A/N: Hi, everyone. Raise your hand if you've ever been victimized by my emotional rollercoaster mess of a mind? *stares out into audience* Wow, um...that's a lot of hands.

If you're fresh off of "Tapestry of Scars"...how ya doing, fam? Need to send me your therapy bills? Heh.

If you have read my work before and you're still here to support me even after I've wrecked you...thanks for being in it for the long haul. If you're a newbie, hi, I'm very friendly. I won't bite. I promise.

This fic will be slightly different. Really brief overview…it will be a blend of the book world and the show world. I'm putting my own spin on things. It is by far the lightest of my stories. Doesn't mean there won't be *some* discomfort and bad juju.

I only have one request. Be nice. Remember that I write and share for free. All fanfic writers do. We chip off a piece of our heart and bleed our souls into our art. I do this because I love it. Don't make me regret that love. I say this not because of anything I've encountered (people have been generous to me here in the past), but because of what I've seen others encounter. The fandom, as a whole, has collectively taken a nosedive into being really negative to each other. I'm not about that life. But by all means, if a character is acting like a dick, you can call them the Dipshidiot King of Douchebaggastan. Just don't hate just to hate.

Given the state of the world with this COVID-19 pandemic, I thought we could all use a little escape. Everyone stay healthy. Stay safe. And be kind to one another.

Hope you enjoy the ride. Reviews are always appreciated.


Chapter 1:

Six Weeks in September

The thing Emily had missed the most about living in the northeast was the vibrant season of fall. She remembered the way the sky had looked like it was aflame bursting with fiery embers of reds and yellows from the backseat of her father's SUV the day they'd moved away. The sky had been so blue that day. And the sun shining through the leaves had made them nearly translucent.

September in Pennsylvania had been one of her favorite things when she was younger, because that's when the leaves slowly started to change shades. They didn't hit their peak until October, but Emily had always loved beginnings, and September was the beginning of fall.

Before they moved she'd often taken trips with her parents to see the foliage. She had always been mesmerized by the colors. Every time she saw the beauty of autumn she would close her eyes and wish that September could last for forever. That had actually been her birthday wish once. She'd wished that September was longer.

There was a period between the end of summer and the beginning of school that felt so serene. She enjoyed summers with her friends. But there was one summer in particular that she would never forget. The summer she had her first kiss. It was just another reason to love September.

September had given her a lot of great memories. It had given her a lot of moments with her friends. It had given her a lot of moments with her parents, too, but that was before she'd screwed everything up. It had been almost six years since they'd seen the last of autumn in Pennsylvania. Emily had changed a lot in those six years.

Rosewood was a small town compared to San Antonio, Texas, where Emily had spent the past four years of her life. The army base where her father had worked was much bigger than Rosewood.

She'd been born in Pennsylvania and had spent a good amount of her childhood in Rosewood, but the memories seemed like a lifetime ago. They were like a murky vision of something underwater. She could see it just enough to know it was there. But she couldn't see the entire picture.

The town had seemed so much larger to her when she was a little girl. She'd spent her childhood years riding her bike through the close quarters of the town. She played on the playground and made friends everywhere she went.

She'd always had an alluring personality, even as a child. People would follow her anywhere. And she usually took them on adventures. Rosewood had been a huge world to explore. But now, it seemed so docile. And tiny. There was a quaint feel to it.

Moving from state to state for her dad's job had opened her eyes to just how big the world truly was. Right before Emily started sixth grade they'd moved from Pennsylvania to California, which had been a huge culture shock for her. They'd been there for about a year before her father had been reassigned to Texas. Now she was back in the small little town that had been her first playground to finish her senior year of high school.

She was on a different side of town that she wasn't as familiar with, but she was hoping a ride around would help jog her memory of the area.

She hopped down from the back of the large moving truck holding the last box. She took a moment to try and balance it before walking towards the house. She was almost at the front door when she heard a lilting laugh wafting through the air. She turned back and looked across the street.

A blonde girl that looked to be around her age was sitting on her front porch with two other girls. The two other girls were engaged in some kind of conversation, but the blonde was staring at Emily through her designer sunglasses. Emily couldn't prove that's where the girl was looking, but she felt it. She could feel her gaze.

The girl looked like the kind of girls she avoided in her old school. But there was something different about the way she carried herself. The girl lowered her sunglasses and Emily lifted her hand without even thinking about it and waved. The box slipped down her front and she nearly dropped it, but she was able to steady herself at the last minute and get her grip back.

The blonde didn't wave back.

"Way to win friends, Emily," she muttered to herself. She shrugged and turned around. "I was a dumbass for thinking some snobby Rosewood priss would give me the time of day."

"Did you say something, Emmy?"

Emily looked up and saw her father, Wayne walking towards her.

"No. Just bitching at the box for trying to take a flying leap out of my arms." Emily met him at the bottom of the porch steps.

"Language." He frowned. "Here, let me." He took the box from her.

She could see the sweat soaking through his shirt. He hadn't taken one break since they'd gotten back to town. He was used to staying on the go.

