now one person believes her. That’s a start.

Quinn walks over to Spencer and squeezes her arm. “Hey. You okay?”

It’s the first ounce of sincere concern she's received thus far. “Not even slightly.” Spencer sighs heavily and tries to turn down the sarcasm a bit. “I’m not sleeping over there anymore until someone shows me a dead spider.” It's not like she has a lot of options, but that doesn't matter right now.

Quinn laughs softly in leans forward to whisper in Spencer’s ear, “You can always bunk with me again.” It sends a shiver up Spencer’s spine. That’s happening a lot lately. Far too much. Still, the option is enticing, far more than the alternatives: Mack, Aphasia, the toilet, or the floor. And Quinn is rather warm and comfortable.

Not that Spencer enjoys cuddling other women. Obviously.

There's nothing she can say right now, so she just nods as Quinn takes her hand and says, “Come on.”

Chapter Text

It’s interesting, the things you get used to after time. Like spongy, crusty tuna casserole, or showering without a towel, or watching people drink brown sludge out of toilets. Or being the baby spoon for a punk lesbian.

Spencer tells herself that it’s for her safety. Quinn is valiantly protecting her from a murderous creature, after all. By keeping an arm draped over Spencer while they sleep, Quinn is more likely to be attacked by Charlotte, for the sheer sake of having that stretch of skin exposed. By sleeping on the wall side, Quinn is giving Spencer the quicker escape, should something happen suddenly in the night. Yes, that all sounds perfectly logical.

As opposed to the very concept that, if her dreams are as prophetic as she likes to believe, there could, in theory, be a killer spider on the loose. This is one of those times when Spencer doesn’t want to be right. But, her record speaks for itself, so they’re not taking any chances. Safety in numbers, even when asleep, right? She ignores the fact that they’re basically sitting (sleeping?) ducks, anyway, as there is no true protection against a killer spider in your living quarters. It’s not like Charlotte wouldn’t be smart enough to find her, a whopping six feet away from her last known location. ...But what if she went for Aphasia instead? At the thought, Spencer half-opens her eyes just to check on her bunkmate, and her pulse quickens a bit to discover Aphasia’s not, in fact, in bed at all. Nor is she on the toilet or by the door. Glancing around through her morning haze, Spencer leans over to check the final place, but, no, Aphasia’s not on Mack’s bed, either.

She’s just gone.

“Hey, where’s Aphasia?” Spencer asks Mack, her hair hanging down toward the floor.

Mack grunts angrily into her pillow with eyes still closed, as she hates rising before 3pm. “Piss off.”

“No, seriously,” Spencer says and cringes against the metal frame digging into her chest. “I think something happened to her.” It’s still Shark Week, and there’s no reason anyone would be out of their cells. Right?

“She’s fine,” Mack grumbles, still face down.

“She’s GONE,” Spencer corrects. “What if it’s the spider!”

Without another word, Mack takes hold of her pillow and swings it blindly, smacking Spencer full force in the face. It stings, and the force almost pushes Spencer off the bed entirely.

Quinn’s hand catches a handful of black uniform just in time, pulling Spencer back. “Whoa,” she says, and she helps a shaken Spencer regain her balance, pushing the mussed hair back into place to see her face clearly. “You okay?”

“Where’s Aphasia?” Spencer says, stronger this time as the concern is building. She turns to look at the empty bunk, and her mind races with the possibilities. None of which make any sense.

“Hey, hey,” Quinn says softly, reaching out to turn Spencer’s chin back to face her. “Don’t worry about her. Trust me.” There’s a beat of silence as Spencer starts to protest, but Quinn cuts her off by running a hand through Spencer’s hair, those hazel eyes locked on her own, and suddenly Spencer can’t remember why she ever wanted to say anything at all.

She’s lost in a sea of warmth and closeness, just the two of them there, and Spencer can’t get enough. The background noise fades into nothing -- the waking conversation in neighboring cells, the bored lines from the guards, the banging on cell bars -- it all disappears, and all Spencer can hear is the sound of her heart pounding in her ears and Quinn gently breathing inches from her face. Every nerve in her body is alive as chills run down her spine with each graze of Quinn’s fingernails against her scalp. Her touch is so soft, yet strong – tender, but intentional. Spencer hadn’t realized just how lonely she’s been for the loving touch of another. There’s a distant click of metal that she can't quite place, but unless the prison is on fire, Spencer’s not looking away from Quinn’s stare for anything. If every day in prison could be like this, it’s a life sentence she’ll gladly serve.

“Guess you’ve already found something to eat, so I’ll just keep this.”

Buffy’s voice cuts in and brings Spencer crashing back to reality. She pulls back from Quinn on instinct, like her mother just walked in on her, and turns to see Buffy standing with two plates of cold breakfast in hand, ready to slide through the slot. Good,  Spencer thinks, help us find --

“Fuck them, I’ll take it!” Aphasia says and jumps down from her bunk.

Spencer whips around so fast, she almost falls off the bed again. Sure enough, her cellmate is right there, clear as day and definitely not eaten by a spider. She gawks, watching the scene unfold as the suddenly materialized Aphasia stuffs waffle blocks into her mouth. Buffy’s gone before Spencer can form actual words. Even then, it’s still mostly sputtering.

“What?” Aphasia asks, chomping on a third beige brick, crumbs dropping all over the floor.

“You’re…here!” Spencer says in disbelief, looking around again to be sure she’s not dreaming this whole thing.

“Of course I am,” Aphasia replies, taking on a more serious tone. She chews and bites again, attempting to appear as nonchalant as possible. “I’ve been here the whole time.” It’s a stated fact, not an argument.

“You were GONE!” Spencer cries.

She runs a hand through her hair and turns to Quinn for backup, but Quinn just puts a hand on her arm and says, “It’s fine, I told you. She’s here.”

“I thought you were DEAD.”

Aphasia walks over to the bed, reaches up, and shoves the last waffle square at Spencer’s mouth, which closes just in time to block it, grimacing. “You keep running your mouth,” Aphasia warns, “you gonna be the one dead.” She slams her breakfast three more times against Spencer’s face, missing her target as Spencer fights to turn away. Spencer slaps at Aphasia with her hands, quite annoyed. They look like siblings bickering in the back of a minivan. Finally, Aphasia relents and says, “Yeah, you keep that mouth shut. That’s what I thought,” and goes back to her own bunk.

Spencer brushes the crumbs off her uniform onto the floor. They’re not an hour into it, and it’s already been A Day.

****************

Two mornings later, on Wednesday, Spencer hears a scattered, repeating progression of plink-plink-plink-plink over the intercom before Becky’s voice shouts, ALL CLEAR!

“Thank god,” says Mack, stretching as she wakes. “Get me out of this stench pit.” She shoots daggers at Spencer as she goes for her morning pee, and Spencer backs a little closer into the warmth of Quinn. Nice as it is, she can’t disagree with Mack. They do smell pretty terrible.

They file into the Mess Hall for the first time in a week, and it’s nice to see different faces for a change, even these scary ones. All the little cliques are claiming their usual places, and Spencer takes inventory. It feels important to keep track of who has power in here. Lucy's in the far left corner with her brunettes, who Spencer now knows are named Faith and Santana. (It's not lost on her that it sounds a bit like Lucy has an angel and a devil with her at all times. But chances are that’s not the case.) She's careful not to make eye contact.

Spencer knows most of the faces in her immediate vicinity by now. There are the chatty and arrogant young guns – Starbuck, Kat, Octavia Blake, Clarke Griffin, Johanna, Nichols, Leslie Shay, Flaca and Maritza -- and the quiet ones – Lexa, River Tam, Lucy Diamond, and Dark Willow – who all sit close to Spencer's table in the middle with the Skanks. (Mack's term, but it fits.) Then, the adults sit on the other end. Some names, she knows for sure -- Corky, Violet, Sarah Connor (the less scary one), Regina Mills, Joan Watson, Sophia Burset, Sameen Shaw, Big Boo, and Vasquez. Other names, she’s still working on -- the zombies instructor, the bee lady (Bridget? Fidgie? What was it?), a hot blonde named Mor-something, and a few more she can’t see clearly from here. They seem to keep their distance from the younger girls, which is fine by Spencer, since they look much more dangerous.

But then there's a definite racial shift at the near end by the door. Spencer asked about this once, when she thought their collective glares were aimed at her for some reason. But no, they were staring down Aphasia. Despite their somewhat mixed ranks, the ringleader, Vee, is very much into “Black Power,” as it was described to Spencer, and she's pissed as hell that Aphasia and Hermione won't join her crew.

“We’re hot shit,” Aphasia had said, “and we got all kinds of stuff that she wants.”

“But?” Spencer prompted.

“She the devil,” Aphasia said, looking more serious than ever before diving back into her tuna casserole. And that was that.

Spencer doesn’t know as many of the women down there with Vee. There’s the other Sarah Connor and that woman afraid of the number four, Jessica Huang. Otherwise, it’s strangers. Taking stock for a moment, Spencer can’t help but notice how tired everyone looks, not just at that end but everywhere. Shark Week seems to have taken a lot out of everyone, literally and figuratively. Spencer’s desperate to talk to someone -- anyone -- who might have also seen the spider and would believe her. But after her own “friends” (if you could call them that) laughed her off, who knows what these other crazies would do if she brought it up. Spencer might quickly find herself as the new cell block punching bag or knife target. She needs to find someone she can trust. Until then, she has to hope she can get through to Quinn.

Spencer lines up to get her tray of toast and tomato soup, and tries not to think about the unlikeliness that it contains actual tomatoes. She plops down next to Aphasia, who doesn’t seem to notice she’s there. Her eyes are on someone across the room. Spencer looks in that direction, and sure enough, it’s that Hermione girl.

Before she can ask for the story, Kat cuts in, “Hey, where’s Vause?”

“Who?” Spencer asks, looking around for someone to fill her in.

“She’s usually over there.” Quinn turns to her left to check one of the tables by the door. “With Corky and Violet.”

Spencer thinks back to her first day when she saw their cell. Corky was on the bed with a beautiful woman in glasses, but Spencer never learned her name. That woman, she realized now, was nowhere to be seen. “You think something happened to her?” Spencer asks suspiciously. The conspiracy theory is back on track.

“She’s probably just taking a leak,” Mack says dismissively.

“I don’t know,” Lucy Diamond says. “They do look pretty sad over there.”

It was true -- Corky and Violet weren’t mounting each other on the breakfast table or even groping each other excessively, just poking at their food in silence. They looked like they hadn’t slept in a week.

“If something did happen to her,” Spencer says, “that makes four since...when? Stacey was first, right?” she asks Quinn.

“January, I think? It was right after the holidays. Jenny said Stacey disappearing was the second best present she could’ve gotten.”

Spencer’s too scared to ask what would’ve been first. Knowing this group, the answer is probably something like “anal beads.”

...And now I'm done with breakfast.

Looking away, she sees Aphasia is focused on Hermione again. The rest of the table keeps chattering about how hot Alex Vause is and the various positions they’ll use on her if she comes back, but Spencer tunes into the silent communication instead.

Looking left, then right, and taking a deep breath, Aphasia nods at Hermione, who rises from her seat and heads toward them. She loops through the rows of tables, trying to look innocent but failing, and, to Spencer’s surprise, passes right behind them without stopping. Aphasia shuffles in her seat and watches Hermione reach the end of the row to an open space. All around Spencer, there’s a murmur of “There she goes again.”

Hermione stops, now with quite a distance between herself and Aphasia, and turns to face the room. She has a wooden rod in her hand that wasn’t there before, and Spencer is only starting to guess what it might be when there is a sudden, deafening crack! and Hermione vanishes into fucking thin air.

“WHOA!” Spencer shouts. “What was that!”

“Show-off,” mutters Dark Willow, rolling her eyes.

The guards rush in and charge the spot where Hermione once stood, but she’s long gone. The Mess Hall erupts with whooping and hollering, cheering their escaped comrade and laughing at the guards. It’s clear that this has happened before. Hermione isn’t so new after all, and from the look of it, she’s the hero of space prison. Everyone is celebrating except for Aphasia. Well, and Dark Willow, who’s doing a polite golf-clap.

Spencer can’t help but ask over the noise, “Seriously, what was that? She’s really gone? Like, out-of-here gone?”

Aphasia takes a bite of her sandwich and chews it slowly, staring down at the table as the party continues around them. She swallows and says, sadly, “She’ll be back.” Then, without missing another beat, Aphasia turns to the girls behind them and gives celebratory high-fives, laughing and joining in the noise like nothing’s wrong at all.

****************

Aphasia and Mack both take Wednesday classes, so Spencer conveniently finds that she and Quinn have the cell to themselves for an hour. They’re up on Quinn’s bunk together, despite having plenty of room to spread out. Spencer is still avoiding her bunk, and they’re quite comfortable together now. They’ve stayed safe this way so far, why stop now?

Their feet are tangled at the end of the bed, and Spencer drifts off, thinking about how something so simple as this can feel so intimate. She’s looking down at the crisscross of ankles when she notices...an empty space where a pinky toe should be. She instinctively wiggles her toes to see if it’s her foot, but it’s not, thank god. For all she knows, a spider bite could make it turn black and fall off in the night or something.

Spencer wonders what happened to Quinn -- Was she born without it? Did she get hurt? -- but doesn’t feel brave enough to ask. Besides, “Hey, where’s your toe?” isn’t the most polite conversation starter, so she lets it go for now. Instead, she asks, “I’m going to have to find someplace else to be this evening, huh?” Spencer absently strokes the thin, light hairs on Quinn’s forearm with her thumb. They’ve been snuggling quietly for about fifteen minutes; Quinn might be passed out.

“Hmm?”

“It’s Wednesday. I am not substituting as your spank princess.”

Quinn laughs. “Like Mack would even let you.”

Spencer leans back so she can just barely see Quinn out of the corner of her eye. “She’s crazy, you know that, right?” She feels Quinn’s nose on her ear and shivers.

Quinn hums a little against Spencer’s neck and sighs. “I guess I have a thing for brunettes.” Quinn traces a finger along Spencer’s ear, tucking her hair back, then adds, “You haven’t complained.”

Spencer huffs and flips onto her back, making sure she can look into Quinn’s eyes as she says, “I am nothing like her.” She almost adds, “And who said I want you to have a thing for me, anyway?” but doesn’t. Because that would be crazy talk. She doesn’t give a damn who Quinn has eyes for, really. Just, you know, watch out for weirdos; one friend to another. A gal to her pal.

And keep doing that thing to my ear, holy Moses.

“No,” Quinn agrees, “Mack’s best talents are day drinking and bad pick-up lines. You, on the other hand, can see invisible spiders and name every country in the former Soviet Union alphabetically.”

And I bathe,” Spencer adds.

Quinn pulls back a bit so she can look Spencer in the eye. “You do take a lot of showers,” she says playfully.

Spencer smiles. “I am a total catch.” For a moment, she loses herself in the sensation of Quinn burying her nose once more against the soft skin under Spencer’s earlobe. Her mind flashes, remembering this is hardly the first time Quinn’s cozied up to someone like this. “So, who are all these other brunettes?” she asks, smiling again. “If they're inmates, I totally want to guess.”

Quinn vetoes the idea with an mm-mm and says, “No guessing.” But her tone implies that there’s certainly more to that story. She pauses, then her voice softens. “You already know the most important one.”

Spencer’s heart skips a beat at the thought that Quinn might mean her. But no, that would be ludicrous. And also really gay. And inappropriate. And gay. And narcissistic. And really, really gay. She looks at the ceiling so Quinn won’t be able to see the hope in her eyes. (Really gay hope. Ugh! Stop!) “Who?”

Quinn takes a deep breath. “Rachel. I believe you may remember her as Mistress Berry.”

Spencer bolts upright. “Seriously?”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “Let’s just say, back in high school she was kind of scary in a different way. More sweaters and knee socks, less leather and high heels. But still really bossy and ambitious.” She shrugs. “Confidence is hot.”

Spencer’s trying to fit together two puzzle pieces that seem, well, not fitty. “You dated the dominatrix in high school. Wow.” She flops back down and laughs once at the thought. But then she feels something else rumbling in the pit of her stomach. It’s either the beef stew from lunch, or...well. She really hopes it’s the stew.

The mattress shifts, and suddenly Quinn’s smirking face is right in front of hers. “Are you jealous?” she asks in a husky voice that twists Spencer’s insides into knots.

Spencer gives a delicate snort. Like she’d even dignify that with an actual answer. She needs a topic change. Right now. So, she removes her right leg from the tangle and lifts it to tap her big toe on Quinn’s foot. “What’s this story?”

Quinn shifts uncomfortably and pulls her foot away, burying it under the sheet with a sigh. “It’s nothing,” she says quietly. There’s a long, awkward silence, and Spencer can tell she has screwed up and crossed a line. But then Quinn adds, “I just trusted the wrong person,” and begins grazing a thumb back and forth across Spencer’s earlobe.

Her breath catches, and it feels like she’s paralyzed.

Quinn gazes at her with a small smile as she curls her fingertips to drag along Spencer’s cheek in a circle. She runs a thumb along Spencer’s lips, eyes watching it slip back and forth, and Spencer’s frozen in time, heart pounding in her ears, because this is happening -- she knows it’s happening -- and she has no idea what to do or what to think about it. And then, before she can take another breath, Quinn moves her thumb away and brings her lips there instead.

And it’s soft, so soft. Spencer’s suddenly lost in the immediate and overwhelming response from her body. She feels blood rushing to her head, feels her skin tingle all over. Then, Quinn flicks a tongue over Spencer’s bottom lip and gently tugs on it with her teeth before kissing her again, a little firmer this time, and Spencer’s off in orbit somewhere. At some point -- hours later? days? -- Quinn withdraws, but not far, as their noses are still grazing against each other.

Spencer opens her mouth to speak, but only a weak noise comes out. She closes her eyes to reduce the sensory overload and focus on forming words, but it’s useless. She can still feel Quinn’s skin against hers, and now there are fingers laced together, and Spencer’s the one leaning in this time.

As their mouths connect once more, Spencer pushes into the pillow to fight for a better angle, because this is far too fucking good to mess up, and if she’s going to be kissing Quinn, she wants to do it right. Quinn seems to take the hint and lifts herself up until she’s propped on her elbow, towering over Spencer and taking back control of the kiss. Spencer shifts underneath naturally, like they’ve done this a hundred times. But even though she’s used to being on this side of a kiss, back against the bed and warmth above her, that’s the only thing familiar, because nothing Toby ever did compares to what Quinn is doing right now.

Spencer’s taken completely by the new sensations, like she’s never kissed someone before in her life. And, shit, if this is what kissing is supposed to be, she thinks, then maybe I haven’t. Her tongue moves delicately against Quinn’s, and it’s so wonderful yet so foreign -- no struggle for power, no clumsiness, no brute force. It’s quite the opposite, the way Quinn parts her lips softly to let Spencer in, or how Quinn’s mouth is almost hovering as they slide against each other. Spencer had no idea a hardened criminal could be so gentle. Her body tingles as the softness magnifies each point of contact. It’s almost too much, and Spencer doesn’t know if she wants to cry or keep kissing Quinn, or both.

But then she hears something far away, pulling her back to reality -- The heavy boot steps of her other cellmates and the accompanying guard returning from class hour. Quinn groans and pulls away, and Spencer snaps back to harsh, sobering reality, like waking from a good dream to find your house is on fire.

Quinn drops her forehead to Spencer’s shoulder, uttering a soft, “Fuck,” under her breath, then sits upright and pulls away.

Spencer somehow regains control of her limbs and practically flings herself off the bunk mere seconds before Mack and Aphasia appear, chatting with exaggerated hand gestures about how awesome nipple rings are and how Mack can’t wait for Aphasia’s DIY Piercings class to start tomorrow. Spencer’s frankly a little surprised, through the haze of I just made out with Quinn, that Mack’s nipples aren’t already pierced, but that’s neither here nor there. Aphasia’s follow-up comments for Mack – at least the stray words Spencer’s catching, like “cooch” -- indicate she has some very ambitious lesson plans prepared. Spencer’s not really listening, but she hopes Mack considers lobotomies a DIY piercing. A crucifixion would make an impressive a final project.

As the door closes behind them, Mack shoots Spencer a glare that could cut glass, but her focus only lingers for a second. “Ready for tonight?” she smirks at Quinn.

It’s a performance; Spencer knows it. All the same, the baby hairs on Spencer’s neck stand on end as Quinn hums back, “Always.”

And with that, Spencer’s heart drops into her stomach to join the beef stew and roaring, raging jealousy. She’s on her feet before she even realizes it. “Boomer!” Spencer calls out, waving an arm through the bars and praying the guard hasn’t left the cell block entirely.

Sure enough, Boomer pops into view. “What?” she asks, clearly indifferent to Spencer’s turmoil.

“Any chance I can work in the warden’s office tonight? I’ll do a double shift.”

Boomer scoffs but remains emotionless. “Wow, you really don’t waste any time, do you?”

“Please, I really really need to get out of here.”

“Tough shit, inmate. You get out when I say you get out,” Boomer says. “Not tonight.”

“Please, if I could just talk to Sylv--”

“The warden’s busy,” Boomer says loudly. “And so am I. Keep it in your pants.” As the guard walks back down the hall, Spencer can clearly hear her mutter, “Pervy bitch.”

Fuck.

But even if she was able to duck out tonight for an hour or so, what the hell is she going to do in the future? She’s in here for life. She can’t just avoid these two forever. Without a proper distraction, Spencer might have to face how she actually feels about that kiss. Which is a lot. But she has absolutely no idea what any of it means.

She really wishes Emily were here to talk to right now. Or Aria. Or even Hanna.

Spencer sighs to herself and considers drawing with Aphasia just so she doesn’t have to even look at Quinn and Mack for the rest of the day. She spares them a glance anyway as she walks toward the back but immediately regrets it. Limbs tangled, hair mussed, they're staring straight at her. She doesn’t know which is worse, Quinn’s unreadable expression or the smug smile etched plainly across Mack’s face as she says, “Hey, Aphasia, get the paddle.”

Chapter Text

It turns out Aphasia is a tougher Monopoly opponent than Spencer had anticipated. Her cellmate is sitting on several thousand dollars in cash and owns two entire sides of the board. Not only does Aphasia have a strong propensity toward greed and hoarding, she is also quite the savvy businesswoman. That, or she is just stealing from the bank. It would only be fitting.

“You gonna roll or what?” Aphasia asks Spencer, who’s mentally calculating the rate of return on two houses for the light blues.

“Put that shit away,” Mack interjects. Summoning all her strength, she manages to get up from her bed, where she’s been lying face-down all morning.

It seems Quinn went extra hard on her last night, and Spencer hopes she’s trying to turn Mack off to the scheduled weekly spankings entirely. It’d give Quinn a passive way out from the situation; she wouldn’t be abandoning her duties if Mack just quit. Unfortunately, aside from the occasional wince when she sat on the benches at breakfast, Mack’s not showing any real signs of regret. Crankiness, yes, but that’s typical of a day that ends in Y.

“Why?” Aphasia asks, irritated. “I’m schoolin’ this girl right now.”

“You need a fucking court order?” Mack snaps. “Need me to say ‘pretty please do it’ like your Mama did when I was banging her last night?”

Aphasia looks sincerely confused. “Quinn ain’t my Mama.”

Mack doesn’t reply, just walks across the board in her bare feet in an attempt to end the game definitively. But it backfires as she stumbles, plastic hotels stuck in her soles, cursing loudly. Unable to stand, she falls hard on her ass and screams again.

The morning is suddenly looking up.

Spencer doesn’t have the energy to fight for her right to continue a game she’s losing (quite dreadfully, in fact), so she helps tidy up Mack’s mess into the box. As the bank thief slips the game back under the mattress, Spencer wonders what other possible things might be under there that Quinn could assault Mack with. Barbed wire, perhaps? Or a nail gun? Maybe a machete?

Her mind wanders, conflating memories of Toby’s murder with the grumpy girl before her, and she delights in thoughts of how Mack’s skull would crack under her croquet mallet. She can almost hear it, if she tries hard enough. Sweet, sweet music.

“Now I’m bored,” says Aphasia, still sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“I need to get drunk,” Mack groans. She reaches behind the toilet, just the full length of her arm span from her spot on the floor, and retrieves the bottle of Pruno. It’s still over half full.

“It’s ten in the morning,” Spencer says.

“She had a hard night,” Quinn says, looking up from a library copy of To Taste Her Nectar. Spencer hadn’t even realized Quinn was awake. She’s a bit like a cat in how she spends much of her day quietly lounging around, much too cool for anyone, and in and out of sleep except for meals, baths, and crotch-licking. Setting the book aside, Quinn climbs down to join them on the floor, motioning for Mack to come, too. “Bring it over.”

Mack takes a long swig out of the bottle, grimacing with each swallow, and burps loudly. Spencer can smell it from six feet away. “Still better than Starbuck’s,” Mack says with a wince.

Spencer turns with a dubious look. Though she always supports The Brew over the major corporate chains, this is too ludicrous a claim to let slide. “Yeah, somehow I doubt that.”

Mack holds out a pointing finger and says defiantly. “That shit’ll make you blind.”

“Coffee makes you blind?”

“Who the fuck has coffee?” Mack asks, looking at Spencer like she’s a moron.

“You just…” but the way Mack’s gawking at her proves this conversation is just a dead end of frustration. “Never mind.”

The four sit in a disjointed circle, Quinn and Aphasia leaning against opposite bunks, Spencer facing Mack with her back to the bars. There’s a moment of awkward silence where they all just watch Mack continue to force down the muddy chunks, and Spencer wonders just how much she’s going to drink. This could go from gross to impressive and back to gross very quickly. At least she's near the toilet.

“Never have I ever,” Quinn says, “taken it up the ass.”

Spencer blinks at the incredibly random and private confession, turning around with what must be a bizarre expression. “Umm. Whoa?”

“That’s a fucking lie,” Mack says, throwing back another glug.

“I know,” Quinn says. Her tone implies it’s obvious and intentional, though Spencer can’t figure out why in the world this conversation is taking place. Quinn reaches for the bottle pointedly, snatching it right out of Mack’s mouth, and takes a sip. Her face crumples in disgust as she barely manages to force it down. “Oh my god, that is foul.”

Spencer’s really glad the kissing has already happened, because she surely doesn’t want to know what Quinn’s mouth tastes like right now.

“You’re welcome,” Mack says, taking the bottle back. She turns to Spencer and stares, clearly amused at something. “You ever let ‘em in the back door, Pillow Princess?” she asks, holding out the bottle.

“Who, me?” Spencer’s eyes are the size of hubcabs. “What? No. No way. I mean, no. I don’t, no.”

Aphasia tries to hold in a laugh and fails. Spencer glares at her, but that only makes Aphasia laugh harder “Girl, you could make diamonds in there. Get yo-self rich.”

A loud bang on the bars startles Spencer; she didn’t realize just how tightly this situation has her wound. Mack scrambles to grab the bottle and attempts to hide it, but it’s pointless and embarrassingly unsuccessful.

Fortunately, Boomer doesn’t seem to care. “Let’s go.” There’s a large, canvas-covered bin on wheels next to her with the word LAUNDRY stenciled onto the side.

Mack grins and rises to quickly unzip her uniform. “You heard the lady.”

But Spencer’s waiting for the exchange – surely there must be a new uniform coming while her current one’s being washed. Right? That only makes sense. So, of course, there isn’t.

Laundry Day has just upped the ante on their game quite significantly, turning it to Strip…Whatever It’s Called, as the four girls are left in their undies and bras on the cold floor. If Spencer hadn’t been peeing and showering in front of them for the last two weeks, she’d probably feel even more self-conscious. At the moment, it’s feeling like a summer camp staple gone awry. And Spencer’s trying not to think about how good Quinn looks, because that would be even gayer than kissing her.

Probably.

“Your turn,” Mack says, looking right at Spencer.

Blinking to recover from her daydream, she says, “I don’t understand the rules,” and she means it. So far, all she knows is Rule #1: You will get really embarrassed.

“Say something you’ve never done,” says Quinn. “Anyone who has done it has to drink.”

Spencer’s mind suddenly goes blank. What is she supposed to say? Does it have to be about sex? Can she make something up? These girls don’t know her, not really. She could fake her way through this. She’s a skilled liar.

“Um,” she begins. The pressure is on. The only things coming to mind are things she has done.

I killed a boy.

I traveled into space.

I went to prison.

I made out with a girl.

“I have never had sex with a girl,” she finally says. There. Honest, but not far off her mental track. Not far off even a little bit.

Mack rolls her eyes as she drinks from the bottle, then Aphasia passes it over to Quinn. Spencer’s not sure why she’s being judged so harshly when Aphasia hasn’t been drinking anything either. Maybe they think she’s lame for it, or maybe it was too obvious a statement, but at least they believe it. She doesn’t want to ever know what that nasty shit tastes like.

Quinn takes the bottle by the neck and doesn’t hesitate to pay her fine. Mack reaches out for it again and ponders her options for her turn.

“I have never fingered a girl in the church basement during her cousin’s Christening and then made out with her older sister at the house party afterward,” Mack says triumphantly. She laughs and takes another drink. Then three more.

“You need some new material,” Quinn says flatly.

“My turn!” Aphasia says, rocking back and forth on her crossed legs. “Oh! I know. Never have I ever had sex with a dude, ‘cause that’s just nasty.”

Oh shit.  Shit, shit, shit.

Mack laughs again and hands the bottle back to Quinn, who reluctantly drinks while shooting daggers at Mack.

Spencer’s heart is pounding, but she tries to play it cool. Then, Quinn holds the bottle out to her with a look that says, Go on, it’s okay.

“I didn’t...um…” All eyes are on her. So much for not being a shitty liar. “I haven’t…”

“Yes, you have,” says Mack, burping again. “Just drink it.”

Oh, god.  No, no, no, no, no. 

“Look, I’m sorry, there is no way I'm --”

“DRINK IT,” Mack shouts. “You think that shit’s easy to make? Do you know how LONG it takes? How much WORK? RESPECT the wine, Maple Tits.” She pauses, squinting at Spencer through her haze. “You don’t want me to feel insulted, do you?” Her voice is downright threatening.

“It’s not that bad,” Quinn lies, and gestures for Spencer to finally take the bottle out of her outstretched hand.

“Drink it before I tell you what’s in it,” Mack says plainly, trying a different tack. At Spencer’s hesitation, Mack looks to Aphasia and says, “What’d we start with, the old meatloaf?”

“Nuh uh, first was that yogurt that went bad but they gave it to us any--”

Oh god oh god oh god, JUST STOP.

Spencer’s got a mouthful of the putrid, gag-inducing slime before Aphasia can finish her sentence. Explosions of color burst behind her eyelids, and Spencer’s pretty sure she’s going blind. She can feel her teeth rotting in real time. It’s like her mouth has dysentery. Tears stream down her face as she makes herself swallow, jaw quivering, and finally she’s scraping her tongue with her fingers and hearing nothing but her own “Blehhhhhhhh!”  She’d throw it up, but then she’d just be reliving it.

“Knew you’d like it,” says Mack, taking the bottle and finishing it off.

“Coulda told you that was a bad idea,”  comes a new voice from just outside the cell.

Spencer blinks several times, trying to focus on the unfamiliar face. It’s a girl about her age in a P.M.S. uniform, leaning against the bars with her arms crossed. She doesn’t appear to be armed with anything but a know-it-all smirk.

“When you’re ready for something that doesn’t make you want to die five times,” the girl continues, “tell Boomer the toilet’s backed up and have something useful to trade. Going rate for a can of ninety proof is a digital watch and four Starburst.”

Spencer laughs. “Where am I supposed to get that?”

“Not my problem.”

“Aww, Raven,” Mack says, pouting at her competition with fake empathy, “are you not smart enough to know the big hand points to the hour?”

“That’s the minute hand,” Quinn says.

“Shut up!” Mack says, whipping around. “I was testing her!”

Raven ignores the riffraff and looks at Spencer. “I’ll be around.”

Spencer has so many questions, but Raven’s already out of sight. “Who was that?”

“She works for Sue,” Quinn replies.

“Sue needs a bartender?”

Quinn takes a long drag off a cigarette. “She’s a mechanic, supposedly. Mostly she just peddles vodka from the engine room. Probably makes a better living that way.”

“She takes all my customers!” Mack objects.

“Don’t hate the girl for having a successful business strategy,” Aphasia tells her. “Maybe you should play more Monopoly.”

Quinn taps some ashes into the open bottle of Pruno.

“Suck a dick,” Mack says. “I already have plenty of reasons to hate her.”

“Like what?” Spencer asks. If this girl both works for Sue and is running a prison black market, god only knows how dangerous she could be.

“Buffy says Raven’s super smart. Like, got-into-NASA-at-sixteen smart. I think she got a twenty-thousand on her SATs.” Mack cracks her knuckles. “I mean, how did she even end up in this shithole? If she’s so smart, why the fuck is she here? I asked if she has some kind of record, maybe Sue’s got something on her, but Boomer says the girl’s squeaky clean.” Mack points a finger to punctuate her words. “Not a single bad thing has ever happened to her. Never broke a window or a bone or nothing. That’s some charmed life shit.”

“Mmhmm,” Aphasia hums in agreement.

“I say, fuck people like that.” Mack pumps her body forward, like she’s gonna take out Raven with a chest bump. “Thinking they can just waltz in and take over what I worked hard to build? If she keeps showing her face in my territory, something’s gonna break all right.”

“Right before Starbuck breaks both your legs,” Aphasia says.

Mack flips her off with both hands. “I’d like to see her try. Drunk motherfucker.”

“She’s in on this vodka thing, too?” Spencer asks.

Aphasia laughs. “Mmhmm. Raven’s the brain, Starbuck’s the pain.”

“Catchy,” Spencer says flatly.

Mack scowls and mumbles, “Pain in my ass.”

“They’re business partners,” Aphasia tells Spencer, suggestively raising her eyebrows. Then she makes a crude gesture with her hands, poking one finger in and out of her closed fist. “Sex business.”

Quinn laughs but doesn’t refute it. “They’re kind of the celebrity couple of the prison that everyone’s obsessed with.”

“Not me!” Mack insists, but no one’s listening.

“Everybody loves Starven," Aphasia says.

Well. There’s a prison catch-phrase if she’s ever heard one.

****************

Mack passes out a few minutes later, much to Spencer’s delight, and Aphasia crawls back to her bunk to play Solitaire with a set of coasters. Quinn’s most of the way through her book, and it’s killing Spencer that she isn’t up there with her, kissing or cuddling or just being close. She can’t climb up without shaking the bed, which means risking waking Pruno Mars over there. Of course, Quinn could always come down to her bed, she realizes. Strange that it never occurred to her to ask before. (With no new spider sightings as of late, she’s felt moderately safe lying on it with the lights on for a little bit at a time, just not at night.) But Mack would have an even better view of them when she woke up, so it’s still a no-go.

“Does anyone have anything I can do?” she asks the room quietly, lying on her back.

She can feel Aphasia’s weight shift as she moves to the end of her bed. Spencer can’t see the corner of the mattress lift above the metal frame, but she hears the sound of digging. After a few seconds, an outstretched arm appears, holding a disorganized Rubik’s cube.

Spencer hasn’t ever tried these, as she never had endless hours to spare back home, but it’s a welcome sight now. Added bonus, it looks like Aphasia could never finish it, so Spencer has the chance to show her up. “Thanks.”

Fifteen minutes later, she’s gotten nowhere, just moving rows around aimlessly. “These are pretty tough, huh.”

“No,” Aphasia replies.

“You don’t think so?”

Aphasia’s arm pops back into view with a reaching hand, gesturing for her to give it back.

“Uh, okay,” Spencer says, handing it to her, more than a little annoyed. Now what’s she going to do for the next few hours? Listen to Aphasia peel off and rearrange the stickers while Spencer counts the screws in her bed frame for the hundredth time? 

Less than two minutes later, the cube is thrust back into view, each side a perfect solid color. Spencer sits up. “You’re shitting me.” She takes it from the girl’s hand and examines each face. Sure enough, it’s done, stickers fully intact.

“Keep it,” Aphasia says.

And just like that, Spencer’s reminded yet again that nothing in this place is as it seems. She turns the cube over in her hand again and again, as if she’ll find a flaw, something new, if she just keeps looking. At the sound of Quinn putting her finished book away, Spencer turns to just watch her for a minute. Mack’s still out cold and won’t see her staring.

Spencer wonders what pieces she needs to turn, what moves to make, to solve the puzzle of Quinn. She wonders if everything is as much of a mess as she thinks, or if she’s only a few steps away and just can’t see it.

As if right on cue, “Hung Up” starts blaring over the intercom, kicking off Power Hour.

Every little thing that you say or do, I’m hung up, I’m hung up on you…

Spencer throws the cube on the floor, louder than she means to, and turns over to face the wall with a grunt. She really needs something new to think about.

Chapter Text

It’s Friday afternoon, just a quiet hour like any other, when Spencer hears the sound. Layered tones, kind of a whirring, whooshing noise -- in and out like breathing, only mechanical. It’s getting louder with every pulse.

Oh fuck, hull breach! We’re all going to get sucked into space!

But there are no alarms, no announcements, no screams -- only the screeching sound. Spencer blinks in disbelief. In the corridor right outside her cell, something large and blue is appearing and disappearing, like it’s blending into reality in time with the sound.

“Hello?” Spencer says loudly, but she’s alone in the cell. The others are at classes, and there are no guards in sight. The echo of the sound is deafening now. “UM. HELP?! SOMEBODY?”

But she can’t even hear her own voice over the noise. The blur beyond the bars solidifies, and Spencer reads the words “POLICE Public Call BOX” across the top of the wooden spaceship.

A phone booth? What the hell?

The noise dies down finally, and the door to the box opens. A red-headed woman in a brown leather jacket steps out with a hand on her hip. “Oy! Spaceman!” she calls back inside, “What the hell kind of holiday is this?”

A thin man with spiky hair and black-rimmed glasses pokes his head out from behind the door. “Prison, looks like.”

“Space prison?” she asks. Spencer can’t tell if the woman is unsure or annoyed. Maybe both.

“One of hundreds across the galaxy,” he says. He’s holding some kind of glowing silver and blue contraption in his hand, about the size of a carrot, and is scanning the air and walls, then Spencer’s cell. The high-pitched buzz sets Spencer’s teeth on edge. “Home to the most nefarious criminals in the universe. Nasty types, best not to engage.”

The woman looks right at Spencer and says, “You! What’d you do?”

But before Spencer can respond, the man puts out a hand, looking around frantically, then at Spencer, then around again, as if they’ve just awoken a giant monster that’s going to eat them. “Shh shh shh shh! Nooo, no no no no. That’s it, back in the TARDIS. Off we go.”

The woman looks as confused as Spencer feels. “But we’ve only just arrived.” Oh, she is pissed. “This was your bloody idea! You know, typical day: distress call, we almost get ourselves killed, blah blah blah?”

“Nope, false alarm. Sorry, Donna.” He puts his hands on her shoulders and tries to physically push her back in.

“Wait a bloody minute!” She bats at him, smacking him several times on the face and shoulder before he relents. “What kind of prison is this, anyway?” she asks, looking from cell to cell. “Bad Bitches of the Bellorian Galaxy?”

This woman’s sass puts Hanna to shame.

“She doesn’t look so bad,” the woman says, pointing back at Spencer.

Thank you. I think.

He leans in close to the woman’s ear, but Spencer can hear him, just barely. “It’s a lesbian prison.”

“HEY!” Spencer starts, “I’m not -- “, then she stops, not wanting to draw more attention.

The woman seems too intrigued and doesn’t bother whispering in her disbelief. Quite the opposite, in fact. She looks back at Spencer like a zoo exhibit. “They have LESBIANS in SPACE?”

“Oh yes,” the man says. “Almost exclusively, in my experience. Now, back inside we go!”

“But!” She’s protesting as he leans his whole weight on her. “SPACE LESBIANS!”

The woman’s grip gives way and the door slams. The shrieking whoosh is somehow even louder this time, if that’s possible, but still no guards or alarms or anything to acknowledge something’s amiss. The wooden box fades in and out until it’s gone, and Spencer has no fucking clue what just happened. That’s twice now in a week she’s seen something disappear into thin air right in front of her eyes. 

She has to wonder, if it’s so easy to get out of this place, why can’t she do it herself?

Chapter Text

The next week crawls by at a snail’s pace. Each day, Spencer finds herself trapped in a mind loop of, “I wonder what’s happening back home,” followed by, “I’ll never see home again, so what’s the point?” Then it’s, “Maybe I’ll take a class after all.” But she reviews the course list in her mind and quickly remembers why she's abstained thus far. After that it’s, “Maybe I’ll go get some books!” But then she considers the available titles. And really, reading about fictional women getting to do all the things she can’t would only make her ongoing frustration worse.

It’s like cell 10 has a fucked-up custody agreement where Quinn belongs to Mack during the day but then is Spencer’s at night. Only, Mack isn’t clued in on all the details, and the deal is shit anyway. When Spencer does get to climb up next to Quinn, she’s too afraid to start a conversation and piss off the psycho below. Instead, their exchanges are mostly physical – not sexual but still intimate. She’s trying to push the boundaries of touchy-feely with neck rubs and the like when they’re out of direct line of sight, or sneaking a silent kiss when she can. But those moments are few and far between, because Mack is very observant when it comes to Quinn.

Spencer’s beginning to think maybe she did just imagine Charlotte and her webs. Hallucinogenic drugs injected into the food, or something. Her bunk looks more like the safe haven she needs it to be with each passing day, but Spencer’s not quite willing to relinquish the few uninterrupted hours she gets with Quinn. Not yet.

So, it’s easy to pretend she’s still too scared. Prison is scary.

But, it’s frustrating. She now understands clearly why so much sex happens all the time in this prison. It’s nearly driving her mad that she can’t get her own release, but her options are very few at this point. Quinn’s obviously off-limits (if Spencer wants to live out her life-sentence), Mack is a world of no-thank-you, and Aphasia is, well, someone who sleeps atop her pet bugs. Or, slept. Past tense. Not that that makes it any better.

Maybe someone traded her bugs for vodka?  That’s a sentence Spencer’s never strung together before.

And, you know, she’s more than a little angry, too, that Quinn had no reservations about resuming her rampant sexual escapades with Mack the moment Shark Week ended. It stings like betrayal, and the last person who did that took a mallet to the head. Not that she’s comparing the two, because “kissed me and then spanked a crazy bitch” is far lower on the scale of importance than “broke my heart and mind and caused me to go to the nuthouse for several weeks.”

But she’s still fucking frustrated.

On top of everything else, Spencer wakes on Wednesday with the familiar feeling of knowing she started in the night. She quickly shifts to check the mattress, but thankfully, the damage is still contained (barely, given the thin fabric down there). Spencer’s never been so grateful that the jumpsuits are black. She makes her way to the toilet and hunts around for any leftover peach wrappers, to no avail.

“Aphasia!” she whispers, crouched over on the silver bowl. Always being the first one awake has its advantages at times, but this is not one of them. She won’t be off this pot for a while without some help, and she can’t bear the thought of Mack laughing at her, or, worse, Quinn seeing her like this. “Aphasia!”

Nothing. Her cellmate's snoring away with a hand tucked under her mattress. “Fucking hell,” Spencer mutters, and launches the roll of toilet paper at the sleeping girl’s head, striking her shoulder with a soft thud as it falls to the ground.

Instantly, Aphasia wakes and shoots upright, her withdrawn hand bringing a giant knife with it.

“WHOA, whoa!” Spencer hisses with flailing arms. “It’s just me! Holy shit.”

Aphasia blinks sleepily, sighs, and slips the knife back under her bed. “Did I miss waffles?”

“No, not yet. Hey, can I get one of those green tampons?”

Squinting and still half-asleep, Aphasia just stares at her for a moment, as if trying to make sense of her question. “Five dollars.”

Spencer furrows her brow. “Nobody has any money.”

Aphasia rears back, offended. “I got plenty of money!”

“Well, then I guess you don’t need mine!”

“Says who?” Aphasia sasses, looking more awake now.

“Will you please just give me a damn tampon?”

Clearly in no hurry, Aphasia reaches back under the mattress, and Spencer lets out a big sigh of relief. But Aphasia has just grabbed her knife again. She points it at Spencer’s face, moving it with each word. “Five. Dollars.”

Gesturing to the sleeping spank twins, Spencer whispers, “You gave them some for free! Why don’t I get one!”

“That was Shark Week. E’rybody need one on Shark Week. This ain’t Shark Week.”

“Well, I’m bleeding now,” Spencer says.

Aphasia tilts her head as her knife hand drops. “What-chu mean? You broke your vajayjay?”

Spencer’s face falls into her hands. Explaining to her mother that she was rejected from UPenn was easier than this. She is never getting off this toilet. And now she has no toilet paper.

Without warning, something smacks her in the leg with a light thwap. Spencer opens her eyes and sees a green wrapper by her right foot. A single tampon has never looked so beautiful.

Quinn rolls over and buries her face in her pillow without a word, clearly irritated by the whole scene. Spencer gratefully snatches up the gift and sticks her tongue out at Aphasia, who huffs and mumbles, “Tryin’ to steal my shit,” before turning over and going back to sleep.

****************

By Sunday morning, the carousel of emotional turmoil is even worse than usual. Mack’s taking Quinn for a ride yet again, leaving Spencer forced to seek distraction from Aphasia. They’ve been getting along lately, even bonding over shared interests, such as chalk art drawings and strategies to ignore the furious moans several feet away. That’s proving difficult, though, with Mack being even louder than before and screaming Quinn’s name a lot. More than should be necessary, as far as Spencer’s concerned. She has to be doing it on purpose just to get under Spencer’s skin.

It’s working. After at least a half hour of this, Spencer's so tense that she nearly snaps a piece of pink chalk in two.

Aphasia just pats her shoulder. “Girl, you got it bad,” she whispers while drawing what seems to be a cross between a rhinoceros and a giraffe.

Spencer rolls her eyes. She does not  “have it bad.” She does not have anything, good or bad or otherwise. Or, fine, fuck it, maybe she does. She’s clearly been obsessing about this for days. “Whatever,” she grumbles. “Not like I can do anything about it.”

“I thought that’s why you get shower time,” Aphasia says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world and Spencer’s a colossal moron.

Mack’s final “QUINN!” echoes all down the cell block, and now a few minutes alone in the shower is starting to sound like a grand idea, if only so Spencer can be somewhere that is else.

“Boomer!” she yells as she jumps down off the bed, putting entirely too much effort into not looking over at them.

It takes a minute, but then Boomer’s apathetic face appears before her. “Let me guess.”

“I’d like some office time today,” Spencer says, as firmly and politely as she can, “If that works with the warden’s schedule, of course. Please.”

The office hours go almost as slowly as being locked in the cell, but at least Mack isn’t thrusting between Quinn’s legs on Sue’s desk. Spencer’s so distracted by what a lesbian melodrama her life has become that she can’t even work up the energy to look for more clues, she just does what she’s supposed to do. And she spends so much effort thinking about not thinking about Quinn that she may or may not have stuck S before R when alphabetizing. Whatever, paperwork is hard when you’re handcuffed.

Looks like her lawyer was right; Spencer apparently does have some latent bi-curious feelings. Fantastic. Shaking off that topic for later, she notices a crisp, green Missing Persons report for Aeryn Sun sitting on the desk.

Wait, I thought she died in a prison fight? And Sylvester had what’s left of the body?

Spencer scans the paper quickly, and it reveals a very different story: Missing prisoner, suspected escape, guards on high alert, highly confidential. And specific instructions to keep this internal until resolved.

Well. THAT’S interesting.

She reads through it all again, since she can’t make a copy and doesn’t want to risk stealing it. How can someone go missing for weeks at a time on a spaceship? A space prison, no less?  Spencer frantically searches the area for a second report, making more of a mess than she should, but then the door opens without warning.

It’s Boomer. Time to go.

Shit.

Spencer pretends she was tidying a pile of papers, puts a final tap on the corners, and heads out of the office. She knows now that there’s more to this than she thought. There is a conspiracy. There is a mystery to be solved. And somewhere in that office are more clues. She just has to find them.

Should she tell the others about this? No, she decides. Fuck them. They’ve made it clear she’s on her own, at least until she has some proof in her hands. Her adrenaline is pumping with each step down the hall. Just like at home, the rush of good detective work is turning her on.

She’s so very, very glad it’s finally shower time.

Spencer’s still a little self-conscious as she stands under the showerhead with lukewarm water raining down on her. Running fingers through her hair, she double checks to be sure no one is around before she lets herself slide a hand down over her breasts, then abdomen. And, god, her fingers are ghosting through curls and over incredibly sensitive skin, and it’s been far, far too long.

Spencer presses two fingers hard where she needs it most, and a shudder rips through her as her body responds immediately. She’s fought for days to think of anything but Quinn, but now, fuck it. She works her hand back and forth, letting her mind wander to all those forbidden places. Quinn’s breath against her neck, Quinn’s tongue grazing across her ear, Quinn’s teeth tugging her bottom lip, Quinn’s hands...

God, those fucking hands. Spencer wants them everywhere. And a Hastings gets what she wants.

She plunges two fingers in without further preamble, hooking her thumb firmly to her clit, and the whimper that she’s fighting back echoes off the metal walls anyway.

And that fucking voice. She can almost hear Quinn, mocking her, teasing her.

“Look how badly you want me, Spencer.” A little laugh. “You’re shaking.”

And she is. She slaps her other hand against the wall and leans heavily against it for support, because her knees are about to give way at any moment and she’d really rather not have bruises from a fall.

She’s close. She’s so close. After days of building tension and hearing first-hand what kind of sounds Quinn makes during sex, it’s definitely not going to take much more to put her over that edge.

“Beg me to touch you, Spencer. Say you want it. Say you want me.

“I...” Spencer bites down on her shoulder to keep from screaming out. She’s breathing hard and her arm is killing her, but she works her thumb back and forth faster and faster. She can’t stop now. Not when she’s imagining Quinn hovering above her, slowly reaching a hand low into her jumpsuit with a devilish grin on that beautiful face.

And then the door swings open.

FUCK.

NO!  GODDAMNIT.

Spencer wants to die as she wrenches out her hand and tries desperately to look like she hasn’t just been furiously masturbating. If only the water were actually hot, she’d have an easy excuse for her flushed skin.

In walks Boomer, leading a small group of ladies -- of which she recognizes Lucy Diamond and Graham and Kat -- and Spencer’s sure they all fucking know exactly what she was just doing. A few cough awkwardly and giggle, but Graham’s eyes size her up with a flirtatious smirk. The light swirls of blood at Spencer's feet only add to the picture she’s painted for them.

Spencer has never been more embarrassed in her life.

“Keep up the good work,” Graham says as she walks past. She misses grazing Spencer’s ass by an inch at most.

Spencer chokes down all that frustration -- even worse now that she’d started and couldn’t finish -- and snatches up her uniform to quickly dress and scurry to the door. “Okay,” she mutters to Boomer, extending her hands to be cuffed again.

“Already?” Boomer asks with a look of, But they just got here?  She shakes her head. “Whatever.”

Spencer steps back into the cell and throws herself down on her bed without a word. Killer spider or no killer spider, she just can’t take all these feelings anymore. Her nights with Quinn are over. They’ll go back to how things were before they started all that cuddle bullshit that only made it worse. No more touching. No kissing. No breaths against her ear. No warmth, no safety.

But hey -- maybe now Mack will stop looking about five seconds, tops, from strangling Spencer with that seat belt.

Chapter Text

“¡Buenos dias!”

Spencer jerks awake to find Aphasia dangling half off the top bunk with the biggest, brightest grin. The first night back in her own bed had been uneventful until now; she’d even slept through most of it. She was overdue for something weird. “¿Qué coño?” she growls as she instinctively switches her already overloaded brain to foreign language mode.

“Mexican Monday,” Quinn says from across the cell.

A tray slides across the floor into view, holding small bowls of suspicious rice and what must be beans. Spencer looks up to see Quinn smirk.

“Yeah, it’s not so bueno.”

Spencer stumbles over to examine the food close-up. If you can even call it food. It smells a lot like the toilet wine. Maybe the Pruno would pair nicely with this breakfast. “Why is this happening?”

Mack shrugs from her bunk. “Sylvester’s, like, 1/64th Mexican or something so we celebrate her ‘heritage’ once a year.”

Aphasia pulls castanets out from under her mattress and clacks away. “¡Arroz y frijoles!”

In about half a second, Mack flies off her bunk, heading right for Spencer, grabs a bowl of rice, and launches it at Aphasia. The bowl just barely misses her head and hits the wall, splattering rice all over her bed. “You know I fucking hate those pincher things!” Mack snarls, crawling back into her bed.

“She’s afraid of lobsters,” Quinn explains.

Aphasia doesn’t even flinch, just starts plucking up rice clumps with her castanets and dropping them into her mouth. “¡Desayuno en la cama!” she sing-songs.

Spencer surveys the scene and decides to skip breakfast today. “So, Quinn,” she says with a little too much enthusiasm. “What are we reading today?”

Quinn looks up from her current choice of romance novel and displays the cover. Panqueques Amarillas Mortales y Escobas doesn’t sound like much of a panty-ruiner to Spencer, but what does she know. “I need to hit the library later,” Quinn says sheepishly.

It’s a quiet morning in the cell, aside from the dull, sporadic staccato of Aphasia still eating rice up above. But then that guard Spencer saw once before – K. Greggs – marches a prisoner past, and Spencer recognizes her this time.

It’s Hermione.

Aphasia was right. She’s back.

Hermione doesn’t look into the cell as she passes, and no one speaks to her. In fact, the whole cell block is quiet, which is unusual for delivery of newcomers. But then, this girl isn’t new. Spencer knows that now.

I guess her escape plan isn’t as sound as she thought.

Once they’ve gone past, Spencer asks, “Hey, you okay?” Silence hangs over the room.

Aphasia is still picking rice off the bed and doesn’t meet Spencer’s eyes. She says quietly, “Hoy es un día feliz,” but she sure doesn’t seem to mean it.

Slinking back down to her mattress, Spencer realizes that if she wants to make it out of here alive herself, she has a lot of work to do. She’s miles behind Hermione.

She turns back to face her scribbled notes on the wall, and sighs. Yeah, Sue’s tangled up in lies about prisoner deaths, but how the hell is Spencer going to crack this case when she can’t roam freely to investigate? She still has no prime suspects, merely circumstantial reasoning, and a pathetic evidence list: one side of a phone conversation and the mental snapshot of a Missing Persons report.

There are no killer monsters in outer space. Hell, maybe there is no spider in the first place.

It’s been weeks since any sign of Charlotte, so maybe it was Spencer’s imagination after all. Space prison is fucked up, and she needed a coping mechanism. So, her subconscious created a manifestation of a familiar childhood character, building logic into a place that was inherently illogical and giving her a false sense of security. After befriending Quinn and establishing an actual interpersonal bond, her hallucinations ceased. Basically, her brain made it up to give herself an excuse to crawl into Quinn’s bed. A lust-driven fabrication of which Spencer should be deeply ashamed. And she is.

This realization is the first thing to make sense in a long time. And if she figured that out, then, damnit, she still has it. She can solve a murder mystery, even all by herself.

It’s what Spencer Hastings does.

Granting the premise that a warden has no reason to kill her own prisoners (which, that should be easy, right?), Spencer tries to think beyond Sue’s role in whatever’s happening. There has to be more she’s not seeing. If, somehow, Sue’s innocent, it means someone else is guilty. Or, even if Sue’s the one calling the shots, it’s unlikely she’s killing girls with her own two hands. Looking back over the list of names on the left-hand side, all the ones she knows, Spencer thinks about the various levels of violence and psychosis, and one name still stands out.

Lucy Fabray.

There is just something off about that girl. She’s downright creepy with her whole goody-two-shoes act and pink jumpsuit. Why the fuck is she in space prison anyway? And the goddamn Queen Bee, no less? It isn’t adding up. If she is killing people, playing the sweet-as-pie kindergarten teacher would be a perfect cover. She’d be the last one accused. Making her Spencer's new prime suspect.

Time for some recon. And maybe some vodka.

“Hey, you have Play-Doh today, right?” she asks Mack in the friendliest, most nonchalant voice she can muster, considering how much she fucking hates this girl.

But Mack isn’t buying anything Spencer's selling. “What do you care?”

Spencer chooses her words carefully. “I may have rushed to judgment before about Lucy.”

Quinn stops reading and raises an eyebrow.

“She seems like a nice person,” Spencer continues, trying to stay as sincere as possible. The truth is, Lucy is fucking terrifying.

“She’s phony, and I hate her,” Quinn says into her book.

Spencer takes a breath. “I was thinking I should give her another chance. Be more open-minded to people who might have a different way of doing things than I do. I like learning.” Mack’s staring straight through her. “Sooo...do you think I could tag along again? To class?” It’s really the only way Spencer can think of to get more information, short of accosting her in the Mess Hall. But she’s seen the scary brunettes Lucy runs with, and no thank you.

“Why would she even let you back in after you were a total dickbag?” Mack asks, and it’s a very fair point.

“I messed up, I know, and that’s why I want to go back. I want the chance to apologize. Sue said it’s okay. I asked her last week.” That’s an outright lie, but hopefully it doesn’t show.

Mack sighs heavily and lies back down on her bunk. “Whatever.”

There, one obstacle overcome. Now she has momentum and a plan. She has something to do, thank you, Jesus. Her mind goes back to the Mess Hall last week and Hermione Houdini, which still doesn’t make any sense. Where did she go? How does that even work? ...and can Hermione take other people with her?

Obviously, there are some kinks to work out, seeing as how Hermione's right back in here, but it’s the closest thing to an escape plan Spencer has at the moment.

Aphasia’s made it clear she doesn’t want to talk about Hermione, but Spencer is running out of options, and for all she knows, running out of time as well. She’s been relying pretty heavily on her cellmates to make progress on this case, and even then it’s slow-going. It’s too bad they don’t share the same interest in solving it. They might actually get somewhere.

“Hey,” Spencer says, pulling herself up so that her chin rests on Aphasia’s mattress. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” She notices HERMIONE is spelled out in white rice just inches from her face. Aphasia stares at it and remains silent. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Spencer climbs up to sit at the end of the bed. She’s careful not to mess up Aphasia’s masterpiece as she settles in. They sit quietly there together for a moment as Spencer decides how to proceed, but one thing is suddenly very clear. “Does she love you, too?”

It’s soft enough that it feels like a private moment, and thankfully their cellmates aren’t butting in. Mack’s on sit-up number fifty-eight and counting, and Quinn’s meditating on her bed. While smoking.

Aphasia sniffles once and keeps staring at the rice. “I don’t know.” It’s the softest, saddest whisper Spencer’s ever heard.

“It’s too bad you can’t be in a cell together.” She doesn’t want to think about how she’d feel if she and Quinn were separated, and that’s only just started. (Spencer’s promise to stop having gay feelings was short-lived.) This thing with Hermione sounds like a lot more.

“We already got five people in here,” Aphasia says, then corrects herself. “Four. But I ain’t asking for a move. We don’t want Sue knowing she and I got a thing. She already got enough attention on her as it is.”

For instance, Spencer thinks, an entire cafeteria applauding.  “What was that? She just disappeared.” It still baffles her.

Aphasia takes a deep breath and straightens a few tilted rice grains in the N. “She’s a witch. She knows spells and shit.”

“Like Dark Willow?” Spencer asks. That hadn’t even occurred to her before, but it makes sense now. Does this mean Dark Willow can disappear, too?

Aphasia makes a belittling pssh sound and looks up. “She way better than that. With that wand, she can do anything.”

A wand. THAT’S what that was.

Spencer starts piecing the puzzle together, how Hermione passed right by Aphasia before she disappeared. “You gave it to her.”

Aphasia nods. “They always take it when she gets caught. She can do some things without it, she can escape, but not much else.” There is a quiet pause. “She needs it.”

Spencer tilts her head back in realization and says, “So, you get it for her. You steal it back.” That explains why Aphasia was gone from the cell the morning Hermione left. It doesn’t explain how the hell she did it, but Spencer’s not going to press her luck and lead the conversation off course.

Aphasia’s eyes are shining. “She needs it,” she repeats. “She’s fighting out there. There’s a war going on.”

Spencer raises her eyebrows, trying to picture this girl stationed in Afghanistan or something. With her little stick.

“You wouldn’t know about that,” Aphasia continues. “It ain’t on the news or whatever. It’s too scary. Too dangerous. People can’t understand.” A tear runs down Aphasia’s cheek and she blinks it away, only causing two more to fall. “She kills people, bad people. But she has to. They some fucked up bitches. It’s the government. They the ones who keep sending her back here. Because she’s too good. She's too strong. She doesn’t give up.” Aphasia smiles for a moment. “And she keeps getting right back out there.” She thinks about her words for a moment and adds, “She’s the bravest girl I ever met.”

Spencer exhales heavily, completely taken aback by the depth of this whole love subplot. “How long has this been going on?”

She sniffles again. “A year? Something like that. She been in and out of here so much, I lost count. They bring her in, I get the wand, she gets out, they bring her back. It’s just what we do.” Aphasia shrugs, but she’s clearly a mess inside.

“They can’t stop her from escaping?” Spencer says. “They obviously know she can get out of here. Don’t they have Solitary or something?”

“They don't even bother with that. She can get out of anywhere; that’s the magic. Except her school or something, but I don’t know much about that. She said there’s another prison that she wouldn’t be able to break out of either, but it’s full, so they send her here because it's so far away. When she disappears, she can only go so far, so she goes to other ships she knows about, and that’s why they keep catching her. Sometimes she can’t get all the way back home. Sometimes she does, and she’s gone for a long time.” Aphasia’s voice is quiet now.

“What if you went with her?” Spencer asks. “Maybe you could help her keep from getting caught.” It’s the closest way she can ask if Hermione would consider running her own Underground Space Railroad.

Her lip is trembling as she mumbles, “She’ll never take me with her. Not til it’s safe. Not til she knows she won’t be coming back in here. Who’d get her wand back?” She lets Spencer consider that before continuing. “They still don’t know it’s me.” Aphasia smiles proudly at this, then gets serious again. “They can never know. Never.” When she seems certain Spencer understands, she says, “She needs me here. So, I stay.”

Spencer is quiet for a moment, processing everything she’s heard. This whole situation is crazy. If Aphasia were ever caught, she’d be killed on the spot or at least transferred to a higher-security facility, Spencer’s sure of that. She can’t imagine where they must lock up this wand that Aphasia keeps stealing back, or how she manages it in the first place. But even overlooking these questions, how’s this all going to help Spencer? She doesn’t know if throwing herself into a supposed wizard war is worth the trouble of trying to get out of here. If a first escape didn’t work, she might never get another chance. It’s a dead end.

“Does she know how you feel about her?” she asks, putting her selfish plans to rest.

Aphasia looks Spencer in the eye and says, “She has to.” Staring at the letters one last time, Aphasia crumples the rice into a pile, throws the stale grains onto the floor, and curls up in a ball under her sheet.

Spencer climbs back down with a heavy heart. All this time, she’d thought Aria and Ezra’s story was pretty tragic, but this is on a whole new level. Further proof that she's a small-town girl who knows nothing about the real world. Nothing at all.

She tries to refocus on her plan to infiltrate Lucy Fabray’s world later that afternoon, steeling herself for the coming freak show. It seems everyone has a story here, and she’s intent on learning as many as she can.

****************

“Mexican Monday” doesn’t seem to be much of a celebration, Spencer thinks. The Mess Hall looks exactly the same as it always does when lunchtime rolls around -- gray and grimey with a sticky floor and more tables than a group this size warrants. Aphasia, however, must be over their conversation from earlier, because she’s beside herself with joy now. She excitedly places her order in Spanish as she pushes her tray through the line, despite the fact that there is only one item: fish tacos.

Or, well, wait. Upon further inspection, it’s a single Gorton’s Fisherman fish stick wrapped in a corn tortilla.

“¡LUNES MEXICANO!” Aphasia turns to shout with both arms up, randomly in the middle of the line. The rest of the inmates don’t share her sentiments, except maybe Flaca and Maritza, and Spencer feels glad to be in the majority for once. Aphasia gets excited about the weirdest fucking things. But it’s almost kind of precious, Spencer thinks.

She carries her tray past the end tables to the center section, where Quinn is waiting for her. Spencer hovers for just a moment before sitting, scoping out Lucy and her girls. They're leaning in slightly, like they don’t want anyone to hear what they’re discussing. Spencer squints and tries to read Santana's lips, but she’s too damn far away and--

“Hey,” Quinn says from across the table, snapping Spencer out of her daze. “Freak show.”

“Sorry.” She sits in a hurry, still looking in Lucy’s direction, then shakes it off and focuses on Quinn. “Thought I saw something.”

Quinn removes the fish stick from her tortilla, eating half of it in one bite and tossing the tortilla casually onto Aphasia’s tray without looking. “Your killer spider?”

“Ha, ha.” She won’t admit it to Quinn, but a vanishing, literate spider sounds a lot less fucking scary than a saccharin, arts-and-craftsy WASP who rules over Angry Lesbian Space Prison. Holding up the fish stick, Spencer bangs it on the tray a few times just to confirm it’s in fact as rock-hard and inedible as she thinks. And it is. “Who makes this stuff, anyway?” she asks. “This can't be the handiwork of an actual human.”

Immediately, everyone around Spencer starts hushing her, as if she’d just said “Beetlejuice” twice. Even Quinn looks scared.

“Jeez, sorry!” Spencer backpedals sarcastically. “What fine international cuisine.”

“Martha gonna cut you up,” Aphasia says, chomping another bite off her taco.

Spencer hasn’t heard that name yet in her time here. “Who’s Martha?”

“She runs the kitchen,” Quinn says. “Just stay out of her way.”

Spencer hasn’t seen anyone back there, but that doesn’t mean much. The food has to come from somewhere. She’s a little relieved to know it’s not just spit out of some space machine. But now she’s picturing someone out of a cartoon -- a giant, angry-looking woman with an apron and a hairnet and a permanent scowl. It seems fitting for a place like this. “So, what does M--”

Without warning, a loud crack! brings the conversation to an abrupt halt, and the Mess Hall erupts into cheers yet again. Spencer hadn’t even seen that Hermione was there in the first place, but it’s irrelevant – she’s long gone now. Aphasia joins in the celebrating this time, but Spencer can see through the charade. She knows all about lying. Blending in is Aphasia’s best way to keep both herself and her true love safe. 

Wait a minute...Spencer has been with Aphasia all day, other than shower time. Did she really manage to sneak away and get the wand back so soon?

Once again, Aphasia’s a lot smarter than Spencer gave her credit for. She wonders, nervously, if she’ll discover the same thing about Lucy Fabray.

She really hopes not.

 

****************

Lucy Fabray is furiously shaking a pair of maracas with a sombrero perched on her head, and Spencer just does not know what to do with this image. She lingers near the doorway for a second before cautiously stepping inside to retake her spot next to Mack. A banner near the head of the Mess Hall reads “¡La Fiesta Play-Doh de Lucy!” in garish pinks and oranges, with cacti clip-art adorning either end.

Spencer’s suddenly a little envious of Aeryn Sun; what happened to her must be preferable to this circle of Hell. She’s tempted to walk right out and never look back, to pretend Lucy Fabray really is just sweet as pie and could never be involved in possibly killing anyone ever. Spencer shakes her head -- and ignores the eye-roll that Mack shoots her way. A Hastings never gives up the chase, even if it leads into a dayglow hellscape.

“¡Hola, clase!” Lucy calls out over the mariachi music coming from her tape deck.

The class replies in unison, “¡Hola, maestra!” Mack is especially enthusiastic, though in Spencer’s humble opinion, her pronunciation is terrible. You know, because she’s such an expert on these things.

Lucy continues shimmying around in time with the tinny music. “Are you excited for today’s aventura internacional in the magical world of Play-Doh?”

“¡Si!”

Even Spencer joins in for that one, as much she wants to shrivel up and die just for being back here. She figures she has to blend in to avoid looking suspicious. Not that Lucy’s paying any attention to her right now.

Or, wait...Shit, here she comes.

“You’re back!” Lucy says with that perfect smile.

Spencer gapes and stammers. “Yeah, I...uh...”

Lucy taps her maracas together. “Fantastic! I brought an extra set of Play-Doh just in case!” She leans in close and whispers, “I’ll make an exception because of the holiday, but I’ll have to insist on a closed class after today. Be sure to tell Becky you want on the waiting list. Fair’s fair!” She winks once before backing away.

That’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Spencer’s deeply relieved to hear she’ll never again be allowed to set foot in Satan’s playground, and her cover wasn’t blown with Mack about the whole prior-permission-from-Sue thing. But it does mean she only has forty-five minutes to construct a profile of her prime suspect. And she’ll be expected to participate this time, but Spencer’s nothing if not excellent at multi-tasking and deceit.

“Today, we’ll be exploring our deepest connections in life -- friends!” Lucy sets aside her maracas to pick up something that vaguely resembles a person’s face sculpted out of neon green clay.

Spencer chokes down the half-digested fish stick that had started to work its way back up. Placing this class after lunch really is poor planning on someone’s part.

“Everyone has someone special to them. Someone meaningful who helps us define who we are as individuals. This might be a person you haven’t seen in a while, or it could be someone you see every day. But, their place in our lives is undeniably important.” Lucy smiles at each person in her class. “Love, after all, is what makes us human.”

Everyone nods with rapt attention. Spencer sincerely hopes Lucy isn’t about to make the green face talk back.

Lucy plucks up a chunk of Play-Doh and starts twirling it between her hands. “We’ll start with your base, rolled into a ball like so...”

Spencer can’t help but fixate on the deft movement of Lucy’s fingers and how similar they are to Quinn’s. And how similar everything else is to Quinn, save the hair. And what it might feel like to cuddle up against Lucy instead of Quinn, with those fingers wrapped around her own or raking gently through Spencer’s hair or reaching down into --

She blinks hard to clear out that mental image before it can really take root. Fluffiness aside, Lucy doesn’t seem like much of a cuddler anyway. And those well-manicured fingers might have killed someone.

No sleeping with the enemy, Spencer.

She spends the next half hour immersed in the creation of a face that kind of resembles Toby, but with purple eyes and spiky green hair. Spencer picks him for her inspiration, as it were, because she doesn’t really want to associate any of her actual friends with this insanity. It’s bad enough that she’s even participating. If Hanna could see her now, she’d never hear the end of it.

Thirty-four minutes have passed, and Spencer still hasn’t learned anything new about Lucy Fabray. She spends the entire class walking the floor, instructing Dark Willow on how to correctly carve sad eyes and helping one of those scary brunettes from lunch with crafting the perfect ponytail.

At one point, Spencer overhears Lucy murmur to that same girl, “Santana, I know you’re having a rough time with this, but remember how agile your fingers are.” And Spencer swears she can see a glint in Lucy’s eye that pierces her usual tranquility. Spencer files that away for future examination.

Time continues to drag on, and Spencer’s getting nowhere. Mack’s putting the finishing touches on her own contribution, which looks kind of like Mrs. Potato Head gone abstract. Spencer’s reduced to jabbing a finger into clay-Toby’s face out of sheer frustration, when Lucy claps her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Okay, clase, you’ve all done a wonderful job!” she says. “The detail each of you has put into your sculpture is phenomenal!" She motions to the chart to her right, where she keeps track of her students’ progress week to week. Assuming each person gets one sticker per session, some of these girls have been enrolled for a long-ass time. Flaca and Maritza must have at least a hundred each.

Lucy rummages behind her, then turns around with her arms wrapped around a cardboard box. “And now, for our gran final...” She tips the box forward to reveal...tiny wooden mallets.

The flashback of pummeling the life out of Toby’s face catches Spencer by surprise. She glances down at the Play-Doh visage she made and furrows her brow.

“We’ve created with love,” Lucy’s saying, “and now we will express the anger each of us feels, because with love there is always pain. Some on the surface...” She gives Mack a smile. “And some, deep down.” Lucy balances the box on her hip and pulls out one of the mallets. “And we will do this like so...”

The hammer makes a sickening and kind of wet sound as Lucy practically pulverizes her own model with what must be her full strength.

Oh. Well, then.

“Genius...” Mack whispers.

Spencer briefly wonders why this wasn’t a Shark Week activity, but then figures putting even a toy weapon into the hands of crazy, emotional people is a recipe for disaster.

“Okay, clase!” Lucy says, panting ever so slightly and flicking a lock of blonde hair out from in front of her eyes. “It’s your turn now!”

It all comes back the instant Spencer’s hand closes around the mallet’s tiny handle. The betrayal, the attempt at puppy-dog eyes, the pleading...the blood, everywhere. She takes surprisingly great delight in pummeling clay-Toby, so much that Mack stares at her like she’s grown at least two more heads. Spencer shrugs modestly. “I’ve done this before.”

She continues on, and at some point, the anger gives way to sexual frustration. If she can’t bang Quinn or even herself, at least she can bang this mallet. It’s a little fulfilling, and Spencer finds herself growing to almost respect Lucy Fabray and her teaching abilities.

Almost.

Meanwhile, over the racket of a dozen hammers pounding against Play-Doh and tables, she hears crying from behind her, presumably from Dark Willow as she destroys the face of her own long-lost love. There's a lot of emotion in the room.

 

Cathartic as the activity is, it’s still not enough for Spencer to sign up for Play-Doh fucking Funhouse officially. She's not about to sacrifice what’s left of her dignity and sanity. While the forty-five minutes aren’t particularly fruitful, they’re not a total waste, either. Lucy’s still Suspect Numero Uno. There’s clearly more to her than puppy dogs and sunshine. Whether that’s good or bad, Spencer just doesn’t know.

Chapter Text

The rest of Loco Lunes, as Spencer is calling it, proceeds mostly without incident, other than a strange argument between Quinn and Aphasia over a blanket, of all things. Spencer didn’t even know Aphasia had one, much less that Quinn had access to it. They bicker back and forth for half of Power Hour because Quinn supposedly borrowed it during class time without Aphasia’s permission, even though she put it back before Aphasia even returned. Now, it's nowhere to be seen. This must be some special fucking blanket the way Aphasia’s carrying on and ripping Quinn a new one.

Boo fucking hoo and shut the hell up! This should not be a thirty-minute conversation!

If she wasn’t so bitter about missing out on cuddle time with Quinn, she might be glad for the distraction during the endless loop of “La Isla Bonita.” The goddamn bongo drums are going to haunt her sleep tonight. (Really, if she never hears another Madonna song ever again, it’ll be too soon.)

The Mess Hall serves fajitas for dinner, which, tragically, seems to be the only Spanish word Aphasia has mispronounced all day. Spencer cringes every time she hears, “¡Me encanta fa-jitas!” with a hard J. But then, Aphasia is pretty fucking gay, so maybe it’s not a mistake after all.

The following afternoon, that blasted bongo song is still in her head, and Spencer needs a reprieve. She’s considering an hour of office work to try to dig up more information on the hammer-happy Lucy, but then she realizes it’s Tuesday -- the one day a week when she gets the cell to herself for fifty-five glorious minutes. This is new, as Mack just joined Aphasia in Zombies class to round out her schedule, maybe to avoid being alone with Spencer. Which, that’s fine -- Spencer didn’t want to be stuck in here with her any more than she did. They seem to have this unspoken agreement to just avoid each other as much as possible for, well, the rest of their lives. Which it literally will be.

God, Spencer is going to waste away in this stupid, little room with a hoarding thief, a nymphomaniac lunatic who hates her, and the current object of her sexual frustration, who seems to be all but done with her before it ever really began.

And that may be the most aggravating part of all. Quinn’s so close by, and Spencer’s so fucking close just thinking about Quinn, and yet, still, no release. After three weeks.

...Holy shit, I have the cell to myself.

Nothing about prison is ever going to be prime circumstances, but Spencer's learning to be flexible. Boomer passes the cell every fifteen minutes, there’s a murderer on the loose, and maybe even a killer spider in her bed. But by god, Spencer Hastings is going to finally have an orgasm. A perfect way to celebrate the end of her cycle.

Tucked under the sheet, she casually pretends to read something from Quinn’s stash while waiting for the guard to pass, thus ensuring a maximum interval of uninterrupted time. As soon as Boomer’s out of sight, Spencer pulls down the long zipper and shoves a hand into her underwear. Turning her head toward the wall, she takes the hemmed edge of the sheet between her teeth to keep quiet as she works two fingers in circles. Her head is swimming with the flood of chemicals in her brain, and she starts naming them off just because she can, but then refocuses because, hi, why think about dopamine when you can think about Quinn’s tongue between your legs.

Oh god, Quinn...

And like that, Quinn is all over Spencer and everywhere. Pulling her hair, palming her breasts, kissing her neck, whispering dirty commands in her ear, grinding against her, sucking her clit -- doing everything Spencer has wanted all at once, and it’s too much. Her arm pumps harder, body humming, sweat dripping down her thighs, and her back arches as she bites hard into the thin sheet.

Spencer feels herself building, rising, climbing, climbing higher, and then finally peaking. Her entire body clenches and shudders, closing in on itself reflexively. She moans hard with eyes shut tight as the sensations course through her, like some primal force within her that’s finally being released. The payoff is even better than she anticipated. Chalk it up to differences in atmospheric pressure in space, or the lapsed time, or the fact that she wants Quinn -- a girl -- more than she ever wanted Toby or any other stupid boy. Or, hell, maybe Martha did put drugs in the food. Spencer doesn’t know, and she sure doesn’t care, because she’s fucking floating and not coming down from this high any time soon. (Though, she does open her eyes for a half-second to be sure she’s not literally floating.) After sixty long, blissful seconds, the tingling in her toes and gentle hum across her skin send Spencer into a contented sleep.

****************

The slam of the cell door pulls her back to reality as she wakes behind closed eyelids. Her right hand is warm, still tucked snugly into her soaked underwear.

“Jesus, Maple Tits. Didn't realize you were that bored.”

It's Mack. Fuck.

Spencer rips her hand out and tries to zip her uniform back up, which is impossible to do discreetly under the sheet. She jumps off the bed like it was on fire, only making it more obvious that she has something to hide. “I wasn't --” she begins, but then she sees what her three cellmates are all staring at.

The back of the cell is covered with a haphazard jungle of yellow thread. It's a web.

A web with writing in it.

And it’s TERRIFYING.

“I need to pee,” Aphasia announces. There is no way to reach the toilet through the maze.

“Seriously, what the hell,” Mack says, but Spencer barely registers a word.

“I didn't do this,” she says forcefully. She's shaking and her mind is racing, praying that she's still dreaming. The others may not yet realize what Spencer does -– the web says, I KILD JENE SHEKTR.

“Okay...” Quinn says, surveying it with raised eyebrows.

Well, at least they see it this time. Yay?

Spencer walks over to the web and reaches out to touch one of the lines of thread, just to be sure it's really there. With a tug, it pops off the wall, and Spencer jumps back. The work of the web itself is a strange combination of sloppy and precise. The letters aren't written across radial lines, like they usually are in Charlotte's webs on her bunk. Instead, it's mostly a net stretching in diagonals from one side of the cell to the other. It makes the letters much harder to read, but there's no doubt they're there.

“The spider did this,” Spencer says. “It had to be.”

“Yeah, okay,” Mack laughs.

“I was asleep!”

Quinn raises an eyebrow and glances down at Spencer’s crotch.

Spencer closes her eyes, frustrated. “I fell asleep. Either way -- not Crazy String Girl.” She looks back at it and adds, “Also? I can spell. Give me a little credit.”

Aphasia tilts her head at the web. “Is this some kind of dream journal thing? My mom made me do that when I was little. It was stupid.”

“This is stupid,” says Mack, lying down on her bed.

“Hey,” says a voice from the corridor, and all heads turn. It’s Raven. “What the hell is that?”

Aphasia crosses past Spencer, saying, “Pssh, horny girls do crazy shit, you know how it goes.” Reaching into her jumpsuit, she pulls out something small and gray, slipping it through the bars. With her other hand, she takes a sealed tin can from Raven. It’s a quick exchange, one they’ve clearly made before.

