The arrival scene at the Smith's unfolds and sets the mood for the tour-of-Vegas-that-is-so-obviously-a-date.
So here it is. My christmas present to you. Merry Christmas, all you fabulous readers!
I raised my head from where I’d been resting it against the window as I felt the car come to a stop. Several times during the trip to Spencer’s house I’d found myself growing sleepy, but I’d forced myself to stay awake each time. God only knows how embarrassed I’d be if Spencer had to carry me inside. Although… a new part of me chimed in, think how nice it would be to bury your face in Spencer’s neck and breathe him in, breathe in the smell that you’ve started to associate with automatic safety.
I mentally slapped myself, telling my brain to shut up. I was flushing, I knew it, and I was glad of the darkness that hid it. Since when had I started having thoughts like that about Spencer?
Since you found out that you like him and he likes you back, the voice broke in again snidely, and I tried my best to ignore it. Opening the car door cautiously, I undid my seatbelt and stepped out, hearing Yankee jump out behind me. A door opened loudly, and there was a loud call of “Spencer!” from two younger, very similar female voices. I heard Spencer laugh as the trunk of the car was popped.
“Girls!” Mrs Smith chastised. “You’re supposed to be in bed sleeping! It’s late.”
“Aww, c’mon, Mom,” one of them whined. “Spencer’s back!”
“Yeah, we wanna see what presents he got us,” the other added.
Spencer said from behind me, “What makes you think I got you anything?” making me jump in surprise, twisting around to stare behind me. “I barely get enough time between travelling and playing as it is.”
There was a gasp. “Omigosh, Jackie,” the second girl said. “He brought a girl home with him!”
“Are you Spencer’s girlfriend?” the first girl, Jackie obviously, asked. “Spencer, if you have enough time to get a girlfriend, the least you could do is get your two favourite sisters presents.” She sniffed disdainfully.
“Um,” I said awkwardly, which was shadowed by the squeal of, “You got a dog?!” from the second girl. I felt Yankee nose my thigh protectively.
“Hey, Lou is not my girlfriend,” Spencer told them. “And careful around Yankee; he bites.”
I could almost imagine the two girls take a step back cautiously.
“Don’t listen to Spencer,” I told them, flashing a smile in the direction I thought they were standing in. I didn’t know if they’d be able to see it or not in the dark. “Yankee only bites if you’re a mean, scary person trying to abduct me.”
“Or if you’re Ryan and keep stepping on his tail,” Spencer added quietly under his breath. I bit back a laugh.
“So, you’re this ‘Lou’ person we keep hearing about,” the Jackie said, but her tone wasn’t accusing.
I had to wonder what Spencer’d been telling them about me. “Yeah, I’m Lou,” I said, grinning slightly. “Sorry if I didn’t turn out to be what you expected.”
“Jackie, Crystal, come help with the luggage,” Mrs Smith called from behind us.
“Aww,” they both whined. “Why can’t Spencer take his own luggage?”
“Because I’m gonna be showing Lou to her room,” Spencer told them, slipping his hand into mine and squeezing. I squeezed back. He lead me forward and Yankee followed. He softly counted steps aloud for me as we climbed the porch. Yankee brushed past me and I heard him sniffing around what I assumed was the front door.
“No dogs allowed inside,” Crystal stated automatically front in front of us, like she was reciting a rule that she’d heard numerous times before.
“Actually,” Mrs Smith said, “Yankee’s an exception to that rule.”
“Why?” Jackie started, and I bit my lip, looking down at the ground as Spencer and I came to a stop on the porch. He let go of my hand, and I assumed he was giving his sisters hugs.
“Because,” was the only thing that Mrs Smith said in return to her daughter’s question.
“Lou?” Spencer said, his voice low and gentle.
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, knowing what he was getting at. I sighed and looked up, staring straight ahead since I had no way of judging the height of his sisters. “Hi,” I said, twisting my mouth. “I’m Lou Jones, and, um… I’m, I’m blind.” I said it lightly, like it was some sort of joke and didn’t bother me (when in fact it was the opposite) so that the girls wouldn’t feel too bad about staring or anything else. I didn’t want to make Spencer’s family aware of my burdens and troubles. It was enough that he and the rest of the band knew about them.