"You should really be taking it easy, old man." Emily gave him a hard time.

She was being sincere. He'd had a scare with his heart six months ago. It had scared the shit out of Emily and her mother. But he'd been fine ever since.

"My cardiologist says I'm perfectly fine for duty, so I can move a few boxes."

The laugh from across the street echoed through the air again. Emily glanced back at the girls. She tried not to stare.

"You remember the DiLaurentis family, don't you?" He asked.

It finally dawned on Emily why the street had looked so familiar to her when the moving truck had rolled into town. She recognized the yard from being in Alison's treehouse years ago.

"That's Alison DiLaurentis?"

The girl had grown up to be a Goddess, which wasn't a surprise to Emily. The blonde had always been one of the prettiest girls she'd ever seen. Blue eyes. Blonde hair. Dimples. The whole package. She'd been cute when she was younger, but she was a bombshell now.

She'd been the first girl Emily had a crush on. Emily had never told her how she felt. After she'd moved away she'd never gotten the chance. But she'd never forgotten her. Alison had been her gay awakening. Though, she didn't know that's what it was at the time.

Alison had been her first kiss. It hadn't been anything memorable. It had been a dare at Alison's sleepover in fifth grade. Emily had always assumed she'd been invited to out of pity, but the way Alison looked at her the entire night made her feel otherwise.

They'd been playing "Truth or Dare" up in Alison's treehouse and a girl named Hanna Marin had dared Alison to kiss another girl. Emily had been right across from Alison, so Alison had pointed to Emily and motioned with her index finger to come over to her. They'd pecked on the lips.

All the other girls had giggled and talked about how they were married, because that's how getting married worked. Emily had felt her face get hot. And she'd felt a tingling sensation in her body. But she had played it off. Alison had smirked at her before pulling back and sitting back down.

They'd never talked about it. Emily assumed Alison just chalked it up to a game. The next day they'd gone back to their respective friend groups and rarely ever crossed paths. Then Emily had moved.

Now that she was looking at her again she felt that rush of emotions she'd felt when they'd kissed.

Emily padded up the stairs and walked over to the porch swing. She sat down and sighed. Her dad put the box down and walked over to her. It was kind of surprising, because they hadn't really talked much the past few weeks. She'd felt alienated and pushed away from them ever since she'd told them the truth about herself.

"Why so glum, chum?" He plopped down beside her.

"I'm just tired." Emily shrugged.

"I know you're bummed about the move, kid, but you'll make new friends. You always do."

Emily had always been adaptable. She was a friendly girl. And she knew how to navigate the world of both girls and boys. She could be at a sleepover painting nails one night and then at the gym working on her jabs and sparring with the boys the next day. She was a social chameleon. If moving around had taught her anything, it was how to adjust.

Leaving her old high school a year shy of graduating had brought on a lot of mixed emotions. On one hand, she was going to miss everyone. But on the other hand she was glad to get out before she became the talk of the town.

"I'm actually kind of looking forward to the fresh air. And not feeling like I'm dying in the heat. Maybe I can keep the purple from melting out of my hair."

"Your mother nearly had a heart attack when you came home with it." He reached up and ran his fingers along the purple streaks in Emily's hair.

"Mom freaks out when I breathe."

Though the day she'd come home with purple in her hair her mother had nearly blown a fuse. Because "what would the neighbors think?"

Emily had only made it worse by saying,

"The neighbors are the ones who dyed it."

But Emily knew exactly what her mother meant. She meant her evangelical friends who judged everyone based on their appearance. Everything was a sin. Except of course the sins people liked to pretend didn't exist in the bible, like adultering and eating shellfish and playing with pigskin.

Her mother's virtuosity made her mad. The fact that she couldn't be who she wanted to be in her own house was hard for her. Her mother's reaction had pissed her off so much that the next day she went out and got a tattoo, though she kept that hidden from her parents. She'd had a friend whose cousin was a tattoo artist. She'd lied on the forms and showed a fake ID at the parlor. It wasn't anywhere visible. She'd made sure of that. She didn't need people seeing it when she was shooting through the water during swim meets.

Her swimming had also been a huge part of who she was, but those days were over. Her dream of making it into a college on a swimming scholarship was not going to happen.

Her dad twisted her hair.

"I'd never tell your mom this, and if you tell her I'll deny it. But I think it's cute. Gives you character. Besides, I thought it was one of the least problematic ways to rebel…"

"I wasn't rebelling. I just liked the way it looked."

"Kinda wish that had been your rebellion," he muttered.

And there it was. The tone she'd been acclimating herself to. Her mother was much worse, but the sting felt deeper when her dad judged her.

"Again, wasn't a rebellion, dad." She pushed herself to her feet. "I know you and mom don't get it, and I'm sorry I'm a disappointment…"

"Emmy, you're not…"

"I'm going to check out the gym. The rec center looked promising, but I think the gym might have things more my speed." Emily cut him off. She felt like she couldn't breathe. "I want to see what kind of equipment I'll be working with. Is my bike still on the trailer?"