“Yeah,” Raven says. She takes a moment to examine her new item, flipping it open, and Spencer immediately recognizes it as an old-style cell phone. Aphasia had a phone in here? Raven closes it, looking satisfied, and puts it in her pocket. “Let me know when she’s able to track down that belt.”

“She knows,” Aphasia says. “I got you.”

Spencer has no idea what’s happening. It’s somehow even more confusing than the giant yellow web still hanging behind them.

Raven nods back at the mess before walking away. “And clean that up.”

“You clean it up,” Mack snaps back after she’s gone.

Spencer sighs and crosses her arms, staring at the string message and trying to make sense of it. It feels like someone’s punking her. Well, hopefully they’re having a good laugh right now, because Spencer sure isn’t.

Quinn doesn't look very amused by it, either. “You really don't have to do stuff like this to try to get us to believe you, you know. It's...not helping.” She looks back at the message, then adds, “And it's kind of creepy.”

“They just had knotting class,” Aphasia says and climbs up to her bunk. “Go be crazy there.”

“It's knitting,” Quinn says.

“I don’t know,” Aphasia says, eyebrows high. “Santana into all kinds of freaky shit.”

Quinn ignores that and says to Spencer, “It’s not too late to sign up. You clearly have…an interest.”

Spencer's mouth falls open. They still don’t believe her. “I DIDN'T DO THIS!” she shouts, sounding as desperate as she feels now. And then something snaps in her, and she flies into a fit of rage, tearing down all the thread and ripping apart what she can into pieces. It's tough to break, and it hurts her fingers the tighter she pulls. With one final cry, Spencer eventually gives up and collapses to the floor, tears streaming.

Yes, that will certainly make her appear sane and attractive again.

Her cellmates don't seem to know what to do or say. Then, Aphasia jumps down and bypasses Spencer entirely, going right to the toilet. Once her business is underway, Aphasia rolls her eyes at Spencer, muttering, “Mommy issues.”

Spencer shoots a look right back, but Quinn’s voice cuts in before she can say anything. “Come on.” She gestures for Spencer to come up on the bunk.

No. Fuck you.

Spencer drags herself back to her bed instead and quietly cries into her pillow. She's terrified and exhausted and alone, and now Charlotte’s back and fucking with her on a whole new level. Why, Spencer doesn’t know, and she’s too angry to think about it rationally right now, anyway. Maybe it was stupid of her to believe a spider could genuinely care about her. Maybe this is what Charlotte wanted all along -- for Spencer to lose her mind. Maybe crazy people make easier targets. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any lack of crazy in here, Spencer just didn’t think she’d be at the top of the list.

But it seems the more she fights, the worse it's getting. She’s so powerless here that even a spider has control over her world. Spencer has no credibility, no allies. Even the proof, right here, only makes it worse. She got what she wanted – a clear, solid confession to murder – and it only took her another step backward. And now she has no sanity left, either. She's become The Girl Who Cried Spider.

It’s the middle of the day but Spencer manages to cry herself to sleep again, if only to bring an end to this nightmare. Maybe Charlotte will end her suffering peacefully in her slumber. At this point, Spencer would rather not wake up at all than live another day in this dumpster.

Falling further into darkness, the last thing Spencer hears is Aphasia muttering, “Bitch stole my towel.”

****************

Spencer wakes when Power Hour comes blasting over the speakers. Not that that helps her know what time it is; she’s learned that Sue turns on the music any time she damn well pleases. But her body tells her it's been a few hours' nap, and the memory of the afternoon’s events come flooding back in a depressing wave. She’s more relaxed, though, if just groggy from sleeping too long. She rolls over, praying there’s not another message waiting for her.

Squinting against the light from the corridor, her eyes adjust to take in the scene. Aphasia's dancing to “Holiday” in the middle of the room while Mack does make-shift pulls-ups on the bed frame and Quinn reads. The small pile of yellow thread is right where Spencer left it, a few feet away in the back right corner. She turns away, still massively skeeved out by its very presence. No, Spencer's not going to let her guard down ag--

Her face pales and her blood runs cold when she sees it.

Another spider web. This one, regular silk thread, and attached to the bed frame just over her feet.

THE SUN WENT DOWN

In a flash, Spencer tears the web apart with her hands, much more easily this time. Her scream is mostly drowned out by Madonna's backbeat, but she can still feel her cellmates' eyes on her. Spencer's not going to waste her time with them anymore. She's had more than enough of this bullshit.

“GUARD! BOOMER! SOMEBODY!” she shouts, running off the bed to bang on the cell bars. “HEY! I NEED HELP HERE.”

“Hey. Spencer,” Quinn prompts, but Spencer ignores her. Quinn had her chance.

Boomer’s not running, but she’s meandering at a somewhat faster pace than normal. She keeps a safe distance and takes a quick look around the cell to see that the screaming lunatic is, in fact, not at all threatened by anything. “What.”

“There is a KILLER SPIDER in here.” Spencer knows how crazy it sounds, but there’s no room for doubt or weakness now. She just has to go with it. “Let me out RIGHT NOW, or I swear to god, I will be eaten alive and it will be on YOU.”

Boomer looks thoroughly bored and just walks away.

“Hey! HEY! WHAT THE FUCK? Where are you going?!”

The guard is halfway down the corridor by now and isn’t slowing down.

“She killed Aeryn Sun! I SAW IT. I am NOT CRAZY.”

With a pause in her step, Boomer pivots and sighs. She paces back slower than anyone rightfully should, making Spencer shift her weight anxiously, and stops ten feet from the cell. “You have information about Aeryn Sun?”

“YES,” Spencer pants, ignoring the fact that the only information she has was all obtained without permission. “Take me to Sylvester! I want to talk to the warden! NOW, goddamnit!”

Boomer stares and considers her options. “Calm the fuck down for an hour, and I’ll think about it.”

“IN AN HOUR, I COULD BE DEAD.”

“Don’t we wish,” Boomer replies loudly, already walking away again.

Spencer turns and slides down the bars to sit on the floor. No way is she going back to her bunk now. She watches Aphasia dance, letting her mind get lost in the hypnotic movements. “Holiday” is immediately followed by “Live to Tell,” and Spencer knows the prison is mocking her now. She drowns in the simple keyboard notes and fades out, gripping the words like a lifeline.

Will I live to tell the secret I have learned?

Other songs come and go, but Spencer doesn't hear them.

By the time Power Hour ends, Quinn's decided to try again, climbing down to sit next to Spencer, shoulder to shoulder. “Talk to me?” Quinn asks, her expression almost approaching concerned.

Spencer keeps staring forward, even though there's nothing to look at anymore. “Charlotte,” is the only word she can utter in response.

Mack snarls, “Who the fuck is Charlotte? Is she hot?”

Chapter Text

Spencer barely sleeps at all that night, too paranoid of every little itch and sensation that could be spider legs against her skin. She knows now that she’s not crazy. She didn’t make this up – any of it – and Spencer's not going to let that eight-legged bitch get away with murder anymore. Not on her watch.

She’s half-conscious when the jarring sound of banging on the cell bars yanks her awake. Spencer jolts upright, hitting the frame yet again. On the bright side, there isn’t a new web. Maybe the killer is on the run.

Boomer's voice cuts through the fresh headache. “Hastings! Let’s move.”

Thank you, yes please, get me out of here.

As they walk, Spencer can tell it’s first thing in the morning, judging from the dim lights and few early risers in various cells they pass. She tries not to get her hopes up, but she can't help but feel optimistic. Maybe Boomer told Sylvester about Charlotte first thing when she came into work today and they decided it was an emergency. Maybe she’ll hire an exterminator. Maybe she’ll grant Spencer a reward, like a reduced sentence or even a transfer back to Earth. She’d miss Quinn, but at least she wouldn’t have to put up with Mack anymore. And hey, with this newfound attraction to ladies, she could go back to Rosewood and have Emily introduce her to some of the five thousand lesbians wandering the general vicinity. If she hurries, she might make it back before A kills them all.

Sue is sitting at her desk, hands folded, awaiting Spencer’s arrival. “Morning. I hear you’re having some issues of the eight-legged variety,” she says. “I assume this is some weird Millennial euphemism for cramps?” At the confused look on Spencer’s face, Sue dismisses the idea and continues. “Well. Gotta say I’m surprised. I’ve been up here for a whole decade -- since I was a nubile eighteen years old, just like yourself -- and I’ve yet to see or hear of a spider in space. Congratulations.”

Spencer squares her shoulders and prepares to lay out all her evidence, or at least what she dares to reveal. It’s all hearsay, some quite literally. Her confidence is going to have to sell this thing. “Miss Sylvester, I have reason to believe that the culprit behind the disappearances of Stacey Merkin, Aeryn Sun, Jenny Schecter, and maybe Alex Vause,” she takes a deep breath, “is a dangerous, space-dwelling arachnid.”

Okay, it does sound ridiculous when said so matter-of-factly, but it’s fucking true. Spencer knows it’s true, even as she watches Sue struggle to not laugh in her face.

“Really?” Sue fixes Spencer in place with an arched eyebrow. “Who says they’ve disappeared?” she asks innocently.

“Um.” Spencer’s mind races. She can't just say, I overheard you on the phone telling the President they were getting stabbed. Time is ticking. “The other girls said they were here and now they’re not.”

“Well, I'll be damned. You're right -- they must be dead!” Sue throws up her arms.

Spencer is feeling stupider by the moment. “Were they released?”

“Frankly, that’s none of your business, Nosy Nancy. But if there were a killer spider on my ship, wouldn’t I know about it?” Sue stands up and begins pacing the room. “Do you think I’m that terrible at my job that I’d let some creepy-crawly stalk my inmates right under my nose?”

Spencer stammers. “I-I didn’t mean --”

“No, of course you didn’t. That wouldn’t be lady-like now, would it?” Sue looks longingly at her trophies as she continues pacing. “I know your type, Wastings. Whip-smart and convinced you can solve any puzzle with grit and a little deductive reasoning. But you know what your problem is? You’re lazy. You jump right to conclusions without bothering to gather any real facts. Yes, four inmates were here and now aren’t anymore. Not that you knew them or have any reason to give two rats' rears about their livelihoods. You’re new to the prison system, so let me explain something to you: Inmates get transferred. Inmates get released. Inmates get paroled. Inmates get sent to Solitary. Inmates get stabbed to death by other inmates. Sometimes, inmates get sucked out the airlock simply because I can’t stand the sight of their pasty, simpering, mouse faces anymore.”

Spencer’s heart stops for a moment. Is she talking about Jenny?

“But what inmates don’t do,” Sue says pointedly, “is get detailed reports on the daily whereabouts of others. You forgot you stopped being a person with rights the moment you were convicted. You lost all control of your life, and now you’re trying to regain some control here. I get it.”

Spencer really doesn’t want all of this to be so logical because then she can’t disagree with it as easily. She wants the murdering warden to be wrong.

Sue continues, “You found yourself something to do. Something to spin the old hamster wheel inside your noggin. Most girls would barter for a Sudoku book. But instead, you decided to invent a killer spider in outer space -- one that can dispose of several entire human bodies, no less. It’d be impressive if it wasn’t so juvenile, and frankly, more than a little bit sad. That’s quite an imagination you’ve got there, and I say that as the person who inspired Lady Gaga’s meat dress over a rousing chat on AOL instant messenger in 2004. Before you ask --” She holds up a compact disc with an America Online graphic “-- yes, I have the World Wide Web. Forty whole hours of it!” She puts the CD back in her disk drive and folds her hands, as if to say, Your move.

“Um --” Spencer starts, but Sue cuts her off again.

“I had high hopes for you, Spinster. I thought, ‘Here’s a girl who’s going to rise to the top of every class, a girl who’s going to get involved! Someone who’ll read every book in our library and not let her brain just rot away in her thick, oddly shaped skull.’ But I guess I was wrong about you. I don’t like being wrong. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a winner,” Sue says, referencing her trophy case. “And you are very quickly going the way of LOSER. You need to get your head out of your ass and start tuning into your new reality.” She cups her hands around her mouth to magnify the sound. “NEWS FLASH: YOU ARE IN PRISON. This spider malarkey ends here and now.”

“Miss Sylvester, I swear --,”

“Don’t swear in my office,” Sue says condescendingly. “It’s tacky.” She pauses and looks Spencer up and down, crinkling her face a bit. “I'm starting to think maybe this flight of fancy was the result of raging hormones. I can smell the stench of your roaring, crimson river from here.”

Spencer gawks and blasts back, “Wow. Do you always talk to inmates like this? I’m not even on my period anymore,” she adds irrelevantly.

“I’ll speak to you however I damn well please. Don’t forget whose ship you’re sailing on, young lady. You come into my house with all this loose talk, and you think I’m just going to let it slide without some fact checking?”

She’s had about enough of this crap. “I’m not lying!”

“Lying? No, you’re not lying. I think you believe this fabricated web you’ve spun -- pun very much intended. Oh yes, I can see it in your Pruno-soaked eyes. What you are is Stone. Cold. Crazy.”

Spencer feels her heart drop into her stomach. “I’m not--”

“I don’t mind a little crazy on my ship,” Sue interrupts again, “as I'm sure you’ve discovered in your extra-curricular super sleuthing. But what’d you expect -- it’s prison! Bad fish and craziness come with the territory. It keeps my guards busy and keeps me feeling saner every day in comparison. I just need to know what kind of crazy I’m dealing with. Like that girl who flays the skin off her chicken at dinner -- I just love that. Or the two Connor women who say they’re not only the exact same person, but that an indestructible robot from the future is trying to kill them! Hilarious!”

“I just --” Spencer tries, pointlessly.

“But you, with the arachnophobi-uh-oh, I don’t quite know what to do with you yet. Fortunately, ‘entertaining the crazies’ isn’t in my job description. I have someone else for that. Let's get that giant head of yours shrunk a bit, as they say.” Her eyes narrow as she looks closely at Spencer's hair. “It does seem a bit swollen.” Sue taps at her computer’s touchscreen while she continues. “But not to worry. Dr. Umbridge finds headcases like you absolutely delicious.”

Dr. Umbridge?

“But first, another physical. Can’t have you infecting my whole ship with whatever new space dementia you’ve possibly contracted.”

Wait, a doctor visit AND a therapist?

“And don’t come back with any more of this spider hooey-hooey, or we’ll have to consider more...extreme measures.”

Spencer’s eyes widen, terrified to think what that must mean. Is the warden threatening her? Over a spider?

Sue doesn't even look up from her paperwork as she says, definitively, “Please get the hell out of my office.”

Boomer drags Spencer down the hall to the familiar, gray room, chains the handcuffs down, and waits outside while Spencer tries to change into the paper gown on the examination table. Even though nothing has to go over her head, it’s still quite hard to manage with her hands tied. She’s placing her 50/50 wager on which of the doctors she’ll see today when a blonde woman enters. A woman Spencer has never seen before. And of course, she’s wearing a white coat with “Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins” stitched on it.

“Who are you?”

“Hi Spencer,” the doctor says, extending her hand toward Spencer’s cuffed ones. “I’m Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins. I’ll be doing your ex--”

Spencer pulls away from the handshake. “No, you’re not.”

A pause. “I’m not?”

Spencer’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “Every single person I meet in this room tells me she’s Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins! Nobody’s showing me any ID or credentials, so what am I supposed to believe? What the hell are you people doing to my body? Who are you? What kind of tests are you running? What are you writing in--”

“Hey, hey, Spencer.” The doctor holds up a hand and is surprisingly successful at calming Spencer down with her soothing tone. “I know this must be confusing for you. You’re not crazy -- there are three of us. But don’t worry, just three.” A small smile. “My wives and I rotate days so we don’t get exhausted. Tired doctors make mistakes.”

...Wives?

“...Wives?”

“Two of them and me makes three,” the doctor smiles. At Spencer’s look, she continues. “We hyphenated our names when we got married; it’s not exactly rocket science.” With a smirk, Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins goes back to looking over Spencer’s file. “I haven’t seen anything from your previous tests or exam notes that raises a red flag, but it won’t hurt to run them one more time, just to be sure. That’s a nice perk of the arrangement -- we can always get second and third opinions. Hold out your arm.”

Spencer’s built up enough trust with the previous doctors to let her mind wander during the routine of pokes and lights and scopes. She’s never met two married women before, much less three. Was that even legal in the United States? Maybe that’s why they came to space in the first place. Spencer wonders what other arrangements people have out here, beyond the iron fist of Earth laws.

And then, just for a moment, she considers what it would be like having her own wife, or two. Quinn and...maybe someone who looks just like Quinn. Oh lord, what fucking insanity that would be. Her heart starts beating rapidly at the thought, and the muscles between her legs clench.

God, think of the wedding night, what with the--

“You okay?”

The doctor’s voice brings Spencer back, and she pulls away from the cold of the stethoscope that’s only just now registering. “Yeah,” she shakes her head, “just...thinking about something scary again. Someone’s killing the prisoners up here. You know that, right?”

“Well, I certainly hope not. Makes it much harder to do my job when the patients are dead.” Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins listens to Spencer’s chest for another moment, then sighs and consults the file again. “Spencer, I really don’t see any physical explanation for the hallucinations you’ve been experiencing. I'm sorry, I’m afraid this is beyond my realm of expertise. Hopefully Dr. Umbridge will be able to help you more than I can.”

“You married to her, too?” It’s drier than it should be, considering Spencer kind of likes this doctor, maybe even more than the other two.

“My dance card’s full,” the doctor says. “Go ahead and get changed; I’ll see if she’s available.” She takes a step and then pauses to add, “For counseling, not marriage.”

Spencer purses her lips and nods. “Thanks.” As soon as the doctor’s out the door, she hops up and starts rummaging through the three drawers under the counter within her limited reach. They’re stocked with typical first-aid materials -- gauze, band-aids, alcohol wipes -- but then Spencer finds what she’s looking for.

She shoves a handful of tampons into her underwear, the only place she can hold anything, before changing back into her jumpsuit. Better to be prepared next time, she thinks, since Aphasia’s not willing to assist. While she’s still alone, Spencer practices moving slowly to minimize the crinkling noise, but there's no way around it. She’ll have to talk over it somehow. Chances are, Dr. Umbridge will notice the bulge and think Spencer’s just really happy to meet her.

Chapter Text

Boomer opens the door after a minute, not even knocking first to see if Spencer’s done changing. She looks as disinterested in life as ever. Prison work must be so very fulfilling.

They continue down the hall as it curves to the left, further than Spencer’s been in this direction. Then, on the right, she sees a wooden door. It’s quite noticeable, as it’s the only fixture not made of metal on the entire ship. The golden placard is much shinier than Sue’s, and it reads, “DR. DOLORES UMBRIDGE, SPACE PSYCHIATRIST.”

Spencer isn’t sure if she’s supposed to just go in or knock or what, but fortunately Boomer takes the initiative and opens the door without hesitation. She pushes Spencer into a room that might as well be an alternate dimension. It’s like a Hallmark card, a florist, and a pet store all mated and vomited their various charms on every inch of the place. The walls are covered in pink and white floral wallpaper, plastered over by what must be a hundred pictures of kittens. Kittens on plates, kittens in frames, kittens on parade, you name it.

To Spencer’s left is a fireplace with an actual burning fire and white lace doilies draped across the mantel. A rocking chair with a very-old-but-hopefully-still-living cat is to her right. And in front of her, a giant wooden desk -- mahogany, to match the door -- with a bizarre-looking older woman in the tall, purple plush chair behind it. She’s dressed in a fuzzy, buttoned sweater like someone’s great-grandmother on her way to the retirement home knitting party. In 1953.

Just when Spencer thought this place couldn’t get any weirder.

Oh, wait -- There’s a framed photograph in the same place on the wall as in Sue’s office. It’s Umbridge with what looks like some high ranking, older gentleman in a robe. Spencer can barely make out the gold cursive from her seat, and is frightened to see that it also says, I love getting physical with you! signed, The Minister.

Oh my god, she’s banging a priest.

“Miss Hastings,” Dr. Umbridge says in a soft British accent. “Please do have a seat.” She gestures to a pink velvet chair that blends in frighteningly well with the wallpaper.

“Hi,” is the only thing Spencer can manage to say, so she coughs as she sits to hide the sound of crinkling wrappers against her skin. This place made Lucy’s Play-Doh Hellhole look like Alcatraz. What is a room like this doing in a prison? In space?!

“My name is Dr. Umbridge, and I’m the ship’s psychiatrist. My job is to help our residents come to terms with the things that are troubling them and seek out the truth. I have helped countless women just like yourself overcome the burdens of the soul and the tortuous afflictions of the mind.” She pauses as if waiting for Spencer to say something, or possibly throw herself at the doctor’s feet to thank her for coming to her rescue.

Spencer just stares at her.

“So, Spencer, tell me what brings you here today. Girl trouble? Anger management? Carnal addictions? Your parents never loved you?”

The chance that this walking, talking tea cozy would believe what Spencer knows to be the truth is pretty fucking slim, but hey, stranger things have happened here. (Theoretically. She just can't think of any right now.)

“I think someone is kidnapping and killing the inmates,” Spencer says. Her voice is low and matter-of-fact, as she has no time for bullshit.

The doctor, to her credit, sounds genuinely intrigued in her Golden Girl kind of way. “Really? And who might be doing such a thing?”

Here goes nothing. “A spider.”

Dr. Umbridge blinks. “A what?”

“A spider. It’s written messages in its web on my bunk with clues. Things like ‘Fuck Stacey Merkin’ and ‘The Sun Went Down,’ which has to be about Aeryn Sun.”

Dr. Umbridge flinches at the profanity but quickly recovers. “Does it, now? And who else has seen these webs? The guards, surely? Miss Sylvester? How is the investigation going?”

“There is no investigation, because nobody believes me. My cellmates even saw the yellow string web in my cell, but they think I did it – and I didn't.”  She finds that holding up her arms for emphasis is far less effective when she’s handcuffed. “So, I end up looking crazy when I’m the only person who really knows what’s going on.”

“I see...” Dr. Umbridge makes a few notes on a pink legal pad with kitten pawprints in the corner. “And how do you presume this spider is going about these kidnappings and murders? It seems like quite the arduous task for one little bug.” She gives a look as if to say, I bet you hadn’t thought of THAT, hmmm?

Maybe this woman isn’t going to be on her side after all.

“It’s not a bug. It’s an arachnid,” Spencer says, annoyed. After weeks around Mack's incompetence, Spencer's been itching to correct someone. She just can’t help herself. Shaking it off, she takes another breath before continuing. “And I honestly don’t know how she’s doing it. I just know that she is.”

“She?” the doctor asks, curiously.

“...Yeah. I call her Charlotte.”

“Ah.” More notes on the legal pad.

Great.

“Look, can you just tell me if those four people were transferred out or something? Jenny Schecter, Alex Vause, Aeryn Sun, and Stacey Merkin. Do you know if they’re even alive?”

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss confidential prisoner information, Spencer.” But she doesn’t look even the least bit sorry. “Have you spoken to the warden about this? Has she shared any details with you?”

“Oh yeah, we had a big girl-talk and dished over mimosas and a pedicure. That’s why I’m here with you.” Spencer glares pointedly. “I’m not crazy. Something IS happening here. If someone would just help me, we could stop it.”

“Ah, yes, you do enjoy working in teams, don’t you? I’ve read that in your file. You had such a lovely little A-group back home.” Dr. Umbridge looks very pleased with herself.

“I wasn’t on the A Team!” Spencer shouts, louder than she means to. “I was the only person willing to step up and stop them from continuing to ruin our lives!”

She doesn’t want to be talking about Toby. She doesn’t want to be thinking about Toby. This isn’t fucking even about Toby at all. Why does no one care about the people who are still alive here?

“Now, now," the doctor tuts. "We can’t always just go snuffing out our problems with croquet mallets, can we?” There’s that condescending look again.

And here comes the complementary snark. “I don’t know -- I feel it might do a wonder on this fucking spider that’s KILLING PEOPLE.”

Dr. Umbridge gives a little hem, hem cough and says, “You will not use that language in this office. It is inappropriate.”

This lady and Mistress Berry would get along fantastically.

Scrubbing that mental image from her mind, Spencer’s on her feet in a second. “Are you going to help me or not?” She already knows the answer, and she hates rejection so much. “That’s your job, right? To help me? Then DO IT.”

But this doctor isn’t the least bit intimidated by Spencer, it seems. She merely folds her hands and changes the subject. “Tell me about your daily life here. How would you categorize your relationships with your cellmates?”

“How is that supposed to help?”

“I hear things, you know,” Dr. Umbridge says with a knowing grin. “The Wednesday happenings of cell 10 are legend in these halls.”

Spencer’s eyebrows shoot up. “What, the spanking?”

“Quinn and Mack seem to have developed a mutually beneficial relationship during their time here, wouldn’t you agree?”

There must be a sharp implement nearby with which Spencer can impale this frog-woman. She’s romanticizing an ass-bruising, of all things? Spencer doesn’t want to think about Mack right now any more than she wants to think about Toby. If Mack likes getting hit in the ass so much, maybe Spencer could pummel her with a croquet mallet. That could be quite satisfying. You know, if she had a croquet mallet.

And since when are Quinn and Mack a respected item around here? Apparently, they’re so together that even the prison staff knows about it. This? Is bullshit.

“I think if you were to participate in these kinds of events,” Dr. Umbridge continues, “you might feel more included with your peer group. Maybe then you wouldn’t feel the need to make up these hare-brained stories of killer spiders just to get attention.”

“I don’t want Quinn to spank me!” But wait, that wasn’t the main point. She shakes her head to restart. “It’s not a fucking story! It’s a SPIDER.”

Another cough. Hem, hem.

Whatever.

“You really shouldn’t tell lies, Spencer. It’s quite distasteful.”

“IT’S. NOT. A. LIE.”

“We both know you desperately want Quinn to spank you.”

...Wait, what?!

“From all reports, she has made herself very available to you, and you pull away, time and time again. If you’re going to continue to reject her advances, I think it might be time for a new approach.” The doctor waits before pressing on, but Spencer’s not about to interrupt. She’s curious to see what crazy-train station this little speech is pulling into. “Perhaps what you need in order to build your confidence and overcome these depression-based hallucinations is a change of environment.”

That gets her attention. “You’re moving me?”

“I see now that you’ve been placed with girls you find incompatible. Tsk, tsk. This happens on occasion. I’m only too glad I can help sort it out! You, Spencer, need to be with girls who will push you to become a stronger, more active participant here, to feel more included.”

No, no, no, this is all wrong!

“But I want to stay with Quinn!” Spencer pleads. She isn’t about to lose her only shred of sanity, the only person in this shithouse that makes her feel human and important. Hell, the only person in here who makes her feel anything at all besides rage. “She’s my friend. I’ve been included! We cuddle, for crying out loud! Just because I don’t let her beat the crap out of me doesn’t mean...” But Spencer doesn’t know how to even end that sentence.

“I’m afraid I just don’t see it, dear,” Dr. Umbridge sighs. “No, surely there must be a better fit. Girls you can relate to, talk to, play with, get involved with.”

Spencer’s just shy of either breaking into tears or shouting, “But I just masturbated six hours ago thinking about Quinn FUCKING ME SENSELESS. I’M INVOLVED, OKAY.”  Instead, she clenches her jaw in a moment of clarity and says, as calmly as she can, “You don’t want to help me at all, do you?”

Dr. Umbridge pauses and looks almost offended through her smile. “Nonsense, dear! I live to serve. This is for the best, you’ll see.”

She searches for a prisoner transfer form in her desk, quickly fills it out, and stamps it with a pink flower print, APPROVED.

Spencer runs a few calculations in her head to determine whether or not her whole body could fit inside the small fireplace. It can’t. She’ll just wait for the tuna casserole to finish her off on Friday.

Chapter Text

Spencer's body feels numb. The twists and turns back to the cell block are one gray blur.

What just happened in there?

She replays the conversation, everything starting with Sue and the third doctor, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. But nothing adds up, it never does in this fucking place, and suddenly she’s being shoved back into cell 10 with a “Make it fast” from the guard. The slam of the door behind her is startling.

Oh, right -- She asked Umbridge if she could at least drop by the cell one last time.

Quinn’s reading lesbian erotica in her bunk, Mack’s stirring in the toilet again, and Aphasia’s pumping a Thighmaster while quietly singing something Spencer vaguely recognizes as Backstreet Boys, but with the wrong lyrics. It’s just another typical evening in space prison.

A sort of wistfulness comes over Spencer. She thought she was going to wither away for years in this stupid room with these terrible, wonderful people. She and Quinn are just getting started in...well, whatever it is.

Was.

Spencer’s stomach tightens as she looks up to meet those bright, beautiful eyes.

“I was starting to worry,” Quinn says playfully. She doesn’t know anything is wrong. Why should she?

Standing in the doorway as awkwardly as on her very first day, Spencer doesn’t know quite what to say or do. She’s stalling for time, she supposes. It’s not like she has things to pack up, just her contraband toothbrush and the tampons still shoved down her front. Her cellmates have no idea she’s there to say goodbye. Spencer wonders if they’ll even care. They’re not even noticing that she’s still wearing handcuffs.

Aphasia peers down at Spencer through her spread thighs. “Who that?”’

Kneeling in front of their chrome throne, Mack looks up and says loudly, “Nice boner. Hope you don’t have to go.”

But Spencer does have to leave, and it’s killing her more than she thought it would. It's the craziest thing, this prison bond she’s made in four weeks, but it’s there all the same. There’s a name for that, she knows -- when people in dire situations form strong connections after suffering through things together -- she just can’t remember it, because the only name on her mind right now is Quinn.

Well, and Charlotte. But mostly Quinn. God, she’s going to miss her. And good old Aphasia with her crazy, loveable ways, and, christ, maybe even Mack, who doesn’t want her to go! Spencer purses her lips at the kind sentiment -- from the raging psycho, of all people -- before Mack adds, “Occupado.”

Oh. She just meant Spencer can’t use the toilet, as it's brimming with a new batch of Pruno.

“Sorry, Sphincter!” But Mack doesn’t sound sorry at all.

Aphasia, still spread-eagle on the bed, turns to Quinn, then back to Spencer, clearly confused as ever. “Wait, this the same girl?”

Yep, Spencer is going to miss her. It’s not like they’ll never see each other. There’s the Mess Hall and classes and, god, the showers. It’s prison, for crying out loud, which is the entire problem in the first place. Spencer won’t really be able to escape these three any more than she can escape the other lunatics and the perpetual fear and the killer spider and the fucking Play-Doh.

But this transfer is a severance, nevertheless. It’s an end in a place that is an end in itself, and this isn’t the new beginning she wants, not by a long shot. It feels like ten steps backward. Things keep getting worse the more she tries to make them better.

And she’s tired, so very fucking tired, and wants nothing more than to curl up with Quinn in her bunk and forget how horrible everything is. But with a glance at her own bed, Spencer sees the giant yellow map on the wall and remembers why she’s standing here. There isn’t time for pleasantries or goodbyes, not to these people who didn’t stand by her when there was murder going on.

Spencer’s on her own now. It’s time to get down to business. She holds out a hand to Aphasia, never taking her eyes off the smeared chalk. “Give me paper and a pencil.”

With a loud huff, Aphasia sits up and glares, clearly affronted, “What the hell would I have that for? We in prison. This ain’t Wal-Mart.”

“YOU HAVE EVERYTHING,” Spencer says. “Maracas and seat belts and Halloween decorations and THIGHMASTERS,” with an emphatic hand toward Aphasia’s knees.

“SHHHH!!!” Mack hisses at Spencer, motioning toward Boomer with her head overdramatically. As if all of this is really a fucking secret, or Boomer gives two shits.

“Well, I don’t have paper and pencil,” Aphasia snaps back. “Who needs that?”

“I NEED IT,” Spencer roars in frustration and sits down on the edge of her bed, resting her forehead against her fist. Why is everything so goddamn hard in this place?  “Just for once, I need your help with something that’s actually important. But I guess that’s too much to ask.”

“You need your big gay jaw wired shut, is what you need,” Aphasia says, examining her fingernails as her legs keep pumping.

Spencer looks up and snaps, “You really put the ‘whore’ in ‘hoarder’.”

“She puts the ‘der’ in ‘hoarder,’” Mack mumbles from the toilet.

“Fuck you, Macaroni!” Aphasia says, slamming her Thighmaster down on the bed for emphasis. “Your hair is stupid, your nipples are ugly, and your wine tastes like that grey shit they made me drink when I had that upper GI Joe test at the doctor with the x-rays, and they said it was a milkshake but it wasn’t because later they told me it had metal in it, so it was really a metalshake, and I TOLD them it was nasty but Mama said it was just really bad vanilla but it was a LIE and my poop was heavy for a week and NOW I HAVE TRUST ISSUES!”

Her body slams against the bed as she blindly throws the Thighmaster across the room at full strength, missing Quinn’s head by mere inches. It hits the wall and falls to the floor, and Aphasia turns, embarrassed, to see her mistake. Quinn’s staring her down, unimpressed and threatening, as Spencer stands awkwardly in the middle between them. No one moves or speaks. Spencer doesn’t even breathe.

Suddenly, a faint, high-pitched wheeze -- something like a balloon deflating -- cuts through the silence. All three girls turn their heads to glare at Mack, who shifts uncomfortably. “Oh, fuck off,” she grumbles.

Quinn stifles a laugh as she turns back to Aphasia. Her expression is softer now. “Give her the blue highlighter,” she says.

Spencer looks up to see Aphasia wafting one hand in front of her face, reaching the other hand under the mattress. She finds what she needs and yanks her hand out, jabbing Spencer hard in the hair with the pen. “Sorry,” Aphasia says but clearly doesn’t mean it.

Quinn picks up the book closest to her and tears off the back cover, which is plain white on the inside. “Here.” It’s small, but it’ll do as a writing surface.

“Thanks,” Spencer replies softly. Their fingers briefly connect in the exchange, but it’s not enough. All Spencer wants right now is for Quinn to touch her. How cruelly ironic that she’s being moved because she didn’t let Quinn touch her enough. She’s such a screw-up, she’s even doing prison wrong.

“Hurry up,” Boomer says, banging a fist three times on the cell door.

“Keep your pants on,” Quinn snaps back at her.

That gives Spencer an idea. Maybe an impromptu spank session could earn her a few more days here? Spencer’s desperate enough, she’s considering unzipping and leaning over right here and now. She could power through it. She’d even take the inevitable broken nose from Mack afterward. Whatever will get Spencer’s body pressed back against the warmth of Quinn’s again, with those lips breathing softly across her ear.

Boomer yells and bangs again, and Spencer snaps out of her daydream and shakes it off. There’s nothing to be done at this point except what she came here for. Within a minute she’s created a four-by-seven-inch bright blue map of clues and names. And with that, Spencer’s holding everything she owns. A hurried sketch of truth, an unwashed jumpsuit, and the seven heavy-days still shoved into her briefs. Time’s up. With one more quick mental inventory of her bunk, she reaches into her pillowcase and grabs her toothbrush, shoving it up her sleeve.

This catches Quinn's attention. “What’s going on?” she asks.

About time. “They’re moving me,” Spencer says. “I gotta go.”

Quinn sits up. “Wait, what?”

“Umbridge,” Spencer says. “She told Sylvester to transfer me. I don’t know where.”

Quinn jumps down off the bunk and stands in front of Spencer, spitting mad and maybe ten seconds away from punching someone. “Let me talk to Sue!”

Boomer has her key in the lock but doesn’t turn it. “Get back up there, Quinn. Now.”

Pushing past Spencer, Quinn rushes the door and gets in Boomer’s face. “You can’t just take her away! This is bullshit!”

“It’s done,” Spencer says dismissively. She’s taking her frustration out on Quinn, which is the last thing she wants, but she can't stop herself.

“Back the fuck up, inmate” Boomer looks more intimidating now than ever before, eyes wide and staring Quinn down hard.

The guards may have the weapons, but Spencer will bet on Quinn in a fight any day of the week. She seems to have that killer instinct and that look in her eye that says, I already know where I’m going to hide your body.

Without another moment’s hesitation, Boomer grabs a small, black instrument from her hip-holster, points it through the bars at Quinn’s crotch, and pulls the trigger. A small wire shoots out and the claw at the end clamps to the skin beyond the thin threads. Quinn screams, falling to the floor as waves of electric current attack her again and again.

“QUINN!” Spencer cries out. She feels helpless, not knowing if she can rip the wires off without getting electrocuted herself. She’d risk it if she wasn’t wearing these goddamn handcuffs. Instead, she turns to Boomer and yells, desperately, “STOP IT!”

But the guard just stares at the convulsing girl on the floor, not moving or reacting, and certainly not stopping it. She doesn’t look human, the way she’s so emotionally disconnected. She’s frozen in time with no regard to consequence, like a robot, or a machine.

Spencer’s crying now, crouched over, pleading, “STOP! PLEASE!”  She feels the toothbrush bristles scratching against her arm and wants nothing more than to take it and shove the handle in Boomer’s eye. If Spencer thought she could strike without missing, she would. But the goddamn bars are in the way, and her tears are blurring her vision. Finally, the buzzing noise fades and a few seconds later, Quinn’s body stills.

Spencer has seen a lot of messed up things in space prison, but this is the scariest so far -- Quinn in a puddle on the floor, hair frizzled, body curled. Her face is still contorted in pain, and her fingers are twitching with reflexive aftershocks.

She was just sticking up for me.

“Quinn?” Spencer sniffs hard and wipes her eyes with her sleeve, trying to hold it together.

Quinn doesn’t respond.

Boomer unlocks the door casually, unhooking the taser and reholstering it. “Let’s go,” she says to Spencer. But Spencer’s glued to the spot, terrified out of her mind. Boomer rolls her eyes and adds, “She’s not dead.”

“How could you do this?” Spencer cries.

“Let's go!” Boomer shouts. “Or you’re next.” She reaches for her taser again, but Spencer now knows not to test her patience any longer.

With another sniffle, she carefully sidesteps Quinn’s mussed hair as she picks up the marker and map that she must have dropped on the floor. She holds for a moment, debating if she could reach over and check Quinn’s pulse or stroke her cheek. Something to tell her it’s going to be okay. But Spencer just stands and keeps going, never taking her eyes off the crumpled girl.

The door closes loudly behind her, signaling the end to the gruesome scene. Immediately, Mack rushes to Quinn and checks her vitals, tenderly brushing her hair out of her face and doing all the things Spencer wishes she could do. Here in the corridor, she can only look on, already a world away but wholly responsible for the damage done. Mack and Aphasia have no words for Spencer -- their eyes say plenty. Spencer has brought nothing but trouble upon them, and they’re glad to see her go.

“You're a monster,” Spencer says to Boomer as she finally turns away. The tears aren’t holding themselves back anymore, and Spencer doesn’t care. “She didn’t do anything to you!”

“She disobeyed a direct order,” Boomer replies without a hint of regret.

“Fucking asshole piece of FUCKING SHIT,” Mack shouts, each word adding more volume and more loathing. 

Spencer thinks she can hear Quinn whisper her name as she starts to walk away, but it’s probably just the fans. The air in this place, like everything else, isn’t real anyway.

Chapter Text

The Walk of Shame is over before it even begins, as Boomer takes Spencer all of twelve feet next door.

“That’s it?”

The door to cell 11 slides open, and three faces stare back at her -- one very interested, one very much not, and one looking at Spencer like she’s the dinner they're waiting for.

Boomer pushes Spencer inside hard, quickly shuts the door, and walks away. No wishes of luck this time.

Spencer examines her new cellmates, two of whom she already knows all too well -- River Tam and Dark Willow. They’re easily the weirdest people in this prison, save the fluffy mystery that is Lucy Fabray. Spencer’s definitely going to need all the luck she can get.

The third girl, who’s already undressing Spencer with her eyes, is a brand new face. She has slick, long brown hair and beautiful features, no bulging veins or permanent creepy expression, plus bonus points for above-prison-average hygiene. She vaguely resembles that girl from the movie about women who dance on bars, Coyote Something-or-Other, not that Spencer was paying any attention when Hanna drunkenly put it on. Because that would’ve been very gay.

If cell 10 is a funhouse mirror of Spencer’s friends back home, cell 11 is Two Crazies and a Goth Queen. It looks like she'll need to get used to a new bunk, too, since Dark Willow's got the bottom-right one. Spencer doubts her new top-right bunk has the same veritable wealth of items beneath it that Aphasia's does. Only one way to find out.

This isn’t her first rodeo, so Spencer decides to take a new, aggressive approach this time. “River. Dark Willow,” she says, nodding to each girl in turn.

That’s right, look like you own the place.

She then turns to the horndog on the bottom left bunk, under River’s, and crosses her arms. Spencer’s definitely never seen her before, and she’s delighted to finally have seniority over someone. “Who are you?”

The girl has one leg wrapped around the vertical beam, bent at the knee, and she’s smoking a cigarette with an air of arrogance, as if saying, “Hi, here's my crotch. Please get in it. Isn’t lung cancer sexy?”  She looks like a hooker sloth. The annoying part is, it’s almost as charming as she thinks it is. “Paulie.” She lifts her eyebrows once. “Oster.” Paulie rests her cigarette between her lips to extend a free hand to Spencer.

Yeah, there’s no way she’s touching that.

Spencer waits her out, staring her down and asserting her authority. After an awkward moment, Paulie tries to save face by continuing the conversation. “I was just telling River she should pick a Shakespeare for the next Book Club assignment. Whattaya say, New Girl?”

Hey, you don’t get to call me that! I was here first!

Spencer steadies herself, careful not to show any emotion. Step One to being the boss: Make them like you even if you don’t like them. “Macbeth.”

Paulie practically flies off the bed with a squeal of delight, taking Spencer’s hands and twirling her around 720 degrees in a spontaneous dance. “Macbeth is the BEST!” she says when they come to a stop, then glares at River. “This is what I’ve been saying.” She looks at Spencer adoringly. “Finally, someone with good taste! I like you, New Girl.”

The feeling isn’t mutual. “It’s ‘Spencer,’ and I’m not new. I’ve been living next door for weeks.”

“What brings you here, then? You stab somebody, New Girl?” Paulie’s clearly a great listener. “Kidnap your cousin? Run over an old guy with his newborn grandbaby in his arms?”

What?

From the bunk above, River says, “She crossed the A,” and traces the letter in the air with a boney finger, eyes curiously following the path as she moves.

Spencer looks back at Paulie and widens her eyes in concern, like their cellmate must have shimmied out of her straight-jacket earlier that day. And then eaten it. With a deep sigh, Spencer addresses the original question. If they’re playing Get To Know You, she’s going to rewind to the murder part and leave the "Please don’t spank me"  cell transfer out of it entirely. She’s scarier that way. “I killed my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Paulie and Dark Willow say together, as if Spencer has uttered something terrible and shocking. Then, Dark Willow adds, “For real?”

That’s the part that bothers you?”

“Sweetie,” Dark Willow says, “Who in here hasn’t killed somebody? Show of hands?” Nobody moves. “Yeah,” she continues, “that’s the scary part.” She looks like she needs a drink just from having to think about men for two seconds.

“He deserved it,” Spencer adds with a shrug.

Dark Willow’s tone darkens significantly as her voice drops. “They all deserve it.”

“Rage more,” Paulie says with a grin, as if initiating Spencer into their Cool Killers Club. Something about Paulie makes her look like she’s always up to no good. Like she has a secret she’s dying to tell you that you should be dying to know, but god only knows what you need to do to get it out of her.

Probably reach in with your tongue, Spencer thinks, judging by the way she’s looking at me. Which, no, thank you.

Paulie then says, “Weapon of choice?” It sounds so casual, like she’s asking what flavor of Kool-Aid Spencer prefers or what knitting stitch she favors.

“They turn you like a screw,” River interjects, “so you smash them with a hammer. The blood upon your ha--”

“SHUT UP,” Spencer shouts. “Will you just SHUT UP?”

Saying no more, River climbs down from her bunk with the grace of a Capuchin in the rainforest. She promptly propels herself into a handstand in the center of the room, lowering her legs into a split, parallel to the ground. Her hands move her in a circle, spinning her around like a helicopter. It’s a miracle she doesn’t hit her feet on the vertical beams of the bunk. Spencer steps back to a safe distance with a “What the fuck?” expression.

Dark Willow hand-waves and says, “She just does that. Please, go on.”

Spencer climbs up to her new bed, and they talk about murder weapons and techniques for at least an hour before moving on to blood stain removal tricks, how long to let victims live before killing them, and their favorite types of pizza crust. (After about twenty minutes, River stops spinning and walks on her hands over to the toilet. Pulling herself up, she remains perched in a handstand as she pukes directly down into it. She’s much better at holding conversation after that.) Morbid as the topics are, it’s a fun and welcoming energy, and certainly a friendlier environment to Spencer.

A part of her hates that she’s already happier here, at least when she considers the whole versus the sum of its parts. Because all of these parts are batshit crazy, and none of them are Quinn. But she’ll take what she can get right now.

Chapter Text

It should be peaceful, Spencer thinks, now that she’s out of range of Aphasia’s snoring. It’s not like the bed feels any different from her last one, and Charlotte hasn’t followed her – at least that she knows of. But the hours tick by, long after lights-out, and Spencer continues to stare at the ceiling, wide awake. Her thoughts won’t slow down long enough to settle. Usually, she spends her restless nights revisiting the specifics of a case, turning them over in her mind to find new angles or connect pieces together.

But not tonight. Instead, images of Quinn screaming and crumpling to the ground replay in her head, endlessly on loop. And there in the footage stands Spencer, worthless and paralyzed, not doing a goddamn thing to stop it.

Fuck Boomer.

She restarts the scene again and again, sometimes playing the hero, other times not. But what’s done is done, and Quinn will never forgive her. Spencer didn’t even have the chance to apologize, though she’s not exactly sure what for. She has all night to figure it out now. A guilty conscience doesn’t sleep.

The next morning, when Buffy comes to collect them for breakfast, Spencer knows she has bags under her eyes. Jumping down, she runs to splash water on her face and get to the door as quickly as possible. She needs to talk to Quinn, baggage and all.

She files out into the corridor second, right behind Paulie. Just ten feet ahead she sees pink-blonde hair, and her pulse quickens. Spencer leans forward and hisses, “Quinn!” Not loud enough. Spencer pokes her head out to the side and tries again, though this time Paulie swats a hand at her face like she’s a gnat in her ear.

Again, Quinn doesn’t turn around, but Mack shoots Spencer a nasty side-eye. Then an unfamiliar voice behind her yells, “Shut the fuck up!”

Spencer whips her head around, but it’s a group of women she doesn’t know yet; it could’ve been any of them. She takes a deep breath for a third and final attempt, but then Buffy knocks her back into line with a sharp elbow to the side. Spencer clutches her ribs with a grimace. Okay, maybe she’ll try again in the Mess Hall.

Breakfast is just as noisy as always, and Spencer’s halfway through formulating a plan of attack when she catches Quinn bailing out of line to go sit at their usual table, without food. Spencer considers her options. She can eat like she’s supposed to, or she can join Quinn and hopefully get a moment alone to apologize. Maybe Quinn will want to meet during rec time so they can talk m--

“Line’s moving,” says Sophia Burset loudly, cutting through her daydream. She’s the tallest woman on the Uterius and looks even more imposing when right behind Spencer.

Food first, Quinn later, Spencer decides. That is, if Mack doesn’t stab her in the throat with her spork. By now, Spencer’s used to the constant danger of being shanked by an angry brunette.

Directly ahead of her, the brains of the cosmetic industry are discussing the menu.

“Do you think the eggs are, like, real eggs?” Maritza asks Flaca.

“What else would it be?”

“I’m just saying, I don’t think they have chickens in space.”

Flaca looks like a hard truth has just been dropped on her. “Then what the hell kind of eggs are they feeding us here? Alien eggs or some shit? Is that why my skin’s been more oily lately?” She looks sincerely concerned.

Maritza examines her cheeks carefully, “I don’t think so. It’s probably all that hooch you been drinking.”

“Oh yeah,” Flaca agrees.

Spencer decides to help those less fortunate than her. “The eggs are from a powder,” she says, leaning in.

“Powder?” Flaca says, turning her head with a look of disgust. There’s a dramatic shift in her tone now that she’s addressing someone other than her soulmate. “How the hell you gonna make eggs from a powder? That’s how you make pancakes.” She refocuses on Maritza and softens with a smile. “Actually, I kind of like the idea of alien eggs. It’s exotic.”

“Right?” Maritza says. “Like, imagine what they’d pay for that in LA.”

“Probably like five thousand dollars,” Flaca says.

“Mmhmm.”

“We’re lucky, if you really think about it.”

Maritza agrees. “So lucky.”

Thankfully, they reach the pickup counter before Spencer is subjected to further invigorating discussion. She collects her breakfast -- pointedly skipping the eggs --  and marches over to Quinn with all the steely determination she can muster. She practiced the conversation a thousand times last night and has it all planned out. The distance closes, then Spencer plants herself behind Aphasia, facing Quinn and Mack, and takes a deep breath for strength.

Before she can utter a word or even put her tray down, something solid pelts her in the face. Spencer flinches upon impact, more from disbelief than anything else.

“My waffles!” Aphasia cries.

Mack growls, “Table’s full,” and fires a second starchy assault, then a third.

Spencer holds a hand up to block any more incoming bricks. And of course, now she’s got maple syrup on her uniform. Again. “Quinn,” she says around her arm. She can take an entire firing squad of waffles to the face if it means Quinn at least looks at her.

Which, she doesn’t. Quinn doesn’t even so much as glance up from the table. Mack eventually runs out of waffles to throw, but it doesn’t matter. They’ve made it clear there’s no place for her here. In the middle of this raucous cafeteria, Quinn’s silence is deafening.

The noises around her begin to spin and swirl together as her head starts to pound. Spencer can feel the burn behind her eyes, and her throat’s closing up, and it’s outside Toby’s apartment all over again. She can’t do this, not again, not here. Not with Mack practically gloating.

Fuck Mack.

Fuck Boomer, and fuck Mack.

Spencer chokes it all back and stalks off to join her new cellmates on the other side of the room. She’s never been to this table before or seen the cafeteria from this angle. Familiar backs of heads now have fronts, and everyone she knows well is out of sight and a world away.

It’s weird.

But still, Spencer relaxes a bit as she takes her seat. Dark Willow and River probably won’t throw food at her, and Paulie certainly isn’t going to just ignore her. Right now, the change of venue provides an escape. She almost wants to become someone else, take on a whole new persona and erase the last four weeks.

Almost.

No, Spencer’s not giving up. Mack can’t form an impenetrable barrier around Quinn all the time, like when she’s in Play-Doh Funhouse. Plus, Quinn could now be signed up for classes that Mack’s not in. Spencer will join anything to see her. Even motherfucking Bees, if that's what it takes. She can do this. She’s gone up against worse enemies than some half-ass, malcontent prison bitch.

After breakfast, she looks at the class schedule posted outside the library on her way back to cell 11. The Wednesday choices are Alcoholics and Group Therapy, which Spencer finds a bit redundant. Quinn wasn’t taking a Wednesday class before, but maybe she just wanted more bunk time with Spencer. And maybe Quinn has joined something now in the hopes that Spencer will be there. They could both be working the same motive; it’s plausible. And it’s the best plan Spencer’s got.

Quinn has never mentioned a problem with addiction, so Spencer takes the safer choice, Group Therapy. And, honestly, with everything going on right now, some girl talk doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world. Spencer might get a new lead on the murders. At the very least, she’ll be able to air out some frustration over the transfer. She can’t be the only one here who’s been screwed over by Umbridge.

As an added bonus, it’s likely that Mack goes to Alcoholics. Though, it wouldn’t surprise Spencer if they just sit around and drink for fifty-five minutes. With the week she’s had, Spencer’s considering going there instead just on the hunch.

That afternoon, Spencer discovers she’s the only one from her cell taking a Wednesday class, so she files into the line alone. Sure enough, Mack and Aphasia step out ahead of her, as predicted, but Spencer’s heart drops when Quinn doesn’t follow. The doors slam close; it’s too late to change her mind now. Spencer walks past cell 10, keeping pace with the others, and Quinn’s up on her bunk, face buried in a book like nothing’s happening, nothing’s changed. Like Spencer’s nothing to her.

“Quinn,” Spencer says, and she hates how weak she sounds. She hates everything about this. “Quinn.”

The book drops closed on her stomach. “What?” Her tone is impatient, hostile. Like she’s fighting back something.

“MOVE IT!” shouts Boomer’s voice from the back of the line.

Spencer can’t stall forever. “Can we just talk? Please?”

“You’re late for class.” Quinn fingers through the pages and finds her spot.

“I was trying to see you!”

Quinn’s expression hardens as she says, “I’ve been right here. You’re the one who left.”

It hits Spencer like a punch in the gut, and then she really does feel a shove as the line pushes forward. Spencer’s swept forward against her will, wanting to go back and fix it, to explain that it wasn’t her fault, that she tried. But now they’re nearing the end of the hall, about to turn the corner. She glances into the other cells as they pass, but they all look the same -- mostly empty inside, like her.

The lone exception is the last one -- Lucy Fabray’s cell. The three girls are simply lying on their beds, silent but awake, and Spencer can only imagine what they’ll be up to when the traffic’s gone. A rousing session of macaroni art, perhaps, or that thing where you use your hand to make a turkey. It could get wild in there!

Buffy leads them down the corridor and around to the parallel hall where most classes take place. Mack and the other girls going to Alcoholics break off into the library with Boomer. The Small Arms room, Spencer and Aphasia’s destination, is down at the very far end past most of the other spaces. Eight or nine girls walk in ahead of her, most of whom Spencer doesn’t really recognize. There’s a circle of metal chairs in the middle of the room and more door-less lockers lining the walls, just like in the Large Arms Room. Buffy’s gone, but Greggs is back, leaning against the door frame and looking more than a little bored with her assignment. It seems she’s there to keep them from escaping or throwing chairs at each other. Though, that could be very therapeutic.

As the last inmates settle into their seats, the awkward silence begins, and Spencer wonders just what the instructor, Sameen Shaw, is waiting for. Shaw’s got her arms crossed, slumped over in her chair. She looks more pissed than anyone to be there and just stares angrily at the wall behind Spencer’s head, motionless.

“Hello, everyone,” says a voice to Spencer’s left. The woman's hair is done in little knots on her head, and Spencer can’t help but think she resembles a Bumble Ball. “I guess I’ll get us started today. I’m Suzanne.” The woman pauses, as if expecting a reply, but Spencer doesn’t know the protocol here, so she doesn’t say anything. Neither does anyone else. Suzanne continues to speak slowly but very animatedly with her hands, each word emphasized by her expressive face and very big eyes. “I was hoping to share a poem I --”

“No,” says Shaw, still staring straight ahead at nothing.

“I wrote it when--”

“No,” Shaw repeats.

“I just have all these feelings, you know?”

“No.”

“I think you’d really like i--”

“No.” Shaw’s expression hasn’t changed at all.

“But this is group therapy, right?” Suzanne asks and laughs a little at her own question. “Where else am I gonna share what’s inside me?”

“Figure it out.” Shaw’s tone makes it clear that point is not up for debate.

Spencer has no idea why this woman volunteered to run this class, or how the assignments even work around here, come to think of it. But it’s obviously a bad match, unless there’s some great plan in store, like a psych exercise in progress that Spencer just doesn’t know about. After five more minutes of uncomfortable silence, it seems doubtful.

She figures she might as well try to get something out of her fifty-five minutes here. It looks like she’s stuck, either way. “Um, hi, everyone,” Spencer says nervously, and all eyes lock on her. “I was hoping to ask the group something, if that’s okay.”

Aphasia looks particularly concerned.

Not surprisingly, Shaw says, “No.”

“You don’t even know what it is,” Spencer says.

Shaw turns to stare her down and raises an eyebrow, reminding her far too much of Quinn. “I don’t care.”

“How the hell is this supposed to be therapy if we can’t talk about anything?”

“Yeah!” Suzanne says, pointing at Spencer in a gesture of solidarity. “Let Cauliflower talk!”

Spencer does a double take and scowls but lets it go. ‘Cauliflower’ is better than ‘Maple Tits.’

“No,” Shaw says flatly yet again, eyes still locked on Spencer. She looks downright sociopathic. Gorgeous, but sociopathic.

Spencer throws caution to the wind and just goes for it. “Look, there’s this spider, and --”

“Are you deaf or just stupid?” Shaw asks, leaning forward with a hardened glare.

“We don’t talk about s-p-i-ders,” Suzanne says with wide eyes. “Some people have phobias.” Ever so slightly, she gestures toward Aphasia.

It’s the least subtle hint Spencer’s ever seen, but she takes it. Fine. Whatever. “This is pointless.” Spencer turns to the guard and asks, “Can I leave?”

But Greggs only shakes her head. “Sorry, kid.” Her tone has that, We’re both stuck here together quality. “Not til time’s up.”

“What if I have to pee?” She’s just getting cute now.

“But you don’t  have to pee,” Greggs retorts, throwing a little attitude back.

Spencer slumps in her chair, defeated. The room is silent for several minutes other than the soft shuffling of jumpsuits when someone has an itch. Spencer is regretting this whole stupid plan that’s been a complete waste of time. She knows Quinn doesn’t like to take classes. Getting her hopes up for nothing has only made her feel shittier.

Out of nowhere, Vasquez offers up, “I like to shoot people,” from two seats to Spencer’s right. It breaks the tension, however awkward it is, and Spencer’s more than a little nervous at the confession. She didn’t want a reminder that she’s among violent criminals.

Rather than shut down the speaker, however, Shaw’s face softens slightly. “Tell me more about that,” she says with a slight grin.

When the forty-five minutes of lively conversation is up, Spencer wonders why this particular class isn’t just called Murder. Unfortunately, it doesn’t produce any new leads or suspects. It’s another dead end, and Spencer won’t be going back.

As the inmates head out into the hallway, Spencer crosses to get behind Aphasia, cutting the line as politely as she can. “Hey,” she whispers. “Can I ask you something?”

“I'm not giving you any heavy-flow tampons!” Aphasia says, much too loudly. Several women up ahead turn and laugh.

“That’s not --” Spencer starts. “Look, will you please just tell Quinn I’m sorry? The last thing I wanted was to get moved away. It was all Umbridge.”

That certainly gets Aphasia’s attention. She stops walking and turns to look Spencer dead in the eye. “What did she say?”

Spencer stumbles, a bit thrown by the inquiry. Aphasia looks scared. “Uh.” She knows she shouldn’t lie, but she doesn't want to say this out loud. “That I want Quinn to spank me?”

Aphasia frowns and turns to keep walking. “You wastin' my time.”

“I swear I’m telling the truth!” Spencer pleads, trying to control her volume. “She kept asking me questions about all kinds of --”

“Did she say my name?” Aphasia interrupts.

What?

“No?” Spencer says. “Why? D’you steal her favorite kitten plate or something?”

“HEY!” Greggs shouts from close behind. “Quiet down. This ain’t The View. Keep moving.”

“Nevermind,” Aphasia says quickly and resumes her pace. “Just...don’t trust her. Don’t tell her anything. Anything.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.” But Spencer didn't exactly keep her mouth shut in there, throwing her spider theories all over the place. Maybe she’s already said too much.

Three hours later, after dinner, Paulie’s showing River how to blow smoke rings. She boasts she can even do it with her ass (“Watch!”) before Dark Willow and Spencer both shout “NO.”

And then Spencer hears an all-too-familiar sound in the corridor. Her chest tightens with every slap and accompanying scream coming from next door.

Of course.  It’s still Wednesday. And, apparently, being tasered in the fucking genitals isn’t enough to stop Quinn from getting her spank on.

Spencer feels stupid for thinking Quinn wouldn’t go back to Mack. Just because she stood up to Boomer on Spencer’s behalf, it doesn’t necessarily mean Quinn has real feelings for her. Or does it? Quinn’s been here long enough; she had to know about the taser. Maybe she felt it was worth it. But then, if she did, she wouldn’t be treating Spencer like this.

Spencer refuses to believe she’s the villain of this story. She didn’t ask for any of this. Quinn can’t blame her for everything, can she? Not forever? But maybe Quinn doesn’t want to think about her at all right now. Maybe she’s just returning to what she knows, Spencer realizes. It’s what we do when we’ve been knocked down and reduced to nothing. We go home. Maybe it’s safer that way.

Maybe Quinn is better off without Spencer after all.

Turning over in her bunk, she listens for Quinn’s voice between Mack’s pained gasps but hears only the sharp smack of the paddle against tender, bruised skin.

Meanwhile, River is up on the far end of her bunk, reaching all the way over to the bars and putting her head through somehow. Her body is angled around so she has a view into the cell next door. Spencer can’t be bothered to chastise her to give Quinn some privacy. She doesn’t want to have an opinion on anything to do with Quinn right now.

There’s a particularly loud noise, probably from Mack, followed by a series of moans that Spencer recognizes as her orgasm sounds. Quinn’s probably got at least one finger inside Mack right this very moment.

“Aren’t you glad to be out of that madhouse,” Paulie offers half-jokingly and bites at the thick ring of smoke drifting from her face.

“Yeah,” she replies with a laugh and turns over to face the wall. But really, Spencer doesn’t know. She has no fucking idea.

****************

The next Wednesday isn’t any better. Spencer’s imagination now paints the scene with much more extravagance than she ever witnessed firsthand -- Quinn’s face glowing with arousal at each slap she administers, head thrown back and mouth open with joy. Aphasia, handing her item after item, endlessly, and Mack, ass high and wanting, leaning in to take the full impact of Quinn’s force. All the while, there’s an undertone that they’re laughing at her. Spencer obsesses over this outrageous mental picture more and more with each passing minute.

Because, clearly, she fucking hates herself.

The next morning, as she’s poking at her burnt hash browns, Spencer overhears Paulie talking at length about the new Tax class she’s teaching in the kitchen. She brags that Sue was so excited by her area of expertise, she dropped the redundant Knives class to make room for it on the schedule. Supposedly, this started last week, though it’s the first Spencer’s heard of it. 

What’s blowing her mind is that Paulie has a background in accounting(!) Maybe that’s why Paulie’s here – she used her bookkeeping knowledge for nefarious purposes like tax evasion, embezzlement, or a host of other things. Even if that’s what the class ends up being about, Spencer’s still excited to do some math. She really misses math. Balancing books, legally or otherwise, sounds positively delicious right now. Maybe that’s why it’s in the kitchen, she muses to herself.

But before Spencer can ask if she prefers cash method or accrual method, Paulie starts raving about how well the first class went last week. Turns out, she already has a prize pupil.

“I think Quinn’s gonna finish her skunk next week,” Paulie says proudly. “The look in his eyes...it’s like he’s been hunting you day and night for weeks, and you accidentally caught him in a moment of weakness, like he was taking a shit or something when you crept up behind him, and he can’t believe he did something so stupid as to get busted by such a pathetic creature as you.”

It takes a moment for Spencer to put two and two together – the only math she’ll be doing today, it seems. Paulie’s beloved “tax” class is just short for Taxidermy.

Of course it is.

Sadly, this makes a lot more sense, as does the location. (Spencer’s trying not to overthink it.) What isn’t making sense, however, is this star student. “Quinn’s in that class?” Spencer asks as innocently as possible.

“Girl’s got a gift. She sees the beauty in death and captures it like a fucking artist.” Paulie looks a bit sad when she says, “She’s way better than me.”

Spencer can’t think of anything creepier than making art out of dead animals, but this is a sure way in. Provided Mack isn’t there of course. “Is the class full? It sounds really interesting.” Just to be safe, she adds, “Could I make a lobster?”

Chapter Text

Later that afternoon, it isn’t hard to spot Quinn among the handful of Taxidermy students, with her pink hair and the rather immaculate skunk that inspired reams of poetry from Paulie. Spencer has waited over a week to have a real conversation with Quinn, and now it’s time to put up or shut up, as they say. She ducks in the doorway behind Lucy Diamond and weaves through the kitchen to take the seat next to Quinn. Paulie has already set up a work station for Spencer, complete with a plastic knife, an Elmer’s glue stick, a pillow (ripped open, for the stuffing), and a dead rat.

“Sorry, New Girl,” Paulie tells her. “Martha was out of lobsters, but she had this.”

Spencer purses her lips and nods slowly, staring at the rigor mortis rodent. “No problem,” she says as genuinely as she can. She’s not here for the project, anyway. At last, this is time with Quinn, free from Mack and Aphasia and periods, with no killer spiders in sight. She can do this. And Paulie wasn’t wrong – the skunk is damn impressive.

But before Spencer can get the conversation going, Quinn breaks the ice for her, looking over with a raised eyebrow. “Didn’t know you liked this kind of thing.”

Spencer gives a small smile as her brain gears shift into overdrive, trying to come up with an appropriately innuendo-laden response. She’s clever and loquacious. This should be easy.

“The only thing I like in here is you.”  That’s cheesy.

“I heard you were good with your hands and wanted to see for myself?”  ...That’s even worse. God, where’s Hanna when you need her.

Time’s running out.

Quinn’s drinking from a plastic cup and not even facing Spencer anymore -- she’s watching Shay staple antlers to a parakeet’s head. But that doesn’t stop Spencer from finally blurting out, “I’m not interested in stuffing animals.”

OH MY GOD WHAT WHY WHAT.

Spencer hears a strangled choke as Quinn coughs hard around a garbled, “Excuse me?” trying to clear the water from her windpipe.

Well, fuck.

She realizes now the correct response was, “I could say the same about you,”  but that moment has passed. Spencer’s started down this road. No turning back now. “You heard me,” she replies with a shrug.

Seductive yet playful.  A+ recovery.

After a few beats -- during which Paulie passes by and waxes nostalgic about how much that skunk reminds her of boarding school or whatever -- Quinn leans closer to Spencer and says, “Okay. Really, why are you here?”

Spencer shrugs again as she picks up a plastic knife and twirls it between her fingers, a little more self-conscious of her foreplay attempts now that Quinn isn’t really reciprocating. “I want to apologize,” she says without meeting Quinn’s eye. “For…” She realizes she doesn’t know what to say. Anyone could be listening, and she doesn’t want to embarrass Quinn further with, “getting your genitals electrocuted.”  She settles on just “...Boomer.”

Quinn’s shoulders tense as she straightens and back away from Spencer. “It’s fine.”

“I just...didn’t want you to hate me for what happened, and it seemed like you might?” Spencer lets the plastic knife fall to the workstation. “You were ignoring me, and Mack was throwing food, and--”

Quinn cuts her off. “I said it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” She starts running a brush through the skunk’s fur.

“But I--”

“Spencer!”  Quinn barks, finally looking back up. The class pauses and looks over but soon resumes their activities when they don’t get a show. Quinn closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. “They were taking you away. It wasn't your fault.” She shrugs. “It’s not a big deal.”

Spencer shakes her head. “It is to me.”

Quinn meets her eyes for the first time today, but then looks back down and whispers, “I know.” She reaches out and gives Spencer’s leg a gentle squeeze, safely hidden under the table.

The little hairs along Spencer’s arms stand on end, even after Quinn lets go. She really needs to get control of herself before she throws Quinn down on this table here and now. Suddenly, Spencer’s hand shoots up and she calls out, “Excuse me! Bathroom emergency!”

Paulie looks amused by the outburst. “You can’t hold it, New Girl?”

“I...have a spastic colon.” She winces visibly as the words leave her lips.

A chorus of “Girl, no,” and “Nasty!”  reverberates through the kitchen.

Paulie waves a shooing hand at Spencer with a, “Whattaya still standing here for?” as the murmur of laughs die down.

Of course, this is all for naught if Quinn doesn’t follow her. Spencer reaches out and tugs discreetly on Quinn’s jumpsuit to get her attention, then heads for the door without looking back. She can feel the collective stares of the class on her with every step.

Spencer just made herself Shit Girl of space prison. So far beyond the halcyon days of Maple Tits. Very, very far.

Please, Quinn, make this worth it.

****************

Spencer’s been idling by one of the sinks in the communal bathroom for at least five minutes, berating herself for such a stark lack of game, when the door swings open. She’s so relieved, her body slumps forward as she sighs, “Oh, thank god.”

“Spastic colon?” Quinn wanders casually toward Spencer, looking her up and down. “Is that what they call it now?”

Spencer holds on to the edge of the counter with both hands and tries to keep her wits about her as the distance between them slowly but steadily erodes. She has no idea how to play cool in this situation, or any other where Quinn is concerned. “Call what?” is all she can manage in response, and now the sway of Quinn’s hips is hypnotizing her, and, Dear god, what is air?

Two more steps, dangerously close, and Quinn’s gorgeous face stops. Quinn places her hands on top of Spencer’s, still gripping for dear life, and looks back and forth from pleading eyes to parted lips. Leaning in, close enough that Spencer can feel the breath against her face, Quinn says, “When you want so badly to get fucked in a bathroom that you’ll do just about anything to get it.”

Yeah, Spencer can’t breathe anymore.

Her eyes fall closed, head heavy with the intensity of the moment -- the warm words brushing her lips, hazel eyes staring right through her, the strong fingers clamped on hers, and all of her sensing just how near that perfect body is. “I…” she starts, somehow, with the last bit of air in her lungs, but it’s futile.

Quinn’s kissing her, pulled closer by the hand now tangled deep in Spencer’s hair. There’s a thigh firmly planted between her own, matching the gentle force of Quinn’s tongue against hers and pressing with purpose. And the sound Quinn’s making as she moves is unlike any Spencer’s ever heard.

She is so gone.

Everything is a rush and a blur, lost in the feeling of Quinn everywhere. She’s fantasized about this, but her imagination is crap. Because now Quinn’s thumb is dragging across the nipples behind thin black fabric, and the weaker Spencer’s knees become, the firmer Quinn’s leg braces against her. Her quivering elbows are saved only by the strong arm around her lower back. And Spencer doesn’t even know how she’s still standing -- or if she’s standing at all, anymore.

In one smooth motion, Quinn lifts her onto the low counter, and Spencer wraps her arms and legs around Quinn’s beautiful body to kiss her harder. Roaming hands slide down to Spencer’s ass and try to draw their bodies even closer together. Spencer wonders if Quinn’s glorious abs can feel her wet heat through the thin cloth. She rolls her hips once, needing to know, and Quinn’s hands tighten their grip in response, pulling Spencer forward, pleading for more.

A soft whimper escapes Spencer’s mouth as Quinn’s teeth drag along her bottom lip. The noise only makes Quinn recapture those lips and kiss her deeper. But then suddenly all the pressure against Spencer’s body is released at once and her jumpsuit zipper is zooming downward fast. The rush of cool air on her chest makes her gasp against the kiss, and Spencer holds that breath in, imagining what it will feel like to have Quinn’s hands on her skin after all this time.

But instead of pushing the jumpsuit aside to explore underneath it, Quinn takes a fistful of the loose fabric and pulls on it, hard, holding Spencer in place as the kiss breaks. It’s startling, and Spencer opens her eyes, honestly afraid of what might happen next. The intense look on Quinn’s face, inches away, doesn’t relax her one bit. Neither does the long silence.

“I can take you,” Quinn finally says, staring Spencer down hard with that locked grip. “Right here.” It’s not a challenge, it’s a statement of fact. And something in Quinn’s voice tells Spencer that she either damn well wants to or is certainly about to. Maybe both. “I can take...everything you have.” Quinn doesn’t even blink. “Anything at all.” Her eyes drift down slowly and linger there. She makes sure Spencer sees it. “Because you want me to. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Every muscle in Spencer’s body is outside her control. Not that she would protest even if she could. Quinn isn’t wrong at all.

She sits there, paralyzed, mesmerized, not sure if she’s more lost in Quinn’s eyes or her words. Spencer feels herself shaking with adrenaline and want, watching helplessly as Quinn’s eyes search each line of her face, as if looking for a crack. Looking for a way in. But Spencer’s wide open.

She wonders if Quinn can hear every inch of her body begging to be touched.

In an instant, Quinn’s face shifts from its dominant stance to hesitant and almost fearful, lips parting slightly as her eyes flash with realization. “I can take everything you are, Spencer,” she says delicately. Quinn’s brow furrows as she considers her point, shaken by the implications of her conclusion but knowing she’s right.

Spencer knows it, too.

But then Quinn releases the fistfuls of black and takes a slight step back, just enough to let Spencer breathe without fully releasing her charge.

It’s an unwelcome change. She immediately misses the warmth and closeness and, hell, the rush of fear and desperation. Quinn’s going to walk away and leave her here wanting just to show Spencer she can.

Only, she doesn’t. Instead, Quinn’s eyes soften and her mouth quivers, just once, as she whispers shakily, “...or you can give it to me.”

There's the slightest hitch in Spencer's breath, an involuntary reaction. Quinn's eyes are locked on hers again, scared and begging, and Spencer can't move, can't think. The words replay in her head like a beautiful dream, and if she can remember how to move, Quinn might make that dream come true.

Everything else falls away; the faint echo of slurs down the corridor, broken toilets behind broken doors, the reality of her new life a world away from everyone who ever loved her. Quinn's eyes are glistening with vulnerability and need, and nothing else matters.

Spencer’s arms are heavy, but she somehow finds a way to move. Ever so faintly, over the pounding in her ears, she can hear the soft rustle of her jumpsuit sliding off her shoulders and falling against the counter.

For a few long seconds, the silence envelopes them as they consider the implications of Spencer’s choice and what they're about to do -- how their lives are about to change -- but then Quinn's mouth is on hers again and the hammering pulse in Spencer’s veins suddenly shifts to a much lower location.

She leans hard into the kiss, back arching as her hands find Quinn’s neck and hair to take control of their encounter for the first time. She feels electric, like her body is literally buzzing with the frequency of Quinn’s moans, and she’s eagerly seeking out pressure against Quinn’s stomach again, because if she doesn’t get release soon, she’s probably going to die.

Spencer pushes Quinn’s mouth down against her neck and holds it there, tilting her head back to give wider access, and she can’t help the “Oh god”  from escaping once (or twelve times) at the sensation of hard bites on sensitive skin. The legs wrapped around Quinn’s back squeeze tighter as their bodies move together in a seamless dance of give and take.

Placing one hand firmly on Spencer’s back, Quinn moves the other to her breast, pushing past the cotton cup without hesitation to tease the hardened nipple. She twists and pinches in time with long strokes of her tongue along Spencer’s neck, then palms the soft weight with gentle pressure, seeming to relish how perfectly it fits in her hand.

Even with just this simple action, there’s a stark difference Spencer can’t help but notice. Toby -- or any boyfriend she’d had, for that matter -- felt so foreign, so large and clumsy and imposing and just...wrong. Everything about Quinn’s body seems to be made to match Spencer’s. The contrast of soft skin with determined strength, the way their curves complement and fit into each other, the incredible things Quinn just knows to do to her…

Releasing a handful of pinkish-blonde hair, Spencer takes Quinn’s hand and stills it with a gentle squeeze. She focuses all her energy into a careful, tender kiss before pulling back and opening her eyes.

There’s an unreadable expression on Quinn’s face, like she doesn’t know if she’s made a mistake but can’t bring herself to ask. She isn’t moving, waiting for answers and reprieve.

“Quinn,” Spencer whispers, heart pounding again as she gathers the strength to speak. The fingers on her chest feel so small and fragile now.

Slowly, she moves Quinn’s hand through the narrow, empty space between their bodies, eyes following all the way down, and stops when they reach the V of the zipper just below her navel. They hover there together for a moment, Quinn so near to where Spencer needs her to be and aching with want to close the distance. Spencer steadies herself and finds Quinn’s eyes. “Take me.”

Stillness hangs around them, inside them, frozen, before everything happens at once. Quinn’s mouth crashes into Spencer’s as her hand drives downward, taking firm hold around the wanting curve of her body. Spencer cries out as they kiss, while Quinn’s fingers slide easily across her soft, wet skin. Two finger pads find her throbbing clit and push hard, grinding in circles, inscribing the letter “Q” over and over and branding Spencer forever.

Spencer flings her arms around Quinn’s neck and holds on for dear life, absently glad she’d decided to take off her underwear before Quinn arrived in the bathroom, but mostly wondering how in the world someone’s hand can move like that. Quinn breaks their kiss and leans against Spencer’s forehead, breathing heavily across her cheek. The immediate increase between Spencer’s legs indicates a renewed focus, and it’s more than she can handle. She buries her face into Quinn’s neck to muffle her moans, but Quinn is working faster the louder Spencer gets.

Then Quinn stops, just for a moment, and moves her hands to Spencer’s hips, pulling her off the counter and, thank god, holding her upright, as Spencer’s feet are hardly load-bearing anymore. With a swift motion, she drags the rest of the jumpsuit down Spencer’s legs and off, then lifts her back up, kissing her again and pulling Spencer’s ass forward one more time.

Quinn’s hands seem to be everywhere -- on Spencer’s sides and breasts and back and neck, then finally between her legs again, resuming their patterns but now without obstruction. The closer Quinn pulls her, the wider her legs spread against Quinn’s body, and Spencer realizes there is nothing she wouldn’t give Quinn, no part of Quinn she doesn’t want to take in. Their tongues move together as Spencer traces a hand down the strong forearm to place her fingers on Quinn’s, applying even more pressure.

When Quinn uses the added force to drive two fingers deep inside her, Spencer screams.

Quinn grabs a fistful of hair and holds Spencer’s mouth against her neck again, pumping her arm as fast as she can. Her thumb drags back and forth across Spencer’s clit as she moves, and Spencer is hungrily pushing Quinn’s hand deeper, faster, harder. She’s never felt anything like this before. Her body is on fire, sweat running down her back, breaths short and fast, eyes shut tight, muscles clenched as she pants into Quinn’s shoulder.

She’s going to come soon. That is, if Quinn will let her.

Oh god.

And then, without a word, Quinn slows her movements and pulls Spencer into a deep, passionate kiss. Spencer pushes hard against the back of Quinn’s hand, wanting somehow for there to be even deeper places to reach, wanting all that Quinn is inside of her. She opens her mouth wider as she presses, taking Quinn in everywhere but still needing more.

But Quinn’s free hand is moving Spencer’s away, and, instead, Quinn gently places Spencer’s hand flat against her own mouth and holds it there for a moment, implying it needs to stay. She spreads Spencer’s legs wider, drawing her nearer to the counter’s edge, and watches her two fingers disappear easily inside Spencer. Quinn’s smiling, almost hungrily, dangerously.

And then Spencer feels Quinn’s tongue against her for the first time.

She falls back, one elbow propped on the counter to hold herself up as she whimpers helplessly into her other hand. Quinn’s lips are sucking hard around her clit as three fingers now thrust into her, and Spencer knows she must be in space after all, because she’s seeing stars.

Her head falls back, still grunting “Yes” and “Please” repeatedly against her palm, and she doesn’t know if it’s sweat or tears running down her face, or both. Quinn drags a hand up Spencer’s stomach and rests it flat between her breasts, digging her nails into the soft flesh there. Spencer somehow finds the strength to pull her head back up and open her eyes, looking down at this scene before her. Quinn’s hand possessively on her body, her other working Spencer so hard, mouth wrapped around Spencer’s most vulnerable skin, and hazel eyes locked on hers.

She comes harder than she ever knew she could.

Burying a high-pitched scream in the crook of her elbow, Spencer’s body tenses as the electric shocks reach all the way down to her toes and explode. Quinn sucks hard on her clit to pull her through the orgasm, then keeps hard pressure with her tongue after Spencer releases, stilling the fingers inside. The hand on her chest is tracing light designs across her breasts, but Spencer’s head is too swimmy to know just how long it’s been doing that. She jolts a few times involuntarily as her muscles reset, but otherwise, she can’t move.