There was silence for a few seconds, and Spencer was tense beside me, like he was holding his breath in anticipation. Then someone stepped forward, and I tried not to flinch as a hand smaller than mine touched my shoulder softly before it slipped around my back and I was enveloped in a hug. “Hi Lou,” I heard Crystal say quietly in my ear. She was slightly smaller than me. “I’m Crystal.” I could smell her perfume, deodorant, whatever it was that she used. It smelt like flowers, and I felt a pang in my stomach as I recognised the smell of one of the flowers that my mom had grown in her garden. No, I told myself firmly. Don’t you dare bring those memories up again, Jones.
Crystal stepped back, and I smiled, hoping she knew that it was directed at her.
“Welcome to our humble abode,” Jackie said, and she moved forward to hug me too. She smelt of cinnamon and spices, and I filed that away as something to help me to distinguish the two. Their voices were pretty similar, after all. “And I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with Spencer.” She shuddered. “Ugh, imagine being stuck on a bus with smelly boys and no way to escape. No thank you.”
I turned my smile to her. “They’re not so bad,” I said. “They’re almost like my brothers.”
“Two is enough for me,” Crystal complained.
“Two?” I asked, turning to face Spencer slightly. He hadn’t mentioned another brother, though I remember him talking about his sisters once or twice.
“Well, technically Ryan’s not related, but he’s almost our brother too,” the girls explained.
“He’s over here enough times anyway,” Jackie added.
“Mom’d adopt him if she could,” Crystal said.
“Crystal! Jackie! Luggage!” Mrs Smith said, slightly out of breath as she came up the steps behind us, and I took that to mean that she was carrying something.
“Okay, okay,” Jackie muttered under her breath.
“Geez, woman,” Crystal mumbled. “We’re not slaves, we are daughters; please do not get the two confused for future reference.”
“Well, if you were in bed like you’re supposed to be, I wouldn’t be making you carry it in,” Mrs Smith reminded them firmly. “And,” she added, calling over her shoulder, “take Lou’s stuff up to Crystal’s room; it’s cleaner - she can stay there.”
“Oh,” I said startled, “I don’t mean to impose, or anything.”
“No, of course not,” Mrs Smith said. “Don’t be silly.” But her tone was warm and kind when she said it. “It’s no trouble at all.”
“C’mon,” Spencer said, turning my attention back to him, “I’ll take you to your room.” He tenderly took my hand again, walking me into the house he grew up in. “Y’know,” he said thoughtfully, “at least I don’t have to worry about you seeing any embarrassing photos of me from when I was a kid.”
I gave a wry smile. “Aw, damn,” I said, pretending to be disappointed, “and to think that I was looking forward to having something to leak to the fangirls and blackmail you with.” He laughed, and I joined in, unable to help myself.
“Stairs,” he said by way of warning. We climbed the stairs, Spencer grabbing me around the waist when I misjudged the distance between them with my foot and tripped. There was a moment of free falling, of nothing, and then I was jerked upwards as a big, strong arm wrapped around my middle, lifting me and pulling my body to Spencer’s chest. “Whoa, there,” he breathed. My heart was pounding a million miles an hour and I swallowed hard, feeling my face heat up when I realised that I’d placed my hand on Spencer’s chest in an attempt to steady myself. I could feel his heart speed up slightly, beating strong and steady under my palm, and was aware of how close we were standing; I felt his breath on my forehead each time he breathed. I knew he was staring at me. “Careful.” His voice was slightly husky on the last word, and I desperately tried to not find it so appealing. He released his tight grip, but still continued to keep his arm around me and his hand resting on my hip.
The snide voice in my head returned: Well, if this is what’s going to happen when you trip up stairs, maybe you should trip more often, clumsy-ass.
We reached the top of the stairs without any more incidents, walking down a hallway until we stopped. Spencer opened a door, and a light was flicked on – more for his benefit than mine.
“Right,” he said, pushing me forward gently until my knees came into contact with a bed. “This is Crystal’s room. Uh, they should bring your stuff up in a minute, so… ”
“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “Your, um, your mom and sisters seem nice.”