She'd wanted to drive it from Texas, but her mother told her she was absolutely not driving across the country on the bike.

"No. I already unhauled it. It's in the garage." He motioned towards the carport attached to the house. "You know, you might want to think about something a little more responsible."

"Since when have I been responsible?" Emily retorted sarcastically.

"Please don't. I don't feel like fighting with you. Being stuck between you and your mother is hard enough. Don't forget why we're here in the first place. We have sacrificed a lot for you…"

"I didn't ask you to." Emily muttered.

She tried not to be angry. But she couldn't help it. She had a lot to be angry about. She had a lot weighing on her mind.

She bolted down the porch stairs and walked around to the carport. Her motorcycle was up near the right side of the carport. Dozens of unpacked boxes were filling up the rest of the space. She squeezed into the mess of boxes and threw one leg over the seat and grabbed her helmet. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and wrapped it into a messy bun and then pulled the helmet on over her head. She kicked the kickstand back. She reached for the key, which she'd left in the ignition, so she wouldn't lose it in the move, and she turned her baby on.

Her bike had been the first big thing she'd ever splurged on. She'd been saving money since she was fourteen, when she started her first job. She'd gotten her first gig babysitting her neighbor's kids. When she was fifteen she was working bussing tables at a small mom-and-pop shop. She liked being able to make her own money. It had taught her the value of hard work.

She'd saved up and bought the bike the day she turned sixteen. Her mother had not been happy. Then again, her mother was not happy about a lot of things in her life.

The motorcycle had been nothing more than a hump of scrap metal when she'd purchased it. Her mother blew a gasket, but her father saw the potential to fix it up and bond with her. They'd spent six months in the garage talking and building the bike.

When it was done her father forced her to go to a bunch of classes before he'd let her ride it. He'd had a bike of his own when he was a teenager, and he wanted his daughter to be safe. She'd been riding it almost every day for a year. It felt like a part of her.

Emily pulled out of the garage. Alison and her friends were gone, which was a little disappointing. She'd wanted to get a better look at her.

She rode through the neighborhood, hoping to run across Alison. She thought maybe she'd gone for a walk. But she only saw a couple of kids playing basketball and a woman jogging with her dog.

Emily turned off of the main road, deciding to take a detour through the trees. They wouldn't be completely in bloom yet, but the color changes were starting. The reds and oranges stood out among the regular greenery. She'd forgotten how beautiful it was in the autumn. She stopped a few times just to observe nature.

Texas had pretty autumns, too, but nothing like Pennsylvania. The woods seemed so peaceful compared to the hustle of the city in California and the crowded population in San Antonio.

She listened to the breeze. It made her forget everything that was weighing her down. The uncertainty of her future and the instability of her life was constantly on her mind.

After she took a few quiet minutes to appreciate the peace and quiet she hopped back on her bike and rode in to town.

She parked in front of the gym and pulled her helmet off, her hair falling down over her shoulders. She didn't realize that someone was watching her through a pair of designer sunglasses from a coffee shop across the street.

Emily took a second to admire the Harley she'd pulled up next to. Someone else had done a restoration. She really appreciated the handiwork. As she fawned over the bike, the person watching her fawned over her.

Emily walked into the gym and took a look at the place. It was smaller than where she'd been going in Texas, but they had weights, a few exercise machines, and small area where two people were playing racquetball.

"You new to town?" A voice behind her questioned.

Emily turned around and saw a tall guy walking up behind her. He looked like a regular gym-bro.

Her initial thought was that he was getting ready to hit on her. She cringed.

But then she saw the logo on his shirt. It matched the gym's logo. She glanced at the boy. He looked familiar.

"I'm Toby. I work here."

"Toby?" The name registered immediately. She stared at him and her childhood came rushing back to her. All she could see was the scrawny little blue-eyed boy on the playground with a messy mane of hair. He'd grown since then. He'd filled out and cut his hair. But his baby-blue eyes were unmistakable. "Toby Cavanaugh?"

He looked confused.

"Do I know you?"

"We grew up next to each other before I moved away," Emily said. "When I told you I was moving you said it was the worst week of your entire life. And then you cried…"

His eyes widened.

"Holy shit. Emily?"

"In the flesh."

"Love the purple hair. It's very you." He grinned. "I would give you a hug, but I'm all sweaty…"

"Bring it in." Emily opened her arms.

When they pulled back Toby put his hands on her shoulders. He was taller than she was, and that hadn't been the case when they were kids. He took a moment to look at her. She had grown into a beautiful young woman.

"You look good, Em."

"And you look…tall. You grew up, Stretch."

Toby laughed.

"Hey, who owns the Harley out front?" Emily questioned.

"You're looking at him."

"What is it? A '99 Sportster?"

"98. You ride?"

"I do."

"No kidding. We should take a trip up to the mountains sometime."

"That would be awesome."

"So, what brings you here? Are you looking into a membership?"

"Maybe. I want to see what you've got first."

Toby turned around and called out to the guy behind the counter.

"Yo, Jake! Watch the desk for a minute. I'm going to do a quick tour!"