After a minute, Quinn releases the pressure of her tongue and lightly drags it back and forth across the overstimulated skin before standing up. She smiles, quite pleased with herself, it seems, and uses her free hand to pull Spencer upright and meet her lips. Spencer melts into the kiss, humming at how it tastes even better now, which she hadn’t thought possible. The three fingers still inside her aren’t moving, but Spencer’s in no hurry for Quinn to leave. Everything is perfect -- her head spinning with the chemical rush, body flush against Quinn, feeling sated yet truly alive. If this is what sex with a woman is always like -- well, sign Spencer up.

She wraps her arms around Quinn, breaking the kiss to pull her into a hug, when suddenly a deafening BOOM rocks the ground under their feet. Quinn barely stays standing as Spencer lurches forward hard, painfully, kept only on the sink’s edge by the whiplash back. The ship settles and levels itself out, but the girls are shaking, clinging tightly to each other.

“You okay?” Quinn asks, steadying them both.

“What the hell was that? A bomb? Did we crash into something?” With earthquakes off the list, none of the remaining options are all that pleasant.

There’s a loud buzzing sound, and the intercom hisses to life just outside in the hallway. “Attention inmates, guards, and other vermin,” says Sue. “There is no cause for alarm. The slight disturbance you felt was nothing more than a meteor striking the ship at maximum velocity.”

“Oh, THAT’S ALL.” says Spencer.

“I am sad to report the sole casualty: my ninety-six-ounce protein smoothie, which is now nothing more than a sticky puddle of whey powder and children’s tears on my office floor.”  She pauses and sniffles once, then continues more calmly. “Fortunately, our stabilizers are in top working condition, which is more than I can say for the rest of you. Please carry on with your pointless, lesbian lives.”  A final click.

“We should get out of here,” Spencer starts, but Quinn’s eyes are frozen wide. “What?”

“I can’t...um...” Quinn looks down, and Spencer follows, seeing the toned forearm still between her legs, only...it ends at her wrist.

Spencer’s jaw drops open. “Is your WHOLE HAND in there?!” She’s still numb and tingly and honestly isn’t sure what’s going on down there.

“You slammed into me!”

“So you break my fall by fisting me?!”

Quinn stiffens defensively and takes a step back. Well, as far as one can when her hand is up a girl’s vagina. “I didn’t mean to!”

But Spencer isn’t hearing a word Quinn says, because they’re not alone anymore. A small shadow is moving along the back wall ten feet behind them, silently creeping out of a stall. The blood drains from Spencer’s face as Charlotte scurries into the light and pauses, as if stopping to stare at her prey.

“THERE IT IS!” she shouts, pointing and frantically trying to get her bare feet up on the counter and scaring the shit out of Quinn in the process. “KILL IT! GET IT!”

Quinn jumps and turns but doesn’t move otherwise, searching the room for any sign of a threat and finding none. But then her eyes catch movement, and she relaxes a bit. That is one tiny-ass spider.

“Right there!” Spencer says. “You see it, right?”

“I see it,” Quinn says, all panic dissipated.

Spencer’s only moderately relieved at this -- Yay, she hasn’t been hallucinating, but omg no, it’s here. “It’s killing people! Go step on it or something!” She feels a tug deep in her core, then another.

That’s weird.

Quinn looks down at her wrist again and groans.

Spencer doesn’t like the sound of that. “What?”

“...I think...I’m stuck.”

“WHAT.”

“I don’t know! I can’t get it out!”

“PULL HARDER.”

“I’m trying!”

“I’m not some Chinese finger trap,” Spencer snaps. “If you got IN, you have to be able to get OUT.” Another strained tug. “UM, OW.”

“You said to pull harder!” After a few more attempts, Quinn starts to put a foot against the counter for leverage.

“Really?!” Spencer glares.

Quinn is exasperated. She sighs and says, “Look...just relax. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Then fucking pick me up and carry me out of here, I don’t care! That thing is going to kill us if we don’t kill it first!” Spencer isn’t taking her eyes off Charlotte, not this time. This bullshit ends now.

“I can’t,” Quinn says, “just...hold still so I can adjust my angle.”

It hurts -- the sharp knuckles pulling against her -- but Spencer refuses to die like this, a lesbian puppet, bare-ass on a prison sink in space. She winces and groans, trying to relax her muscles, but she’s just too damn scared.

A distant yet familiar voice echoes outside the bathroom. “Be ready to beg for it when I get back, girls.”

“Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit,” Spencer mumbles, trying to crawl backward on the counter, as if her efforts would magically extricate Quinn, or perhaps allow them to hide in thin air in front of a large mirror.

“Hold still!”

But it’s too late. The door swings open, and in walks the owner of a very recognizable pink jumpsuit. “My, my, my,” she says. “What do we have here?”

Spencer immediately tries to cover herself up, but it’s pointless. The best she can do is curl into a ball with her arms around her knees and her face buried, which does nothing to hide Quinn’s precarious position. In fact, it makes it worse.

Quinn turns sharply and then sighs with an annoyed, “Fuck.”

Lucy Fabray takes two steps forward, pauses at a safe distance, and peers conspicuously between Spencer’s feet. “You know, Quinn, in many ancient cultures, it was considered polite to remove one’s hand from a vagina before engaging in conversation with guests.”

Spencer wants to die.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t talk to us,” Quinn replies simply.

Lucy pauses, contemplating, then says, “Unless...oh no. Got your hand stuck in the cookie jar, again?”

Again?!

“Go away!”

Lucy’s head tilts as she considers the moment. “I didn’t think you were finally taking the fisting class? You really should consider signing up. Your technique needs some work.”

“Says the Queen of Fingerpainting.”

But unlike her counterpart, Lucy isn’t showing any sign that Quinn’s getting under her skin. “You know, if the hand is just lost anyway, there are ways of freeing your arm--”

Quinn points and yells, “Stay the FUCK away from me.”

Spencer doesn’t know what the hell is going on, but she isn’t looking up. Maybe if she keeps hiding, it’ll all just disappear and she’ll wake up back in Rosewood. She’s mortified, more than she ever has been in her life, and Charlotte has to be at least halfway across the floor by now, poised to kill her on the spot.

From the sound of things, this banter isn’t stopping anytime soon. Spencer lifts her head enough to peek a glance at the monster’s last known location but sees only grimey tiles.

Shit! Where did she go?!  Okay, fuck this.

“Look, there’s a spider in here,” Spencer says to Lucy. “Somewhere over there. And we’d really appreciate if you’d go kill it.” She tries to keep her voice even but firm; the last thing she needs is someone else with influence thinking she’s crazy.

But Lucy doesn’t budge except to gasp, looking deeply offended. “Spiders are our friends! I would never hurt an animal!”

Quinn balks, “But you’ll kill forty people with a chainsaw.”

The blood leaves Spencer’s face again as she pulls her body in tighter. “WHAT?!”

Fortunately, Lucy ignores her. Blushing, she waves a hand as if it’s no big deal. “Thirty-seven. People aren’t animals, Quinn.”

“YES, THEY ARE?” Spencer blurts out, then immediately regrets it and buries her face in her knees again. If she closes her eyes and wishes really, really hard, maybe she’ll disappear and none of this will actually be happening.

She can hear Quinn laugh and say quietly to Lucy, “You would think that.”

Lifting her elbow slightly, Spencer peeks out at the staredown happening in the Not O.K. At All Corral. Even with Quinn just in profile, Spencer’s struck by how eerie the resemblance is between the two girls. She hasn’t seen them in proximity before to analyze it, but, wow. They really are like carbon copies, just completely different flavors. If that were a thing.

For a moment, her mind wanders again to the thought of having two Quinns, or this alternate version of that. The balled fist of rage inside her – Quinn’s literal one, that is – moves ever so slightly against her G-spot, sending an unintended jolt through Spencer.

 

Through the peephole, Lucy’s eyes find hers, and it snaps Spencer out of her daydream. She turns her face away again, shutting her eyes tight, and fidgets to reposition herself in her new peak level of embarrassment. Deep inside, she feels Quinn’s hand turn a bit more freely than before.

“Quite the screamer,”  Lucy says to Quinn. “No wonder you like her.”

Spencer looks up at that. “Excuse me?”

“Leave us alone!” Quinn shouts back angrily. “Go pee somewhere else!”

...Oh crap. Now I have to pee.

“But I want to help!” Lucy says in the same saccharin tone she uses while teaching. It’s almost painfully sincere. “I can’t just leave you like this. You might miss dinner. You’re probably hungry after all this fun.” She bites her lip, trying not to laugh at the joke she’s about to make. “Even if Spencer’s looking a little full.”

“Get out before I stab you in the eye.” Quinn is not kidding even a little bit.

Lucy laughs good-heartedly. “With what, your other hand? I recommend focusing on penetrating one girl at a time, while you're still learning.” Lucy turns her attention to Spencer, as if she’s Exhibit A. “The real question is, does Spencer want me to leave?”

“Uh…” Spencer looks at Quinn, whose eyebrows are prompting the obvious “YES!”, but she honestly isn’t sure. As mortifying as this is, maybe they need Lucy’s help to carry her to the infirmary or something.

Before she can say more, Lucy takes a cautious step forward. “I think you need me. I think Spencer needs me.”

What is it about that voice?

Quinn bites back, “Get the fuck out of here, I swear to god.”

“I bet I can help solve your little problem. I’m very good with my hands, you know. Spencer’s seen it” -- and she looks at Spencer now, speaking one word at a time -- “how the slick, wet paint slides beneath my fingers, moving faster and faster in perfect circles until I can feel the friction building. I just love that combination of wetness and heat, don’t you?”

Oh god. Oh god.

Quinn looks too dumbstruck to verbalize a retort. Her face isn’t moving, but her hand is.

“Or driving my fingers deep into a soft, moist mound of clay,” Lucy continues, “feeling it warm all around me before I press it hard to bend it to my will. You know I like to take my time shaping it to my innermost desires. I can make it do whatever I want. Make it be whatever I want. I can make it come alive.”

Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.

“You know, maybe I teach a class not just because I like showing others how to use their bodies, or even because I want more time to practice my own skills...I just want someone to watch me while I do it.”

OH GOD. OH GOD. OH GOD. OH GOD.

Quinn’s had enough. “Okay, THAT’S IT --” and rears back to punch Lucy Fabray in the fucking face...not even realizing her hand has just slid right out of Spencer like the damn Excalibur sword. It’s quite pruned and still a bit contorted.

Lucy probably deserves to be punched with that.

But Quinn just looks at Spencer, quite confused, and Spencer doesn’t know what she could possibly say here. She rushes to close herself off once and for all, crossing her ankles and pulling her knees to her chest protectively as Quinn narrows her eyes.

Lucy gives a small laugh and says, “Happy to help.” She’s just about to turn around and leave but then, leaning in toward Quinn, she adds, “Be sure to wash that before dinner.” And with that, she casually walks out of the bathroom. There’s a squeak and a thud as the door closes, then a long silence.

“I would like to leave now,” Spencer says quietly.

But Quinn’s not going anywhere. “What the hell just happened?” she says, pointing her wrinkled hand toward the door.

Spencer rolls her eyes and climbs off the counter to pick up her discarded jumpsuit. “I don’t know,” she says, not convincing at all. “You were stuck, then you weren’t. Hooray.”

Quinn’s eyes harden, staring at Spencer in disbelief. “She turns you on.”

“What? No, she doesn’t,” Spencer dismisses. She’s looking around the floor and above her head for Charlotte. While Spencer can’t escape the bathroom with her dignity, she might still escape it with her life. With a shiver, she shakes out her clothing, jumps up and down on it, and slams it against the counter a few times for good measure.

Quinn, meanwhile, couldn’t care less about a damn spider. “She said all those things, and it actually turned you on.” Her tone implies she might find it hilarious if she wasn’t so pissed off.

“And that’s surprising?!” Spencer says angrily, finally turning to face Quinn. “SHE LOOKS AND SOUNDS JUST LIKE YOU.” Spencer zips up the jumpsuit halfway, sleeves dangled loosely around her waist, and sets to retrieving her sneakers and her one and only Secret from Victoria.

“And yet I stayed stuck until she arrived. Funny.”

Spencer really doesn’t have time for this jealousy crap, which is quickly ruining what had been the best sex of her life. “Just...let me get my stuff and we’ll get out of here, okay? Talk later.” She carefully approaches the last stall and checks in all directions before stepping inside.

Quinn crosses her arms and leans against the sticky counter. “You put your clothes in the toilet?”

“Under it. I couldn’t just leave them ou --” she starts, leaning down to grab her shoes and...thin air. “-- No.”

Quinn doesn’t respond.

“They were right here!” Spencer stares at the yellow tile, hoping her blue panties will magically materialize before her very eyes. They were right here on top of her shoes, she swears it. Giving the Keds a good shake and slipping her feet inside, she comes barreling out of the stall and into the neighboring one, then back out and into the third. “I have no underwear. I’m in prison, and I have no underwear.”

“You sure you didn't give them to Lucy?” Quinn offers under her breath.

But even as a joke, it doesn’t make sense that Lucy would have them, as she was on the opposite side of the bathroom the whole time. But nobody else came in or out, so who could’ve taken them?

...No.

“Oh my god.” Spencer freezes, then looks left, right, left, down, up, right, and behind her again. “Charlotte.”

Quinn starts walking toward the door.

“THAT BITCH TOOK MY PANTIES,” Spencer shouts. She looks at the walls again, zoning out in blind rage. “I’m gonna kill her.”

“You do that.” Quinn says without looking back.

Spencer can’t believe what she’s seeing. “Wait, you’re not gonna help me? I need them!”

Quinn pauses and turns, squinting through her messy pink bangs. “I don’t plan on dropping my panties for anyone anytime soon, so I should be fine.” A pointed glare. “Guess you can’t say the same.”

“Come on. That’s not fair.” Spencer wants to shout, “I just let you fuck me on a bathroom sink, for christ’s sake!”  but doesn’t.

Any emotion on Quinn’s face fades. “Nothing’s fair here.”

And with that, she takes the final few steps to the door, leaving Spencer topless and commando and rejected and sore and feeling not at all like this afternoon turned out the way it was supposed to.

Chapter Text

It’s not like this day could possibly get any worse, Spencer tells herself as she follows Paulie into the Mess Hall for dinner two hours later, walking a bit gingerly and hoping no one notices. She can’t tell what the entrée is supposed to be from here. Something suspect. Spencer peers over at Lexa’s tray, trying to get a closer look, and suddenly comes face-to-face with Santana Lopez, one of Lucy’s flunkies. 

Spencer’s seen her many times before, but they’ve not yet spoken, so she’s taken quite off-guard by how forward Santana is -- slinging an arm around Spencer’s neck like they’re old friends. That, or she’s about to kill her and just wants to be chummy first.

“So, Shit-mess,” Santana starts. Oh, great. “I hear I have you to thank.” She’s much too close to Spencer’s face for comfort, like she might lick her cheek or something. It’s fucking creepy.

Spencer stares forward, and tries to subtly shrug Santana’s arm off. “Um…okay.” She twitches and flinches as Santana tightens the lock around her neck.

“Lucy was in such a good mood after classes. Something about ‘feeling inspired to teach a new student her best tricks.’ Which she then demonstrated on me.” Santana is clearly trying to brag, lucky girl that she feels she is. “She almost had me ready to call mercy, and I’m the Allen County bedroom rodeo champion. You must’ve really gotten her going.” She leans in right by Spencer’s ear and whispers, “Thanks.”

Spencer tries again to shove her off, because this moment couldn’t possibly be any more uncomfortable. It’s bad enough she feels every slight shift of her uniform against her bare and slightly sore ladyparts. Now, the added nausea from hearing the inner details of Lucy Fabray’s sex life, after enduring the horrific embarrassment of her own. The list of Awful Things About Today continues to grow.

“Um...I didn’t…” Spencer starts, but the elbow around her neck tightens, and she can barely breathe.

“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me, Hastings,” Santana smirks. “Or should I say...Fistings?” She slips away, grinning like the Cheshire Cat and leaving Spencer stunned.

Before she can come up with a clever retort -- or anything at all --  Spencer feels a slap on the back that nearly knocks her into Paulie.

“Nice work!” It’s Graham. 

For the sake of her own sanity, Spencer grants the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she liked my Taxidermy project, all five minutes I spent working on it. It’s possible.

Graham walks backward for a few steps to look Spencer in the eye as she says, “You and Quinn should stop by my class next week and give us some pointers.” Then, with a wicked wink, she turns around and continues on to find her seat.

An image of the course listing flashes before Spencer’s eyes, and she sees very clearly which one is assigned to Graham.

Fisting.

“Oh, that’s right!” Santana bellows from across the room at Lucy’s table. “I meant your secret’s safe with me and a few of my closest friends!” She motions all around her, indicating basically the entire prison.

Their laughter echoes in Spencer’s ears as she inches forward in line. Please let the ground open and swallow me whole, she thinks. Or, more accurately, let it suck me out into the cold void of space. At least it’s quiet out there.

She passes by her old cell’s table, and Mack is so bug-eyed with loathing that Spencer’s sure she’d turn to stone if she looked directly at her. (She’d take the easy out right now if she thought it would work.) As she walks on, she hears Mack growl, “No. Don’t even think I’m gonna let you come near me with that hand after it’s been in Hastings’ vag.”

Spencer can’t see or hear Quinn’s response, but maybe that’s for the best, anyway. She makes her way to her seat and sits, wincing a bit but trying to hide it. The food isn’t much better than the company, and the patty that just looked a bit off from afar is pretty terrifying close-up. It’s large, oddly lumpy, and covered in some kind of sauce-like substance that’s more translucent than gravy really should be.

Across the cafeteria, Jessica Huang’s voice carries over the noise. “THIS FOOD IS MADE OF GARBAGE!”

Spencer arches an eyebrow at Paulie, who’s halfway through her personal slab of garbage food. “What crawled on your tray and died?” Spencer asks.

Paulie shrugs and says, “BSM,” before taking another bite.

Spencer can’t have heard that right. “The whips and slaves thing?” It seems unlikely that the kitchen doubles as a sex dungeon, even here.

“Big Sweaty Meat, duh,” Paulie says, chewing with her mouth open.

Oh, well, of course that’s what it is. How silly of me not to have known that.

Spencer carves out a small fraction of the patty with her fork and brings it to her mouth, despite her brain fighting her every step of the way. It tastes even worse than she expects, and she only makes it through a few bites before giving up, pushing her tray aside but not far away enough.

She used to have a different life, right? Long ago, before everything turned to shit? Spencer really wants to believe she did, but it feels so far away, like a dream.

“Okay,” she begins, angling toward Paulie, “You work with this Martha woman, right? Please verify there’s an actual person back there, because this --” she gestures to her tray “-- is frightening. There has to be something fit for human consumption.”

Paulie grins as she takes another bite. “You’re funny, New Girl. I like you. It’s too bad that pretty face is gonna get scraped off with a cheese grater.”

“Mmhmm,” Dark Willow agrees somberly.

But that’s not why Spencer’s eyes are doubled in size. “There’s cheese back there?!”

Paulie laughs once. “Go on, tell her what you just said. It’s your funeral.”

Spencer glances over toward the kitchen and almost considers it. She’s not going to starve to death without a fight.

“There are some scary people up here,” Paulie continues. “But that Martha Slewgurt” – Paulie points toward the kitchen with her fork – “just might be the most terrifying of all.”

“Martha Slewgurt?” Spencer asks. “That’s someone’s actual name.”

“What kind of name is ‘Spencer Hastings’?” Dark Willow mocks.

“That doesn’t sound made up to you?” Spencer asks. “Slewgurt?” Her voice is louder than she means it to be, and a few heads turn a few tables down, then laugh like they’re about to watch someone get a beatdown.

“She’s gonna hear you!” Paulie says in a hushed whisper, looking toward the kitchen to see if a monster is emerging.

“It sounds like…” Spencer’s brain stops for a moment. Or maybe the room stops around her instead as her brain connects some dots. “Like someone’s doing a bad job of hiding who they are.” She looks back toward the kitchen and opens her mouth, but the words don’t come out right away. “You don’t think…that’s not…Martha Stewart back there.” She regrets it as soon as she’s said it. “Because that would be crazy. Right?”

“I told you like six times, New Girl,” Paulie says, “It’s Martha Slewgurt.”

“I KNOW.” Spencer’s gonna lose her damn mind if she hears that word one more time. “And I’m saying, what if it’s really Martha Stewart? But I guess she doesn’t want people to know it’s her and that’s why she changed her name.”

Dark Willow raises an eyebrow. “Like, Martha Stewart the famous cook and ruler of a home decoration empire? That Martha Stewart?”

Spencer forces down another bite of BSM. “Makes a lot more sense than someone named Martha Slewgurt cooking for us.”

“But Martha Stewart’s not a criminal,” Dark Willow says, confused.

“Yes, she is!” Spencer says, again a little too loudly. “She was convicted for lying to the SEC about a stock trade. She was supposed to lose over forty-thousand dollars, but she got some inside information and --”

Dark Willow rolls her eyes and sighs, “Bored now.”

Spencer raises her eyebrows. “They sent her to jail. Maybe they sent her here.”

Dark Willow looks toward the kitchen for a moment, considering the possibility. “I used to love her holiday specials, back before I was evil. My mom and I would watch them every year and tape them so we could try out her recipes. Once, Xander tried to make her cranberry popcorn balls, but we ended up spending Christmas with the Sunnydale Fire Department. They were very nice." Dark Willow takes a breath and sighs, "She always makes it look so easy on TV!”

“You’re both crazier than River, here,” Paulie says, chomping heartily on a big bite of meat and nodding at their cellmate.

River’s BSM patty has been cut into dozens of small, precise pieces and stacked into a tower that must be over a foot high. She gives a small shrug at the comment, then stands slightly to reach the top-most piece of the tower with her mouth, carefully eating it off without toppling the whole thing down.

“I guess I’ll see for myself,” Spencer says. She finishes the last of her cup of water and sets it down on the tray. “I’ll be right back.” Grabbing her dirty dishes, she makes her way toward the drop-off bucket. The kitchen is open and exposed, but Spencer can’t see anyone back there despite the noise of clanking pots in the far back area, out of sight. She tries to peek around the corner, but she’s holding up the line and looking like a creeper. All she needs is confirmation that she’s right, and then she’ll go back to staying out of everyone’s way. 

At the same time, how could it be Martha Stewart? It’s a billion-to-one chance. She fights to ignore the pain in her stomach muscles as she leans hard against the counter, trying to see around the industrial stove. Her feet leave the ground, and she almost topples over into the kitchen before Big Boo grabs her by the uniform and pulls her back.

 “Whoa there, Thin Mint,” Big Boo says, helping her find stable ground. “Save some for tomorrow.”

Spencer feels sillier by the minute. Why did she even suggest this? There are a hundred reasons why THE Martha Stewart wouldn’t be here on the Uterius.

She’s a talented chef!

She’s rich and famous!

She’s not a lesbian!

Well.

But one thing Spencer’s damn sure about: the actual living and breathing Martha Stewart wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near something called Big Sweaty Meat.

...Right?

“Told you,” Paulie says as Spencer sits back down. But before she can respond, the intercom crackles to life.

Plink, plink.

A collective wall of sound erupts in the Mess Hall, everything from frustrated groans to outright anger. Any further plinking is drowned out by the noise, but Sue’s familiar announcement eventually rings out to confirm the inevitable. Shark Week has returned.

Near the back of the cafeteria, Vasquez stands and holds her plastic spork out like a weapon. “WHO DID IT!”

One of Vee’s crew yells, “If you wanted to bleed, I’d just CUT YOU! Damn!”

The room quickly turns on itself. Food flies over Spencer’s head as the crowd dissolves into utter chaos, and she hears the plop of a BSM patty hitting Alice, the Zombies instructor, in the face nearby. Kat pelts another one over to the far end of the Mess Hall, arm pumping in celebration as it lands right on Violet’s tattooed breast. Spencer can’t tell if these women are trying to blame each other for the upcoming lockdown or just getting their last joyride in first. The party’s quickly shut down, though, with a blaring horn and Boomer banging loudly on the nearest table. Part of Spencer wanted to see just how it was all going to play out. Maybe a food fight would draw out the mystery chef? But she’s mostly glad for a reprieve while she’s still clean. It’s been a fucking long enough day already.

And then she feels a soggy thud on her back.

Of course.

“CRAZY EYES,” Boomer shouts. “KNOCK IT OFF.”

Spencer doesn’t know anyone named Crazy Eyes and sure as hell doesn’t want to, but then she hears, “For your girl, Cauliflower!”

Oh. Yes, hi, Suzanne.

“You tell her that’s from me!”

Spencer’s brow furrows, but she doesn’t turn around to engage. Has she unwittingly become part of a Suzanne/Quinn love triangle, of all things? Because that’s exactly what she needs right now. Or, wait, does Suzanne think Spencer’s with one of her new cellmates now?

Whatever the hell is going on, she needs to get out of here. There’s a wet spot between her shoulder blades and a room full of prisoners laughing at her, and Spencer just wants to go home. She gets up and hurries toward the door with her head down. The argument with Paulie can keep until later. She’ll check the office files for Slewgurt, Martha next time she gets a chance. Though, wouldn’t she have seen it by now?

The guards start ushering the prisoners back to their cells, leaving behind a particularly gross, half-eaten mess strewn across the tables. A thin layer of slime now covers the floor, making a lovely splick noise with every step. Spencer sees Aphasia slip on the mess and almost fall, but Quinn quickly stabilizes her.

Spencer catches Quinn’s eye for a moment. They seem to be the only two not freaking out or exhibiting any emotion at all. But Quinn pushes through the herd to get away and is soon lost in a sea of black jumpsuits and oily hair.

Spencer is the first one back to cell 11, and she climbs up to her bunk to think about the new implications of Shark Week. She’s not on this cycle yet, thankfully -- she still has no underwear. So, that’s a win, but it’s the only one coming to mind. What about when the gravity goes out tonight? They don’t have seat belts in here, and there’s no Quinn to hold her close and breathe softly against her neck and make her feel safe. That’s the one thing Spencer misses the most. If she’d known that would be the only time they had together...

But then Spencer pushes past the memory of lips and tongues and hands, and she remembers the entire reason she was in Quinn’s bunk in the first place.

Charlotte.

That bitch killed Jenny Schecter, and she killed Aeryn Sun and probably Stacey and Alex whats-her-face, too. Was it a coincidence that Alex went missing during the last Shark Week? What about the others? And how is Spencer supposed to protect herself from being next with nobody in her corner?

She spends the next several minutes scrawling possible ways to kill a spider in blue on the near wall. For whatever reason, Spencer doesn’t think something as simple as stepping on Charlotte will do the trick. Better to be prepared for war. She keeps writing. At one point, Dark Willow asks what she’s doing, but Spencer answers with an unintelligible grunt and adds “fireballs” to the list. Thinking back to the first day of Funhouse and Dark Willow’s nostalgia for pets, Spencer only hopes she doesn’t share Lucy’s pro-life views on the entire non-human animal kingdom.

Speaking of: Tiny hammers. She puts a star next to it for her own nostalgic reasons.

Spencer completes her mental tour of the prison, having searched for artillery of any kind, and is now back where she started. She leans back to examine her first draft. It isn’t very long, and it reads more like a garage sale listing than the arsenal from Clue. But it makes Spencer feel a bit safer and in control all the same. She's included things like a trophy (from Sue’s office, maybe?) and a shovel (Aphasia? Because, why not?) and Boomer’s taser, if she can get her hands on it. Spencer doesn’t know if it could even latch onto a spider, but she will zap the fucking hell out of Charlotte if it can.

She loses herself in a momentary train of thought, imagining eight little legs trembling and sizzling as the tiniest of screams reaches her ears, and Spencer wonders what her life has become.

****************

She wakes the next morning not remembering how she managed to get to sleep. In fact, Spencer can’t think about anything except, Oh god, I’m going to puke.

She rolls over, head aching as the room spins with her, and she somehow dismounts from the bed and collapses into a heap. Dragging herself toward the toilet, she half-expects it to be full of brown chunks already, but then remembers Mack’s not here. Still, the very idea of Pruno is enough to empty Spencer's stomach quite completely.

She retches loudly and painfully, wondering why the hell this is happening to her. Spencer’s first instinct is to blame the Big Sweaty Meat, but would two bites do all of this? She looks over to her cellmates to see if they’re suffering the same fate.

That’s when she sees the web.

Spencer scrambles to her unsteady feet, a chorus of “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” echoing on repeat in her pounding head. Stumbling forward, she grabs the frame of Paulie’s bunk to take a closer look.

Paulie’s very empty bunk.

GIRLY-GIRL SUCKY-SUCK

“Not as impressive as the last one,” mumbles a voice right next to Spencer’s ear, making her jump.

“You can see that?” she asks River. She’s suddenly feeling much more awake.

River reaches a hand out and traces a finger over the first G. “Written on air.”

“Where’s Paulie?” Spencer asks.

She shakes her head almost imperceptibly, like a twitch, or a robot glitching. “Absent.”

Yes, thank you.

But then River adds, “Floated away,” now sounding higher than a hippie at a Grateful Dead concert, and Spencer goes into panic mode.

“Did the gravity go out last night?” She asks, mind reeling. Did she just hover above her bed for a while and then fall back onto it without waking up? She’s starting to wish she had a bottom bunk again. It could be a miracle she didn't fall five feet down to the floor.

“We're all floating.” River finds a very interesting molecule of air to stare intensely at.

Spencer’s tired of this already. “It's a yes or no question.”

River looks at her blankly, then examines the lengths of her fingers as if she's never seen her hand before. “You snore.”

Spencer stands and gets in River’s face to show her she’s for real. “Tell me about when this happened before,” she says, pointing to the web. “What did it say?” 

“Words. Thin and frail, like bones,” River says, looking at the web now, too.

Spencer grabs River’s shoulders and says, “Did you see the spider?”

Looking wistfully off to the side, she quietly says, “Jenny.”

Spencer's eyes go wide. “Jenny was a spider?!”

River gives her the most patronizing look Spencer's ever seen.

Oh. Right.

“Jenny Schecter,” Spencer starts again, shaking it off. “That girl who disappeared. She saw it?”

“She taught a class. Empty chairs don't write.” River says this like it’s very important.

“Yeah, I kn--”

“And then Elizabeth came.”

Spencer's fairly certain she hasn't heard of any prisoners by that name. “Who?”

River pauses and takes a breath, as if she's about to lose her trademark even keel. “The spider.” Spencer's clearly getting on her last nerve.

“The same spider that killed her,” Spencer says.

River furrows her brow and dismisses it outright. “Unfounded.”

“It wrote ‘I killed Jenny Schecter’ in a web,” Spencer fumes. “I saw it. So did they.” She points to next door. “That seems pretty founded to me.”

River slips into La La Land for a minute, presumably thinking this over, then climbs up to her bunk in one smooth motion that Spencer finds unnervingly graceful. Reaching under her mattress, River pulls out a brown, thin, leather-bound book and holds it out. Spencer just stares at it for a moment, not moving, trying to guess what this magical item could possibly be. Hopefully not more smut.

“Take it,” River adds, shortly.

Spencer opens it and sees it’s a journal. A very detailed, personal account of a victim's life in space prison. Excitedly, she asks, “This was hers?” 

Holy new evidence, Batman. It’s clearly well-worn and must be at least fifty pages. This could open all kinds of doors. At the same time, Spencer’s more than a little jealous that this dead woman had a whole notebook and a ballpoint pen when Spencer’s been begging for book covers and old highlighters.

But anyway.

Spencer takes in the possibilities, overwhelmed, and it gives her flashbacks to when they found Alison’s journal back in Rosewood. With the pounding in her head, the memories move like a viscous liquid, blurry and faded. But those pages revealed dark clues that pointed them in scary new directions. Something like this is a window into the mind of a dead girl, for better or worse, and it’s important to keep it out of the wrong hands. If someone like Sue...

Spencer meets River’s eyes again. “Why do you have this?” It's a fair question, considering this cell wasn't Jenny's final destination.

“I know many secrets,” River says. “I keep them safe.” When that vague answer doesn’t seem to be enough for Spencer, River blinks and admits flatly, “I traded my bra for it.”

That rings a bell. Spencer remembers Aphasia saying something about River having ‘her book’ the day she first arrived. Was this it? This feels like Spencer’s first big break in weeks. She almost asks, “Do you know where my panties are?”  but that would probably be pushing it.

The bed behind her rumbles as Dark Willow wakes up groggily and slurs, “Whuss goin’ on?”

“Paulie’s gone,” Spencer says.

“Ah, shit.” Dark Willow rolls back over to face the wall, sounding like she, too, is battling a migraine from hell. “Get Boomer,” she mumbles.

Spencer shudders at the very mention of her. “Doesn’t she ever take a day off?” She starts climbing up to her bed with the journal. If she has to deal with Boomer today, she’s going to do it from a safe distance. It takes some extra time and effort to get there safely without motion sickness. River, meanwhile, is sitting crisscross on her bed and doesn’t seem to be the least bit panicked or ill. Spencer would love to know what that feels like. She pulls herself up the rest of the way and steadies her hand on the wall. From this angle, she can see a small puddle of vomit on the end of River’s bed. It’s oddly reassuring.

A long, good nap sounds nice right about now, and Spencer’s eyelids are heavy. But Paulie’s probably dead, there’s now a fifth possible victim, and someone else besides her can see the cryptic messages, so there’s no time to lose. She gathers all her strength and yells into the corridor to draw the guard over, but fortunately, Buffy’s the one on duty.

“Our cellmate Paulie is missing,” Spencer says urgently as the blonde approaches. “We woke up and she was gone. I think she was taken. Who was on guard last night?”

Buffy peers curiously at the empty bunk but doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to open the door and investigate further. “Will?” she asks over Spencer's shoulder.

“Yep,” Dark Willow mumbles loudly into her pillow without looking up. “Gone.”

That seems to be good enough for Buffy. “I’ll tell Sue,” she says matter-of-factly and starts to walk away.

“That’s it?” Spencer protests. A note on the warden's desk is hardly an adequate response from the so-called security force. Isn’t there some kind of emergency code for this? All staff on high alert or something? A manhunt, perhaps?

“Good work, Lassie,” Buffy says enthusiastically with two thumbs up, walking backwards. She turns to continue down the corridor without another word.

Spencer’s pretty sure she can hear Mack laughing from next door.

Bitch.

Spencer isn’t about to sit and wait for the inquisition squad that’s never coming. The very least she owes Paulie is to try. Since they’re on lockdown, she’s got nothing but time to sit and work on the case. And something tells her Jenny Schecter’s personal notes are a veritable goldmine of information.

For the first time in a month, Spencer has something to read that’s not vintage pornography. Beautiful, glorious day. She opens the cover and takes a deep breath. Two points make a line, but three points make a pattern. If Paulie’s already lost and Spencer's hunch is right -- that there's a connection between the disappearances and Shark Week -- then she still has four weeks to figure out how to stop Charlotte before someone else dies.

At least now she has a starting place.

Chapter Text

Jenny Schecter’s diary contains the hideously verbose ramblings of a lesbian madwoman who is way too full of herself. Anecdotes and opinions about Christmas, feminism, bees, birth control, poetry, Thai food, adultery, art, living in LA, ex-girlfriends, books, healthcare -- you name it. Some of it is coherent, some not. But overall, it’s a very detailed, very pretentious account of Jenny’s superior (yet incredibly boring) life.

Thankfully, it gets better about ten pages in because, sure enough, there are scattered mentions of a spider that Jenny calls “Elizabeth” and a writing class that Spencer assumes must be that Pussy thing. (I really, really hate that word.) A new pattern emerges of drawings of words in webs with scribbled essays beneath them, but nothing seems too threatening or like it could relate to the killings. In fact, the only things dying around here, according to Jenny, are some of Idgie’s bees, when the spider can catch them, maggots from the kitchen food (????), and Jenny’s will to live.

At the bottom of page twelve, Spencer parses the scrawled sentence, “We boasted to live like kings, she and I, and feasted upon stolen treasures, but the jar is now as empty as the well of my hopes.”

Spencer rolls her eyes. Good lord, this girl is dramatic.

Wait... Aphasia’s bug jar!  Charlotte WAS eating them. Ha!

…Oh god, Jenny wasn’t eating them too, was she?

Spencer prays there was a bag of M&Ms in there as well.

And now she wants chocolate. Moving on.

There’s more complaining about overall prison conditions and an essay about the lack of rigorous creative and educational opportunities in the so-called curriculum. Spencer nods along, strangely pleased to have found a like mind on this point, even a dead one. This place makes Rosewood Community College look like Stanford.

Though, it can’t be good for Spencer that she and Jenny Schecter keep having more and more in common. Serial killers have types, and what if she is Charlotte’s? Spencer’s heart plummets as she realizes Paulie’s a young, long-haired brunette, too. Shit. She’ll bet anything that Stacey, Aeryn, and Vause were as well.

At that sobering thought, Spencer takes a deep breath and reads on, pushing through the exhaustion and headache. Twenty minutes later, Jenny’s bitching about none other than Stacey Merkin, providing details that prove they knew -- and hated -- each other back on Earth, before they were incarcerated.

That’s new information.

The wheels turn in Spencer’s mind, assimilating the data, fitting the pieces together. The detailed accounts of what Stacey did to her – buttering her up for information about her book, only to turn around and write a scathing review of it – paint a truly ugly picture of a nasty feud. (Jenny got revenge by seducing Stacey’s girlfriend? Well, then.) Spencer doesn’t know why Jenny was imprisoned in the first place, but if she killed back home…who’s to say she wouldn’t do it again?

Do I have it all wrong? Did Jenny kill Stacey?

Spencer’s theory flips over on itself as she considers this new angle. After all, anything’s possible in here, she’s learning. Maybe Jenny took out her nemesis and bragged about it to the spider, who wrote “Fuck You Stacey Merkin” as a show of support. All this time, Spencer’s been thinking about Jenny the Victim without even considering the angles of Jenny the Criminal.

It’s more than a little unsettling that anyone and everyone around here can be – and probably already is – a murderer.

Aww, just like back home.

Paragraph after paragraph of the crazy backstory makes Spencer’s pulse quicken, as it has to be leading to a revealing climax, but then it seems to end with no resolution. Or, at least, not the evidence Spencer’s seeking.

“I speak daily of this loathing to my dearest Elizabeth, but it brings me little comfort. There’s nothing a mere spider can do to cleanse the darkness in my past. Stacey remains an unhealed wound, a thorn in the flesh of my memories. Together we will rot like discarded peels in this bin of sin and shame. What’s done is done.”

It’s hardly a confession of murder or intent. If anything, it sounds like coming to prison finally closed that chapter in Jenny’s mind. After all that build-up, Jenny was just a madwoman venting to her pet. The thought brings up a flash of Lucy Fabray and her “cat,” and Spencer shakes it off.

If the Stacey/Jenny chapter really was over, is it a coincidence both women ended up dead?

“What’s done is done…”

Okay, but what if it wasn’t?

Could that mean Jenny told her little friend to go kill her enemy, finishing her once and for all? Stacey, ‘rotting’ as a corpse, and Jenny, living with her sin? It could fit their story. From what Spencer’s reading, Jenny certainly seems vindictive enough to put out the hit, and “Elizabeth” sounds doting enough to comply.

Maybe Spencer will test her theory by asking Charlotte to kill Mack. It’s a nice thought.

If Jenny was the one calling the shots about Stacey's murder, then what about the other one after her own death? There isn't a simple one-size-fits-all answer for these five disappearances.

...Right?

But if the spider’s intelligent enough to take directions, Spencer has to entertain the notion that Charlotte can make decisions for herself. In which case…

What if dear little “Elizabeth” sought out revenge on behalf of her beloved owner? Are spiders capable of that level of cognizance and emotion? That’s some seriously advanced shit. Sure, before now Spencer’s been convinced Charlotte is responsible for these deaths, but it was for primal reasons. Basic survival. Food. Maybe territoriality. Not, “You were mean to my friend.”  It feels more than a little crazy personifying a spider to this degree, and Spencer’s not sure it’s a path she wants to follow. Even without this emotional layer, the Killer Spider Theory already cost her three allies, two uncomfortable interrogations, and a cell transfer.

It’s now feeling a lot like lose/lose: Either there’s a calculating monster plotting the murder of its enemies, or there's an eight-legged mercenary killing on command. Both versions have successfully managed to evade capture and taunt the witnesses, all without creating any hard evidence or interest from the authorities.

And, whatever happened to Stacey, Spencer still can’t explain how Jenny ended up dead a few short months later. Did Charlotte turn right around to kill her, too? …Do spiders even understand the concept of loose ends?

Spencer immediately cringes, falling victim to her own wordplay. Of course they do. If anyone wants things tied up neatly, it’s a web-making, meal-spinning murderer.

She clearly hasn’t been giving this bitch enough credit.

But, wait, no -- Wouldn’t it have been easier for Charlotte to just let the authorities punish Jenny – the obvious suspect -- for Stacey’s murder? Eliminating Jenny would only draw more attention or create confusion. There must be something else at play, some piece of the puzzle Spencer isn’t seeing. Did Charlotte think Jenny would turn her in to the authorities, so she struck first? The thought of a tiny spider in miniature handcuffs is both adorable and absurd. And, if Charlotte didn’t trust Jenny in the first place, why would she have killed for her? It just isn’t adding up.

Reviewing her mental evidence list, Spencer realizes she doesn’t have any hard proof that the spider did kill Jenny Schecter. And of course, there isn’t going to be any in this journal, either. The yellow string “confession” web was probably just Mack fucking with her again. But Jenny’s still dead either way, and this “airlocked” line everyone keeps feeding her has always reeked of bullshit, even though it’s clear Sue knows more about these deaths than she’s letting on.

And then, in a moment of true space dementia, Spencer has a deeply unsettling thought.

What if Charlotte is working for Sue?

What if the warden was sending Charlotte out to do recon in the prison, to find out who was plotting a mutiny and deserved to die? It seems like the kind of thing you’d ask a guard to do, but whatever. They’re in space; all bets are off. It’s much easier to eavesdrop when you’re the size of a quarter. Sue could use her tiny killing machine and blame it on inmate violence, which is expected in a prison, anyway. It’s kind of brilliant.

But, wait – Mack said if the authorities were killing people, they'd use it to keep the population in line. Why, then, did Sue deny that anything like that was going on? Maybe she feared Spencer might figure out her methods and expose them, or worse – kill the spider on sight. So, Sue sent her to Umbridge, which ultimately got her transferred, breaking Spencer away from her only allies. She must have been on the right track.

Is Umbridge in on the scam? What about the guards? Am I just another in a long line of girls they’ve put through these motions when we got too close? Is this why Jenny died? Did she figure it out, too?

Spencer's mind turns and turns. There's excitement in connecting lines and building leads as the pieces interlock, bringing her ever closer to the truth, but the joy is quickly replaced by fear. Sue clearly has eyes and ears all over the prison, even in Spencer’s own bed, and she suddenly feels a lot less safe behind these steel bars.

By taking her theory to Sue, Spencer may have just signed her own death warrant. Only time will tell. If her similarities to Jenny are any indication, she’s already a Dead Woman Walking.

All this spider business is really starting to make Spencer's skin crawl. Thinking again about the yellow I KILD JENE SHEKTR web constructed while she was sleeping, Spencer feels less and less sure of Mack’s involvement. She’s not that great of an actress, and they all looked truly surprised by its presence. (Plus, how would she have gotten out of class early to do it, or into the locked cell without a guard there?)

A guard…

What if Boomer came in while she was passed out and made the web on Sue’s orders? It seems unlikely that Spencer wouldn’t have heard the door open or any of the work being done, but she can’t rule it out entirely. After all, last night she slept through a goddamn kidnapping. Any guard could’ve easily overheard Spencer freaking out about the nightmare weeks before. It’s not like she wasn’t screaming loud enough. But then, why put all the effort into messing with her? If they want her dead, wouldn’t she be dead by now?

Spencer's head is really starting to hurt from all these questions. If prison wasn’t so goddamn boring, her mind would have something else to do than go down these endless rabbit holes. It’s times like these that she wishes she wasn’t a problem solver by nature. She hates how obsessive she gets when there are new leads in a case. Too often, she ends up tugging on the wrong thread. Her neck hurts and she wants so much to just rest, but she can't – not yet.

Playing Devil's Advocate with herself, if only to help her sleep with both eyes closed tonight, she’ll give Sue the benefit of the doubt. Suppose she was telling the truth – the disappearing girls aren’t dead at all, they're just released for one reason or another. Legitimately, legally, purposefully. It happens in regular prisons all the time. Still, it's hard to believe that anyone in this prison could earn release on good behavior and doubtful that any of them would truly become a productive member of society again from their stint here. It's not like Spencer, herself, is feeling any more rehabili--

...Holy shit.

The motto on the emblem of the ship.

The Uterius: Where prisoners aren't rehabilitated, they're reborn!

Sue isn't planning on turning any of these women into taxpaying, law-abiding citizens. She's...what? Encouraging them to stay criminals and releasing them back into the wild? Sending them on covert missions for something? The list of classes is basically College for Murderers (and Weirdos). Are violent girls brought in here to learn how to be even worse? Is Sue hand-picking certain inmates and grooming them to become a part of some mafia-type organization? She tells the other prisoners they're released or transferred or something else innocuous, and she tells the President they're dead. They're out of the system, and no one's the wiser, and Sue makes whatever profit she's arranged with her new spies and the space mafia.

Oh, oh wow.

Maybe Sue’s the one not getting enough credit.

Now back to square one all over again, Spencer doesn't know if she likes this any more than the killer spider theory. It means the girls might still be alive, which is an upside. Probably. But they could just be killing other people. Either way, they're still disappearing and not coming back. Spencer folds down the corner of the page and continues on.

Jenny’s diary just gets more and more out there as it goes. The web sketches become more frequent as Jenny's sanity erodes away. Charlotte definitely wrote to Jenny more than she’s ever written to Spencer, but then, Charlotte seems to have made herself scarce now that Spencer’s on to her. If Jenny never suspected Charlotte was a killer, they could’ve had a longer relationship, and a deadly one.

Skipping the essays now, if only to spare her very tired brain, Spencer looks at Charlotte’s messages in isolation. Most of the writing seems pretty innocuous and/or vague, but it’s all definitely fucking weird.

READ TO ME

LUSTY WOMEN

NO

PINK LADY

RADIANT

LEZ GIRLS

WHY

PUSSY GREAT

BEWARE

BLACK HOLE

MARY CHRISTMAS

STOP HER

HAPPY NEW YEAR

ON MY WAY

BLOODY MARY

QUEEN B

YES

MONDAY

COURAGE

TRUST ME

This reading strategy doesn't make it any better.

Holiday greetings and obvious small talk aside, Spencer can guess what many of the rest are about. She’s seen “Little Lusty Women” in the library. There’s what she hopes is a reference to Jenny’s writing class and not just a declaration of sexual preference. And, wouldn’t you know, Charlotte’s a fan of Raven’s vodka with tomato juice, assuming Martha Slewgurt even has some in stock. But at this point, it’s more likely to be a Bloody Mary with actual blood. A sudden memory of Mack’s Pruno brings up a horrible taste in her mouth.

She looks again at the downright chilling messages.

BEWARE

STOP HER

Stop who?  Every one of these webs must have an accompanying story, only Jenny doesn’t seem to be in a sharing mood.

Great. Thanks for nothing.

The fact of the matter is, Spencer’s so damn paranoid at this point and the web messages are so vague, they could mean anything she wants them to be, like a teen magazine horoscope. That’s both the good news and the bad news. She’s already talked herself into and out of, what, six different theories in the last three hours alone? There’s no way to know which words are actual clues and what’s irrelevant. She’ll never be able to escape the shadow of doubt, not with this as her Bible.

Spencer’s going to go mad in here.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, she quickly hides the journal under her thigh and tries to pretend she’s just sitting there doing nothing. Maybe Buffy has an update on the manhunt. “Any news?” she asks, more than a bit hopeful.

“Chow time,” Buffy says, sliding three small bowls through the door grate without ceremony. It looks like lumpy, brown mush. Most definitely not the pick-me-up Spencer had in mind, and Buffy’s gone before she can press for any further developments.

Fantastic.

Spencer’s system needs nourishment after all these mental gymnastics, but there’s no way that congealed mass is going to do more good than harm. Even if it were possible to convince herself it’s mashed potatoes with gravy already mixed in, her mind’s far too tired for that leap of imagination right now. And she doesn’t want to think about how it greatly resembles the small pile of vomit still at the end of River’s bed. So, Spencer pushes on and turns another page.

There are more than few rants about various cellmates, and you’d think Jenny Schecter lived in a sorority the way she’s dropping names and gossip. Just when the details start getting interesting, a transfer is mentioned, then again and again a few pages later. Spencer can only assume Jenny kept getting passed around because nobody wanted to live with her. At the very least, she lived in cells 2, 14, 6, 18, 11, and finally 10.

Spencer turns the page and the tone shifts entirely. She discovers a series of rage-fueled drawings of Xs over faces and repeated tirades, like stepping inside someone’s mental breakdown. All work and no play did not make Jenny a dull girl, not at all. Spencer sits straight up and feasts her eyes on the delicious crazy before her. 

Another winter is passed, bleak and dark. Moments repeat, each as much without purpose as those before. Time here has no meaning without the fiery sun burning our eyes, burning our skin, burning us through from the outside. We forget who we are when we cannot feel a primal connection to our own world, cannot feel the grass between our toes and the worm-ridden soil caked on our hands. Without earth, we are no longer human. We are but flesh and hair and grime and spite, choking on our own insipidity.

Who needs lunch when Spencer has this overdramatic, demented space poetry to keep her going? She turns the page.

But I am connected to something primal. Something ancient. Inside me there is a beast lurking, waiting, hungry, pressing its claws against my surface to break through. It speaks to me in my dreams. Each morning I wonder if this will be its day of birth. If I will shed this skin of acquiescence and complacence and bring forth the manifestation of my rage. If my claws will finally rip the smugness from her lips. If my teeth will tear the pink linen to reveal a trembling, pathetic weakling, powerless in the dark of its own shadow, shrunken to nothingness without the sycophants and sheep at her side. The patrons of her “art” in the incarceration whorehouse will wake from their labored slumber and view Lucyfer in her true form: NOTHINGNESS.

“Jesus!” she says. It's...a lot. But then Spencer reads it again to be sure she saw it right.

…Lucy?!  Dr. Umbridge must’ve had a field day with this one.

Lucy’s batshit crazy, but she doesn’t seem that bad. Not Actual-Hell-Demon bad. “What did Lucy do to this girl?” Spencer wonders to herself and starts scanning the next paragraph. 

She can’t find any specifics on what transpired between them, but there’s plenty more that seems relevant. If Mack is the president of the We Love Lucy club, Jenny was the captain of team Die Lucy Die. All this time, Spencer thought she held a certain amount of animosity toward Lucy Fabray, but Jenny had her outdone by a country mile. It’s inspiring. And, to Spencer’s delight, it looks like Jenny pulled her same trick, infiltrating Play-Doh Funhouse under false pretenses. Or, really, Spencer pulled Jenny’s trick. The similarities between them keep piling up.

But why? Was Jenny doing recon on Lucy, too?

It seems so unfortunate that Spencer never got to meet this girl. She would’ve been great to interview. Quinn even said she wasn’t so bad after all. They could’ve been a bang-up team. Despite the obvious crazy, Spencer’s sorry Jenny died. 

But what’s more unfortunate, the frenzied writing doesn’t seem to reveal anything new about Lucy that Spencer doesn’t already know or believe, herself. Spencer’s even willing to blindly agree to Jenny’s claim that her Pussy writing class (name notwithstanding) was superior to anything involving arts and crafts.

She reads on, if only because she can’t seem to look away. Underneath a particularly antagonistic sketch of Lucy (with snakes for hair), Spencer comes across a passage that makes her blood runs cold.

Where would I be without my Elizabeth? My only trusted ally in this iron purgatory, my sole confidante and friend. She reads the blood-soaked words dripping from my fingers and shares my taste for vengeance. She will stand on my shoulder, towering over the slaughtered tatters of the fallen Hell queen, tickling with laughter and feasting upon her flesh. And we will rise to claim what is ours, reborn like Spring itself, stretching toward the sun with new life.

Spencer just stares.

Holy. Fucking. Crap.

And just like that, the killer spider theory is back in play. With wide eyes, she rereads those words, “feasting upon her flesh,” over and over. Jenny clearly has a flair for the dramatic, but Spencer can’t help but wonder how literal that bit might be. Sure, maybe Jenny’s just projecting her own feelings onto the little spider and misinterpreting a good listener for an ally. Either way, it seems Jenny’s convinced that Charlotte is capable of killing, and that’s enough for Spencer.

Casting this lens on the whole diary, Spencer looks back over the final string of web messages, and sure enough, a narrative begins to emerge:

STOP HER

QUEEN B

YES

MONDAY

COURAGE

TRUST ME

Spencer stares again with wide eyes.

Charlotte was going to help Jenny take out the queen bee, Lucy Fabray, in her very own Funhouse -- the prized Monday class.

Oh my god.

What was supposed to happen?  Did something happen? When was this? Why did I not hear about it?  Surely an attack on the Princess of Prison would’ve been hot gossip for weeks to come. Or at the very least, a fun story to tell a new inmate. Right?

Spencer folds down the page corner and makes a mental note to ask her cellmates when they’re done sleeping off their nausea. Dark Willow is bound to remember something. It’s a blessing that Spencer doesn’t have to rely on asking Mack – though, Mack wouldn’t have witnessed what went down, anyway, as she only joined the class because Jenny was out.

That gets Spencer’s mind digging back through her mental calendar to that first week…when she arrived on a Tuesday. As in, the day after Monday.

Spencer stops breathing as the realization hits her. She arrived here the day after Charlotte and Jenny tried killing Lucy. Maybe even the same day Jenny herself was killed.

It has to be.

Aphasia thought Spencer was Jenny when she walked into the cell. Surely, she wouldn’t have made that mistake if a week or more had passed.

Spencer’s chest tightens again at the thought. She was so thrown by the sheer absurdity of being in space prison, drugged and abandoned, she hadn’t realized just what she was stepping into that day. It was a new beginning for her, but it was hardly a fresh start for the others. Life had been going on there long before she arrived -- stories, trouble, problems. Murders. The air was still thick with whatever chaos came the day before, and Spencer had no real idea of what that meant. No fucking idea whatsoever. She was walking right into a horror movie, her cold bunk merely a freshly vacant grave.

And, even piecing this together, Spencer still has no details around Jenny’s death. That’s the most maddening part of all. Hours learning every superficial and demented thing about this girl, and Spencer’s not any closer to the truth. Saying Jenny was airlocked seems like such an easy cover-up for an act of violence, especially when the body's gone. Everyone hated her, so it could’ve been any of them. Maybe Lucy caught wind of the plan and dealt with Jenny herself…somehow. Maybe an angry mob of inmates got sick of her prima donna bullshit and beat her to a pulp. Maybe she drove her cellmates crazy and Mack caved her skull in with her spank paddle. Maybe what's left of Jenny is sitting in a prison toilet bowl nearby. Really, it could be anyone or anything, and Spencer’s more afraid now than ever. Because, regardless of how Jenny died, there’s still a killer on the loose, and no one is safe.

There aren’t many resources at the prisoners' disposal (well, other than Aphasia, apparently), so when the journal ends, Spencer spends a few minutes working down her list of potential weapons and trying to imagine how Jenny might’ve gone after Lucy. It’s quite a pleasant daydream, all told. Maybe Jenny wanted to stab Lucy to death with popsicle sticks or glue her airways shut or pour containers of glitter down her throat. Anything could’ve gone down that day. There was clearly a plan in place. Did it just go wrong?

TRUST ME

The last two words in the journal are hardly the resolution and tidy ending Spencer wants. Hopefully they brought Jenny more comfort than they’re bringing her right now. Though, maybe trusting Charlotte was Jenny’s final and fatal mistake.

The gears in Spencer’s head turn furiously once again, and suddenly her eyes go wide. Maybe Charlotte -- goddamnit, ELIZABETH -- was actually in league with Lucy the whole time. Maybe the spider’s making her way around the prison and talking to everyone, not just Jenny (and me). Assuming Lucy was here before Jenny, who’s to say the spider didn’t befriend her first?

Spencer flashes back to one of Charlotte’s very first messages.

MY PLAYGROUND

Holy shit.

The eight-legged monster could have been going back and forth between cells, passing along messages to Lucy about how much Jenny hated her. Maybe she was infiltrating Jenny’s bunk and faking adoration, luring her into thinking she was her friend, just like Jenny did to Lucy in class! Maybe Elizabeth killed Stacey Merkin to build Jenny’s trust, but then double-crossed Jenny on Lucy’s command.

Oh, this is rich. It’s also insane. But what a story if it's true.

What kind of endgame does Lucy have, then, Spencer wonders. Was this all just to fuck with Jenny’s head somehow? Lucy did kill thirty-seven people with a chainsaw, by her own admission. Maybe her thirst for blood didn’t end there, but she just can’t continue her killing spree behind bars. So, she enlists a ninja like Elizabeth to do her dirty work, and together they take out Stacey, Aeryn, Vause, and now Paulie.

No wonder Lucy wouldn’t kill the spider in the bathroom the other day. Friend to animals, my ass. She just didn’t want to lose her pet serial killer. The same one who took out her Enemy Number One: Jenny Schecter.

The more Spencer thinks about it, the more it makes sense, and the more she believes it.

It’s starting to feel like Survivor up here, with girls getting voted off the island every Shark Week. Only, Spencer doubts there’s a million dollars waiting for her at the end, should she survive, and Lucy’s the only one voting. Spencer could really use an immunity idol right about now. Or a gun.

Sue and the guards might really be in the dark about this after all, she thinks. Maybe they know something is going on but aren’t sure what. Even if they believed Spencer’s spider theory for a minute, they can't admit it. Any apparent shift of power, however slight, practically begs for a mutiny. Maybe they’re scrambling to identify the owner of the killer spider so they can throw her in Solitary or something. Spencer can only hope. But then, if she’s wrong about this, she’d better watch out or she’ll be the one going into Solitary.

TRUST ME

With a chill of fear, Spencer slams the journal shut and tosses it away like it’s carrying a deadly disease. It hits the floor with a loud smack, but fortunately her cellmates don't stir. Spencer's pulse is racing, and she places a hand on the cold wall, looking around to ground herself in reality and regain control of the moment.

The creepy-ass diary feels like both a blessing and a curse. Spencer’s getting three new questions for every answer, just like that stupid Lost marathon Hanna made her sit through in middle school. But in her gut, she knows that Lucy Fabray is involved in this craziness, somehow, some way.

Spencer looks over at Paulie’s empty bed and wonders what she or Aeryn Sun or Alex Vause ever did to cross her. Maybe they just happened to get in Lucy’s way, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe they earned it.

A jolt shoots down Spencer’s spine, hit by the terrifying realization that now, after the bathroom incident, she’s probably on Lucy’s shit list (hit list?), too. Yes, it was mostly Quinn doing the antagonizing, but Spencer certainly didn’t help. And considering the only other person who’s known to converse with Elizabeth the spider is now dead, Spencer’s not putting that in her plus column. If her theory stands, she could easily be Lucy’s next target. She just keeps giving Lucy reasons.

But if she’s not at the top of the list, then that means Quinn probably is, and that makes Spencer’s heart stop.

She looks around the cell again, listening to the thick, still silence hanging in the air. If Lucy wanted to get to her, she certainly proved last night that she can. Maybe Paulie was just a warning shot. A message. It certainly shows Spencer how vulnerable they are behind these bars.

There’s nowhere to hide.

But – lesson #71 of staying alive in Rosewood: Hide in plain sight. Spencer outlived a psychotic fuck coming after her for two years, and this isn’t any different. Well, okay, it’s completely different, but she can’t let that shake her confidence. Spencer Hastings didn’t come this far just to be taken down by a goddamn art hippie and a thing the size of her fingernail. At least, that’s what she’s telling herself.

If only Emily, Aria, and Hanna were here. They’d know what to do. Spencer closes her eyes and mentally sends out the SOS text. It’d feel stupid if she weren’t so completely and utterly scared.

River and Dark Willow have somehow slept through this entire day of revelation and near-mental-breakdown like nothing’s happened. But really, everything has changed. Spencer can’t go back to pretending nothing’s going on. She can’t just laugh and joke with her new friends about what ice cream they miss most and what politicians they hope are dead by the time their sentences end. Camaraderie or not, she can’t stay here. Spencer Hastings isn’t just going to sit around and wait to die.

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Climbing down from her bunk, she picks the journal off the floor and tucks it under the bra strap against her back. The lunch is still sitting cold and discolored. Her cellmate is still missing. Her life is still in danger. Everything is still terrible.

Spencer takes a deep breath, and bangs on the bars five times as loudly as she can. Fortunately, Dark Willow’s ensuing fireball misses her head by several feet.

****************

 

It doesn’t take much acting on her part to play the role of Still Freaked Out and Panicking Cellmate of the Disappeared Girl when Buffy appears. As Spencer passes through the cell block, each whispering voice could be a new rumor train starting, given how many check-ups she's had lately, but she can’t worry about that now.

The guard ushers her through the vault door and past the Infirmary, where one of the doctors is quietly discussing a chart with a beautiful, curly-blonde woman in a lab coat Spencer’s never seen before. They close the door hurriedly as Spencer passes, like she’s not supposed to see them, but it feels a bit abrupt. This place seems to have no shortage of attractive blonde doctors, that’s for sure. Spencer can’t help but assume this woman’s named Lewis-Burke-Robbins, too. Why wouldn’t she be?

Continuing around the curved corridor, Spencer finds herself stepping into Dr. Umbridge’s office once more. It’s exactly as she remembers it, kittens and pink and lace and ugh, but she’s going to have to suck it up, because her life -- and Quinn’s -- might depend on how this conversation goes.

The room is empty, aside from the cat snoozing in front of the fire, so Spencer takes a moment to scan over the items meticulously arranged atop the mahogany desk. Her eye catches sight of a manila folder labeled Ripley, Ellen, with an enormous, red DANGEROUS stamp covering much of it. Spencer’s pretty sure she hasn’t met or heard that name at any point during her time here, and she’s starting to feel like that’s a good thing. Still, curiosity gets the better of her. Even a picture would let her know who to avoid. She reaches out to flick open the top cover, but before she can, a toilet flushes in the adjoining room, and Spencer scrambles to replace the folder as she found it.

Dr. Umbridge is humming some off-tune melody as she steps into the room, wiping her hands. “Ah!” she says upon seeing Spencer, who’s sitting like someone shoved a broom straight up her ass. “Miss Hastings. Pleasure to see you again. Is everything all right with your new cellmates?”

Spencer may have turned on the waterworks for Buffy, but she’s not pulling any punches here. “Well, Paulie’s dead.”

Dr. Umbridge doesn’t look surprised or aghast, exactly, but her eyes do widen a bit at the news. “And how does that make you feel?” she asks, tilting her head to one side.

Spencer blinks as her eyebrows raise. "How do I feel?  I feel like this is seriously messed up! I feel like my life is in danger!"

“Grief has many stages," Dr. Umbridge starts, "and it’s --”

“I want a transfer.” It’s a demand.

“But dear, you’ve barely just settled into your new home! Why don’t you give it some time --”

“I’m not safe there!” Spencer protests angrily. She has to navigate this point without going into the spider business, or she’ll never get her way. “Girls are disappearing into thin air.”

That seems to pique Umbridge’s interest like nothing Spencer’s said before. “Really, now? Tell me more.”

“Uh…” Spencer didn’t have anything to follow that. “They were here and now they’re not?”

“But surely they must have gone somewhere. People don’t just vanish into nothing.”

Yes, they go into a little spider belly. Or possibly into the space mafia. Can we get back on track here?

“Tell me, Spencer,” Umbridge continues, “Have you ever seen someone disappear into thin air, as you say? Right in front of you?”

This sets off warning bells -- Something’s not right. Did this conversation just become about Hermione? And immediately, Spencer remembers what Aphasia told her – Don’t trust Umbridge. “Just what everyone else has seen, I guess. In the Mess Hall.”

Umbridge leans forward a bit, hands folded in front of her, with the slightest trace of a grin. It’s unnerving. “You mean Miss Granger.”

“Who?”

“Hermione. Granger,” Umbridge repeats. “She seems to have a way of...slipping through the bars, so to speak.”

Spencer’s heart is pounding, torn between wanting to know more about all this and not wanting to betray one of the only friends she has here. Aphasia’s never given Spencer a reason not to trust her. The least she can do is return that favor. “I really don’t know anything about that.”

“Don’t you?” Umbridge asks sweetly.

“No,” Spencer says. She’s more than a little annoyed. “If I knew where girls were going, I wouldn’t have come to you in the first place to ask what was going on.”

“Well,” Umbridge offers, “don’t you think it’s possible that we’re closer to the truth than you realize? Tell me – have you ever suspected Miss Granger of taking any of your personal property?”

“I --” Spencer pauses abruptly at the question. From what she’s seen, Hermione is no thief, but her girlfriend most certainly is. “No. But then, I don’t really have any personal property to take.”

Umbridge huffs almost imperceptibly. “How very lucky for you.” She leans back in her chair and moves her hands to slide down the armrests and grip tightly. “Or perhaps Miss Granger is taking your friends outside these walls.”

Spencer swallows around the lump in her throat. It looks like she’s not the only one with this theory. But if Hermione’s behind this and the authorities haven’t figured out how, Spencer’s not about to help them get any closer to stopping her. She wants a way out as much as the next person. “Miss Umbridge,” she begins.

“Doctor.”

Spencer flinches. “Dr. Umbridge.” She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. If she can’t land this argument, she might blow everything. “I don’t know this Hermione girl, I swear. I’ve seen her, but I’ve never spoken to her. You know I don’t have any friends. That’s why you moved me in the first place! So, no, I don’t know if she’s taking people out of here. I don’t even know how that could be possible. Can you not see how scared I am? I’m terrified. And I thought it was your job to help fix that.”

It’s not what the good doctor wants to hear, but she isn’t swallowing Spencer whole, so that’s something. “I’m listening.”

“Something happened to Paulie, something terrible while she was sleeping in a locked cell, and I don’t want to be next. I have rights, and I need to feel safe here.” She takes another breath. “I want a transfer. Please.” She waits a beat before adding, “to Lucy Fabray’s cell.”

The expression on Dr. Umbridge’s face changes completely, shifting into equal parts intrigue and amusement.

Bingo.

The fire crackles loudly behind them, but Dr. Umbridge doesn’t even blink. “And why would I approve such a request?”

“For my protection," Spencer says plainly. "And because I think I could learn more from her than anyone else in here.”

“Learn what, exactly?”

Papier-mâché?  Chainsaw maintenance?  Mafia management?  Fingerbanging?

Spencer blinks again to clear all those thoughts. “Survival.”

Dr. Umbridge purses her lips and narrows her eyes while she carefully considers the proposal. After what feels like an entire minute of beady-eyed scrutiny, she pushes a button on her intercom and says, “Miss Summers, please prepare Miss Hastings for immediate transfer.”

Spencer bites back a smile as she stands and thanks her.

Step one, successHere’s hoping I survive step two.

Chapter Text

It's funny – Spencer's passed this room every day since she arrived over a month ago, but it looks different now that she's stepping inside it for the first time. Cell 1, on the very far end of the block, is the closest to the showers and Mess Hall, meaning it's also the quietest, as it’s separated from the rest of the population. But the silence doesn't make Spencer feel any safer as she's pushed inside.

The cell looks the same as the rest, except for how the entire back wall is tiled from floor to ceiling in fingerpaintings -- white rectangle pages covered in every color of the rainbow, each with a different...animal? Monster? Alien? Spencer can't identify any on sight, but maybe she just needs to be closer. Or five. Or drunk. A drunk five-year-old would certainly have some opinions on these masterpieces.

She's becoming all too familiar with this New Kid at School feeling, but at least this time she knew exactly what she was getting into. You've got to be a special kind of crazy to volunteer for the lion's den. 

Faith rolls over on the top right bunk, looking at Spencer like something she just found on the bottom of her shoe. “We babysitting now?” 

“New roomie,” Buffy says from the other side of the bars. She adds, “Play nice,” in a tone that sounds much more sexual than Spencer's okay with.

“No, really,” Santana says from the bottom-left bed. “Is this Sue's idea of a joke? Because I'm not laughing.”

“Afraid not,” Spencer replies, stepping cautiously toward the empty bunk above Santana. She is sure to keep her distance by using the end frame to pull herself up, even though it's harder that way. Spencer takes off her shoes but leaves them at the foot of her bed, not wanting to risk losing any of her precious little property. Her page of notes is tucked into her sock, along with her beloved toothbrush -- and they both scratch like hell -- but she can tolerate it while she's the center of attention.

Lucy sits up on the bunk under Faith’s and says kindly, “Now, now, girls, let's not be rude.”

Spencer's got a clear line of sight from this vantage point. There was a one-in-three chance they'd be sharing a side, which would've made it much trickier to keep watch on her target. But this feels like a win already. From here, she can see everything and every move that Lucy makes. Though, it's not lost on Spencer that it's the same angle Quinn had on her, back in cell 10.

Focus.

“If she's here,” Lucy continues, “there must be a good reason for it.”

Faith and Lucy stare at Spencer like they're waiting for her to answer, but Spencer doesn't know what to say. Suddenly, she feels Santana's foot kick the frame under her. “Hey!”

“Spill it,” Santana says.

“I don't know! I'm just here!” Spencer tries to shift her body to the edge of the bed, back against the wall, to avoid any further attacks from below.

“We don’t get new cellmates,” Faith says like Spencer’s an idiot. “It’s not like they’re out of cold beds. And we don't know you. Doesn't add up.”

“Why's it such a big deal?” Spencer asks. There's no way to make the question sound as innocent as she wants it to be, so she adds, “It's not like I'm some kind of spy or something.”

OH GOD. WHY DID I SAY THAT?

ABORT, ABORT.

I'M A FUCKING MORON.

But the others don't seem fazed. Santana huffs at the idea like it's meant to be funny. Lucy gets off her bed and walks toward Spencer, locking eye contact as she moves. “Do you play nicely with others, Spencer?”

She blinks, a bit thrown by the question. Is Lucy threatening her? Jeez, that didn't take long. “Um. Yes?”

Lucy breaks her gaze and turns to walk toward the back of the cell, admiring her wall of work. “That's too bad,” she says.

This is just getting weirder by the minute. “Why?”

Circling back, Lucy stops in front of a painting with far too much red on it. From where Spencer's sitting, she can just make out the faint outline of a person among the pools of what must be blood. Lucy keeps her eyes on the painting as she speaks but seems to intentionally position her body so it doesn't block Spencer's view of it. “I was hoping from now on, you'd only play with us.” And in a flash, Lucy's demeanor changes. She turns to Spencer, and the kind smile dissolves into a terrifying glower.

Spencer's blood runs cold. “Uh...sure.” She's too scared to say anything else and shifts uncomfortably on the bed, curling up into a ball without even realizing it.

And just like that, Lucy shifts back into a beaming, saintly smile and says, “Wonderful! I'm glad that's settled. Welcome, Spencer. You're one of us now.”

Spencer forces a smile and tries to look appreciative, but it's hard when you've been adopted by a Satanic cult.

****************

It doesn't take long for the adrenaline rush of fear to fade as Spencer settles into these surroundings. It turns out this cell is just as boring as the others, if not more. Small talk only lasts so long, and she doesn’t want to push too hard for information this early on. Prison topics feel fairly safe, but all she really learns is that Santana’s knitting class is anything but, as they’re not given anything sharp to use and their stash of yarn disappeared months ago. So, it’s more just a place to make out with each other for an hour. Which, no thank you. Right now anything that reminds her of Quinn is just frustrating, so Spencer shuts down her own conversation upon hearing Santana’s also from Ohio. Enough is enough.

Five hours into her new home and it’s back to staring at the ceiling and counting screws in the metal plates. She realizes how much she took Aphasia for granted. Crazy and unpredictable as her hoarding was, it certainly gave them ways to pass the time. Spencer would kill for something to do right now. A tennis ball or some building blocks. A rubber band. Dental floss. Pencil sharpening. Window washing. Anything remotely constructive. She’s almost bored enough to try fingerpainting. Almost.

Raven comes by and trades Lucy a small sealed can for some glue and pipe cleaners from her craft supplies. Lucy hands the vodka off to Faith right away without a glance at Spencer. Not that she wanted it anyway. Though, getting drunk would at least be something to do.

She’s already read Jenny Schecter’s journal cover to cover three times, and the inside of that girl’s mind is a terrifying place, Spencer’s decided. She’s gone through and tried to align the timeline of the four disappearances with what she knows about Hermione, but there just isn’t enough information to gain traction. Besides, she’s only come and gone twice – not four times – and never left during Shark Week, which is when the girls go. So, yeah. If Hermione’s pulling that off somehow, she’s got Spencer stumped and her brain hurts just thinking about it. She wants to believe Umbridge. It’s certainly the most appealing theory of them all, what with it not involving flesh-eating monsters, but it’s not any more likely than the rest right now.

Spencer needs something new to think about. Something not about death. Oh, what she wouldn’t give for one of Quinn’s weird romance novels right --

“Buffy!” A high-pitched voice pierces the air from across the cell. Spencer turns over to find a most frightening sight: Faith is lying on her bed, bare feet crossed, probably drunk, hands raised and talking to each other. With sock puppets. “If you're going to lesbian with anyone, you should lesbian with me!  Your super-duper gay not-at-all-out-of-nowhere friend, Willow!”

Spencer's eyes widen in fear.

“But Willow,” Faith talks back with her other hand, using a very low and grumbly voice, “this stake up my ass means I would never even consider something so amazing as banging a woman.”

What is happening right now?

“You're really missing out.” – Faith's back to the super high voice – “Ladies surrrre are delicious. You should think about getting it on with that gorgeous evil slayer. I hear she's an absolute Viking in the sack.”

“Okay,” Santana's voice cuts in, “Even I think this is creepy.”

Thank you, Spencer thinks.

“If you want Buffy,” Lucy says from below, not looking up from the green rolls of Play-Doh she's molding, “I'm sure something can be arranged.” Her words are thick with suggestion, and Spencer wonders if Lucy has as much pull over the guards in here as she does the other inmates.

“Show her your little puppet show,” mocks Santana, “I can already hear her panties hitting the floor. Oh wait, no -- just your pathetic desperation.”

Faith makes a face at her, then yanks the socks off to put them back where they belong. “Screw you.”

“Wash your hands first,” Santana retorts and roughly adjusts her position, rocking the bunk under Spencer.

“Faith is working out her feelings in healthy ways,” Lucy reminds Santana. “You know I enjoy roleplay. Sometimes there are things we can only say when we're not ourselves.”

“It's creepy,” Santana repeats.

Lucy looks up at Spencer now. “Do you have anything you need to say?” The words attack her, thick with insinuation, though Spencer has no idea what Lucy’s implying. “I'd be happy to help you find your words. I'm a very good teacher.”

The last thing Spencer wants to do is let this psychopath inside her head. There's far too much in there that needs to be said. She doesn't know where she could begin. Okay, that's a lie. But she can't imagine solving all her communication problems with Quinn by putting her damn socks on her hands, and Spencer will eat them before she lets her cellmates know anything about her personal life.

The truth is, of course, Spencer does have so very much to say to Quinn with her hands. Just not like that.

****************

The next day, Saturday, Spencer’s on the toilet when she sees Santana reach under her mattress and discreetly pull out what looks like a deck of cards. “Oh, thank god.” A never-ending round of War sounds delightfully tedious right now, even with this sparring partner.

“Nosy, much?” Santana retorts, but then Lucy coughs suggestively. Santana looks over with a glare. “What?”

“Maybe you have some wisdom for our new friend.”

Based on what Spencer's learned about Santana thus far, she can't imagine what pearls of strategy this deviant criminal is withholding. It’s not like Spencer doesn’t know how to shoot the moon; Santana’s hardly going to school her in Hearts. Maybe they want to play Spades in teams?

Santana and Lucy stare each other down for what feels like forever before Santana finally caves. “Ugh, fine. Come on, woodland creature.” Scooting over on the bed, Santana turns her back to the cell door and motions for Spencer to sit across from her on the bunk, anxious to get it over with.

Spencer finishes her business and wipes her rinsed hands on her uniform, which is regrettably the best she can do. It seems rude to handle Santana's cards like this, but whatever. Everything here is filthy, anyway.

She ducks under the frame and sits down, right leg bent on the bed, and waits for Santana to deal the cards. Spencer's scared to ask what game they're going to play, and it doesn't really matter anyway, so long as it passes the time and she makes it out with all limbs intact.

Santana lays four cards face up between them and just stares for a minute, thinking.

“What are we playing?” Spencer hasn't been dealt any cards and doesn't know what to do.

Santana keeps looking down at the queen, 5, 7, and 10. She turns a new card over from the deck, placing an 8 of diamonds on top of the black queen. “This is pretty sad.” She then turns over a black 9 on top of the 5. “Oh, wow,” she laughs at a joke that only she is in on. Santana looks up at Spencer like she can't believe what she just learned.

“What?!” Spencer's finding all of this far less funny. “Are you going to tell me the rules or not?”

“It isn't a game,” Lucy cuts in. “She's reading your cards.”

Even if Spencer believed in that wishy-washy Tarot crap, there's no way she'd be buying it here, like this. “You can't do that with these.”

“How else am I supposed to do it?” Santana asks with equal parts sincerity and condescension. “It's not my fault your cards are shit.”

“You shuffled.”

Santana holds up a hand and makes a silencing motion. “My psychic Mexican third eye is never wrong.”

Spencer blinks. “That’s not a thing.”

“This right here,” Santana says, pointing to the 9 of clubs she just laid down, “means you're really bad in bed.”

“I am not!” Spencer spits back, looking around for back-up and finding only a pity face from Lucy. Faith doesn't even bother to muffle her laugh.

“And this one here” – Santana points to the 8 on the queen – “means you love getting fisted, but whatever, we already knew that.”

Spencer's mouth falls open and she immediately turns to Lucy. “Yes, THANKS SO MUCH FOR THAT.”

“I like stories,” Lucy shrugs, without a shred of guilt.

Santana still seems half bored but goes with it. “Let's see what other interesting tidbits we can learn about our new playmate...” She turns a red King. “Your favorite food is bologna? Ew.”

“What? No, it isn't.”

But Santana's not listening. She flips a 10 onto the 7. “You can't swim?”

“Of course I can swim.”

The jack of diamonds. “You're allergic to maple syrup? How is Maple Tits allergic to syrup?” Santana frowns. “That's like being allergic to breakfast.

Spencer’s losing patience. “I’m not --”

Faith interjects, “I banged this girl once who was allergic to eggs. Can’t even be near 'em. Weird, right? Then once I was face-plowing her outside during the church Easter Egg Hunt, and there was this pink one we didn’t see right by where she was lying down, and her face got all swollen and bloated --”

“I'M NOT ALLERGIC TO MAPLE SYRUP.”

But then Santana flips up the 3 of spades, and her eyes go wide. She gasps and looks up, her demeanor suddenly shifted from disdain to pure delight as she laughs. “Well played, Hastings, well played. I think I'm finally not bored with you. I mean, it's a total cliché, but still. Didn't think you had it in you. So to speak.”

Spencer's looking back and forth from the card to Santana's face, trying to figure out what in the world she could be alluding to. “What?” she and Faith say simultaneously.

“She fucked her English teacher,” Santana says to Faith matter-of-factly.

"No, I didn't!” But considering her best friend did, this is getting way too close for comfort now.

Lucy looks over with an expression of confusion and concern. “Weren't you quite young when you learned English?”

...Huh?

“Okay,” Spencer says, grabbing the deck out of Santana's hand. “New game.” She clears away the cards and deals four new ones: a 2, 9, ace, and another jack. She turns a red 3 onto the jack and exclaims, “Aha! I knew it!” God only knows what she's about to say.

Santana leans back against the wall with her arms crossed, looking thoroughly bored again. “Enlighten me.”

“You have...a poor relationship with your mother!” Spencer improvises quite pathetically. “And you think your father never loved you!”