“Yeah, they’re great,” Spencer said, a hint of a smile evident in his tone. “Except when Jackie and Crystal are being annoying. Twins,” he sighed exasperatedly. I gave a shrug, sitting down on the mattress and bouncing slightly as I did. There was silence. I bit my lip, wondering what to say and how to break it. “I’m, um,” Spencer started again. “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot back there in the parking lot. I mean, I probably should have asked you before just spiriting you off back here, but, well, you were asleep when Mom rang, and I didn’t want to wake you… I just thought it would be better than having you stay in a hotel or something by yourself, and- ”
“Spencer,” I broke in, stopping his rambling. “Spencer, it’s fine. I don’t mind. Really.” I smiled. “Thank you for looking after me. Just,” I hesitated. “You’ll let me know if it’s too much trouble, okay? Like I said before, I don’t want to impose or intrude here.”
“It’s no problem at all,” he returned immediately, the mattress sinking as he sat down beside me. He gently ran his thumb over the skin of my hand that lay in between us. “Seriously Lou, nothing’s ever too much trouble when it comes to you,” he said softly. “And don’t you forget it, alright?” He reached out and tucked a small tendril of hair behind my ear.
“Uh, hate to break up your ‘moment’, guys,” Jackie interrupted, “but where do you want this?” Spencer and I both flinched like we’d been burned, with me drawing my hand away from underneath Spencer’s touch in my surprise and Spencer standing up.
“Oh, that… I’ll just put your suitcase over here Lou,” he said. “Um, right in front of you, pretty much. Against the wall. There’s nothing on the floor, so the only thing you’ll hit is your suitcase.”
“Thanks,” I said gratefully, and okay, I really needed to stop saying that word.
“Goodnight, Lou,” Jackie said as she left the room, chuckling slightly. I heard her mutter, “Not his girlfriend, my ass.” Spencer made a choking sound.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said awkwardly, and somewhat… nervously? I really couldn’t read his voice at the moment.
I shrugged with one shoulder. “It’s okay; don’t worry about it.” Footsteps pounded softly on the carpet outside Crystal’s room, followed by Yankee’s panting. He jumped up on the bed next to me.
“I should, um, go to bed,” Spencer said, his words punctuated by a yawn. “I’m generally an early-riser, Lou, so in the morning if you feel a little lost,” he paused, and there were the sounds of him rummaging through one of my bags. A small clunk echoed as he set an object on a nearby table. “Here, I put your phone on the bedside table – it’s turned on, so, so just… if you feel lost in the morning and it doesn’t sound like anyone else is awake and moving around, just press the button to call me and I can come and help you,” he said, referring to the 3D circular sticker that Brendon had bought for me to place on the button on my phone that held the drummer’s number on speed-dial. Really, Jon had said, Brendon was just looking for an excuse to by a sheet of stickers, and apparently I’d given him the perfect one.
“Okay,” I agreed. “But I have Yankee,” I added, running my hand along his furry body. He whuffed in approval, “so I should be alright.”
“I know,” Spencer said, “but this is just in case.”
I nodded. “Just in case,” I repeated.
“Good night, Lou,” Spencer said with a smile, “Sleep well.”
“You too,” I said, turning to look at where he was standing. “G’night.”
Then the light was turned off and he was gone, shutting the door softly with a gentle click.
I woke up the next morning in a brief state of panic, unable to hear the rumble of the tour bus’s engine, or feel the gentle sway that told me we were moving. It took a few seconds before the night’s events came rushing back to me in a flood of conversations, touches and strange scents. I sat up carefully, yawning and pushing the covers back on Crystal’s bed as I swung my legs over the edge of the mattress and stood up, pausing for a little stretch. Moving cautiously, I inched forward slowly with my hands outstretched in an attempt to stop myself from crashing into anything. Eventually, I felt the smooth wood of the door underneath my fingers, and I run my hands over it, locating the waist-height door knob. Pulling it open, I stepped outside.
“Morning, Lou,” one of the twins said, and I jerked in surprise. It seemed like everyone was sneaking up on me these days.
“Morning, Jackie,” I said, turning to face the younger girl.
“How’d you know it was me?” She sounded curious, her voice moving closer. “Nobody outside of the family can tell us apart, and even then people still confuse us.”
“That’s easy,” I smiled. “You smell like spices and Crystal smells like flowers.”
“Huh,” Jackie said thoughtfully. “Uh, do you want some help down to the kitchen? I think Spence and Mom are down there.” Cue the sounds of chinking cutlery and pots.