"Sure thing." A dark-headed guy in a tank top responded.

"Come on. I'll show you around." Toby walked in front of Emily, motioning for her to follow him. "So, what brings you back to town?"

Emily clenched her jaw. That was a question with a complicated answer.

"I missed seeing you miss your free throws in your driveway. Wanted to see if you improved your game any." Emily retorted with a smile.

"Damn. Savage." Toby chuckled. "You got a sport you're particularly interested in? I'd love to see what you can do so I can mock you for it, too."

"Good luck with the trash talk. I'm good at what I do. I was on the varsity swim team last year."

"But not this year?"

"Kinda hard to do when I'm fifteen states away."

"Rosewood has a team. You going out for it?"

It was a sore subject for her. She shook her head.

"I wanted to try something different." It was a lie. If she'd had her way she would spend the rest of her life swimming, but she couldn't do it competitively anymore. "I spar a little."

"Well, you're in luck." They walked by a darkened room. Toby walked inside and Emily followed. He flipped the light on and revealed an area with heavy bags and sparring equipment. There was a small ring in the center of the room. "Jake runs the boxing and the kickboxing classes here. But we also offer freestyle if you prefer to do it solo."

Emily walked around the heavy bag. She reached out and touched it with her palm and nodded in approval.

"We've got an indoor pool downstairs, but it's kind of small. Doesn't meet the standards that Rosewood High's does. That's really the best one for swimming. I think they offer freestyle swimming if you're interested. And you'd be welcome to practice here, too. You'd have it all to yourself. Almost no one ever uses it."

"What about the pool at Rosewood?"

"They haven't started practices yet, so you could really go any time if you wanted. But right after classes let out is usually the best bet. You can just go any time. The place is supposed to be locked, but the coaches don't care so it never is."

Emily nodded. She looked at the equipment in the room. Toby motioned for her to follow him and she did. He finished up the tour by showing her their outdoor basketball court. He grabbed a ball before they walked out the door.

When they walked out on to the court, he tossed it to her.

"Do you gift everyone with a basketball at the end of the tour or am I just special?" Emily glanced at the ball.

"I want you to put your money where your mouth is." Toby pointed to the net. "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?"

"Not really my sport." Emily dribbled the ball.

"I'll give you a free three month membership if you can make it from the three point line."

Emily glanced at the distance. She didn't see the harm in taking a shot.

"Make it six months."

"Don't get cocky."

"Seriously. One shot. If I get it, that six month membership is mine. If I miss, I'll help you out around here for free on weekends."

"Your funeral." Toby shrugged.

Emily bounced the ball a few times before she picked it up and aimed. She thought about all the times she'd played hoops with her dad when she was a kid. He'd taught her the geometry of the sport. She took a few minutes to try and figure out the best way to take her shot. Then she took a breath and threw the ball.

It bounced on the rim a few times, but then it messily fell into the hoop. Emily threw her arms up in victory.

Toby caught the ball as it bounced towards him.

"Did you just hustle me?" He looked at her in disbelief.

"I said it's not really my sport. Not that I don't play." Emily smiled. "Now, it's your turn."

Toby rolled his eyes, but then he made the exact same shot that she'd made.

"You've stepped up your game." Emily was impressed.

"Wanna play a little one-on-one?" he asked.

"Wish I could, but I've got to get back home. Lots of boxes to unpack."

"Where are you living now?"

"A couple of streets over from my old place. It's across the street from the DiLaurentis family."

"Yeesh, sorry." He made a face.

"What? Do they have wild parties and blast music too loud or something?"

"No. But Alison is…" He frowned. "Well, let's just say she could cut glass with her tongue."

"I bet she's not as bad as you make her out to be." Emily didn't want to believe that, though she could easily see how the little blonde girl she'd kissed could grow up and turn into a nightmare.

"That's a bet you would lose." Toby scoffed.

They walked back towards the building. Emily followed him back to the front. Toby got her a membership card and waived the fee. Emily grabbed a calendar and thanked him for showing her around.

"See you around, Em." He waved before he went off to help a member with a request.

Emily waved back and walked out the door. Seeing an old friend was just the mood booster that she needed. It had been six years, but the second she fell into a routine with not-so-little Toby Cavanaugh, she felt like she was back home.

Emily hopped on her bike. She pulled her phone out to check the time. She had a message from her mother, but she decided not to listen to it.

She heard the sound of heels hitting pavement behind her.

"Hey, Indigo Girl, nice bike." When she turned around she saw Alison DiLaurentis curiously admiring her ride. "I like your hair. Bold move. Indigo is all the rage."

"It's more violet than indigo."

"They're the same." Alison argued.

"You ever seen a rainbow? They're totally not."

The fact that the girl wouldn't back down excited Alison. Most people in town bowed to her every whim. She liked that this girl didn't give a shit. And the fact that she was sitting on a bike made her even hotter.

"You gunning to be the next Evel Knievel or something?"

Her bite was a mixture of sarcasm and bitchiness. And it was oddly hot. Something about her obstinacy turned Emily on. She liked a challenge.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Emily kept a cool façade.