“Nice try, Dr. Phil. Keep fishing in that desert.”

Spencer turns over a 6 on top of the ace and tries to think of something interesting to say. Making things up as you go is something she used to be good at. “You turned to crime because you were a poor student, ...and secretly you were jealous of all the smarter people around you, so you retaliated!”

Santana looks at Lucy and says casually, “Could you ask Buffy to bring me a new sheet? My bed suddenly seems to have a giant pile of bullshit on it.”

But, no, Spencer's not going to be the laughing stock of this cell too. Not when she's worked so hard to get here. “AND THIS!” she shouts, holding up the next card for Santana to see before realizing she doesn't even know what the hell it is. Grabbing a quick glance, Spencer continues screaming, fire in her eyes, “THE FOUR OF HEARTS MEANS WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN HERE.”

A silence hangs over them for a moment as the echo resonates, but then Santana simply arches an eyebrow and says, “You really suck at this.”

Spencer's breathing hard, pulse pounding in her ears, and she can't believe how calm the rest of them are. Did they not hear what she said?

“Four of hearts?” Faith asks suggestively. “Mmm, even I know what that card means.”

Uh oh.

Chapter Text

Spencer’s little tarot reading ended with more questions than answers. Whatever the girls have in store for her – public humiliation, water torture, ritual sacrifice – they're drawing it out and making her wait. For four excruciatingly long days now she's jumped at every word spoken to her and napped with one eye open. Not knowing what they’re planning is much worse than whatever they’ll eventually do. Probably.

It’s late on Wednesday night. The cards are still stowed away and cell 10’s well out of hearing range, so Spencer’s considering it a double win. She’s quite happy to not be the center of attention. Faith and Santana are busy playing what Spencer can only interpret as some cruder version of “Hot or Not.” It seems to consist solely of whether or not they would go down on particular inmates. Lucy's working on a fingerpainting masterpiece in the back of the cell, so Santana is lying on Lucy's bunk for a change of scenery. Spencer tries to ignore the conversation, but there's just nothing else to distract her. She is dragged against her will down the entire prison roster on a wild and crude cunnilingus adventure.

“Shay,” Faith offers.

“Oh, definitely.” Santana hmms in approval of her decision. “Firefighters have that nice, smoked flavor.” Faith laughs, and Santana grins as she presents her offering. “The good doc.”

“Mmm, I can’t resist the blondes,” Faith says. “You know that.” She’s lost in her thoughts for a moment before volleying back to Santana, “Okay -- Corky.”

“Butch girls do taste the sweetest,” Santana says with a grin. She holds up a warning finger as her expression changes in a flash. “But not her raspy slut girlfriend who throws herself at all the new inmates. No me gusta. Get some standards.”

Spencer doesn't want to think about the fact that she's been one of those new inmates. Instead, she laughs quietly to herself at how Santana has no place to throw stones. They’ve been playing this game for half an hour now and Spencer’s only heard two “no” votes from Santana, assuming Violet counts. (Amusingly, the other was Mack because, “She'd probably taste like that bullshit wine she makes.” Spencer doesn't disagree.) Unless she's lost count, Spencer thinks there are thirty-six women in this prison her bunkmate would bury her face in.

Wow. Santana’s kind of a ho.

“Shaw,” Santana offers to Faith.

“Roger that,” Faith grins. “She’s mean. I like it.” She shifts on the bed and quickly says, “Ooh, speaking of blondes, Moriarty.”

“Move her in here and see how long she lasts,” Santana says dangerously. “Please.”

It takes Spencer a minute to remember who that is -- one of Shaw’s cellmates two doors down. Strikingly beautiful, though Spencer’s never been close enough for a conversation. The other cellmate is Shaw’s girlfriend…Plant or Leaf or something like that. Everyone in prison has such weird names.

Faith laughs, and they settle into a natural silence for a minute or so, considering their next selections. Suddenly, a voice carries over from next door. “I’m blonde too, you know! Well, kind of.”

Santana turns around and calls into the corridor, “Heroin-dusted tips don't count.” She settles back into her bunk and inspects her nails. “Nosy bitch.”

“Nicky’s alright,” Faith says in her defense.

But then a different loud voice comes from next door. “I’LL fuck you so hard, I’ll turn you blonde. Does that count?”

Santana shouts back -- eyes on Spencer, putting on a show -- “Hey Spencer, d’you know we call her ‘Boo’ because her Hairy Manilow is so terrifying, it literally scares girls to death?”

Spencer isn’t sure what’s worse, the term “Hairy Manilow” or being pulled into this neighbors’ quarrel. She’s trying to remember who all’s even over there -- Nichols and Big Boo, both of whom Spencer’s seen in classes but not spoken to, and Morello, who never shuts up. There’s also that Johanna girl who just looks sad all the time. Spencer heard people talking about her after Katniss left, but she doesn’t know the story there. Nor does she care to, really.

“Why don’t you come see for yourself?”  Boo counters.

“Fuck off,” Santana says loudly. She turns back Lucy and asks, “Can we kill them?”

Without looking up from her painting, Lucy replies, “Not today.”

Spencer has no idea just how much of a joke any of that is.

The game seems to have come to a halt, but then Faith takes another turn. “I assume your position on Quinn is unchanged.”

Santana waves her hand and says proudly, “Been there, done that, would eat again.”

Well, that sure gets Spencer’s attention – and Lucy's too, though she simply glares and then goes back to her art. But Spencer feels like she's been slapped in the face. If the game continues, she's not hearing a thing because Santana's seven words are just repeating on loop in her head.

Why did Quinn never mention a history with Santana? Was Santana Quinn’s conquest before her? Is that all Spencer is to Quinn now, another prison fling? Or maybe it all happened before they even came to prison. And here Spencer thought it was all just a coincidence that they were both from Ohio. What a fucking idiot.

Ugh, feelings.

GAY feelings.

Her head hurts. And she’s been reminded how gross she thinks the expression “eat out” is. But now that she's let her mind go there, Spencer can’t shake the thought of Santana’s face buried between Quinn’s legs, looking up occasionally to grin and run her deft tongue slowly along the soft skin as Quinn’s back arches into her. Santana's fingers digging into Quinn's hipbones as she pulls herself closer, deeper into the warmth, tasting her...It's not fair. Spencer hasn’t gotten to do that, and it’s been killing her. Knowing now that her crass -- What did Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins call it? “Aggressively promiscuous”? -- cellmate has already been where she so badly wants to go…

Spencer doesn’t want to be in this cell anymore.

“Okay, okay, hang on,” Faith says, like she’s got a good one next. A dramatic pause. “Old Maid Rip.”

Who?

Santana’s hand is up in the air, as if to push away the very image itself as she cringes. “Fuck me. Okay, game over. That is disgusting.”

“Since when do you not like older women?” Faith jests.

“When they don’t shower more than once a fucking year.”

Spencer breaks her silence now, welcoming the change of topic. “Wait, what?”

“You don’t know about Ripley?” says Faith, looking over.

“This chick has some major hygiene issues,” says Santana. “Pretty sure her uniform is its own fungal colony.”

Spencer shifts uncomfortably, still panty-less and now feeling much grosser about it. “Why? What’s her deal?”

“She’s been in Solitary longer than you've been alive, kid,” Faith says, jumping down and lowering herself to the ground for some exercise.

“They only let her out once a year as a warning to the rest of us,” Santana says. “She’s like the Ghost of Christmas Please-Bathe.”

Faith laughs heartily, then holds out her hands like she’s framing a picture for Spencer. “Imagine a holiday slasher film: Fun and death for the whole family!”

Santana starts singing, “You better not shout, you better not cry, you better watch out ‘cause you’re gonna die…” Faith’s cracking up, but Spencer’s the furthest thing from amused.

“She kills people? In here?” And that’s when Spencer places the name.

Ripley, Ellen.

The DANGEROUS file in Umbridge’s office.

Terrific. She wonders how many different things can be killing inmates in this prison, all at the same time.

“Surviving Christmas is kind of an extreme sport around here,” says Faith in between one-armed push-ups. “Like, ho ho ho, oops, you’re dead.”

Spencer’s eyes go even wider. “Quinn said something once about people fighting at Christmas, but I thought it was over gifts or something.” It sounds even stupider when she says it out loud, so Spencer quickly adds, “Or she was kidding.”

Santana stretches out on her bed like a cat in the sun. “Sorry, chica. The only gift you get in here is to keep breathing.” 

It’s just not making sense. “If they know who’s doing the killing, why don’t they stop her?" Spencer asks. "Sue knows about this, right?”

Faith grins devilishly and replies, “Who do you think’s giving the kill order?”

The blood drains from Spencer’s face.

“Fall in line and eat your Wheaties, Fistings,” Santana says, examining her fingernails. “Mommy’s always watching. You don’t want to be on the Naughty list this year.”

Given the fact that she’s already bristled Sue in her short time here, Spencer’s quite glad it’s only April. At least, she thinks it is. Chances are someone else will fuck up more than she has between now and then. Or she’ll get eaten by a killer spider first.

The wheels in Spencer’s brain are turning frantically. She’d been so focused on the pattern emerging since her arrival -- the Shark Week disappearances -- that she didn’t realize there were other patterns already in place. Like Santa Claus bringing murder each year to the bad little girls in space prison. It sounds too weird to be true, just like Santa himself.

“Who was it last year?” Spencer asks.

“Kennedy," Faith says. "I hated that bitch.”

What kind of girl’s name is Kennedy?

“No, that was the year before,” Santana says. “I specifically remember it was Quinn’s first Christmas, and Dark Willow wigged out and skinned everyone’s corn dogs, and this one chunk of bread flew right in her eye. Comedy gold.”

Quinn…

“Right, right. Then the year before that was Carmilla,” Faith says.

“Yep.”

“Carmilla?” Spencer asks with a look of disbelief. “You knew someone named Carmilla?” She's had it up to here with these names.

They just ignore her. Faith says to Santana, “And Xena was the year before that. That’s right.”

“XENA?” Spencer cries. “Are you not hearing yourselves?”

“Hey, Harvard,” Santana says. “How about dialing down the bitch-o-meter? Ye who are named after mall stores do not get to speak.” That’s the funniest thing Faith’s heard all day.

Rolling her eyes, Spencer tries to collect herself. If there’s a connection between Ripley and the string of disappearances, she’ll need to find out who was targeted four months ago. Right now the thought of a sixth murder in her case file is --

“You know, I think I missed her this year,” Santana says wistfully to Faith. “I enjoy a good thinning of the herd as much as the next bitch. As long as it’s not me,” she shrugs.

Lucy hums in agreement from the far side of the cell, dabbing at a new color of paint. Spencer had almost forgotten she was even in here.

Faith grunts through another push-up and shakes her head in regret. “Katniss and I had this perfect hiding spot worked out.”

Katniss can kiss my ass, Spencer thinks. But, hang on -- “Wait, so, they didn’t let Ripley out?” Now she's confused again. “Nobody died. That’s good, right?”

Santana shrugs. “Guess they finally got tired of the same old routine,” she says, propping her feet up on the bed frame.

“Holiday entertainment just isn’t what it used to be,” Faith sighs.

“True that.” The cell is quiet for a moment before Santana offers a new theory. “Maybe she finally rotted to death down in Solitary.”

“I thought I smelled something nasty at dinner the other day,” Faith quips as she climbs back up to her bunk.

“Tu madre.”

“Oh, you're eating my dead mother now?” Faith says playfully. “You should be so lucky.”

“Speaking of,” Santana prompts, and the girls laugh and resume their original game as Santana gives Starbuck two enthusiastic thumbs up. Spencer has a hundred more questions about the Ripley situation, but maybe if there was more to know, her cellmates would’ve said so. They don’t seem too concerned, so Spencer doesn't want to be, either. This place just continues to confound her. But if she’s in for another three hours of sex conversation, Spencer’s just going to bed. She learned to tune out the sound of Quinn’s spanking, and she can meditate through this, too.

“What about her little ex-girlfriend Kat?” Faith says, picking at a loose thread on her uniform.

Santana gives a psshh and waves her hand. “I don’t even know why she’s in here. One small drug deal or something? Please. My abuela is scarier than that runt.”

Against her better judgment, Spencer rolls back over in her bunk to face them. Other than the gang in cell 10, this is the first she’s heard of inmates not being murderers. Right now, any glimmer of hope that this place isn’t all terrible is a rabbit hole worth exploring. “Kat didn’t kill anyone?”

“Her?” Faith sneers.

They both laugh again, and Santana says, “Yeah, she’s a killer, and I’m Ronald McDonald.”

“You would be a clown,” Faith mutters, amused.

“So, what’s she doing up here?” Spencer asks.

“Ding, ding, that’s the million-dollar question,” says Santana.

Spencer’s mind flashes to Quinn, who was more than anything just an accessory to her cellmates’ crimes. Well, okay, hacking a bank is technically Not Good, but it’s nothing compared to Mack’s rampage. Quinn didn’t kill anyone that day. Right? The thought gives her pause, but she pushes past it, because, no. She’d know. Quinn just teamed up with the wrong people. If anyone knows what that’s like, it’s Spencer.

“Hell, what are you doing up here?” says Santana accusingly.

Spencer sits up. “I killed someone,” she states firmly. She also vaguely recalls something about counts of “excessive bitchery” but chooses not to share. It feels messed up enough to be defending her actions like this, trying to prove her place here, but nobody belittles Spencer Hastings uncontested.

“One as in 'less than two'?” asks Faith.

“That’s not enough?”

“Okay, rich girl,” Santana says, humoring her. “Enjoy your stay.”

Spencer also hates being patronized.

There’s so much she wants to say, so many ways she wants to punch this girl in her beautiful, stupid face. But Spencer's here to gather information, and she’s already learned a lot from these two. They clearly have been around the block awhile. If she can keep her mouth shut, who knows how much more info she can get. Still, this imbalance of power is loathsome; they know they can gang up on her like this and make her feel stupid, and Spencer has nothing to throw back at them. She won’t press it any further today.

But now her mind is spinning with all kinds of new questions, like what changed with Ripley, or how many times she killed on Christmas before now, or what connection -- if any -- is there between that and Charlotte’s killings? Spencer couldn’t imagine an alliance between a spider and someone in Solitary, but anything seems possible in here at this point.

And what about all the individual stories of these women she’s slowly getting to know? There’s no way she can get herself transferred into every cell and meet them all before the proverbial uterine clock runs out. She’ll have to figure out if she needs to focus on the killers or the non-killers first. Maybe the non-killers have bigger secrets to hide. What is it about this place that draws this specific inmate population? What’s the common item on each person’s paperwork that makes some clerical assistant say, “Ahh, TO SPACE WITH YOU!”

Spencer’s been wondering that a lot lately. Why the hell is she here instead of in a regular prison? She’d accepted her fate and laid it to rest weeks ago, but now the wound’s been opened again, and it’s just as painful. Spencer knows deep down that she won’t be able to move forward until her origin story is brought to light. She needs someone to blame, an object for her frustration. Maybe she’s been hoping she’ll come across the magical answer to everything if she just looks hard enough. Maybe all of this digging around in the name of others has been selfishly motivated all along.

She lies on her back, staring up at the underside of the bed frame, and tries to lose herself in the surrounding vastness of space, but the crude laughter of her cellmates keeps her hopelessly grounded. Her mind repeats the same question, over and over, without end.

How did I get here?

****************

The next morning about an hour before lunch, the ALL CLEAR sounds throughout the corridor and Faith leaps down in a blur before Spencer can register what's happening. Her bed shakes as Faith's body lands on Santana's bunk, and all Spencer can hear now are moans and wet smacking sounds and zippers. She buries her head in her pillow, trying not to think about the fact that they haven’t showered in a week.

“Now, now, girls,” Lucy says, peering over from her bed. “Don't be rude.” The movement below stops, but Spencer doesn't know why. And then Lucy's looking up at her. “Come down.”

Um. “I'm good up here.”

Lucy tilts her head slightly. “You don’t want to be a part of our group? I thought that’s why you were here.”

The words catch her off-guard, like Lucy’s calling her bluff and Spencer’s got to show her hand. She never gave them any real reason for her transfer at the time, but it’s better that Lucy believe this than the truth. Spencer has to sell the story. “It is.”

Lucy stands up and takes a few steps toward Spencer’s bed, not breaking eye contact as she moves. Stopping in the center of the room, she repeats, “Then come down.”

And just like that, Spencer Hastings is double-dog-dared by the scariest girl in space prison.

Weighing her options, she realizes it's better to play along and earn their trust, even though they're probably going to kill her, anyway. They're locked in a room together, so it's not like there's anywhere to hide. Unless you're Katniss, apparently.

It doesn't take nearly long enough to climb down to the floor. Spencer puts two feet on the ground and two eyes on the compromising position of Faith on top of Santana, jumpsuits unzipped and boobs hanging out. It's quite the sight. Not that Spencer's staring.

“Right here,” Lucy says, back on her bed and patting the empty spot next to her.

Spencer sits down nervously, now front row for all the action, and it's awkward as hell but she can't think of anything to do about it.

“We're ready,” Lucy says to them, and without missing another beat Faith takes one of Santana's nipples into her mouth as her hands find the other breast.

Okay, whoa.

Spencer's never been this uncomfortable in her life. What's she supposed to do? Watch this? Provide commentary? Offer critique?

Oh god... Join in?!

But then Lucy's voice cuts in over the sound of her thoughts, saying, “They really do play so nicely together.”

That isn't exactly the word Spencer would use to describe it. It seems kind of...angry. The girls are tearing away each other's uniforms, pulling Santana’s zipper right off its track. There's a combination of moans and muffled cries of pain as Faith yanks Santana's hair to get access to her neck while fingernails dig into her back like claws. Spencer doesn't know how they're even staying on the bed at all.

“Spencer,” Lucy says.

Her voice sounds distant, like a dream, but Spencer eventually registers it and blinks and turns to face her cellmate.

Lucy's eyes soften for a moment, and she says, “Do you think I'm pretty?”

Spencer blinks again. The question seems out of place tonally, considering the symphony of sex and violence happening just a few feet away. But it's hard to look away from Lucy's eyes, though Spencer tries. And fails. “Yeah, of course.” Are you hitting on me? Or do you just need a pep talk?  She’d ask, but her brain isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment. Spencer blames the Gayest Show On Earth in the background.

Everything feels weird and out of place, and Spencer's deeply regretting this transfer with every fiber of her being. At least, she thinks. Because the way Lucy is looking at her is making –

“Do you want to kiss me?” Lucy's voice is steady and strong, in stark contrast her expression. It almost feels like another dare.

Spencer hasn't taken a breath since she heard the word “pretty.” It's not that she hasn't thought about Lucy like this, it's that she kind of hates herself for it. It takes her back to the bathroom and all the fear and humiliation and Quinn. The resemblance really is uncanny.

But Spencer isn't afraid of Quinn, not like she is of Lucy. Not even close. Spencer's afraid of losing Quinn, and that makes all the difference. And maybe, just maybe, if she can never have Quinn, she's afraid of losing herself in Lucy. Spencer can't begin to know what she wants, but she knows Lucy's going to need an answer. What the hell is she supposed to say? I'd rather kiss your identical, less-deranged twin?

Spencer swallows nervously and says the only thing she can. “Do you want me to?” Her voice is raspy, due to a sudden case of dry-mouth, but she manages to get the words out over the loud grunting to her left.

“I ask the questions,” Lucy says, steeling a bit. “You answer them.”

Spencer Hastings doesn't do ultimatums. And she sure as hell doesn't like relinquishing control. “Or what?” she laughs, if only to break the tension.

Lucy doesn't think it's funny at all. She faces Faith and Santana again, watching distantly. “I have a lot of power here.” It isn't a threat, merely an observation. “I can share some of that with you. I will share it with you.” She meets Spencer's eyes once more. “If you share yourself in return.”

“What do you want to know?”

Lucy exhales a quiet laugh with a small smile. “Still asking questions. You'll learn.”

The fire rising in Spencer's chest is white hot, a conflation of anger and defiance and sexual tension that she can't begin to sort out. Exhaling hard and closing her eyes, she tries to re-center herself and remember why she's here in the first place. Information. Solve the mystery. Try not to die. And if that means going along with whatever Lucy Fabray wants, then, well. Spencer just might have to give in.

“Oh yeah!”  Santana's voice cuts through the air. “Fuck me!"

There's nothing Spencer can do to tune it out, and she'd be lying if she said it wasn't getting her blood pumping. Flashes of Quinn dance in her mind, too distant to cling to but too clear to ignore. And somehow, Lucy has those same intense, bottomless hazel eyes that Spencer wants to drown in.

It's time to stop fighting. “Yes,” she says, drawing Lucy's attention. “I want to kiss you.”

Lucy smiles, but it's dangerous. Predatory. “Good.” There's something in those eyes that Quinn doesn't have. Something villainous.

Fucking hell, why do I find that hot?

Spencer waits in anticipation for her request to be fulfilled, but Lucy isn’t moving any closer. As if she’s intentionally maintaining distance now that Spencer's revealed she wants to close it.

“What else do you want to do?” Lucy asks somewhat playfully, but her tone makes it very clear that Spencer better answer the goddamn question.

Make the pounding in my ears stop, for one.

Trust that you won't slit my throat in my sleep.

Go back to being cyber-stalked in Pennsylvania, because that was a cakewalk compared to this.

But if she's being honest with herself, Spencer doesn't want any of those things. And after all the lies, all the cloak and dagger, she wonders where a little truth might take her. Go big or go...

Well. There is no going home. So, that makes her decision much simpler. “I want to have sex with you.”

The words almost feel romantic as they roll off her tongue – almost – but then there's another cry of “Yeah! Fuck me! Yeah!” from the opposite bunk. The moment shatters and Spencer's left feeling kind of cheap, like she's negotiating with an escort. But it's too late, it's out there. She said it. And the scary part is, she meant it.

Lucy certainly seems pleased at the declaration and she turns briefly to smile at the other girls, who are very naked and sweaty and making quite a go of it. Lucy shifts her body to face Spencer and takes one of her hands. She lightly strokes Spencer's fingers, weaving them together gently as Spencer opens to let her in. It's a delicate gesture, a tender touch. Nothing at all like what Faith's fingers are doing to Santana, but Spencer supposes there's time for that later.

“Do you trust me?” Lucy asks. Judging from the look in her eyes, she couldn't be more serious.

Spencer's mouth opens slightly but the words get lost inside. Spencer doesn't know what to say. How could she trust a convicted chainsaw murderer? The lunatic mind behind prison kindergarten art hour? The one who blabbed to the whole prison about her bungled sex with Quinn in the bathroom? The same woman who's probably somehow responsible for killing at least four people just in the last few months?

Lucy can see her hesitation but doesn't soften to appease her. “Choose your words carefully, Spencer. You get one per answer.” So, this is how it's going to go. Lucy tightens the grip on Spencer's hand. It's not painful, more of a warning to tread carefully. “Can you follow my rules?”

Spencer steels her resolve and squeezes back. This question is easier. “Yes.” She hasn’t lost her power as long as she still has the truth.

“Good. Girls who follow the rules get what they want.” Lucy raises an eyebrow toward the fornicators still banging away five feet from them. “Girls who don't follow the rules get punished.”

Punished?  She’s taking this whole preschool teacher thing a bit too far, isn't she? What’s she going to do, put Spencer in time out? Ground her for a week? Bend her over her knee and sp--

Spencer's mind jumps to Quinn and Mack, and she instantly closes that door.

“You will speak only when spoken to,” Lucy says, stone-faced. She is not fucking around.

It's time to start following the rules. No questions. One word at a time. Spencer swallows and says, “Okay.”

“I'll ask again, because this is very important, Spencer. I can't give you what I give them, can't give you what you want, unless we make our terms. Communication is very important in any kind of relationship.”

Which is why I only get one-word answers. Sure.

Wait -- relationship?!

“So, I need to know,” Lucy continues, “before we can go any further – Do you trust me?”

Their eyes lock, and Spencer's head is spinning. It's either yes or no, make or break. No more room for lies. Spencer takes a moment to think about everything she has left of herself here in this place. Because she's about to give it all to Lucy Fabray, and Spencer has a feeling she might not ever get it back.

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

And just like that, Spencer has agreed to submit to Lucy Fabray.

Lucy's eyes light up, and she squeezes Spencer's hand again, lovingly this time. “I'm so glad to hear that. You and I are going to have so much fun together!”

If only Spencer shared that confidence. But, judging from the rollicking romp that's somehow still going over there, this doesn't look like the worst club to join. (It’s still better than Bees class.) Santana's already come twice.

“Now,” Lucy says, “if I'm going to give you what you want, we need to establish some ground rules first. Your safety is important to me.”

Yes, I'm sure you were the captain of your elementary school's safety patrol.  Stop, drop, and roll…INTO MY CHAINSAW.

“What's your safeword?” Lucy asks.

Spencer's brow furrows. Is this like a password or something?  Like Lucy would say, “Open sesame,” and Spencer's legs would spread before her?

Lucy clarifies, “Something you would never usually say during sex. If I hear your safeword, I'll stop whatever I'm doing, no matter what. It's typically for if you're pushed beyond your limits. But you can also say it if you no longer consent to what’s happening.”

And now Spencer really doesn't know what the hell she's gotten herself into.

“Faith's safeword is 'Giles,’” says Lucy, “which I think is some kind of demon. She said it was ‘the un-sexiest thing she could possibly think of.’ Santana's is 'fin', like a shark.”

Spencer opens her mouth to say something, but remembers she can only reply to the original question. Pausing to consider her answer, she finally says, “Lannister.”

“Lannister,” Lucy repeats. “That will work just fine.” Then, she tells the others, very much interrupting the moment, “Did you hear that, girls? Spencer's new safeword is 'Lannister’!”

“Roger,” Faith mutters in between panting breaths against Santana's neck. Her partner moans an incoherent reply.

“Great!” Lucy says. “Now that's settled. Mine is 'papier-mâché,' but I've never had to use it.”

Spencer nods in acknowledgment and wonders just how much weirder her day is about to get.

Lucy smiles at her cellmates, who have now shifted so Santana can go down on Faith for a while. (“Hey, no biting!”) But when she turns back to Spencer, it's clear that her attention is no longer divided. It's like they're the only two in the room.

“Spencer,” Lucy begins, meeting her eyes. “Now that we've established trust, I need for you to show me some. Can you do that?”

Are you about to ask me to kill someone for you? Is this how the mafia works? Am I being Godfathered?

“Sure.”

Lucy takes a breath. “May I kiss you?”

...Oh.

It sounds more contractual than sexy, but Spencer feels the chill up her spine all the same. Things are about to happen, right here, right now. She nods and looks at Lucy’s mouth, watching for the slight movement toward her. She closes her eyes before it starts, but now the anticipation has her skin tingling. Spencer’s quite glad she's sitting down, because her knees would have given out by now.

“I have to hear you say it,” Lucy says sternly, and Spencer’s eyes open suddenly. “So there’s no doubt you want what you get.”

The conviction in Lucy's voice turns her on even more. Somehow, Spencer finds a little strength of her own and answers, “Yes.”

Lucy's body shifts now, scooting toward Spencer to close the space between them. Only…Lucy doesn’t kiss her. Instead, she glances down at Spencer's jumpsuit, as if unzipping it with her eyes. “May I touch you?”

It's such a simple question, but there isn't anything simple about this for Spencer. She can’t help but think about the last time someone negotiated consent with her. Quinn liked to use words, too, but it wasn't like this. Hers were words of power, putting Spencer in her place, but with an underlying kindness and sympathy. The look on her face as they touched was one of awe, like she couldn't believe they could feel so much intimacy for each other after such a short time.

But that isn't what Spencer sees in Lucy's eyes. No, this time it's the words that are laced with consideration and chivalry, spoken softly to reassure her safety. Still, Spencer can see flashes of power in those eyes, as if waiting just beneath the surface for the right moment to pounce. Spencer has to admit both approaches are effective, as her damp uniform can attest. Lucy knows unequivocally what Spencer wants. She's just toying with her, drawing it out and proving it because she likes to.

Maybe Quinn and Lucy are alike after all. And the line between wanting Quinn versus wanting Lucy is blurring and mixing more and more with each passing second.

“Yes,” Spencer says.

Lucy's leaning in now, inches from Spencer's mouth but still not making contact. “May I put my fingers inside you?”

Spencer's eyes flutter closed at the breath against her lips, and she can barely hear herself whisper, “Yes,”  but her mind is screaming it. She repeats herself, stronger, just to be sure.

With one hand, Lucy takes hold of the zipper and starts to pull it down, slowly, carefully, not moving her face away from Spencer's. As their lips brush together ever so slightly, Spencer's breath hitches. Her body's paralyzed, quivering, and Spencer doesn’t know or care where the rest of the world has gone. It’s completely fallen away.

“May I taste you everywhere?”

There's oxygen flowing into the cell’s air vents, but none of it is getting to Spencer. She wonders if Lucy can feel how fast she's breathing, how hard she's trembling. How absolutely weak she is at Lucy’s touch. Spencer shamefully remembers this isn't the first time she's melted into a puddle at Lucy's way with words, but at least this time it’s the start of something, not the end. “Yes,” she exhales, but it's barely even a word. If Lucy doesn't kiss her soon, Spencer just might dissolve away into nothing.

Why is this taking so long?

But no, Lucy's not kissing her. Instead, she's moving over toward Spencer’s ear. Tracing a fingertip down her jawline on the opposite side, Lucy leans in and whispers, “May I make you come?”

Spencer’s posture collapses with a whimper as she tightens one hand around Lucy's and grabs a fistful of pink uniform with the other. She fights to find Lucy's mouth, but Lucy's stronger than she looks, and she keeps Spencer at a painful distance. Without releasing the pressure on Spencer’s collarbone, she tilts Spencer’s chin up so they’re eye to eye once more.

“I said,” Lucy repeats, “may I make you come?”

“Yes,”  Spencer pants desperately, self-aware of how pathetic she sounds. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters right now except needing Lucy's mouth and hands and body all over her. She pushes as hard as she dares against the hand at the base of her neck but gains no ground.

Lucy releases hold of Spencer’s chin and traces fingers up to her forehead, gently brushing aside the strands of hair there. There's a loving look in Lucy's eyes as she watches her movements. Her fingers follow across and down the side of Spencer's face, over her ear, and come to rest cupping the back of her head. As Lucy leans down toward Spencer's lips, she suddenly tightens her fingers around a fistful of Spencer's hair, pulling it taut and maintaining a distance between them.

Spencer gasps, surprised both by the act itself and how much it hurts.

She likes it.

Lucy's got Spencer leaning back at an angle as she hovers over her. Right where Lucy wants her. The eyebrow rises again as Lucy asks, thick with insinuation, “Are you going to be a good girl and follow the rules while I do?”

Spencer’s back arches a bit at the words “good girl,”  like she’s already fighting the notion. There’s nothing angelic about this situation and nothing innocent about her anymore. Being turned on by fear is what led her into Toby's arms years ago, and part of why she killed him, and why she has now bedded two convicted felons in as many months. Being bad feels really damn good sometimes. And Spencer’s going to do what Lucy says because she knows she shouldn’t.

“Yes.”

The world comes crashing down as Lucy's mouth finally meets hers. Lucy and Quinn may have the same skin, the same eyes, the same voice, but there is no doubt Spencer is kissing someone new. Spencer opens her mouth wider, discovering the taste of Lucy Fabray and wanting more and more. Lucy’s tongue grazes across hers, and Spencer fights against the hand still wrapped tightly in her hair, wanting more of it, wanting so much at once.

But no, she doesn’t get to move unless Lucy wills it. Fortunately, Lucy pulls her down soon after and leads her to lie fully back on the bed. Spencer feels Lucy's weight carefully lower onto her, but it's not cumbersome. It's warm and comfortable. Just enough pressure to make Spencer know she’s trapped. Just enough pressure to make her want more.

She reaches for Lucy's face as they kiss, needing to feel the softness and pull her closer, but Lucy immediately grabs Spencer's wrist at the touch and pulls her away. The kiss freezes for a moment in Spencer’s shock at the rejection. 

Am I not allowed to touch you?  What did I do wrong?

This “no talking” thing is getting harder.

Lucy tightens her grip on Spencer's hair, and Spencer's eyes drift open, meeting Lucy's gaze. She’s so goddamn beautiful. Spencer wants to be everywhere at once, touching and connecting and feeling. Instead, Lucy moves Spencer's errant hand back to reach the bar on the bed frame, releasing her fingers to curl them around the cold metal. “Don't let go. Do you understand?” The command is clear, as is the threat behind it.

“Yes,” Spencer says. But that's only one of her hands, and she doesn't know what she's supposed to do with the other one, or allowed to do, and she's desperate to feel the softness of Lucy's skin beneath her fingers.

Lucy kisses her again, and Spencer's lost in the sensation of Lucy's breasts pressing into her own, feeling the way their legs shift to find safe passage. And then they've each got a knee where it matters most, and they're pushing, pressing, and Spencer moans in need against Lucy's lips. Her hand finds Lucy's back, slipping down to her ass to pull her closer, and –

With one swift move, Lucy breaks the kiss, yanks Spencer's hair, and wraps her other hand around Spencer's neck. Spencer's free hand jerks away while the one gripping the bar holds on for dear life. Her instinct is to push the aggressor off of her, but that might only make it worse. Lucy's not actually choking her – yet – but it wouldn't take much more pressure to impact her air flow. It's an assertive hold -- corrective. Spencer can still breathe, but it hurts, just enough. She’s supposed to learn from this mistake.

“You don't have permission to touch me yet,” Lucy says into Spencer's frightened eyes. “You have to earn it.”

Without breaking eye contact, Lucy releases the grip on her hair to move Spencer's other hand to the bed frame. She's not technically tied up, but she might as well be. The fingers around Spencer’s neck tighten as the change is made, and Lucy’s stare intensifies as well. Spencer takes hold of the dirty metal, shifting her body until she's more comfortable. But it's hard to get comfortable, exactly, when you're being choked by a murderer. And when your clothing is soaked through because of it.

Spencer feels more vulnerable now that her sides are on display, and she wonders if Lucy's about to snap out of Crazy Dominatrix mode and tickle her. But, no, once Spencer's situated and the power balance is restored, Lucy releases the hold on her neck and begins unzipping Spencer's uniform, slowly.

Lucy’s not looking at her, but Spencer doesn’t look away from her face. The helplessness of her situation is intoxicating, this relinquishing control. She really has no choice but to wait for whatever is coming. And of course, now her nose starts to itch.

Great.

Lucy's eyes follow the small piece of metal down, down, until she’s looking just below Spencer's navel. There's a quiver as she comes to a halt, and Spencer shifts to watch Lucy's hands now, because god only knows what they're going to do next.

As if merely pulling back the curtains on a sunny day, Lucy opens Spencer's uniform to expose her bra. She sits straddling Spencer's legs, examining the scene and thinking, but Spencer doesn't know what she's waiting for. Unless the waiting is the point.

“When I release you,” Lucy says, “you may let go of the bar. You have ten seconds to strip down and resume your position. Can you do that, Spencer?”

It seems reasonable enough, assuming she still remembers how to move her limbs. And how clothes work. It's occurring to Spencer that this crossed over from “strategy for gathering valuable intel” to “I am so sincerely into you” miles and miles back. She just doesn't know when. Or care. “Yes," she says.

Lucy shifts back to sit at the end of the bed, wholly untangled from her partner. “Now.”

There's no verbal clock, but Spencer's counting loudly in her head, frantically sliding her bra over her head and kicking off the uniform. It's hardly a graceful process, but it doesn't need to be. She's back in place, naked, nose thoroughly scratched and hands on the bar, with three seconds to spare.

“Good girl. That's much better, don't you think?”

For various definitions of “better,” perhaps, but none that Spencer knows. She’s both cold and sweaty at the same time, and suddenly very aware she hasn’t shaved anything in a long while. If she felt self-conscious sixty seconds ago, it's nothing compared to this – fresh meat on a spit, on display for hungry eyes.

Lucy's looking her up and down like she's trying to decide what to sink her teeth into first. But then she simply says, “Watch me.”

Getting off the bed, Lucy walks over to stand right next to Spencer's face. Spencer can feel Lucy's eyes on her, but she's watching the way the pink jumpsuit's zipper lowers one inch at a time. It ends almost at eye level, and Spencer's breath catches in her throat. She can see the shadows of Lucy's breasts, though the light's bad from this angle. It's the proximity that's affecting her now. That, and the fact that she's not allowed to do anything about it.

And then the jumpsuit slides gracefully off Lucy's shoulders and falls to the floor in a soft ruffle. Spencer can hear the sound -- and notices it. It's suddenly very quiet in the cell. Too quiet. She looks around Lucy’s hip to see Faith and Santana sitting casually on their bed, side by side, watching the show. Santana fucking waves, “Hi!” with a cheesy grin as Faith muffles a laugh.

Outstanding.  I'm a zoo exhibit.

Spencer wants to snap back at them, but it's not worth it, not right now. Even if their mockery is against the rules, she doesn't want to break the moment. It’s hard to think about anything else when Lucy's in just a bra and underwear, standing so close to Spencer's face that she can smell her.

Spencer's eyes flutter closed as she takes a steadying breath, realizing, yeah, whatever Lucy's doing to her is absolutely working. Which is funny, considering Lucy's barely done anything at all.

That needs to change.

Fortunately, Lucy seems to agree and repositions herself on top of Spencer's legs. Reaching forward, she places one fingertip on Spencer's mouth, silencing her. It’s a gentle action. “I like you, Spencer,” she says.

Spencer doesn't know if she should react. Her legs shift instinctively to open wider, but she fights to hold them still. Very little of her body is within her control right now. Spencer’s lips open slightly, maybe to let air out, maybe to let Lucy’s finger in. But Lucy’s hand is already leaving, trailing down her chin onto her neck.

“You're very strong. I like that.”

The fingertip grazes between her breasts, painfully slowly, and across her stomach before coming to a rest at the edge of dark hairs. Instead of continuing down, Lucy removes her hand entirely with a daring grin.

Spencer opens her legs wider, pleading silently, desperate for contact. She can't see Lucy's hands anymore, but suddenly she feels what must be two light fingertips tracing up along either side of her most sensitive skin. A gasp escapes before she can bite it back. Luckily that doesn't seem to violate their speech code, because Lucy's repeating the action, grazing upward ever so delicately, over and over in circles.

Spencer buries her face into her raised arm, biting her lip hard and breathing heavily. She's lost any remaining shreds of dignity and doesn’t give a fuck. Her knees are practically at her chest, not just granting Lucy full access to her body, but begging for it. The metal bar is Spencer's lifeline, clutched firmly in sweaty fists, and the only thing grounding her and keeping her from floating away. Lucy must have known exactly how much Spencer would need something to hold on to. Though, five more minutes of this and Spencer's going to pull the bar right out of the frame.

Through the rising pulse pounding in her head, Spencer hears Lucy's voice. “Do you know what I like to do to strong women, Spencer?”

She squeezes her eyes shut tight, biting into her shoulder and trying not to cry. Spencer can think of a hundred things she needs Lucy to say right now, things she needs so very badly.

Say my name again.

Keep touching me.

Tell me how strong I am.

Make me believe it.

Make me come.

PLEASE.

But she's only allowed one word, and it's honest. “No.” Her voice is shaking along with her fragile body. She's never known fear and want could mix like this, not with Toby or even with Quinn. But then, when the hand withdraws and the touch is gone, Spencer dares to open her eyes.

Lucy is leaning in close, as if she was waiting for Spencer to look at her. “Break them.”

The words fall like a weight on Spencer’s chest, pushing all air out of her lungs. Possibilities cloud her mind with darkness and Spencer's heart stops, just momentarily, until she's brought back by a surge of sensation coursing through her body. Lucy's two fingers drive into her, hard, and Spencer's back arches high off the mattress as she cries out. She pushes against Lucy's hand, holding the bar for dear life, because there must be a way to get even more of Lucy inside of her. She feels a supporting hand on her lower back as Lucy shifts to straddle her right leg, and now Lucy's pulling Spencer's body closer without relinquishing her hold.

“You like this, don't you?” Lucy asks, punctuating the question with a firm press deep inside her.

Spencer throws her head back and moans again, eyes clenched tight, and says “Yes!” a bit louder than she means to. Self-control isn't exactly her forte at the moment.

Lucy's working Spencer firmly, aided by the wetness her questions induced. But she's not moving in a steady rhythm or pattern. It's clear she knows what she's doing, hitting all the right spots with quick bursts of strength and maintaining enough speed to make Spencer's blood boil. Minute after minute, Lucy continues to fuck her, relentlessly, passionately. But Lucy's not letting Spencer get too comfortable. She's keeping her edge, keeping the power.

If Lucy lets her relax and feel safe, Spencer might come.

Right as this realization hits her, the motion stops. Lucy withdraws only for a moment as she shifts her body forward to sit on Spencer's stomach. It would be easier without the top bunk in her way, but it forces Lucy’s face closer to Spencer’s. Dangerously close.

“Now,” Lucy begins. Her eyes trace over Spencer's breasts, and her left hand drags a fingertip along their path. “Since I'm being so generous and giving you all the things you want” – she pinches Spencer's nipple tightly, and Spencer gasps in high pitch – “I think it's time you showed some appreciation.”

Oh god, yes.  Please.

Anything.  Whatever you want.

Please let me touch you.

It's all a blur in Spencer's head – everything she wants to do to Lucy, everything she still wants Lucy to do to her, everything she never got to do with Quinn...there's just too much. It's overwhelming. And she doesn't know if her clit has ever throbbed so intensely, desperate for attention.

Lucy's finger traces up to Spencer's neck and reclaims a choking hold on it, but tighter this time. It's a warning, and it gets Spencer's attention immediately. She meets Lucy's eyes, and she doesn't know how she's not supposed to lose herself entirely in them.

“Tell me the truth,” Lucy says, staring right through her. “You asked to be moved here, didn't you?”

Spencer's mouth goes dry. There's nowhere she can hide. And right now, she's too worked up to even consider lying. What's a little more vulnerability when she's already completely compromised? “Yes.”

Lucy smiles knowingly. “I thought so.” Her eyes look over Spencer’s neck and face, examining every inch of her. “You belong to me now, Spencer,” she says. But it's not a threat. It's soft, like a piece of news shared between friends. It makes the hairs on the not-choked part of Spencer's neck stand up all the same. “I will make you feel so good. I think you know now that I can.” Without breaking eye contact, Lucy reaches her right hand back, all the way until she finds Spencer's wetness, making sure she brushes nothing above it. She clearly doesn't want to give Spencer any undue satisfaction, not yet.

But Lucy doesn't go in, merely hovers her fingertips at the entrance, teasing with little traces and flicks. Spencer licks her lip and bites it, eyes pressed closed. Another weak whimper escapes when Lucy’s fingertip grazes a sensitive spot.

“Tell me you want me,” Lucy says, pressing harder down on Spencer's neck. It's vertical pressure, pinning Spencer to the bed more than choking her. She can breathe, she just can't move.

“Yes,” Spencer says, wondering if Lucy can feel her pulse pounding.

“It wasn't a question,” Lucy says angrily, now tightening the chokehold and withdrawing her right hand entirely.

Spencer blinks, confused, but then realizes Lucy's meaning. The rules have now changed. She's been promoted to full sentences. “I want you,” Spencer says. It's weak and dry-mouthed, almost raspy, but Lucy hears it.

“Louder.”

YOU’RE STRANGLING MY WINDPIPE.

Spencer takes as deep a breath as she can and says, clearer, looking back into Lucy's eyes, “I want you.”

Suddenly, there’s a loud clanging noise just a few feet away, like banging on the bars. Spencer jolts, turning her head toward the cell door in alarm. She feels much more exposed now that she’s pulled out of the moment, but to her relief, there’s no one there. It must’ve come from next door. 

Spencer tries to settle back in and refocus on Lucy, but she can’t shake the weird feeling. Something’s different now.

Retaking control of the situation, Lucy begins tracing her finger around Spencer’s entrance once more, drawing the attention back where it belongs. “Say it again.”

“I want you,” Spencer repeats, a little louder this time, though it's hard to fucking focus when Lucy's doing that.

“Where do you want me, Spencer?” Lucy asks, giving extra flicks of her fingertips. “Say it.”

“I want,” Spencer starts, but it's hard when Lucy isn't loosening her grip, “you inside me.”

Lucy lifts that very dangerous eyebrow and moves her fingers slowly inside. “Here?” she asks.

Spencer exhales at the movement, one step closer to release, and nods. “Yes.”

Lucy keeps moving inward until the full length of her fingers is inside Spencer. She bends her two fingers, curling to take hold. She mirrors the pressure by strengthening her hold on the base of Spencer’s neck as well. “Here?” she asks, pressing hard on Spencer's G-spot.

“Yes, please,” she pants, blinking away the spots in her blurred vision. The explosion of colors isn’t only hiding behind her eyelids anymore. “Please, Lucy. Please.”

Lucy looks into Spencer's eyes, more discerning this time. She slides back out before pushing inward and up once more, probably with three fingers, almost lifting Spencer off the mattress with her force. Lucy holds her down with the simultaneous pressure on her chest. “Are you sure?”

Spencer cries out as her head dips back, and she doesn't know how much longer she can take this without release.

Lucy withdraws her right hand and wipes it on the sheet discreetly. She brings a finger up to gently stroke Spencer's forehead, tucking the loose strands of hair behind her ear. It's a loving motion in stark contrast to the hand still firmly around her neck, and Spencer knows there's going to be a lasting bruise, if there isn't already. Then, without warning, Lucy takes Spencer's throat in both hands, sliding them up so her thumbs are outstretched, digging sharply under Spencer's chin, forcing her head all the way back. She's practically holding Spencer at knifepoint.

It hurts, and Spencer can't speak or Lucy's thumbs will just dig in even harder. She lashes out with one of her legs, but it's a weak gesture, more instinct than anything. Spencer’s too scared to use any real strength to fight against what Lucy’s doing. If she's being truly honest, she doesn't want to, anyway.

Lucy gives a pleasant smile, leaning over to whisper in Spencer's ear. “The problem is...I don't believe you.”

What?! Why not?

“I do!” Spencer starts to say, but there's nowhere for her jaw to move. She's completely at Lucy's mercy. And her captor is staring her down harder than ever.

“Don't lie to me.” All sundries and politeness are gone now. The look in Lucy's eyes is cold and unforgiving.

Spencer's certain now that this is how she's going to die. Naked, strangled to death, and dripping wet. In space.

“I know what you want,” Lucy says, pressing a little harder, planning her attack. “But since you're lying to me, I don't think I want to give it to you.”

Spencer's eyes are pleading, screaming for Lucy to release her – one way or another. But she doesn't know what else she can do. This has gone from bad to worse, fast.

And then, Lucy shifts, releasing Spencer's throat to tangle one hand tightly in Spencer's hair as the other moves to her breast. With a calculated look, she takes Spencer's nipple between her fingertips and squeezes, watching it carefully. She doesn't meet Spencer's eyes when she says, “Tell me the truth. Beg for it.”

The pinch sends a jolt through Spencer's body as her back arches again, pushing hard against Lucy's weight holding her stomach down. If she could think clearly, maybe she'd know what the hell she's supposed to be begging for, exactly. For her freedom? For the right to touch her? For the right to scratch that itchy spot on her head that's driving her crazy? For Lucy to fuck her into oblivion?

...For her life?

Every sensation coursing through Spencer is channeling between her legs, and Spencer might cry from need if Lucy keeps drawing this out. But then, that might be what Lucy's been wanting the whole time.

Spencer's out of options. She's completely at Lucy's mercy. “Please,” she whimpers, barely above a whisper. “Please, Lucy.”

Another nipple tweak, this time the most painful yet. “Please what?”

“Please...” But Spencer can't think, can't focus, she just needs pressure, now. “Touch me…there,” she says, her lip trembling as she tries to hold herself together. She doesn’t want to use the words. She just wants this to happen like it’s supposed to. “Please.”  The tears start to brim, but Lucy isn't changing her position. Spencer's about to have a total breakdown. “I need to…I need you so much.”

She hears the words but doesn't realize they've come from her mouth until Lucy's face changes. And then it's too late to take them back, too late to explain them away with a line. But there is no explanation, anyway, because it's absolutely true.

Lucy lets go of Spencer with both hands, reaching instead to cup her cheek as Lucy brings their lips together. There's a different energy this time, like Lucy is trying to give her something instead of take something away. 

But then, Lucy's lips break away, again, and Spencer wonders why this is happening to her, why she's being put through this. She's so wrapped up in her frustration that she doesn't see Lucy scooting down, placing herself between Spencer's legs. But suddenly Spencer’s thighs are being pushed up and apart, and Lucy's tongue is dragging its way slowly to where Spencer needs it most.

Squeezing the bed frame with the last of her remaining strength, Spencer pushes forward and moans at the sensation, wanting so much to bury her hands in Lucy's hair but not wanting to ruin this now by breaking the rules. Her arms are heavy and numb, and they hurt from the lack of circulation, but it doesn’t matter as long as Lucy doesn’t stop. Spencer buries her face in her bicep, both to muffle her pathetic cries and to hide just how much this is affecting her. It's written all over her face; she can feel it. Just like how she can feel Lucy's tongue circling and grinding, relentlessly.

And then two fingers are back inside of her, pumping in time with Lucy's tongue. All the tension from the last hour – hell, from the last two months – is reaching critical mass, and Spencer can feel it rising. She closes her eyes and drowns in the feeling as her mind drifts to Quinn, then back to Lucy, and back to Quinn again. Everything's conflating and swirling together. There's sweat dripping down her legs, and she's tightening inside, and, god, Spencer wants this so badly.

It’s been at least ten minutes now, but Lucy hasn't slowed down. Eventually she pauses and adjusts her position, and Spencer takes a muchly needed deep breath, looking down at the hungry eyes staring back at her.

Lucy flicks her tongue out, nicking Spencer's clit once, before she says, “Don't come yet.” Her voice is stern; it's unquestionably a command.

Spencer's frustration is too much at the surface to push it back down now. She groans, almost angrily, clenching the metal frame as tightly as she can. “Please!”

Lucy hooks the two fingers back in and pulls hard, drawing a pained cry from Spencer, and says, “Count back from ten.”

It feels patronizing, elementary, but Spencer does it anyway. If it means she's guaranteed her orgasm, she'll count in Japanese if Lucy wants.

“Ten...” Spencer says, and Lucy's tongue presses into her aching clit once more. “Nine...” She's not counting fast, to let her body catch up. “Eight...” Her mind takes her far away, out of this shitty cell, across the stars, where all she can feel is how fucking good Lucy's face feels between her legs. “Seven...” She imagines those eyes watching her, burning into her, but Spencer keeps her own shut tight. “Six...” Her breathing is unsteady, and it’s hard to think about stupid things like numbers when there's such important friction getting faster and faster. “F-Five...” Lucy settles into a rhythm that Spencer's riding like a surfboard, and she's starting to feel the swell of the wave approaching.

She can already tell it's going to suffocate her.

But then, it's not her own voice anymore that's counting -- it's Quinn's. The mental image is clear. Pink hair tickles Spencer's cheek as Quinn whispers, “Give us everything.” The sensation of Quinn's tongue circling Spencer's ear, matching time with Lucy's motions on her clit, starts a fire inside Spencer that might burn down the prison. “You know you want to.” Quinn’s words fill her head and don’t fade away.

“Four,” Spencer pants. The tingling starts in her back and stretches down to her toes. Even if Spencer could stop it, she doesn't want to. “Three...” Saying the number solidifies the image in her mind -- Lucy and Quinn both there with her, wanting her, touching her. And with that, the rush fills Spencer up and she can't take any more. Her body tenses to prepare for the oncoming shockwave.

But before it hits, Lucy withdraws completely, breaking all contact. She sits up and maintains her distance, watching as the body beneath her jerks and contracts.

Spencer cries out again in frustration, still holding on to the goddamn metal frame. She twists and pulls her knees up, pressing her thighs together tightly, as if that would somehow create the pressure she needs. But it's useless. As quickly as it came, the wave passes her by, and the half-orgasm is quick and weak and unfulfilling. Spencer's not even sure she had it at all, but her body relaxes, indicating a chemical release.

After everything she just endured -- the torture of waiting, only for her sexual frustration to be wasted – Spencer’s desire quickly shifts to anger and disappointment. She opens her eyes and looks at Lucy, suddenly more aware of how wet and messy she is now that the energy has dissipated. She's just a naked girl on a prison bed with an audience and nowhere to hide. “Why...What the hell?" she asks.

Lucy stands without a word and picks up the crumpled pink heap from the floor. She slips the jumpsuit back on, zips it up, and fixes her hair, then walks back to Faith and Santana. “Does anyone feel like painting?”

“Are you serious?!” All three girls turn to look at Spencer. “That's it?” she continues. “After all that. You just STOP?”

Lucy's eyes narrow as she takes two steps forward, until she's casting a shadow on Spencer's face. “You broke the rules.”

Spencer’s eyes widen in disbelief at the absurdity of this, that she was flat-out denied what she literally begged for – repeatedly!because she couldn't hold on for two more seconds. Spencer finally releases the frame and sits up, leaning over for her clothes on the floor.

Lucy's expression hardens, eyes blazing. “I didn't say you could let go.”

“Yeah, well, too bad. Game's over. I guess I lost.” Spencer slips on her bra and steps into the black jumpsuit. It's still damp, and she's even more pissed she still doesn't have underwear.

Lucy's eyes are widening now, as if surprised by the act of defiance.

“Definitely gonna lose something...” Faith offers casually, picking at a scab on her arm.

Lucy reaches down and grabs Spencer's chin, pulling upward until she their eyes meet. “We're not done until I say so.”

“Yeah?” Spencer pushes Lucy's hand away to free her face from the grip. “Well, I didn't agree to that. Go play sadist with one of them.” She turns to face the wall, curling into a ball. She knows it's stupid to be acting like this, to be angering someone so dangerous and crazy, but she can't help it. Spencer just wants to be left alone, to close her eyes and make all of this go away. And then she remembers that she's on Lucy's bed.

Godfuckingdamnit.

In a huff, she sits up quickly and escapes off the bunk, silently grateful that Lucy doesn't grab her or stab her or whatever else as she passes by. Faith and Santana exchange looks of disbelief and amusement, and Santana tuts with a wave of her finger, as if to say, You shouldn't have done that.

Spencer ignores her, pulling herself up to the top bunk and reclaims her fetal position.

“I'll remember this, Spencer,” comes the threatening voice from behind her.

Yeah, so will I.

It takes a few minutes before Spencer stops shaking, but she's eventually convinced that Lucy's no longer standing there watching her.

“Nine of clubs,” Santana says knowingly from below. “It’s never wrong.”

They fall back into random conversation, and Spencer lets her eyes close when it seems safe enough to drop away. Humiliated and exhausted, she can’t help but replay the events over and over in her mind. Fortunately, the limbo period for sleep isn't nearly as long or withholding.

Chapter Text

The next week is...strange, to say the least.

Now that the red cloud is lifted, so to speak, Spencer’s cellmates seem to be on this perpetual sex bender, like it’ll go out of style if they so much as come up for air. Spencer hasn’t been invited, so she’s left bearing witness to the Smut Festival as it plays on and on; the accidental voyeur.

Santana has taken on the role of Orgasm Machine, endlessly dispensing rewards to girls who reach a hand in. Spencer almost wishes she had a stopwatch so she could calculate Santana’s average rate, because, if she’s not faking it, it’s got to be a world record. Or, off-world record. Not that Spencer’s jealous or anything.

Meanwhile, Faith, she thinks, would make a great dental hygienist. She’s clearly comfortable in the assistant role and has a certain fascination with mouths and teeth. If she’s not putting her tongue into Santana’s mouth, she’s inserting her fingers or nipple or whatever else she can fit in there.

Though, Spencer muses, most dental hygienists don’t sit on their patient’s faces at the end of the appointment.

Probably.

Lucy’s certainly the power player in the equation, the last one naked and the last one touched, always in charge of every scene. The rules seem to change depending on her mood, or maybe on the day -- Spencer can’t tell yet. Sometimes it’s tender and genuine, other times it’s rough and borderline violent. Most days they’re loud, not holding anything back. Occasionally the rule is not to make a sound. But one thing is always the same: They never use Santana’s bunk, because they want Spencer to see them.

She’s resisting as much as she can. After two days of lying on her side uncomfortably facing the wall, Spencer’s arm and shoulder couldn’t take it anymore. Staring at the ceiling wasn’t any better. So, eventually she gave up trying to hide from it and now tries to pretend it’s just not happening. If she can push past the shock factor, she’ll get used to it. It could even grow boring. It’s scientific fact – too much of anything gets old at some point.

Only, these girls might be the exception that proves the rule.

Lucy’s caught Spencer watching on multiple occasions. It’s always that same sly smirk and the raised eyebrow; the way Lucy runs her tongue along her lip and drives her fingers harder into Santana as if to say, “Don’t you wish I was doing this to you, instead?”

But she doesn’t. Really.

It’s morbidly intriguing, the way Santana gets her leg behind her head like that, or how Faith’s shoulder doesn’t dislocate pumping that hard for so long, or wondering what awful names Lucy will call them next or how she’ll make them play her stupid power trip games. Spencer’s grossed out and frustrated and livid that she got herself put into this Fuck Factory in the first place, but the last thing she feels is jealous.

Except, well. That’s a lie. She’s insanely jealous.

Unless it’s all just a very, very convincing and well-performed show, the sex sounds mind-blowing, and Spencer hasn’t had anything like that since Quinn in the bathroom, what, a month ago? Longer? Every day seems the same up here, making it very difficult to track time. She doesn’t even trust her own monthly cycle as an indicator anymore. Everything is wrong, and she never gets anything she needs, and why won’t they just STOP MOANING, FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST.

Spencer lets out a long overdue scream of frustration into her pillow, folding her arms over her head and pulling fistfuls of her hair tight. She doesn’t want to cry over this, she really, really doesn’t, but thinking about not wanting to just makes her start anyway.

Why can’t the spider come put me out of my misery already?

****************

Dinner is a brief reprieve from the Orgy of the Elite, but it also means seeing Quinn, and that’s hardly any easier to endure. Her face -- that beautiful, gorgeous fucking face -- is literally everywhere. Spencer can’t escape it. Yet, there’s a clearer difference between them now, more than just their hair and uniforms. There’s a distance in Quinn’s eyes that Spencer hasn’t seen before, and she flinches a bit at first sight, even across the expanse of the Mess Hall.

Their eyes meet, but Quinn looks right through her.

It’s like Spencer’s not even there, not standing awkwardly in the aisle with her tray in hand, mouth hanging open as she clumsily grasps at words to say. But then she feels a sharp shoulder jut into her back, knocking her aside with a curse to let the others pass by, and Spencer blinks to regain her center of reality. When she looks back, Quinn’s engrossed in conversation with Aphasia and Mack, decidedly uninterested and a world away.

“Let’s go.” Santana rolls her eyes and grabs Spencer’s tray to set it on the table. When Spencer doesn’t sit down, Santana reaches a finger into the small pile of peanut butter on Spencer’s tray, hooks a sizeable glop, and brings it into her mouth, sucking hard and moaning as she slowly retracts.

The awkward noise gets her attention. “Hey,” Spencer says, finally noticing what’s happening. She sits down and moves her tray closer in front of her, guarding it with her arm. But she’s not really hungry; Spencer just slumps over her food and pokes at it with her plastic spork.

It’s quiet for a moment between them, though the typical hum of conversation continues to buzz all around. Spencer tries to dip a pretzel stick into the uncontaminated sections of her peanut butter, because she knows exactly where Santana’s finger has been today. The very thought makes her lose her appetite altogether, and she crushes the pretzel in her hand instead. It seems like a good idea, but now she’s covered in crumbs.

“Look,” Faith offers, “whatever went down between you and Pink Panther” -- she takes a pretzel stick off Spencer’s tray and manages to scoop most of the remaining peanut butter onto it -- “it’s ancient history now.” She shovels the peanut butter into her mouth and says, “I never did like that class,” while chewing.

“Well, I like history,” Spencer says, running a hand through her hair. “I’m good at history.”

“Maybe that’s why you suck at letting things go,” Santana says. “Hey, I know how good that fruit tastes, believe me.” Spencer glares in a neutral direction to avoid shoving the last pretzel stick into Santana’s eye. “But she’s not worth all of these…” Santana gestures her hand at Spencer’s whole aura, face furrowed in a scowl. “...feelings. Ew.”

Spencer picks up the roll and takes a forceful bite. With all this frustration, it feels good to rip her teeth into something. Even if Santana’s right, Spencer’s not there yet, and she’s not going to let anyone else, let alone Santana, dictate her emotions.

“Perhaps it’s time we remind Spencer who her real friends are now,” Lucy says carefully.

“Oh, you’ve decided to talk to me now?” Spencer spits. After days of ignoring her and forcing her to sit through their rampant sex sessions, this is the first thing Lucy’s said to her. And of course, it’s just more bullshit. Spencer rips the rest of her roll into pieces as she keeps talking. “Have I finally gotten pathetic enough for you? Is this what you’ve been waiting for?”

“Consider your tone, Spencer,” Lucy says evenly, fighting to keep a steeled expression. It’s the most she’s ever looked like Quinn, and that only makes things worse.

“Yes, god forbid people know I’m actually upset about something. God forbid they know I’m not happy in prison. God fucking forbid I want to have a real connection with someone, and that person isn’t you.” Spencer’s voice is rising, but she doesn’t care anymore. “But maybe you have some constructive ideas on how I should deal with my feelings? Cut her in half, maybe? Will that do it? Or should I do some fingerpainting? Is that better? Did you bring your FUCKING PLAY-DOH?”

Her outburst has gained quite the audience, both from their table and behind, as all eyes are on Lucy. Now that Spencer’s stopped talking, the ramifications are setting in with the silence. She just challenged the most powerful prisoner in space, and god only knows what’s going to happen next. Hopefully, she’ll remember how to breathe at some point. Her body is vibrating, maybe from adrenaline, maybe from life-threatening fear.

Spencer sees a montage of scenes flash in her mind as she waits for her punishment. Lucy, reaching across the table to choke her until she blacks out, maybe as Santana pins Spencer’s hands behind her so she can’t fight back. Lucy, marching over and laying Quinn out with a single punch, maybe knocking out a few teeth so Quinn has something to remember her by. Lucy, dragging Spencer over to Quinn and forcing her on her knees, ordering her to profess her love here in front of everyone. Or worse, Quinn, laughing at her and then never speaking to her again. Every possibility is as humiliating as the last.

Bringing herself to meet Lucy’s eyes, Spencer braces for the oncoming storm. The cafeteria has never seemed so quiet yet so thick with tension. Somewhere far behind Spencer, someone mutters, “Oh shit,” and another girl quickly shushes her.

But then, something in Lucy’s expression softens and the stiffness in her posture seems to melt away. “Oh, Spencer,” she says, sounding as sickeningly sweet as she did on that very first day of class. “What a fantastic idea! Yes, when we get back home, let’s do some therapeutic painting! I’m sure there is so much I can show you about channeling your anger into something constructive. I’m more than happy to teach you a lesson. And I’m proud of you for asking for help in your time of weakness!”

Spencer just sits there. Her mind replays the words, but it still isn’t computing. She must look completely dumbfounded, but all the onlookers aren’t fazed. They’re looking at her now, content with Lucy’s response and waiting to see what’s next. Somehow, Lucy turned the tables on her without lifting a finger or giving an inch. If Spencer wasn’t so horrified with the situation, she’d marvel at the mastery of it.

She goes back to picking apart her dinner roll, but the crowd isn’t looking away. “Sure, whatever,” Spencer says irritably, and the other prisoners finally turn back to their meals. The sounds of casual conversations resume, steadily building on each other, and after a minute, all is returned to normal. Spencer chances to catch a glance at Faith, who’s staring right at her, chewing on her pretzel loudly with a smirk.

“This should be fun,” Faith says in between crunches and raises her eyebrows.

Spencer closes her eyes and exhales deeply. This is far from over. But then again, it wouldn’t be dinnertime in prison without a giant serving of fear.

****************

The walk back to the cell isn’t nearly long enough, and Spencer starts to think about how she could possibly get a transfer to the very far end of the block. Provided she survives the next twenty-four hours, of course. Or the next one, for that matter.

Channeling your anger, Lucy said. Spencer remembers the tiny hammer incident in that second Funhouse class and cringes. Anyone who slices people for fun and bashes heads in as “therapy” is certainly capable of killing without tools.

Spencer walks in first, eager to get into a familiar space, though she knows these three walls don’t make her any safer.

...in your time of weakness

She turns to see Lucy standing right behind her, arms crossed, with Faith and Santana flanked at her sides.

Buffy slams the door shut and says, “Have fun, ladies,” before walking away. As if everything is fine and normal here and Spencer’s not about to get torn limb from limb.

...I’m more than happy to teach you a lesson...

Maybe Lucy’s going to use Spencer’s blood as the medium of her next project. Maybe she’ll fashion a paintbrush from Spencer’s tibia and a lock of her hair. Maybe they’ll make a new version of her from the remains, replacing any missing parts of the corpse with Play-Doh ones until the killer spider hauls her rotting flesh away once and for all. The look on Lucy’s face says any -- or all -- of these are absolutely viable possibilities.

“Okay,” Spencer says, taking a step backward, “I got a little carried away --”

“I don’t like being spoken to that way, Spencer,” Lucy says. She sounds more hurt than anything, but her stance is still very much on the offensive.

“I know, I’m sorry, I just --”

“Yes, you do know.” Lucy begins moving toward her one foot at a time. “There are rules.”

Spencer instinctively keeps her distance, stumbling a little on her own shoelace. “At dinner?”

“There are always rules. What happens now is your fault,” Lucy says plainly. She looks to Faith and says, “Get it ready.”

Oh god, oh god, oh god. They’re going to kill me. Oh god, oh god.

Spencer backs up until she’s against the wall, and Lucy follows her, stalking her prey, as Faith and Santana break off to do...something. Spencer’s too damn scared to look.

“Lannister!” she shouts desperately. “Safeword! That’s the rule! LANNISTER!”

“You are safe,” Lucy says and pauses her forward motion, giving Spencer the space she has invoked. “No one’s going to touch you without consent. I already told you that. No one’s going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t FEEL safe,” Spencer says.

That seems to sting Lucy. “I thought you trusted me. I’ve never done anything to hurt you. Why are you so afraid?”

All of Spencer’s pent up emotions suddenly burst out as she cries, “You’ve killed A LOT OF PEOPLE. Am I just supposed to forget that?”

“I’m protecting you,” Lucy says, as if it’s all the justification she needs.

“She’s for real,” Faith says from ten miles away.

Spencer meets Lucy’s eyes again and says weakly, lips trembling, “I wish I could believe you.”

It’s the truth. She wants nothing more than to believe Lucy Fabray wants to be her champion and biggest ally. But trust is a scarce resource in prison, and Spencer’s not about to let her guard down that easily. Not after embarrassing the Chainsaw Princess in front of the entire prison. She knows how these things work. She’s going to be made an example of.

And now Spencer looks over and sees what the others were up to. Faith took Lucy’s mattress and put it on the floor in the middle of the room, as Santana did the same with hers. Side by side, they made a reasonably sized sleeping area for two people, which…Well. It’s probably not nap time. However, the newly assembled surface would be adequate for dismembering a person without staining the floor.

Lucy asks Spencer another question, but it’s hard to hear the words over the pounding in her ears. Spencer’s thinking about the few happy memories she has, clinging to them and trying to feel good about her life ending here and now. It hasn’t all been bad. There were some good summers of math camp and all the straight-A semesters and the occasional moment of love from her sister and...whatever she felt for Quinn. And, no, it doesn’t feel like enough, and she’s not ready for it to all be over. She doesn’t consent to die. Not here, not now. But what can she do? She’s locked in here with no escape and no way of protecting herself. Spencer doesn’t want to cry, but she feels the sting of tears creeping out anyway.

“Spencer?” Lucy asks.

Pushing away the rising flood waters in her brain, Spencer’s voice cracks as she asks, “Are you going to hurt me?”

Lucy’s head tilts a bit but her voice remains low. “Do you want me to?”

“No,” Spencer says, exasperated. She can’t hide her emotions now. “No, I don’t want you to hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.” It feels ridiculous to have to say it out loud.

“Then I won’t,” Lucy says. “I promise.” Before Spencer can relax even a little, however, Lucy adds, “But you are going to be punished. You’re going to learn to control yourself.”

Spencer takes a deep breath and tries to collect herself here in this moment. She wipes at her eyes and straightens her posture, meeting Lucy’s eyes with another exhale. “Whatever you’re gonna do to me, just make it quick.” The words don’t sound nearly as brave or defiant as she wants them to.

“Oh, no, no. I can’t do that,” Lucy says, taking a step forward and running a finger down Spencer’s cheek. She wipes away a tear Spencer missed and says, “Then you wouldn’t learn.”

“I will, I do, I’m sorry,” Spencer insists, her words rushed, eyes pressed shut and pushing out more tears. She’s failing at self-control already. Something about Lucy Fabray makes her a quivering mess. “I’m sorry,” she repeats.

“Words are a liar’s tool, Spencer,” Lucy says. “I think you meant every word you said at dinner.”

“Then what do you want me to say?”  Spencer clenches her fists at her sides. She wants to sink into the wall and just melt away into nothing. “I was angry! You’ve been ignoring me for days! You wanted me to be scared, well, now I’m scared. You win. Again.” She wipes her face and sniffs hard, blowing the air out her mouth as her head falls back to rest on the wall.

“There.” Lucy sounds relieved. “That’s better. No more lies.” Lucy quickly glances back to their cellmates waiting patiently on the makeshift bed. “Now we can have some fun. I hope you’ll agree to play with us,” Lucy says, “so you can show me just how sorry you are.” She lets the proposal breathe for a moment before adding, “I want that very much. And I think you do, too. But, no more lies, like we said. If you really don’t want to, say so now.”

Spencer pulls her lips in between her teeth and bites hard, steadying herself. If Lucy’s true to her word, her life isn’t in any danger, but she can’t know for sure without taking the risk. Spencer hates how badly she wants to trust Lucy when every rational thought in her brain tells her not to. She hates how badly she wants Lucy to put her hands all over her body and make her feel alive. It sure beats Lucy putting her hands on her body and making her not-alive.

Why couldn’t I become infatuated with someone normal? Someone who hasn’t killed forty people?

Why do you have so much power over me?

Why do I like it so much?

She takes a quick but deep breath and once again puts her life in the hands of a murderer. “Okay. I’ll play.” Just for safe measure, she adds, “Please don’t kill me.”

Lucy breaks out into a smile. “Wonderful!” She turns and smiles at Faith and Santana, who reply with a cheeky thumbs-up and a wink, respectively. Looking back at Spencer, she crosses her arms and looks her up and down. “As much as I like when you beg me to make you scream,” Lucy says with a gentle smile, “I think you’re done talking for now. Unless you need to use your safeword as intended. Look at me and nod if you agree.”

With a long exhale, Spencer opens her eyes and meets Lucy’s, then slowly but clearly nods her head. And just like that, the game is on.

Lucy cocks her head back a little, examining the moment with a serious expression. “Take off your clothes,” she says quietly, non-threatening.

Spencer’s hands shake as she pulls the zipper down, exposing the vulnerabilities beneath her armor. The black jumpsuit crumples to a pile on the floor, leaving Spencer cold and shaking in only her bra. Lucy closes the distance between them and drags her thumb along Spencer’s jawline so hesitantly that Spencer almost doesn’t feel the brush of lips against hers before Lucy pulls away.

She tries to stay in the moment; she focuses hard on the tingling in her lips, but then there’s a soft sound that pulls her out of her daze. When Spencer opens her eyes, she sees a very naked Lucy standing before her, and her heart stops. Or, her brain stops. Maybe everything stops.

“May I kiss you?” Lucy asks. Spencer’s heard the question before, but it’s quite different now, standing skin to skin, each afraid of the other for reasons that seem to be rapidly fading away.

Spencer’s mouth falls open slightly, maybe to let in more air for her poor, failing brain. Lucy Fabray doesn’t ever truly look scared, per se, but she is fearful of rejection in these moments. Spencer can see it in her eyes. There’s a humanity shining through that Spencer finally feels she can trust. Fixating on Lucy’s lips, Spencer nods and holds her breath.

Before she can even close her eyes, Lucy is kissing her. Any shades of fear quickly melt away in the heat as both girls feel their confidence rising. The taste of Lucy Fabray on her tongue makes Spencer weak in the knees, so she reaches back to the wall to brace herself. They kiss for minutes on end, deeply, intensely, until Spencer loses all touch with reality. It’s only when Lucy breaks away that she remembers who she is or why she’s standing naked in a prison cell being really gay. Her body is suddenly cold without Lucy’s against it, but she doesn’t know if she should--

Suddenly, the intercom blares the sound of keyboards as Madonna’s “Give It 2 Me” starts.

Santana throws her head back with a laugh and claps three times. “Perfect!”  Rising from her seat, she pulls Faith in close, unzipping each other’s jumpsuits as they begin making out.

Lucy walks over toward them and steps onto the mattresses, turning to hold out her hand to Spencer.

It’s all just so much -- the heightened emotions and the frustration and the fear and the want. Just minutes ago, she thought everything was ending, and now it looks like some kind of new beginning. Spencer would be lying if she said she didn’t want it. Still, she wonders if it’s better to stay put, to not be drawn into whatever tangled mess the three girls have together. Lucy wants to punish her bad behavior; Spencer hasn’t forgotten.

She could say no to Lucy, right?

Deep in the back of Spencer’s mind, the truth nags at her – Yes, she could if she wanted to. But she doesn’t want to. Not even a little bit.

And then Faith’s hand slips between Santana’s legs, and Lucy raises one eyebrow, and Spencer’s three steps from the wall before she even realizes she’s moving.

Her mouth meets Lucy’s in a collision of wills, hands grasping for skin and strongholds as they pull each other closer, harder. She hasn’t been allowed to use her hands before, and suddenly she wants them everywhere at once. Spencer reaches down to Lucy’s perfect ass, sliding her palm along the smooth skin. She’s missed the warmth of contact, the rush that impact brings, and she wants to take all of Lucy in with her fingertips, one inch at a time. But as soon as she reaches for new ground, Lucy pulls away entirely and walks to the foot of the bed.

“Lie down,” she says.

She crawls onto the middle of the left mattress -- Lucy’s -- as its owner stands at the end, staring down at her. Then, Lucy circles around to the far end, standing between Spencer and the cell bars, and gestures for Spencer to spin around to face her.

“Take that off,” Lucy motions to Spencer’s bra. A swift movement later, and Lucy’s staring down at Spencer with a newly appreciative look. “It’s time you learned your lesson, Spencer.”

“W--” She starts to protest but quickly stops herself. There are rules in play. Taking a deep breath to steady the pounding in her very bare chest, Spencer tries to remember that whole “Trust the murderer” thing. Even if Lucy does kill her, this should be a hell of a way to die.

“Faith,” Lucy says, not breaking eye contact with Spencer, “hold her down.”

At the sound of those words, Spencer’s heart races faster. She’s suddenly very aware of her hands, as they’re probably about to be pinned behind her head. She fights the urge to squirm in protest of what’s coming.

Faith breaks away from Santana and says, “My pleasure.” She steps over Spencer’s stomach, straddling it and standing proudly like king of the damn mountain.

Spencer has...quite the view of her, and it’s hard not to look, well, right there. She tries to make eye contact with Faith, but there are nipples and that devilish grin, and Spencer tries to half-turn to look away but doesn’t want to seem insulting.

Faith squats down, balancing on her toes with her knees wide open, awkwardly close to Spencer’s face. Now, Spencer can smell her, and it’s new and intoxicating, and her body is reacting in ways she doesn’t want -- not with her. Not like this.

“Looks like I get the fun job,” Faith says, and she brushes the hair off Spencer’s collarbone and shoulders, then drags a fingertip across her throat.

If it’s meant to be intimidating, well, it’s working. Spencer swallows hard and braces for the hands around her throat she knows are coming. She remembers how Lucy plays. Surely, she’s trained Faith in her reindeer games.

“Hands over your head,” Faith says.

Oh god.

Spencer slowly drags her arms out from where they’ve been pinned by Faith’s feet. They’re free now, with full range of motion. Spencer lifts them over her head, unsure if she’s supposed to be holding on to something like before or just not touching anything. The stakes are too high to get things wrong. Spencer never studied for this test, but she doesn’t want to fail.

Faith must see the look of fear in her wide eyes, because she laughs once and offers, “You’re gonna need ‘em,” with a wink.

Lucy walks over and stands behind Spencer’s head, facing Faith, and then lowers herself until she’s squatting next to Spencer’s ear. (Spencer almost has an aneurysm watching her move down.)

“We’re going to help you get over her,” Lucy says, and gently strokes Spencer’s hair. It’s sweet and only slightly terrifying having not one but two scary, naked women hovering over her like this, appearing to care. And then, as soon as Spencer’s starting to feel comfortable in the moment, it’s gone, because Lucy stands up and walks out of view. “But if you want us to put you first, you have to show that you can put us first, too.” She circles around so Spencer can see her again. “Can you do that, Spencer? Can you make Faith believe you?”

Faith leans down slightly and says with a smirk, “I’m ready to listen if your mouth’s got something to say.”

“Truth time,” Lucy says. “Look at me and nod if you’re ready to show us just how much you want to belong here.”

Spencer’s heart is crashing into her ribcage over and over, threatening to burst out. She feels the blood rushing to her head, and everything in her body is aching with how much she wants this. These goddamn hormones are going to be the death of her. Literally.

“If you want out,” Lucy adds, “put a hand flat on her stomach. That’s your safe sign. Otherwise, I’ll expect you won’t stop until I say you can. Do you understand?”

Looking at Lucy once more, Spencer lifts her head off the floor and nods, then turns her eyes back to Faith.

Spencer hears Lucy’s final words of encouragement over the pounding in her ears. “Don’t disappoint us.”

“Ride or die,” Faith says with a wicked grin. Then, she shifts herself forward and tilts her knees toward the ground, positioning herself right on Spencer’s mouth.

Everything goes dark, and it’s sudden and intrusive and heavy and suffocating and salty and claustrophobic. Spencer immediately makes a sound of protest, bending her knees in, and her elbows press into Faith’s thighs as she tries to push herself free. With a slight adjustment, her nose is unsmooshed and she can breathe more easily. Spencer takes in a fast rush of air, and the scent is intoxicating.

Faith weaves her fingers into Spencer’s hair, not to pull but just to hold her still, and Spencer relents at the touch. Then, to her surprise, something instinctive kicks in as the soft, wet skin moves against her mouth, and Spencer freezes, letting her mind catch up to her tense, scared body. She’s certainly never been in this position before, but it’s not like she hasn’t thought about it, hasn’t wanted it. Not with Faith per se, but still. She’s needed this.

Closing her eyes, Spencer slowly brings her mouth closed, brushing her lips tentatively along the slick skin like a nervous first kiss. She repeats the motion, bigger and more precise, then finds new ground and does it a third time. With gaining confidence, she slips her tongue out and glides it along the curved edge, getting a first true taste of what she’s been missing all this time.

It’s fucking amazing.

“Yeah, you like that?” Faith asks, and Spencer hums in approval as she pushes in toward the source of the wetness.

Spencer moves faster, wider, deeper as she goes, exploring each twist and turn with increasing energy. It’s getting harder to breathe as her nose is blocked again, and she fights to do what she can before coming up for air. But then, Spencer remembers she’s allowed to use her hands. And that changes everything.

Now, with added control, precision, and leverage, she makes room to breathe and pushes harder into Faith, grinding her tongue on Faith’s clit like her life depends on it -- because, hell, it honestly might. In the fleeting moments when she’s not lost in her actions, when she can think objectively about what she’s doing right here, right now, her brain malfunctions. How did she go from Rosewood’s darling, girlfriend of the outsider bad boy and dutiful daughter, to eating out a convicted murderer in a prison cell in outer space?

