DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never were. Not making any $$. Don't HAVE any $$. Don't sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My first SoN fic. I haven't seen all the episodes; so, bear with me while I learn the characters.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: All but mostly 'Friends with Benefits'.

Down to One
By Aeryn Sun



<What the hell was I thinking> Spencer silently fumed to herself as she stared at the ceiling in her room. <Oh wait, I WASN'T thinking, that's it. Any sensible thoughts were overwhelmed by hormones. Damn it.>

She flung her arm over her eyes and sighed dramatically. Really, what was going through her mind while she competed with Ashley for Aiden? She wasn't even sure she wanted that cute but admittedly vapid excuse for a boy. Sure she told Ashley that she thought she did, but if she was honest with herself, Spencer knew that the main reason she had even said that to her brunette friend was to see Ashley's reaction.

Spencer wasn't even all that sure why she wanted to get a rise out of Ashley; what was her true motivation? Since admitting to Ashley that she thought she liked girls, liked as in LIKED, she felt like she was playing some sort of unspoken game with her best friend. A game where they both pushed and pulled at the other with their actions just to see what would happen. And as much fun as it was turning out to be, it was equally frightening to Spencer.

She'd never had occasion to question her sexuality back in Ohio. She had her friends and everything, sometimes went to the movies with the boys she hung out with but never really put a lot of thought into furthering a relationship with any of them. Especially after her disastrous first time with that farm boy back in Ohio. That kind of cured her of the desire to be intimate again any time soon.

So after that, Spencer hadn't even thought about sex, romance, relationships, dating, any of that. The people in her life were just friends and nothing more.

<Hmmm, was I THAT repressed?> she smiled to herself.

Then she'd moved to L.A. and met Ashley. And her world had been tipped on its axis from the moment she locked eyes with those smoky brown ones.

<I love staring into those eyes,> Spencer mused, rolling onto her side to face the wall. <She's so flippant and aloof all the time, hiding behind her sarcasm but when I look into those eyes, sometimes I can see the girl beneath all that. And she's beautiful.>

Growling in annoyance with herself and her rapidly degrading train of thought, Spencer tried again to figure out what exactly had happened earlier. Was she trying to assert her heterosexuality by kissing Aiden? Part of her was trying to figure out if what she felt when she kissed him was excitement or disappointment. She honestly figured that kissing a guy, especially one as cute and into her as Aiden would set off bells or fireworks, or at least something. Instead it seemed ordinary, plain. But when she imagined she was kissing Ashley instead her stomach fluttered and adrenaline surged through her body.

<Not a good indication of my straightness> she sighed. Then again, admitting to Ashley that she was thinking about her as she did kissed Aiden kind of defeated that idea as well.

It had given Spencer a wild thrill in the pit of her stomach to hear Ashley freely admit that she too wasn't kissing Aiden in her mind. Watching someone you thought you might have feelings for (and hoped maybe they returned) kiss someone else while they thought about you, turned out to be rather hot, in Spencer's opinion. Every time she watched Ashley's lips capture and meld into Aiden's, she saw herself in Aiden's place. And seeing exactly how Ashley kissed had made Spencer's blood boil with desire and heart pound until she was sure that Ashley and Aiden could hear it.

<Crap> she scowled. <I can practically hear my mother sharpening her pitchfork at the mere thought of me being gay. And Glen? Great, I'll be run out of town by my own family.>

She jumped when she heard her cell phone buzz from the nearby nightstand. It was after one in the morning so Spencer knew who was calling. Ashley had been trying to reach her since Spencer had fled the brunette's house hours ago. And like usual, Ashley was being her normal, persistent and stubborn self. Truth was Spencer wasn't really avoiding Ashley; she just didn't know what to say.

<'I'm not mad at you, Ashley. I just don't know what's going on with me'> she tried to work out what she'd say as she flipped open her phone to listen to the message that Ashley had left.

"Hey, Spence, it's me. But I'm sure you already know that. And I know you're not any more asleep right now than I am. But whatever. Look, I'm just calling to say that we can just forget this whole night happened, if that's what you want to do. I just don't…Spence…please don't be mad or anything. It's OK, nothing happened. Just forget about it and let's go back to how we were. OK? Call me."