Alison's smile turned tepid. She didn't like being challenged. Who did this girl think she was? She stared at Emily, waiting for her to back down. But Emily didn't relent.

"You're new to town, aren't you?" Alison asked.

"Sort of." Emily lifted her leg and moved off of her bike so she could face the blonde. "Why? You in the market for a new daredevil?"

"Not much devil to be dared around here." Alison glanced at the little shopping center down the street. "You're the girl from across the street, right? The one I saw unpacking?"

"Yeah."

"Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Hells Angel, but Rosewood is as lame as it can be. Nothing exciting ever happens here."

"Except me moving to town."

"Well, you're just full of yourself, aren't you?" Alison snickered.

"It's called confidence." She ran her hand through her long dark locks.

Alison felt a warm flush in her chest. She hated herself for feeling weak in the knees. She hated herself more for even thinking the phrase 'weak in the knees'. Her bitchy exterior melted and she found herself smiling at the brunette.

"How long have you been riding?" Alison traced her fingers across the bike.

"About a year. My dad and I fixed it up."

"So, you're good with your hands?" Alison smirked. She bit her lip and lifted her perfectly shaped brows.

Emily tried to keep her cool. Was Alison DiLaurentis flirting with her?

"Why? Are you a handful?" Emily retorted.

Alison opened her mouth to respond, but she was too shocked to say anything. No one had ever been able to keep up with her.

"So, where's your ride?" Emily asked.

"I came with friends. My stupid brother was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago, but he's not answering his phone."

"Want a lift?" Emily questioned.

"Getting on the back of a bike with a perfect stranger? Sounds like a recipe for disaster." No matter how hot she was.

"We're not perfect strangers, Ali."

Ten years ago Emily would have been terrified to talk to her. But a lot had changed in a decade. Emily wasn't really afraid of much anymore.

She watched as Alison tried to figure out how they knew one another. Emily smiled in amusement. The girl had grown up really hot, but she was downright adorable when she was confused.

"I guess my reputation precedes me?" Alison guessed.

She realized it sounded self-involved, but she didn't care. She didn't know how she knew this girl and she wanted to know more.

"We went to grade school together. I sat behind you in most classes since the roll was alphabetical."

Alison had a blank look on her face.

Nothing.

Emily was seconds away from mentioning the kiss. Instead she went with an earlier memory, one that still made her laugh.

"I taught you how to play kickball in third grade. You accidentally kicked it into the teacher's face."

Alison felt like she'd been thrust back into elementary school. She could see the soft brown eyes of the sweet little girl who had asked to borrow a pencil in first grade. She saw the cute smile of a sporty third-grader cheering for her at recess. She saw the soft hands of a fifth grade Emily Fields offering her a hand as they were climbing up to her treehouse during her birthday party. She could taste Emily's cherry chapstick from their kiss.

"Emily?" Alison tried to keep her jaw from dropping. The last thing she wanted to do was look like a buffoon.

The last time she'd seen Emily had been during a game of "Truth or Dare". Hanna Marin had dared them to kiss. That was the only decent thing Hanna had ever done for her.

"Hey, Alison."

Alison stared at her. She didn't even recognize her now. Puberty had been more than kind to her.

"Oh my God." Her demeanor changed from guarded to friendly. "Wow. How have you been? Where did you go?"

"Good. And California. Then Texas."

"Funny, I don't hear a twang in your giddy'up at all." Alison smirked. She tried to imagine Emily talking in a southern accent.

"That's…not a thing. No one says that." Emily laughed. When Alison saw Emily smile she was certain it was the most wonderful thing in the world. "I refuse to conform to societal norms."

"Oh, watch out world, we've got a badass here." Alison scoffed.

She didn't mean for it to come out bitchy, but that was pretty much her default setting. Emily didn't seem fazed.

"I was more likely to convert to valley girl than I was to 'y'all and yeehaw'."

"I didn't recognize you. You look…" Hot. "You've um…" Alison wanted to tell her she looked good, but she got flustered. It pissed her off, because that rarely happened, "You've certainly changed."

"Traveling broadens your horizons."

"You sound like a poster in a guidance counselor's office."

"I guess I took that poster literally." Emily shrugged.

"So, why the bike?" Alison reached out and put her palm against the side of the bike.

"It's freeing. It lets you break away from all the little things and gives you an opportunity to become anything you want to be." She glanced at her motorcycle. "Riding helps me balance my heart and mind."

"Okay, Sons of Anarchy." Alison smiled.

"You ever ridden before?" Emily asked, already knowing the answer. No way that Little Miss Priss had ever ridden bitch on a motorcycle before.

"No." She seemed offended by the question, which only made Emily laugh.

"Let me give you a ride. You'll get addicted to it. I promise." Emily grinned.

"I don't know."

"Come on. Live a little, Uptown Girl."

"Excuse me? Who are you calling Uptown Girl?"

"If the high heel fits…"

"So, does that make you a backstreet guy?" Alison ribbed her back.