And how did she get so damn good at this so quickly? The noises Faith’s making are quite encouraging and push Spencer to work even harder. But then, she always was the overachiever.

Beyond the sounds of her eager tongue and Faith’s pleasure, somewhere in the moments Faith’s thighs aren’t pressed right against her ears, Spencer hears Lucy’s muffled voice close by.

“Good girl. Don’t stop. Make her believe you.”

The words are cold and matter-of-fact, and Spencer’s drive for approval only makes her work harder. Spencer’s eager to prove herself. Her muscles are getting fatigued, but she’s determined to finish what she started. She can do this. She can get someone off on her first time trying.

She’s a Hastings, goddamnit.

But then her thighs are being pushed open and angled back, and Spencer’s suddenly on display for anyone to see. For all she knows, there’s a line of guards a few feet away taking in the view and laughing at her. (At the moment, Spencer’s just grateful this prison only has cells on one side of the block.) But, no, she can’t let herself think about any of that. It doesn’t change anything. All she can see is Faith, so she closes her eyes and tries to regain her focus on her task.

It’s all just a test. I’m good at tests.

But then, without warning, a tongue drags slowly through Spencer’s wetness. She groans loudly against Faith’s skin, crying out in shock at the sensation. It shoots up her spine as her back arches in response, and everything else stops.

“Keep going,”  Lucy’s voice says, still close. It seems to be coming from behind Spencer, which must mean Santana is the one between her legs.

Faith’s sitting on her face, Santana’s going down on her, and Lucy Fabray is watching. But Spencer’s fine. Really. Only, she’s not at all, because Santana’s tongue is circling her clit, and Spencer’s forgotten how to breathe.

A sudden pull on her hair kickstarts her lungs with a gasp, and Lucy’s right by her ear now, whispering forcefully, “I said... Keep. Going. You don’t get to stop until I say so.”

Electricity fires in Spencer’s brain, but she can’t make sense of any of it. She’s lost all control of her body, now moving on its own in response to whatever Santana’s doing. Spencer whimpers into Faith’s skin, both of them wet and messy and warm, and Lucy tightens the hold in Spencer’s hair, pushing her deeper into Faith. Lucy’s hand shifts to the back of Spencer’s head and supports it, keeping her close in. Nice as it is to have some relief for her neck, it also restricts her range of motion, eliminating the option of retreat, save for the safety signal.

No, Spencer isn’t stopping. The test just got a hell of a lot harder with this goddamn distraction between her legs, too. She feels like she’s drowning, but she’s still alive.

Adapting to her competition, Spencer tries to mirror what Santana’s doing, because it sure is fucking effective. Her body is humming with energy. But it’s difficult enough staying focused on the clit in front of her, much less ignoring her own as it pulses hard against Santana’s warm, skilled tongue.

“Faster,” Faith says, and she sounds displeased, which can’t bode well for Spencer’s health. As if right on cue, she feels a sharp pain on her inner thigh.

OW! Did that bitch just BITE me?

There’s Sexy Love Bite and then there’s Painful Boundary-Crossing Bite, and this was definitely the latter. Spencer promises herself she’ll give the safe sign if it happens again. For now, Santana is making it up to her in spades, sucking hard on her aching clit. Spencer wonders if the bite is her so-called punishment, or if worse is still coming. Somehow, she digs deep and finds the strength to move her aching tongue faster. The sooner she gets Faith to climax, the better she can focus on her own. Haphazardly, she makes uneven circles around Faith’s clit, trying desperately to establish a steady rhythm but lacking the strength to maintain it. Even with her hands making room, each breath is a struggle.

“Don’t let her come,”  Lucy says loudly.

Spencer prays she’s the one being spoken to, because she’s quickly losing this battle and doesn't know if Faith’s anywhere close. It’s got to have been at least ten minutes now, but Spencer realizes she has no idea how long it takes for a girl to come this way. No one’s ever been down on her long enough to find out.

“Not until she proves she’s learned her lesson,”  Lucy adds, and now Spencer knows she’s fucked.

Well, so to speak.

Her mouth is sore, and she considers reaching for Faith’s stomach if only for reprieve. But no, Spencer’s still too scared to know what they’ll do if she surrenders. She wants to get through this, and somehow, some way, she will. Spencer wants to come, she needs to come so badly, and this is her moment to prove herself. Not that she’s learned whatever Lucy’s fucked up lesson is, but that she can hold her own in here. Prove that she’s the badass she thinks she is. The motherfucking, clit-licking, lesbian badass.

Her neck is killing her, her ears are ringing, there’s a stray hair on her tongue, and she’s fairly certain she’s about to suffocate, but Spencer keeps working and tunes out the chorus of “Papa Don’t Preach.” She already knows she’s in trouble deep, thank you very much.

Digging further within herself, she finds a burst of strength and energy. She moves one hand to slide a long finger inside Faith. Taking another breath, Spencer focuses on grinding her tongue along Faith’s clit, mirroring the rhythm with her finger, pulling and digging and pressing with everything she has.

“Yeah...yeah…” Faith pants.

Spencer’s mind slips back and forth between Faith’s legs and her own, but she keeps her pace steady. She’s gaining traction now, and she’s not about to lose it. Each passing minute brings relief that much closer. Her jaw aches, her teeth have scraped the underside of her tongue raw, and she’s going to feel the cramp in her neck for days, but goddamnit, she’s making this happen.

Faith must be getting close, because she’s moaning loudly in between the phrases Lucy’s saying. “Give it to her, Faith. I want you to come for me with her fingers inside you. I want you to come hard, Faith. Do it. DO IT. NOW!”

There’s a high-pitched ringing as Faith’s thighs clamp tightly on Spencer’s ears. The pressure increases, and the body above her shudders with a loud cry. Faith grabs fistfuls of Spencer’s hair and pushes hard, holding her tongue flush against her as the orgasm courses through. Spencer doesn’t know if she’s supposed to stop, so she keeps flicking and circling, then sucks hard when she feels Faith’s body stutter to a halt. It’s only then that she notices the steady rhythm continuing between her own legs, where Santana’s not yet been given reprieve.

“Good,” Lucy says simply, brushing Spencer’s hair out of her face. “Faith is a model of self-control. You can learn a lot from her.”

Faith, panting heavy breaths now, crawls off of Spencer much more awkwardly than she got on. She sits spread-eagle on the other mattress beside them, leaning back on the empty bed frame. “Not bad, rookie. You’ve got a bright future as a bicycle.”

Spencer doesn’t know if she’s allowed to wipe her face, but she does so anyway with her forearm. Closing her eyes, she tries to block out the unending awkwardness of the situation and focus just on what Santana’s tongue is doing. Only, Spencer’s imagining it’s Quinn.

“Stop,” Lucy says, and Santana obeys.

Spencer’s eyes pop right back open as she sits up, turning to face Lucy. “HEY. No! Come on!” Spencer looks to Santana for support, but she only shrugs and wipes her chin with the back of her hand. “Seriously,” she says to Lucy, “Enough with the power trip! Just let me have a goddamn orgasm!”

Any warmth in Lucy’s face drains instantly, and Spencer wonders why she can’t just keep her fucking mouth shut. As much as Lucy drives her crazy, it’s best not to test the limits of confessed killers. Especially ones who have explicitly expressed that she will be punished.

Locking eyes with Spencer, Lucy steps forward until she’s right in front of her, with Spencer’s face right there. (Spencer doesn’t know where the hell she’s supposed to look, but she’s suddenly very aware of the stray hair still on her tongue.) Lucy grabs Spencer’s chin and pulls it upward sharply, reestablishing eye contact. It’s not painful, but it’s certainly uncomfortable, and Spencer suppresses the urge to jerk herself free. “It seems your mouth isn’t as tired as I thought. Perhaps you need another lesson?”

Much as she enjoyed going down on Faith, everything in her mouth hurts from the effort, and another round would only make it worse. The very thought is exhausting. She tries not to clench her tender jaw as she says, “No.”

Lucy squeezes Spencer’s chin tighter. “Then control yourself, or I’ll change my mind.” She releases her hold but doesn’t look away yet. “Let me be very clear: We come first tonight. Yours is optional.” With a sickeningly sweet smile, Lucy asks, “Do you wish to continue?”

Spencer’s eyes fall closed for a second as she exhales heavily, frustrated. Of course she wants to continue. She just doesn’t like admitting how fucking badly she wants it. “Yes,” she says clearly.

Looking up at the other girls, Lucy points a finger upward and makes a circular motion, some kind of signal that they both seem to understand. Suddenly, Faith grabs Spencer’s shoulders and pulls her back and away from Lucy. Santana grabs Spencer’s feet, but she’s kicking furiously and shouting, “Hey! What are you doing!” as they attempt to reposition her.

“Chill out, jesus,” Santana says when Spencer’s foot connects soundly with her thigh.

But Spencer’s not giving in easily. So, instead, Santana shuffles over to the other mattress and sits at the foot of it, lying down so her face is in the center. (Faith scoots a bit out of the way to make room.) She looks at Spencer with a smirk, then holds her hands up as she says, “I’m not getting any younger.”

Spencer looks up at Lucy, then Faith, then back to Lucy, waiting for instructions. How the hell is she supposed to just know what to do? It’s not like she regularly frequents lesbian prison orgies. Or any orgies, for that matter. She didn’t see the Orgy Etiquette Book in the library. Though, now that she considers it, she wouldn’t be terribly surprised if this library had one.

“Sit,” Lucy says to Spencer, gesturing with her head.

She looks at Santana, who’s licking her lips, because it’s Spencer’s turn to be on top. Seems easy enough, though she isn’t sure how this plays into the “You come last”  bullshit unless Santana’s about to bite her into oblivion. Her legs are shaking as she stands and hobbles over to Santana, and it feels very, very awkward lowering herself over someone’s face. She isn’t sure where to put her feet or her knees, but the moment Santana’s tongue reconnects with her skin, she falls into some straddling position that works. Leaning forward against the thin, stained mattress, Spencer angles her body to what feels best, making sure to support her own weight and not suffocate her very eager partner below. But Santana seems to be doing just fine down there. Based on the skill she’s exhibiting, it’s clear this position isn’t anything new.

Spencer’s hair falls around her face as she leans forward and focuses on the swirls of Santana’s tongue. Her palms are sweaty; fingers curling to hold on for dear life as the pace increases. It’s easy enough to think of Quinn when she closes her eyes and blocks out the room. Moving in steady time with the new Madonna song, she tries to get within reach of her orgasm before Lucy has a chance to pull her back again.

As if reading her mind, Lucy moves to stand right in front of Spencer. But then she sits down, legs spread, positioning herself behind Santana’s head – and right under Spencer’s face.

No...I can’t...not like this?

And then Faith’s hands pull Spencer’s shoulders back until she’s sitting straight upright. Her weight’s thrown off, and she stumbles as she regains her balance, trying not to crush Santana’s shoulders with her legs. Spencer pushes her hair out of her face, and now she can fully see the naked, gorgeous Lucy Fabray spread out in front of her.

Lucy looks her right in the eye as she scoots herself forward, inching closer until Spencer’s knees are pushing her thighs wider and wider. “I want you to fuck me, Spencer.”

Oh, sure. It sounds so simple.

Leaning forward on her weak hand for support, Spencer reaches out and traces a fingertip along the soft curves of Lucy Fabray. She’s never touched another girl like this before. She’s wanted to do this for weeks, much longer than she’ll admit to herself -- maybe from the first moment they met. It’s confusing, the jumble of emotions for Quinn and the echo of that face looking up at her now. Spencer doesn’t want Quinn to speak to her like this, so why does it make her wet when Lucy does? More importantly, why is Spencer trying to sort out her feelings when her finger’s sliding ever so easily inside her?

Lucy hums in approval and says, “More,” leaning forward into Spencer’s touch.

With the boost in confidence, Spencer slides a second finger into place and increases her speed. It makes her feel powerful, this sensation of being inside someone. She finds a rhythm that she can maintain without tiring too quickly, and then realizes she’s moving in time with the song playing overhead. (WHY does it have to be “Like a Virgin”? WHY?) Santana’s tongue beneath her isn’t slowing down, either. Spencer remembers what Quinn did to her and positions her thumb accordingly to press against Lucy’s clit as she moves. Based on the response, as Lucy arches her back with a smile and a moan, Spencer knows she’s getting somewhere.

Thank you, Quinn.

“Mind if I join you ladies?” Faith asks.

Spencer had almost forgotten Faith’s right behind her. She feels fingernails trace down her back, sending a chill straight to her toes.

“That depends,” Lucy says. It sounds like she’s struggling to string words together with her usual commanding presence. It gives Spencer more pleasure than it probably should. “Has Spencer learned her lesson? Can you control yourself?”

With an angry glare, Spencer slams her hand in and out of Lucy as hard as she can, fighting through the burn in her forearms. She’s not going to be goaded like this, not anymore. Not by Lucy fucking Fabray, Play-Doh Power Princess. Spencer thinks of Quinn, of how hard she’s fighting to stay alive and get back to her somehow.

Spencer keeps moving. “Yes…I...CAN.”

Lucy finds Spencer’s eyes through the curtain of hair covering her face. “Don’t stop.” It’s not a plea, it’s an order, almost angry. “Harder, Spencer. Show me how very sorry you are. Make me believe it.”

Somewhere along the way, both the music and Santana stopped, but Spencer keeps going. The trails of sweat tickling down her face and neck, the ache of friction on her knees, the cramp in her back, the sting in her forearm -- nothing matters. Not until she’s made Lucy scream. And goddamnit, she’s going to.

“Do it!” Lucy says, and Spencer takes the cue to increase her pace. It’s finally her moment to shine. She’s about to make Lucy come.

Only, Spencer’s suddenly bombarded by sensations as Santana pushes her tongue hard against her clit again, bringing back into sharp focus just how much Spencer’s missed that pressure. A moment later, Faith’s kneeling beside her with a hand tight around her throat, choking her firmly, mouth hovering next to Spencer’s ear. She’s being ambushed from all sides.

“She said ‘harder,’” Faith taunts, and flexes her fingers as a show of strength. “Did you need me to let go?” It’s a toying question, as Faith clearly knows what the answer will be.

Spencer shakes her head no, at least as much as she can with her neck in Faith’s grip.

Faith presses her lips to Spencer’s ear and whispers, “Then fuck her, you little bitch.”

Oh god.

Spencer can still breathe, but it’s much harder now. Her entire body is screaming for oxygen, dehydrated and numb and spent. It’s difficult to stay conscious -- much less, moving -- when Santana’s moaning obscenities between her legs and Faith’s tracing her tongue along Spencer’s ear like that. She gasps and stumbles as her braced arm gives out.

“Control,”  Lucy reminds her.

She curses silently and switches arms as quickly as she can, not wanting to lose her momentum. Two fingers from her left hand find their way inside Lucy easily, and Spencer adjusts her angle to get moving again. This is her weak arm; she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to finish the task. But she has to try.

Faith seems displeased by the interruption. She jerks Spencer by the throat a few inches closer. “Did you not hear me? Fuck. Her.

Spencer moans loudly, leaning lower as she tries to increase her pace. Now that the music is gone, the sounds around her are deafening – the white noise of the prisoners hollering down the hall, the hollow gasps of her own breathing, the rhythm of Santana’s tongue, the slapping of her hand against Lucy, and Faith’s vicious words in her ear. It’s a goddamn symphony, and Spencer’s the conductor.

I had no idea that job was so exhaust---

“This really isn’t your best angle,” Buffy’s voice cuts in, out of nowhere.

Spencer’s eyes open wide, letting in the harsh light of reality, and she tries to jerk away as if she had somewhere to go or hide. As if she wasn’t currently sitting on someone’s face, two fingers deep into another, and ass widely on display for any passersby.

Faith doesn’t seem bothered in the least. “Why don’t you come join us, B? I’ve been wondering just how far I can fit my fist up your tight little ass.”

“I'd rather get a root canal from a demon,” Buffy says, leaning on the bars to make eye contact with Faith. "On my birthday."

Spencer keeps waiting for the guard to leave but she just…doesn’t. Instead, she has a front-row seat to Spencer’s Big Day, and Spencer wants nothing more than to curl up and die. She doesn’t know why this keeps happening to her. Why can’t she just have mindblowing sex without being interrupted? Is that really too fucking much to ask? It’s almost like prison isn’t some perfect fantasy or something.

She closes her eyes and tries to hold on to her rapidly fading arousal. After everything she’s endured so far, she doesn’t want to have to start all over. Again. Shifting her weight once more, Spencer switches back to her right hand and prays there’s enough gas in the tank to reach their destination.

“Are you a quitter, Spencer?” Lucy asks dangerously. “I don’t like girls who are quitters.”

She answers with her fingers, resuming a faster pace than before, though she’s now much more self-conscious of how weird the whole thing is. Spencer Hastings is the centerpiece of an angerbang prison orgy. In the middle of a steel, space uterus. Is this what the insignia meant by being “reborn”?

“Harder,”  Faith insists, and Spencer feels the sting of a brutal smack! against her ass.

She cries out loudly, matching the volume of it, and Lucy grins below her. Spencer’s muscles are on the verge of giving out. This can’t go on forever. And if Santana keeps sucking on her clit like that, she’s not long for this world, anyway.

“Let me help you,” Faith says slyly. Keeping her left hand on Spencer’s throat, she then drags the other down Spencer’s spine, across her ass, and underneath.

Spencer tries to block out the distraction and focus on giving Lucy what she wants. But then she feels Faith’s finger between her legs, right behind Santana’s hungry mouth. It starts at her wetness, pressing firmly, and traces back and upward, then presses against the tight hole. Instinctively, Spencer presses back, letting Faith inside. Suddenly, a burst of stimulation courses through her, one she’s never felt before.

“Fuck!”  Spencer cries out, burying her face into her braced arm. It’s all too much -- the onslaught of sensations, everything that’s happening everywhere all at once. She can’t tell if it’s sweat running down her face now or tears. She can’t tell if her arm’s still moving or if she’s still upright or if she’s even still breathing. But she knows that Faith’s got a finger deep inside her and isn’t leaving, isn’t even retracting. She’s filling Spencer up and keeping her at her limit until she breaks.

“You like that, don’t you?” Faith asks, not slowing her steady motions. “You like how we fuck you?”

“Yes.”  Spencer’s not sure how much more she can take, but she’s never felt anything like this. She didn’t know she could feel anything like this. Her muscles are tightening, it’s building, and she knows she’s close, whether she’s allowed to be or not. She presses her eyes closed and tries to hold it together somehow.

“Say you’re sorry,”  Lucy says somewhere in the distance.

Spencer gasps, holding her eyes firmly against her trembling arm. The salt of her sweat stings in her eyes, mixing with tears. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she pants.

“Good,” Faith says. “‘Cause we never stop, Spencer.” She drives her finger in as far as she can, squeezing her hand for pressure, then pulls Spencer closer by her throat with the same strength. Lips pressed to her ear, Faith says, “We’re gonna fuck you til you die.”

Spencer’s world comes completely undone. She falls over the edge of the mattress, involuntarily shuddering as the orgasm moves through her. A scream echoes in the room that might be hers; she doesn’t know. Spencer’s drowning in the flood of chemicals exploding in her brain. When she’s finally able to open her eyes, she discovers she’s on her side, curled up awkwardly with one leg tucked in and two fingers still wet from Lucy. Whom Spencer’s pretty sure she never got off.

She blinks against the light coming in from the corridor and wonders how long her arms have felt this tingly. The three girls are sitting beside her in various states of emotion ranging from amusement to boredom. Spencer’s eyes widen as she says weakly, “Am I in trouble?”

Lucy brushes the hair off Spencer’s cheek and moves closer in, taking her head into her lap. “No,” she says softly. “You’re my star student.”

Dr. Umbridge will be so proud.

“We accept your apology,” Lucy adds. Her tone is sincere. “You did well.”

Spencer relaxes into the touch of Lucy’s fingertips tracing letters on her back, and her eyes droop closed again. The last thing she sees is Santana leaning back against Faith, snuggling like kids in love. It’s sweet. Spencer can’t help but think that if they really do take care of each other like this, maybe being stuck here -- being absorbed into this insane dynamic --  won’t be so bad after all.

“Told you,” Faith says with a smirk. “Four of hearts beats nine of clubs.”

Santana holds up a hand. “She needs work. But it’s a start.”

A few minutes later, Spencer’s halfway asleep when she hears Santana change the topic in their small talk. “Okay, but can we discuss, ‘We’ll fuck you to death’ ?”

Faith grins, “Like you didn’t know she’d be into that.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, things are decidedly different in cell 1. Spencer’s included in group conversation as well as the midday sexual hijinks, like she’s been one of the gang all along. It’s an adjustment on her part, for sure, as she’s now expected to participate equally in their every whim. But it’s helping the days pass, so Spencer doesn’t complain. She’s learning the ins and outs of their particular kinks and dynamics, like how Faith has a different arrangement with Lucy for every day of the week -- each with its own rules -- and that Santana is more orally fixated than a dog with a bone. Spencer’s trying to find just where she fits in. For the sake of her research, of course. Not because she actually wants to belong.

...Right?

She does hate to admit that, for as much as she tells herself what a strong and independent woman she is, she’s still more comfortable in a group. Spencer understands teams and archetypes and knows how to play well with others. That’s her safe zone. This is just another group, and Lucy is her new Alison, her new…

No. Lucy is Lucy. She will never be Spencer’s new Quinn.

Still, Spencer can’t deny that her conflicted feelings of playing the emotional double agent are fading. That, or she’s simply becoming more comfortable in the role. She wonders at times just how much it’s still an act or if she truly belongs to this new family of four. Would they defend her, if a situation presented itself? And possibly the bigger question -- Would she defend them?

As she lies awake one Thursday evening listening to the gentle hum of Santana’s snoring below, Spencer thinks about the trust they’ve built together. It’s real, right? These girls are capable of a lot, but they’ve become humanized in the past week, no longer just caricatures of their most gruesome qualities. Spencer’s finding it harder and harder to believe that any of them, even Lucy, could be responsible for a spider killing spree in here. But the fact that she’s losing her objectivity about convicted murderers scares her just as much as the spider does.

If she becomes blind to the truth, will it kill her?

That chilling thought gives her the perspective she needs to step back and see the situation for what it is. After a few very long months up here, Spencer’s starting to forget everything she left behind. She’s forgetting where she comes from, who she really is. Her other life is melting away into a blur of memories, like some distant dream. The question now becomes, how hard will she fight to hold on to it?

Spencer rolls over on the hard mattress and shuffles through her mental iPod, landing on one of her favorite albums, the one she and Emily bought at the concert last September. Starting at the beginning, she quietly plays through it in her mind, whispering along to the lyrics. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the Madonna, even if she can't remember some of the verses. Her mind stumbles over some words in the second chorus, rhymes she just can’t connect, and Spencer makes up something new and moves forward. Maybe her iPod’s battery is running low. At least she’s trying. If she doesn’t let go of her past, it’ll never be wholly gone, right? There's still a chance she can get out of here someday, somehow. There has to be.

****************

“We had to upgrade the ventilation system after a few scattered suffocations. Nothing too serious.”

Sue’s voice carries down the corridor as she walks deftly in her cross-trainers. The clicking of a second pair of shoes echoes behind her, but Spencer can’t yet see to whom they belong. It’s taking long enough for them to make their way down the cell block. Spencer’s usually happy to have this much distance between herself and the warden, but now the curiosity is driving her crazy. She’d think Mistress Berry is back, but their dialogue sounds like an introduction.

When they’re finally close, Spencer sees a short, proper-looking woman dressed very professionally and looking from cell to cell as if seeking someone specific. Double checking the number above, she glances into #1, paying Spencer no more mind than the toilet, and then turns to Sue, clearly unhappy.

“Where’s Lopez?”

Sue blinks. “Pardon?”

“Santana. Lopez.”

Sue looks sincerely confused as she replies, “Never heard of her.”

Spencer doesn’t have any idea what’s going on, but she’s learned to keep her mouth shut. This woman looks like government, or maybe law enforcement. Sylvester must have a plan or at least some reason for lying, and Spencer’s willing to play along. Santana’s in the shower with the others and won’t be back for at least another twenty minutes. (Spencer learned just what goes on in the shower block at 2:30 the first time she accompanied them, and...no, thank you.) The more the brass talks, the more information she might get.

Spencer’s desperately curious to know what’s going on, but if Santana’s that dangerous – to warrant being moved somewhere worse than here -- the last thing Spencer wants to do is cross her. God only knows what kind of connections she might have. Spencer's questions can wait.

“I know she’s here, Warden,” the woman says testily, “so cut the crap and bring her out.”

“There isn’t a single prisoner on the roster named Lupe," says Sue. "Hand to God.”

But then the woman turns and notices Spencer listening from the middle of the cell. Her attention shifts immediately and she approaches the bars with fire in her eyes. “Miss, I’m Clarice Starling with the United States FBI.”

Holy crap, FBI?!

“I’m attempting to locate a prisoner who was formerly in our custody before we transferred her here three years ago," the agent explains. "What can you tell me about Santana Lopez?”

“She knows nothing,” Sue interjects dismissively, walking over to pry the agent from the bars.

“She knows something! I can tell.” Agent Starling reaches into her pocket and withdraws a picture of Santana, then shouts, “LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH!” She holds it against the bars for a moment and then suddenly pulls away and starts berating herself. “Shit! Goddamnit!” She throws the picture to the ground stomps angrily, walking away from the cell in a huff.

Spencer’s completely lost (and quite afraid) but happens to glance down and see a post-it note attached to the back of the picture.

TALK ABOUT:

  • Santana Lopez

DO NOT TALK ABOUT:

  • Nickelback
  • Paramore
  • Tatiana Maslany

Collecting herself with calming breaths, the agent picks the photo back up and holds it steady in front of Spencer’s face. “Do you recognize this woman?”

It’s Santana, clear as day. It's not a very recent picture -- prison’s worn her out a bit -- but you can’t forget that face. Still, Spencer’s not any closer to ratting out her cellmate. Whatever Santana’s done, it can’t be any worse than what the rest of them are in for. This agent has no leverage, and it’s not like lying to cops is new for her. She’s from Rosewood.

But then the wheels in Spencer’s big brain start turning again, considering all possible options. Maybe Santana’s being released? Maybe she’s part of a bigger conspiracy or something on the outside. It’s been months since Spencer heard any news from Earth. She has no idea what’s going on. They could be in World War III for all she knows. She doesn’t recognize the woman’s name on the post-it; it’s probably another criminal the agent’s chasing after or a prisoner Spencer hasn’t met yet.

But, still, this agent is clearly out of her mind. Who needs a reminder to not talk about Nickelback?

“Let me see that,” Sue says, reaching for the tattered picture. She squints and takes a good look. “Wait a second. Looks like you got bad intel, Agent Starfish. That’s Lunchbag Rodriguez!”

Lunchbag?!

The agent pauses. “You can’t honestly think that’s her name.”

Sue steps in closer and speaks quietly but firmly. “I’ll have you know my great-great-great-great-great grandmother was named Rodriguez. You don’t want anyone to think you’re a pasty-faced racist, now. Do you, agent?” There’s a very awkward silence as Sue stares down the agent before throwing her a bone. “She’s in the showers.”

“Send your people,” Starling says. “I’ll wait here.”

Sue motions to Boomer, who slinks off disinterestedly in the direction of the bathrooms. Sue follows her, walking backward. She holds two fingers up to her eyes and then points them at Starling, staring her down with a scowl.

When the warden is around the corner and out of sight, Spencer asks, “What’d she do?”

Agent Starling pauses with raised eyebrows. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of her. Santana Lopez was the teenage bad girl of the Midwest for several years.” When Spencer doesn’t respond, Starling adds, “She has a long history of eating young women.”

You don’t say.

“Let’s hope she at least bought them a drink first,” Spencer mutters, crossing her arms.

“Excuse me?” the agent replies, stepping forward with a judgmental squint. Cops have no sense of humor.

“Nothing.” Spencer tries to change the subject. “So. You got FBI astronaut training to fly all over the galaxy hunting lesbian offenders?”

Agent Starling seems to relax a bit, like they can just chit-chat while she waits for her delivery. “Something like that. I wanted to be in space when I was a little girl, and I wanted to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to help people. With a job like this, though... Some days are hard. You can’t let yourself forget why you got into this line of work in the first place.” She smiles to herself. “It’s just a spark, but it’s enough to keep me going.” Then her brow furrows again and she slaps her leg, “DAMNIT!”

She can have Nickelback, Spencer thinks, but now this lunatic is ruining Paramore. It's just not right. When the agent calms down, Spencer leans in and whispers, “Hey. If I told you there was a killer spider kidnapping and murdering prisoners every month during our periods...you wouldn’t...do anything to help us, right?”

Clarice stares at her.

Spencer purses her lips and nods. “Just checking.” She climbs back up to her bunk without another word.

Two minutes later, Spencer hears the incensed Spanish shouting coming down the hall. Buffy and Boomer are dragging a very wet, very naked Santana into the cell block corridor, thrashing and cursing everyone in the guards’ family trees and then some.

Boomer punches Santana twice quickly in the face to get her to shut up, surely delivering a black eye, then tightens the cuffs behind her back. But the moment Santana sees who summoned her here, she relaxes completely and smiles. Agent Starling takes a few steps forward and stops about two feet from Santana’s face, looking very serious.

Santana licks at her bloody lip and gives the woman’s body a long look up and down. “Hello, Clarice. Nice threads. You look good enough to eat.”

Spencer rolls her eyes, but just because it's a lame pick-up line. Not because the last person Santana buried her face in was Spencer herself. That has nothing to do with it. Really.

“Been a long time,” Santana continues. “Two years?”

“Little over three,” Agent Starling replies.

“Damn. Well, it’s good to see you again. If I’d known you were coming, I might’ve even gotten dressed.” Spencer doubts that. “After all, these little visits are how you remind me of what I really am,” Santana provokes.

Spencer can only see the agent in profile ten feet away, but the woman’s fist is clenched. Her new friend is about to get bitch-slapped.

“Let me guess,” Santana continues, “You want me to cook at your next clambake or hummus festival or whatever you’re into these days, so you come all the way out here because I didn’t RSVP the Evite. Perhaps you forgot my whole life-in-prison thing. Which is odd, considering you’re the one who put me here. Guess you'll have to find another chef.”

“It’s game over, Lopez. We found your tools,” the agent says, sounding proud of herself.

Santana doesn’t look fazed by that. “Took you long enough. But I knew you'd eventually sniff it out. We do love a good tool box, don’t we?” Santana gives her a wink as Agent Starling turns to leave.

“Let’s go.”

“Where are you taking her?” Spencer shouts, holding the bars. Are they seriously not even going to let her get dressed first?

She’s ignored yet again as they drag Santana down the cell block, laughing and throwing Spanish slander all the way. Spencer only has a minute at most to process what just happened before Greggs arrives on the scene with the freshly-showered and visibly perturbed Lucy and Faith.

“What happened?” Lucy asks Spencer as the door closes behind them.

Faith’s shaking the water out of her hair onto Spencer’s bed. “Yeah, didn’t figure Hannibal Licked-her would be the first of us hauled out of here.”

“I don't kn--” Spencer starts, but then the nickname registers.

…Oh, oh my god.

“A long history of eating young women”

The Eat or Not game…

“You look good enough to eat.”

OH MY GOD.

She’s a… ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew.

And I let her...EW EW EW EW EW EW EW

“Spencer!” Lucy’s sharp voice snaps her back. “Where is she? Where did they take her?”

“I don't know,” Spencer says, trying to hide that she's about to have a nervous breakdown. “It was the FBI.”

Lucy prompts her to continue, with sincere interest. “What’s ‘FBI’?”

Spencer blinks. “Are you serious?”

Where is this girl from, Mars?

Faith waves her off and says, “Did she say anything about either of us? To the feds?”

“No.” Spencer isn’t even really sure what Santana was talking about, but no names came up.

Faith turns to Lucy and crosses her arms. “Ten bucks says this is about Brittany.”

“Bucks?” Lucy asks.

Spencer’s starting to wonder if Lucy drinks shampoo in the shower or huffs space paint from her craft closet. “She said something about finding her tools,” Spencer offers.

Faith exhales and slinks back against the bed, running a hand through her hair. “Fuck. That’s all that was keeping her out of the chair. They tied her to the murder scenes with hair and other stuff, but they couldn’t prove shit.”

So, that was probably the last time Spencer will ever see Santana, she realizes. Given this new insight into her extra-curriculars, she can’t say she’s not relieved. (She doesn’t want to know what constitutes “other stuff” at the crime scene.) But it’s hard losing one of her new allies, just when they were starting to feel like a team. They keep getting ripped away from her.

Focus. “Who’s Brittany?” she asks Faith.

“Ex. Story is, they were a big thing in high school. Quinn knew her, too.”

Lucy glares, hearing the name, but Spencer’s heart skips a beat.

Faith rolls up her sleeve. “They were those cheerleader bitches who date all the jocks and pee on freshmen who don’t give up their lunch money.” Spencer doesn’t think that’s how it works, but she’s not going to interrupt. “Ruling the school,” Faith says with a smarmy grin. “So, they’re doing it in the locker room, and Santana’s, like, biting on Brittany’s shoulder or something, then just sinks her teeth in and rips out a chunk. Tears it right off. Then she kept going back for more.”

“WHAT?” Spencer is freaking out.

“Yeah, so she said." Faith cracks her knuckles. "Guess there wasn’t much left of her.”

Nope, don’t miss Santana anymore.

Spencer’s going to need the longest shower of her life just to wash this off her skin. An insane cannibal person was recently face-first in her vagina. A lot. At any moment Santana could’ve sunk her teeth into…

Oh my god.

Quinn’s missing toe.

“I think it started with the Brittany thing,” Faith continues as she stretches out in her bunk. “And then there were all the college girls after that. Crime scenes were such a shit-mess, news channel thought it was bears or something. She's proud of that.”

“Amateur,” Lucy says dismissively, then pauses, furrows her brow and asks, “What are bears?”

Spencer stares again, just so very confused. “Bears?”  The terror and mystique of Lucy Fabray is rapidly deconstructing before her very eyes. And for someone who claims to love animals, she sure doesn’t fucking know of many.

Faith isn’t paying any attention to Lucy’s special brand of naivete, trapped in a world of envisioning Santana Lopez’s murder spree. “She was a big deal, once they figured out it was a person. She chewed through, like, five sororities before some bounty hunter named Polly Holliday finally hauled her gay ass to the FBI's doorstep.”

“Holly,” Lucy corrects her.

“Whatever.”

Spencer can’t wrap her head around this and has to ask, “And all this time you’ve been living with her, you haven’t worried she would...you know. Eat you? With her teeth.”

“That’s crimist,” says Lucy.

Spencer makes a face. “Excuse me?”

“Like racist or sexist, but for crimes,” explains Faith.

“That’s not a word!” Spencer balks.

“Sounds like a word to me. Just because you killed someone doesn’t mean you’re gonna kill us, right?” Faith sounds so matter-of-fact about it.

Well. Now that she knows what kind of very fucking important information her cellmates were keeping from her, Spencer’s not so sure. “Forgive me for thinking there’s a difference between assault with a deadly weapon, which we have no access to up here anyway, and EATING PEOPLE WITH YOUR FACE.”

“Dude, take a pill,” Faith says. “She wouldn't go for you either. Hanni-bulldyke loves blondes for breakfast. Brittany, Quinn, that short chick from Wicked…”

Spencer looks immediately to Lucy, the blondest person in space prison, with wide-eyed concern. “Um.”

Lucy grins modestly. “She’s not stupid.”

Fair enough.

Spencer’s eye catches a guard walking past their cell and waits until the coast is clear before turning back to Faith. “Did she...ever eat any prisoners?”

“Nah.” Faith picks intensely at something on the side of her boob as she talks. “Didn’t need to, I guess, as long as she had regular servings of Big Sweaty Meat for dinner.”

“No…” Spencer swallows a lump in her throat. “That’s not…”

Faith stops picking and grins devilishly at Spencer. “Ground up people chunks?”

That pushes her over the edge. Spencer’s feet carry her swiftly in a blur, breath held in her lungs, until she’s emptying the contents of her stomach into the shoddy toilet.

Over the sound of her own retching, she distantly hears Lucy say, “You can’t keep telling all the new girls that. Eventually one was going to believe you.”

Faith looks pretty proud of herself. “Hey, I’ll believe what I want.”

Spencer wipes her chin and flushes, slowly dragging herself back to the nearest bed to recover. It’s Santana’s. Ugh. “Screw you, too.” She needs to change the subject. Now. “So,” she begins slowly, “The FBI put Santana in here, and they can just waltz in and take her back out. Just like that.”

“Yep,” Faith says. “That’s the deal. If you're sent here by the system like it’s any other prison, you get paroled on schedule like anywhere else. But if you’re sent here special by someone who paid to lock you up off-planet, they’re the only ones who can undo it.”

Based on what little she remembers from her shitty lawyer, Spencer’s not sure which category she falls into, or which one she’s hoping for. “Who put you in here?” she asks Faith, hoping it’s not too personal a question.

“Watcher’s Council.” Spencer has no idea what that is. “Didn’t like my methods,” Faith says. “When you kill things for a living, there’s gonna be collateral damage, right? I guess I just...skipped to that part.”

“She stabs anything that moves,” Lucy clarifies, then goes back to her Snow White paint-by-numbers book. She’s working on a page with the evil queen surveying her kingdom. Seems appropriate.

“What about you?” Spencer asks.

Lucy applies some water to a section that immediately turns purple. “I don’t stab people.”

“No --” Spencer closes her eyes and counts to three. “Did someone put you in here?”

Lucy’s quiet for a moment, eyes on the page, brush still in her hand. Spencer’s never seen her so hesitant and withdrawn. She looks more like Quinn than ever.

After a moment, the brush moves again and Lucy acts like the question doesn’t bother her. “I don’t really remember,” she offers. “It was a long time ago.”

For the first time, Spencer sees Lucy as a real, flawed, and scared person, not the prison parody she’s been trying to solve for three months. The power play is all an act to hide how much control she doesn’t have over her own life. It’s so clear now and so simple. Spencer actually feels sorry for her. “I don’t know who put me in here, either,” she says softly.

They share a quiet look, and something changes between them. There’s a connection, however small, and Spencer offers a pursed smile and a sympathetic nod. It’s a peace offering; a truce.

But then, Spencer remembers that this girl is in prison for killing dozens of people and wonders how long ago it could have been if Lucy has no memory of it. Was she sawing people in half at age four?  Spencer doesn’t know if that makes it better or worse. “Where were you, before here?” she asks delicately.

“Another ship,” Lucy says. “Where I was born.”

Wait, what?

Spencer couldn’t hide her reaction if she tried. “You were born on a spaceship?” Just like that, the fleeting thoughts of Lucy being a normal person are revoked. Sympathy, gone. This girl’s just batshit crazy.

“Mmhmm,” Lucy says, dabbing more water on a green section of her paint-by-number. “I don’t remember much. But it was much nicer than this one. Everything was white and bright, like a giant canvas. It was a facility for a company called DYAD. My family worked there, so we had living quarters onboard. They were scientists. I had my pets and some books and toys and even my own room, but I didn’t really have friends. There weren’t many kids my age. Nobody wanted to play games with me. I did a lot of arts and crafts. The grown-ups didn’t like when I drew on the walls with my crayons.”

It couldn’t have been very big, Spencer thinks. She doesn’t know anything about spacecrafts outside of NASA's purview, much less ones that have working families on them. And she’s never heard of this company. “How many people were on the ship?”

“Thirty-seven,” Lucy says in a deeper voice, then looks at Spencer a bit pointedly before dabbing more water onto her painting.

Spencer’s eyes widen in realization -- she’s heard that number from Lucy before. “Ah.” If she hadn’t already puked, now would be a great time for that.

“I thought I came from a broken home,” Faith offers from her bunk. “At least my friends didn’t want to play Chainsaw Tag.”

“It’s more fun than you think,” says Lucy. The scary part is, she sounds completely sincere. She always does.

Spencer wants to scream, “WHY?”  and just break down crying, because this has to be the most vile, soulless group of people she has ever met. But she’s too overwhelmed with everything already and doesn’t think she can handle any further revelations. Not tonight. The more they talk, the worse it gets. “I need a nap,” is all she can string together before climbing pathetically up onto her bunk.

How is all this real? How has she been living with – having group sex with -- such egregious, unapologetic murderers? Yeah, she didn’t really feel bad about what she did to Toby, but it was personal. It wasn’t about the act of killing, itself. This amount of crime is on a whole other level. Spencer wouldn’t go kill other people, random strangers. She’s not like that. And she sure as hell doesn’t get turned on by the thought of killing someone. Or, god, eating someone.

Spencer has nothing in common with these girls. She shouldn’t be here.

And that’s when she realizes -- since she doesn’t know who put her here, Spencer doesn’t know who has the power to get her out. Or if they even would. If it's her parents, then she has hope. They couldn’t leave her to rot in this hellhole. But the police? The government? A?!  She has no idea who -- or what – she’s dealing with. Two months has already been horrible enough. How is she supposed to survive thirty years? She’s already been told she won’t get past Christmas, and that’s assuming the spider grants her amnesty until then. What about all the other terrible people who love to kill so much? God, she still can’t believe Santana eats people. How is that possible?

Every day, Spencer learns of another horrible way to die in this place. Her mind fills with visions of Santana crouched over a random blonde’s decimated body on the steps of a sorority, face covered in blood, grinning. Or in bed with Quinn, kissing her feet playfully, sucking on a toe with a gleam in her eye, then biting down hard and ripping it off. The piercing sound of Quinn screaming in agony. Santana’s heartless laugh, echoing in her ears.

Spencer opens her eyes to let the blank, gray wall wash it away. Readjusting her position, she rubs at her eyes and reaches under her pillow to cushion her head. Her fingers scrape against the book cover of notes she took from Quinn, tucked safely inside Jenny’s journal. She pulls it out to examine it again, this mystery of prisoners disappearing, and, according to Sue, at least one pile of gnashed up remains.

Suddenly, everything feels very, very wrong.

...SANTANA. 

It hasn’t been Charlotte at all. There’s no such thing as killer spiders in outer space. One little spider couldn’t break into a jail cell and remove an entire human being, gravity or not. What was she thinking? What’s wrong with her? Spencer really must be going crazy.

If Hermione hasn’t been rescuing girls, Santana’s been eating them.

Her mind races at a blinding pace, reconstructing everything that’s happened since she arrived. Santana runs Knitting class and probably has access to enough string to construct a web in her cell. Maybe she bribed a guard – probably Buffy, since she likes blondes so much -- to let her in while Spencer slept. Or maybe Santana has a set of keys and broke these women out of their cells. Then she led them to the cafeteria with promises of wild and crazy no-gravity sex, and….

Spencer shivers. It all makes sense now. Hell, maybe Lucy helped. Or Faith. Maybe they know exactly how Santana did it.

She feels so fucking betrayed. Her heart plummets into her stomach and she feels all alone, trapped with these wild animals who could tear her apart at a moment’s notice. If she breathes a word of what she’s deduced to either of her cellmates, they could end her in cold blood. Of course they're still loyal to Santana. If they’re complicit in her crimes, they can’t let Spencer talk to the authorities.

Getting herself transferred in here was the stupidest thing Spencer’s done yet. She’s used up her requests; they’ll never grant her a third one.

She closes her eyes again and replays the film reel over and over in her mind, like a horror movie she can’t look away from. And Spencer knows she wouldn’t be obsessing about this or feeling so fucked up about it if they hadn’t slept together. Rationally, she knows that. But it doesn’t change anything.

She tries to take comfort in the fact that if it really was Santana, the threat has been removed. She’s safe now, at least in theory. You know, from that one particular threat. It doesn’t really make her feel any better, and Spencer wonders if she’ll ever be able to convince herself that she’s not in danger here.

Maybe that’s her gut trying to tell her that it wasn’t Santana. It would be all too convenient that the mystery’s just -- poof! -- solved, without Spencer having to actually do anything.

Fuck.

Rolling over to face the aisle, she watches Faith do pull-ups on the bed frame and thinks about their earlier conversation. The details come rushing back, and everything changes again. Faith said Santana hadn’t killed anyone here. She said it, and she meant it -- and wouldn’t she know? Wouldn’t Lucy have corrected her? They were pretty forthcoming about Ripley’s murders, so it’s not like they’re trying to protect Spencer from anything. Are they?

But then, why not ever mention the cannibalism before tonight? Maybe they lied right to her face. But Faith also said Santana likes blondes, and all five women who’ve disappeared have been brunettes. That doesn’t add up, either. Santana’s smart, so it’s possible she’d throw them off the trail by choosing non-obvious targets, but it sounds like she didn't worry about setting a pattern back on Earth. People can change, but killers rarely do.

Spencer’s new, airtight theory is suddenly rife with holes big enough for Aphasia to drive a van through. Curling up into a ball, she tries to focus on what seems the most real. The low buzz of the lights in the corridor. The scratching of the plain white sheet against her skin. The way the mattress crinkles when she shifts her weight.

Lucy’s finishing a fourth watercolor picture and enjoying the simple pleasures of prison life without a care in the world. Spencer tries to summon the memory of Quinn’s gentle touch, of drawing chalk pictures with Aphasia, of going to the mall with Aria, of playing at the beach with her sister or going to class in Rosewood. But it doesn’t feel real. She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t afraid. And that’s when Spencer finally lets herself cry.

Two months. Two horrible months, and she isn’t any closer to finding out why these girls disappeared. She’s back at square one and doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

She just has to believe in something.

Chapter Text

According to Spencer’s calculations, she has two and a half weeks -- about eighteen days -- before the next Shark Week begins. Hopefully it’s enough time to get to know Lucy better and figure out what the connection is between the spider and Jenny Schecter and Santana (and Ripley?) Maybe there are other undiscovered pieces in this puzzle. She knows there could still be something she’s missing.

Beating them means joining them, and Spencer takes getting to the bottom of Lucy Fabray very seriously. Or, at least, being a bottom for Lucy Fabray. (Same thing, right?) These girls don’t let a bloodless day go by without some hardcore sexual shenanigans. Now that Santana’s gone and it’s just the three of them, Spencer has to be even more present and included, lest she raise suspicion about her intentions here. It’s all still strictly business.

Yes, that.

Having four or more orgasms a day is really taking a toll on her body, but she’s dealing. It’s merely a physical response to stimuli, nothing more. She’ll keep going through the motions until opportunities for more intel arise. She gets no emotional sustenance from having multiple mouths and hands on and in her at once for hours on end.

Really. Purely research and survival. Right.

Though, she wishes Round Three didn’t often coincide with Madonna Power Hour, because there’s just something about being fingerbanged to “Cherish” that doesn’t sit right with her.

On Thursday, Sue treats the prisoners to a movie night in the Mess Hall with a showing of Monster, wheeled out on a rickety TV cart like Spencer’s seen in old 80s high school movies. She didn’t even think people had VCRs anymore. Especially in space.

Sue gives a speech beforehand about how she hopes the lead character will inspire them to greatness in their murderous aspirations but also to make better choices and not get caught. Spencer can’t help but wonder if Sue’s giving a certain secret killer a pep talk, masked in a public activity. But then, the thought of the warden being in on this is too scary to entertain without proof. Spencer dealt with enough dirty cop bullshit in Rosewood and isn’t looking to relive that here. For now, she can call it a reprise of Sue’s boast in their first conversation and still sleep at night.

As the previews roll, Spencer settles into her spot next to Lucy and Faith just like at meals, but now she’s on Lucy’s right instead of across from them. It’s not lost on her how things have changed. She seems to have been completely adopted by these two, like she’s Santana’s official replacement in their power trio. It frightens her how similar the situation is to back home, though this arrangement is...a bit more hands-on.

Being a part of a power group has its perks, as Spencer knows quite well. They don’t have to wait in line at meals. They get priority shower times. They get first dibs on signing up for classes. Raven even throws in an extra half-can of booze, based on the standard prison rates. Well, Lucy gets all of these privileges, and Faith and Spencer are riding her coattails into the sunset. Assuming there is a sun nearby.

Things could be worse.

Spencer still hasn’t talked to Quinn since the, uh, accidental fisting. She can’t get unsupervised time away from her new queen bee to see where things stand between them. Quinn is still in her heart, but Spencer’s not about to show it now that she’s Lucy Fabray’s minion. There’s too much bile between those two, though Spencer still doesn’t know why. And Lucy intentionally keeps a great distance between them and Quinn. So much distance, in fact, that Spencer almost forgets that Quinn’s even in the prison at all. Almost.

The following Sunday, Spencer notices Hermione back in the Mess Hall at breakfast for the first time in weeks. She’s gone by dinner’s end, with the same whip crack disappearing act and same boisterous applause. Spencer can’t see Aphasia from where she’s sitting but hopes they at least got to spend some time together today. Little things mean a lot in this place.

As Spencer’s waiting to dump the remaining contents of her tray into the waste bin, Vee slides into line behind her, following along suspiciously close.

“I hear you have access to Sylvester’s office,” Vee says. Her tone has the friendly nature of a question, but Spencer feels Vee already knows the answer.

She pushes her tray forward another foot. “Maybe.”

“It would be in your best interest to procure a particular item for me,” Vee says carefully.

Considering she’s never spoken to Vee before, Spencer’s not sure just how much of a threat this is. But she’s pretty tired of being pushed around and feeling more confident now with her power clique. She doesn’t have to deal with this crap. “I don’t know you,” she says, turning to look Vee squarely in the eye. “You’re not worth the risk.” For a touch of politeness, she adds a half-assed, “Sorry.”

Vee smiles at her. Their negotiation has only begun. “I can offer you something in return. Something you desperately need.”

“You don’t know me, either,” Spencer says. Unless this woman is about to say “a conjugal visit with Quinn,” she’s not interested.

“Protection.”

It gives Spencer pause, but only for a second. “Not much use for condoms up here.” Her tray slides another foot forward. She wants this conversation to be over.

Vee doesn’t seem to mind the joke. “Oh, we both know the women in here are far more dangerous than any man you’ve ever met. I can help you.”

Spencer's new social status is offering her all the protection she needs, at least for the time being. Killer spider notwithstanding. With a glance over to Faith and Santana, she says, “I think I’m doing just fine, thanks.”

Vee laughs good-naturedly, leaning in as if to share a secret. “That’s precisely who I’m offering you protection from, dear.”

For a moment, everything stops as the implications of this simple sentence crash all around her.

“MOVE.”

Spencer snaps back to reality and shuffles along the line, tipping the stale bread crusts into the plastic bin. She feels a hand on her shoulder and pauses, turning partway.

Vee leans in and presses firmly, holding Spencer in place as she whispers her final pitch. “Bring me Hermione Granger’s file, and I’ll tell you who your friends really are.”

****************

That night, Spencer finds Lucy in the middle of the floor talking through her “most exciting ideas” for tomorrow's Play-Doh Funhouse. It seems as good a time as any to dig for information, what with Lucy in such a good, sharing mood. If Spencer can root out the truth herself, she won’t need to get involved with Aphasia’s arch-nemesis. She feels a certain loyalty there, even though she’s not sure she'd really call them "friends." Still, Aphasia trusted Spencer with her secret, and that has to mean something, right?

“You really get into this teaching thing,” Spencer says, leaning over the edge of the bed.

Lucy smiles graciously. “It’s fun. I like getting to do different things with my arts and crafts. It stretches me as an instructor.”

“I’m happy to help stretch you out,” Faith offers from her bunk with a sly grin.

In a flash, Lucy charges over and swings to slap Faith clear across the face. Even from the awkward angle of reaching up to the top bunk, the strike sounds clear as a whip. “YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN I SAY SO!”  Lucy barks, hovering eye to eye with her subject for a moment. Then, without another word, she resumes her lesson plan with a pleasant smile like nothing happened.

Spencer’s frozen on the spot through this whole thing, because Lucy’s fucking scary when she wants to be. But Faith doesn’t react other than to stretch out her cheek when Lucy walks away. So, at least the situation isn’t escalating. It’s Sunday, which Spencer has secretly renamed Slapday, as it's Lucy and Faith’s weekly arrangement for silence, much like Quinn and Mack’s Wednesday spank-athons. These girls are really into their power play and hitting people.

Whatever passes the time.

This is a side of Lucy that Spencer suspected from the beginning, a villainous crime boss lurking just beneath the sugary surface of unicorns and pink icing. Spencer’s really starting to hate being right about things. She gulps and tries to get the conversation back on track after the awkward interruption. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she surveys the spread of colored dough cans, pom pom balls, and glitter bottles in the middle of the room.

“When I was little,” Spencer offers, “we would make spiders out of Play-Doh and toothpicks. Have you all done that yet?”

Another A+ for subtlety. Bravo.

“What a lovely idea!” Lucy beams. “They don’t give us toothpicks anymore, since Vasquez used one to pull a girl’s eye out, but I bet we could find some pipe cleaners in the craft closet.”

“Terrific,” Spencer replies through gritted teeth as she tries really hard to erase that mental image. “I remember you saying you liked spiders.”

“I do, very much so,” Lucy smiles. “I had a pet spider on my old ship.”

Jackpot.

Spencer’s heart starts pounding out of her chest. Her eyes must be popping out of her head, but she tries to play it cool and casual. “I thought you had a cat?” Miss Satanface Deathypoo the Twelfth or something. She saw a painting of it in Play-Doh Funhouse.

Faith knocks repeatedly on the bed frame with her knuckles, drawing their attention. Apparently, she wishes to speak. Lucy isn’t amused by the disruption and considers the request, taking her sweet time. Faith’s eyes are pleading as she mumbles, mouth closed, through gritted teeth.

Lucy’s face softens, and she says, “Do you have something to contribute?”

Faith nods emphatically, like she’s about to burst.

What the hell could she be so desperate to share?   If it’s useful information, Spencer resents that this conversation is coming to light on Faith’s goddamn day of silence, of all things, but she doesn't get a say in how this goes.

Another long pause. Lucy’s making her pay for interrupting. “Four sentences,” she says finally, sounding bored with the situation, and goes back to molding a clump of blue dough.

Faith releases the laugh she’s been holding back. “Yeah, that thing you saw in her painting...wasn’t a cat.”

Spencer’s eyebrows rise as blood rushes to Lucy’s face.

“You’re a nerd,” Faith prefaces innocently. “You know those furry ball things on Star Wars or whatever?”

“...Tribbles?" Spencer asks. "From Star Trek?”

“Turns out they’re real, and that was her ‘cat’,” Faith says, using air quotes.

“SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL AND I LOVED HER,” Lucy yells, clearly pissed they’re making fun of her when she’s not in on the joke. She takes a deep breath and tells Spencer, more calmly. “After that, I had a spider. I named her Beth.”

“Not ‘Lady Princess Spiderkins the Fourth’?” Faith asks, leaning forward with a playful, smug expression.

Lucy turns with hellfire in her eyes and storms over again, grabbing a fistful of Faith’s uniform and pulling her down a few inches to slap her again, much harder. “THAT WAS FIVE.” It’s like Lucy’s lips opened and a demon came out. It’s other worldly. “WATCH YOUR FILTHY MOUTH, WHORE.”

The color drains from Faith’s (burning, stinging) face but she doesn’t protest, nor does she even defend herself from the slap, Spencer realizes. But then as Lucy sits back down, Spencer sees the faintest smile creep across Faith’s face. Almost like she did it on purpose. And Spencer’s pretty sure that when Faith rolls back over to face the wall, a hand creeps into her jumpsuit.

The whole moment stuns Spencer so thoroughly that she doesn’t even remember what they were talking about. “You were saying?”

Lucy motions for Spencer to climb down and sit beside her on the floor, and Spencer begrudgingly agrees. “My spider, Beth.” Lucy’s rolling a perfect green ball of dough now and speaking pleasantly again. It’s truly stunning how she can alternate personas like this. “She was a loyal friend,” Lucy says wistfully, beaming.

“That’s sweet.” Spencer can’t shake the feeling that if she said the wrong thing here, she’d get bitch-slapped into the next cell, safeword or not.

Lucy sets down the green ball and reaches for the canister of orange dough, handing it to Spencer before taking the purple for herself. “You saw her in the bathroom that day.” A pause. “When you were trying to kill her.” Her eyes narrow dangerously but don’t look up.

Spencer’s heart stops.

Oh. My. God.

Beth.

ELIZABETH.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.

I KNEW IT.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.

I was right. I WAS RIGHT.

NOW, DON’T GET DEAD.

“Ok, whoa, hang on,” Spencer says, hands raised in surrender. “I had no idea she was your...pet.” A nervous twitch flickers in her right eye. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“You seemed a little preoccupied at the time to hear my childhood stories.” Lucy squeezes hard on the Play-Doh and then rolls it even again.

To say the least. Spencer feels her face growing hot. “Yeah, but…still…”

“Would knowing she was mine stop you from hurting her?” Lucy looks up, and in that moment the raw emotion in her eyes sends a dagger through Spencer, because all she sees is Quinn. “I didn’t think so.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t…” but Spencer doesn’t know what to say that’s not an outright lie. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I promise it won’t happen again.” The next time I see your spider, she thinks, I won’t just hurt her, I’ll kill her on the spot.

Lucy peers at her for a moment, like she’s taking stock of Spencer’s apology and weighing it accordingly. She seems satisfied enough and continues her tale. “She was like a daughter to me for a long time. I fed her, took care of her. We did everything together. I was lucky enough to bring her with me when I came here. ”

Time to play stupid.  “Why is she in the bathroom and not here, then?” Spencer already knows the answer to that, or at least she thinks she does. But she's curious to hear what Lucy knows about her pet’s extra-curricular activities. Even if it’s a lie, it’s a starting place.

“A few years ago, I shared her with another inmate who needed her -- a girl named Jenny. She didn’t have any friends here. But Beth could write to her, and I think Jenny liked that. They were both writers. Beth’s very smart, you know. And I believe they got quite close.”

Yeah, maybe TOO close.

Spencer can’t believe what she’s hearing. This was easier than she thought. Lucy Fabray has been holding the key to this mystery the whole time. Jenny’s Elizabeth is Lucy’s Beth, who is Spencer’s Charlotte. Because that's not confusing. It has to be the same one, right? How many web-writing spiders can there be on a spaceship? And when Jenny died, why did Beth choose Spencer as her new friend? Was that on Lucy’s orders, too, or just happenstance? The sadness on Lucy’s face seems sincere, but it’s not like she hasn’t proved her ability to be duplicitous. Either way, the biggest question still remains: Did Beth kill Jenny or not?

She must have, right? She said she did, in the web. And was that on Lucy’s command? Spencer remembers the journal entries -- Right now, Jenny’s hate for Lucy sounds pretty one-sided, but far be it from Spencer to take anything Lucy Fabray says at face value. Girl doesn’t know what a fucking bear is.

 “I’ve heard of Jenny,” Spencer says, mindful not to show her cards. “She died, right?” Lucy just nods. It’s taking all of Spencer’s willpower not to ask “How?” but she doesn’t want this to turn from a chat between friends into an interrogation. Instead, Spencer says carefully, “I guess...Beth didn’t come back to you, then? After Jenny died? That must be really hard for you.”

She feels guilty; Spencer knows exactly where the spider was after Jenny died. Writing messages on her bunk in cell 10. Not that she’s going to reveal that.

Lucy looks like she’s trying to put on a brave face. “She’s probably making new friends. There are plenty of girls here who need someone to talk to. I still see her around from time to time.” Lucy looks back down at her Play-Doh, pulling a chunk apart, then stops altogether. “I just wish she’d want to come home. I’ve been in here for years; it’s not like she doesn’t know where to find me.”

Well. If Lucy knows that Beth is killing people, she’s not letting on. Spencer doesn’t want to push too hard, but if she’s going to continue down this rabbit hole, she has to keep Lucy talking. It would be too suspicious to bring it up again later.

“I didn’t have a pet growing up,” Spencer says. “I thought about getting a lizard once, but I didn’t know what I’d have to feed it.” She waits a few seconds, then adds, as naturally as she can, “Spiders eat insects, don’t they?” She winces at the sound of her own voice, because it’s hard to ask such an obvious question innocently and not sound stupid. Spiders don’t eat their catch, they drink the blood. Anyone with a middle school education knows that. Spencer’s pulse is pounding in her ears. To cover the noise, she adds, “This place is pretty disgusting, but at least there aren’t any bugs.”

She tries to anticipate the explanation of an on-board supply, but even things like Aphasia’s jar or Idgie’s bees wouldn’t be enough to sustain a spider over a long period of time. There must be something else.

“Insects?” Lucy laughs. “Goodness, no. What a silly idea! She always preferred human flesh t--”

Spencer chokes on air and drops her Play-Doh. “WHAT?! She eats people?!”

I REALLY REALLY HATE BEING RIGHT ABOUT AWFUL THINGS.

Lucy seems taken aback by Spencer’s judgment. “Only if they’re already dead. She would never hurt anyone, Spencer. She’s very gentle.”

Like a goddamn lamb, I'm sure.  Spencer’s trying hard to roll with this revelation, but she just can’t. Confirmed flesh-eating spider was living in her bed.

But, you know, she would never kill me herself, just scavenge my body, so that’s incredibly comforting, thank you.

And now it’s time for the million-dollar question. Spencer’s a dead woman walking anyway. What does she have to lose? “So, all these years, there have just been...dead people lying around for her to eat…” It’s such a loaded question, but Spencer can’t help herself. This madness has to stop.

“Unfortunately, no,” Lucy says coolly, which does nothing to ease Spencer’s mind. “I haven’t been able to provide for her in a long time.” Provide for her. Lucy makes it sound so maternal. Yes, since the dawn of time, the best mothers have chainsawed innocent people in half to feed their young. “But one of the meat patties from the kitchen can last her months,” she says. “It’s not the best diet, of course, with all those preservatives, but she does fine.”

Big Sweaty Meat strikes again. Spencer remembers the food fight in the Mess Hall. “That’s for your girl. Tell her it’s from me.”  Was Suzanne trying to help by throwing her food that day? Does she know Beth, too? Why hasn’t she said anything?

“I promise, you have nothing to worry about,” Lucy continues. “Even when she’s on a natural diet, spiders can go a very long time without eating.”

“That’s great,” Spencer manages. She can only imagine what her expression must look like. Even if Beth is supposedly living on BSM, Spencer’s not convinced she hasn’t reverted to her ‘natural diet’. Not with all these fresh, juicy prisoners lying around like fruit on the vine. And Sue’s just bringing in new shipments all the time. A never-ending food supply. The cell block is a goddamn all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Beth is a very loving creature. Misunderstood, like you and me. We all do what we have to do to survive, but we’re not born killers.” Lucy pauses for a moment, looking at Spencer with a more thoughtful expression. “When you first got here, you felt like your whole life had been turned upside down. I remember what it’s like. But we adjust and adapt. Beth did, too.”

By eating any and every corpse she could find?  Spencer really hopes Santana didn’t “adapt” to space prison, too. “I bet she learned from watching you,” Spencer says, blinking away the frightening pictures in her mind. She bites back the addendum, “especially how to slaughter people,” and squeezes Lucy’s hand again instead.

Lucy smiles. “You’re sweet.” She reflects on Spencer’s words and says, “I like to think so.”

Spencer’s eyes widen momentarily before she remembers she didn’t say the slaughter bit out loud. Fortunately, Lucy doesn’t see Faith behind her, apparently done masturbating and now silently putting a finger down her throat and pretending to puke at the display of emotion. Spencer can only imagine how Lucy would respond to that. Probably shove the pink Play-Doh down there instead.

But Faith's not wrong -- Spencer knows how to kiss-ass with the best of them, and she'll keep at it as long as Lucy's spilling information. The pieces are falling into place rapidly now. Tonight, Spencer gets to fall asleep knowing undoubtedly there is a meat-eating spider on board this ship. Somehow, that’s supposed to be reassuring.

But the mystery is far from solved, especially if Beth’s only helping dispose of the corpses and someone else is doing the actual murder. (Do spiders eat bones? Or internal organs? Do I really have to think about this?) For all of Lucy’s knowledge, she still seems incredibly naive, and Spencer’s convinced that Beth is in fact killing these girls. How, she doesn’t know, but this gut check feels right.

Maybe staying close to her cellmates will keep Spencer safe after all, either out of loyalty to Lucy or simply because Beth’s keeping her distance. Doesn’t matter to Spencer. She’s finally been given a reason to be glad she transferred here, and that is why she will sleep soundly tonight.

“I do miss her,” Lucy says. “She’s a good listener, like you.”

Fantastic. I was hoping we’d have a lot in common.

Lucy quietly smooshes her clay for a moment, then says, “That day in the bathroom, Beth wasn’t going to hurt you, you know. There was only one person in there who would hurt you, Spencer.” The sympathetic look makes her meaning clear, and Spencer’s heart drops. Not just because she doesn’t want to believe Quinn would ever hurt her, but because she doesn’t like that Lucy thinks she would. 

“Quinn is...not the kind of girl you want to get emotionally attached to,” Lucy says carefully. “Trust me. Besides, you fit in much better here. I always knew you would.” Faith holds up a silent thumbs-up in agreement.

It’s a frustrating sentiment, not to mention an outright lie. Spencer’s nothing like them. She cares about learning and justice and friendship and hard work. She and Quinn had a connection. Sure, Mack and Aphasia are nothing short of batshit crazy, but at least they didn’t make Spencer feel like she was rushing Phi Kappa Kill Lots of People.

Lucy catches Faith’s gesture and smiles at her. “Good girl. You may join our conversation now, if you like. I suspect you have your opinions, too.”

Spencer isn’t sure she wants to hear what these girls really think about Quinn, but Lucy’s never mentioned her name before. Spencer isn’t about to waste this opportunity. She might get even more now that Faith’s been unmuted. “What is it with you two, anyway?”

“Safety tip,” Faith interjects, because she can, “Don’t get her started on Quinn Fabray.”

Quinn FABRAY.  I KNEW IT.

Spencer tries to hide the fact that her pulse is racing. Half a second later, Faith adds, “Lucy’s just mad I banged her first.” That earns a stern glare from the power top, who’s probably regretting granting her permission to speak.

Spencer’s not thrilled by the revelation, either. Quinn did say she was hopelessly drawn to brunettes. That’s holding up, much to her fucking delight. Faith’s cocky attitude reminds her far too much of Mack. Spencer wants to punch her so badly right now, just knock that smug smirk right off her stupid face. But that’s probably against the Sunday rules.

She needs a drink, or nine. Or for her jealousy to spontaneously light her on fire. Where is Raven's Moonshine Express when you need it? Not that she has anything of value to trade. Spencer doesn’t even have a pair of goddamn panties to her name.

So instead, she has to swallow her rage and refocus on the bigger issue at hand, because Faith just confirmed Quinn and Lucy are in fact related. It’s been baffling that other people couldn’t see that they’re fucking identical. But still, this feels like very base-level information. Quinn should’ve been the one telling her this. Being the last person to know everything around here is infuriating.

Lucy turns back to Spencer. “Quinn and I have...a history.”

“Hot,” Faith jokes, cracking her knuckles loudly.

“Not that kind of history!” Lucy hisses.

Spencer says, “Yeah, I picked up on the fact that you two aren’t exactly friends.”

“She’s tacky, and she hates me,” Lucy says matter-of-factly.

Oh, if they only knew how similar they are.

Spencer’s almost afraid to ask but is dying to know. “What happened?”

Lucy pauses, like she’s torn on just how much she wants to reveal. She sighs. “Well, she’s my sister.” Yes, I got that, thanks. “Everyone thinks I’m the mature, older one and she’s the little rebellious punk,” Lucy says, eyebrows high, “but it’s a lot more complicated than that. We’re actually the same age, more or less. At least, I think so.”

“You’re twins,” Spencer says, happy to help move this along a bit.

“...Something like that.”

Then, suddenly she remembers. “Wait, is Quinn from that spaceship, too?”

Lucy considers the question. “Technically.”

Holy SHIT. She said she was from Ohio!  And why is this not breaking news to Faith? Is SHE from a spaceship?

IS EVERYONE HERE FROM A MOTHERFUCKING SPACESHIP?

Spencer’s mind is exploding. She’s surrounded by goddamn aliens. 

Lucy stares her down hard and says, strongly, “This is all private information. I don’t like to talk about this. Do you understand?”

Spencer’s throat closes and she gives a wide-eyed, subtle nod. “Yeah, no, I got it.”

With that, Lucy relaxes a bit and gives a closed smile. “I know I can trust you. You’re with me now.”

It isn’t a question. It’s very much a threat. Spencer nods again silently.

“The place where I grew up,” Lucy begins, “it was a scientific research ship for genetic engineering. We were grown there.”

Spencer’s going to pass out. “You’re exact genetic identicals? You’re clones?”

“We don’t use the c-word,” Lucy almost snarls.

Faith stifles a laugh. “Not that one.”

Lucy clears her throat and tosses her hair back a little, reasserting her authority. “Yes, we’re all identical.” 

“‘All’?...How many are there?” Spencer asks. These two were already so different, just based on their life experiences. What would these others even be like?

“At least eight that I’m aware of.”

EIGHT?!

Eight Quinns or Lucys or whatever are out there.  Holy fucking shit.

Lucy sighs and continues. “But I don’t know where they are, just that they were sent to Earth. I hadn’t met any of them until Quinn showed up here.”

Spencer can only imagine what a mindfuck of a day that was. “So, Quinn told you about all this?”

Lucy shakes her head. “Quinn doesn’t know the whole story. At least, I don’t think she does.” She shrugs, though Spencer’s pretty sure she sees Lucy tense up just a bit. “She’s not stupid. She has to know something.”

Faith chimes in. “She probably thought you were gay for her when you took her last name. That’s some Single White Female shit right there.”

Lucy shoots her another glare.

“You changed your name?” Spencer asks. This whole thing is so completely weird.

“I never had a last name,” Lucy says. “I was a science project, not a person.” There’s a hint of sadness about it, but she owns her truth. “When Quinn arrived a few years ago, I knew right away who she was and that we were related, so I adopted her last name as my own. I think I scared her.”

“You think?!” says Faith with a laugh, propping her feet up on the ceiling.

Spencer agrees but isn’t brave enough to voice it. Still, she’s rebuilding empathy for Lucy now that she’s learning the truth of her situation. Being regarded as an object, as property rather than a living person…that must have had a huge impact on her development and self-esteem.

“I just wanted to get to know her,” Lucy says. “To be close to someone. I wanted to have a sister for the first time. She already had a family with a different sister, but they were horrible to her. She said if I wanted her ‘stupid last name’, I could have it, that she didn’t want it anyway. It helped me feel closer to her, even though she hated me. I really liked her pink hair, so I asked Sue if I could get something pink, too. I think she wanted to do something to make me feel better. So, she ordered me this uniform.”

“I never realized that was because of Quinn,” Spencer says. She always assumed it was just a coincidence they both had pink accessories, like how Dark Willow’s hair matches the bruises on Mack’s ass Thursday mornings.

“I just wanted to show her I care. I needed to feel close to my sister. She’s the only one I know.” Lucy takes a breath and pushes on. “It was unpleasant between us for a while, even hostile, but that faded. Now, she keeps her distance and we just live our own lives.”

This is more sincere and open than Spencer’s ever seen Lucy before, and it’s almost painfully sad to watch. If this girl was, in fact, raised on a spaceship without a peer group and then killed everyone on board, of course she would lack an understanding of basic social cues. She’s practically a feral beast in the jungle. It’s a wonder she’s gotten this far and done this well. But then, she seems to be a fast learner and someone that Spencer is constantly underestimating. Which is a problem.

At the very least, Lucy’s so-called hatred of Quinn is clearly just a front to hide how hurt she is, and Spencer can’t fault her for that. What the hell would she have done in Lucy’s position? Finding out she had a half-brother sent Spencer into a full-blown tailspin.

“Wow. I'm sorry,” she offers, because anything else feels too heavy. “And you never brought up the whole test-tube-baby thing? You never talked about it?”

Lucy shakes her head again. “Every time I'd try, she walked away. There’s obviously a connection between us, but she’s made it quite clear she doesn’t want to know.”

“Well, she must feel something,” Spencer says. “She could’ve let her hair go back to its natural color a long time ago, but she doesn't. Maybe she feels more connected to you than you think.”

“Maybe. Or she just doesn’t want to look like me,” Lucy says. “Quinn does her own thing. It’s fine.”

They both sit with that for a minute in quiet contemplation. All those conversations Spencer had with Quinn, there was never any inkling that she and Lucy had this complicated past. Quinn focused on her teen years and what her life was like before she came here. Spencer could relate to that easily enough. When things get scary, we go back to what we know.

Wait a minute...

“Is this whole...thing...common knowledge around the prison?” Spencer asks.

“I don’t know,” Lucy shrugs. “It’s not some huge secret that we’re related, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“I mean the cl--” Spencer stumbles, “the test tube stuff.”

“I told you, I don’t like to talk about it.”

“Do you think Vee knows?” Spencer asks.

Lucy’s brow furrows. “I doubt it.”

Spencer looks back and forth between them. “She said something to me the other day like she had dirt on you guys.”

Faith laughs and says, “I know what that is.” She crosses her legs and puts her arms behind her head, reclining comfortably. “Vee runs this gang. Her girls have these wacko names. Tastee, Pussy….”

“Tasty Pussy?”  Spencer interjects. She really, really hates that word.

“Two people,” Faith clarifies, “not one.”

“It’s Poussey,” Lucy says.

Faith sits up and waves her hands as she talks. “So, Santana’s all, ‘How do they expect me to just let that go? Their names are literally delicious.’”

“She...didn’t…” Spencer doesn’t want to say the rest of it.

But Faith waves the suggestion away. “Nah. Vee’s just blowing smoke up your ass because she knows Santana wanted a taste.”

Maybe, Spencer thinks, but there has to be more to it than that. Maybe Vee’s got the same Underground Railroad theory as Umbridge and she wants something to leverage for a ticket out. Maybe this is all about Aphasia somehow, since there seems to be history and animosity between them. Or maybe Vee really does know something about Lucy and could help Spencer take her down. There’s just too much uncertainty. Speaking of which…

“And she didn’t eat those missing girls – Paulie and Vause and the others,” Spencer clarifies. She really needs to hear Faith say it. “I mean, like, eat eat--”

“Yeah, I got it, Jenny Craig. Strict no-human diet, like I said. Chill.” Faith goes back to staring at the ceiling.

“I’m just trying to figure out what happened to them,” Spencer says. 

Faith shrugs. “Girls come and go all the time in here.”

Yes, that's the problem.

If this disappearance conspiracy runs deeper than the ones Spencer knows about -- Stacey, Aeryn, Jenny, Alex, and Paulie -- then who knows how many girls it involves. Maybe that’s part of the point. With relatively high turnover, nobody knows who was there before, and girls don’t necessarily know when someone’s missing. Even people like Lucy who’ve been here for years wouldn’t be able to learn the names and whereabouts of all the other prisoners. Everyone’s got their own shit to think about and their own demons to face. They all have a past they can’t escape, even in space.

Which...hang on...

Spencer turns back to Lucy. “If Quinn doesn’t know about the cloning, how do you know?”

“There were some files on my ship. I had access to everything when there was no one left to stop me.” Lucy says it so simply, she makes it sound like killing every single person was a reasonable means to an end.

Well, damn! Why didn’t I think of killing everyone in Rosewood when I needed access to some files? 

“I looked through them before I was captured,” Lucy continues. “I read the words, but I didn’t really understand it. I was too young. If they weren’t destroyed with the remains of the ship, Sue probably has them now. I don’t know.”

Jackpot.  Come in, Houston -- We have found our leverage.

Spencer’s lips curve into a smile. “So, if someone were to have access to these files, that would be of interest to you?”

And just like that, the light returns to Lucy Fabray’s eyes. She matches Spencer’s smile and looks her up and down like she doesn’t know where to put her mouth first.

Chapter Text

It’s been a while since Spencer requested an office visit. Boomer, bored with life as always, escorts Spencer back to Sue’s office, where the boss is midway through a rigorous jazzercise routine. The light blue sweatband around her head is a nice addition to the standard red track suit.

“Ah, Tastings, good. Do that.” Sue motions to the opposite corner without looking.

“That” is a giant mess of assorted papers in all colors, piled like a mountain about a foot high and three feet wide. Spencer's pretty sure there's peanut butter on a few of the pages.

“Um. Do what, exactly?”

Sue scowls. “Do I look like someone who has time for your pointless, asinine questions, or do I look like someone four and a half hours into unbridled cardiovascular titillation?” She emphasizes her point with jazz hands as she squats and twists.

Spencer rolls her eyes and sits down in front of the administrative catastrophe. It seems this is where paper goes to die in space. It’s the same kind of thing she's seen before: invoices for cafeteria food, water and fuel delivery confirmations, maintenance bills, communication logs, flight schedules and the like. Nothing related to personnel, at least not directly.

But this time, there are some new papers that catch Spencer's eye immediately. These have names on them. She finds one of her cell transfer requests, along with intake forms for two new prisoners she hasn't met yet (Chloe O’Brian and Rosa Diaz). And there seem to be at least a dozen different pink capture forms for one Hermione Granger. With a pile this large to go through, Spencer feels sure there's got to be something relevant here. It's like the universe has given her an amazing birthday present a few months early. Or maybe late. She doesn't really know anymore.

Once she’s sorted them into piles by color and type, it's time to decide how to proceed. Sue's not paying her much attention, but Spencer doesn’t think she can just sit and read through these like library books. She doesn't want to risk losing her privileges. But she'll be damned if she just stuffs all this data in a drawer without devouring it first. No, this is too important. She'll file them like she's supposed to -- just, slowly and reading as she goes.

She calls out to Sue over the painfully annoying music, as innocently as she can, “Some of these look like they go in a prisoner file.”

Sue continues her circular arm extensions, this time in the direction of a file cabinet with the large ring of thirty keys hanging from the lock.

Spencer grabs Hermione’s pile, now sorted chronologically by date, and walks it over. She carefully wades through the names until she finds Granger, Hermione, nestled right between Fabray, Quinn and Hastings, Spencer. She’s seen her own file before, of course, back when she first arrived, now nestled safely back in its place. How Aphasia did it, Spencer will never know. But even more peculiar is the fact that most of the file folders are the standard beige color while hers is blue. And so is Lucy’s.

What’s that all about?

There must be over a hundred names here, and -- wait -- Graham’s is blue, too. As are Mills, Regina and Katraine, Louanne, whoever that is. But why?

It seems random, but Spencer doesn’t know any of them well enough to guess what they have in common, not even Lucy. But even then – why would Lucy’s be blue, but Quinn’s isn’t? There’s a box of empty manila folders in the cabinet at her feet, so it’s not like they ran out. What does it mean? She wants desperately to peek through her file, if only to learn whatever Aphasia must already know. But she still has this stack of transfers in her hand and Sue knows exactly what they are, so she’ll have to investigate that later.

Every time Spencer gets close to an answer, two more questions arise. But that reminds her...

Flipping toward the back of the drawer, she finds Schecter, Jennifer and Sun, Aeryn, no one in between. No Martha Slewgurt or Stewart or otherwise. Paulie was just fucking with her. Of course she was. It’s probably just regular prisoners working kitchen duty, hashing slices of pseudo meat onto trays like an assembly line. There isn’t any big conspiracy to hide a Forbes 400 celebrity in outer space. Once again, Spencer’s the joke of prison, the gullible rich girl too stupid to know better. She almost believed Paulie, too.

Taking a deep breath, Spencer refocuses on the task at hand. It’s taking all her will power not to swipe Jenny’s file. If she just had some time in here to read all this paperwork, she’d know more than all those assholes out there. She’d be the one in charge. Who’d be laughing then?

One thing at a time. Live to see another day of office work.

Hermione’s file is thick, one of the largest in the drawer, and Spencer immediately sees what must be thirty forms identical to the stack in her hand, one for each attempted escape. It's impressive. Vee’s words echo in her mind, but Spencer sticks to her own agenda. If that psychopath wants it, she can come in herself and get it.

