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
"I'm gonna ride The Mummy ride like 6 times!" Glen announced excitedly as Arthur parked the car and the group exited. Clay grabbed Chelsea's hand as the group started towards the gate on the little trip that Arthur had taken them on. It was the six of them going to Universal Studios. Glen had complained that it wasn't fair that Chelsea could go but Madison couldn't but since the incident between Spencer and the Latina, Arthur had decided not to include her. He'd told his stubborn son that he was more than welcome to stay home and spend the day with Madison if he didn't want to go on the trip. That had effectively stopped Glen's griping.
Spencer had had a little trouble waking Ashley earlier that morning since the girl had slept so soundly and deeply like she was trying to hide which Spencer knew was her intention. Half of her was surprised Ashley hadn't tried to pull one of her disappearing acts sometime during the night but from what she could tell, Ashley had barely moved all night.
It reminded Spencer of the time Ashley showed up in her room a few days after the weekend she spent with her mother. Ashley had slept like the dead then too. Spencer was starting to see the pattern of Ashley hiding in sleep to avoid conflict and turmoil. While the blonde preferred that coping mechanism instead of the other things she knew Ashley had once dabbled in, it was still hard to witness.
She'd been trying, unsuccessfully not to think about what the truth was behind what happened to Ashley that weekend she was 'away' with her mother. She knew too much now; there were too many pieces that now lined up to create a very ugly and disturbing picture for Spencer to ignore them. But again, now wasn't a good time to talk to Ashley about it and Spencer feared what the wounded brunette's reaction was eventually going to be when it was all finally aired.
After waking, Ashley was subdued and quiet the whole morning, even when Spencer's father announced that they were going on to the amusement park. Spencer was excited even if Ashley wasn't. She knew that her father was trying to alleviate the stress and strain of the past few weeks on both of them. She greatly appreciated the man and everything he was doing for them.
After some internal debate, she'd told her father about the phone call from Christine Davies the night before while Ashley was in the shower and he'd seemed very concerned.
"Spencer, I need to be honest with you," he'd said gently. "I'm worried about what her mother is truly capable of." Spencer hadn't been surprised by his words; the opposite actually. She'd been thinking the same thing but had been worried that she was being overly dramatic. It scared her that her father thought the same thing.
"Do you think she's dangerous?" she wondered. Her father had given her a sad but knowing look. This was his area of expertise and he couldn't help but worry that Christine Davies was indeed a physical danger to Ashley and now, by extension, Spencer.
"Yes, honey, I'm afraid so," he said evenly. He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "It just means that we have to be extra careful that she can't really get near Ashley." Spencer scowled.
"Trust me, I'm not letting that beast anywhere near her," she growled. Arthur nodded.
"None of us are, Spence."
Now they were standing in the bright sunshine, just inside the gates to the park.
"All right, I know you all don't want to hang out with this old man so we'll meet up for munch at the ticket outlet. Is that OK with everyone?" Arthur asked. He knew that the last thing the teens wanted was to hang out with him all day. Besides, he wanted the day to be something for Ashley and Spencer to enjoy where they could just be together without the outside world and its cold reality bothering them, at least for a few hours.
"We'll stay with you, Mr. Carlin," Chelsea said happily, her arm linked with Clay's. They really were very cute looking together.
"Yeah, Dad," Clay agreed. "As long as we definitely hit the Special Effects Stages." Arthur grinned.
"Lead the way!" he said excitedly. Spencer and Ashley watched them go while Glen eyed them suspiciously.
"What's your issue?" Spencer snapped, not liking the evil looks her brother was giving her and her girlfriend. It made her want to unbuckle his safety belt on one of the rides if he stuck with them all day.
"Just...don't go screwing around somewhere in public and ruining this whole day for us," he snarled disgustedly. Ashley rolled her eyes.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, you perv," she sighed, unamused. "There are cameras everywhere in places like this. They're more likely to catch you picking that huge ass nose of yours than us doing anything scandalous." Glen's glare became even hotter at the insult.
"Whatever," he grumbled, taking off. He wasn't quite out of eye sight when both girls saw him stop to check out his reflection.
"I think that nose comment bothered him," Spencer giggled. Ashley gave a nonchalant shrug.
"Well, jeez, have you seen that thing?"
"I swear, Ashley, you have a bladder the size of an acorn," Spencer teased as Ashley pulled her into the bathroom after they rode Shrek 4-D for the second time. They were already having a great time, with the small crowds not getting in the way of the lines.