"I think it's Backstreet Boys…"

"Shut up. Not the boy band. You know what I meant."

Emily chuckled under her breath.

"I'm surprised you know music like that. You certainly weren't into boy bands in elementary school. And you don't strike me as a Billy Joel fangirl."

"My grandparents loved him. I heard Piano Man so many times when I was little that I asked if I could start playing the piano."

"Is your dream to play in a bar for day drinkers and sad sacks?" Emily questioned.

"I've had plenty of practice doing that for my parents." Alison made a face.

Her tone made Emily sad. She didn't remember much about Alison's parents, but the manner in which Alison spoke about them made it sound like they were more into their own lives than their children.

Emily didn't understand why people chose to have children if they weren't going to love them. How could anyone not appreciate their own children?

Emily had her ups and downs with her parents, and she was struggling to crawl out of a pit she'd dug herself into with them, but even though they were disappointed in her they still loved her.

They drove her crazy, but she still loved them. She was doing everything in her power to prove to them that she wasn't a screw up. She was trying to show them that she could be an adult…that she could be responsible.

Emily's phone chimed and she glanced at it. It was a text message from her mother. And her mother rarely texted. She had an aversion to technology.

"I've got to get back before my mom blows her top." Emily put her phone away. "So, what do you say? You want a ride or are you going to hoof it on foot?"

Alison looked around. She knew her brother was probably getting drunk or banging some random sorority girl. And she didn't feel like walking.

"Sure." Alison faced Emily again. "But if you kill me I'll sue you."

"I'll be gentle. I promise." Emily reached for a button on the side of her bike. It popped open a small compartment near the rear.

"It has a trunk?" Alison gawked.

"I can fit one whole bag of groceries in it." Emily teased. "Or…" She reached in and pulled out a helmet for Alison. "Safety first."

Alison took the helmet, holding it out like she was going to catch cooties from it. It was obvious she'd never held one in her life.

"What? Are you afraid it will mess up your hair?"

Alison scowled at her and shoved the helmet on her head with conviction to prove a point to the brunette.

"Now what?" Alison asked.

"Just follow my lead." Emily climbed back on the bike. "Use me for support when you're getting on." She saw Alison smirk in response, and could only imagine the things going on in her mind. "See that peg right there?" Emily pointed.

"Yeah."

"That's where you'll be resting your feet. There is one on both sides." She reached her hand out to help Alison take the first step.

Alison took it, delicately holding her fingers as she climbed on the vehicle. She was wobbly on her feet as she put her heel against the peg, but she was able to get balanced without a problem. She rested the crooks of her heels against the pegs. It wasn't exactly ideal motorcycle riding attire, but it's not like she'd planned it. And it wasn't a very long ride.

"You can hold on to my waist for support if you need to."

Alison wasn't going to fight her on that. She smiled as she linked her arms around Emily's stomach. Emily glanced down where her fingers were interlocking over her belly and got lost in thought for a few seconds. Seeing the blonde's beautiful delicate hands against her body sent a warm flowing feeling through her abdomen.

"It's kind of like riding a horse." Alison glanced down at the ground. "I rode English when I was younger at Equestrian camp."

"Fancy." Emily glanced over her shoulder. "I rode Harley Davidson at the San Antonio School for Defensive Driving."

"Ah, so you're a Western snob." Alison grinned.

"Dressage just never interested me. Now, hold on, Fancy Pants." Emily turned the bike on. The noise made Alison jump. She hadn't expected it to sound so loud…or to be able to feel the vibration of the engine so deeply in her bones. Emily felt Alison tensing up. "Just hold on. And don't lean too far one way or the other, especially when we're taking turns."

"I feel like I need an entire class just to be a passenger." Alison laughed nervously.

"You'll be okay." Emily reached for her helmet and put it on.

She started out slow, letting Alison get the feel of the bike. Alison was intimidated at first, but then she started paying more attention to the scenery. There was something exciting about being out on the open road without being boxed in by car doors and windows. She felt like she was a kid again riding her bicycle down the street as fast as she could. The wind felt good against her body. She could feel the warmth of the sun. And she understood why Emily enjoyed it so much. There was a sense of appreciation for the powerful machine beneath them, and a respect for the road they were on. It was freeing…liberating.

Emily turned off the main road and it scared Alison, because she knew the roads that cut through the woods were curvier.

"Emily…" Her fear was palpable.

"Just trust me."

Alison tightened her hold on Emily and buried her face against her back. It was a strange feeling to be so close to someone that she didn't even know. But it felt comfortable. Almost intimate.

Emily took the same route she'd taken to get to the gym.

Alison looked up and saw the reason that Emily was taking the scenic route. The leaves were starting to change. And being underneath them and whizzing by at high speeds made it look like a painting that had come to life. The colors looked more vibrant. She could smell the fresh air and the change of the season.

She became so immersed that she didn't even realize that Emily had turned off of the backroad and was pulling into their neighborhood. The bike slowed to a crawl when they got to their street.

Emily pulled into her driveway. The moving truck was gone and now she had a perfectly clear view of the block…and more importantly, Alison's house. She turned her bike off and dismounted. Then she helped Alison off of the bike.