Though...with this many pages, surely Sue wouldn’t notice if a few of them walked away. Right?

Spencer adds the new pink forms to the back and reluctantly closes the folder. The light is behind her and casting a shadow on the Prisoner Information sheet at the front, making it impossible to read from this angle. There’s so much she wants to know about this mysterious girl. The whole witch thing seems crazy (if it’s true), but Spencer can’t deny she’s seen Hermione vanish before her very eyes more than once. And what about Dark Willow’s fire throwing? According to Aphasia, there are different kinds of witchcraft? It’s humbling, but Spencer’s seen science she can’t understand. There may be answers here in this office, but there isn’t time. Sue’s still watching.

Spencer drops the file back into place, smiles with lips closed, and nods as if to say, Okay, that’s done. Sue approves and begins a new step, one that rotates her in a circle ninety degrees at a time with kicks and punches and a victorious crowing noise as she flexes her ass.

Why nobody signed up for this jazzercise class is a mystery to Spencer. It's a wonder to behold. She stands watching, almost hypnotized by the insanity, before realizing the drawer’s still open and Sue’s facing the wall. It’s only for a few seconds, but it might be enough.

Reaching in, Spencer takes the last few papers right back out of Hermione’s file and then looks for Lucy’s file again. It’s not nearly as thick as Hermione’s, but it’s certainly got something in it, hopefully enough to provide the answers Lucy needs. Maybe, just maybe, that will lead to the answers Spencer needs, too. And, if she’s really lucky, it’ll also have whatever precious information Vee’s trying to hold over Spencer’s head.

So much is riding on this. Spencer has to pull it off.

As Sue bends and kicks, crowing triumphantly, Spencer goes for it. In one smooth motion, she pulls Lucy's file with her left hand and stuffs Hermione’s forms in the back. Unzipping her uniform, she turns away from Sue and shoves the file down her front, then bumps the drawer closed with her shoulder. The keys jangle loudly in time with the music, right on a cymbal crash. Sue doesn’t even notice.

Mission accomplished.  I’m such a badass.

Spencer walks back toward the giant pile as casually as she can, but after two steps she realizes the file is just loose in there. The papers are spilling out into the legs of her jumpsuit quite loudly, giving her a puffed out, deformed look and probably papercutting her all over.

Shit.

Fortunately, Sue can’t hear it over the synthesizer and doesn’t seem to notice Spencer’s awkward movements as she tries to recover. Once seated on the floor again, she turns her back to Sue and quickly reaches in to stuff the forms back into the folder, only then remembering she doesn’t have panties to tuck the file into.

Double shit!

She risks a side-glance and sees Sue’s got her hands on the wall and seems to be doing some kind of old-people-twerking motion that Spencer really wishes she’d never, ever seen. But it gives her the window she needs. In a flash, she pulls her arms into her sleeves, slips out of the bra straps, and slides the still-fastened elastic down to her stomach. She moves the folder underneath it, using the bra like a belt to pin it against her. Her arms are back through the sleeves before Sue turns around.

This had better be worth it.

“Becky!” Sue calls out, between twerks. A moment later, her assistant appears in the doorway and scowls at Spencer. Sue releases her hold on the wall and turns around to face Becky, thrusting her pelvis forward and back to the music. “Tell Robin I want a status report on the G, ASAP.”

“Who’s Robin?” Becky asks. Spencer was wondering the same thing.

“Robin! The bird girl!” Sue says, swerving her hips in a circle now. “The one who smells like a drunk Russian who can’t hold a job. Raymond?" She sounds uncertain.

“Raven?” Spencer asks, then immediately regrets drawing attention to herself.

Sue ignores her and extends a finger, pointing sharply at Becky as her ass continues gyrating. “Tell Raisin the pipe to my bathtub is leaking like Nixon’s White House. If I miss my mid-morning sulfur soak, I’m going to rip out the pipe and strangle her puppy with it.”

Becky's eyes go wide. “She has a puppy?”

Sue shrugs regretfully as she continues swiveling. “Not for long.”

“Aye aye, Warden!” Becky salutes a little overenthusiastically and takes off running down the hall.

“Spirited, isn’t she?” Sue says. “You could learn a thing or two from her. Pick it up, Spanker.”

With a heavy sigh, Spencer reaches for a septic system invoice from Uranus Cleaners and wonders how this became her life.

****************

It’s only when Boomer’s leading her to the shower again that Spencer realizes she can't hide this file strapped to her torso once she’s expected to strip down. Even if she bathed in her uniform, the file would still be ruined.

“Actually,” she says, just around the corner from the bathroom, “Can I take a rain check? Shower check?”

Boomer stops and looks at her, expressionless.

Spencer's cover story is rapidly disintegrating. “Lucy has some rigorous activities planned, and I'd rather save the shower for after that.”

The guard doesn’t reply, just turns and heads back in the direction they came, tugging the chain on Spencer’s cuffs harder than she needs to.

The door to cell 1 slides shut with Spencer safely inside, but it’s clear they've interrupted something. Lucy’s standing in the middle of the cell behind Faith, who’s on her knees and facing away, jumpsuit half off, with small bruises scattered across her back and neck. Faith’s arms are pinned behind by her own sleeves tied in a knot, and Lucy’s pulling her head back by her hair. Spencer stands and stares, amazed that her “rigorous activities” line is super credible now. Boomer rolls her eyes and walks away.

Lucy doesn’t drop her hold on Faith's hair as she looks up. “Do you have something for me?” It's casual, like Spencer walked in while she was just washing dishes or weeding the garden. Lucy tightens her hold with a twist of her hand, and Faith lets out a soft whimper, squirming on the floor but clearly trying not to.

Spencer cautiously takes a few steps forward, too scared to get closer than necessary, and unzips her uniform to gain access to the blue folder. It’s been scratchy as hell, and she’s glad to be rid of it. She opens it to start reading, but Lucy grabs it out of her hand with a polite, “Thank you.”

Several pink corners are sticking out of the top, and Spencer’s eyes flash with realization. “Wait, hang on.” Lucy raises an eyebrow. “Some of those are mine. The pink ones.” There’s an awkward pause as Lucy seems to decide if she believes Spencer or not. “I swear, they’re not about you.”

Releasing Faith's hair, Lucy tugs the three pages out one at a time, handing them to Spencer without reading them. Her expression remains cool and in control as she walks over to her bunk and sits against the wall. Faith doesn't move a muscle.

Ah, right. Silent Sundays, Motionless Mondays.

As Lucy opens the file, Spencer quickly stuffs Hermione’s forms under her pillow to read later. She crosses back over to sit beside Lucy, who holds up a hand and says, “Wait.” Her eyes are wide, scouring the pages intently, and Spencer is dying to know what secrets she just delivered. She just stands, silently, arms crossed as Lucy reads two pages, three, four. But then she’s flipping through them faster, emotion rising in her face, and there’s clearly something wrong.

It seems Faith can sense it, too, because she turns her body and starts to stand. Lucy’s head snaps up, eyes blazing as she shouts, “DID I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO MOVE?” Lucy’s voice is unsteady and laced with emotion.

Faith freezes again as the words echo throughout the cell and down the corridor, ringing in Spencer’s ears. She’s not used to hearing Lucy so scared. Something about it sets Spencer on edge. Otherwise gentle animals will lash out when frightened and backed into a corner. She hopes Lucy has enough space to breathe.

Lucy finally reaches the last page, then goes back through some in the middle and trails a finger down what appears to be a list until she reaches the bottom. “Fifty-six,” she says quietly, staring at the faded gray paper. Even in the shadow of the bed frame, her eyes are shining.

“Clones?” Spencer dares to ask, praying Lucy won’t strike her dead on the spot. Clones would be a terrible last word.

Lucy hands her the paper, blinking back the tears. “Where are these places?”

The heading says PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION SITES and has a numbered list of fifty-five cities all over the world. There doesn’t seem to be any specific order to them; they’re not alphabetical, or even grouped by continent. Some are major capital cities, others are towns she’s never heard of. Fewer than a dozen are in the United States. Including Lima, Ohio.

“All over,” Spencer says. “They sent them everywhere.”

“Can we find them?” Lucy's voice shakes.

Spencer takes a deep breath. Lucy's asking a tall order, and not just because they're currently incarcerated. In space.

“Maybe a few? You’d never be able to track down all of them. Even if you knew where to start looking, people move, like you did. How would you know who to go after first? You could spend your whole life searching for one girl and never find her, and then you’ve missed your chance to meet all the others.”

The look on Lucy’s face, a mix of hope and sadness and broken promise, means Spencer has to state the obvious. “We’re in prison.” She holds up the paper. “This list is useless to you.”

Lucy’s expression hardens. It’s the same look Quinn had before she walked out on Spencer in the bathroom.

“I’m sorry,” Spencer adds, and she means it. She knows how important it is to have hope in a place like this.

Lucy holds her hand out for the paper, and Spencer obliges. Lucy places it back in the middle of the file neatly and lies back on her bed. She flips to the beginning and starts reading through everything again, as if the contents are precious and important; as if Spencer hadn’t just shattered her biggest dream into a thousand pieces.

Chapter Text

Things are tense in the cell for the next week. Lucy keeps the file under her mattress, guarding it protectively, and Spencer still doesn’t know why Lucy won’t let her see it. She’d been so forthcoming before, discussing her past and what happened with Quinn, but now she’s closed off and become a mystery again.

Maybe she's holding the bad news against Spencer, shooting the messenger and all that. It's hard getting the silent treatment, and it reminds her far too much of how Mack used to pretend she didn't deserve to exist.

Just as long as she doesn't chainsaw the messenger in half.

Faith isn’t much help, either. Lucy left her there on her knees that day for seven hours, not permitted to speak or move. Maybe she did it on purpose, or maybe she got so engrossed in the file that she simply forgot about her previous engagement. Either way, Faith wasn't thrilled about having to piss herself there on the floor, all of five feet from the toilet, and seems to be blaming Spencer for it. Yeah, she could've gotten up and used it if she really wanted to. But Faith clearly doesn't want to take a step out of line and upset the boss lady. Spencer has no reason to think Faith would go out of her way to help her.

How long is this going to go on? Once again, Spencer finds herself without allies and trapped. She’s running out of time. They’ve got two days at most before the next Shark Week, but that dam could break at any moment.

She hates not being able to do anything to stop the next disappearance. She hates not knowing who might be next. She hates not knowing where Beth/Charlotte is or what she’s really up to. She hates not knowing for sure if it was Santana all along (and if so, how?) There are just too many questions up in the air to know which direction to head. Spencer doesn’t like being reactive -- she’s proactive. But she might just have to wait until the end of Shark Week to see if things are different now that her girl-chomping cellmate is gone. She was supposed to feel safer here, keeping her enemies closer and all that, but Spencer feels just as lost as ever.

She dreams that night of being cast out to sea, alone and starving, thrown to and fro in the waves of a storm. As the boat rocks, she hears the impending sound of a shark coming right for her, cutting through the night to rip her in two. There’s a loud voice booming in the distance, but she can’t quite make it out; the storm is too rough. Spencer’s body is tossed about, drowning in rain, and the shark must have bitten her, because now she feels the warmth of blood on her leg. Suddenly, she’s flung out of her boat hard and slams into the rocky shore. Her head aches, swimming with concussion and noise, as she’s crushed on the rocks again and again and again.

The pain is so sharp, it jolts her awake, and Spencer tries to regain a grip on reality. But it’s hard. Her vision is blurry, and the pounding in her head feels even more real now that she’s conscious. It takes a moment, but she realizes that she is in fact hitting her head. She’s floating two feet above her bed, face down, bumping into the ceiling.

Wait, but that’s...but…

She’s not thinking clearly, like she’s drunk on cold medicine and knows she’s out of it but can’t keep herself awake. Spencer turns herself over and tries to push back down to her bed, and that’s when she sees the horror taking place in her cell.

Faith is hovering in the middle of the room a few feet off the ground. Or at least...parts of her are. Spencer can see her head, face up toward the ceiling, eyes still closed. But beyond her shoulders, it’s like she’s just not entirely there. Jagged lines, like someone took a Photoshop eraser tool to her and just went crazy but left her feet in tact at the end.

“Faith!” she cries, but it’s barely more than a whisper, and Spencer doesn’t even know if she actually said anything at all. Even though she knows this must be a dream, it still feels very stupid calling out to what appears to be severed body parts. But Faith's feet are staying the same distance from her body, so at least they’re not just chopped off.

Spencer blinks a few times, struggling to adjust to the darkness of the room and see what the fuck is going on. The corridor is dimmed at night, but not completely. If Spencer can focus on the light, maybe she’ll wake up from this horrible nightmare. She squints and fights to keep her eyes open and hold on to something real and solid, like the cell bars. Good old cell bars. Which…

The door is...wide open. And Faith’s about to sail right out of it. Or, the remaining parts of her are. If this is her escape plan, she probably wasn’t planning to be dead first.

No...no...it’s…

Spencer reaches out for Faith, short by several feet and too high, then pushes off her bed to get there. She grabs a handful of Faith’s free-floating hair and holds on.

YOU CAN’T TAKE MY FRIEND’S HEAD.

Spencer pulls her back up, but she’s met with some resistance and can’t see why. Everything is wrong and nothing makes sense and her mind’s telling her she’s still in the ocean, go back to sleep. But Spencer isn’t giving up yet. She yanks on Faith again, and that’s when she sees it.

Spiders. Plural. What must be dozens of them. All gathered at the cell door, blocking her exit.

Spencer screams, or tries to, and jerks hard on Faith again, but the fear is making her physical and mental state even worse. Her strength is severely inhibited, and her best yank comes out as more of a slow tug. It’s enough, though, and whatever seems to be holding Faith back pulls free, sending her floating fast in the opposite direction. Spencer grabs hard onto the bed frame at the last second and braces for the pendulous return. It feels better having something to hold on to, so she clings to her bed like a fortress. And she’s not about to let those fuckers take another girl, not if she has anything to say about it.

Her moment of bravery lasts a whole two seconds.

The swarm of spiders scatters all over the cell floor, like flooding water coming in. Several of them head right for the wall and Spencer’s bunk, fast and determined. They’re coming for her.

Killer spiders in outer space. They want her dead.

Spencer screams louder, and she thinks she can almost hear it this time. In a literal leap of faith, she jumps on top of Faith’s weirdly sliced up body (that she can somehow see the floor through), and they float down to the ground (NO, NO, SPIDERS NO, NO). Then, they push back up to Faith's opposite top bunk, rotating upside down and spinning as they go. Spencer’s going to be sick.

“LUCY!” Spencer tries to shout as her cellmate blips in and out of her vision. But Lucy’s still sleeping peacefully somehow, completely oblivious to the hell that’s broken out in her home.

Spencer lets go of Faith to stop her momentum before she bashes her head on the metal frame, but bangs her leg instead. Faith tumbles into the back of the cell and hovers over the toilet, bouncing harmlessly between the walls. She’s up high and out of reach, and Spencer figures she’ll be safe enough there for now. The spiders don’t seem to be able to fly. At least, not yet.

This is, hands down, the worst nightmare she’s ever had, and, oh god, the spiders are coming.

Pushing against the wall, Spencer flies back over to her bunk to get away, then watches as they stop and change directions like a flock of birds. They’re out for her. And Spencer can see now that these are certainly different from Beth. They’re larger and black with neon blue designs on their backs. It’s nothing she’s ever seen before.

Spencer only has a few seconds to consider her options. She could keep going back and forth until they get bored or surround her, or she succumbs to motion sickness. She could go out into the hall and let the guards kill her while the spiders eat both Faith and Lucy. Or she can try to end this here and now, once and for all.

A few creep up the wall as others scurry up the metal frame and across the mattress. Spencer watches in shock as they gain on her, then steels herself and lets the terrified tears flow, erupting in a screaming ball of panicked rage. She holds one side of the bed for leverage and unleashes havoc on the hellspawn, kicking her feet against the wall and slamming her free fist against the mattress, stomping as many as she can, barely able to see but not slowing down. Again and again she attacks, never breaking her battle cry, and she doesn’t stop until her body finally gives out.

Spencer pants, out of breath and still hovering, and searches the scene rapidly for any other signs of movement. Any survivors have fled through the still-open door, and Spencer prays they know better than to come back. She looks around frantically, adrenaline pumping through her veins, but the coast does seem to be clear.

Suddenly, something brushes against her cheek, and Spencer bats at her face with both hands over and over, releasing another frustrated scream. The small corpse of a spider gracefully soars through the air as she makes contact, and that's when Spencer realizes all the ones she killed are still here, floating around the room.

This is seriously the worst day.

Using her pillow, she bats them toward the open door, determined to get every last one of these fuckers out. If she generates enough force, they'll carry down the hall where they'll hopefully stay. Someone else will surely find them, even just one, and her story will be corroborated. They aren't very big and they don't look nearly as scary on an individual basis, but the very fact that they do indeed exist will be enough to gain traction with the authorities.

Right? It has to be.

It takes several minutes, made harder by the fact that she's still floating, but she manages to bat nine dead, awful spiders out into the corridor. Spencer considers keeping one and putting it under her mattress just in case she needs proof, but there's just no way she's letting any of these assholes stay within fifty feet of her. What if they regenerate? What if they're immortal vampires? Or zombie spiders? Maybe they're not even dead. God only knows what she's dealing with. She could be killed the moment she closes her eyes.

The light from the corridor is weak, but Spencer does her best to see that no more creepy crawlies are hiding in nooks and crannies around the bunkbeds. When the air seems clear, she double-checks her pillow and brushes off her uniform one last time. All gone.

Catching her breath, Spencer looks back to see Faith’s still safe and sound...and still just a head and feet with slices missing in between.

Spencer pushes off again, mindful of hitting her head on the ceiling, and manages to bring Faith back to her bunk by her hair. She checks for vital signs, and sure enough, Faith still has a pulse. Spencer keeps poking and can feel that Faith’s whole body is there even though she can’t see it. There’s some kind of tying force, like a string wrapped around her. Spencer is able to dig her fingers underneath it, but -- whoa -- when she does, she can’t see them anymore. Quickly retracting her hand to be sure she’s intact Spencer tries again, and the same thing happens.

This is some seriously fucked-up shit. Whether she’s still asleep or not, Bullshit Nightmare Time needs to be over now.

Spencer tugs at the invisible binding force, and it gradually starts to give. She manages to pull the bulk of it down Faith’s body until it falls loose just past her knees. It’s certainly trippy watching Faith’s body appear as it goes, but whatever Spencer’s doing is working. Somehow, a pile of dark blue string has formed on the floor beneath her. She’ll deal with that in the morning. All that matters now is her friend.

When Faith seems free and clear and all in one piece, Spencer takes a quiet moment to look over her rescue. She’s knocked out cold but still alive, and Spencer knows she’s just saved Faith’s life. As terrible as this has been, that part is pretty cool. Spencer did it. She broke the cycle of death. And aside from the terror and nausea, this zero-gravity flying thing is pretty cool, too.

A moment later, Faith gently rotates into a gleam of light that just barely reveals a mark on her neck Spencer hadn’t seen before. One that isn’t Lucy’s doing. It’s small, like a puncture wound.

Uh oh.

Spencer’s hands move to her own neck, and sure enough, there’s a similar puncture wound; she can feel it. The fucking spiders bit and drugged us. At least they won’t ever be able to do it again.

Pushing Faith gently through the air, Spencer puts her cellmate back in her bunk area. It's hard to know she'll stay in safe dropping range when the gravity eventually resets, but it’s enough for now. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than fifteen minutes ago.

All this time...So many spiders.

Her head is pounding; the blunt force impact and terror and fatigue is finally catching up to her. Her body aches for sleep and everything is terrible, but she’s still far too scared to close her eyes. Part of her thinks she should go after them -- see where those fuckers are and where they were trying to take her friend. The door is wide open. The guards are still nowhere in sight.  (Seriously, WHERE have they been?)

Nothing is stopping Spencer but herself.

With a hesitant push, she floats over to the door. It’s strange seeing it sitting there wide open. But at the moment, it feels a lot safer in here than out there. Now Spencer knows just what kind of horrors are in this place after all.

She floats down carefully and holds on to the bars for leverage, sliding the door as quietly as she can until the automatic lock clicks. With another push, she sails back up to her bed and settles in to watch the dimly lit floor until morning. After all, prison bars can only keep out so much.

Chapter Text

Spencer wakes up face-down and backwards on her bed. Her head instantly starts throbbing again, though she can tell she’s much more coherent now. It all comes flooding back -- Faith, the spiders, the venom -- and she sits up to survey the scene. Faith is sleeping soundly in her bed, and, beneath her, Lucy rustles the sheets as she turns over.

For a moment, Spencer wonders if she dreamed the entire thing, that there's really only one spider and they're safely locked in. It was so vivid and would call into question so much else, but she doesn't want that version of reality. Her hand absently ghosts the side of her neck, and sure enough, the bite mark is still there. She takes a deep breath and pushes onward.

Her muscles ache with the remnants of the venom swimming in her veins, making everything hurt and feel fuzzy even these hours later. Much to her body's protest, she carefully climbs down to make for the toilet. Two steps forward, as she rubs the sleep out of her eyes, Spencer walks right into something and immediately jumps back.

It's a spider web. The largest, most terrifying web she’s ever seen.

It sprawls across the entire back portion of the cell, floor to ceiling, side to side, like a whole new wall. A gigantic mess of lines and angles with no order to it whatsoever, made out of that yellow thread. It's just like the I KILD JENE SHEKTR  web Spencer saw weeks ago, only larger and scarier, and she knows now that it's certainly the work of several spiders. There’s no way just one could do this.

Amidst the chaos is more scrawled writing. Nothing as clear and neat as Beth’s work, but the message is unmistakable.

U KILD MY SEESTRS

Spencer screams loudly and runs over to wake up Lucy and Faith. They’re groggy and moan at the interruption of their sleep, but Spencer doesn't care and just shakes their shoulders harder. “Wake up! WAKE UP, right now!”

Faith lashes a hand out at Spencer with a grunt. “Jesus. Calm your tits.” Faith sits up slowly as her eyes start to focus on the silken forest now occupying their bathroom area. “Whoa.” She pauses, blinking at the light. “Redecorating?”

Lucy sits up and smiles at her. “Very creative!” But the longer she looks at it, she starts to see the writing, and her face falls. Fear starts creeping in as she reads it over and over again.

“THIS WASN’T ME,” Spencer shouts, too tired and scared to control herself. “THEY DID THIS. THE SPIDERS. They killed Jenny Schecter and then they killed the other missing prisoners, and now they want to kill us, so we really --”

“Jenny was airlocked,” says Faith.

Spencer's going to lose her shit if she hears that line one more time. “Yes, that's clearly what everyone wants us to believe!” she yells. She’s too overwhelmed with anxiety to begin explaining that she’s seen a web like this before. She begins pacing back and forth, hands in her hair, watching the floor with every step she takes. After everything that happened last night, Spencer was stupid enough to fall back asleep. She messed up. And they crawled right back in and did this just to fuck with her. Who knows how long they were even in here.

Oh my god… That day she saw the first yellow web, the sick bastards must’ve come in as she was masturbating. They had to. She wasn’t asleep for that long after. Right? The whole thing happened in less than an hour because it was class time. Were they just waiting at the damn door for her to climax so they could creep in undetected? How did nobody see them?

What the fuck is going on here? 

Lucy’s wide awake now and frantically looking under the bunk and all around the cell, sounding on the verge of tears. “Beth? Beth, honey? Are you here?! Can we talk? I’m so sorry!” She checks the web for any signs of her beloved long-lost pet but finds none.

“You’re sorry?” Spencer asks. “For what?”

Lucy stops moving and exhales heavily as she looks at the web once more. “Beth wasn’t the only spider on my ship. But she was the only one I brought with me when I was arrested. She was the one I really cared about, the only one who would read with me and learned how to write. That was very special to me. When they came to take me away, she hid in my hair so the guards wouldn’t see.” Spencer shivers involuntarily at the thought. “But I told her I couldn’t save them all and we had to leave them behind. I’ve felt terrible for a long time. I know how it feels to be separated from all your sisters, and I didn’t mean to do that to her. Maybe that’s why she stopped spending time with me when we came here. She was hurting. But I didn’t know she was still so angry with me after all these years.” A few tears roll down Lucy’s cheeks as she blinks away the painful memories.

Spencer can’t believe what she’s hearing. She had no idea Lucy has been carrying around this guilt. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “How many sisters did she have?”

“I don’t really remember.” Lucy looks off to the side thinking. “Maybe ten?”

But Spencer saw more than that. She knows she did. The pieces aren’t fitting together yet. It doesn’t make sense that Beth would be making these yellow webs when she has her own thread and, from what Spencer’s seen, a solid grasp on spelling. Unless maybe she is trying to frame those other spiders for the murder of Jenny Schecter? But why the theatrics? And does that mean the spiders Spencer saw are Beth’s sisters? There are just too many questions.

It seems more likely that Beth’s sisters aren’t here at all and the yellow webs were made by the same spiders who came for Faith. Well, the survivors, anyway. This message isn’t for Lucy. It’s for Spencer.

Lucy looks devastated, taking this personal attack very hard. Spencer walks over and sits beside her, tucking a strand of Lucy’s hair behind her ear and then resting her hand on Lucy’s shoulder. “Hey. Please don’t beat yourself up for this. You don’t know that this is about you.”

“Who else would it be?” Lucy blinks and sniffs, wiping her nose. “She’s in so much pain. I had no idea. I never asked her.” More tears flow with each confession.

“Listen to me,” Spencer says, “This wasn’t Beth. She didn’t do this. That’s not her handwriting. And she can spell.”

Lucy turns to face her now, and her expression instantly hardens. “How would you know?”

Fuck. Well, that’s out of the bag. Spencer’s breath catches for a moment as she realizes her mistake. Lucy must have thought the bathroom incident was the first time Spencer had encountered Beth, as she had never given indication otherwise. Spencer's remembering all too late that her cellmate has a raging jealous streak. “She was already living in 10 when I got here. I saw some of her webs. They were clear silk, not yellow string.”

Okay, Lucy's pissed. “REALLY.”

“Look, it’s not a big deal! And this is good news! Beth isn’t upset with you! I’m sure she really loves you!”

Lucy’s having none of that. “Why didn’t you say you knew her when we were talking the other night?”

“Gee, I don’t know, Lucy,” Spencer fires back. “Why did you not say there are ACTUALLY LOTS OF SPIDERS ON THIS SHIP?”

“Because there aren’t!” Lucy shouts.

“Yes, there are!” Spencer stands up to get some distance from the crazy in Lucy’s eyes. “I saw them! They were IN HERE.”

Faith steps in, pointing to the web, “So, uh.” She looks at the web again. “How’d that go, exactly?”

“I’m here and they’re not,” Spencer says, defiantly. “That’s how it went.”

Lucy finally realizes this isn’t about her. “YOU killed them?!” Lucy says, standing up, eyes filled with rage. This is gonna go really well.

“THEY WERE TRYING TO KIDNAP HER,” Spencer shouts, pointing to Faith.

“Kidnap?” Faith's eyebrows couldn’t be any higher.

Lucy eyes are wide in shock. “My babies would never hurt anyone!”

“BZZ! WRONG ANSWER,” Spencer yells.

“YOU PROMISED you wouldn’t hurt them!”

“I LIED.”

Lucy’s right shoulder angles back like she’s about to strike.

“LANNISTER! LANNISTER!” Spencer shouts, cowering and stepping backward, holding her hands out to block the slap.

The ridiculousness of the moment deflates Lucy’s anger a bit. “That’s not how that works, Spencer,” she says, flatly.

Faith steps in. “Okay, are you two done with Psycho Time? Will someone please tell me in plain English what the fuck is going on?” She might just punch them both.

Everything is escalating fast, and Spencer peeks out from behind her hands to see Lucy’s holding steady. She takes a breath and tries to bring everything down a notch. “Last night, a bunch of spiders came in here and somehow started hauling you right out the door.”

Faith looks around considering what Spencer’s just said, and laughs. “Sounds like Nicky sprinkled a little something special into your Corn Flakes.”

“IT’S TRUE,” Spencer says, throwing her arms out. “I woke up in the middle of it and stopped them -- which, YOU’RE WELCOME. So then they came after ME, and I killed a bunch of them before the rest got away. They’ve been taking prisoners for months, I just didn’t know how. I thought it was only Beth.”

Lucy sounds completely betrayed. “You thought Beth was killing people?”

“It’s not like I was very far off!” Spencer bites back sarcastically.

“Okay,” Faith says. “Suppose I believe there are killer spiders in outer space.” She waves a hand at the web like it’s Exhibit A. “You really think a bunch of little bugs are gonna drag my hot ass out of here? Explain, Professor.” She crosses her arms smugly and leans against the bed frame.

Spencer sighs loudly. “I don’t know, okay? I woke up, and you were floating in mid-air.”

The word “floating” catches Lucy’s attention. She peeks down inside her jumpsuit and glances at her sheets. “Wait, it’s Shark Week? I didn’t hear the Code Red.”

Spencer pauses. “I think I did,” she says, “but it was a part of my dream, so I didn’t know.” Pausing to assess, she squirms uncomfortably, realizing her body's cycle has caught up to everyone else's. And she still isn't wearing panties. Even better, she can't get to the toilet with the web in the way. Crossing her legs, Spencer looks at the message again and says, “They sure don’t waste any time.”

Faith looks thoroughly disgusted. “So, what, they wanna ride us riding the wave?”

Spencer makes a face and shifts again. “I think they’re seizing the opportunity when the gravity goes out during Shark Week.” Then, a flashing image in her mind. “Of course they need the gravity to be out,” Spencer continues, talking it through. “If their target is weightless and floating, it’s much easier to move.” Suddenly her eyes go wide. “What if they make the gravity go out. They chew through the wiring or something, I don’t know.”

“They don’t eat wires,” Lucy says.

“Yes,” Spencer glares, “they eat people. We know.”

“But they'd be floating too, right?” Faith asks. “How the hell does that work?”

“No, their legs are built for hanging on to things. They weren't floating until I --” but Spencer stops herself before reminding Lucy of the carnage. “They weren't floating.”

“Well, lucky me, then,” Faith says, climbing back up to her bunk. “Next, you can explain how they'd get me through the bars.” She's still not buying any of this.

Spencer thought it was obvious. “The door was open.”

Faith glances at it like Spencer’s a moron.

“Well, it was.” Spencer starts pacing.

“Then, I guess they can pick locks, too,” Faith laughs.

Lucy beams. “Spiders are very smart!”

“If the door was open, why are you still here?” Faith asks Spencer. “Me? I’d be halfway to the moon by now with a chance like that.” She leans back against the bedframe, propping one arm up on a bended knee.

“I hear it’s a bit cold outside, and I couldn’t seem to find my coat,” Spencer says patronizingly, crossing her arms.

“I’d figure it out.” Faith’s eyes are narrow, and it’s clear she still doesn’t buy Spencer’s story. “So nice of them to use their little spider arms to close the big, heavy door on their way out.”

“Spiders don’t have arms!” Spencer says condescendingly. “And they didn’t close it -- I did.”

You closed it?!” Now Faith’s the one who might murder her. “You didn’t think for a second that the rest of us might want to get out of this shithole?”

Spencer huffs. “If you wanna take on Satan’s eight-legged army, go right ahead. Be my guest.”

“I’ve slayed actual demons from Hell,” Faith says. “You wanna rattle me, you’re gonna have to try a little harder than that.”

Spencer isn’t going to take this crap, not after the horrific night she had. “It’s easy for you to say – you slept through the whole goddamn thing!”

“Then, Final Jeopardy,” Faith retorts, staring Spencer down. “If I became the latest float in the prison pride parade, why don’t I remember a goddamn thing about it?”

“Because they knocked us out! Look -- I've got bite marks.” Spencer reaches for her neck. “And I bet you do, too.”

Faith and Lucy both feel around, and their expressions change the moment they locate the small puncture wounds.

“They roofied us?” Faith sounds more curious than anything.

“That’s highly unlikely,” Lucy says. “I don’t think the spiders could get us on the roof.”

Her cellmates’ ineptitude only makes Spencer’s headache worse. The nausea is kicking in now, and all her muscles are sore. As she winces against a spasm in her abdomen, Spencer realizes her body has felt like this before. “When Paulie disappeared, I felt really out of it the next morning, but I figured it was food poisoning or something. I think they wanted us to sleep through it while they took someone. They drugged us.”

“I can't believe they would do that,” Lucy says, shaking her head. “I took such good care of them.”

“It wasn’t them,” Spencer insists. “I’m guessing your other spiders were gray, just like Beth.”

“They’re beautiful,” Lucy says.

“But that's not what I saw last night!” Spencer says, eyes wider now. “They were huge” -- she holds up her hands together to make a circle almost the size of a soda can -- “and black with blue marks on their backs. They didn't look like Beth at all.”

Lucy's brow furrows. “I’ve never seen any spiders like that.”

This is a whole new batch, Spencer thinks. There must be more of them still out there. After all, somebody made the new web this morning. And Spencer doesn't like that Lucy doesn't know a damn thing about them. “Well,” she says, “they came from somewhere. We'll figure it out.”

The three girls sit quietly for a minute as the conversation comes to an awkward lull. Twitchy and aching and foggy, Spencer could go for a few more hours of sleep now that someone else is awake to keep an eye on things. But she can’t help but notice that Lucy looks more emotional than usual. “You okay?”

Lucy purses her lips and meets Spencer’s eyes. “I thought maybe Beth was going to have a family again.” She pauses for a moment, looking at the web wistfully before continuing. “Do you think it’s possible these new spiders, whoever they are, would adopt Beth as one of their own? She needs a happy family who loves her.”

Yes, Spencer thinks, “happy” and “love” are exactly the words that come to mind in this situation. You’re absolutely right. “Sure,” Spencer says. She’s trying to be a good friend. This is what Lucy needs to hear. That her estranged daughter has been accepted by a murdering clan.

“So, what now?” Faith asks. She's still rubbing her neck and sounds awfully shaken up.

“We deal with this, I guess,” Spencer says, turning back to the web. It looks just as creepy as it did the first twelve times she looked at it. Just to cover her bases, lest she get a slap across the face, she says, “I’m gonna tear it down. I’m sorry, but I really have to pee.”

“It's yellow…” Lucy says, and Spencer frowns, wondering why the hell Lucy is talking about her bodily functions. But, no, Lucy is looking at the spider’s handiwork again thoughtfully, referring to the web itself. “How about that.”

The others stare at her, waiting. “And?” Spencer prompts impatiently.

“We used to have yellow towels, before you arrived,” Lucy offers, piecing things together as she talks. “I wondered where they all went.” She smiles. “Clever girls.”

“Why would they need those?” Faith asks. “Don't they make their own...web...string or whatever?”

“Maybe they don't,” says Spencer ominously. “Beth does.” She looks to Lucy for confirmation and gets a nod. “But these new spiders, I guess not.”

Spencer chooses to keep the whole “invisible, erasing thread” part of her evening to herself. She’s walking on thin ice as it is and can’t risk sounding any crazier. Not until she has a theory about what that was. Maybe the spiders made it, but maybe not. They seem pretty resourceful, but Spencer can’t think what could’ve produced string like that in the first place. On the bright side, it seems Faith doesn’t know or care enough about physics to ask how the spiders were propelling her forward. One less thing Spencer has to try to explain right now.

“What the hell is the point of a spider that can't make a web?” Faith mutters, crawling back into bed. “Wait…I don’t care!” She pulls the sheet over her head definitively.

Spencer can't blame her. She'd love to hit the reset button and erase the last twenty-four hours. It wouldn't be the first time she'd...

Time...

“Hang on,” Spencer says to Lucy. “Okay. I assume the spiders came in to kill her, probably to eat her, right?” Before Lucy can respond, she points and cuts her off, “You said Beth eats dead people, so I think we can extend that premise to these new assholes.”

Lucy opens her mouth but then closes it again. “Continue,” she says quietly.

“Well, they failed! They didn't get her!” Spencer says, pointing back to Faith. “If that means they don’t have a food source, then maybe the ones that got away will starve before next month. Maybe we just broke the cycle!” She sounds elated, but Lucy couldn't look more horrified.

“Poor things!” she gasps.

Spencer lets herself get excited at the possibility, then thinks through the ramifications of her theory and quickly realizes it won’t hold water. “But you said they can go a long time without food.”

Lucy nods, “Yes.”

“How long?”

Lucy looks offended at the question. “I never starved them long enough to find out.”

“But probably longer than a month, right?”

“Probably,” Lucy concedes.

Well, shit. What now? Taking another steadying breath, Spencer closes her eyes. “On the plus side, at least they’re not having babies on their own. The web says ‘sisters,’ which implies they’re all female.”

“They are,” says Lucy.

“You look under their skirts?” Faith sneers, still face down on her pillow.

“They were made that way,” Lucy says, then adds dismissively, “Males are inferior.”

“Made?”  Spencer glares, turning to face Lucy head on.

“Of course!” Lucy chastises. “Spencer. You really don’t think spiders just live in space, do you?”

Her jaw tightens.

“I read about them in a book about Earth when I was a child,” Lucy says, “and they looked like such graceful creatures. And artists, like me. I was lonely, so my parents made some to keep me company. It was my best birthday.”

Spencer wonders what kind of people would choose spiders as pet option numero uno. Could they not get her a book on kittens? “Let’s hope this is standard space practice, then,” Spencer says. “Someone made these new spiders, I just don’t know who. Or how. This is a prison. I don't think secret, killer animal projects are high on the list of priorities when we barely have enough to eat.” Looking at Lucy pointedly, she adds, “And I’m not sure many space labs are engineering spiders in the first place.” She considers that for a moment. “Speaking of things that don’t make sense, how old is Beth, anyway? She should’ve been dead years ago.”

Lucy is appalled and takes a step forward to get right in Spencer’s face. “How dare you! She is my FAMILY.”

“A family of, what, vampires?” Spencer fires back. “Most spiders don’t live more than a year.”

“Beth’s at least fifteen by now,” Lucy says.

Spencer’s eyes go wide. “Your spider. Is fifteen years old.” It would be a question, but the words are all wrong.

Lucy looks confused. “She’s still quite young.”

“On what planet --” Spencer starts, then stops herself and cracks her knuckles in frustration.

Lucy walks to her bed and pulls the file folder out from under her mattress. She starts shuffling through until she finds a particular page. “This says spiders live thirty to forty-five years,” she says pleasantly.

WHAT.

“Whoa!” Faith says, turning over with a scowl. “Please tell me that’s not right.”

“Think about how smart they can get in that much time!” Lucy adds excitedly. “Beth and I only had a year or so to read and write together before we came here, and she learned so much! Look at how her adopted sisters have learned how to write, too!” Lucy gestures proudly to the psychotic, eight-foot message displayed before them like it’s a math test on the refrigerator door.

“Yeah,” Faith says. “I wonder how long it takes to learn how to pick locks and kidnap prisoners in zero gravity without leaving any trace of the crime.”

“Except for this,” Spencer says, looking at the web one more time before yanking the first handful of thread down. It takes a minute or so to get all of it, especially since Lucy doesn't offer to help. Spencer takes the pile of tangled string and shoves it through the bars, tossing it off to the side as far as she can. “At least now we know what we're up against.” She reaches into her pillowcase for the last tampon before hurrying over to the toilet. “I think.” But the words hardly bring the peace she needs, not even close.

Because there are genetically modified, highly intelligent, carnivorous, mega-spiders killing people in space prison. And they just declared war.

Chapter Text

Spencer is a bit of a schizophrenic zombie for the rest of the day, lost in thoughts of spiders infesting the prison -- crawling in the walls, scurrying under the tables in the Mess Hall, watching her in the shower, walking over her as she sleeps…

She picks at her meals, constantly looking around her for any sign of Beth or the spider Black Ops team, and doesn’t really hear any of Lucy and Faith’s conversations. They’re all just sitting, bleeding ducks, locked in here and waiting to be picked off. Spencer is the only one who's seen what’s going on. She’s the only one who’s survived a direct attack, at least that she knows of. Is it possible someone else knows the truth? How could she find out?

The only silver lining to all this is that Spencer has, a) another month until the next attack, and b) two allies who believe her. The knowledge that it’s not one spider killing people -- it’s been dozens -- isn’t in the win column, but she’s glad Lucy hasn’t been sending Beth out on hit missions. Spencer has certainly learned a lot in her time in cell 1. It’s what she wanted.  She just didn’t think things were going to get this terrifying.

Had the spiders succeeded in taking Faith, Spencer would’ve been left all alone with Lucy. Who knows what would’ve happened then. Spencer shakes off the idea that Lucy was trying to manufacture that very situation somehow, if only because the thought of someone being that manipulative, that powerful, and that dangerous from behind prison bars scares the ever-loving shit out of Spencer. Almost as much as the thought of being left alone and locked up with her.

No, Spencer’s convinced the spiders are the real enemy here. And if she’s going to go up against them, she’s going to need help. Real help. Fortunately, she’s got time to find it.

****************

She was wrong. That night, the gravity goes out again.

“What the hell!” Faith shouts, hovering in the dark.

“I don’t know!” Spencer holds on to the bed frame and blinks as her eyes adjust to the dim light. “It’s never gone out twice in the same week, right?”

“Not that I can remember,” says Lucy. She’s still under her sheet, floating about a foot off the bed, and relatively calm. “Maybe Raven’s too busy covering Starbuck in my fingerpaint to do her job.”

“This is Raven’s fault?” Spencer asks. One of Lucy’s paintbrushes lazily floats by and bounces silently off her pillow.

“It’s her job to fix it.”

Faith shouts into the corridor, “You want this hot ass, black widow bitches? Bring it --” Her head hits the ceiling with a loud thud. “Motherfucker!”

“Shut up,” Spencer says louder than she means to. “Stop attracting attention.”

“Like they’re not coming for us anyway. Try, try again.”

Lucy offers, “Given the recent massacre,” -- Spencer rolls her eyes -- “I think they’ll try something else. They’re clever and resourceful creatures.”

“You’re not scared,” Faith says, wondering how that’s possible.

“Spiders would never hurt me! They love me.”

“Well, lucky you,” says Spencer. The cell door’s still closed and the coast is clear, but she’s not taking her eyes off the dimly lit floor.

When the argument about whose fault it is finishes, the trio hangs in the air quietly for another hour or so. Then, without warning, the gravity kicks back on. Spencer and Faith both fall to their beds at awkward angles, banging their hands and feet on the metal frame as they land, while Lucy drops to her mattress with a soft poof.

“What took you so long!” someone shouts in the distance, presumably at Raven.

Spencer winces as she rotates a now tender wrist. “Everyone okay?”

“Of course.”

“Five by five,” Faith grunts, rubbing her arm.

Spencer takes one last look around and then tries to settle into a comfortable sleeping position. Not that she’ll be able to drift off peacefully any time soon. “I’ll do some recon in the morning and see if anyone’s gone missing.”

“Shark Week, Harvard,” Faith retorts.

She’s right – it’s lockdown procedures. Spencer’s not going anywhere. “Fuck. Alright, then I’ll ask the guards.”

Lucy smiles. “You and Boomer do seem like the best of friends.”

“I’ll figure something out!” Spencer turns over in bed and huffs in frustration.

She saved Faith last night, and now somebody else might be gone. Or maybe the spiders are just screwing with her, trying to throw her off her game. It’s certainly working. Every little sound she hears in the corridor sets her nerves on edge. Spencer can’t get any peace. The wheels in her mind won’t stop turning. The slightest twinge of an itch jolts her back into full consciousness, kicking at nothing and riling herself up again. All the stress is wearing her down; she can feel it. Maybe that’s what they want. To break her. Eventually Spencer won’t have enough energy to stay awake or fight back even if she wants to.

Finally, after another hour, she drifts into a dream of being hauled away by giant spiders, all of whom have Lucy’s face, and taken to Santana, who eats her alive, while Quinn watches on, stone-faced, and says nothing.

****************

The next morning, Spencer wakes and checks her bed immediately for creepy crawlies. There’s no sign of anything, and she sighs in relief, then screams wide-eyed, “JESUS CHRIST!”

The giant web is back. Only, this time, it’s between the beds and the door.

There’s no way out.

“Holy fuck -- again?” Faith yells, getting out of bed to look closer. She slaps her hand to her neck, but doesn’t seem to find a bite mark.

“Their writing is getting better!” Lucy claps and smiles. “Look!”

But, no, it’s the same jumbled mess, like a crayon drawing from an insane asylum, web lines tangled so thick that the girls can barely see the bars behind them. The message is clear.

NOW YOR SEESTR

“Your sister?” Faith asks.

“My sister’s not--” Spencer says, confused. Then, she and Lucy lock eyes, realizing at the same time.

Quinn.

“GUARD!” Spencer tears through the web, ripping the damning message to shreds and flinging the sticky, yellow string off of her. It falls away into a pile on the floor, looking far less intimidating than it had just moments ago. And now Spencer’s banging on the cell bars as hard as she can. “GUARD!”

Buffy struts over, taking her sweet time and dragging a wooden stake across the bars. She halts when she sees the pile of yellow string and steps over it. “I know it’s your heavy flow day, but you don’t have to make all of us suffer for it.”

Spencer doesn’t have time for this bullshit. “Is Quinn in her cell?”

“Everyone is in their cells,” Buffy says, like she’s talking to a moron. “It’s Shark Week.”

“Cut the crap!” She bangs on the door again right by Buffy’s face. “Just answer the question. Have you seen Quinn today?”

“I’ve seen a lot of smelly lesbians today, Spencer.” Buffy tilts her head. “Tell you what. How about I run go check and then come right back?”

“Thank y--”

“Did you want me to grab you a six-pack and a pizza while I'm out?” Buffy mocks. “Pepperoni? Cheese? Veggie?” She leans in and says, quieter, “…You don’t like Hawaiian, do you?”

Spencer slams the bar once more, as if she were punching Buffy in her smug, blonde face, and says, “Is it so much to ask that you guards give a SHIT about us? You don’t care that we’re getting killed one by one in our sleep while you’re god-knows-where!”

“Have you been huffing Lucy’s paints again?” Buffy asks with that patronizing faux cheerfulness Spencer hates. “Do we need to have an intervention? Remember, when it comes to peer pressure, just say no.” Before Spencer can respond, Buffy looks down at the thread and asks, cheerfully, “Hey, was that a towel? I haven’t seen one of these in months!”

“Still enough of it left to strangle you with.”

“It’s really very cute that you think you could,” Buffy says. “Go bleed.” And she turns to stroll away.

“Go DO YOUR JOB,” Spencer retorts. “Jesus! SHE COULD BE DEAD, DO YOU SERIOUSLY...” But it’s no use. Buffy’s gone. “Fuck,” she hisses, turning away and slamming her back against the bars.

Faith gives a low whistle. “Can’t lie. I’d bang her like a screen door in a hurricane.”

“What are we going to do?” Spencer snaps. Faith needs to keep it in her pants and help her figure this out.

“Lucy’s little buddies could pick the lock,” she offers, and it only half sounds like a joke.

Spencer’s head is spinning. This is all her fault. Quinn’s gone, and it’s all her fault. She should’ve let them take Faith. Or she could’ve followed to see where they were taking her. The fucking door was open. Nothing was standing in her way. But no, she panicked. She just had to play the hero, had to save Faith, had to play exterminator but was too scared to see it through. And now Quinn is probably dead. Because of her. “We have to save her,” Spencer says, more to herself than anyone else.

“Yeah, I got that part,” says Faith. “Good luck getting out of here.”

Lucy, who’s been sitting quietly on her bunk this whole time, finally speaks up. “Spencer’s right.” They both turn to look at her. “She’s my family. We may never be close, but that doesn’t mean I want her dead. Quinn’s welfare is of great importance to me.” She pauses, then adds with a hint of fire in her eyes, “It’s generally not a good idea to take my sisters away.”

Faith raises her hands as if she were holding a chainsaw, mimics pulling the starter cord, and makes a slicing motion with a silent “Vroom vroom!” behind Lucy so Spencer understands her full meaning.

...Oh shit, that’s right. Lucy killed all thirty-seven people on her ship.

In that moment, she realizes Lucy’s motive. The scientists sent away her true family, so she murdered her entire ship as revenge. Good god.

On the other hand, I pick her for MY team!

She’s immediately pulled out of her train of thought by Faith yelling “SPIDER! SPIDER!” and pointing to her side of the room.

Spencer about falls off the bed.

“Beth!” Lucy cries.

Beth?!

Spencer scurries backward, putting as much distance between herself and the monster as possible. Panting in fear, she tiptoes back toward Santana’s bed to get a closer look, and sure enough, a solitary gray spider is rapidly working on a small new web at the foot of Lucy’s bed. (Thank god.) It’s just like she used to do in cell 10, only Beth seems particularly rushed this time.

“You’re sure that’s the good one?” Faith’s still up on her bunk with her pillow poised at the ready to pounce at the first sign of foul play.

“Yeah, that’s her,” Spencer says. “What’s she writing?”

Beth is moving rapidly but not one whole letter at a time, so they can’t quite make out the message yet. Faith climbs down, bringing her pillow with her, and the three girls gather around the frantic spider.

“Give her some space,” Spencer says when Faith gets too close on the back side.

After a few more cross lines, Lucy begins to sound it out. “Oal...Olive? No, Beth is a much better speller than that.”

“That’s a Q, look -- “ Spencer says, pointing.

“What the hell’s ‘q-a-l-w-c’?” Faith asks.

“No, that’s an E at the end.” Spencer keeps watching, mesmerized by the message gradually revealing itself. “Wait, ‘alive’! Q alive! Oh my god.” She collapses into a pile of relief for a moment as the emotions wash over her.

“She’s okay?” Lucy is grinning from ear to ear, clearly relieved by this news. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know!” Spencer says. “Do you think Beth does?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Faith reminds them. “We still can’t get to her.”

“That’s not good enough,” Spencer says, but it doesn’t change anything. They’re just three girls in a prison cell.

Everything is still for a moment. Beth sits on the edge of the web, taking what appears to be a muchly needed break. It seems crazy to Spencer, the idea that spiders are communicating with them like this, but it’s quickly becoming the norm. At least this web’s a hell of a lot better than the last one.

Faith steps in close to the web again and speaks far too loudly just a few inches from Beth. “WHERE IS QUINN? TELL US WHERE QUINN IS.” Each word is slow and deliberate, as if that would make a difference.

“Oh my god,” Spencer says, putting her hands to her face and rubbing between her eyes. “She’s not deficient! She’s probably smarter than you!”

“Then why doesn’t she just tell us!” Faith retorts.

“Maybe she doesn’t like being talked to like a moron.”

“I guess you’d know,” Faith says smugly, walking back to climb on her bunk.

Spencer wonders if maybe she’d have better luck with Beth, given their history, and actually debates conversing with an animal for a hot second. It’s not like she’d be the first one to try it. “Hang on.” She pulls Jenny’s journal out from under her mattress and starts flipping through, looking again for notes about Beth and her messages. She’s read everything in there, cover to cover, but maybe there was more to it than she realized. Maybe she didn’t know what to look for before. “There might be something in here.”

“What is that?” Lucy asks, sounding more than a little displeased that Spencer has a possession she doesn’t know about.

Flipping past the pages and pages of tirades about Lucy, Spencer suddenly regrets bringing this into the light of day. “My diary,” she plays off as innocently as she can.

“What are you, twelve?” Faith asks. She jumps down off her bed and crosses the room, yanking the journal out of Spencer’s hand before she can move it out of reach.

“Hey! Excuse me!”

“Holy shit, Luce,” Faith says with wide eyes as she feasts on what must be a particularly juicy page near the middle. Walking over to the bottom bunk, Faith holds it out for Lucy to read, making eye contact with Spencer as she says -- like it’s the best news she’s heard all day -- “This bitch wants you dead.”

The look on Lucy’s face cuts Spencer to her core. “No, no!” she sputters with hands out, “It’s not mine. It’s Jenny Schecter’s, I swear.”

“You didn’t even know her,” Faith counters. “She was dead before you got here.”

“Her cellmates gave it to me. They thought it would help us figure out all this!” She points to Beth’s web.

“Bullshit,” Faith says.

“Look in the front! She talks about things that happened long before I got here. It’s not mine.”

Faith turns back to the inside cover, sizing up Spencer before examining the pages. If she believes her, she’s not saying so.

“And you didn’t think this was relevant for me to know?” Lucy asks, eyes still locked on her target. “You know how important communication is to me, Spencer.”

“I’m sorry! I knew it would upset you!” It wasn’t a lie, exactly -- Spencer didn’t want to die. Doesn’t want to die. But it’s not like she actually cared about protecting Lucy’s precious feelings. At least, not then.

“You weren’t wrong.”

Faith and Lucy sit in silence for a minute, scouring the pages as Spencer tries to predict just how they’re going to kill her once the text runs out. Faith’s clearly getting more and more amused as she reads, but Lucy doesn't find any of this remotely funny. Pulling the book from Lucy’s hands, Faith stands and says, “Wait, wait --” then launches into a dramatic reading of the “Lucyfer” paragraph. The subject in question doesn’t seem to share in her joy. “That is some seriously fucked up shit,” Faith says, laughing.

“I had no idea Jenny felt this way,” says Lucy. It’s hard to tell whether she’s stinging more with embarrassment or betrayal. “We were friends for a long time. She was in my class.” The facts that Lucy knows don’t add up to what she’s reading. “When nobody signed up for her writing exercises, I told Beth to go keep her company, because no one should be lonely up here.” Lucy is quiet for a moment before adding, “I thought she liked me.”

Spencer swallows. There’s major damage control to do here if she’s going to keep Lucy calm and live to see dinnertime. “She’d be crazy not to,” she says sweetly.

Lucy can't disagree with that. “Well, it’s clear she’s mentally unstable."

Says the mass murderer.

“Did she ever come after you?” Spencer asks, remembering she wanted to talk to a member of the class about that final Monday Jenny was present. This will have to suffice for now. “In class, maybe? Or at lunch? Right before she left?”

Lucy frowns slightly and quietly reflects on her memories. She tenses a bit, some anger rising within her now. “Not that I’m aware of.”

Spencer remembers whose side she’s supposed to be on and squeezes Lucy’s knee. “That’s good! Yeah, maybe she had some baseless, insane dislike of you,” Spencer says, as friendly as she can, “but she’s dead and you’re not. And Beth came back to you! You won.”

But it doesn’t feel like a victory, not right now. All three girls look over at Beth’s web, which remains unchanged.

Lucy closes the journal and hands it back to Spencer. “I don’t think this was helpful,” she says coolly.

Yeah, no kidding.

Chapter Text

Twenty minutes later, they’re still sitting in awkward, bored silence and Beth hasn’t moved. Spencer leans over the bunk for a fifth time to check, but Faith just says, “Give it a rest, already. Little Miss Muffet ain’t talking.”

Spencer rolls her eyes at the botched reference and flops back down on her bed, staring at the ceiling. “She’s just usually more forthcoming.” The restlessness of Shark Week always sets in fast, but Spencer’s feeling especially cooped up now. Every minute they waste here is another minute Quinn might not have to spare.

“Yeah, she’s a real chatterbox,” Faith says sarcastically.

At the moment, however, it’s not Beth’s words (or lack thereof) that give Spencer pause -- it’s the fact that Beth’s still here at all. She’s almost always made herself scarce, leaving behind her messages and going into hiding. It’s been months since Beth wrote in a web and then remained with it. There must be something more she wants to say, but if so, why isn’t she just saying it? Knowing now that Beth eats flesh makes her lingering presence very creepy, almost like she’s --

Oh god.

“Uh, guys?” Spencer says awkwardly. “What if --” She stops herself just as Faith and Lucy look up at her from their bunks, uninterested. Spencer hops down and goes to the far back corner, the furthest distance from the spider. She motions for the others to join her. After a moment, they shuffle over, if only because there’s nothing else to do. They huddle together under a particularly disturbing painting Lucy made. It looks like a demonic monster from a fantasy video game with blazing red eyes, broad horns bulging from its head, and a ripped, muscular torso. It’s labeled “MOOSE.”

“I think she’s watching us,” Spencer whispers. Both girls turn to look over at the web, but Spencer smacks their arms with the backs of her hands. “PSSST. BE COOL.” Lucy immediately turns back with fire in her eyes, and Spencer can’t believe she just hit Lucy. “Sorry, sorry, Lannister!” she retracts with her hands up. “Just...what if she was sent to keep an eye on us?”

“In case we decide to walk out of here?” Faith asks dryly.

“I don’t know.”

“Wait,” Faith says, “‘Sent’? Who sent her?”

“The others,” Lucy answers for her. She catches Spencer’s eye, as they’re suddenly on the same page. “You think they’re working together!” Lucy asks excitedly. “I’m so proud of her for making spider friends!”

“Uh, friends who tried to kill me?” Faith adds.

“Maybe?” Spencer says. “I mean, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” It certainly makes more sense than thinking Beth was taking orders from a human. But if she really is a spy-der (ha ha ha), there’s no telling what all has been a ruse thus far. Maybe Beth’s just been stringing Spencer along the whole time. (Really, she almost wants to say these out loud. She could do this all night.) “But it leaves the question why.” They’re quiet for a moment before Spencer asks Lucy, “Did she ever give you any reason not to trust her?”

“No.”

“Me neither,” Spencer says. “Everything she said in the webs was true, at least from what I can tell.”

“Okay,” Faith says, “So, what? I can take her out right n--”

“NO!” Spencer and Lucy shout together, echoing much louder than they wanted. Spencer buries her face in her hands. “I don’t think she’s really working with them,” she says finally. It’s not that she can’t believe it, it’s that she honestly doesn’t want to. It depresses her too much to think everything she’s built this case on has been a lie. “If Beth says Quinn is alive, then she must be.”

Lucy seems visibly relieved that the conversation is going in this direction.

“Yeah,” Faith says, “because writing, ‘I’m going to help them kill you in your sleep’  doesn’t really fit on the web.”

“Look,” says Spencer, “right now, I don’t think we have any other choice but to trust her. If she’s working with the bad guys and she really wanted us dead, I think we would be. Why take Quinn instead?”

“I still can’t believe they would want to hurt us,” Lucy says sadly. “They’re such peaceful creatures. They must have really needed a mother. I should’ve been there for them.”

“Okay,” Faith says, “so she’s not watching us, then?” She gestures her head back toward Beth. “Thanks for the pep talk, boss.” She turns and climbs back up to throw herself down on the bed. 

Spencer sighs and walks back over toward the web, standing with crossed arms. There must be more to the situation than this. They still don’t even know for certain that Quinn is missing. Everything feels upside-down, like a bad dream.

On a whim -- a combination of frustration and exhaustion -- Spencer marches to the cell door and shouts, “Quinn?”  But the only responses are some cat-calls and angry “Shut up!”s – which is what she expected. As if it would be that easy.

A few moments later, Buffy makes her way to their end, drawn by the noise, and settles in right next to the cell door. She stares Spencer down, basically inviting her to make a scene, Pretty please.

Great.

This is going to make their group conversation much more difficult now that Big Sister is listening. They silently agree, ixnay on the word ider-spay. Faith sighs loudly and pulls herself back down from the bed to stand with her cellmates as they contemplate their next move. Beth’s still just chilling on the bed frame, in no hurry to give them any more information. Quinn’s alive, so her job here is clearly done. What the fuck else could they need to know?

Spencer takes a deep breath and tries to regain control of the situation. “Okay, now what?”

“Who says it even matters?” Faith whispers. “Beth could write ‘Next door, dumbass’ and there still isn’t shit we can do about it.” She motions to Buffy with her head. “She’s in no hurry to do me any favors. Sexual or otherwise.”

“Well, I’m out of ideas,” Spencer says with a sigh. “We have to do something.”

“Keep saying that,” Faith says dryly. “It’s so helpful.”

“There has to be something we’re missing. I swear, Beth is the key to all this.”

“No,” says Buffy, eavesdropping, “Dawn is the key.” She looks proud of her joke.

Spencer doesn’t get it.

“You bring little sis up here for a day,” Faith grins. “We’ll make her feel right at home.”

“Gonna wow her with your little puppet show?” Buffy tilts her head.

Without warning, Sue’s voice echoes through the corridor over the intercom, humming between the metal plated walls. No plinking, no repeated message, just two hurried words.

CODE PINK

Buffy takes off running up the cell block before Spencer can ask what’s going on. Bitch is fast.

Faith and Spencer turn to look at Lucy in her pink uniform, but she's just as confused. “I’ve never heard that one before.”

Spencer’s eyes go wide. If it were about Lucy, the guards wouldn’t have run away. And there’s only one other prisoner she associates with the color pink. “It’s Quinn! It has to be.”

“Shit,” Faith says, running a hand through her hair. "She gets her own code?” Considering the question, she then asks herself, “Do I have a code?”

“So, do we wait for the guards to find her?” Lucy asks Spencer.

“It didn’t save the others,” Spencer points out. “They probably don’t even know where to begin looking.”

“Like we do?” Faith snaps. “Unless your magic spider is holding out on us, we’ve got nil.”

She’s right. “Okay.” Spencer turns to Lucy. “Do you want to ask her, or should I?”

The trio turns and looks at the little spider again. Spencer feels absolutely ridiculous.

“I’ll do it,” Lucy says, running her hands down the front of her pink jumpsuit. “I think it’s time we reconnected.” With a few tentative steps, Lucy sits down on her bunk about a foot from the web. She leans in to where Beth is resting and speaks softly to her. “Hello, Beth, my darling. It’s so very good to see you again.” She lets each sentence breathe for a moment before continuing. “You’re looking well. I’ve missed you oh so very much. How have you been?”

“You gonna ask her about the weather, too?” Faith mocks impatiently.

“Whether what?” Lucy asks, confused.

"Forget it," Faith sighs and turns away to pace back and forth in the cell.

Lucy shakes it off and refocuses. “It seems like you’re here to help us, and we...want to trust you. You and I were very close once, and now it seems your new sisters have taken mine. I know they had their reasons.” Lucy glares at Spencer. “But we don’t want any more spiders to get hurt.” Now Spencer’s the one glaring at Lucy. “We just want to save Quinn.”

Beth doesn’t move.

Lucy closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “Please tell us where she is. It looks like you know, and that you want us to know. So, just, tell us. Please. Show us we can trust you.”

A quiet moment passes, and then, just like that, Beth starts moving again. She begins extending her web downward, creating a backdrop for more letters below her previous message. Then, she adds thread one segment at a time.

“She’s writing!” Lucy says, clapping. It’s the happiest she’s looked in days.

The other girls rush over and watch the magic unfold before them. Line by line, the first letter takes shape. Beth is still scurrying quickly back and forth when Spencer says, “‘G’! I think it’s a ‘G’!”

As Beth connects the final horizontal thread, a loud whooshing noise fills the corridor. The space just beyond the cell door, where a snarky Buffy stood not five minutes before, flashes in and out with a bluish haze.

“Whoa! The fuck?” Faith calls out over the whirr.

Spencer recognizes what’s happening and she holds her hands up to block out the incoming wind and light. The force pushes her back several steps, but then, as the TARDIS comes fully into view, she moves forward again for a closer look.

The same red-headed woman from before pokes her head out the door. It’s a bit cautious, but once she seems to realize she’s in the same place, she claps her hands excitedly with a, “Ha HA!” and steps fully out of the big blue box.

“The hell is that?!” Faith says behind her.

The woman catches Spencer’s eye and pauses, recognizing her. “You! I just saw you yesterday!”

Yesterday?

“You know her?” Faith asks Spencer.

“Not really.”

“Hey! What’s going on over there?” a voice carries from next door.

“Fuck off,” Faith calls back.

“Who is that?”  Nichols continues. “She got any weed?”

“How ‘bout you bury that nose back in Johanna’s snatch and leave us the fuck alone?” Faith snaps, banging on the wall with two dull thuds.

“On Shark Week? I’m not an animal.”

The stranger butts in, “Look, d’you know anyone called Dolores?”

“You can call me Dolores, baby,”  Big Boo’s voice chimes in.

“Please don’t,” Spencer says to the woman – Donna, was it?

Now it’s bugging her -- The name Dolores sounds familiar, but she can’t place it. Maybe she heard it in one of the classes she visited with Mack? Or saw it on one of the office files, maybe. There are at least a hundred girls up here. It’s not a common name, but that’s status quo for this place. Maybe Donna is who put Dolores in here and she’s come to get her back out.

“Who are you, again?” Faith asks, just as Spencer was about to do so herself, but the woman doesn’t get a chance to reply.

“Spencer?”  Lucy’s voice makes Spencer’s blood run cold. “Where’s Beth?”

She turns, suddenly no longer interested in their visitor. “What do you mean?”

“Who’s Beth?” the woman says.

Lucy is wide-eyed. “She was right here on the web, but now I don’t see her.”

“Check the bed,” Spencer says, looking down, and she starts scouring the floor with careful steps like she dropped a contact lens. “She can’t have gone far.”

“Oi,” the redhead says impatiently, “Where’s Dolores! Is she under the bed, too?”

Spencer gets on her hands and knees to look under Lucy’s bed, then the other bottom bunk, and that’s when Lucy screams. “What?!” Spencer turns, frantically. “Where?!”

Lucy’s pointing, horrified, to the bottom of Spencer’s shoe.

NO…

“Oh my god. Oh my god!” Spencer rips off her shoe and looks, but there’s no question -- Beth is now a spider pancake. The chaos of the TARDIS’s entrance must’ve thrown Beth off the web and into Spencer’s path, crushing her like an oncoming train. “It was an accident! The wind, it pushed me back...I wasn’t looking...Fuck!”

Beth was the only chance they had at finding Quinn, the only one who knew where she is, and now she’s dead.

Spencer throws the shoe at the wall in rage, and Lucy screams again in horror. “It’s not like she can get any more dead!” Spencer screams back.

“Who’s dead!?” the woman asks. Now she sounds scared.

Lucy marches over and slaps Spencer clear across the face. Without hesitation, Spencer slaps her right the fuck back, just as hard.

“Shit,” Faith says, stepping safely out of range.

Lucy stares Spencer down but says nothing. Spencer’s starting to think no one has ever hit Lucy Fabray before. Or at least, no one has ever lived to talk about it. Lucy’s breathing heavily and looking like she might snap at any moment. After all, where could Spencer run?

“Okay, so, what now? Plan B, anyone?” Faith asks in a thin but necessary attempt to get them back on track.

“WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON?” the redhead yells.

“FUCK OFF, LADY,” Faith snaps back at her.

The woman steps back, visibly put off by the comment, then flashes Faith a two-fingered gesture when she looks away.

Lucy and Spencer aren’t moving. The pain and horror and sadness of the situation is still sinking in. Spencer looks to the web, but there’s just an empty space after the letter G where more was clearly meant to follow. She looks at Lucy and says, as a peace offering, “We tried. She still trusted you. It wasn’t for nothing.”

“She trusted you, too,” Lucy replies thickly. “And now what do we have? Nothing.”

Spencer turns away and tries to hold it together. Every time they get another step closer, something takes them two steps back. She can’t help but feel responsible for the mess they’re in and for whatever might happen to Quinn now. But she has to be the voice of strength and reason here. She has to be the one with the plan.

Spencer turns to the woman and says, “Yeah, so, hi again. Thanks to your grand entrance, I just squashed the only living thing that can tell me where her kidnapped sister is. Who, by the way, was taken by killer space spiders that are going to eat her alive, if they haven’t already.”

The redhead blinks. “...Who’s been squashed?”

“Beth,” says Lucy.

Faith shrugs. “Spider.”

“A killer spider,” the woman clarifies.

“A good one,” says Spencer.

“A good killer spider.”

Lucy asserts her authority with her tone. “She was my daughter.” A beat. “Kind of.”

“Your daughter’s a spider,” the woman says, restating it as if that’d help it make more sense.

“I loved her and she’s dead,” Lucy says sternly. The expression on her face makes it quite clear that’s the end of the conversation.

But the redhead just returns her sass. “I thought we wanted to kill the evil space spiders!”

“No!” Lucy cries.

“Ohhh, yes we do!” Spencer retorts. Immediately, she realizes her mistake and says, “Not Beth!”  She runs her hands through her hair. This is getting way out of hand.

“Just, you know,” Faith says, “the rest of them.”

“Not the sister we’re rescuing,” the woman clarifies.

Spencer’s had it up to here with this. “Quinn’s not a spider.”

“Who’s Quinn?”

They yell simultaneously, “HER SISTER.” “MY SISTER.”

The redhead holds her hands out with raised eyebrows. “I’M JUST ASKING.”

Spencer’s done. “We don’t have time for this! You need to find a way to let us out so we can save Quinn.”

The redhead stands her ground. “I do, do I? Well, sorry for you, I’m here to find Dolores. One crisis at a time.”

“Who is Dolores?” Spencer snaps. “While we’re at it, who are YOU?”

She huffs a bit and stands taller, as if quite put off to be questioned this way. “Donna Noble, kickass time-traveling space-doctor...woman. Who are you?”

“Spencer…” She freezes. “Wait, Dolores Umbridge?”

“Who?” asks Faith.

“The psychiatrist.”

“Bet she’s a busy woman,” Donna says under her breath.

Spencer turns back to Donna and steps forward. “Umbridge sent you a message? How? When?”

“A distress call, yesterday. Just before you saw me.”

“That was months ago,” Spencer says.

“Was it? Shit. Sorry. Still learning how to drive this thing.”

“What IS that thing?” Faith asks.

“Spaceship. Time travel,” Donna repeats, annoyed. “We got a message about killer monsters eating people, and I couldn't just leave her there. But he was all, ‘Booo, space lesbians blah blah, prison scary boooo.’”

Oh, right -- there was a guy with her, Spencer remembers. “Where's your friend?”

“Lingering about some market on a planet somewhere.” Donna handwaves. “I’ll be back before he knows I’ve run off.”

“Well, this has to be about the spiders.” Spencer turns to look at her cellmates, shaken to her core. “That frog-faced bitch knew about it the whole time.” In their sessions together, Umbridge had the gall to blatantly lie to her face and make Spencer think she was crazy. You’d think a prison psychiatrist would know better than to mess with killers and piss them off. Why is she hiding this? How much does she really know?  Spencer turns to Lucy as she puts the pieces together. “Do you think she knew they were going after Quinn?”

But Lucy isn’t listening. She’s walking toward the bars slowly, staring down their guest. “You came to help us, before. But instead, you left. You left us here to die.” She lets that sit for a beat. “You did nothing.”

“Hey, I wanted to stay,” Donna protests. “The Doctor, he said --”

“If you’d stayed,” Lucy continues, “we wouldn’t have been attacked in the night. My precious spider would still be alive. And my sister would be safe.” Each word is thick with implication, making the already crowded room even smaller.

“Well, she came back,” Spencer says, “so let’s work with that. We still have options here.” No need to get the mass-murderer any more riled up. They have to keep moving forward. Quinn might still be alive, and what’s done is done. “She’s here to help us.”

“To help Dolores,” Donna says for the millionth time.

Spencer isn’t giving up that easily. She’s the daughter of a lawyer and knows a thing or two about bargaining. “Well, I can take you to her.”

Donna squints at her suspiciously. “Tell me the way.”

“I can’t. This place is like a damn maze. But I promise I can get you there. I’ve been to her office more than once.”

“Because you’re such a mental case?” Donna asks pointedly. She looks around in both directions, clearly wanting someone else to talk to. “Aren’t there any guards in this prison?”

“Yep, fully armed and not friendly to strangers,” Spencer says. “And if they come back before you’ve freed us, her sister is spider food and you’ll be our next roommate. I’ve heard a lot of the other girls talking about how much they just love redheads.”

Donna’s considering her options. She doesn’t seem to like the thought of releasing indicted space criminals, but becoming one isn’t a superior alternative. “None of you’s ever killed anyone, right?”

“Uh…” Spencer doesn’t mean to say it out loud.

But then Lucy adds, “Other than my spider?” and Spencer cringes again. “Not today.”

Donna rolls her eyes and sighs dramatically. “Shit. Fine. Just…” She moves her hand up and down in front of her body, pointing in self-reference, and says, “NOT A KILLER SPIDER. Alright?” Reaching into her jacket pocket, Donna pulls out the same strange pen-size contraption her companion had with him last time. “Stand back.”

“What is that?” Lucy asks.

“Sonic screwdriver.”

“A what-in-a-who?” Faith asks.

“Is it dangerous?” Spencer says, moving clear out of the way.

“No idea,” Donna says, pointing it at the lock and giving the device a shake, like that would start it up. It doesn’t.

Spencer blinks. “...Uh, is it supposed to...”

“No idea,” Donna says again, and then she pushes a button on the side and a loud buzzing noise fills the room.

Spencer covers her ears, only letting go when the latch on the cell door clicks. She tentatively reaches forward and gives it a yank, and sure enough, the door slides open without a fight. Donna jumps and cheers, clearly quite pleased with herself.

“Oh, hell yes.” Faith cracks her knuckles with a smile.

Spencer switches into action mode and starts toward the door, looking left down the corridor to see if Buffy’s in sight. She’s not. “Beth gave us a head start on where to look. Quinn’s alive somewhere that starts with a G.” She points to the web where the lone letter still remains.

“This is it?” Donna asks, a bit disappointed. “A literal G-string. No wonder you like it.” Nobody else seems to think it’s funny.

Faith ignores her and looks to Spencer. “One of the gyms, maybe? There’s four, right?”

“Mmhmm,” Lucy says. “It could be any of them.”

“Gyms?” Donna repeats. The plurality of that seems surprising, as it should. “OH, right. Lesbians, athletics. Go on.”

“When I was in Sue’s office the other day,” Spencer says, “she told Becky to have Raven give her a status update on something called the G. Do you think that could be this?”

“What’s it stand for?” Lucy asks.

“I don’t know. But it could be a connection between Sue and the spiders.”

“Somebody had to bankroll it,” Faith offers. “I wouldn’t put it past her.”

“It still doesn’t tell us where to find Quinn,” Lucy says.

“Can you think of anywhere else that starts with ‘G’?” Spencer asks the room.

Nobody responds.

“Gyms it is, then,” Faith shrugs.

“Maybe Umbridge -- Dolores -- knows which one the spiders are using. Let’s start there.” Spencer pushes past Donna and looks both ways one more time. Running into Buffy or Boomer is the last thing they need right now. It’s been suspiciously long since they’ve seen a guard, but that Code Pink seems to have bought them some time. They were due for a lucky break. She heads to the left, down the corridor, with Faith two steps behind.

“Spencer, wait,” Lucy calls, sitting back down on Santana’s old bunk. “I want to help Quinn,” she says carefully. “You know I do. She’s the only family I have.” Her eyes look sad. “But I can’t hurt them. I just can’t.”

“You’re not coming?” Faith is pissed.

“They’re not Beth and I know that, but it’s just too soon.” Lucy’s voice is shaky and sincere, another rare moment of vulnerability and relinquishing of control.

Spencer knows all too well that there’s fire behind the smoke, and she’s not going to let Lucy off the hook, not when they need all the help they can get. Walking back toward Lucy, Spencer leans over and levels with her, eye to eye with a hardened glare. She doesn’t have time to coddle crazy people. “Fine. Don’t kill any spiders. Whatever. But Quinn needs you, and we need you, so get the fuck up. Let’s go.”

She turns and steps back out the door, trusting that Lucy is behind her this time. Spencer looks at Donna and says, “Her office is this way. But we need to make a stop first.”

Chapter Text

“Hey! Whoa, guys!” Nicky calls as the group passes her cell. “Come on! Help a sister out!”

The newly minted rescue gang -- Spencer, Donna, Faith, and a reluctant Lucy -- blaze right past cells 2 and 3, gaining speed and trying to ignore the confusion they’re causing amongst the other inmates.

“Hastings!”

Spencer stops in her tracks without meaning to. There’s just something about Vee’s voice that scares the shit out of her. The woman in cell 4 steps up to the bars, and Spencer turns to face her as bravely as she can.

“I’m kind of in the middle of something right now,” Spencer starts, and she points to the other women around her. “So, this is gonna have to wait.” 

“I can see that. And I’m not trying to slow you down or get you caught.”

“Great,” Spencer says brightly. “Bye!” She takes a step but Vee’s voice stops her in her tracks again.

“Nor am I even going to ask you to let me out or how you escaped, yourselves.” Vee makes it sound so kind, like she’s doing them a favor. Spencer waits awkwardly, not knowing if she should just run on or if she needs to await permission. “Do you have something for me?”

Crap. Hermione’s papers.

Spencer winces but recovers. Her friends are heading back this way, and this is not what she wants to be dealing with right now. “I don’t have time to go back and grab it, so I’m gonna have to get back to y--”

“So, you do have it.” Vee’s fingers curl a little tighter around the bars, tempering her voice, lest she show too much desperation.

“Oh, the Clap?” Faith cuts in. “She has it, but I don’t think you want it.”

Spencer scoffs at her so-called ally. “Yes, I have it,” she says tersely, turning to Faith, “-- NOT the Clap --” then looks back to Vee. “And it can wait.” Geez, lady. Spencer looks to the others and says, “Come on.”

“I’m not so sure,” Vee calls after her, laden with innuendo. “Suzanne and I were just discussing how we thought you’d be interested in more information on Quinn Fabray. I guess we were mistaken.”

That certainly gets Spencer’s attention, and Lucy’s too. She’s approaching the situation now and sizing it up for herself. At the sight of her, Vee lets go of the bars and turns away, walking back toward her crazy-eyed cellmate.

“What’s going on here?” Lucy says.

“Just a little harmless conversation,” Vee replies. She always seems to sound like she’s up to something. Maybe because she is.

“Leave her alone.” Lucy takes another step forward. “Or it might make me cranky.”

Looking at Spencer, Vee says, “Quid pro quo, Miss Hastings.” She sits gently on her bottom bunk and reclines like she doesn’t have a care in the world, folding her arms behind her head. “Clock’s ticking.”

It takes a brave soul to ignore Lucy Fabray, but this woman does it with a smile on her face, and that scares the crap out of Spencer. She didn’t grab Hermione’s whole file, just three or four sheets, so what happens when Vee calls her bluff? And why the fuck is Spencer even standing here trying to decide what to do when Quinn could be a five-course meal right this very second? There’s a more than good chance Vee’s just fucking with her. But she’ll never know if she doesn’t pay up.

Her face tightens as she does a quick cost-benefit analysis, weighing the time it’ll take to finish this negotiation versus the imminent guard arrival. It’s already been fifteen minutes since Buffy took off. The longer they just stand here, the more certain their capture becomes.

“FINE.” She looks to the others and says, “Stay here.” Breaking into a run, Spencer hoofs it back to cell 1, ignoring the revived jeers from Nichols in the background. She turns the corner into the cell and throws Lucy’s mattress up, grabbing the manila folder and dumping out the contents. Sure, it’ll look more convincing if the file is full, but, for Lucy’s sake, she doesn’t want to risk the information falling into the wrong hands if this goes south. Jumping across to her own bunk, she retrieves the pink papers stashed away and puts them in the empty file. Unfortunately, it still says Fabray, Lucy on the tab. Spencer scours the cell for a pen, something that would look convincing, but doesn’t find anything sharp enough, only crayons and fingerpaint. Her only option is to fold it inside-out so the blank side is showing and pray that Vee doesn’t think it’s suspicious.

Tearing back out at full speed, Spencer makes it back as fast as she can, heaving breaths, and almost runs right into her impatient cellmates. Prison’s gotten her quite out of shape.

“Go put that back,” Lucy threatens through gritted teeth, as she clearly recognizes the item in question.

“I will. Let me handle this,” Spencer says. It’s hard to be authoritative when she’s this scared, but fortunately the fear gives her the edge she needs. “Trust me. It’s okay.”

Vee stands up and approaches the group again. “Good girl.” Holding her open hand through the bars, she raises her eyebrows expectantly.