It was great to see Ashley smiling, the excitement of her girlfriend finally winning her over as they had wandered the park deciding what ride to go on first. It was like she'd simply let go of everything else and was allowing herself to enjoy the moment.
"Yeah, well, I have a one track mind," the brunette tossed back, looking around. She shifted anxiously on her feet, coming to a decision. She grabbed Spencer by the wrist and pulled her, stumbling slightly, into the large handicapped stall in the back of the room. It was one of the rare bathrooms at Universal where the stalls were partitioned apart from one another with full walls, affording someone more privacy.
"Ash, wha...?" Spencer started. The words stuck in her throat when Ashley dropped to her knees almost in reverence in front of her. "Ash?"
"Spence?" came the soft reply as Ashley began running her hands up and down Spencer's jean clad legs. She let her thumbs drift inward, caressing the blonde's inner thighs suggestively. The touches were suggestive while at the same time, very clear with intent. She placed several hot kisses to the clothed area, up and down Spencer's legs as the taller girl started to tremble. Ashley wondered absently if she was shaking from nervousness or anticipation.
Spencer felt her heart start to race at what her girlfriend obviously intended to do. It was clear what Ashley wanted and despite her misgivings and Glen's warning, it certainly was what Spencer wanted as well.
"What are you...CRAP!" she exclaimed as one slender hand moved up and cupped her mound while pressing down slightly.
"You seem awfully hot, Spence," Ashley said innocently. "You should probably have that looked at." Spencer fought to keep her eyes from rolling back in her head as that hand pressed down more and started to rub in slow circles.
"Uh..." she stammered. Her hips started rocking of their own accord against the hand moving against her seeking more friction. Ashley stood back up for a moment and pushed Spencer gently against the wall of the space, never stopping the movement of her hand.
"Do you want me to stop?" she asked softly aware that is was usually Spencer initiating things between them and that there was a possibility that she was pushing things too far in attempting what she'd been wanting all morning.
"Fuck no," Spencer responded throatily. She felt Ashley against her, pressing close and it was all she could focus on. Their bodies molded together so well, blending and curving comfortably. Spencer could almost swear she could feel Ashley's heart beating against her where their breasts were pushed together. Then she wondered if it was just her own thundering against her chest as Ashley slowly lowered the zipper on her jeans.
The older girl dropped down again, ignoring the hard surface on her knees as she peeled Spencer's jeans and panties down slim legs. She knew that time was limited even if her desire wasn't. She could see how aroused her girlfriend was already although she had barely touched her yet.
"God, Spence, you're so wet already," she breathed, inhaling the scent of the blonde and feeling her head swim. She swore that Spencer was the best intoxicant she'd ever come across.
"I've wanted you all morning," Spencer moaned honestly. "I just figured we'd have to wait until tonight." Ashley smirked.
"Why wait?" she asked mischievously, putting her hands on Spencer's hips and moving her mouth in for a taste. Spencer let out a low groan at the feel of Ashley's mouth on her. The smaller girl's tongue snaked out and slipped through silky folds easily hitting Spencer's throbbing clit.
"Oh fuck," Spencer whimpered. She fell back to lean against the wall and buried one hand in the long hair of the girl kneeling before her. "Ashley..."
"Mmmm, Spencer," Ashley hummed into the wet flesh near her face. "You taste so fucking good."
"Oh God," Spencer gasped as Ashley began licking in earnest, going fast and hitting all the spots she knew would take Spencer higher.
Ashley smiled to herself as Spencer's hips bucked against her, almost riding her face as she tasted, teased and licked the younger girl. There was something about the way Spencer tasted that Ashley just could not get enough of.
She grasped Spencer's right leg and urged her to lift it, draping it over shoulder to gain a better angle and then thrust her tongue as deep into the now panting and writhing girl as she could manage. Spencer's walls immediately clamped down around her questing muscle, pulling it deeper inside.
"Oh God," Spencer repeated, her voice low and raspy. "Close..." Ashley could feel exactly how close her girl was by the tremors dancing against her tongue and the way the blonde's stomach muscles were twitching. She had to grip Spencer tightly by the hip to keep her from hurting either of them as she strove for release.
Shifting slightly, Ashley quickly thrust two fingers deep inside the other girl, replacing her tongue and taking Spencer's clit into her mouth where she started to suck hard. Spencer pulled, almost painfully on the tangle of curls in her hand and growled as she came.