Spencer sighed. She could hear how upset Ashley really was even if the other girl was trying hard to hide it. There was a certain underlying tone of panic hiding beneath the nonchalance that Ashley had tried to convey, especially as the message went on.

And Spencer couldn't help but smile at her best friend's thoughtfulness, saying that they could just forget the whole evening if it would make everything all right again.

<It's a nice thought, and I wish I could, Ash, but…it's not that simple.> She put the phone back on the nightstand and flopped onto her back.

<I think I left 'simple' back in Ohio.> she lamented. <God, she thinks I ran because I didn't want to kiss her and that is so not true. I ran because I don't want to kiss her in a situation like that. And kissing is the least of where my mind keeps going. > She grunted and closed her eyes.

<I really need to figure this out. Is it just Ashley that I'm attracted to? Or am I like, really GAY gay? Maybe some sleep will help.>

Spencer pulled her comforter up and sighed.

<As long as I don't dream of Ashley…again…>



<Well, it's official: Spencer is never going to speak to me again. I freaking blew it!> Ashley slammed down her cell phone and glared at her reflection.

"Happy now, you idiot?" she sneered at the mirror. "You always have to be selfish and push just a little further until you screw up everything. God!"

She walked over to her plushy bed and plopped down on top of the covers, absolutely disgusted with herself. She knew that Spencer was in a very difficult and confusing state of mind right now, having visited the same thing herself a while back. She knew how hard the maze of feelings, fears, and insecurities were for anyone experiencing it. She didn't enjoy watching Spencer struggle with it but at least she was there to help her friend.

If she had to go through the trauma and angst that accompanies the struggle with one's sexuality, at least unlike Ashley, Spencer wouldn't be alone. Ashley would make sure to help her and be there for her through the rough patches that were inevitably going to appear. It was already bound to be tough as it was, with Spencer's mother being the way she was. And that oaf of a brother, Glen. Ashley hated herself for making it worse right from the start.

<I don't know what I was thinking. It was all fun and everything and then…it wasn't. Seeing Spencer kissing Aiden...yeah, didn't like that. Made my insides turn cold.>

In Ashley's mind, playing with Aiden's head was a fun pastime and one that she had no plans to stop anytime soon. He was such a sweet guy but so dim at the same time. Sometimes Ashley found herself wondering why she'd ever really gone as far as she did with him in the first place.

<Although I suppose if I didn't have that experience then I wouldn't know that it WASN'T what I want.>

But she did get involved with Aiden and there was almost a child involved. Some days Ashley would wonder what that child would have been like. Most of the time, though, she tried not to think about it.

<There is no future, there is no past. There's only this moment and I'll make it last.> Ashley hummed to herself. She knew that with everything that happened between them, she'd be connected to Aiden for the rest of her life.

<Thank God I didn't do anything stupid with Aiden tonight,> she groaned. She'd gotten as far as the pool without any clothes on and then realized that it probably wasn't the best thing to do so she had sent a disappointed but understanding Aiden home.

<He can be so freaking sweet that I wonder about HIS sexuality,> she giggled slightly at that thought and stuck her tongue into her cheek as she thought. <Maybe he's a lesbian male?> she laughed out loud at that.

But as close and comfortable as she was with him, he wasn't the one that she wanted to be skinny dipping with. She just didn't see Spencer being very open to the idea, especially now.

<Everything was fine the way it was. I swore to myself that I'd let Spencer set the pace and what do I do? At the first opportunity to kiss her I jump like a horny BOY! I'm such as ass.>

Not at all tired, Ashley got up and pulled her guitar out and sat back down, strumming softly.

<I like her…probably too much,> Ashley sighed. <Damn it, I haven't felt like this towards anyone in…well a looooooooooooong time. Just seeing her makes my stomach flip and I can't help but smile. And she's just so honest and open. She's there for me when no one else ever is. And if I've fucked that up by pushing her, I'm gonna hate myself forever.>

Ashley had never had a friend like Spencer before. Everyone in her life was always so self-involved that sometimes when she was younger, Ashley would wonder if she was invisible. Her father, while good intentioned, was never there and her mother treated her like a burden. Sometimes she wondered why her mother had bothered to have her in the first place since the woman obviously had no maternal instincts or desire to care for anyone but herself and her next bed warmer.