"Told you I'd go easy on you." Emily took her hand to make sure she didn't trip over her heels. "So, what do you think?"

Alison turned around and looked at the motorcycle. Then she faced Emily again with a huge smile on her face. She couldn't even pretend to play off how exciting the ride had been for her.

"That was amazing. You were right."

"Mmmhmm. Get used to saying that." Emily smiled. "Come on, I'll walk you home."

"I think I can make it across the street without you holding my hand." Alison rolled her eyes.

Emily wanted to grab her hand and hold it to prove a point, but she resisted the urge. She didn't want to push her luck. From what Toby had told her, Alison was basically the devil incarnate. She didn't want to push the wrong button.

As they walked up Alison's driveway Emily's memories came flooding back to her.

"The treehouse is still intact?" She glanced up at the structure.

It took her right back to the night of Alison's birthday. Alison's parents had gone all out. Nearly every kid in town had been at that party. Only a select few had been invited up into her treehouse though.

"Oh, yeah. It's a great escape for when my brother's asshole friends come over and relentlessly hit on me." Alison frowned.

Emily remembered Alison's brother, Jason. He was five years older than her. He had been big into partying back then, and apparently things hadn't changed. She didn't like that Jason's friends made Alison uncomfortable. She made a mental note to deal with that.

Alison looked at Emily, an unmistakable lust in her eyes.

"And it's private for…other things." She lifted her brows flirtatiously.

"Graduating from "Truth or Dare" are you?" Emily asked. She wanted to know if that night meant as much to Alison as it meant to her.

"Just playing a more adult version of it now." Alison winked.

"Well, if you ever want to escape from your brother's asshole friends, let me know."

"Why? You going to come over and scare them on your big bad bike?"

"No, I'm going to scare them with my big bad fists."

"I might take you up on that. I'd love to see my brother's fratboy bros Ian and Garrett getting pummeled by a girl with plum colored hair."

"Still violet." Emily argued.

"Debatable." Alison walked towards her front porch. She turned around and faced Emily. "Thanks for the ride."

"You're welcome to ride with me any time."

Alison liked her. She liked that she was so bold. She liked that she was carefree. She just liked her.

"You know, I just realized I have no way to reach you if I need a getaway driver." She reached in her pocket and pulled out her phone.

"You could just walk across the street." Emily teased.

"But it's so far away." Alison whined.

"Fine. Hand it over." Emily motioned for Alison to give up her phone.

Alison watched with a satisfied smile on her face as Emily input her contact information. She handed it back to Alison. Alison waved as she walked up her porch steps.

"I'll see you at school."

Emily made sure that Alison made it safely into the house and then she walked back across the street. She rolled her bike into the carport and then went inside.

Her parents were in the kitchen. She could smell something cooking. When she walked into the room she got a whiff of the fried rice and kimchi that her mother was making.

"Smells delicious, Pam." Wayne walked up behind her and kissed her cheek. "Want me to finish up? I know it's been a long day."

He had actually offered to order something for dinner so Pam wouldn't have to cook, but Pam had insisted that she break the new kitchen in.

"Good luck with that. Trying to pry her away from her domain is like trying to pry a gazelle away from a bunch of hungry lions." Emily leaned against the entryway to the kitchen.

"Emmy, there you are." Her mother looked up from the stove. "Did you get my message? We're eating at seven."

"I'm not very hungry. All that time in the car made me woozy."

"You were able to get on your bike and drive around like a maniac." Pam scoffed. "You're going to get yourself run over by a semi one day…"

"I don't drive like a maniac, mom." Emily sighed. "Riding helps clear my head. And I wanted to see the town."

"How is it? Still like you remember?" Wayne asked.

"The gym is kind of small, but they do have a boxing area and a pool."

"You might want to just stick to the easier sports for now, baby."

He knew he didn't really have a say since she was a few months shy of turning eighteen. He could easily try to pull the 'you live under our roof, you live by our rules' thing, but he knew from experience that only pushed kids further away. He'd been a lot like Emily when he was her age. He'd even run away from home. Emily was already talking about trying to find a place of her own, but she was communicating with them. And he didn't want his daughter to stop communicating with them.

"Maybe you should spend less time on recreation and more time looking for a job." Pam suggested.

Wayne shot Emily a look, begging her not to fight with her mother. Emily knew her mom was just being a concerned parent, but it pissed her off. She felt her face get hot in anger, but she didn't fall into the trap. Things had been strained between Emily and her mom and dad since she told them the truth. They had fought a lot more.

"There are jobs at the gym. Maybe I can get one there."

"Whatever you do you have to make sure you maintain your grades in school." Pam reminded her.

"I know."

Her parents had been on her ass about her future. She had a plan. It wasn't foolproof, but she was working on it. She already had some money saved up. She also had a sizeable nest egg that she'd acquired before she left Texas, though it felt like shame money. She was going to get a job working after school and on the weekends. She planned to move out after she graduated.

"I'm thinking about looking at apartments tomorrow," Emily said.