"Ashhhhhhh," she cried out not caring who heard her. Ashley shivered at the sound of her girlfriend's voice, the lusty quality bringing goose bumps to her skin. She licked up all she could until Spencer tugged gently for her to stand up.
Carefully setting Spencer's leg back on the ground, Ashley stood, wincing at the stiffness in her knees and wrapped her arms around the now shaking girl. They shared a series of loving kisses as Spencer regained her strength.
"Now that," Spencer sighed contentedly minutes later. "Was worth the price of admission."
After their adventure in the bathroom, and Spencer had regained her bearings, the duo ventured back out into the park, maps in hand and went to enjoy the sights. Ashley was pleasantly surprised when, as they walked towards the first ride after the bathroom break, she felt Spencer's grasp her hand with her own and entwine their fingers together. She looked down at their hands and then at Spencer, lighting up when she saw the happy and content smile on her girlfriends face. She smiled back and gently squeezed the warm hand in her own.
It amazed her that without speaking a word, Spencer could calm her feelings and fears, even if she had yet to voice them. The hand now holding her own so tightly, lovingly was making Ashley feel more loved and accepted than anything had in a long time. She knew that holding hands in public was a big step for Spencer. They were bound to get a few looks but since Spencer was willing to face it, Ashley decided that she was too.
They went to every show, to each ride and any opportunity to have their picture taken, they took. Aside from a few looks, mostly smiles from other couples, no one bothered with the girls who were obviously more than friends. Their picture with King Kong had them kissing lightly on the lips and anyone in the area could see the resulting photo on the screen. They simply laughed at themselves, paid for the photo and moved on, not thinking anything of it. The only dirty look they received was from Glen when they arrived for lunch.
"Ew, you two, could you not do that in public," he spat disgustedly. Spencer tightened her hold on the smaller hand and smiled sweetly at her brother while Ashley readjusted her sunglasses.
"What's the matter, Glen? Jealous?" she teased, sitting down at the table procured by her father while Arthur and Clay went to the counter to get their food.
"What?" Glen gasped. "Of what? Of her? Please, Spence...like she's anything to be jealous over."
"You're just upset that my girlfriend is hotter than yours," Spencer taunted, sticking her tongue out for extra effect. She was not going to let her narrow-minded brother ruin this day for her and Ashley.
"At least my girlfriend is normal," he muttered back. To everyone's surprise, Chelsea smacked him on the arm.
"That was rude, Glen," she said disappointedly. "Spencer and Ashley are just as normal as anyone else. That was just plain mean."
"Sure, Spencer is normal, if naive," Glen agreed. "Ashley's the freak."
"Fuck you, Glen," Spencer growled, losing her calm. Ashley gave her thigh a pat under the table.
"Well, Glen, you know what they say," Ashley began dryly. "Everyone wants a lady in the streets but a freak in the bed. So, tell me, what's it like having a bitchy hag in both places?"
Glen twitched in his seat, wanting to get up and pound the smug look on Ashley's face into the ground but he could see his father a few feet away and didn't want to get into trouble at the park before he had a chance to see the 'Fear Factor' show. He settled back down and contented himself with the hottest glare he could muster.
"Madison is more of a woman than you'll ever be," he retorted. Ashley rolled her eyes.
"Honey, I'm more of a woman than you'll ever get and more of a man than you'll ever be," she replied gracefully, letting her sunglasses fall down onto her nose, shielding her from Glen's angry stare.
"All righty!" Arthur announced as he arrived with their food. "Who ordered the barbecue shredded meat burger?"
They returned to the Carlin house many hours later, tired and sunburned but happy. Glen went to his room to call Madison while Clay departed to take Chelsea home, leaving Spencer and Ashley with Arthur. The elder Carlin stretched and yawned.
"Well, girls, I had a great day," he chirped with a grin. "But I'm not as young as I used to be so I'm going to call it an early night." Spencer gave him a huge hug.
"Night Dad," she smiled. "Thanks so much for today. We had a great time." Behind her, Ashley grinned her agreement.
"Yeah, Mr. C, it was great," she echoed. Arthur kissed his daughter on the top of the head and nodded at the girls.
"Then I'm glad," he told them. "I'm happy that you had a good time. Don't stay up too late; tomorrow's a school day and sunburn or no, you have to go in." Both girl's grimaced at his words but nodded watching as he ascended the staircase.
"I dunno about you, but I want some ice cream," Ashley announced, heading towards the kitchen. Spencer rolled her eyes as she giggled.