Her friends had always been snobby, self-centered jerks only interested in Ashley for her money or famous father and she never really felt like anyone cared about HER, the person she really was. At least until Spencer Carlin walked into her life. It was only in Spencer's eyes that Ashley saw someone looking at her for HER. She felt like Spencer really saw her when she looked at her, not like everyone else who always seemed to be looking through her.

<When I talk to her, she's all there. She's not wondering what she can get from me or how long she'll be stuck listening to me. It's like she's actually interested in what I have to say. I don't feel judged or stupid. And I don't want to lose that.>

Hoping to clear her mind, Ashley played a few songs that usually calmed her when she was feeling so lost. She hoped, one day, to play for Spencer, and only Spencer.

<If she ever speaks to me again. Damn it!> She put her guitar away and then crawled into her bed.

<I really wanted to kiss her. But she was right, the moment was wrong. I don't want the first time I kiss her, if I ever get that chance, to be in front of someone else or interrupted. I want it to be special, like Spencer is.>

She grinned, thinking of when Spencer said that it was her she was thinking about as she kissed Aiden. The open and wanting look on Spencer's face was heartbreaking even as it made Ashley's heart swell with hope and…something she wasn't sure she wanted to identify just yet.

Then it just seemed natural to put her hand on Spencer's cheek, feel the soft, smooth surface beneath her fingertips and turn the blonde's face towards her. Feel the long strands of hair tickling the back of her hand as Spencer turned towards her. Pull her closer and try to whisper away the other girl's obvious nervousness.

<She was shaking. I should have stopped it when I noticed that she was shaking. She wasn't ready. But being that close, seeing her kiss Aiden knowing it was me she'd rather be kissing…I got carried away. I should have known better.>

"Shoulda, coulda, woulda," she muttered to her ceiling. She thought about the wonderful feel of Spencer's breath on her face, hot and short little pants that Ashley was unsure was entirely fear.

"Damn you Aiden and your typical male sense of timing," she growled. "At least if I'd been able to kiss her once and she decided never to talk to me again, I'd have THAT." She gave her pillow a few furious punches before curling up on her side.

<I need to discuss my habit of talking to myself with my shrink,> she realized idly as sleep began to creep up on her. <Not healthy.>

<I hope Spencer is still taking to me tomorrow. Otherwise…I'm lost.>



Ashley glared at her alarm clock as it reminded her that she actually had to get out of bed and face the day. Fortunately that day didn't include school for her so she basically had the entire day to herself.

< I wonder if Spencer wants to hang out?> She picked up her phone and checked to see if her blonde friend had called or text her. Sighing at the blank screen, she hauled herself out of bed to get ready.

<Well, I guess that answers my question about whether or not she's going to speak to me. She would have called by now if she was. Damn it.>

After showering, she got dressed and sat on her bed thinking. After a few minutes, she decided that she wasn't just going to sit around kicking herself in the ass for her behavior the night before. She was going to go have fun and get her mind off the whole situation if it was the last thing she did.

<I'm not going to call Spencer. If she wants to talk then SHE can call ME. I'm not gonna beg. I've got better things to do with myself.>

She grabbed her keys and purse and headed out the door, her anger and self-hatred fueling her steps.

<Besides, after the way I fucked things up, I'll be lucky if she ever talks to me at all. It's better to start moving on now and give up on the stupid hope of ever being more than friends.>

She pulled out of the driveway, her destination firmly in mind.

<I might as well admit it, though. She deserves better than me anyway. So I'll just get out of her way.>

Spencer hung up the phone and sighed. She'd been trying all day to reach Ashley but kept getting the feisty brunette's voicemail. Ashley wasn't picking up the phone, even when Spencer tried calling from Clay's cell to trick her friend into picking it up.

<Gosh, she must really be mad at me for running out last night. Not that I blame her, it was pretty rude. But I had to get out of there before I did something that I'd regret later. I DO want to kiss Ashley. Just not in a situation where it feels like a contest, or conquest.>

During the night, Spencer had still been unable to sleep and had spent the entire time thinking about the situation that she now found herself in. Was she gay? Was she straight? All of the above? As much as she agreed with Ashley, she wasn't into labels she still had to admit that she wanted to know which label fit HER. She wanted to know where she fit in the scheme of things.

So she spent hour after hour in the dark reviewing every relationship that she'd ever had, romantic, friendships, all of it. And the thing that she kept coming back to was the difference between Ashley and anyone else. Ashley got to her unlike anyone had ever before. When she was with Ashley, she didn't feel like she had any obligation to act in any one way or do anything.

