DISCLAIMER: South of Nowhere and its characters are the property of The N network, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: So this is sort of a followup/companion to You're Gonna Get Burned. It seems that being inside Spencer's head isn't quite so dark. Oh, and my beta's being a lazy bum so if there are any mistakes...they're mine. Sorry...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Huge spoilers for season finale.

The Distance Between What Is and What Used To Be
By OracleDelphi


So much has happened in the span of just two days that I don't really know where to begin. I could start with Clay running away to Nevada to see his birth mother because he feels cheated out of his heritage and came back hollow. I could start with Glen ending up in the hospital and Madison fleeing to Aiden. I could start with the fact that I'm pretty sure I was the straw that broke the camel's back of my parents' marriage.

That's as good a place as any.

Mom slapped me simply for saying that I wouldn't stop seeing Ashley, no matter how she blustered and forbade and preached. I can see her telling me that I don't know what love is, that I couldn't possibly find it with another girl. A mother's love is supposed to be unconditional, and I think I remember what that felt like. Now all I see when I look at her is someone far away, a speck on the horizon that's shouting and shouting, and I can't remember exactly when it was that I stopped listening, stopped caring.

I think that maybe my mom's world is a lot smaller, narrower, unhappier than I had ever realized. I'm beginning to see I'll never understand my own mother, and she'll never rise above her beliefs to understand me. I hope I never do figure her, or people like her, out.

People like Madison. I really don't know what to think about that girl. She's much too focused on Ashley, and by extension me, for it to be a case of simple dislike. There's something there, something scratching at the surface that I really want to know about. I could see Madison making a play for Ashley…and Ashley turning her down cold…and Madison fuming because that's the first time she's ever been denied anything. Ashley is the kind of person who wouldn't spill that all over the school…and Madison's the kind of person who would spill everything except her own role in the drama. So now she sees me getting what she desired, and it's her mission to stop what everyone sees happening.

But Ashley sat on my couch with my dad in the next room and told me the words I longed to hear. 'I want you…but I don't want to hurt you.' And I knew what she wasn't saying. She wasn't begging me to be careful with her heart, because everyone else has treated it with complete disregard. She wasn't declaring her love for me – or brownies. Ashley didn't say any of these things out loud, but I heard them anyway.

There's an art to conversing with Ashley. It's fast-paced and feisty and intellectual and there is always an entire layer of meaning behind what she doesn't say. I think I may just be the first person in her life who wants to untangle enough of it to comprehend. I don't think she understands that I find this just as terrifying as she does. I know that we're both just as capable of hurting each other, equally holding the power in this relationship.

Ashley is the kind of person who would try to talk me out of seducing her our first night together. But I spent three months in my head trying to figure this out and I finally knew what I wanted. It took me that long until I realized that the stranger looking me in the mirror every morning was still me. This girl who snarks right back, who stands up for herself and who wants to kiss her best friend senseless is just the latest version of Spencer. Spencer 2.0, now including self-confidence and a girlfriend who isn't a friend that just happens to be a girl.

When Ashley's lips met mine for the first time, it was exhilarating and terrifying and exactly like being myself. Or finding myself. I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but I know that kissing Ashley is something I could never have avoided. We were drawn to each other even though I fought it tooth and nail, fought against all the feelings and desires and thoughts and dreams…and I happily ended up in her arms anyway.

Glen warned me that she likes to break girls in and move on. But Glen didn't see the look on her face when I took off my shirt, the heartbreaking love and tenderness and want. Glen didn't hear the way she moaned my name, breathlessly and like she couldn't really believe it was me with her. Glen didn't watch her sleep, the way her face was so innocent and open and free and happy.

But I did get to see, and now I'll get to deal with a world that refuses to understand me. A world that uses words like dyke and fag and pedophile in the same breath. A world that didn't seem to exist in Ohio. A world that I would put up with so I can see Ashley's smile, feel her passion, just sift my fingers though her hair.

There are times, though, that a tiny nagging part of me wishes I could go back to the Midwest. Just transport myself through time and space so things can be less confusing and dramatic and stressful. Back when Mom and Dad loved each other, back when Clay was happy that we were color blind, back when Glen was…still just Glen. Back when I knew who I was without any fear and I was simple.

Now my life consists of clubs and drinking and little white pills and vicious mothers and more money than God and kissing a girl endlessly. Pep rallies and drug deals and lockdowns and shootouts and overtime games and academic decathlons. My life is a study of contradictions and I feel lost in it. But then Ashley smiles at me or kisses me or gently holds my hand at school. Everything falls back into place and the world isn't whirling by, it's just settled and still and I smile until my face hurts and I can't imagine ever wanting to be anywhere else.

So, you see, that's how I know what love is, and that's the only finish that really matters because everything else will work out somehow.

The End

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