"After everything else you ate today?" she teased. "What are you, the bottomless pit?" Ashley stuck out her tongue as she got out the ice cream and two bowls. Wordlessly, Spencer got out the peanut butter and chocolate sauces putting them down on the counter where Ashley had scooped generous helpings of the chocolate ice cream into the bowls. They made their sundaes in compatible silence. When they were finished, they headed up to Spencer's room to eat and relax.
"Ashley?" Spencer tried to get her girlfriend's attention later while they were watching a movie and lying on the bed together. Ashley looked over at her, tilting her head slightly.
"Yeah?" she asked, something in Spencer's tone making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Spencer grabbed the remote and turned the volume down on the movie so that they could talk quietly. She knew that she had to tell Ashley that what she knew, tell her that Madison had spilled her deepest secret and hope that maybe Ashley would tell her the rest. If she waited any longer to talk to Ashley about it, Spencer was going to make herself sick.
Too many scenarios, too many horrible images of Ashley as a child, smiling brightly like in the picture she'd taken from Danger's house weeks ago and now sat on her dresser, being abused in horrible and stomach turning ways were keeping Spencer awake at night. She was angry, not at Ashley, no never at Ashley, but at Ashley's parents. Especially her mother who was obviously a horrible monster not only for the physical abuse but for what was apparently more than Spencer realized; for doing unspeakable things to that gentle child without remorse.
Here sat Ashley, alone in her pain and Spencer never noticed, never saw the signs that her father had. She hated that she didn't see sooner the kind of hell that Ashley lived in, lived with. Spencer wanted nothing more than to go back in time and pull Ashley's child self away from all that.
She looked into the soulful brown eyes of the girl she loved and felt her heart break for what she'd been through.
"What, Spencer? Come on, you're kinda freaking me out with the silence and the looks you keep giving me," Ashley tried to joke but it fell flat. "Did I do something wrong? Are you uhm are you unhappy? Do you just wanna end it?" There was so much open vulnerability in Ashley's voice that Spencer felt tears begin to stream down her face.
Ashley looked away, thinking that after a fabulous and fulfilling day, she was about to lose Spencer, cold fear filling her chest.
(No, calm down, Ashley. She hasn't said or done anything to make you think she's breaking up with you. She's just been acting a little off for a few days but that's no more than you were doing a few weeks ago. So calm down, let her talk, don't panic) She took a few deep breaths to calm her rising panic and then turned back to Spencer, surprised to meet a pair of soft lips as she did so.
The kiss was soft, loving and filled Ashley with warmth, chasing away the chill that had crept up.
"No, baby, I'm not breaking up with you," Spencer whispered, understanding Ashley's panic but proud of the other girl for not running away like she had in the past. "But I do need to talk to you about something something really important." Ashley nodded.
"OK. I'm all ears, Spence." Spencer bit her lip and searched for the right words.
"Ash, I God, I don't even know how to start this," she sighed. She didn't know what prompted her to say anything right then and possibly ruin what had been a wonderful day. But the truth she now knew was eating away at her. She needed to hear the whole thing from Ashley.
Ashley frowned at the obvious hurt and confusion in her girlfriend's voice.
"Hon, whatever it is, it can't be that bad," she said gently. Spencer just looked at her, in awe of Ashley's strength. She continued to stare at her girlfriend's beautiful face for a few more moments, Ashley waiting patiently for her to speak.
"I you remember how Madison talked to me the other day?" Spencer finally said, looking away, unable to maintain eye contact with Ashley. She wanted so much for what Madison told her to be a lie but deep down she knew it was the truth. But she didn't think she could handle seeing it confirmed in Ashley's eyes.
"Yeah, you poor thing," Ashley giggled, unaware of Spencer's stress. "I wanted to ask what that vacuous twit had to say this time? Especially since you rearranged her face. It musta been good." Spencer stared at her hands.
"She said she said that she was surprised I stayed with you " Spencer stated honestly. She heard Ashley grunt in disgust.
"Yeah, well, she's probably just jealous that I got the hotter Carlin," Ashley snickered, echoing and rearranging Spencer's taunt to her brother that afternoon. Spencer couldn't help smiling at that but it quickly fell from her face.
"Ashley she mentioned things things about you I didn't know," she lifted her face to look at Ashley whose features reflected shock and not a small amount of trepidation.
"Spencer, I " Ashley began, only to falter and skid to a halt. She didn't want to accidentally tell Spencer too much, something that Madison hadn't gotten to. But Ashley knew, with a creeping certainty, exactly what the Latina cheerleader had told the blonde.