“If you don’t mind?” I asked.
“No problem,” she said. “Um, how do I…?” She stood next to me.
I held out my hand. “Just take my hand,” I explained. “All you have to do is guide me and make sure I don’t crash into anything. Oh, and warn me when we get to the stairs.”
“Right,” Jackie said. “I can do that.” Her slightly smaller hand slipped into mine, and with her help, I reached the kitchen with no crashes or bruises.
“Good morning, Lou,” Mrs Smith said warmly when we entered. The smells of cooking pancakes, bacon and eggs wafted lazily around the room, and I sniffed as something sizzled on the stove.
“Morning Mrs Smith,” I replied.
“Call me Ginger,” she told me. “Did you sleep well? Are you hungry? Here, Jackie; show her to the seat next to Spencer.”
“I slept great, thank you,” I said, still kind of nervous and unsure how act around Mrs – Ginger – Smith.
“Hey, you,” Spencer nudged my shoulder with his own as I sat down on a stool next to him. I turned and gave him a smile.
“Hey yourself,” I said.
“Pancakes, bacon, eggs… what would you like?” Ginger asked me, bustling around the kitchen.
“I don’t mind,” I told her. “A little bit of everything?” A plate was soon set in front of me gently, and I smiled gratefully at where I thought Spencer’s mom to be. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she said warmly. “So,” she addressed Spencer, “what are you doing today?”
“Well,” Spencer began, and I sensed him turn and glance at me, “it’s our day off, so I was thinking I might take Lou and show her around Vegas. If that’s okay with you,” he added almost anxiously, turning to me.
I nodded. “Sure,” I said around my mouthful of pancake, trying not to sound too eager and nervous about what the day might hold. “That’s fine with me.”
“Great,” Spencer said, sounding… relived? I wondered why; I’d already agreed to hang out (‘go on a date’, as Brendon had phrased it) with him.
I set my knife and fork down on my now-empty plate. “That was delicious,” I told Ginger. “Thank you,” I said again.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it, Lou,” she said, and I could feel the full-force of her beam.
Sensing someone behind me, I turned. “Thanks for letting me steal your bed, Crystal.”
“How’d you know it was me?” She echoed Jackie’s earlier question. “Oh, and it’s no biggie.”
Giving a shy smile, I told her, “You smell like flowers.”
“What does Jackie smell like?” Crystal asked, curious, and the room had gone silent; Spencer and Ginger listening to our conversation.
“Spices,” I relayed the information. I shrugged. “And there’s a slight difference to your voices, too. It’s easy to pick up if you listen close enough. Jackie’s voice is just a tiny bit higher than yours.”
“Okay, I swear, you’re new girlfriend’s like, Superwoman or something, Spence,” Jackie said, entering the kitchen.
“Lou’s not my girlfriend,” Spencer snapped as my plate was taken away.
“Yet,” Crystal muttered quietly in reply. Louder she said, “D’you want us to take you back upstairs so you can change, Lou?”
Standing up, I pushed back the stool I was sitting on. “Sure, if you’re offering.” With a twin on either side of me, both of my hands were taken and I was led back up to Crystal’s room. This time, I managed to keep my footing on the staircase.
“Can we go through your suitcase?” Jackie asked as a light switch was flicked. Yankee, who I guessed hadn’t moved from his position at the foot of the bed, made a noise in his throat when we stepped in the bedroom. I had a flashback to before Pete’s party, when Jon had asked me the same question.
“Uh, yeah?” I replied uncertainly. “I guess, but- ”
“Let’s get something straight here,” Crystal said. “Our brother obviously likes you, and we kinda think you like him back,” I flushed – had I really been that obvious? – “so we’re picking out a totally kick-ass outfit for you to wear on your tour-of-Vegas-that-is-so-obviously-a-date. This way, Spencer will totally be unable to resist you.”
“O-Okay,” I said tentatively.
“Lou,” Jackie sighed. “Your shirts.”
“I know,” I told her apologetically. “Ryan said the same thing. It’s not my fault; I wasn’t exactly there when they were bought for me.”
“They’re all just too… thrift store-ish,” Crystal said. “You want something that’s casual, but nice, and none of these are that.”
“Wardrobe,” Jackie said decisively, striding across the room and pulling a door open. Coat hangers scraped softly against metal. Crystal joined her, both of them conferring.