“Not so fast,” Spencer says. She reaches in and draws the first pink sheet out, making sure to ruffle them to show there’s more than one in the file before she sets it on the floor. Dangling a carrot, of sorts. She holds it up, close enough so Vee should be able to make out the name, if nothing else, but still out of arm’s reach. “Tell me about Quinn.”

“Spencer --” Lucy starts, more than a little angry.

But Spencer snaps back in a hushed voice, “This isn’t your file!” She still doesn’t know what Vee wants with Hermione, but it doesn’t matter right now. It’s the only leverage she has. Spencer looks back at Vee and repeats herself. “Talk. Now.”

Vee’s fingers curl to close her empty hand as she retracts it. “What else do you need to know other than she’s missing right now? You’re wasting your time, and hers. Give it to me.”

Spencer puts the paper back in the folder, lips pursed in disappointment. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, let’s,” Lucy agrees. The look on her face, though, says she and Vee aren’t done here, not by a long shot.

As the gang takes their first few steps away from the cell, Spencer hears Vee call out, “She used to be with that dominatrix woman, Rachel Berry. They were lovers. Maybe that’s who took her.”

Seriously? That’s all you’ve got?

Stopping again, Spencer takes the paper back out of the file, walks closer to Vee and holds it out. But instead of giving it to her, Spencer rips it in half at the last second, then tears the pieces again and again. Being outside the bars sure is giving her a power trip. She crumples the bits into a ball and stuffs it down her jumpsuit. It’s a gesture of dominance she immediately regrets, as it itches and tickles against her stomach. She draws a second form out of the folder and holds it up, still out of reach. “Try again. Something I don’t already know this time.”

Vee’s face is cold, yet she seems a little impressed by Spencer’s gumption. They’re playing hardball now. The woman must appreciate a worthy adversary. “She’s missing a toe. The handiwork of your former cellmate, in fact. Perhaps that’s who’s taken Quinn for dinner this evening.”

Behind her, Donna leans over to Faith to ask, “What’s she talk--” but Faith cuts her off.

“Just, don’t.”

Without missing a beat, Spencer tears the second form in half, then twice more, and stuffs it in her uniform. Vee’s face drops a bit, but only for a moment, not wanting to show any weakness. Spencer’s tactics seem to be getting to her, but they’re not any closer to finding Quinn. Spencer knows neither Mistress Berry nor Santana had anything to do with last night’s events. “Don’t insult me,” she adds as she draws the third paper from the folder and dangles it like a prize. She’s having more fun playing bad cop than she imagined. The only problem is, there were only four papers in the folder. She’s running out of bluffing chips.

Vee says, “I’m the one being insulted here. You think I believe those are papers from Hermione’s file and not some blanks from Sue’s desk?”

That's a good idea. I should’ve thought of that.

“Donna,” Spencer says, not breaking eye contact with Vee, “who only just showed up here and doesn’t know any of us or our last names -- What name do you see at the top of this form?” She holds the paper up beside her.

Donna walks over and leans in, getting close enough to read it. “Hermione Granger.”

Spencer gives Vee a look that says, Your move, bitch.

Vee squints a bit as her expression hardens. “Fine. Perhaps your girlfriend was more forthcoming than I remembered.”

Spencer can feel Lucy flare with anger behind her at the words “your girlfriend."  But the phrasing makes Spencer’s pulse race just a little faster. In a good way. It’s the first time she’s ever heard the expression used about her.

Vee tilts her head slightly and adds, “I wonder if she got around to telling you she’s a science project. A clone, to be more specific. Made from her.”  The glare at Lucy is unmistakable. So is the icy stare in return.

“Wait, what?!”  Donna says, but Faith’s just holding up a hand again to shut her up. It’s hard to hear Donna’s questioning over the sounds of ripping paper, anyway.

“Three strikes, you’re out,” Spencer says as she stuffs one more pink paper ball into her suit. She’s honestly disappointed Vee wasted the last five minutes of her time. She’s glad she didn’t risk stealing the whole file for this dead end. “Thanks for playing.” She wants to stay and ask how the fuck Vee knows so much about Quinn in the first place, especially the last part, but it’s not the right moment. Whatever treasures of information lie in Sue’s office will have to keep until later, assuming there is a ‘later’. Right now, all that matters is --

“This isn’t a game, Spencer,” Vee says. “Though, I’m sure that’s what all the other girls thought. Right before Quinn killed them.”

Spencer’s heart stops.

A grin creeps across Vee’s smug fucking face. “Ahh, there it is. I knew you couldn’t have known everything. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her if you did.”

Lucy takes another step closer to the bars. “I said, leave her alone.”

Spencer's heart is pounding in her ears, but she can’t hear it. She can’t hear anything except the words “before Quinn killed them”  repeating endlessly in her mind. Everything else Vee said was true, so why wouldn’t this be? Of course Quinn’s not here for a harmless bank hacking job. Her cellmates said it, themselves -- most everyone here has killed somebody. But Spencer didn’t want it to be true, not about Quinn. She didn’t want them to have this in common. Favorite bands, maybe. Tea preferences. Seasonal allergies. Anything else. Just not this.

Her limbs are heavy, but she manages to pull the last sheet from the folder on the ground, trembling as she holds it in front of her. “Last chance. Keep talking.”

“Spence,” Faith cuts in, “we need to go.”

“NO!” And just like that, her eyes are brimming with tears of frustration and betrayal, of lies and withholding and faked intimacy. Sure, Lucy’s killed thirty-seven people, but at least she was upfront about it before she put her hands all over Spencer. This somehow feels much, much dirtier. This feels unclean, a violation. “Talk,” she says meekly, just barely holding herself together.

“Quinn’s killed more people than anyone else on this ship, Spencer. Well, almost.” Another pointed look at Lucy. “I’m sorry she didn’t feel you were close enough to be honest wi--”

“DON’T PATRONIZE ME,” Spencer shouts, tears streaming openly now. “DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE.” Her quivering hands tear the top of the page unintentionally, but it keeps Vee’s attention.

“Fair enough,” Vee says gently. “I’m sorry.” She takes a breath before continuing. “Quinn Fabray is a serial killer.” The six words hit Spencer like a hammer to the head. “Tried and convicted. They found at least twenty victims, so they had to try her as an adult even though she was only sixteen. Someone paid off the media to suppress the story. Millions of dollars. But folks in our world, we knew who she was.” There’s a quiet beat, then she adds sincerely, “I’m truly sorry you didn’t.”

Spencer’s trying to breathe, but the ship’s oxygenation system must have shorted out because there’s not nearly enough air. She looks at Faith, then Lucy, unable to read either of their expressions. “Did you know?” she mumbles weakly, blinking another tear away.

Lucy’s expression is blank and unsympathetic. “Of course I know. She’s my sister.”

“It’s no big,” Faith says, breaking the silence. Her tone is that of a supportive friend, but Spencer can’t imagine considering anyone a friend who withheld this from her.

Another look back to Lucy. “You didn’t want to tell me?” Spencer starts. “I thought you’d take any opportunity to push me away from her.”

“I care about you, Spencer,” Lucy says simply. “Killers have feelings, too.” There’s a thinness to her voice that doesn’t quite match her words. Maybe Lucy’s battling some conflicting emotions of her own. “And you didn’t want to know. We’re leaving now.”

The moment hangs heavy around them until Vee finally breaks the silence by clearing her throat, her hand once again outstretched. Spencer scoffs again and crumples up the final paper into a ball, throwing it at Vee’s face with a “Fuck you!” The paper bounces off the bars and lands in the hall at her feet. Angrily, Spencer kicks it, and this time it makes it safely inside. She picks up the empty folder and storms off down the hall.

“Hey!” Vee calls. “What about the rest!”

“There is no rest!” Spencer shouts back, holding the tab and letting the folder fall open. She flips Vee a bird with her free hand. “Get it yourself.”

Faith and Lucy hurry to catch up to Spencer, leaving Donna standing alone awkwardly, not really sure what she just witnessed. “Well, this was fun. Nice to meet you.” And with that, she takes off down the hall as the other prisoners leer and holler. “Brilliant stop. Absolutely worth it,” she calls up ahead.

Vee sighs with frustration into the paper ball curled tightly in her fist, then goes back to sit beside Suzanne and lick her proverbial wounds.

From the top bunk, Poussey grins and says, “That white girl played you like an Alabama banjo,” without looking up from her tattered copy of Sweet Honey Valley.

Chapter Text

“D’you see that?”

“What the hell?”

“No fucking way…”

Spencer’s running now, and they’re drawing plenty of attention from the inmates who happen to catch her zipping by full speed -- or Donna, Lucy, and Faith trailing not far behind her. Kat bangs on the bars of cell 8 to try to call them back, earning a firm elbow to the ribcage from Graham. Most of the inmates seem to know the protocol of not drawing too much attention to anyone who’s escaped. Hermione notwithstanding.

This isn't a rescue mission. Well, it is -- just not for them -- but there’s no time to explain that right now. Spencer doesn’t even know if she wants to rescue anyone anymore, anyway. She doesn’t want to want to anymore. She really wants to go home. She wants to curl up into the arms of someone who loves her. Someone who trusts her and cares about her and, fuck. She doesn’t want this to be happening. Any of it.

Spencer’s head is pounding. Quinn’s a serial killer. The words repeat over and over, each time cutting as deeply as the first. And here she’d been stupid enough to think she’d fallen for the one not-too-bad criminal in this place. Other than herself, of course. She thought it was real between them. Turns out she was just another notch on Quinn’s proverbial bedpost of death. Her deadpost.

What was it Paulie said about Quinn? That she “sees the beauty in death?”  How many times did Boomer tell Quinn to stay up on her bunk when she opened the door? Nobody else ever got singled out. Only the most dangerous person in the room.

I’m so fucking stupid.

And the worst fucking part is that it doesn’t even change how Spencer feels about Quinn. Not in a real way. She’s upset as hell, and if Quinn isn’t eaten alive by spiders, Spencer might kill her with her own two hands. But she definitely doesn’t want Quinn to die today, not like that. Maybe this was the gut check she needed. Even after all of this, murderous psychotic or not, Spencer still has feelings for her.

Fine. Quinn’s a serial killer, but she’s my serial killer. Put that on a fucking Hallmark card.

Spencer watches the numbers above the cells as she runs, and she comes to a halt in front of 10, grabbing the bars with both hands.

Mack and Aphasia instantly sit up. Quinn’s not there.

Fuck.

“Whoa, what the hell?” Mack starts, looking around for any sign of Buffy. “What are you doing?!”

“This the same girl, right?” Aphasia asks Mack. “That skinny bitch who stole my tampon.”

Seriously?

“How'd you get out?” Mack asks with a very accusing tone.

“We don’t have much time,” Spencer says. “Where’s Quinn?”

“She ain’t here,” Aphasia says haughtily.

Spencer looks to Mack as the voice of reason, which is frightening enough.

But she’s busy making heart-eyes at someone else. “Hi Lucy!” Mack’s entire demeanor softens, and she stands up with an awkward smile, like the hot girl from school just showed up at her house unannounced.

“Hello,” Lucy replies, cordial as always with her students. “I’m looking for my sister.”

Miffed, Aphasia says, louder, “You need me to repeat myself? Ella no está aquí. Yeye si hapa. Cô ấy không ở đây.”

Spencer’s brow furrows. Now she’s even more confused. “How many languages do you speak?”

“Four and a half. Didn’t you go to school?”

Spencer has no idea what to say to that. Turning to Mack again, she asks. “Quinn?”

“Transferred, maybe,” she says. “Boomer came and got her last night, right after lockdown.”

Spencer's eyes widen at the good news. “What? Where?” They've just run past half the cells and there was no sign of her. Well, probably. Spencer wasn't exactly looking hard.

“She didn't say,” Aphasia replies with far more attitude than Spencer wants to take right now. “Not even in EEN-GLISH.”

What crawled up her ass?

“Did we pass her?” Faith asks Spencer.

“I don't know. Go check? Ask around,” Spencer says. “I still have a really bad feeling about this.” She thinks for a moment, then says to Mack and Aphasia, “Wait here, we'll be right back,” as if there were anywhere else for them to go. Turning to Lucy and Donna, Spencer says, “Come on,” and keeps heading in their original direction to check cells 11-20. She paces quickly, looking for a flash of pink hair in every bunk. There just isn't time to interrogate each cell, and she doesn't want to make too much noise and draw the guards from wherever the hell they are. So, she simply says, “Has anyone seen Quinn?” as loudly as she dares.

No one seems to be in a helpful mood. Not without a trade for freedom. Spencer's bullshit-detector is fully powered up, and she's not going to get dicked around again. But still, whatever direction Quinn was taken, there are at least nine cells of women who could've seen her pass. Is nobody really going to help?

Her heart sinks a little more with each cell they check. Finally, they reach Corky and Violet on the end without any sign of Quinn. Doubling back to be sure, they meet up with Faith at the halfway point and confirm the bad news.

“No go,” Faith reports.

“Shit,” Spencer sighs, leaning over with her hands on her knees. If Quinn simply was taken to another cell, then what was Beth's G message supposed to be? It's possible it was a C for “cell” but there was a pretty clear horizontal line. Everyone agreed.

“So, where the fuck is she?” Mack asks.

“I don't know.” Spencer's starting to lose her cool. “She has to be somewhere.” The possibility that Quinn is already in little spider bellies is too agonizing to consider. “Okay, if she was transferred to another cell last night, it's possible the spiders took her from there.”

Running through the timeline of events, Spencer curses silently. With the seat belts here, this cell is the safest one of all from a floating heist. In any other cell, she's like a damn drive-thru meal. It can’t be a coincidence that she was moved right before she was taken, can it? Spencer envisions the legion of spiders crawling up the walls and onto the ceiling, then stepping right into the unsuspecting hair of a peacefully sleeping girl. Easy pickings.

“I fucking hate these fucking spiders!” Spencer says exasperatedly, running her fingers through her hair.

“You still on this spider bullshit?” Aphasia says. “Girl, you need a hobby.”

“BOY, WOULDN'T I REALLY LIKE TO HAVE ONE OTHER THAN SOLVING MURDERS.” Taking a deep breath, Spencer pulls her death glare away from Aphasia and tries to reason with Mack as calmly as she can, considering how much she still kind of hates her. “Look, it doesn’t make sense that Sue would call a Code Pink if she knows where Quinn is, right? So, that must mean that she's missing.” Spencer gives Mack’s inferior brain a moment to process that information before continuing. “We have a lead on where Quinn might be, if this transfer thing is bullshit.”

Another deep breath. This conspiracy theory is never well-received. “We think she’s been taken by killer spiders. The same ones who wrote that web about killing Jenny. They've been eating girls all over the prison for months. I can prove it. And they’re going to have Quinn for breakfast if we don’t hurry up.” She doesn’t have time to deal with any of Mack’s bullying crap. “You have five seconds to decide if you’re going to help us or not, and I swear to god if --”

“I’m in,” Mack says without hesitation.

That stops Spencer in her tracks. “Really?”

“I hate spiders.”

Lucy frowns, but Mack doesn’t notice.

Suddenly, movement behind Spencer catches Mack’s eye. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Nobody! Never mind me!” Donna replies in a super friendly voice. After Mack looks away, Donna mumbles to her traveling companions, “Fantastic waypoints, by the way. No rush to get to Dolores. Let’s keep doing this more.”

Spencer steels her expression and remains in control, staring Mack down. “She’s the one who’s gonna get the door open. If I tell her to.”

Aphasia tuts and shakes her head with a laugh. “Please. Anyone can do that.” Everyone stares, as if awaiting an explanation, but Aphasia rolls her eyes and offers none.

“Let’s go. Open the door,” Mack says, and Donna starts fumbling with the silver device again to find the right setting. After two tries, she still hasn’t gotten it.

“Amethyst,” mutters Aphasia.

Spencer sighs. “Amateur?” she corrects.

Now Aphasia’s the one confused, like she didn’t hear that right. “‘Am I a chair’?”

Oh my god.  “PLEASE JUST OPEN THE DOOR,” Spencer shouts more loudly than she means to.

“Alright, alright! Keep your knickers on. Here, look out,” Donna says gently to Lucy, who’s closest to the door, then points the sonic screwdriver and fires.

Spencer grimaces at the sound waves, but they don’t last long. The door latch unlocks, and Spencer wastes no time letting herself in. She approaches Aphasia’s bunk with a renewed sense of purpose. “Tell me you have some weapons.”

Donna looks very confused. “Hang on. What?” She looks around, like there must be some giant, invisible arms closet on the back wall she’s missing. “This is a prison cell, yeah?” she whispers to no one in particular.

Faith crosses her arms and stares at Aphasia. “She has mine.”

“And mine,” Lucy adds, dryly.

Spencer looks just as confused as Donna. How the hell would Aphasia have all that?

The arms dealer doesn’t budge.

“We’re going after Quinn,” Mack says. “So, move your fucking ass before I make you move.”

Aphasia huffs and climbs down until she’s standing on the side of what used to be Spencer’s bed. She grabs the end of the mattress and flips it over, pulling it off the bed frame completely. It hits the floor with a soft thud.

Spencer can’t believe what she’s seeing. There –- where the mattress just was -- is a dark, open space. It’s three-dimensional; there is depth to it, but god only knows how deep it goes. Aphasia’s laid down some horizontal beams across the frame so her mattress won’t fall in. Spencer can only see a little bit without stepping any closer, but there’s definitely property in there. It seems completely removed from reality itself, as it’s somehow occupying the space where Spencer used to sit and sleep and read. She leans over to look underneath it, and sure enough, she sees the solid, metal frame on the underside. She goes back and forth a few times – black void on top, gray frame underneath -- and it’s clear that this is some fucked up shit. It’s a gateway into another dimension. And it’s the trippiest thing Spencer’s ever seen in her life.

It’s a veritable black hole.

A floating, black hole full of stuff.

Spencer hasn’t taken enough physics classes for this.

She moves forward to get a better look, but Aphasia turns and points at her, screaming, “BACK THE FUCK UP. I SAID THIS AIN’T WAL-MART.”

Without taking an eye off Spencer, Aphasia reaches into the nothingness and digs around. It sounds like she’s rummaging through a junkyard or a bag of pots and pans. Spencer sees her pick up and toss aside the plastic orange pumpkin of candy, then reach deeper where it had been. Aphasia finds a small knife with a wooden handle, holds it up to the light, looks it over, and tosses it back inside. She then finds a second knife, examines and rejects it as well. The third knife exhumed -- one with a fancy, curved blade with a slit in it -- she turns and hands to Faith.

“Much obliged,” Faith responds with a grin that’s for the weapon, not its keeper.

“How is this even POSSIBLE?” Spencer shouts.

Is no one seeing this but me? This DEFIES REALITY. W HAT IS HAPPENING?

Aphasia stops and turns, then says to Spencer, “Would you shut the fuck up? She did a thing, okay? Awhile back, to thank me the first time.” Her tone makes it clear she doesn’t want to discuss it any further.

Hermione. Of course.

It’s a spell, cast after Aphasia got her the wand back.

“So...it creates extra space,” Spencer says, making sure she understands.

Aphasia keeps digging, not looking over. “Yeah, it can make anything bigger inside.”

Even an inset bedframe, Spencer muses. It’s genius.

“HA!” Donna says, making Spencer jump. “Bigger on the inside!” She seems to be the only person in on her own joke. “Phone box, prison bed -- everything’s bigger on the inside these days. What next, a shopping basket?” she mutters to herself. Then, her tone changes. “Actually, that’d be quite helpful.” She says to Aphasia, “By the way, I’m good, thanks. No knives for me. I’ll just be the door-opener…person.” She waves the screwdriver in the air and breathes, “All set!” a bit nervously.

But Aphasia’s already moved on to something else. “Katniss left this,” she says, pulling the next item out. It’s a fully loaded crossbow with accompanying quiver of arrows.

“DIBS!” Mack shouts, practically falling over herself to grab it from Aphasia.

Spencer’s terrified to think about the fifty different ways this could go wrong, but she’s more scared of what might come out of the hole next.

“Hey,” Mack says, “what about the blanket?”

Spencer instinctively tenses up. The last time someone talked to Aphasia about a blanket, the argument went on and on for no good reason. “Oh god, can we not do that again, please?”

“Maybe that’s why we can’t fucking find her!” Mack shouts.

Aphasia seems to be considering this point very seriously, so Spencer is forced to ask, “…You think we can’t find Quinn because she’s hiding under a blanket?  We’re not playing Hide and Go Seek.” A beat passes, then she asks, much lower, “Right?”

Aphasia gives a cautionary glance to her audience, then seems to decide there’s no harm in discussing something that’s long gone. “Hermione had this magic blanket that makes you invisible if you put it on. It’s how I got around without being caught. And now we can't find it.”

Faith laughs openly, and all eyes turn to her. “What? They can't find their invisible blanket. That's funny.”

“IT'S NOT INVISIBLE,” Aphasia yells back. “It makes YOU invisible. It's dark blue with a bunch of moons and shit on it.”

“Okay, when was the last time you saw it?” Spencer asks, feeling stupid to even entertain the existence of such an item. But, damn, if only she’d known…If it’s for real, it sounds incredibly powerful. The kind of thing you’d want on a rescue mission in a prison full of deadly guards, for example.

“I let Quinn borrow it a few weeks ago, but she brought it back. I keep it safe, right in this corner so I always know where it is.” Something in Aphasia's face changes, softening a bit. She looks at Spencer and says, “I need it to go do what I do. And I can't tell her it's gone. ‘Cause that means once she leaves, she can't ever come back, because I can't get it back.”

Everyone else is glancing around looking quite confused, but not Spencer. Without the blanket, Aphasia can't get Hermione's wand for her. This is how she’s been doing it. Spencer now remembers when Aphasia seemingly disappeared, then mysteriously reappeared – the same day Hermione made her quick entrance and exit again. Spencer vaguely recalls the sound of a cell door opening, or maybe closing, while she was face to face with Quinn in that intimate moment. It’s entirely possible that Aphasia had snuck back in while Spencer was mesmerized by her crush. If she’s being honest with herself, an elephant could’ve walked into the cell and Spencer wouldn’t have heard it.

“I can’t let her down like that,” Aphasia says.

There’s a humility in her voice that Spencer hasn’t heard before. The girl who prides herself on being a master thief is admitting that her prowess was, in fact, merely the result of some serious outside help. And now Aphasia is pulling back the proverbial curtain to show what lies behind the magic: a scared young woman with no options left. The thing that’s kept her going, saving the woman she loves over and over again, has been yanked away from her, leaving her without a purpose or hope.

“So...” Donna breaks the uncomfortable silence even more awkwardly. “No more blanket. Can we leave now?”

Spencer starts to agree but then catches something Aphasia said. “If it’s so valuable to you, why'd you loan it to Quinn?” She remembers all too painfully the hell Aphasia gave Quinn when she borrowed it without permission.

Raising an eyebrow in a very Quinn-like fashion, Aphasia replies, “So she could go spy on you. Too bad you such a ho.”

Spencer grimaces at the accusation, but she considers her activities over the last few weeks, and it's not like she can exactly disagree.

And then, she remembers. The day she heard someone bang on the cell door while she and Lucy had sex.

Oh my god. We WERE being watched! I KNEW something seemed weird that day.

…Oh no.

Quinn was standing there, watching. Right when Spencer had just said over and over how much she wanted Lucy.

All the blood drains out of Spencer’s face.

“I hope she learned something,” Lucy says with a vague air of superiority.

Mack’s staring daggers into her former cellmate, seething with jealousy. Spencer, however, wants to curl into a ball and die. She's mortified and ashamed and feeling strangely violated, but not in the good ways that were happening at the time.

“Well,” Aphasia says, “someone needs to learn not to steal from me.” She’s looking at Lucy, but Spencer isn’t sure how she could be the one behind it, considering Lucy was behind Spencer at the time. Ahem.

Spencer swallows, feeling how dry her mouth suddenly is. “This blanket…it can cover an entire person? You can’t see them at all?”

“Nope,” Aphasia says. “That’s how Katniss hid under your bed for two weeks.”

Every inch of Spencer’s skin starts crawling as the feeling of violation skyrockets. This prison is just FULL of creepers who lie in wait to fuck with Spencer in their abundance of free time. The image of Katniss a foot underneath her, unknown, is skeeving her out beyond measure. And now, Quinn, watching her do those things for who knows how long.

This fucking invisibility blanket, I swear...

But --  Wait.

Invisibility.

“Holy shit. Faith,” Spencer turns with wide eyes. “The night the spiders tried to take you, it was all...weird. It looked like there were parts of you missing, like you were all sliced up. You must’ve been wrapped up in the thread from this blanket!”

“Who in the what now?” Aphasia asks angrily.

“You never said anything about this before.” Lucy steps forward with arms crossed. “I would remember if someone were sliced into pieces.”

Yes, that’s super comforting, thank you.

“It was hard enough getting you to believe me as it was!” Spencer says. “It felt like a dream because it didn’t make any sense, but I knew it was real. It had to be this. It’s the only thing that explains what I saw.”

“WHO HAS MY BLANKET?” Aphasia shouts.

“THE SPIDERS!” Spencer shouts back, annoyed. “God, it all makes sense! The webs, everything. They can’t make their own thread, so they’ve been stealing it from other places. Everyone's towels, the yarn for Santana's knitting class, MY underwear...”

“Your what, now?” Donna asks.

Spencer turns back to Aphasia. “I know you had a towel, but didn’t you say you lost it?”

“Oh, don’t play stupid with me, white girl. We all saw your psycho crochet dream journal bullshit on the wall. I killed Jenny, ooh I’m so scary, my mommy's a lawyer woo woo, hey Quinn don’t you wanna fuck me, blah blah Taylor Swift blah blah.” Aphasia flops her hands back and forth with her tongue hanging out like a dog in one of the stranger imitations Spencer’s seen in her eighteen years.

“THAT WASN’T ME. Ask them --” Spencer points to Faith and Lucy “-- there was a web JUST LIKE IT after they tried to take Faith. They must have come in and taken your blanket.” Spencer’s mind is racing as the pieces fall into place. “And…I was in the room the whole time. I was right here.” She remembers just what took place that day and pointedly adds, “Sleeping,” without mentioning the orgasm that induced it. “I guess…they crawled up the bunk, right past me, and pulled it out from under your mattress? But that doesn’t work.”

“How many spiders are we talking, approximately?” Donna chimes in from the back, sounding quite nervous now.

“Probably twenty or so at least. Maybe thirty,” Spencer says.

“And...nobody saw this? No one saw thirty spiders coming down the hall into the cell?” Donna asks. “These guards really are top shelf,” she mutters, looking left and right again to check that the coast is still clear after thirty minutes. Which, it is.

Really, did everyone just leave?

But she’s right, Spencer realizes. There’s no way they could’ve just waltzed in unseen in the middle of the day. Which means they had to have been in here already.

“I can't...” Spencer says, starting to pace. “They were under my bed. UNDER. MY. BED. I’d bet you anything! They were hiding under your goddamn invisible blanket thing. I bet Katniss left it there when she ran off with Mistress Berry. They were just WAITING.”

It'll take a hundred showers to wash away this feeling. Maybe two hundred.

“No,” Aphasia disagrees condescendingly. “After Katniss left, I took it back. I’ve had it ever since. I had it that day you almost blew my cover.” Her disdain is quite clear. “And then I gave it to Quinn and she brought it back. After she saw how far you can get your head up Lucy's ass.”

Yes, let's please talk more about when my serial killer non-girlfriend watched me beg to get banged by her equally murderous sister clone.

Spencer sighs heavily and holds the back of her neck, elbows forward, and closes her eyes. “Fine. Then I don't know how they came in.” She's growing quite tired of admitting defeat. Her mind's been turning faster than a hamster wheel since the moment they woke up, and she just wants all of this to be over already. None of this should be happening to them. To her. She's a nice person. “You wouldn't happen to have any Advil in there, would you?” she asks weakly.

Maybe Aphasia's warming up to her, because she says gently, “Yeah, I gotchu,” and starts digging again.

The tension of the moment eases slightly with that, as light conversation builds over the background noise of Aphasia's rummaging. Lucy turns to Faith and compliments her knife, asking questions about its origin and specifications, and Mack joins in with some knowledge from Knives class. The subject then turns to the crossbow, which they collectively know much less about. Donna seems to want no part of the conversation, growing ever more antsy in the back of the group. If Spencer had more energy to spare, she'd gladly explain that Umbridge isn't exactly someone worth hurrying for. Crazy frog-lady can wait. Especially if it means choosing between her safety and Qu--

Suddenly, something flies across the room and hits the back wall, and Aphasia jumps down to the floor screaming, “OH MY FUCK! OH MY FUCK!”

Everyone leaps back, immediately shutting the hell up to see what's going on. It takes a moment to register what they're looking at.

“OH MY FUCKING FUCK. FUCKING FUCK FUCK FUCK.” Aphasia’s hopping back and forth from one foot to the other with each word she screams.

Sitting harmlessly in the corner of the floor is a mess of dark string mixed with yellow. A small section of towel, maybe a few inches across with severely frayed ends, tangled up in a section of blue fabric with half a gold moon on it – also massively unraveled at the edges. There's barely anything left of either item. But there must be at least five or six spiders clinging to various strings in the jumble.

“FUCKING IN MY BED,” Aphasia's still yelling. “FUCKING SPIDERS IN MY BED. MOTHERFUCKING SPIDERS IN MY MOTHERFUCKING BED.”

As Spencer, Donna, Mack, and Faith each gasp or scream and curse in rapid succession, Lucy simply stands and watches them all freak out like idiots. Mack fires the crossbow right at the jumble without hesitation. The arrow hits the wall several feet above, bounces back, and falls harmlessly onto the floor beside the pile. The end of the arrow lands near enough to one of the spiders to trigger a reaction, but there is none.

Spencer's heart is pumping adrenaline through her body in total fight-or-flight mode. She's the first to say, “I think they're dead,” but nobody's brave – or stupid – enough to get anywhere close to check.

“The poor dears!” Lucy cries. She runs forward and squats down, mindful not to step on any as she approaches.

Nevermind.

Lucy picks up the nearest one with her finger and thumb, holding it up and examining it, turning it over from all angles. It's definitely the same breed Spencer saw two nights ago, the large black kind with the blue symbols, but it's clear Lucy's seeing it for the first time. “Such an exquisite animal. I wish I could've known them.”

Donna gapes, but Faith waves her off dismissively.

“They're beautiful,” Lucy says wistfully, looking back at the group. “So perfectly designed. Such expert--”

“YES, BUT ARE THEY DEAD?” Spencer interrupts.

Lucy's expression hardens at the question, and she stands up to meet them eye to eye. “Yes.” She crosses the room to take her original spot without another word.

They all take a collective breath and keep staring at the pile. It’s a far cry from the full army that came after Faith – just a small battalion – and it may not be about to attack them, but it's still a scary sight. It’s bright enough in here that Spencer can make out the thick rows of hair on their back legs and the sharpness of the fangs protruding from their mouths. These are not things she ever wanted to see.

“Found your blanket,” Faith offers with a shrug, trying to lighten the mood.

“What's left of it,” Spencer adds. If it'd been large enough to cover a whole person before, there wasn't enough left now to cover a shoe.

The only solace is that the invisibility blanket is all but shredded, so the spiders can’t hide anymore. The downside, of course, is it means they can’t, either. Spencer has to assume the spiders got desperate enough for thread that they destroyed their best weapon. Everyone’s best weapon.

“So...?” Donna asks. “They just...died? Starved to death?”

“They got crushed by all that junk you have in there,” Mack says.

“Then, THANK GOD FOR MY JUNK!” Aphasia yells, getting in Mack’s face with arms out. She looks ready to fight, and she’s not the only one.

Spencer's enraged. “Yes, let’s talk about how there was a group of spiders LIVING in YOUR BED.” She turns to look at Aphasia, now accusing her of some seriously high-level negligence. “THE WHOLE TIME.”

Aphasia’s having none of her shit today and steps right up with a finger in Spencer’s face. “OH, YOU BEST BACK OFF, BIG SLUT SKIPPER.”

“I was sleeping RIGHT HERE for a MONTH,” Spencer fires back, “and YOU, with your flea market of SHIT. You don’t even keep a fucking INVENTORY to know there were KILLER SPIDERS LIVING IN YOUR BLACK HOLE OF…” Spencer freezes, zoning out instantly as her mind connects new dots.

“OHHHH YOU WANNA TALK ABOUT MY HOLE NOW, IS THAT IT, YOU FUCKIN SKANK?” Aphasia’s spitting high-pitched venom, oblivious that she’s now alone in this conversation. “YOU WANNA GET IN MY BLACK HOLE, YOU BIGASS HO? YEAH I BET YOU DO. WELL, IT’S OFF LIMITS.”

But Spencer’s not hearing a word of this. Her mind is down the hall, flipping through pages in Jenny Schecter’s diary.

BLACK HOLE

The web message. Beth knew the entire time. She knew the enemy was right overhead, and she was trying to warn Jenny. They were right here all along, for god knows how long. Every hour of every day Spencer slept in this bed. They could’ve crawled out and eaten her while she slept. Maybe that’s why Beth left. She couldn’t save Spencer, but maybe she was saving herself.

Spencer crumples down into a ball, wrapping her hands around her legs, and presses her face into her knees.

“YEAH YOU BEST FEAR MY BLACK HOLE,” Aphasia screams, leaning over Spencer’s head. “SIT YOUR SORRY ASS ON THAT FLOOR, BITCH. Don’t you come at me like that again. I will FUCK YOU UP. Shiiiit.” She settles to a calm, pumping her body once more at Spencer to assert her dominance, then leans against the bed frame to recenter herself.

Nothing Aphasia says actually registers. She’s too stunned and numb with fear over the reality of her time in this room. The silence hangs for a moment between them, sitting awkwardly between the onlookers, and nobody knows what to say.

Then, out of nowhere, Aphasia jumps up on the frame of Spencer's old bed and leans over into the dark abyss. “QUINN?!” she screams quite loudly. “ARE YOU IN THERE?!”

Spencer and the others look up at this. For a moment, the absurdity seems to have dissipated any anger or tension in the room. Spencer asks, “How deep is that thing?”

Aphasia climbs back down and shrugs. “Deep enough.”

Spencer rises now, fueled as ever to get her goddamn non-girlfriend back. Her skin is on fire, sweat mixing with paper cuts from the torn forms still in her jumpsuit. But even more than that, every inch of her is crawling just thinking about those eight-legged freaks. If they’ve been here the whole time, they must know everything Spencer knows. She realizes they would have overheard her discussing the dream about the “I Killed Jenny Schecter” web. They then had to travel all of five feet to replicate it. It seems absurd that spiders would go to such lengths just to mess with someone, but these are no ordinary spiders. She knows that now. But they’re going to have to work harder than that to break Spencer Hastings.

For months they laid in wait. Waiting to kill Jenny. Waiting to fuck with Spencer. Waiting to take Quinn away.

Well. Waiting time is over.

“I WANT TO KILL THESE FUCKING SPIDERS DEAD RIGHT NOW,” Spencer announces, standing back up.

“I GOT IT,” Mack shouts. In a panic, she starts to load up another arrow, quite clumsily, but Spencer holds her hand out.

“NO CROSSBOW. I mean the ones who took Quinn,” Spencer says very clearly. “The ones we're going after right now who are not already dead. We're going to kill them.”

“Haven’t you done enough already?” Lucy asks.

But Spencer immediately spits back, “NO. I HAVEN’T.” She storms over to the string pile and jumps, landing with both feet on one of the spider carcasses in a firm stomp. She then repeats the measure some ten more times on the others, just for good measure, grunting angrily as she goes. “Fuck! You! Fuck! You!”

Breathing hard as she comes to a stop, Spencer pushes the hair back out of her face and says, “See? Much better.”

“That was entirely unnecessary,” Lucy sighs.

“What is that?” Mack asks, looking down at the floor near Spencer's feet. In all her jumping, one of the pink balls of paper scraps fell out of her pant leg.

Spencer sees it and says, “Nothing. Garbage,” then turns to face the back of the cell for privacy. Unzipping her uniform, she pulls all the pink bits out from around her legs, angrily throwing them into the pile of death. Her poor skin feels better already. “Ugh, there. Okay. Now we can go.”

But Mack's still confused, so Lucy takes it upon herself to answer the question. “Those papers are from the office.” With a dramatic pause, she then adds, “It’s what Vee didn’t get from Spencer.”

Aphasia turns and steps forward slowly with the devil in her eye. “Vee?”

“I said it's nothing,” Spencer says, immediately trying to diffuse the situation, as she remembers all too late what’s on the paper and just who she’s talking to.

“Nothing?” Aphasia isn't buying that at all. “Then what the hell did she get? Because those look like capture forms, and I know you wouldn’t be STUPID enough to give a hellraising slime sack like VEE anything related to someone who has been CAPTURED.” Her voice is rising with every word, temper blazing hot. The vein in her forehead might burst at any moment.

Spencer starts to wonder if she could toss Aphasia up into the black hole with a quick power lift move. Who knows what Aphasia might land on, or if she could ever get out. But it would surely be better than having the rest of this conversation.

“I GAVE HER NOTHING,” Spencer shouts back.

“Uh, you threw one of those papers right at her,” says Faith. “We all saw you.”

Spencer turns in disbelief and spits, “Whose side are you on?!”

“She had my knife,” Faith says matter-of-factly, pointing it back at Aphasia.

Spencer gawks. “I sat on your face!”

That gets a laugh out of Mack. “For real?”

“You know,” Donna says awkwardly, “I think I really should be going. It’s getting late...somewhere.”

But all eyes are on Aphasia, because right now Spencer is her entire world, and Aphasia wants to burn the world down. She reaches down into the hole and rummages around, not breaking eye contact with Spencer, then pulls out a silver contraption. It’s a staple gun.

Oh my god.

Aphasia steps toward Spencer, weapon in hand, and starts slowly moving toward the back of the cell. “I told you not to trust her. I told you. And what do you do? You zit-faced, stupid-ass fuckbucket? You give the Devil information on MY girl.” Aphasia emphasizes each word with the tool, pressing it dangerously close to Spencer’s face. She’s going to rearrange Spencer like a Picasso. She’s going to make her pay.

“Lucy!” Spencer calls out. “Do something!”

Weren’t there promises that she was under Lucy’s protection now? After speaking up to Vee in her defense, how can Lucy just stand there and watch this happening?

“I’m right here,” Lucy says, like a parent watching their kid tackle the monkey bars. “Trust is very important, Spencer. You had a secret arrangement to share information with Vee. You’ve earned a consequence. Aphasia can handle it.”

Are you kidding me?!

Spencer’s got her back against the wall now. She’s on the verge of crying for the second time in half an hour, and everything is horrible, and she’s going to die like this, right here in this cell, just like she predicted months ago. With no knight riding in to save her, Spencer has to get herself out of this mess.

She locks eyes with Aphasia and pleads, “I didn’t tell her anything! It was just one piece of paper, I swear! There were A HUNDRED THINGS in that file, and I only gave her one, but it was some junk form with nothing important! I had to trade it for information on Quinn so I could get her back! She said she knew things!”

“Oh really?” Another wave of the device in her face. “You THINK it was nothing, but you don’t really know, do you? What glorious things did the devil woman tell you, huh? Did she lean over and reveal Quinn’s location with her mystical asshole? Because everything that woman says is SHIT.” Aphasia pulls the trigger, shooting a staple right past Spencer’s ear with a loud cah-ching! It bounces off the back wall onto the floor, and Spencer can barely see out of the corner of her eye, it’s one of the giant industrial staples, nearly an inch long.

Yep, she’s definitely going to die.

“She knew things, okay?! Everything she told me was stuff Quinn already said. It wasn’t bullshit!” This was also not entirely true, but Spencer really doesn’t want to hash out the whole serial killer thing again.

“And yet you gave her the paper anyway. For all of this old information. You must be a real fucking dumbass after all.” Aphasia holds the staple gun up against Spencer’s forehead, right between the eyes.

“You’re right,” Spencer concedes. “I’m very stupid. I’m very sorry. Please don’t hurt me. I swear I was just trying to help Quinn. I’m so sorry.”

Aphasia braces her left forearm across Spencer’s collarbone to pin her to the wall and tilts the staple gun so it’s pressed under her chin. It feels very much like a regular gun, no matter how hard Spencer tries to tell herself it isn’t strong enough to kill her. Probably.

“Do you even know why she asked you for that shit? Do you?” Aphasia pushes the end hard into the dimple of Spencer’s chin with those last two words. “She doesn’t give a shit about Hermione. Not like I do. Not like I thought you did. She’s trying to get to me. But you don’t seem to fucking get that, so let me explain it to you. She wants alllll of my shit. Okay? She knows about my blanket, she knows about my gear, and she wants to run this place. Because that’s what she does. She runs over people. But at least I got the tits to say no to her, which is more than I can say for you.”

Spencer squirms uncomfortably under the force of Aphasia’s arm, not necessarily trying to get away, just trying to breathe. The fear and adrenaline has her chest heaving for air, but all she’s taking in is contempt and, soon, one-inch staples.

“See, you don’t get it because nobody loves you,” Aphasia continues matter-of-factly. The words hit Spencer like a brick. “But me and Hermione, that’s real. I love her. I do. She’s my one fucking weakness. So Vee wants to turn her against me. Or maybe try to use her to bring shit in like she does for me, I don’t know. I don’t wanna know. Maybe she’s just trying to take her out so I won’t have nothing left to live for.” Aphasia stumbles over those last few words. “Whatever she wants, it ain’t good. I know that. So, I’m not gonna let that happen.”

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” Spencer wheezes out her clenched teeth as trails of saliva leak onto the staple gun. She can’t move her jaw, and she can’t shake the feeling that whenever Aphasia’s done with her lecture, Spencer’s mouth is going to be shut more permanently. And it seems Lucy’s just going to let it happen.

“You’re fucking right, you’re sorry. And now,” Aphasia says, taking a deep breath, “you’re gonna go and save Quinn so this won’t all be in veins.”

Spencer bites back the urge to correct her; it’s probably for the best she’s unable to speak. The cold metal jams harder into her skin, and Spencer is sure she can feel the pointed edges of the loaded staple desperately waiting to break ground.

A little spray gets on Spencer’s face as Aphasia leans in closer and says, “And I’m going to stay here and piece this shit back together so I can figure out just how much trouble your fucknado has brought into my life.”

Spencer whimpers once more, tears mixing with the drool and snot and (probably) blood as she sniffles hard, nodding as best she can. When Aphasia pushes once more against her chest with a shove, releasing her, Spencer stays frozen in place for a moment, just watching to see if it’s truly safe for her to leave. She never wanted to be out of this cell as badly as she does right now.

Aphasia drops to her hands and knees, picking up the pink paper bits and trying to assemble them like a jigsaw puzzle. When she finds two that fit, she tries stapling them together, not particularly successfully. Spencer finds it hard to believe that she doesn’t at least have some scotch tape in there. Or duct tape. Or superglue. Or even stud earrings from her DIY Piercings class. But she’s not about to say anything. Spencer’s fairly certain she just made an enemy for life.

As her pulse starts to settle along with her breathing, the full room comes flooding back – Lucy supervising with a watchful eye; Mack, Faith, and Donna still standing there, quietly processing the scene that unfolded before them. Spencer wipes at her face with her hands, grateful there aren’t mirrors in here. If she can’t see how disgusting she looks, she can pretend the others don’t see it, either.

“So, this has been great and all,” Faith says, “but we’re losing daylight here.”

“I really want to shoot someth--” Mack says, then accidentally fires an arrow into her mattress.

Aphasia’s got all twenty-four pieces assembled and laid out beside the toilet. As she reads through the three forms, her demeanor remains calm. “The other one was just like this?”

“Yeah.” Thankfully, it’s the truth.

“Alright. Nothing here Vee won’t already know. Guess you got real lucky this time.” She’s talking to Spencer but doesn’t look at her, just gathers the pieces and heads back to her bed. Placing them down in the storage hold, Aphasia picks the mattress up off the floor and hoists it back up to cover the stash. She starts to pull herself up, but Lucy interrupts in protest, holding out one hand.

“Excuse me, I’ve been waiting very patiently for my turn.”

“Seriously?” Aphasia turns to her, looking much more tired than she did just ten minutes ago. She reaches deep under the mattress and says, “This old thing?” then maneuvers a large, rusty chainsaw through the bars. It’s absolutely covered in dried blood and what looks to be...gems?

Spencer’s eyes go as wide as BSM patties. Oh my god, she Bedazzled her murder weapon.

“Hi, baby!” Lucy beams, gently taking the machine from Aphasia with two hands.

Spencer’s eyes are about to pop out of her head. “YOU HAD THAT? RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD? THE WHOLE TIME I WAS HERE?” She knows she shouldn’t berate the girl who just tortured her, but she’s well fucking past her limit and just can’t take this anymore.

Aphasia glares at her tersely and says, “She likes to garden and shit. Don’t hate.” 

Spencer just watches in horror as Lucy Fabray looks her long-lost chainsaw up and down, smiling ear to ear, reunited at last with the source of all her evil powers. She’s downright glowing. Spencer backs away toward the door, eager to put some space between herself and the Texas massacre waiting to happen.

“I’ll also need --” Lucy starts, but Aphasia hands her a small gas can without even looking up. “Thank you.”

Faith leans over to Spencer and says, “Can’t wait to see what she’s saving for herself.”

Aphasia overhears and looks over, “New York Times crossword puzzle, that’s what.”

Spencer gawks at her. “You’re not coming?”

Aphasia returns the expression and hums, “Nn nn, I ain’t going nowhere,” like they’re insane for not doing the same.

“Quinn’s missing, but you’re gonna do a goddamn crossword.”

“You bet I am,” Aphasia replies with attitude. “My ass is staying right here on this mattress.” Her volume rises with each word as she says, “Because that’s where I keep THE WEAPONS.” She exhales loudly and mutters to herself, “Everybody always tryin’ to steal my shit!” After a little more digging, she pulls out a carton of Marlboro Lights and reaches in to grab a single pack, then holds it out to Spencer.

With a look of confusion, she says, “Uh, I’m good, thanks.”

“They’re for Quinn,” Aphasia says, like she’s a fucking dumbass.

Faith leans over to Spencer and whispers, “Guess the Wizard doesn’t have anything for you, huh, Dorothy?”

Oh, right. Last but not least.

She hardly expects Aphasia to bestow a gift upon her after what she’s done. Still, there’s always the remote possibility that a lowly traitor like Spencer might receive something at the bottom of the barrel. She can hardly believe Aphasia has all this shit in the first place, but she also won’t buy that all that’s left is Halloween candy and multicolored hygiene products. (“Not Wal-Mart,” my ass.)  But what other dangerous items could possibly be in there? An ax? A baseball bat? Pepper spray? The absolute last thing she wants to see on a spaceship is a gun. One stray bullet and they’re all sucked out through the hole in seconds.

She shudders.

“At least give the girl a drink,” Faith says. “I heard you’ve got a gallon of Starbuck’s moonshine stashed for a rainy day.”

“Twenty-nine,” Aphasia corrects her, “and not a single drop for traitors.”

Spencer can’t help herself. “You have twenty-nine gallons of vodka?”

“IT’S IMPORTANT. Not that you need to know why.” Aphasia keeps rummaging around for something she might be willing to part with. “You’d just go run your mouth to Vee.”

She earned that one. But just the one. “Never again,” Spencer says. “I promise. You can trust me.”

“Mmhmm,” Aphasia hums as she pulls out a handful of tangled plastic coat hangers and tosses them aside.

“Too bad there’s no croquet mallet in there,” Mack says, peering through the crosshairs of her new toy again as she aims it at Spencer’s head.

“Whoa!” Spencer quickly darts out of Mack’s line of sight and scoffs. Don’t I wish I had a mallet right now, you skank bitch.

“Why the hell would I have a croquet mallet?” Aphasia asks Mack irritably. “Here.” She pulls a long wooden handle out with both hands, clanging loudly as it goes, and almost falls off the bed with the weight as it’s freed from the clutter. “I still hate you,” she says to Spencer, withholding the item for a moment. “I’m doing this for Quinn.”

“Got it,” Spencer says. Things have most definitely turned around, and she holds out her hands nervously, hoping Aphasia will give her the weapon gently, not use it on her skull. The gesture of good faith falls heavily into Spencer’s grasp, and she tries not to grin too largely, as she’s still in the doghouse here. But she kind of can’t help it. Because it’s a sledgehammer.

This’ll do just fine.

Chapter Text

“This way.”

The entourage starts down the corridor, and now there’s no getting around the hollering and cheers of the other inmates. Who can blame them, really? Spencer, Lucy, Mack, and Faith look like they’re heading into a zombie apocalypse, armed to the nines, with Donna bringing up the rear, wielding sarcasm and attitude.

As they reach the end of the cell block, they silently take hold of the wheel on the vault door. It’s hard to turn but unlocked. God only knows what’s on the other side, but they can’t stay in here forever. Faith pulls it open in one smooth motion as the others stand with weapons at the ready, but there’s no one there, just an empty T-intersection. Taking a step forward, Spencer holds up her hand to stop the group. She hears footsteps coming from around the corner, most likely a guard. About time, she thinks. Spencer’s never heard a Code Pink before -- or any code other than red, for that matter -- but it’s still really strange that they’ve been left unattended for so long. A little normalcy would not go amiss today.

She points in the direction of the noise to inform the others. It’s probably Buffy, so Spencer makes a staking motion with her hand.

“Stab her?” Faith whispers, reaching for her knife.

Spencer looks at her with an expression of, Do you seriously think that’s what I meant?  but Lucy steps in before she can say anything.

“I got this.” Lucy calmly and pulls the crank cord effortlessly, like she’s done it a hundred times. The chainsaw roars to life, and instantly the group jumps, startled. It’s deafeningly loud, and the echo of the sound has nowhere else to go.

“TURN THAT OFF!” Spencer yells, but it’s no use. They’ll be attracting every guard and staff member on the ship now, and there’s no going back. Their secret’s out. This covert mission is over before it started.

I’m so sorry, Quinn…

Spencer ducks out of the way -- one hand gripping the sledgehammer, the other over her ear -- as Lucy steps forward. Right as she reaches the intersection, Boomer turns the corner, and before Spencer can even react, Lucy’s run the saw diagonally through Boomer’s body from shoulder to hip in one swift motion.

Donna and Spencer scream. The guard falls to the floor in two distinct halves, blood pouring everywhere and quickly nearing Spencer’s shoes. When she dares to look, Spencer sees Lucy’s face and front are covered in an even coat of red spray, yet she doesn’t seem to notice, or care.

Lucy turns the machine off again, and the chain slows to a stop with a dull sputter. Once it’s fallen silent, she looks to Spencer and smiles like she couldn’t be prouder of herself.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Spencer can only stare, frozen and stunned at what she’s just witnessed. She’ll never be able to unsee this. The pile of intestines on the floor is going to haunt her dreams. But right now there’s a more pressing point, and her body is trembling with anger. “SHE KNEW WHERE QUINN WAS,” Spencer shouts. “YOU JUST MURDERED OUR ONLY LEAD.”

Mack steps in between them and gets in Spencer’s face. “HEY. DON’T YELL AT HER!” They stare each other down for a moment, then look to see what the wrongdoer has to say.

“Now, now, girls, play nice,” Lucy says. She blinks at a stray drop of blood in her eyelashes. “Remember you’re on the same team. And we all want the same thing.”

Spencer’s blood is boiling, but before she can say anything, Lucy explains. “You said the spiders took her. So, it doesn’t matter where Boomer put her. If the guards knew where Quinn was, they’d be walking her back to her cell. No alert code. All Boomer wanted to do was hurt us.”

She’s right, Spencer thinks, but it still seems like unnecessary, gratuitous violence. But then, what did she expect, going to Aphasia for help in the first place? This was all Spencer’s idea. She may have told herself the weapons were for self-defense or for killing the spiders, but it’s not like this was going to be easy, or bloodless. Spencer has no shortage of contempt for Boomer, but that was a horrible way to go out. She tries to focus on the upside, that it’s one less guard to bring them down. One less person between them and Quinn. Better them than us, I guess.

“Let’s keep moving,” Spencer finally says and takes the first steps away from the horror movie scene.

“Clean up in aisle five,” Faith says as she and Mack carefully step around the ever-growing puddle on the floor, then over Boomer’s cold, pale head.

Donna whispers to Spencer, “I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess why Captain Lumberjane's in lock-up.”

Spencer pulls herself out of the daze. “What gave it away?” She tiptoes around and over Boomer’s leg and joins the others as Donna follows.

Faith looks both ways at the intersection. “Where to?”

“Left. Sue’s that way,” Spencer says, pointing to the right. She takes the lead again but instantly feels uneasy. “Up here,” she says, redirecting Mack to come walk beside her so Spencer no longer has a crossbow pointed at her back.

The two of them lead the other three down the long, curved hallway. It’s narrow and there aren’t any doors, so there’s literally nowhere to hide. While it’s not too brightly lit, they are in plain sight, and any encounter will surely end in more bloodshed. Spencer can only hope everyone’s safely tucked away in their offices with nowhere else to be.

Or maybe they’re looking for Quinn, too.

Spencer wonders what code they’d signal if she, herself, went missing. Or if anyone would even care. Would Quinn have gone looking for her? After that illuminating display of ambivalence back in cell 10, Spencer’s sure her new cellmates wouldn’t blink an eye if she’d been the one taken away. It’s disheartening, but it’s hard to expect too much from people like this. They’re fighting here beside her -- even if it’s for Quinn, not her -- and that’s as much as she can ask for right now. And it's what she needs the most.

“Just up ahead, past the Infirmary.” The intake hall, as Spencer calls this, has the rooms where she was interrogated on her first day, given a uniform, and inspected by Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins. All the medical rooms are on the west side of the ship, while the administrative rooms are on the east.

Suddenly, Mack says, “Whoa!” and the group comes to a halt.

A foot is sticking out of the entryway to the wide-open Infirmary door. The doctor’s dead. One of them, anyway –- the last one she met. Spencer’s certain the woman had full arms and legs at one point, though she is certainly without all four of them now.

“The spiders did that?” Faith asks, shocked to see what damage the tiny monsters they’re hunting are capable of.

Lucy nods with a hum, looking at solid evidence of how her once precious pets have evolved into gruesome murderers.

Like mother, like...

They stand there for a quiet moment, taking in the horror of what was done to this woman. “I liked that one,” Spencer says sadly. She wonders if she’s the only one picturing this happening to Quinn.

“Should we do anything with the body?” Mack asks, turning to Lucy.

But Spencer makes the decision. “Not yet. We need to keep going.”

Another hundred feet down, they finally reach the wooden door on the right with the brass plate promising one Dr. Dolores Umbridge inside.

“About bloody time,” Donna mutters and readies her silver screwdriver thingy.

Mack doesn’t bother to knock, just pushes the cracked door open and then jumps back.

Dr. Umbridge is in her purple throne. Or, at least, what almost surely used to be Dr. Umbridge, before half of her face was eaten. What’s left is on the desk in a pool of blood, hunched over. Her body is half-wrapped in yellow thread, but it looks like they couldn’t complete the job.

“Oh, nasty!” Mack says, holding a hand over her nose.

“Please tell me that’s not…” Donna starts, glancing at Spencer.

“Yeah. That’s Dolores. Or what’s left of her.”

“Shit!”  Donna says, turning away in anger.

“So, what now?” Mack says.

“I don’t know!” Spencer shouts. “I need to think.”

As the body count keeps piling up, she’s feeling more and more hopeless, more and more trapped. It’s getting claustrophobic, knowing there’s no way out of this spaceship, and the spiders are going after anyone with authority in this place.

What a great time for Spencer to be in charge.

The office smells absolutely horrible. The heat from the fire adds a thickness to the pungent odor wafting around them. Light dances off the shimmering threads pinned to the wall above Umbridge’s mutilated body, covering her collection of floral kitten plates with another message.

YOUR NEXT

Spencer wonders, for a millisecond, if it would’ve killed their creators to do a quick grammar lesson before sending them off to threaten people.

“Who’s next?” asks Faith, turning to Spencer. “Us? Was this for Quinn?”

“I don’t think so,” says Spencer, looking at the web curiously. “She wasn’t one of her patients.”

“Everyone check the floor,” Mack says, pointing the crossbow down like she’s going to harpoon one of the wild beasts at extremely close range. “They might still be in here.”

“Okay,” Faith starts, looking around the room like it’s some unfamiliar alien universe. “What the hell was this woman smoking?”

Spencer’s become somewhat accustomed to the lace and ornamentation of the room by now. But the first time for anyone is bizarre and disorienting. The pink walls, alone, were enough to make her feel like she’d stepped outside reality.

“I’ve always loved this room,” Lucy says, looking around with a wistful gleam in her eye.

“How long do you think she’s been like this?” Spencer asks the group. The blood seems dry in places, and the corpse has clearly begun rotting.

“Hell if I know,” Mack offers.

“Days,” says Lucy, confidently.

“Then we have no idea who that message is for. It’s been there long enough, anyone could’ve seen it,” Spencer says. And then, it all makes sense. “You guys, what if this was the Code Pink? What if someone came in here, found her like this, and went to Sue? And now the guards are running all over trying to figure out what’s going on.”

“Seems legit,” Faith says, still looking around with one arched eyebrow. “This place definitely sets off some alarms to me.”

Spencer’s heart sinks. She feels deep down the alert wasn’t about Quinn at all. What if the guards don’t even know she’s missing? What if nobody else is looking for her? Spencer's fine with not being the hero, she just wants Quinn safe. “This is clearly some kind of message, but why Umbridge?  It looks like they tried to haul her away, but I guess they couldn't manage it even with the gravity out? So, they leave her here and just eat what they can? It doesn’t fit the pattern.”

“Well, she was in the know, right?” Faith says. “She called Martina McFly for help” -- a gesture to Donna -- “so maybe they offed her before she could spill the beans.”

“Oh, so it’s my fault,” Donna snaps. “Cheers.”

“This place is rank. I’m out.” Mack takes a step toward the door.

“No,” Spencer says with authority. “There has to be a reason they came after her. We take five minutes now and look. Quinn’s life might depend on it. “

“In five minutes, Quinn could be dead,” Lucy says.

“Then do you have any better ideas?” Spencer snaps. “Because right now, it looks like shit is getting pretty fucking serious.” She points to the web, then drops her arm with a heavy sigh. “We don’t even know how long they’ve had her.”

“You said G’s gotta be a gym, right?” Faith says, friendly and upbeat. “So, we search one by one til we find her. We split up, cover twice the ground.”

But Spencer shakes her head. “No way, it’s too dangerous. We have to stick together. We don’t have any way to communicate with each other. If one of the groups gets attacked, are we sure the others would be able to handle these fuckers on their own?”

“I’m not hurting a hair on their precious little heads,” Lucy reminds them, still gripping the bloody chainsaw with both hands.

“So, you, me, and blondie hit the gyms,” Mack says to Faith, “while these two” -- Spencer and Donna -- “stay here playing detective.” She looks to Lucy, “Take out the guards, we’ll do the rest.”

“NO,” Spencer shouts. “Give me a goddamn minute!”

“ONE. Then we’re outta here.”

Spencer starts digging through the desk before Mack can object further. Umbridge was very tidy, so there isn’t much to see. No giant piles or large filing cabinets like in Sue’s office. The desk drawers are mostly empty; only basic supplies like pens, stamps, and ink pads. It doesn’t look like Dr. Umbridge did much doctoring.

The only papers on the desk, buried under a vastly outdated British newspaper, are four file folders -- Kara Thrace (whoever that is), Santana Lopez, Spencer herself, and Ellen Ripley.

She immediately grabs her own file -- the only blue one -- and examines the cover. She’s seen it before, back when Aphasia waved it in front of her face like a piece of candy. It’s covered in the giant CONFIDENTIAL stamps, but now she finally has a chance to see what’s so damn special about it. Spencer opens it carefully and is surprised to see it only contains three sheets of paper: one that seems to be a standard two-sided intake form and one for each of her cell transfers.

“Who’s that?” Lucy asks, recognizing it’s a prisoner folder.

“Me,” Spencer says softly. Her eyes scan through the intake form, desperate for some answers.

“We know you didn’t do it,” Mack snaps. She looks to Faith and says, “Let’s go.”

“HANG ON,” Spencer yells again. “This could be important.” It’s all there -- her name, address, date of birth, crimes convicted of, location of crime, length of sentence.

And there, under DATE OF INTAKE is a checkbox for Standard or Full Service (with the latter checked), with a line for INCARCERATION REQUEST SUBMITTED BY. And clear as day, typed neatly, is the name “Hastings, Veronica.”

In an instant, Spencer’s world collapses around her. The rest of the page becomes a blur through her tears.

She sent me here. It’s all her fault.

“Has anyone seen Miss Lady Meowsers?” Lucy asks, a million miles away from Spencer, and checks a chair and all around the floor.

No one answers. The room is silent for a moment as all eyes drift toward their leader. But she’s still staring at the paper in her hand.

How could you do this to me? To your own daughter?

“Hello?!” Mack says, pounding her hand on the door three times. “Are we leaving?”

Spencer looks up suddenly, wiping at her eye with the back of her hand. She grabs the stack of files and heads for the door. “Yeah. We’re done here.”

If this is really what it means to be a Hastings, Spencer doesn’t want to be one anymore.

Chapter Text

Spencer’s vision is blurred as they head back down the corridor. Thank god her companions know the way back, because all she can think right now is, My own mother sent me to space prison. She can’t understand why. She can’t understand how. Nothing makes sense anymore, not even remotely.

She’s in the middle of the pack -- Mack and Lucy in the front, Donna and Faith bringing up the rear. The hum of Lucy’s chainsaw drowns out the sound of their footsteps and spoken directions, and it provides a backdrop of noise for the thoughts clamoring in Spencer’s mind. She doesn’t care enough to tell her to turn it off. Besides, drawing the guards out doesn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore.

The buzzing suddenly revs up to a higher pitch as Lucy swiftly slices through another guard, horizontally this time, with no warning at all. The group stops and looks down at the bisected body and guts spilled all over the floor, and Mack vocalizes what Spencer’s thinking. “Uh...that’s Boomer.”

They all stare at the cold face, and there’s no mistaking it.

“But that’s impossible,” Spencer says. “She didn’t just put herself together and come back to life.” A horrible thought crosses her mind. “DID SHE?!”  The only thing worse than space prison would be zombies in space prison.

“There’s no sign of the previous wound,” says Lucy.

Uh, “wound” is one word for what you did to her, sure.

“Twins, then?” Donna says. “And they both just happen to be space prison guards? Bit of a sad family business.”

“Doesn’t seem likely,” Spencer agrees.

“Well, she’s definitely dead,” says Mack. “Come on.”

“Next time could we try interrogating one first?” Spencer says to Lucy, who ignores her and restarts the chainsaw. She leads them back down toward the T-intersection where they began. They meet another Boomer who loses her head before Spencer even sees her coming.

“Jesus!” Spencer shouts, as she almost steps on it. “How many of them are there?”

“Yeah, it’s like Attack of the Killer Clones” Faith offers, looking to Lucy, pointedly.

Spencer wonders if this whole mess just got a lot scarier.

When they reach the cell block, they see the sliced remains of the first guard, and Spencer checks what’s left of the nametag. Sure enough, it's still Boomer. That's three confirmed multiples. Spencer doesn’t know if it makes her feel better or worse. On the plus side, they’re not battling something immortal. On the other hand, there could be a goddamn army of Boomers, for all she knows. It certainly explains why Boomer always seems to be the one on duty. I guess they all just hate me, then, Spencer thinks. They would probably love to see her dead, and now they have their chance. Without knowing an exact head count, there could always be at least one more warm body coming after her.

Spencer looks at her friends. Even with their weapons and violent histories, this band of volunteers is still just a group of trapped, scared women with no idea what they’re doing. How is Spencer supposed to get them out of this alive?

There’s at least one life she can save, even if it’s not her own. Spencer turns to Donna and says, “Your ship’s straight down that way,” pointing into the cell block. “Thanks for all the help.”

Donna glances down the corridor, then meets Spencer’s eyes. “I’m not leaving,” she says.

“Dolores is dead,” Spencer says firmly. “We’re probably all going to die. You didn’t ask for any of this. You should go.”

“Look, I’m not going anywhere, Missy,” Donna says, sounding incredibly annoyed, “so we can stand here bickering or we can get on with saving your friend.”

Donna wants to fight for her. Spencer’s own mother wouldn’t fight for her, but this complete stranger will. Spencer steadies her emotions and takes a deep breath, then nods once. “Keep going, straight ahead, stay to the left. Sue's office is past the Processing room,” she says, taking them into the opposite narrow hallway beyond the classrooms. It’s a mirror image of the hall to Umbridge’s office, and Spencer’s starting to picture the layout of this place in her mind now, letting it coalesce as they travel over this familiar territory.

“I thought we were going to the gym,” Mack says. It’s clear she’s longing to shoot something.

“We are,” Spencer says. “Just follow me for a minute.” She knows it’s unlikely the spiders have Quinn in a room that’s used by inmates every day. She can’t shake the feeling they need more information. Luckily, Spencer knows where to find some.

The line of armed women files around the curve of the hallway, occasionally checking behind them as they go.

“It’s that door on the left,” Spencer says, pointing. The other four run on ahead, but the door is locked. Faith kicks it twice, and the lock gives as the door frame splinters. They barge in, weapons raised, while Spencer stands in the hall. The lights are flickering, and with all their noise, there could be a dozen spiders -- or Boomers -- approaching at any moment, and Spencer’d be dead before she knew it.

Maybe this is what her mother wanted. For her to suffer and die trapped and alone in space, stabbed or gutted or eaten by something horrible, something without remorse. Right now, she’s almost feeling scared enough to let it happen. At least then she’d be free from this never-ending terror.

“It’s empty.” Faith peeks back around to notify Spencer. “Your move.”

Spencer steps inside cautiously. There’s no sign of Sue. No body, no web, nothing out of place. In fact, the office is practically clean. The mountain of papers on the floor is gone, the wall of trophies is intact and orderly, and even the desk is free of clutter.

“Search it,” Spencer says. “There has to be something useful.”

“Look, I know where Gym 2 is,” says Mack. “Let’s just GO.”

“I know Gym 4,” says Lucy.

Spencer vaguely remembers that’s where Fisting class is and rolls her eyes.

“Gym 1’s next door to my Knives class,” Faith says. “3’s on that hall, too.”

“But what if she’s not even in a gym?” Spencer counters. She turns to address the group. “I mean, yeah, I really hope she is, but what if it’s something else? We have to be open to the possibility that we’re wrong. This ship is huge. And it’s not like we got the nickel tour when we arrived.” She quickly rifles through some random papers but finds nothing of value.

“Yeah, we should just stay here and hope Quinn strolls on by. Great plan,” Mack says angrily and knocks Sue’s name plate off the desk with the end of her crossbow.

“We need a schematic or a blueprint or something that shows us the layout of the ship,” Spencer says. “We can’t just wander around aimlessly.”

Faith throws her arms out. “If we were out looking, we could’ve found her by now.” She’s clearly frustrated by the lack of action, too.

“We have some time!” Spencer says. “They ate Umbridge and the doctor, and not even completely. They're probably full. Which would mean they don’t need to eat Quinn. Not yet.”

Mack laughs. “If that’s what you want to tell yourself, then fine. Be my guest. It’s only her life at stake. No big.” 

“So noted,” Spencer says dryly. “Now look.”

They stare at each other, neither wanting to back down, until Mack finally mutters, “Whatever,” and starts sifting absently through a drawer in Sue’s desk.

Everyone gets to work. Faith uses her knife to pry open the cabinet of prisoner files. Donna looks behind the hanging frames on the wall for anything hidden, then checks the trophies to see if there’s something suspicious. Lucy stands guard at the door, armed and ready.

Spencer sits in a chair by the wall and places the stack of four files from Umbridge’s office on her lap. She carefully sifts them until hers is on the bottom, then starts rummaging through Kara Thrace’s file (Starbuck, it turns out). When there’s nothing of note, she moves on to Santana’s. “Okay, I really don’t want to think about it, but are we sure that Santana isn’t behind this somehow?”

“She’s not even here,” Lucy says, turning with a frown.

“I know. I mean, when she was.”

“No way.” Faith shakes her head as she fingers through the S-Z drawer. “She was all bark and no bite.”

Spencer flinches at the phrase. Tell that to Quinn’s foot. “So, it’s just a coincidence that the spiders eat people and she eats people.”

“She what?” Donna turns with a start. “You know what? Nevermind. Didn’t hear a thing!”

Faith looks up now, meeting Spencer’s eyes with sincerity. “Santannibal had nothing to do with this, okay? Find someone else to blame.” She flips past the last folder and slams the door shut, reporting out, “Nothing.”

And Spencer realizes -- that’s part of what makes this situation so unbelievably frustrating. She doesn’t know who’s to blame. Whatever scientists created these hell beasts? Lucy, for taking their side over hers? Her mother, for sending her here? Sue and Umbridge, for not believing her when she was right all along? Or maybe she should just blame herself, for letting Quinn get taken.

Everyone is guilty, and everyone is responsible. Nobody is getting out of this mess clean. It’ll be enough if they can get out of it alive.

There’s one more file left in her stack -- Ellen Ripley. The giant DANGEROUS stamps on the cover make Spencer wonder what the hell this woman could’ve done. Santana’s file doesn’t even have that on it.

She opens the folder nervously and sees the standard intake form, but it looks like an older version. Much older, in fact. The date on this is almost twenty years old.

“I think I found something,” Spencer says. “Look at this. Ellen Ripley, prisoner number 001.” Spencer looks up. “She’s been here forever.”

There’s a form for transfer to the Solitary unit, dated two years after the intake form. Behind that is a stack of at least a dozen reports of violent behavior. Upon further inspection, each one of them reports assault on a fellow prisoner that resulted in death. Faith and Santana mentioned this weeks ago, but Spencer had hoped they were kidding. Clearly, they weren’t.

All the reports are dated December 25th and signed by Sue. They describe the routine release of Ellen Ripley for her “shower, meal, and participation in traditional holiday events.”  Every time, it ends in bloodshed. Spencer doesn’t recognize any of the names until the most recent forms for women named Kennedy, Carmilla, and Xena – just like her cellmates said. But even they were spooked just bringing up the subject. It’s as if Ripley’s victims are ghosts never spoken of again, probably out of fear of retaliation.

This woman sounds absolutely terrifying.

But how does this help them? There’s no connection to the spiders, or to Quinn. It’s currently sometime in May, by Spencer’s count, not anywhere near Christmas. Her cellmates talked about it once, but really, the only other time she’s even seen the word Christmas since she got here was when –

…when she read Jenny Schecter’s journal.

MARY CHRISTMAS

Right before the message STOP HER.

“You guys…” Spencer begins, wide-eyed. “What if Ripley’s working with the spiders?”

Mack ignores her and throws another handful of Sue’s stuff from the drawers onto the floor in a loud crash. She has absolutely destroyed this office in a matter of minutes.

“From Solitary?” asks Faith, prying open the next drawer of prisoner files. “No comprende.”

“I’ve been here a long time,” Lucy says, still facing out into the hallway. “Ripley was in Solitary even before I arrived.”

Meaning she was already locked up when the spiders first arrived, too.  Damn.

“Alright.” Spencer drops the file back on the desk in surrender. “Let’s keep looking.”

“Maybe it’s just me,” Donna says, “but if someone killed people on Christmas, I wouldn’t let them out to do it again the next year.”

Spencer’s thought this, herself. “Yeah, well, Sue’s not known for rational decision-making.”

There’s more clanging as Mack’s now throwing trophies out of the case onto the floor in a heap. Spencer swivels in the chair and props her feet up to think. Right at eye level she sees a square on the wall that’s a darker gray than the rest, like it’s been hidden from the light for years. She knows this spot -- it’s where the hideous Olivia Newton-John photo goes. Spencer leaps out of the chair and sees some small black paint stenciled on the wall.

PLACE MAP HERE AND COVER

“Oh my god,” Spencer says. “Look.” The others crowd around her. “Well, now we know Sue’s alive and didn’t want anyone else to find her.”

“Motherfucker,” Mack curses, and picks up a trophy from the floor just to throw it hard against the file cabinets. The sound echoes loudly in the hallway. Anyone else alive on this half of the ship would surely hear it and come running.

Lucy turns around at the noise and says, “Thank you. I’m bored, and I’d like to kill something.”

Mack sighs, relieved that she didn’t mess up, and smiles proudly.

“Ok, field trip's over,” Faith says to Spencer. “I’m gonna check the gyms. You with me or not?”

Spencer’s out of time-outs. They need to get moving.

She takes a deep breath and says, “Lead the way.” She leaves the file folders on Sue’s desk and grabs the sledgehammer, stepping carefully over the pile of Mack’s carnage to follow Lucy out the door.

Chapter Text

“Oh shit.”

Two Boomers charge around the corner full speed, heading right for them.

“Run!” Donna shouts, taking off in the opposite direction to go further down the hall. Spencer’s right behind her, but she doesn’t know if anyone else is. She’s never been past Sue’s office and doesn’t know where this leads, but it’s away from the guards, so it’s the only option. In the distance, she hears the now familiar sound of the chainsaw revving and ripping bodies in half and knows Lucy stood her ground. Spencer and Donna slow to a stop to catch their breath, realizing they’ve reached a cul de sac dead end.

Right in front of two doors marked Gyms 7 and 8.

Eight?!

“YOU GUYS!” Spencer shouts. Instantly she regrets it -- if Quinn is in there, Spencer just alerted the entire spider army of their presence. “Shit, hang on,” she says to Donna and starts running back.

“DON’T JUST LEAVE ME HERE!” Donna yells back. “We found the gyms!”

“STOP YELLING!” Spencer’s voice echoes loudly in the hall, and she curses herself again, running faster. She quickly catches up to the others and the fresh pile of body parts and says, “Two more gyms. This way.” Spencer can hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears as they round the curved hallway to the home of Gyms 7 and 8.

“Nice of you to join me. Still alive, thank you,” Donna quips. “Now what?”

“Eenie meenie?” asks Faith.

“Lucky seven,” Mack says, aiming her crossbow at the door.

“You mind covering us?” Spencer says to Lucy. She doesn’t want any more guards ambushing them from behind.

Lucy turns and faces the hallway corridor, poised and ready, but doesn’t respond otherwise.

“I’ll just wait here, then.” Donna starts walking backward slowly. “Keep good old Lucy company.” She doesn’t seem very keen on the idea of being left alone with a chainsaw-wielding murderer, but Spencer agrees Donna will be safer out here than in there.

Faith and Mack are standing in front of the door, weapons at the ready.

“Kick it down,” Spencer says to Faith. “On three. One, two…”

The boom of the door echoes down the corridor as well as throughout the gym itself. It’s pitch black inside. Spencer hadn’t considered how they’re going to turn the lights on in a spider-infested hell den.

“Ladies first,” Mack says to her nervously.

How chivalrous.

“Quinn?” Spencer calls, sledgehammer poised at the ready. Hearing only the echo of her own voice, she steps carefully into the darkness. Suddenly, the memory of a dozen spiders crawling into her bed that dark, horrible night takes over. Spencer stomps her feet rapidly, like she’s doing some kind of demented crazy dance, and she waves the sledgehammer around to tear down any webs. “QUINN!” she yells again, stomping and flailing as hard as she can, screaming like a maniac. But then suddenly the lights come on and she stops, standing in an otherwise empty gym that looks like it hasn’t been used in years. No webs, no spiders, no anything except some dusty exercise mats on the floor in rows and an old cassette boombox on a bench by the wall. Plus one very, very embarrassed Spencer Hastings.

Faith’s hand drops from the light switch just inside the doorway as she stares awkwardly at Spencer. “Yeah, I don’t think she’s here…”

“Just being thorough.” Spencer tucks her proverbial tail between her legs and files out behind Faith and Mack. “All clear,” she says to Lucy and Donna in a poor attempt to save face.

They reposition themselves in front of Gym 8’s door, and it booms just as loudly when Faith kicks it down. This time Spencer calls to Quinn again, then sneaks a hand inside the door as fast as she can and flips the lights on.

This one’s set up with basketball hoops, much like a high school gym. What must be twenty foam and rubber balls of various sizes and colors are strewn all over the place. It’s much cleaner than Gym 7 and safe to assume it’s been used recently -- by people, not spiders.

Spencer sighs. She feels bad that a small part of her is relieved. She’s not yet emotionally prepared for a battle to the death, even after everything she’s already been through today.

“Two down,” Mack says, disappointed she still hasn’t gotten to shoot anything yet.

“Seems like.” Spencer tries to visualize the situation. “We know where 1 through 4 are. My guess is 5 and 6 are on the other side of the ship. If we are where I think we are. Come on -- I have an idea.”

Lucy revs up the chainsaw and takes the lead again as they retrace their steps. Spencer takes some comfort in knowing they’ve just secured a part of the ship. The more unknown that becomes known, the more in control she’ll feel.

They round the corner, passing the hallway to the other four gyms, and Spencer slows down to cast a glance that way, just to see. It’s empty and quiet. Her gut’s telling her that Quinn’s over on the far side, that they’re not running right past her here again, but she’ll feel horrible if she’s wrong about that. It’s not like she hasn’t been wrong here before.

With a shiver, she turns to continue back down the main hall, but something catches her eye. The metal door with the PROCESSING sign is open, and from this angle, she can see the familiar, giant window. The red velvet curtain is pulled back, revealing the beauty and horror of uncharted space. It looks different now somehow. More beautiful, perhaps, in contrast to the horrors she’s witnessed today. Or just less scary. And that chair…it’s where Sue grilled her on the first day in this hellhole. It’s where Spencer first realized where she is, back when she still thought her parents gave a shit about her. When she still thought there would be a way out.

It’s where she was the moment everything changed.

“This what you wanted to show us? A bunch of stupid stars?” Mack’s voice pulls Spencer out of her thoughts. “We movin’ or what?”

“Hang on,” Spencer says distantly and walks into the room. Everything beyond the thick glass is still. The stars are barely sparkling, but Spencer is mesmerized. It’s a breathtaking sight, so calm and peaceful. Even the asteroid is in the same place as before. Spencer steps past the table, setting her sledgehammer down, and takes a deep breath. As she walks toward the window, the vastness fills more and more of her vision. Spencer longs for it to take her over. Not just to escape, but to float away. To escape the chaos in these walls and become one with the tranquility of space.

She places a hand on the glass. It’s cold but not painfully so. She wonders how much material stands between her and the universe. It seems so thin, this precious line between life and death.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Faith says from the doorway.

Spencer knocks on the glass a few times and says, “Scared?” without turning around. But Faith’s irrelevant right now. They all are. Everything seems so small, so trivial. Spencer looks for the biggest celestial body she can find, a distant red star, or maybe a planet. Would it be Mars? Are they even in the --

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” She’s screaming before she can process what she sees. It’s gigantic and right in front of her face, just out of nowhere. Instinctively, Spencer drops to the floor, hiding under the window, and covers her head with her arms. But she can still see the image burned into her memory. There’s gray and white and teeth -- so many teeth -- and fins -- FINS – and SO MANY TEETH.

“Told you,” Faith mutters.

The others crowd the doorway to see what the commotion’s about. Faith moves forward to give them room to join her. The enormous beast floats out of sight, tail swooping back and forth and hitting the window once with a giant thud.

Spencer jumps and screams again. Her eyes are bulging out of her head. “THAT,” she pants, heaving breaths and pointing an arm up, “….THAT WAS A SHARK.”

“They’re such beautiful, majestic creatures,” Lucy says. “Don’t you think?”

WHAT?!

Donna announces, “NO BLOODY THANK YOU,” and goes back into the hallway.

The room falls quiet for a moment as no one really seems to know what to do next. Spencer’s frozen in fear and unable to think. Her brain has never felt more broken.

“Did you wanna come back over…” Faith gestures to the open space behind her.