(Oh fuck) she thought angrily. (I'm gonna kill Madison)
Spencer's odd behavior lately suddenly made sense and the fear that the blonde knew the truth about her past turned her blood to ice.
"She told me things about your childhood," Spencer finally forced out, voicing exactly what Ashley feared. She watched as Ashley's face paled and a look of absolute horror flashed across her beautiful features.
Ashley bolted upright, suddenly standing on the floor beside the bed, pacing and chewing on a knuckle.
"What did what did she tell you, exactly?" Ashley's voice was high, panicked and thin. Spencer could feel her panic clearly as if it were her own.
"Ashley, please calm down," she said, reaching out her hand only to have Ashley pull away.
"What did she tell you, Spencer?" Ashley demanded to know. "Please, I have to know." Spencer looked down, suddenly fascinated with the blue patterns of her comforter. She hadn't meant to upset Ashley like this, it was the last thing she wanted to do. But it was plain to see that even approaching the subject was making Ashley panic. Spencer immediately felt guilty for putting her girlfriend through this. Unfortunately, she also recognized that they were too far into it now to stop. If she stopped now and let Ashley back away from telling the story, the silence would destroy them both.
"That your mother has been beating you since childhood," she said sadly. "That you never told anyone or tried to leave." Ashley felt some of her panic dissipate.
"Yeah well, you already knew that," she said curtly. "And where was I going to go, Spencer? My Dad was always away on tour and there was no one else. I was kinda stuck." Spencer shook her head.
"I wasn't accusing you of anything, Ashley," she pointed out gently. She could hear the edge of defensiveness in Ashley's voice. Ashley let out a long breath.
"So was that all she told you? Rubbing in the fact that I'm a child of a broken abusive home? That must thrill the hell out of her," she snarled, angry at her former friend for knowing as much as she did and making Ashley constantly worry about when she'd tell everyone. And she knew that eventually, when it would most benefit her, Madison would tell all the secrets she knew.
"She told me that that other things happened," Spencer whispered, broken. Ashley's breath caught in her throat in an audible gasp, making Spencer look up at her. The raw fear and desperation now contorting Ashley's features made Spencer nauseas.
"She told you?" Ashley asked, her voice tiny and hollow. She now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Madison had finally betrayed her in the worst way possible. She knew that Madison was trying to use what she knew to drive Spencer away from her. She prayed that Madison would fail; she didn't know what she would do without her blonde angel.
Spencer nodded and then dropped her head again.
"Yeah," she confirmed. "She said that your mother that she Ash, I can't " A low whine captured her attention and she looked to see Ashley collapsing onto the floor in a broken heap. Spencer scrambled off the bed and onto the floor, carefully wrapping her arms around her girlfriend who had begun to sob and rock slightly.
"Ashley, oh Ashley I'm sorry," she said, beginning to cry as well. Ashley's head darted up and looked at her incredulously.
"You? Sorry? For what?" she sniffled, shaking her head. Her face was stained with tears that refused to stop falling, no matter how fast Spencer wiped at them with her thumbs. "You haven't done anything. I'm the one that lied to you, kept things from you I'm the one " Spencer pressed her lips to Ashley's effectively shutting off the brunette's ranting. She tightened her arms around the suddenly fragile form and held her close, resting her chin on Ashley's shoulder, letting her cry.
"You haven't done anything wrong, Ashley," she soothed. "I understand why you hadn't told me yet. And I know that you would have, when you were ready. I'm just sorry that Madison couldn't respect that. But once I knew, Ash, I had to say something. I don't want you to feel that you have to carry this all on your own. I want to help you, be there for you. I love you."
She held Ashley while the brunette cried, painful deep sobs shaking her small body. Spencer knew that these tears were probably the tears of a frightened, alone child, pent up for years and now finally freed. Here in the safety of Spencer's arms, the abused and scarred child within Ashley finally broke down.
Later they lay on the bed, Spencer's arms circling Ashley protectively as her breathing calmed down and the tears slowed. Ashley hadn't said anything since she began crying over an hour ago and the silence was bothering Spencer. She didn't want Ashley to shut her out; she was afraid if she did that eventually the truth and its inherent darkness might swallow Ashley whole.
"I didn't mean for you to get so upset," she said softly, feeling Ashley shifting against her, trying to get comfortable. "I just I didn't want you to feel you had to hide anything from me. I want you to be I don't know, free? I guess." She sighed at her inability to say what she meant, her lack of words annoying her.