“Seriously,” Crystal said in the break of conversation.
“We need to take you shopping,” Jackie finished. I let out a small chuckle.
“But really,” Crystal added. “What did you do when you like, went out to places and stuff?”
“I just, I just borrowed stuff,” I told them. “I think I borrowed Brendon’s shirt when we went to Pete’s party – but really, I was just given clothes for the first few days with the band until I got my suitcase.”
“Well, Brendon isn’t here, so you’ll just have to make do with one of our shirts instead,” Jackie said. I sat down on the mattress of the bed. Yankee immediately shuffled closer, and I scratched behind his ears. It sounded to me like various items of clothing were being thrown on the ground. “How do you feel about skirts?” Jackie asked.
I wrinkled my nose. “No thank you. I don’t wanna trip over something I can’t see and show the world my underwear, thanks.”
“I’m sure Spencer won’t mind,” Crystal said deviously and I flushed deeply.
“Eeww,” Jackie moaned. “Yuck. I’d rather not think of Spence as a perv, okay?” Her sister laughed.
“Well, if you put these on Lou,” she said, “we’ll go and look in Jackie’s closet for a shirt, ’kay?”
“Okay,” I shrugged, and a pair of jeans were laid across my lap. The door was shut behind them and I quickly changed. They came back a few minutes later, flustered and excited.
“We’ve found the perfect top for you,” they said excitedly, handing it to me. “Change into it and then we’ll work on makeup.”
“Makeup?” I groaned.
“Yes,” Jackie said firmly. “You’re already pretty, but this will just make you the envy of every girl who passes you on the street.”
“I don’t think,” I started, but Crystal cut me off.
“C’mon, trust us, Lou. We’re not gonna pull a Ross on you and turn your whole face into one big explosion of gayness and swirls.”
I laughed loudly, unable to stop myself. “Can I tell him you said that?”
Jackie snorted. “Whatever. We can totally take his skinny ass anyway if he does decide to hunt us down. Now,” she said, and I could almost imagine her making flapping hand movements. “Hurry up and put the shirt on!”
I chuckled to myself as they left the room, removing my pyjama top and pulling the shirt they’d picked for me over my head. I was curious as to what it was, and resolved to ask the twins when they returned.
Hearing voices outside the door, I paused, listening.
“Go and pretty yourself up for your date,” Crystal was saying. “Lou’s not ready yet.”
“It’s not- ” Spencer began defensively.
“A date. Yeah, sure it’s not. Just like Lou’s not about to become your girlfriend,” Jackie said over the top of him.
“She’s not- ” the drummer tried to say.
“Whatever.” Crystal didn’t let him finish. “Just promise us that we get to be bridesmaids at the wedding.”
Spencer growled in annoyance and stomped off, a door closing loudly a few seconds later. The twins giggled and a slapping sound like a high-five filtered through the closed door.
“You done yet, Lou?” they called. I replied with an affirmative, and they came back into the room with a soft laugh.
“You shouldn’t wind him up like that,” I told them.
“He’ll get over it, I’m sure,” Jackie said. “Once he sees you, he’ll be thanking us anyway.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, really, Lou. You look freakin’ hot,” Crystal reassured me.
Biting my lip, I said, “Okay… if you’re sure…”
“We’re not done with you yet, though,” Jackie said firmly, and I was sat down on the bed as they fussed over me. A fleeting regret that I couldn’t see myself and marvel at what the twins had done passed through my mind, but I managed to brush it off as the two younger girls buzzed around me like bees.
“Alright,” Crystal said finally. “We’re finished.” There was a relieved and happy sigh from the two of them.
“If our brother doesn’t become tongue-tied at least five times around you today, then we have failed in our job as your stylists and we will be sending a hit team after him to take him out,” Jackie added, faking a serious tone. I let out a short bark of laughter in surprise, cutting it short when there was a knock at the door.
“Lou? Are you, are you ready?” Spencer called cautiously.
“She’ll meet you downstairs,” Jackie called back. She turned to me. “Are you ready?”
I breathed in, suddenly attacked by nerves. “I, I think so.”
Crystal gave my shoulders a comforting squeeze. “You’ll be fine. Now come on, your Prince Charming awaits.”
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