It looks like a safe enough distance away. Should a thing possibly exist. Spencer considers making a run for it. She slowly shifts to a squat and lifts herself up enough to peek over the edge of the glass. But then the shark swoops past again, having circled fully around, and Spencer ducks down again with a pained gasp.

“It can’t see you,” Faith says, amused. “It’s one-way glass.”

Spencer doesn’t know why the others aren’t freaking out. “You’re sure?” Her voice trembles as her whole body is shaking.

“Yeah. It can smell you, though.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Lucy says, almost condescendingly.

Spencer gawks, flails her arms toward the window, and makes a few high-pitched, incoherent noises.

“I can explain,” Lucy says with a friendly tone. “Sharks are large, carnivorous animals that –”

“I KNOW WHAT SHARKS ARE,” Spencer sputters, arms still wrapped around her knees. Why is she getting a nature lesson from the girl who’d never heard of bears? “BUT...IT’S...IN SPACE.”

Lucy’s brow furrows. “Where else would it be?”

“UM, IN THE OCEAN?”

“What’s ‘the ocean’?” Lucy asks.

Spencer closes her eyes and tries to avoid a complete mental breakdown.

“Tons of water,” Faith says. “Like, everywhere.”

Lucy gasps in horror. “But they’d drown!”

Spencer stands and looks at Faith, more Done With Everything than ever. “Can we go now? I’d really like to go now.”

“Come on,” Faith says with a nod and nudges Lucy out of the room so Spencer can exit.

Spencer grabs her sledgehammer and pauses, then quickly crosses the room and pulls the chain to close the velvet curtains. As they move in a few inches at a time, the shark emerges once more from the darkness and heads right for her. The curtains close just as it passes her by, and Spencer knows that image is going to haunt her dreams for the next, well, ever.

She rejoins the team in the hallway and closes the door behind her. “It’s just circling the ship,” she informs them. This development is deeply, deeply upsetting. Spencer’s feeling a lot more claustrophobic now knowing they’re surrounded by actual space monsters.

“Yep,” Mack says, nonplussed. “Hopefully just the one.” She checks her crossbow and all seems to be in working order.

“With all the fresh guards’ blood,” says Lucy, “I’d be surprised if there weren’t a dozen soon.”

“A DOZEN?” Spencer shouts, but nobody seems to care. “Where do they COME from?!”

Mack ignores the question and resumes their search for gyms 5 and 6. “That way now?” she gestures down the hall.

Spencer slams her twenty-pound sledgehammer loudly on the floor. “Why is no one else the least bit alarmed that THERE ARE SHARKS IN SPACE?”

“I think I was better off not knowing that, yeah,” Donna agrees.

“Thank you,” says Spencer, loudly.

Mack looks at Spencer with a laugh, shaking her head. “Classic Shit Girl. Dumbass.” She starts walking with Lucy and Donna following close behind. Spencer stands in shock and watches them go.

A finger drags down her spine, and Faith leans in to breathe against her ear, “It’s called ‘Shark Week,’  Harvard,” with a grin. She takes off after the others, then turns around with a skip in her step to add, “You don’t know the Jaws music?”

“I THOUGHT THAT WAS A EUPHEMISM!” Spencer shouts. Then, with a quick glance behind to be sure they’re not followed, she runs to catch up. She can’t get away from the latest terror in Bizarro World quickly enough.

****************

They approach the T-intersection with the all-too-familiar first Boomer corpse and keep moving. Spencer looks at the pool of blood and can’t stop thinking about the swarms of sharks hovering outside. But she’s jerked back to reality when she hears Mack yell, “Shit!” behind her and the whizzing sound of a firing arrow.

Spencer turns, and there’s not one but two Boomers there, one now with an arrow sticking out of her thigh. In a flash, Lucy crosses past Spencer and slices the un-arrowed Boomer straight up from the crotch through her skull. The symmetrical halves fall to the ground with a wet schlopppp.

“JESUS!” Spencer shouts, but it’s lost over the sounds of the chainsaw and Faith repeatedly punching the other Boomer. Faith then draws her knife and guts the guard -- twice for good measure, it seems -- and slits her throat. The guard collapses into the pool of blood created by her twin.

Spencer can’t believe just how gruesome this mission has become. She’s a nice girl from a nice family in a nice town. Okay, well. A once violent girl from a fucked-up family in a murder-ridden town. But this is going way over the line. Is this who she is now? Is this what they do?

Mack steps forward and takes aim with her crossbow, shooting the half-Boomer in the chest with a primal cry.

Spencer just stares. “She was DEAD.”

“She is now,” Mack huffs and walks off down the hall.

Lord.

They reach the tomb of the doctor again, and Spencer stops in front of the mutilated corpse.

“What’s up?” Faith asks.

“Look at this. Come on.” Spencer steps over the body and enters the small examination room. There on the wall is the familiar yet still creepy emblem of the ship -- the Uterius, in all its glory -- conveniently providing an outline for their reference.

“Is that…um…” Donna starts, pointing vaguely with her finger to the picture, then to her abdomen.

“Yeah,” Spencer says. She starts placing her mental schema of the layout atop this framework, and it all lines up. “I think the cell block is this big middle part. The classrooms, too.” She tries to ignore that she’s pointing to a giant vagina. “And we were just here,” she says, indicating the round circle on the far right side. The ovary, if you will.

“So, it’s symmetrical," Faith says, getting it now. "Two more gyms on the other side."

“Just down the hall. I think we’re about here.” Spencer moves her finger halfway along the tube on the left side. “It’s the furthest part of the ship from everyone. Probably the best place to hide someone away. If we didn’t even know these gyms existed, chances are no one else does.”

“It's where I’d set up camp,” Faith says.

“It also explains why all the people on this side of the ship are dead,” Lucy adds. “No witnesses.”

“Let’s go,” Mack says. She's first to step back over the dead doctor and keep heading to the right.

They pass Umbridge’s office, and it’s quiet and unchanged. A little too quiet, Spencer thinks. Where is everyone? Everyone Lucy hasn’t already killed, anyway. Sue and the other two doctors, that Becky girl who works for Sue, even Umbridge's cat...They have to be somewhere, right?

“Up here,” Lucy says as they reach the end of the hall.

“So, what’s behind door number three?” Faith says, approaching Gym 5. She silently gestures to the gang to assume their positions, then kicks it down. “Quinn?” she calls, and Spencer’s right behind.

“Quinn?” Spencer kicks the lights on, and yet again, nothing. This one seems to have old gymnastics equipment -- a beam, a vault, a marked off section of floor, but there’s a thick layer of dust that makes them nearly unrecognizable. Along with the wispy remains of spider webs.

“I think we’re getting close,” Spencer says.

Mack nods to the last door on the end, Gym 6. “Let’s do it.”

“You ready?” Spencer says to Donna and Lucy, who are standing guard where the hall narrows, watching for more Boomers. They both nod.

She turns to Mack and Faith as they share a silent exchange. This is it.

Spencer raises the sledgehammer and flanks Faith’s right as Mack takes the left, crossbow at the ready. She counts down from three, and with the familiar echoing boom, the door flies open.

“QUINN!” Spencer cries, running in and stomping on the ground again, flinging the hammer around. “QUINN! WE’RE HERE!”

“I can’t see her!” Faith calls.

“Get the light!” Spencer yells.

“The switch is out!”

“I’M COMING, QUINN!” Mack yells, running into the room. She screams a battle cry and starts firing arrows randomly into the darkness, barely missing Spencer’s arm by inches.

That brings Spencer’s flailing antics to a halt. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?”

Mack freezes and considers what she might’ve just done. “Shit. QUINN!”

“Quinn!” Spencer shouts again. She doesn’t hear anything, doesn’t feel any webs. Her eyes are adjusting from the faint light in the hall, and she can’t see Quinn anywhere. She takes two steps forward and trips over something, stumbling and cursing and swinging the sledgehammer again. It strikes something near the ground, making a hollow sound, and Spencer flails until she hears Faith shouting at her.

“Hey, hey! Whoa! It’s just a pylon.”

“SNAKES?!” Mack shouts, frantically aiming the crossbow at the ground again.

Spencer can now make out what seems to be lines marked off about ten yards apart. A football field. “It’s a cone, you moron,” she says, brushing past Mack as she exits the room.

Donna and Lucy turn around with hope in their eyes, but Spencer just shakes her head. Mack and Faith file out and close the door, joining the circle and looking just as disheartened. Nobody seems to want to say what they’re all thinking. Quinn was supposed to be here. It was their best shot.

Where ARE you?

Lucy breaks away from the silent group and revs up her chainsaw without a word, heading back down the hall toward Umbridge’s office.

Spencer stops to talk to the others and regroup. “Okay, we keep looking. There are still four more gyms.” She’s trying not to sound hopeless. She’s trying to remember that each dead end is another item crossed off the list, another step closer to finding Quinn.

She’s trying not to think about how absolutely terrified she is.

“Hey, at least now we know we’ve cleared the entire north end,” Faith says. “Buck up.”

Spencer gives her a pursed smile. She's grateful for a steady hand of encouragement right now. Who knew it’d be from Faith, of all people?

As they reach Umbridge’s door, Spencer thinks about their position on the diagram in the doctor’s office and the symmetry of this place. Sue’s office…“Hang on, you guys,” Spencer calls to the rest, up on ahead of her. “I have an idea.”

Mack comes to a halt and turns around. “You’re going back in there?! It’s a dead end. Literally.

“Just give me a minute,” Spencer says and opens the door. Immediately, the stench of decay and death comes rushing back, but she pushes through, trying very hard to ignore the half-eaten dead woman and the impending threat written above her. Spencer marches over to the left wall where the framed picture of Umbridge and that minister guy hangs by the bathroom door. In the exact same spot as the picture in Sue’s office.

Spencer grabs the frame and rips it off the wall. A folded piece of paper falls to the floor. The now-empty space on the wall says, PLACE MAP HERE AND COVER.

“Yes!” Spencer cries. “You guys! Come in here!” She grabs the paper and unfolds it, whispering, “About time we catch a  break,” to herself. The others enter one by one and comment on the overall nastiness of the room again. Spencer tells Faith to shut the door behind them so they can examine the map uninterrupted.

Sure enough, it’s a diagram of a uterus, only it’s labeled with things like “Mess Hall” and “Gym 7” where “Vagina” and “Ovary” should be.

map of the Uterius

“So, what -- We’re here?” Faith asks, pointing to the spot on the pink curve marked “Administrative.”

“Yeah, I think so,” Spencer says. “It really does look like a uterus.”

“That is the fucking weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Mack. “I mean, I know I have those parts or whatever, but I don’t have a fuckin' library in my gut.”

“It’s not meant to be anatomically accurate,” says Spencer. “Last I checked, I don’t have a kitchen in my vagina.”

“And yet people still eat there all the time,” Faith says quietly, amused with herself.

“Yeah, no shit,” Mack tells Spencer. She points to the right of the engine room and says, “Nobody has both large arms and small arms.” She taps the map hard with her finger to provide finality to her statement. “Dumbass.”

Spencer opens her mouth to say something, but it’s just not worth the energy.

They take turns pointing out various points on the map, starting with the ones they know and then finding new, unfamiliar places. The engine room sounds promising, as does the barracks, at least as a place where someone might keep a hostage. It seems they’ve covered about half the prison so far, which is both encouraging and not. The good news is, as Faith points out, there are in fact only eight gyms, as they thought, which means no new ground to cover in their limited time. But the bad news, Donna notes, is no new G words to explore if they’re wrong.

But Spencer’s only hearing bits and pieces of this conversation. Her mind is racing, trying to assimilate new data and make sense of everything she’s learned so far. Because there’s something on the map that scares her more than having eight gyms to search. “Um,” she finally says. “What’s that?”

The others fall quiet as they see where Spencer’s pointing. Handwritten in pen at the bottom of the ship is one word:

LAB?

“All kinds of ships have labs,” Lucy says.

“Wait, there’s a dog?” Mack asks. Everyone stares at her. “What, you’ve never heard of dogs before?”

“We can talk about your dating life later,” Faith retorts and looks back at Spencer. “You said Umbridge was a doctor or whatever, right? Makes sense she’d know about sciencey stuff.”

“It’s not even within the borders of the ship,” Spencer says. “There's a question mark. Maybe she doesn’t know where it is.” That makes two of us.

“Shitty doctor,” Faith scoffs.

“Maybe it’s a secret laboratory,” Spencer offers.

Mack just starts laughing.

“It’s written on the map!” Spencer points.

“I could write ‘Closet to Narnia’ on the map,” Mack says. “Doesn’t make it true.”

Spencer’s eyebrows raise. “I’m amazed you even know that reference.”

Mack flips her the bird and makes a face. “Not surprised you know it, Closet Case.”

“Who’s ‘Narnia’?” Lucy asks, but the others ignore her.

“Seems a bit off, though, yeah?” Donna asks. “What’s a prison need a lab for?”

Making endless clones of evil guards, for one thing, Spencer thinks. And flesh-eating spiders.

The five women look at each other like this just got a whole lot more complicated.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” says Faith. “All I see’s four more gyms down that hall, calling my name.”

“Right behind you,” says Mack, grabbing her crossbow off the desk. “Sounds like we just need to keep going south til we find the spot, right?” She licks her lips and leers at Donna suggestively, eyes clearly roaming down to her mid-section. “I’m good at that.”

“Ew,” Donna snaps, putting a hand up. “Not in a million years.”

“Your loss, Sugar Tits,” Mack says suavely and starts strutting out the door and back down the hall.

Donna scoffs and looks to Spencer and Faith for back-up, but Faith just laughs.

“Do you have a pocket?” Spencer asks Donna, handing her the map. Securing it safely, they hurry to catch up with Mack, Faith, and Lucy, closing the door behind them. Spencer hopes they’ll never have to set sights on anything so horrific ever again.

They’re moving quickly, more confidently. But they need to get into new territory. Now. Spencer’s no longer concerned with stealth. The chainsaw sounds like a freight train, and they’re tracking bloody footprints as they pass through the wake of Lucy’s rampage. It’s not like a toddler couldn’t find them at this point.

As they pass the cell block and head toward the classes hallway, Spencer does a double take and stops in her tracks. The door to the engine room is between the two hallways. They’ve passed it at least twice today. It’s no wonder, though – it blends right in with the wall, not set in from the edge, and the stenciled paint labeling the door is half scratched off.

“Hang on, guys,” Spencer calls ahead. “Let’s check in here first.”

Approaching the rust-covered wall, Spencer can’t see a lock or even a door handle, for that matter. Then she notices a small box attached beside the door frame that looks like a reader for a keycard. Something they most definitely don’t have.

“Think you can break it down?” she asks Faith. They’ve already busted six doors today. What's one more?

“My pleasure.” Faith extends a hand toward the sledgehammer and Spencer complies. With a few steps for a running start, Faith charges the door and slams the hammer dead-center at eye level. The door dents but doesn’t budge, and the sound echoes down the hallway in both directions with a resounding boom. Faith repeats the action, managing to strike nearly the same spot, and grunts loudly as she attacks it a third time.

Suddenly, the door opens a few inches and a sweaty, angry face appears. “What the fuck do you want? We’re a little busy.”

Spencer steps forward to get a better look. “Raven?” It’s hard to recognize her out of her typical navy-blue uniform. Instead, her body is wrapped in a thin white polyblend prison-issue bedsheet. Spencer hasn’t seen the inside of the engine room before – and still can’t from this angle – but she expected more noise and less…sex smell. (The alcohol smell, she was prepared for.)

“If you want booze, you have to wait until I make rounds tomorrow.” There’s a clanking noise and the sound of soft footsteps out of sight, and Raven winces.

“Who’s in there with you?” Spencer asks.

“None of your business.” Raven starts to shut the door. “Tomorrow.”

“Wait! Wait!” Spencer runs forward and puts a hand out, pushing it open with an inch to spare. “Can you just tell us if Quinn’s in there.”

“Quinn? Haven’t seen her.” Raven looks sincere. Glancing around at the ragtag crew, she starts piecing together the situation. “Sorry I can’t help you.”

“She’s missing. We think she’s been taken. You’re sure she’s not in there?”

“I’d invite you in to check it yourself, but there’s this nudity situation I need to get back to.”

“Right, tell Starbuck we say hi.” It’s an awkward moment, made worse when Raven’s face drops. That’s not who she’s hiding. “Or, um,” Spencer stumbles, trying to recover but failing. “How about we pretend we never came by at all?”

“Yeah, good plan.”

Spencer pauses for a moment, afraid to ask what just entered her mind, but she can’t let this opportunity pass. “It’s not…Sue, is it?”

Raven scowls, and that gives her all the answer she needs.

But then a different voice comes from inside the room, “Hey, what’s going on?”  Footsteps get nearer to the door until Raven’s face is pushed out of view and the first Dr. Lewis-Burke-Robbins appears. Along with the rest of her. Very much not wrapped in a sheet.

“Oh, hi, Spencer. What can we do for you?” the doctor asks with a friendly smile.

Spencer suddenly looks very confused. It seems odd that a doctor would be drawn to a mechanic, but sure, whatever.

“Goodbye, Spencer,” Raven says and start pushing her lover back out of sight.

“Wait, one more question.” Spencer looks down the hall to make sure no more guards are coming while they’re sitting ducks in the middle of this open atrium. “This might sound weird, but have you seen any spiders?”

The door’s already closing as Raven says, “Not in here.”

Spencer jumps back as it shuts loudly in her face, then leans forward and says, “Sorry to bother you,” as loud as she’ll dare. Glancing once more at the large dent, she adds, “Sorry about your door.” There’s no reply from behind it. Another dead end. Time to move on.

“Gym time? Finally?” Faith asks.

Spencer’s not sure what other options they have at this point. If she had thought to use her last question on asking Raven about more things that start with G, they could have new leads. For now, they’ll just have to work with what they have and discuss circling back to bother her again later. Once they’ve finished the sex, perhaps. “Yeah.”

The hall with the other gyms is ahead on the right. Lucy quickly dismembers another Boomer charging out of the Large Arms Room. Spencer is growing strangely accustomed to the violent act now. Lucy, on the other hand, seems to get more invigorated each time. The layer of blood spray on Lucy is evening and thickening with each kill. She looks like Carrie on prom night.

As they reach Gym 1, they assume the same positions as before -- Mack ready to fire, Spencer ready to hit the lights, Faith kicking the door down, and Donna and Lucy standing guard. But it’s just as vacant as the previous ones. It does, however, have the weight machines she’s wondered about since she arrived. There's a lateral press, an elliptical, a pull-up bar, and a bench press with the bar sliding vertically on a track. She doesn’t see any weight rings around. The bench press has a digital display, so she figures the sliding track can be set to provide varying resistance. It’s a clever way to avoid loose objects that the prisoners could pummel each other with. Provided it doesn’t become a guillotine.

Shaking off that image, she quickly goes to investigate the one other set-up in the gym. On the far end is a rickety billiards table with purple felt and, Spencer discovers, no equipment whatsoever. There do seem to be some faded stain splotches in the center of the table, but they’re not blood, so Spencer quickly diverts her thoughts elsewhere and checks the table’s pockets for creepy-crawlies. Nothing. Looking around the abandoned room, she heads for the door and mumbles to herself, “Sorry, Mario, but your princess is in another castle.”

Gyms 2 and 3 are strike-outs as well. There’s no more joy of crossing things off a list now, only ever-increasing panic and fear. They’re running out of options. They’re getting close. There’s only one gym left. Spencer starts back down the hall past the next utility rooms and toward Gym 4. 

This is it.

Of course, thanks to Murphy’s Law, Quinn must be in the very last one they check. Better late than never. Hopefully.

But then, a door opens and Buffy steps into view. She looks as surprised to see them as they are to see her. Taking stock of all the weapons, Buffy’s face drops, like she’s disappointed. “Why wasn’t I invited to the apocalypse?”

Lucy charges at her, chainsaw reared back, and Faith screams loudly, more scared than Spencer’s ever heard her. “NOOO!” Lunging to stop her, Faith grabs at the collar of Lucy’s jumpsuit but misses. Fortunately, Buffy steps quickly out of the way as Lucy’s momentum carries her right on past, and Faith comes in between them and holds a hand up to Lucy. “STOP! Just, stop. I got this one.”

Lucy doesn’t lower the chainsaw but does power it down and take a step back.

“You ‘got this one’?” Buffy leans against the wall, clearly not the least bit threatened, and Spencer realizes their badass gang must look like a joke. “What, exactly, do you think you have, Captain America?”

Faith grins, then turns to face Buffy. In one quick, smooth motion, Faith drops the knife and pins Buffy to the wall, her hands on Buffy’s wrists and one knee between her legs. “You,” Faith says, looking her dead in the eye. Then, Faith kisses Buffy hard and deep without hesitation, biting at her lip, grunting, hands and body pressing into her like making out is an extreme, full-body contact sport. From the look of it, she could’ve made the Olympic team.

Spencer, Mack, Donna, and Lucy can only stand quietly and watch the intense action happening right in front of them. It’s quite mesmerizing, and, Spencer can’t lie -- more than a little hot.

Faith pulls Buffy’s arms down to her side, and, just as swiftly, holds her shoulders and spins the girl around so she’s facing the wall. Buffy slams hard against it, cheek pressed flat, and smiles as Faith pins her wrists behind her back. It’s almost a laugh.

“Tell me what I need to know,” Faith hisses in her ear.

“Make me,” Buffy says, dangerously.

Faith smiles wider and takes both of Buffy’s wrists into one hand, reaching the other around the girl’s waist and diving inside her pants without warning.

Well, okay then. 

Buffy’s panting and moaning, whispering things like, “You’ll never be as strong as I am”  and “You’ve never known love a day in your life”  and “You don’t know how to make anyone happy, not even yourself,”  and it just makes Faith pump her arm harder as she presses their bodies together.

Spencer waits for the interrogation to move along a little faster, but the only thing picking up the pace is Faith’s hand. Is she not going to ask Buffy where Quinn is?

“Tell me,” Faith starts, and Spencer takes a hopeful breath, “how many fingers you use when you fuck yourself thinking of me.”

Okay then.

Buffy whimpers through the grinding, her face smashed against the cold metal. “I’ve been…dead twice…and I still felt…more alive…than when…you’re inside me…”

Faith yanks hard on Buffy’s hair, eliciting a loud moan as her hand moves in a fast blur.

“You know,” Spencer says awkwardly, “I think we’ll just...” She points in the direction they were heading and catches Donna’s eye. Spencer’s used to these kinds of prison hijinks, but the poor woman looks like a deer in headlights. A very virgin deer.

Without another word, Spencer, Lucy, Mack and Donna shuffle away from the sounds of impact and Faith’s grunting. In the distance, Buffy cries, “You’re nothing! You’ll ALWAYS BE NOTHING!...Oh, GOD!...”

As they reach Gym 4, their final destination, Spencer realizes their brute force is now otherwise preoccupied. She’s in charge now. “This is it, you guys.” Spencer says, staring at the door. “Quinn’s in there.” They have a quiet moment, gathering their strength, and Spencer isn’t quite sure how they’re going to pull this off.

“Stand back,” Lucy says, revving up again. She takes out the lock easily but loudly, and Mack is eager to kick the door away this time.

The light’s already on, and it’s instantly clear that Quinn’s not there. Spencer’s heart shatters into a million pieces.

She’s gone.  If she was ever here at all.

Gym 4 is small and doesn’t look much like a gym at all. It has rows of beds with white sheets, and next to each one is a small table with an unmarked bottle of clear gel. It’s the cleanest of all the rooms they’ve checked so far, at least by prison standards. But it’s certainly as empty as the last.

“So, where is she?” Mack asks, frustrated.

Spencer’s pulse is pounding as she fights back tears. She doesn’t know what to do. She hates not knowing what to do. “I don’t know.”

“What sort of gym is this?” Donna asks, walking inside cautiously. “More like a prison spa.” She picks up one of the bottles and looks at it, smells it, then squirts some of the thick, clear liquid into her hands and rubs it on like lotion.

Lucy’s eyes find Spencer’s. “I really thought we might find her here.” Her disappointment is sincere. “We all know Quinn enjoys a good fisting, don’t we Spencer?”

Donna drops the bottle of lube and holds her hands up. “I hate prison,” she mumbles, walking quickly back to the door.

But Spencer’s had it up to here with Lucy’s power trip. She’s pissed and sad and scared out of her mind, and she’s not going to take any more of Lucy’s shit. Not today. Not when their chances of finding Quinn alive just dropped dramatically. If Lucy wants to play Petty Jealous Lover, then fine. Spencer’s good at that game, too.

She heads for the door, passing closely by Lucy to whisper, “She’s still the best thing I’ve ever had inside me,” letting each word ring in Lucy’s ear. Spencer struts on with fire in each step, feeling quite smug. But then she hears the chainsaw rev up again and runs fast to get back into the hallway.

Okay, didn’t think that one through. I see that now.

Their feud isn’t going to get Quinn back any faster. And the sledgehammer’s getting heavier by the minute. Spencer needs a minute to stop and breathe and think or she’s going to break down in full-on panic.

The bathrooms are up ahead, just beyond the library, and Spencer hollers for Donna and Mack to follow and wait for her there. She can hear the echoes of Buffy and Faith still going at it back down the hall. It sounds like Faith’s the one screaming now, but they’re too far away to tell.

Spencer hurries into the bathroom, drops the sledgehammer on the floor, and rushes into a door-less stall. She sits down and buries her face in her hands, letting her emotions catch up to her in this brief moment of privacy.

She let Quinn down. She failed. And now Quinn’s probably dead and half-eaten, god knows where. Just the mental image of Quinn’s face chewed apart like Umbridge’s makes Spencer curl up into a ball on the toilet and press her hands down hard on the back of her head. She squeezes her eyes shut tight, trying to push the picture away, but it only burns it in deeper.

The bathroom door opens without warning and Spencer jumps to pull herself together, sniffling quickly and wiping her tears away. She should probably take care of her business while she’s here. Fortunately, there’s a random smattering of prison-supplied tampons on the counter for the taking.

“Oh, thank god,” Mack says, entering the room and grabbing the nearest peach package. She sets the crossbow down on the sink, lines it up so it’s pointed directly at Spencer, and heads to a toilet.

“Very funny,” Spencer gripes, then bangs a fist on the stall wall between them twice. She’s upset, and hitting something feels good.

From her current position, Spencer has a clear view of the counter space where Quinn fucked her. She only reminisces about that part for a moment, because her mind quickly fills in the details of what came after.

If that meteor hadn’t hit, if Quinn hadn’t gotten stuck, they would’ve been free to kill the spider on the wall. The spider that Lucy has confirmed was in fact Beth, as far as they know. And if Beth had died that day, they’d have no lead at all on where Quinn is now. Not that it’s been any fucking help.

But she can’t give up. There must be something else, something she’s missed. Quinn’s life, if she still has one, depends on it. They’ve already broken out of their cells. The guards are trying to kill them on sight. Spencer has no hopes of ever returning to her family. The only thing she has left is saving Quinn. The only direction to move is forward.

The flush of the toilet next door pulls Spencer out of her daydream. She washes up quickly, sure to throw the wrapper properly in the trash can on her way out. Donna, Lucy, and Mack are waiting for her outside. Spencer’s sure Mack didn’t wash her hands but tries to let it go. Lucy, meanwhile, still looks like she did a swan dive into a pool of red paint. “Did you wanna go wash up?” Spencer says, tentatively.

Lucy just smiles politely back. “No, I’m fine.”

You are the furthest thing from “fine.”

“Now what?” Donna asks. The same question is written across the other girls’ faces.

“I don’t know.” Had they thought she’d come up with some brilliant plan while taking a dump? “Back to square one.”

“What else could ‘G’ stand for?” Lucy asks.

“Guard!” Donna shouts.

“Maybe?” Spencer says with a glimmer of hope at a new lead. “I guess if --”

“No, GUARD!” Donna shouts louder, and they all turn to see yet another charging Boomer.

Before Lucy can rev up her chainsaw, Mack aims and fires an arrow right into the woman’s face. She falls to the ground instantly and doesn’t move to get up. Mack turns back to Spencer and throws the crossbow across her shoulder. “You were saying?”

Spencer’s not sure what’s more surprising, that Mack defended her or that she landed a shot on target. “Thanks?” She shakes off the brutality she just witnessed and does a quick 360-degree visual sweep to ensure they’re alone. “I can’t think of anything else here that begins with a G. It’s not a very common letter to start a word.” Fifteen years of kicking her sister’s ass at Scrabble taught her that.

Mack starts throwing out random G-words in an attempt to help. “G-string… gerbil… gin... gun... grenade... grandma... groping… gogurt… gonorrhea…”

Spencer glares at her.

“Not the typical girl, are you?” Donna says, eyeing Mack suspiciously.

“Girl!” Spencer says, holding up a hand as she adds the word to her mental list. This could be a lead. She looks off to the side so her train of thought won’t be interrupted, but there are still too many possibilities. “Goddamnit,” she mutters in frustration.

“Ooh! ‘God’! That’s another one!” Mack says proudly.

“You think God took her?” Spencer asks dryly. “It’s a person.”

“God’s not a person, shitbrick.” Mack crosses her arms.

“G!”  Spencer says in frustration. “For girl!”

“God’s a girl?” Mack asks.

“Oh, this is fun,” Donna says to no one in particular.

Lucy turns to Spencer. “You think Beth was writing ‘girl’? How does that help? This place has nothing but girls.”

“Girl Been Ate,”  Mack mutters. They all glare.

“Maybe not,” Spencer thinks out loud, “but what if Beth was writing a name?  Not the place where Quinn is, but someone who knows where she’d be. Beth was telling us who to go talk to.”

The group is quiet for a moment, taking that in and running through their mental rosters. Spencer is the first to look up, smiling.

Chapter Text

Spencer leads the team around the corner and up the cell block hall, rapidly checking faces in each one. She knows her destination is close to Quinn’s cell -- her former home -- because she’s passed it a million times.

The prisoners are yelling at them again, wanting to know why they aren’t letting them out, and Spencer almost stops to consider it. These women are pretty tough, and they could be helpful in a fight. It’d sure give the gang a much better chance of outnumbering the Boomers, however many more there are.

But with this latest development -- the idea that one, if not more, of the prisoners is in on Quinn’s capture -- Spencer’s not taking any chances. She’s never trusted these women before, and she doesn’t particularly feel like starting now. Besides, Spencer’s already left them to rot twice now, who’s to say they won’t just shank her right there on the spot? Or sell her out to the next guard they see for a ticket off this death trap? No, it’s better to remain in control, and that means fewer variables.

“Sorry,” she says in turn to each cell as she runs, but she doesn’t really mean it. She sees a new face sitting on a bunk in 8, and Spencer halts. Donna, Mack, and Lucy catch up and stop behind her. “Who are you?”

The tall woman just stares at her, blank-faced. Her black, curly hair and dead eyes match the jumpsuit disturbingly well.

“Oh!” Lucy says, setting down the blood-soaked chainsaw and stepping forward. “Hola nueva prisionera! Me llamo Lucy!”

The woman looks at Lucy, then at Spencer, and says dryly, “Rough night?”

“You could say that,” Spencer replies, relaxing a bit. “I'm Spencer. This is Lucy.”

“Rosa Diaz. You’re here to kill me?” The woman’s voice has the emotional range of a rock, so it comes off as more of a statement. She looks back at Lucy and says, loudly and slowly, “¿VAS A MATARME?”

“What?” Lucy replies. “No. We don’t even know you.”

“Oh. Cool.”

Rosa starts asking what they’re doing there, but Spencer isn’t listening. Her eyes are on the other top bunk where Rosa’s cellmates have just ended a frisky and rigorous makeout session. Kat peers over as the other girl rolls off of her.

Spencer steps forward, resting the twenty-pound sledgehammer on her shoulder. It hurts, but she recovers quickly. “Hello, Graham.”

Graham looks at Lucy, red-splattered chainsaw back in hand, and then to Mack, who’s got the crossbow aimed right at her head. “What’s going on?”

“That’s what we want to know. Where’s Quinn?” Spencer is in full Hastings mode now, and there isn’t time to fuck around.

“In her cell? It’s lockdown.” Graham’s trademark sarcasm is there, but it seems tempered by the barrage of deadly weapons aimed at her face.

“Funny enough, she’s not. And I know you know where she is, so don’t bullshit me.” Spencer nods to her companion and adds, “Lucy’s been cutting through bullshit all night.”

Graham’s eyes widen slightly. “Look, I seriously don’t know, okay? Why would I? I barely know her.”

“Someone we trust sold you out,” Spencer says. “Didn’t even hesitate.” She’s bending the truth now, but that’s what lawyers do, and she’s not about to show this traitor how weak her hand really is.

Graham’s not buying it. “What are you talking about? That’s bullshit. Your ‘friend’ lied to you.”

“She would never lie to me,” Lucy says, starting up the chainsaw.

“We’re gonna open this door,” Spencer yells over the noise, “and you’re gonna take us to Quinn. Right now.”

“I DON’T KNOW WHERE SHE IS,” Graham shouts, desperate and scared. Her cellmates don’t seem to know what to do, caught between wanting to help but really wanting to stay out of the way of the murder weapons. “I SWEAR!”

“Look, just stay back!” Kat yells, but it’s lost over the sound of the chainsaw.

Spencer nods to Donna, who pulls out the sonic screwdriver and opens the door. All three girls inside jump back, looking far more scared now that there’s nothing between them and certain death. Spencer motions to Graham to get down and come out, but Graham furiously shakes her head.

Oh, fuck this.

Spencer heads right for her, grabbing Graham’s leg and attempting to pull her off the bed, but Graham’s kicking and screaming and not giving up without a fight. Kat swoops down and punches Spencer in the eye, then immediately retreats as Lucy storms in, chainsaw buzzing even more loudly now that the sound’s trapped in this tiny room. Spencer recovers and grabs on to both of Graham’s feet to keep them from kicking her in the face as they’re yelling at each other.

“STAY BACK,” Spencer yells to Lucy, but it’s lost in the roar of noise. Before she realizes what’s happening, Lucy steps up and saws off both of Graham’s still-kicking legs at the knee in quick succession, leaving Spencer holding two very bloody and very detached ankles.

The screams of horror from Graham, Kat, and Spencer ring out over the hum of the machine. With a foot on the bed frame, Lucy drives the end into Graham’s chest. It catches on her ribcage, jerking and sputtering, as the rotating chain sprays blood all over the wall, bed, Lucy herself, Spencer, and even Rosa and Kat on the far side. She manages to pull it free and turn the machine off as it whines against the threads of guts now caught in its gears.

Only when it fully stops can Spencer’s panicked voice be heard. “WHY! WHY DID YOU DO THAT! SHE WAS OUR ONLY LEAD.”

Spencer freezes in horror as she realizes she’s still holding the severed limbs and shaking them for emphasis as she speaks. She tosses them aside with a shudder, and one flies across the cell to where Kat is cowering by the toilet. It hits her right in the face. Kat screams again.

“You said that last time,” Lucy replies, pushing flesh chunks off the chains with the sleeve of her jumpsuit. “It still isn’t true.” She blinks and wipes at her eyes with her knuckles. It doesn’t remove any blood, just smears it around. “She didn’t know anything,” she says to Spencer.

“WE DON’T KNOW THAT.”

Lucy is unfazed. She shrugs and says, “I did.”

“SO, WE TURN AND WALK AWAY. WE DON’T JUST KILL PEOPLE FOR FUN. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Lucy stares Spencer down but doesn’t reply. Instead, she turns to address Graham’s cellmates. “Does anyone else know where Quinn might be?” she asks calmly.

Kat shakes her head, pissing herself in fear and crying softly.

“No,” Rosa says. “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Her deadpan delivery and stern face suggest otherwise, but Spencer rolls with it.

“Thank you,” Lucy politely replies and turns to leave, fresh blood dripping off her clothes in a trail as she passes through the open door.

“Will you be my new best friend?” Rosa calls after her. “Amiga?”

Spencer shudders again as she exits the cell and slams the door.

****************

She’s going to be sick.

Once Spencer’s out of cell 8, she’s running down the corridor, back toward the bathrooms. There was a toilet in the cell, but there was a leg next to it, and she needed to get the hell out of there. Fast. And now she’s unarmed and running off alone, but she doesn’t care.

This whole thing has gotten way out of hand. It was supposed to be easy. The gyms were the clear answer. Why wasn’t she there?  And Graham was a good lead. It made sense, right? The spiders must be getting help from someone. It’s possible Graham still knew something. It’s possible Lucy was wrong. They didn’t just dismember and eviscerate an innocent girl in cold blood for nothing.

Right?

Spencer doesn’t quite make it in time and vomits all over the bathroom counter. The same counter where…

This place ruins everything. Everyone.

She opens her eyes and watches her reflection in the mirror. It’s a little blurred through the plexiglass, but Spencer can see clearly enough what a monster she’s become. Her face is red with spray, and bits of flesh and tissue hang from her hair. She retches again, coughing painfully, and presses her forehead against the hard counter to cry.

I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.

She doesn’t even know who she’s apologizing to. Graham. Quinn. Herself.

She’s shaking, clutching the knobs of the faucet just to have something to hold on to. There’s not much in the sink; her stomach hasn’t been full for months. Spencer turns on the cold and rinses the contents down the open drain without looking, then splashes a handful of water on her face. Wiping away the first layer of blood, she opens her eyes just enough to watch the red swirls dance in the basin before they slip away. There seems to be a little soap left in the dispenser, but it won’t be enough.

She’s seen death before. She’s killed before. But this all feels out of her control. She’s no longer behind bars, but she’s never felt so trapped. There are literally space monsters circling her, drawn by the blood soaked into her uniform, and a swarm of silent killers lurking somewhere in these walls. She’s surrounded by certain death. She can’t fight back against an enemy she can’t see.

Spencer scrubs harder, clawing at her skin and rubbing hard against her cheekbones. She holds her whole head under the faucet and tears at her hair, pulling over and over and over as she sobs. It’ll never feel clean. She'll never be clean of this.

She screams into the sink, feeling the waves bounce back against her face. It’s deafening, and it’s the last ounce of energy Spencer has to give. She’s dehydrated, exhausted, and completely empty inside. There’s nothing left. This place has taken everything.

She wants to go home.

She wants to go back to her old life and her old friends, before she knew any of these terrible people in this terrible place. She wishes she never met any of them. Wishes she didn’t care about any of them. How in the world did she delude herself into thinking she might actually find love here? Surrounded by killers and monsters? She fell for a goddamn serial killer, for christ’s sake. Looking for something undefinable with someone unredeemable. That’s ambitious even for Hastings’ standards. And look where it’s gotten her.

Spencer opens her eyes and takes in her ragged, worn reflection. Eyes red and sunken, hair oily and limp, skin pale and deprived of vitamins for months now. It’s getting harder to remember what she used to look like. Clean, healthy, makeup and a new outfit -- It all feels so foreign now, like a good dream she used to have. Her life is never going to get any better. This is it for her, for them. Horrible as this day has been, she’s come too far now to go back. She can’t bring back the lives they’ve taken. She can’t run forever from the hell Sue’s going to rain down on them when they’re caught. And she sure as hell can’t go home ever again.

But if she’s going to die today – and it seems pretty likely – she’s going to die for something.

She’s a Hastings, goddamnit.

****************

“Okay.” Spencer’s pulled herself together as much as she can and reconvened with the group in the hall. They need to keep moving. Her little breakdown just set them back another ten minutes at least. She brushes her hair out of her face and looks around, trying to plan their next move. “I think we’ve been thinking too inside the box. If the spiders don’t want Quinn to be found, they must have her somewhere off the grid.”

“It’s a spaceship,” Donna says. “Only so many places to hide.”

“Not when we don’t know where to look,” Spencer points out.

“So, what now?” Mack asks, “You think we should bang down every single door?”

“You said to only look for the letter G,” Donna says, frustrated. “That’s clearly not working.”

Lucy exhales a heavy sigh. “We must have passed a dozen classrooms and closets. Now you think she could be in any of them?”

“Tell that to Legless back there,” Donna huffs.

“No,” Spencer says, “if we’d passed Quinn, we would’ve found a clue or something. We need to keep moving forward.”

Mack looks behind Spencer into their unchartered territory, which is all too familiar. “To the caf?” she scoffs.

“Wouldn’t someone have found her there by now?” Donna asks.

Mack turns to Spencer. “If you’re craving some fish taco, just say so.”

Donna frowns.

“I’m not --” Spencer starts.

“It does seem a bit obvious as a location,” Lucy agrees, “if you’re going to be eating someone.”

Donna makes a worse face.

“I miss Santana,” Lucy adds wistfully.

“Oh, please don’t--” Donna starts, covering her mouth with her hand.

“I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE CAFETERIA,” Spencer snaps, and the others jump back. Holding out a hand to Donna impatiently, she says, “Map, please?!” Spencer unfolds it and points to the entrance to a hallway running alongside the Mess Hall. There’s one on the opposite side, too. Spencer’s never really thought about them before now, but it’s the last place left to look. “That.

“Oh,” says Lucy.

Mack makes a face at Spencer and starts walking toward the hall on the left side.

“Should we split up?” Donna asks, but Spencer shakes her head.

“We have no idea how many guards could be back there. Something tells me it’s a lot.”

As they turn the corner to enter the hallway, Spencer sees a sign on the wall.

← MESS HALL

← CELL BLOCK

← CLASSROOMS

FOOD STORAGE →

SOLITARY WARD →

WASTE REMOVAL →

Bingo. “Come on,” Spencer says, motioning for the group to continue down the hall to the right. “This way.”

“You can’t be serious,” Mack says, staring at the end of the list. “You think they’ve got Quinn in the shit tank?”

Donna considers it. “Last place I’d want to look.”

“Yeah, you kids have fun,” Mack waves and turns to go back the way they came.

“No, you ass,” Spencer says. “If there’s a secret part of this ship or a passageway we don’t know about, we need to ask someone who’s been here a long time.”

“If I knew, I’d tell you,” Lucy says. “I don’t.”

Spencer shakes her head. “Longer.” The others stare, confused. Spencer points to the SOLITARY sign. “Ellen Ripley.”

There’s an awkward silence.

“Bullshit.” Mack certainly hopes she's bluffing. “Even you’re not that stupid.”

“Is this the woman from that file you saw?” Donna asks. She doesn't sound thrilled by the prospect. “The one who killed people for Christmas?”

“She’s been here longer than anyone. Longer than Sue, longer than you,” Spencer looks at Lucy. “We should at least talk to her. She’s locked up. It’s not like she can hurt us.”

“Not for six more months, anyway,” Lucy adds absently.

“Anyone have any better ideas?” As they begin walking again, Spencer says, “I don’t want to waste any more time. There are still parts of the ship we haven’t seen. We didn’t even know this thing had two levels until an hour ago. If she’s not up here, then she’s down there. There has to be a way.”

“I’ve never seen any signs for stairs,” Mack says.

“What are stairs?” Lucy asks. “Are they like stars?”

Spencer just sighs and says, “I’ll let you know if I see any.”

As they make their way around the outside of the cafeteria, they pass the door for waste removal, but it’s sealed and bolted shut. Not even Lucy’s chainsaw can cut through it, which means spiders probably can’t either.

Spencer leads the group onward. “Keep your eyes peeled for anywhere they could be keeping her. Something you usually wouldn’t notice. Something subtle. Or anything that looks like a way down.”

“What about a way up?” Donna says. The question brings the group to a halt. She’s standing still and looking up toward the ceiling where there’s an open panel leading into darkness. It seems like it’s supposed to be there, but Spencer’s quite curious all the same. It’s about ten feet over their heads and very much out of reach. The other women gather around and peer up at it.

“What do you think is up there?” Spencer asks.

“QUINN?!” Mack yells, but Spencer quickly shushes her. They’ve been lucky not to see any guards for a while. But for all she knows, this could be one giant trap.

On the other hand, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibilities for the spiders to be floating people up into the ceiling where no one can get them down. It’s quite brilliant, she realizes. And it makes Spencer even more anxious to see what’s hiding up there. “Here, hoist me up.”

“Yeah, that’s hilarious,” Mack says.

“I’m serious. The three of you can hold me. I think I can grab the edge and pull myself up.” When they all continue to stare are her, she snaps, “Quinn could be up there!”

It takes a minute of awkward adjustments, but eventually they position Donna as the base. She lunges for Spencer to stand on her thigh, then Lucy and Mack each push upward on Spencer’s feet to lift her as high as they can.

“Where’s…Faith…when you…need her,” Mack grits, trembling as she hoists Spencer up.

Spencer stretches hard to reach and is just barely able to curl her fingers around the ceiling ledge. “Got it!” she says, and Mack immediately falls away, leaving Lucy supporting Spencer’s full weight without warning. “Keep pushing!” Spencer cries, kicking her free leg as if that would help.

Donna reaches out to take the flailing foot and heave Spencer upward. “Pull! Go, go, go!”

Grimacing against the sharp edges of metal under her fingers, Spencer grunts and pulls hard, barely managing to get most of her weight over the threshold. She swings her left leg up and rolls over, panting for a moment and staring up into the darkness as her comrades cheer down below.

“Is she up there?” Mack calls.

“What do you see?” says Lucy.

But all Spencer sees is a tiny metal room, not even big enough to stand in. It's more like a crawl space. Its purpose, it seems, is to house a small electrical panel in the wall. It’s been ripped out, though – still connected, but the wires are an absolute mess. It’s clear they’ve been cut and frayed and spliced back together. No way Spencer is touching that.

“It’s some kind of electrical unit,” she calls down. “I can’t tell what it is.”

“Does it matter?” Mack retorts. “If Quinn’s not there, just come back down already.”

“Hang on a second.” Spencer squints as her eyes adjust to the shadows and the green and red LED lights on the panel. There aren’t many words printed on it, but even just a clue would let her know if this is a lead worth pursuing. And that’s when she sees it – a circular dial with the reading 9.807.

Any straight-A student knows that number. 9.807 meters per second squared. Earth’s gravitational constant.

Peeking her head over the edge, she calls down, “You guys, I think I just found the machine that creates gravity on the ship.”

“The G-SPOT,” Lucy says, and Mack stifles a laugh.

“The what?”  Spencer asks. Donna’s face seems to ask the same question.

“The Gravitational System Permitting Outerspace Travel,” Lucy supplies matter-of-factly. “I wondered where it was. Every ship has one. Typically up high, hard to find.”

Spencer’s mouth falls open and closed again. There’s really nothing she can say to that. But then she realizes, “This must be the G that Sue was talking about. She said she wanted a status report from Raven.”

Mack looks at Lucy and says smoothly, “You ever need help finding your G-spot, just holler.” Lucy glares and holds her chainsaw a little tighter.

Donna calls up, “So, you don’t think it’s just this Raven girl who’s been turning the gravity off, then?”

“Not last night. These wires are all chewed up.” Spencer can’t think of any reason why Raven would destroy something she then has to repair when she could just turn it off instead. “Someone messed with it who didn’t want it to be fixed.” Spencer imagines them crawling along the walls in the night, up here undetected, knowing right where to go and what to do. The whole thing makes her shiver.

These are some pretty fucking smart little spiders.

Knowing they were here recently also makes her want to get the hell out of there.

“Here, help me down,” she says. “Wait…put the weapons over there first, please.” She flattens herself against the floor. Slowly, Spencer lowers her legs, then carefully finds footholds on Mack and Lucy again. Dropping to the ground with a huff, she brushes the dust off her uniform and shakes out her hair. “Well, at least that’s one mystery solved.”

“Yeah, good work, Sherlock Homo,” Mack says. “Can we go now? I wanna swing by the kitchen and swipe some bread for my new batch. Oh, and I also don’t want my friend to be dead.

Spencer stares at her, grabs the sledgehammer off the floor, and continues onward down the hall. “This way.”

Chapter Text

“Should we circle back for Faith?” Lucy asks as they get further and further from the classes corridor. It has been quite a long time.

Spencer looks down the hall behind them, but Faith’s not coming. At least not that kind of coming. “We’ll catch up to her later.”

They take off at a brisk pace, but then Spencer slows as they seem to be getting close to Solitary. She is only just now thinking about what kind of safeguards might be in place. If this is the high-security section, are they even going to be able to get to Ripley? How many other prisoners will be back here? And, most importantly, how many guards?

The four women reach a clearing as the hallway widens, and Spencer realizes they’re at the very back of the kitchen. Even without the map, the smells of rotten food and general cafeteria ickiness would’ve given it away. There's an open space now that connects them to the parallel hallway along the other side of the cafeteria, their proverbial road not traveled. Spencer makes a mental note to go back that way when they return. If the grav control (she refuses to call it the G-SPOT) was on this side, there could be something important over there, too.

Ahead of her is a giant wall with the hallways continuing on either side and a giant sign.

^ SOLITARY WARD ^

Spencer gulps. Here goes nothing. “You guys ready?” she turns to ask.

The others nod and ready their weapons. Mack scowls and waves at the air saying, “Anywhere but here.” But before Spencer can raise her sledgehammer, something catches her eye. On the rear wall of the kitchen, next to a door into the facility, is a handle on a panel in the wall with clear, large red letters above it. They’d just walked right past it.

GARBAGE

Wrapped around the handle is a mess of jumbled yellow thread, dropping all the way down to the floor. And the chute’s slightly open – just enough space for something small to slip through.

“Oh my god,” Spencer says, dropping her hammer to the ground and running. The other three quickly see what she sees and follow.

Spencer pulls the handle and is immediately overwhelmed with the stench rising from the open garbage chute. It’s about two feet wide and eighteen inches deep, certainly wide enough for a large bag of trash to fit. Or a person.

“How did I not think of this?” Spencer berates herself as she starts to pace in the hallway. “It’s not like garbage isn’t a common word! Why would spiders live in a gymnasium? What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Hey!” Donna says, taking hold of Spencer’s shoulders. “It’s alright, yeah? We figured it out.”

Her voice is comforting, and Spencer’s glad someone’s here who wants to take care of her, even though she can take care of herself. She’s so tired. So very, very tired.

“I know you don’t want to look down there,” Donna continues, and Spencer is grateful for the offer she’s anticipating. If Donna will look instead, Spencer never has to risk seeing Quinn stuffed down in a garb—”but you’re gonna have to,” Donna says, “because I think we’re all about to retch.”

Sure enough, Mack’s turning green and holding her hand over her mouth. Lucy seems fine, but that’s not exactly surprising.

Spencer steels herself and leans over, looking down into the chute. It takes all her willpower to not puke into the open tunnel, herself. It’s dark and deep, maybe twenty feet or more. Then, taking a risk, she calls, “Quinn?”  but receives no reply. No scuttling up the sides to attack her, either. “I don’t see her,” Spencer says, covering her nose. “I think there’s definitely…” she chooses her words carefully, “something in here, but I can’t see. It could just be trash.”

“Or it could be our friends,” Mack says, instantly regretting releasing the hold on her nose.

Spencer squints and tries to adjust to the darkness. She can’t see just where the bottom is, but there is definitely light coming from the other end, like it feeds into a room far below.

Level 1.  That’s it.

But some of the light is blocked by whatever’s in the tunnel. Or whoever. Spencer’s glad she didn’t see “Furnace” anywhere on the map. Still, they need more answers. Now.  “Okay, yeah, it’s really far down. It goes to the first floor, whatever’s down there.”

“The lab?” Lucy asks.

“Maybe? I can’t tell. But we have to find a way.”

Mack raises her free hand. “If you need a volunteer to shove you down–”

“Ha ha. It’s blocked,” Spencer says. “I’d jump down but I couldn’t get back out. We have to come at this from the other side.”

“Assuming she’s even in there,” Lucy adds.

“It’s the best lead we have. How do you explain this?” Spencer grabs the yellow thread wrapped around the handle. “The spiders cut the gravity, then pull on this to open it and float someone in. When Raven turns the gravity back on, the person falls, and they eat them at the bottom. Nobody investigates it because it’s supposed to smell bad in here. Whatever they don’t finish goes out with the other kitchen trash. It’s genius.”

The others don’t seem thrilled by this theory but can’t argue with it, either. It does make sense. In fact, it’s the first thing they’ve found all day that does.

“So, you’re saying Quinn’s in there, half-eaten or whatever,” Mack says, disheartened. “That’s it, then.” She drops her arms to her sides and turns away.

“That’s not what I said. We don’t know if she’s in there. But we do know we have to get down there. Now. If there’s any chance of saving her.” Spencer takes a breath. “And that means we keep going. Ripley’s still our best shot of finding a way to the lower level.”

“Whatever,” Mack says and picks up her crossbow angrily.

Spencer whispers, “We’re coming,” and closes the chute with her words trapped inside, hoping they’ll float down to the ears they need to reach.

****************

They reach a right turn as the hall ends, and Spencer immediately puts out her arms and pushes everyone back around the corner and out of sight. There is a blonde woman standing guard, facing away from them and pacing. She’s wearing a tight, maroon leather suit that makes her look very intimidating, certainly more than the regular guards. It appears she’s standing in front of another hallway that must have the Solitary prisoners, but Spencer can’t quite see.

Given the nature of Solitary housing the roughest criminals, Spencer originally anticipated this would be the most heavily guarded area of the prison, but that was before she found the spiders’ probable dumping grounds. If her new theory is right, and this end of the prison is mostly forgotten, something finally might be going their way. “Okay,” she breathes in a hushed whisper, “there’s just one.”

“No problem,” says Lucy, stepping forward with her chainsaw.

Spencer grabs her and yanks her back. “NO!  NO MORE KILLING.”

Lucy looks confused, but Spencer’s more than ready for a new approach. “It’s too loud. We can’t draw any more attention. We’re cornered. If we get flanked by more guards, we can’t get out. We do this quietly.”

Lucy sighs and lowers her weapon.

“I think I can get to Ripley if I can sneak past her,” Spencer gestures to the guard with her head. “Maybe if one of you distracts her somehow, I --”

“DIBS!” Mack whispers so loudly Spencer has to shush and berate her. Someone’s mood seems to have dramatically improved by this turn of events.

She shouldn’t be surprised, Spencer realizes. This woman is practically a more adult version of Quinn. Well, if Quinn dressed like Mistress Berry. Checking to be sure the guard is still unaware of their presence, Spencer says, “Fine. Circle around to the other side and draw her that way. You two stay here in case something goes wrong.”

Donna nods, but Lucy sighs again, looking very bored and disappointed.

“Go,” Spencer says to Mack, who sets down the crossbow quietly on the floor and takes off, doubling back to where they found the garbage chute. It takes less than a minute, and then Spencer sees Mack strolling out the opposite hallway, about thirty feet away, heading right for the guard like she’s God’s gift to women.

“Hey there.” The guard turns instantly. “I’m Mack. Just thought you should know what name you’ll be screaming later.”

Spencer’s face falls into her hands. Oh my god.

The guard tilts her head curiously and steps forward with confidence, not taking her eyes off Mack. “You’re in violation of lockdown, inmate,” she says gravely.

“That’s a hell of an outfit,” Mack says. “Think I could talk you out of it?”

Spencer’s cringing at every word, but it’s certainly doing the trick. The guard’s leaving her post. Spencer tiptoes out and starts toward the hallway to Solitary. The guard’s now only about five feet from Mack, and Spencer has no idea what’s about to happen.

“Look, I don’t have a lot of time here,” Mack starts again with a confident, cheesy grin. “My face is leaving in ten minutes. Will you be on it or not?”

That stops Spencer in her tracks, and her sledgehammer clangs as it hits the ground. “Really?!”

Shit.

The guard turns and glares at Spencer, fire in her eyes.

“Hey!” Mack shouts and grabs her shoulder, but the guard pulls her weapon from her holster -- a maroon baton that perfectly matches her outfit -- and pushes the end into Mack’s ribcage. Mack instantly crumples to the ground, screaming and writhing in agony, like it’s some kind of taser.

Spencer can’t see what’s happening to Mack from this angle, but it sounds awful. So awful, in fact, that Spencer doesn’t see Lucy running in with her weapon raised. With a quick pull on the chain and a battle cry, Lucy plunges the end of the chainsaw straight into the guard’s back so it’s sticking a foot out the other side. Blood sprays all over the weak, crying Mack.

“LUCY!” Spencer screams.

Lucy retracts the saw and the guard falls to the ground. She powers down her machine and turns to Spencer, blinking through the fresh layer of blood on her face. “What?”

Spencer is in shock. She doesn’t even know what to say.

“She was going to kill you,” Lucy says. Removing the small loop of three keys from the guard’s belt, she walks past Spencer toward the Solitary unit as if she’d done nothing more than squash a bug.

Spencer takes a deep breath and reassesses the scene. Mack’s not going anywhere, at least not right now. Spencer’s team is dropping like flies. “Stay with her?” she says to Donna, who nods.

Fortunately, it looks like Spencer was right; there’s only the one guard in this ward. There are three large doors -- two opposite each other on the left and right, and one facing her on the end. There are no signs or markings or numbers. Each door is large and blue with a small square window (covered) and a heavy horizontal bar. Spencer starts with the door on the right, lifting the hinged metal plate to look through the window. The cell is small, dingy, and empty, containing only a crude toilet and a bare mattress on the metal floor. She peers into the second cell, the one in the center, and is met with two stern, brown eyes staring right back at her.

Spencer screams and jumps back as the flap clangs shut.

She takes a few steadying breaths and cautiously approaches the window again, preparing for what’s on the other side. She prays there isn’t more than one “very dangerous” prisoner here. Other than the one already traveling with her, anyway.

“Ellen Ripley?” she says. No response.

But this time, she keeps looking inside. The prisoner is sitting on the mattress with her elbows on her knees. Her uniform is so faded it’s become gray and riddled with holes. One hand is buried in a mop of curly brown hair that’s sure to be a home for god knows what else. The smell from the cell is unbearable.

“Are you Ellen Ripley?” Spencer repeats.

The woman keeps staring back. “You’re new,” she says, moving her hand down. Her voice sounds weak, like it’s been unused for quite some time. “What happened to Cara?”

Who?

Oh…the guard.  “Cara? Oh, she’s…” Spencer half-glances behind her and quickly recovers. “…indisposed. But we don’t have much time. I’m an inmate. We broke out to find my friend who’s been kidnapped by…something loose on the ship. I was hoping maybe you knew something about that.”

Ripley doesn’t blink or flinch or react at all and still isn’t breaking her stare. There’s something hiding behind her eyes. Spencer can see it even from this distance. Whether Ripley’s searching look is an accusation or a silent interrogation, Spencer isn’t sure. But there’s definitely more to this.

“Just how big are these ‘somethings’?” Ripley finally asks.

Spencer holds up her finger and thumb about an inch apart, high enough for Ripley to be seen through the window.

Ripley releases the air from her lungs and relaxes, as if she had been scared of much worse. “No,” she says, turning away. “I don’t.” She lies back down and stares at the wall, adding, “Sorry,” as an afterthought.

Spencer takes a breath and steadies herself. “You’re lying.”

The traces of sympathy in Ripley’s voice are fading fast. “I haven’t stepped outside that door in a year and a half. What makes you think I’d know about anything happening on this ship?”

“We just killed a dozen guards to get to you,” Spencer says. “I’m not leaving here without answers.”

Ripley turns back at this with renewed interest and sits up again to prop herself up on her hand. “We?” She pauses. “This is a low-security facility. There aren’t a dozen guards to kill.”

Spencer turns and calls behind her, “Hey,” motioning Lucy over. “Come say hi.”

A blood-covered face steps in front of the open window. “Hello, Ellen.” The friendly tone contrasts with the ghastly sight of her; a perfect encapsulation of the walking paradox that has always been Lucy Fabray. “I hope you had a lovely holiday. We missed you.”

Standing and walking over to the window without a word, Ripley takes a closer look at Lucy, or as much of her as she can see through the small frame. The gut-splattered chainsaw is still firmly in hand. Her pink uniform is a solid maroon and crusty with stray bits of entrails.

“Looks like you’ve had a fun day,” Ripley says, dryly.

“I really have,” Lucy replies, like someone freshly rejuvenated after a nice long vacation.

Ripley looks at Spencer. “So, are you here to let me out or kill me?”

“That depends,” Spencer says. She’s back in the power position, where she feels most comfortable. Just like her mother. “Why do you kill other inmates? Not a fan of the holiday spirit?”

Ripley’s face flinches ever so slightly at the words. “I’ve never killed anyone,” she says firmly.

Lucy raises an eyebrow with an air of superiority, but Spencer furrows her brow. “That’s not what I hear.”

“They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I don’t know, they seem pretty sure to me.” As do the forms in her file to back it up. “I’ve got names. Kennedy. Xena. Carmilla. The list goes on.”

“THEY’RE LYING.” With a quick step forward, Ripley gets in Spencer’s face, spitting mad. “Do I look like a cold-blooded killer to you?” The question bounces loudly throughout the metal corridor, echoing doubt and desperation as it travels.

Please don’t make me answer that.

It seems this interrogation is going to get heated if it’s going to be successful. Realizing the noise could draw more guards in their direction, Spencer says quietly to Lucy, “Go stand watch?” The blonde tightens the hold on her weapon and heads back toward the entrance without a word, casting one last glance at Ripley.

Spencer’s clearly trying Ripley’s patience, but that isn’t going to make her give up now. Her questions may be numbered. Hell, her days – her hours – may be numbered, especially if she keeps poking this caged bear. But the emotion in the woman’s voice gives Spencer pause. Regret is written all over Ripley’s face, and Spencer can’t figure out what isn’t adding up. This doesn’t sound like a woman who relishes in murder, not like Lucy. She doesn’t look at all like someone chomping at the bit to get out and kill people. No, Ripley seems devastated and hopeless, like she’s suffered and lost. She sounds broken. 

Maybe Ripley’s telling the truth, or maybe it’s all an act. Spencer doesn’t have much time to find out, so she’ll have to follow her instincts. “If you’re not a mass murderer, why are you in Solitary?”

“If I were killing people on Christmas, why would Sue keep letting me out?” Ripley counters.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“And you didn’t think about mine. I’m not a criminal, I’m a prisoner. My ship, the Nostromo, was attacked by an alien monster that eviscerated my entire crew.” (Spencer’s eyes go wide, but she is too terrified to interrupt.) “I was sent to the Uterius under quarantine, but I was released from the lab after four weeks.”

“You know about the lab?” Spencer asks with renewed interest.

“Sometimes I can hear it,” Ripley says. Spencer almost writes off the comment as the ramblings of an insane woman, but then she adds, “It’s right below us.”

Spencer looks at the floor stupidly, as if she’d be able to see right through the layers of metal paneling. But if Ripley’s right, she suddenly feels very uneasy standing here. There could be spiders crawling up through the vents as they speak.

 

“They let me live like a person,” Ripley explains. “Even under watch, I had actual quarters and real food. Then one day, the government sent the prison new leadership.” Her face makes it clear who she means. “Sue read my file and moved me here like it was nothing. Some bullshit about ‘unknown incubation periods’ and not trusting I wasn’t ‘a host waiting to hatch and destroy us all.’ It’d been ten years. I tried telling her the incubation period was a matter of hours, but she wouldn’t listen. She was scared.”

Spencer can’t blame her. But, scared enough to fabricate a stack of false reports of violence just to keep Ripley locked away? It seems a bit extreme.

“I’ve never given anyone reason to fear me,” Ripley says. “Sue keeps me in here because she doesn’t want to admit she was wrong. I think she was letting me out on Christmas as some kind of fucked-up apology. And now she doesn’t even do that anymore.”

“Why?” Spencer asks, simply.

“I don’t know. Something changed,” Ripley says. It’s clear she has turned this same question over and over again in her mind. Maybe every minute for the last five months. “You’ve been here, what, a year?”

“Three months,” Spencer corrects, sounding a bit more sheepish than she’d like.

Ripley laughs at the idea of someone so green. “I’ve taken shits longer than that.” Spencer makes a face, but Ripley doesn’t back down. “You have no idea what you’re up against.”

“So, tell me! Tell me what happens here! Because it’s happening to my friend Quinn right now.”  She doesn’t have time for this crap. Plus, who knows how much longer Lucy can hold out without killing something. “There are spiders on this ship, and I think you know where they come from, and you know that they take people in the night and eat them.” The look on Ripley’s face, complete shock and disbelief, tells Spencer she’s wrong, but she pushes anyway. “So, how about you start telling me something useful, or we walk away and leave you here to keep rotting.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“Don’t you?” Spencer presses. “You’ve been on this ship longer than anybody. You’ve got to know something!”

“I swear, I don’t know what you’re talking –”

“Do you think they’ll come kill you next if you talk? We can stop them. Just help us!”

“I don’t know about any spiders!” Ripley says firmly.

Spencer’s voice is rising now, too. “Yes, you do, I know you do. They’re hiding somewhere in this ship. Tell me where!”

“I don’t know.”

“TELL ME!”

“I. DON’T. KNOW.”

Spencer’s fighting back tears. She bangs her fist on the door, screaming. “SHE’S GOING TO DIE.”

Ripley shouts, “SHE’S ALREADY GONE,” and slams her hand hard against the door.

Spencer’s blood runs cold. The buzzing of their voices reverberates through the cell and down the hall behind her before it gradually dies. But the words ring in Spencer’s ears over and over.

She's already gone.

“Not your friend,” Ripley corrects quietly, a bit embarrassed by her outburst. “Mine. I don’t know anything about yours. I’m sorry.”

Air begins to flow into Spencer’s lungs again and she closes her eyes for a moment, letting the relief and return of hope wash over her. It’s not over. Not yet. Quinn’s still alive. She has to be. Looking at Ripley with renewed determination, she says, “Tell me about her,” hoping this gentler prompt might yield a useful response.

Ripley smiles bleakly, like everything is behind her and she knows her life is at its end. “Jenette was…everything. After losing my ship, my crew, myself...I found her. And every year, I had to choose. They made me choose.”

“Choose what?”

“Who had to go,” Ripley says darkly.

The air in Spencer’s chest feels trapped once more. This conversation is not good for her health.

“There’s an amnesty program in the space prison system,” Ripley explains. “To make room for new inmates. Because this is a low-security facility, anyone who’s been here at least two years with a perfect record of good behavior can be released early, regardless of the crime. One person at the end of each year.”

Oh. She heaves a sigh of relief. This so-called program is news to Spencer, but she hasn’t yet been here at a year’s end to find out if it’s legit. Still, it seems like good gossip that people would be talking about if it were a real thing.

“Every Christmas Eve," Ripley says, "Sue comes and offers me the same deal. I can choose from the list of eligible candidates, or she can let Jenette go. If I choose from the list, I can spend Christmas with Jenette. But if I let her go, I don’t even get to say goodbye.”

Assuming this isn’t a steaming hot bowl of bullshit, Spencer’s mind reels at the thought of having to make this difficult choice not just once but over and over. To fixate on it every year, knowing it’s coming, and torture yourself with the various consequences of either decision.

“But, if she’s on the list, then what’s the issue?” Spencer asks, and Ripley laughs softly.

“She’s not. Jenette’s not exactly known for good behavior. That’s why she didn’t know it was even an option for her to leave. Most inmates forget about it because there’s no way they'll go that long without a write-up. But Sue was going to shred her file and expunge her record, or at least that’s what she told me.” Ripley pauses for a moment before continuing. “I’ve made the same selfish choice for ten years, exchanging ten years of a life she could’ve lived outside these walls, all so I could have ten afternoons of holding her.” Her guilt seems so crushing, she probably has never said these words out loud before. “But I guess Sue finally got tired of asking me, because I didn’t get the visit this year. Maybe Jenette got released after all. Maybe Sue told her I was the one keeping her here. She could’ve been vented into space, for all I know. I haven’t heard anything about her all year.” She thinks for a beat. “Maybe your spiders ate her.”

Spencer’s eyes go wide, running down the list of bodies thus far. Jenette…“Wait, are you talking about Jenny Schecter?”

Ripley scowls. “No!” She seems offended by the implication. “Jenette Vasquez.”

OH. “Vasquez,” Spencer repeats.

Ripley nods. She looks absolutely heart-broken.

“Vasquez is fine,” Spencer says with a “What have you been smoking?”  tone.

Ripley looks up, eyes filled with light like Spencer’s never seen. “What?”

“She’s down the hall. I just saw her a few hours ago.”

“Are you sure?” Her voice is thick with hope and desperation.

“Short hair? Tough as nails? Obnoxiously arrogant? Yeah, she’s right down there,” Spencer says.

“Let me out,” Ripley commands.

“Not until you give me something I can use.” Spencer crosses her arms. Hastings aren’t heartless, but they’re not stupid either. This amnesty program could be a total ruse. Sure, maybe Ellen Ripley is the Mother Teresa of space prison. Or maybe the rumors are true and there’s a pile of bodies hidden in a closet somewhere. Spencer’s seen stranger things today.

Ripley leans forward with her hands on the door, hiding her eyes against her shoulder. It’s clear she is only barely holding her shit together at this point. “I have to see her. Please. Will you at least go get her?”

Spencer has to give credit to Sue –- This is clearly some powerful leverage.

“Tell me how to access to the lower level,” Spencer says. “That’s where we think she is.”

Ripley’s caught between excitement and despair. “I don’t know where the stairs are, but I can help you. Take me to Vasquez. We’ll help you look.”

Now it’s Spencer who shakes her head. “I don’t think so.” She pauses to consider her options. “I go get Vasquez, and if she backs up your story, then I let you out.”

“No, you can’t tell her about Sue. I can’t…” Ripley regains her composure as best she can. “Don’t make me tell her what I’ve done.” She looks right through Spencer with hollow eyes. “She’s all I have to live for.”

It seems sincere, and Spencer gets it. After only three months she’d sell out a lot of people in this place for the chance to spend an afternoon with her friends again. And just like Spencer has this mission, this mystery, this drive within her to figure out just what the hell is going on in here, everyone needs something to keep them going.

She sighs and looks Ripley over one more time. She could just walk away and not risk it. Chalk up another dead end. She’s already given Ripley the gift of knowledge that the love of her life is alive and close. Hope is priceless in a place like this. But Spencer can do more for her, and she knows it. At this point, no one else is looking out for them. They only have each other. And breaking Ripley's spirit won’t put Spencer’s back together.

It’s time to start trusting yet another potential mass-murderer. Spencer wonders how long this pattern is going to continue before she’s caught on the wrong side of it.

Chapter Text

It takes both Spencer and Lucy to slide back the heavy, metal bar across the cell door, and it screeches loudly as it moves. But then Ripley steps out of the small room and takes a breath of fresh air, her eyes full of life.

“Hey! Let me out!”

The voice is coming from the third Solitary cell, the one on the left that Spencer didn’t check. The door shakes as a fist pounds on the other side, sending a series of booms into the narrow hallway. Spencer jumps and looks to Ripley for a sense of just how scared she should be. Was someone listening to their entire conversation? Could they know something helpful?

Ripley reaches over and flips up the visor to peer into the cell. “Shut up and sit down. Nobody cares about your tampon wrapper decoupage.”

Spencer stumbles, “S-should we…”

“No,” Ripley says quickly, letting the flap drop shut and walking off. “I’m sick of her.”

More banging on the door. “Hey! Goddamnit, Ripley! LET ME OUT OF HERE!”

“GOODBYE, MARTHA,” Ripley shouts over her shoulder, grabbing Spencer by the arm and pulling her from Solitary as fast as she can. “Let’s go.”

Spencer doesn’t need to be told twice. She yanks the keys from the lock and shoves them into her shoe, then takes hold of her sledgehammer and makes her exit. “I’m Spencer,” she calls to Ripley as they run. “In case you…give a damn.” Her voice trails off at the end as Ripley gets out of shouting distance, oblivious.

They reach the end of the hall where they left Mack and Donna, and, other than the bloody guard corpse, the scene is not what Spencer expected to find. Mack is still curled up on the floor, crying and screaming with Donna standing nearby and looking frantic. Lucy’s a few feet away, facing the empty hallway on guard as if nothing weird is happening behind her.

“OH, THANK BLOODY GOD,” Donna says. She’s at her wit’s end. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her! I think she likes it! She won't stop!”

Coming around to the other side, Spencer can now see the situation clearly. Mack’s got the dead guard’s baton and is holding one end of it with both hands. The other end is pressed firmly between her legs. Mack’s body convulses, back arching off the floor as she howls in agony.

“I’m really not comfortable with this!” Donna pleads loudly, but Mack just keeps screaming through her tears.

Spencer doesn’t know what to do, either. It looks like the baton is producing some kind of electric current, and she doesn’t want to get shocked. Thankfully, after a few more seconds, Mack drops the baton to the ground, spent. Spencer kicks it away and leans down to check on her. Mack’s face is wet with tears and her body is weak. She’s alive and conscious, thankfully, but in no condition to walk, much less to fight spiders.

Pointing to what’s left of Cara, Ripley asks Lucy, “You did this?”

“It was a rush job,” she replies a bit defensively. “The others are much better.”

“Donna,” Spencer says, “this is Ripley. She’s here to help. I need you to do me a favor and take her back down the hall to the bathrooms to take a quick shower. Lucy can go with you and stand watch. She knows the way.”

Donna raises and eyebrow and says, “Now there’s time for a spa day?” But then she takes a closer look (and sniff) at Ripley and retracts her objection. “Right. Yeah.”

“I know the way,” Ripley says. She doesn’t need a chaperone.

“There could be more guards,” Spencer says. “And I want someone I trust to stay with you.” She meets Lucy’s eyes.

“I thought you cleared this level?” Ripley says.

Spencer drops the sledgehammer in case this is going to take a while. “We’re not sure. They keep coming. It’s like they’re clones or something. We don’t know how many there are or if we’ve killed them all.”

“Jenette and I are going after Sue,” Ripley says. “I know where her office is.”

“She’s not there.” Spencer shakes her head. “She cleaned it out hours ago.” Ripley deflates a bit. “But we’ll find her. You help us fight and find Quinn, we’ll help you find Sue.”

Ripley looks at each woman in turn and makes her decision. “I need a weapon.”

“Take the crossbow.” Spencer pulls a very tired and weak Mack to her feet, wrapping an arm around her to support the weight. “Hand me that?” she says to Ripley and points to the sledgehammer on the ground. “Thanks.”

“Where’d you get these?” Ripley asks as she checks the various components of the crossbow.

Spencer takes a breath. “A friend.” With a strained step, she starts dragging a very heavy Mack and an even heavier sledgehammer toward the hall on the left.

“So, what about you, then?” Donna asks her.

“I’m going to find Faith and get her back to the cell,” says Spencer, nodding to the dead weight. “Meet us there in ten minutes.” She looks to Ripley. “Then I’ll take you to Vasquez.”

Ripley nods, “Alright,” and looks to Lucy and Donna, then starts toward the east hallway.

Spencer readjusts Mack’s torso on her shoulder and stumbles slightly, tripping over the sledgehammer sliding alongside her left foot. She doesn’t know how she’s going to get very far with all this weight dragging her down, but she has to. For Quinn.

It’s been at least two hours since they first left cell 1, and now they’re moving slower than ever. Even with the breakthrough at the garbage chute, it feels like they're getting further from Quinn, not closer. Spencer and Mack shuffle along and get about halfway down the cafeteria hall when Spencer hears it – another Boomer running right toward them.

Spencer says, “Sorry,” to Mack and drops her to the ground, taking the forty-pound sledgehammer firmly in both hands and winding up. She tries to time her swing correctly, but it’s slow to move, tired as her arms are now, and Spencer misses Boomer completely. Her body is thrown forward with the momentum and she stumbles to the ground.

“You really think that’s going to work?” Boomer says, kicking Spencer in the gut hard and reaching for something on her belt.

Spencer coughs and winces at what is surely a broken rib, weakly sputtering, “Where’s Quinn?” But suddenly her entire body is on fire with electricity emanating from between her legs.

She’s never felt pain like this in her life. Every nerve in her body is screaming, and she tries to cry out, but no sound comes. Time stops, and all she knows is suffering beyond imagination, a hurt that will never relent and never release her.

Then, Spencer hears a distant oof and the voltage stops coursing through her. The world snaps back, if fuzzy and distant. Spencer doesn’t know how long she’s been lying here, maybe only seconds, but it’s more than enough to wipe her out. She jolts with aftershocks, barely able to open her eyes. She manages to focus enough to see the wire hooked to her crotch and stretching to the hands of her attacker. But Boomer's on the ground. Mack’s kneeling over her and slamming her elbow into Boomer’s face, stomach, and chest one slow body drop at a time. The guard’s barely conscious and only moving in reaction to Mack’s assault.

Spencer reaches down and delicately unhooks the metal claw from her body, then fights to sit up, nauseated and weak and aching everywhere. She remembers when this happened to Quinn, how that attack lasted for a very long ten seconds or so and it fucked Quinn up for days. Spencer has no choice but to somehow get off this floor.

Quinn took that agony for her, and Spencer will be damned if she doesn’t fight for Quinn now.

She digs deep within herself, drawing strength from how very, very angry she is. Angry this is happening. Angry about Quinn. Angry they can’t find her. Angry at her mother. Angry at everything. She pulls herself to stand, reaches slowly for the sledgehammer, and lifts it as high as her chest before it falls out of her hands, right onto Boomer’s bloody face. The cracking noise her skull makes is pleasantly familiar and every bit as satisfying as the last time.

“Come on,” Spencer breathes in a dry whisper to Mack, who nods, and they help each other back on their feet.

The task is much harder now that Spencer’s had the life knocked out of her, but they eventually make it to the end of the hall by the entrance to the cafeteria.

“Anybody got a cigarette?”

Faith comes strolling out from the direction of the cell block, looking like the cat who caught the canary and then fucked it majestically for an hour. But her face immediately drops when she sees Mack and Spencer. “Whoa, who ran you two over?” She runs up to them and checks for serious injuries but finds none.

“Boomer,” Spencer says. It hurts to talk, but her nerves have mostly stopped spasming now, so she’s regaining control over her body and can almost walk right.

“Shit,” Faith says, reaching out to support her.

Spencer blinks through the weakness and pain, trying to regain a sense of normalcy and control. “We gotta get Mack back to her cell.”

“Mmhmm,” Mack weakly hums.

“Wait, where’re the others?” Faith asks, looking around. She’s clearly worried the answer to that is, ‘They’re dead.’

“They’re with Ripley. I told them to meet us there.”

“Too late for that.”

It’s Lucy. Ripley and Donna are following right behind her, exiting the bathroom, not twenty feet from where Faith’s standing. Spencer now notices the very bloody pile of what must have been another Boomer by the door. She wonders how all of those separated parts ever once constructed a whole human.

“Where’s Vasquez?” Ripley says, wringing some water out of her hair. Her uniform is dripping wet, like she just wore it right into the shower. Still, it's a vast improvement.

“Fifteen,” Spencer says.

Ripley walks over to Mack, picks her up, and slings her over her shoulder like a sack of flour. Spencer’s eyes widen at the display of strength, but Ripley just says, “Let’s go.”

Spencer exhales with a nod and starts moving. The group enters the back end of the cell block, where the TARDIS is standing outside the empty cell 1. Ripley gives it a curious look as she passes by but doesn’t stop to ask questions.

“Faith!”

It seems cell 1 isn’t vacant after all. Spencer turns to see a very pissed Buffy Summers climbing out of what used to be Santana’s bunk. The guard’s uniform is torn down the front and she’s stumbling as she walks, holding a hand against the side of her head. Faith must have knocked her unconscious, dragged her into the cell, and locked her there.

A few prisoners step back from the cell bars as the group walks through, saying things like “Oh shit, it’s Ripley!”

But Ripley doesn’t seem to hear them. She’s running ahead, still carrying Mack and watching the numbers above the cells just like Spencer did earlier today, trying to get to Quinn. That feels like a lifetime ago.

They pass the bloodbath in cell 8, where Kat still hasn’t moved from the back corner. The entire floor is flooded red. Spencer still feels awful for what happened, but there isn’t time to dwell on that now.

“Hey, wait! Stop at ten,” Spencer calls out to Ripley. They backtrack and Spencer meets them, slightly out of breath.

Aphasia jumps down and shimmies the door open, saying, “What the hell! Y