"I am free with you, Spencer," Ashley's voice was muffled by the blonde's shoulder. She was pressed up tight to the younger girl, seeking as much comfort as she could get. "I'm freer with you then I've ever been before. So much more 'me' than what people think I am. And I love that about being with you."
"You can tell me anything, Ashley," Spencer whispered. "I love you no matter what and when you're ready, you can tell me. I just wanted you to know that you didn't have to hide it. OK?" She felt Ashley nod against her.
The silence between them stretched but it wasn't a heavy silence; it was a content, comfortable silence that both girl's enjoyed. Spencer had resigned herself to waiting for a different time when Ashley would be ready to tell her everything when Ashley's soft, hoarse voice cracked the air between them.
"It kinda started when I was around 7," she started slowly. Spencer felt her stomach drop. She could see a young, confused seven year old Ashley looking for help, someone to explain what was going on and ending up alone to figure it out.
"My Dad was out on tour, like usual and my Mom she had these parties. I always stayed in my room, playing with my toys and staying out from underfoot. The maids and stuff made sure that I was fed and dressed and whatnot. See, these parties lasted for days. I didn't understand them when I was little but when I got older I started to see that there was an amazing amount of drug there and that it was just a constant sex type thing. Everybody switched partners and did whatever they wanted."
"That's horrible," Spencer said softly. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it would have been like to witness things like what Ashley must have been subjected to, especially at such an impressionable age. Again, she was awed by Ashley's resilience.
"Yeah," Ashley sighed. "But see, when I was little I thought everyone's parents did that sort of thing. I didn't really have anything else to compare it to; it was what I knew, what I saw. So it never really struck me as unusual. Of course, when I got older I started to realize how wrong it was but by then, well, it was part of my life. But as a kid, I just trusted that my parents, my mother was a good person who wouldn't do bad things." She let out a low snort at the naïve thought.
"Anyway, Mom always made me promise not to tell my Dad or anyone what happened when he was on tour. I didn't understand why I couldn't tell my father cuz well, I told him everything. But she'd smack me around to illustrate what would happen if I told. So, I never did," Ashley went on, her voice becoming kind of monotone as she progressed. Spencer knew that she was retreating deep within to protect herself as she related the horrors of her childhood.
"So I was around 7 and I had wandered to the bathroom my bathroom I'd like to point out," she laughed humorlessly. "And one of my mom's 'friends' was in there. I apologized, like a good little girl cuz I didn't want him to tell my mom and then me get beat for wandering around when I really wasn't. I used to do anything and everything I could to get my mother to be happy with me when I was that little. That changed a lot when I got old enough to think for myself and to see that I was never going to have her acceptance."
"So, I apologized and begged him not to tell my mommy cuz I didn't want her to hit me. He was really nice to me, told me not to worry and that I hadn't done anything wrong. He left the room and I thought, I felt for a change that maybe someone was going to help me out and things would be better."
Spencer felt the bile in her stomach churning, knowing where the story was bound to go. Part of her wanted to stop Ashley from speaking; if she didn't hear it with her own ears then it wasn't real, it didn't happen. But the larger part of her knew that Ashley needed to tell her and she needed to listen if they were both going to heal and move on.
It was clear to Spencer that a lot of Ashley's problems and habits as a teen were direct results of the horrors she suffered at this point in her life. There was no way that such events, abuses couldn't effect someone later in life when their realm in the world opened the way it did when the teenage years arrived. So Ashley, with her promiscuity, drug and alcohol habits, although much less prominent than it used to be, was only acting the way she was taught, what she had learned. It made a lot of sense to Spencer.
"The guy, Ramon, ended up telling my mother that he'd seen me. I guess he told her how beautiful I was and " Ashley trembled at the memory. Spencer tightened her grip on the smaller form. Her girlfriend suddenly seemed so little and fragile that it frightened her. Here was Ashley, with no walls or facade for really the first time since Spencer met her.
"Ash, you don't have to " she started. She felt Ashley shake her head.
"No, I do have to, Spencer. I have to tell you; you should know," Ashley argued.
"OK," Spencer whispered. She waited patiently and full of dread for Ashley to continue.
"I'm not really sure what he and my Mom actually said. All I know, all I remember was the next time there was a party my Mom brought me downstairs. At first it was like any other society function my Mom dragged me to. Everyone cooed over me, saying how beautiful I was and sweet. I liked the attention since I never really got any from my mother that wasn't angry. I thought I had hoped that if these people liked me maybe they'd tell my mother to like me and then the beatings would stop."