Wayne looked over at his daughter.

"You don't need to rush into that. It's not like we're shoving you out the door the second you turn eighteen. That's not how it works. We just want you to have a plan ready."

"Because planning has worked out so well for me," Emily uttered under her breath.

"Sweetie, we love you." Her dad put his large calloused hand against her cheek. "But this is just how it is. You made your choices."

Choices. That's what they were calling it.

"I'm going to go unpack some of my things." Emily pulled back from her father's embrace.

"You need to eat, Em." Her mother frowned at her.

"Later." She muttered as she walked away.

She heard her mother huffing under her breath and her father quietly shushing her. Their voices faded as she disappeared into her bedroom.

She looked at the boxes that held some of the most important memories of her life. She knew that she should feel sentimental, but she was too exhausted to care. And she had so much on her mind.

She pulled out her laptop.

She googled Rosewood and looked at random photos of the town. Some were professionally done. Others were people who had taken selfies with shops and roads in the background.

Once she'd had enough of Rosewood she decided to check her Instagram to see what everyone back in Texas was up to. A lot of her friends were posting back-to-school photos in their new outfits.

The "it" girl back in town, Courtney, had posted a photo of her posse. She was front and center, like she always was when Emily lived there. She was a lot like Alison. Assertive. Domineering. She even resembled her a little bit. But her features were less distinguished than Alison's. Emily had never been attracted to Courtney. She hated her.

She scrolled down to look at a few more posts.

Courtney's boyfriend Nick had posted a throwback picture of him and Courtney with the hashtag #AlreadyMissMyLove. Nick was the one who had the cousin who gave Emily her tattoo. He had been accepted into NYU, so he was only a few hours away.

She was surprised Courtney hadn't broken up with him because of the distance. Then again, Courtney had always been territorial. And he was head over heels in love with her. Courtney had that kind of pull over people. She'd tell someone to jump and they would do it with gusto. Boys drooled over her and girls were terrified of her.

Courtney had gotten in Emily's face once for hanging out with Nick at the tattoo parlor, even though Emily wasn't interested in Nick in the slightest. She had been dating someone else at the time.

It had been tense between her and Courtney for a few days. Emily had to watch her back. Courtney had been known to shave eyebrows and etch things in permanent marker on girl's faces for even looking in Nick's direction. But eventually Courtney let up on her.

Emily tended to get off lighter when it came to Courtney because Courtney was her best friend's older sister. And Courtney didn't mess with family. They'd also been teammates on the swim team together, so their coach forced them to be civil to one another.

Emily frowned at her computer. She was mad at herself for thinking about them. She had promised to leave the past in the past. She felt a sad twinge in her chest, because she was thinking about Texas. She was thinking about Nick and Courtney, which meant she was thinking about the only person she was actually sad she'd left behind.

Emily sighed and closed her laptop. Her legs and back were cramping from all the boxes she'd unloaded. The move had physically exhausted her. She got up to walk around and stretch her muscles.

She stopped at the window. The street below had several cars parked in a line. She'd forgotten how compact small towns were when it came to parking. She'd gotten accustomed to the wide open spaces of Texas.

The parked cars looked like something out of a fall calendar photoshoot. They looked cute. They certainly didn't look dangerous.

But there was one car in the line-up that didn't belong. Only she didn't know it didn't belong, because the person driving it knew how to blend in.

Emily was so caught up in her present that she didn't realize that her past was going to come back to haunt her.

She peered across the street at Alison's house. She saw a light on in an upstairs bedroom. When she looked through the window she saw Alison sitting at a desk.

Emily couldn't tell what she was doing, but the fact that their bedrooms were facing one another made her smile.

Alison looked up and saw her.

"Shit. She's going to think I was watching her like some creep." Emily wasn't sure whether to dive out of sight or smile and wave.

She opted to smile and wave.

Alison waved back. Maybe she wasn't as evil as Toby made her out to be. Emily had certainly dealt with her fair share of bitchy girls back in Texas. Courtney was the worst of the worst. Alison was nothing compared to her.

Emily heard her phone chiming. She walked over to grab it and saw a message from Alison.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Hell's Angel.

Emily laughed as she sent her reply,

Goodnight, Uptown Girl.

She plopped back on to her bed, staring at the text exchange. She felt a fluttering sensation in her stomach as she smiled dumbly at the screen.

Butterflies.

She hadn't even been back for a day yet and Alison DiLaurentis was giving her butterflies. She laid her arm across her stomach, her palm falling flat against her bellybutton. She put her phone down and laid back until her head hit her pillow.

She was already daydreaming about what life with Alison would be like. She hummed happily to herself.

She didn't hear the sound of the car parked in front of the house next door idling. The car slowly rolled forward. She had been so wrapped up in watching Alison that she didn't realize that there had been someone watching her.

Rosewood was much different than San Antonio. It was a quaint little town. But Emily's presence had opened up the door to a dark underbelly hidden in the shadows, and all hell was about to break loose.


A/N: *turns on 'fasten seatbelt' sign*