When she had dated boys (or rather, boy, if she didn't count dabbling with Aiden) she felt like she was living for someone else, doing it because it was expected and she didn't want to disappoint anyone. Even if it meant sacrificing her happiness, at least she wouldn't be a 'failure' in someone else's eyes; especially her parents.

The question was: when did she get to live for HER and no one else?

<As soon as I figure that out, maybe I can figure out my feelings for Ashley. Although that's pretty easy. I really like her. In a very not-friend sorta way. Rip-off-your-clothes-and-do-things-I've-only-read-about way.> Spencer grunted in annoyance with herself.

"Ug, soooooooooooo gay, Spence. You are so gay."



Monday was a long time in coming and by the time the first bell rang that morning, Spencer was very worried. She hadn't seen hide or hair of Ashley all weekend. The brunette hadn't picked up her phone at all and Spencer had left enough messages to fill her voicemail. Still, Ashley hadn't called.

"Hey, Spencer. Morning!" Aiden greeted her in the hall as she tried to look for her missing friend as well as make it to her first class in some sort of timely manner.

"Oh, hi. Aiden, have you heard from Ashley?" she asked as they both headed to the same math class. Aiden shook his head.

"Not since she sent me home Friday night," he responded with a frown. "Why?" Spencer bit her lip and sighed.

"I haven't heard from her all weekend and that's so unlike Ashley. Even when she's mad, I can usually get her to at least answer the phone and be sarcastic. But she never picked up."

"Hmmm," Aiden hummed as he thought. "I'm sure she's fine, Spencer. You know how she gets. Things got kinda intense between you two the other night. And she seemed kinda upset when she told me to go home. Ashley probably just wanted to be left alone for a little while. She'll turn up." Spencer stopped walking and turned to face her tall friend.

"Wait. She seemed 'upset'? What? Why?" Aiden shrugged.

"I don't know. I think what almost happened with you two really shook her up. You know, she likes to pretend to be unaffected by stuff, but you know that it's a lie, right?" He watched as Spencer nodded. "Anyway, I left and that was the last I saw her." He placed a calming hand on the blonde's shoulder. "Listen; don't let her wind you all up, OK? She's probably doing this to upset you so that you'll pay attention to her."

"Yeah, maybe," Spencer agreed in a voice that said anything but. "I guess we'll see."

By lunch, Spencer was physically ill with worry. She was stalking around the school parking lot looking to see if she could see Ashley's car but she didn't have any luck.

"Find her yet?" Aiden asked as he walked up behind Spencer. He could see the tense set of the blonde's shoulders and the concern written clearly in her blue eyes. Silently he cursed Ashley for putting Spencer through so much worry. Although is he was honest with himself, he was getting kind of worried as well.

<Ashley doesn't run from her problems, usually. She charges through them usually without thought. So, where the hell is she?> he wondered.

"No, and I'm getting really worried, Aiden," Spencer frowned.

"Tell you what, after school we'll go to her house and make sure she's not just hiding out there," he suggested, hoping to alleviate Spencer's growing sense of panic.

She turned and looked at the basketball player hope and gratitude shining in her bright eyes.

"Really?" Aiden nodded.

"Sure, it's no problem. And if Ash isn't there, maybe her mom will be and we can ask where she went." Spencer frowned.

"Do you think she'll know?"

"Knowing her, probably not. She probably doesn't even know Ashley hasn't been around," he replied honestly. Spencer rolled her eyes in disgusted disbelief.

"How can you have a child and not even care about what happens to them?"

It was beyond Spencer to comprehend Ashley's parents, and not just because her own parents had always been so attentive and caring. It was on a basic level that Spencer found Ashley's mother and father to be such enigmas. As a human being, she couldn't understand disregarding someone as sweet and generally awesome as Ashley. Or disregarding anyone with feelings, really.

"I don't get it either, Spencer. But that is the reality of Ashley's life and it's been that way longer than I've known her," Aiden said sorrowfully.

"That's just so…sad," Spencer complained.

"Don't let Ash hear you say that," Aiden teased. "The last thing she'd want is your pity."

"I know," Spencer sighed. The after lunch bell rang sending students scurrying around the quad.