"Oh, baby," Spencer soothed, her heart breaking over and over again for Ashley.
"So, I was on my best behavior, used my best manners and everything until my mother said it was time for me to go. Then Ramon said he'd bring me back to my room," Ashley curled up closer to her girlfriend, hiding her face in Spencer's arm, hoping to block out some of the pain that accompanied the memories. Spencer had that effect on her, always making things seem less painful and dark.
"After we got there, he came in and shut the door behind him. It confused me cuz usually I was alone in my room for the parties and only the help came in. So he told me we were going to play a game." She lifted her face from Spencer's shoulder and looked down at her blonde girlfriend.
"I swear, Spencer, I didn't understand what he was doing. And I didn't like it. I cried, I begged him to stop. I didn't like the way he touched me. You have to believe me," she begged, suddenly desperate for Spencer to understand, to believe her. Spencer leaned up and kissed her, lacking any other ideas on what to do.
"I believe you, Ashley," she soothed, whispering over Ashley's lips. "Baby, it's not your fault." Ashley collapsed against her again, crying.
"He...he touched me in the ways that they always taught me at school were the 'bad' ways. He hurt me so bad...I was so scared..."
"Ash..." Spencer whimpered, the pain and rage she felt making her chest feel tight. She wanted Ashley to stop, not because she didn't want to hear it (although she honestly didn't) but so that the pain would stop. She hated that this was hurting her girl even now, years later.
"I told my mom what he had done and that I didn't like it and that I was scared," Ashley babbled, her voice coming in a rush as the walls she'd constructed around the memories and feelings collapsed and everything flooded back. "And she beat me she beat me bloody, Spencer. I missed a week of school because of it. She hit me over and over again, telling me to stay quiet and that I'd do what I was told. After that, it wasn't just Ramon. Anyone...I guess anyone who paid Mom enough was allowed in my room."
"Oh God," Spencer whimpered. She was beyond horrified. She felt physically ill and was starting to shake.
"As I got older, I kinda learned to block it out. Whatever was going on wasn't happening to me, you know?" Ashley continued, her tears tapering off again as she tried to separate herself from the emotions that accompanied remembering. She felt the numb feeling returning to her mind and body and welcomed it.
"It got so that I didn't care. It was my body but not my mind, you know? That if I just tried hard enough, concentrated enough that it wasn't me. I could be safe in my head no matter what was going on around me. These people could not reach me anymore, no matter what." Spencer nodded, understanding and made an affirmative noise around the lump of sorrow and disgust that was lodged in her throat. She swore to herself that if she ever got her hands on Mrs. Davies, she'd kill her.
"When I got older and started dating, it kinda stopped. I guess my mom was scared I'd tell."
"But you didn't " Spencer said gently. She heard Ashley sigh.
"Who would I tell, Spencer? My Dad? He'd have to be there for more than a week a year. He found out about the beatings when I was 9 and he divorced my mom. But his lifestyle wasn't good for a little kid so he made my mother swear to never hit me again and left me with her," Ashley explained.
"Idiot," Spencer grumbled hotly. She wanted to beat that simpleton with a large heavy object. Briefly, the image of crashing one of his own guitars down over his head flashed through her mind.
"Yeah maybe, but it's not like I told him how bad it was. I never told anyone, Spencer. Not my Dad, not Aiden you I'm too ashamed." Ashley's voice dropped to a ghost of a whisper. "I only told Madison because I had just lost my baby with Aiden and I was in this really dangerous place doing some really bad stuff to cope and I needed to tell someone. She was the only one there at the time that I trusted. I'm sorry she dropped all this on you like that."
Spencer rolled onto her side so that she was facing Ashley. She brought her hand up to cup under the brunette's chin, tilting the hidden face upwards so she could look into fathomless brown eyes.
"Baby, you have nothing to be ashamed of," she said lovingly. "You were a child and you should have been protected. None of this is your fault. As for Madison, she thought she could hurt us with this and now we see that she can't. So don't worry about her." Ashley nodded, apparently satisfied with Spencer's words for the moment. A few minutes later, she drew in a ragged breath.
"Spencer I'm gonna be sick " Spencer was moving before Ashley had even finished the sentence, having seen the way Ashley's tan complexion had drastically turned green in a matter of seconds. She managed to help Ashley to the bathroom before the brunette was physically ill, retching into the toilet. Spencer held her hair and rubbed her back, cooing soothing words as Ashley whimpered.