"I gotta go, Spence, I got a test in history. Meet me hear after school and we'll go, ok?" Spencer nodded.

"I'll be waiting."



Spencer was waiting for Aiden by his car when he exited the school. He tried to greet her but by then she was so wound up with worry that she wasn't in the mood to talk.

<If you're sitting at home doing your freaking nails, Ashley, I'm gonna kill you,> she decided as she watched the familiar scenery on the route to Ashley's house pass by the window of the car.

<If you're home and just being a bitch by not talking to Spencer, making her worry like this, I am going to be so pissed at you Ashley,> Aiden fumed.

They pulled up to the driveway and Spencer hopped out of the car.

"She's not here, Aiden! Her car is gone!" Aiden walked up to Spencer and tried to calm her by putting his arm around her shoulders.

"Let's see if her mother is home," he suggested. A few minutes later they left disappointed. Her mother hadn't seen Ashley since Saturday when the girl had come home, packed a bag and said she'd be back 'eventually'.

"I can't believe that she has no idea where her own daughter is," Spencer grumbled as they drove to her house.

"Me either but at least she didn't seem concerned," Aiden pointed out. Spencer shot him a dirty look.

"Like she'd be concerned if Ashley ran through the house on fire," she scoffed. "She doesn't care. That much is obvious. God, where IS she?"

"Look, getting yourself all wound up over this isn't going to help. Ashley's been taking care of herself for a long time and I'm sure she's fine. Like I said this morning, she'll turn up eventually."

"Hopefully, she won't turn up on a slab in the downtown morgue," Spencer sighed.

By Friday afternoon, Spencer was genuinely sick. And she had managed to scare away anyone who dared get close enough to talk to her with her attitude. Since Monday, her behavior had rapidly declined to snapping and biting off everyone's head. She couldn't eat, she hadn't slept and she felt like crap.

Despite all this, when her phone rang and she saw Ashley's number on the caller ID screen, Spencer grinned from ear to ear and relief poured through her body.

"Ashley, where the hell have you been?" she demanded to know although her voice carried obvious affection and warmth. She was upset that the brunette hadn't been in touch but overjoyed that she was evidently all right now that she was calling.

"Hi, uh, is this Spencer, Ashley's friend?" a nervous male voice asked from the other end. Spencer felt her stomach plummet to her knees.

"Yes, it is. Who are you and where's Ashley?"

"This is her dad, Danger Davies. Look, Spencer? Ashley's here and she's fine. Well sorta," he paused.

<That explains why he sounded familiar. I know his songs.>

"What's wrong? Where is she?" Spencer was beyond confused. Why would Ashley be at her father's? And where WAS her father's house?

"She's here at my house in Venice Beach. I guess she's been here all week from the look of things," he started to explain.

"Can I talk to her?" Spencer asked. She needed to hear Ashley's voice to reassure herself that her friend really was all right.

"She's kinda…well; she's very drunk right now, Spencer. And I have to be at the airport for a show in Chicago soon. I was hoping, since you're all she talks about when we talk, that you could come watch her. Really I would but I gotta go play 'circus monkey' for the label and…"

<Drunk? Ashley's drunk? What the hell is going on here?> Spencer wondered.

"I don't have a driver's license and I'm at school so my brothers can't bring me…" she frantically tried to think of a way to get to Venice Beach.

"I already sent a car for you before I called," Danger broke into Spencer's train of thought. "I figured I'd at least, for once, think ahead and hope that you'd agree to come help me with her. You're like, the only good friend she's got."

Spencer let out a relieved breath knowing that she could at least get to Ashley now.

"Of course. I'll be waiting outside the school for the car. Will you be there when I get there?"

"Yeah. I don't hafta leave 'til later. I just don't want to leave her alone and I sure don't wanna have to call her mother," the distaste in his tone came across very clearly. Spencer couldn't blame him. She didn't like that woman either.

"But I'll see you when you get here. Thank you so much Spencer. I owe you."

Spencer hung up her phone and went to see if she could find Clay so that she could explain where she was going and hope that he'd help to cover for her. How she would explain to her mother why she ditched school and took a ride to Venice Beach to take care of a drunken Ashley.

<Yeah, that'll improve my mother's opinion of her,> she scoffed. <Although on the up side, a famous rock musician now owes me a favor.>

Part 6

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