Spencer wasn't surprised that Ashley was sick; she felt like vomiting herself knowing the things that Ashley had experienced as a child. But right now she couldn't afford the luxury; she had to be strong for Ashley.
Unseen by either girl, behind the crack in the doorway to Spencer's room, a blonde head was hanging low, one hand covering the person's mouth to prevent them from vomiting. Having heard the entire horrible thing, the whole story of Ashley's childhood, they slid to the floor and wept.
Ashley fell asleep shortly after telling her horrid story, her eyes still wet and shaking slightly. Spencer had wrapped her arms around the frighteningly fragile girl and simply held her, trying to convey through her touch that Ashley was safe and protected. She fell asleep herself an hour later but wasn't able to stay asleep long thanks to horrific nightmares of the things Ashley had told her.
(God, how does she do it?) she wondered as she looked down on Ashley sleeping beside her. Telling her story seemed to have drained all the energy from the small frame and Ashley was out cold, unmoving.
(She is so strong) Spencer sighed to herself, brushing some errant hair away from Ashley's slack face. Asleep there was no trace of the stress or burden of the things she'd been through and the older girl simply looked like a carefree teenager. There was no way that anyone could tell from looking at her the horrors she had experienced and been put through.
Spencer eventually untangled herself from Ashley's embrace and decided to take a long shower to hopefully get the tension out of her muscles. She used her honey and milk body wash, taking her time to scrub everywhere. For some reason, Ashley's story left her feeling dirty, tainted. It had nothing to do with Ashley herself; it was the fact that things were done to the innocent girl that were out of her control and Spencer herself couldn't fix or make better.
That was what Spencer did, she fixed things, fixed Ashley, always shoring her up, giving her strength. Or at least that was what she hoped. She knew now that no matter what she did, Ashley already had more strength than anyone knew and Spencer had enough wisdom to know that the only person who could fix Ashley was herself.
She toyed with the idea of going to her father and discussing the new information with him, to ask for advice and guidance. But she didn't want to do that without asking Ashley first and she knew her girlfriend well enough to know that there was no way she would let Spencer do that. Ashley was intensely private, especially about her childhood and Spencer knew that she would feel deeply betrayed if Spencer told her father since it nearly killed her to tell Spencer. Given how fragile the brunette was, Spencer didn't want to inadvertently hurt her even more.
She showered for close to forty five minutes before she turned the water off and stepped out to towel dry. Her skin was a bright pink, thanks to the high temperature she'd had the water on. She wiped her hand over the mirror and looked at herself, sighing when she saw that she seemed to have aged since that morning. She was feeling overwhelmed but couldn't even begin to imagine how Ashley dealt with everything.
She put clean pajamas on and returned to her room. She stopped a few feet away from the bed, suddenly chilled and feeling her heart plummeting to her feet.
Two days. It had been two days since she'd left the shower to find Ashley gone, the bed empty and some of the brunette's clothes missing. There had been no note, no phone calls, nothing. Every time Spencer called Ashley's phone it went to voicemail; her texts went unanswered. Ashley wasn't at school, Aiden hadn't heard from her, nothing.
Spencer was beyond worried. She'd even called the house in Venice Beach looking for her but she wasn't there. No one had any idea where Ashley had disappeared to and it worried Spencer. She remembered what Ashley had done the last time she disappeared and she was stressed thinking that somewhere out there, Ashley could possibly be drinking herself to death, or worse.
She was broken from her sad and worried thoughts by the slamming of the front door. Glen stormed in looking angry and hurt. Despite still being angry at him for the way he treated Ashley and herself, Spencer was concerned.
"Glen?" she called out from the couch where she sat holding her phone in hopes that Ashley would call. The phone remained dormant.
Her brother stopped his quick retreat to his room to look at her, his face unreadable.
"You OK?" she wondered. Glen gazed at her, his face a mix of expressions that Spencer had never seen before.
"Yeah," he said softly. "I just...I broke up with Madison," he stated flatly. Spencer gasped in shock.
"What? Why?" she questioned. She hadn't seen any hint of trouble in her brother's relationship and as much as she despised Madison, she still didn't want to see Glen hurt.
"She..." he sighed, running a hand through his unruly curls. "I just can do better, Spence, that's all." He stared at her for a moment making Spencer shift uncomfortably. "Have you heard from Ashley?"
Her initial shock over Glen's breakup with Madison was overshadowed by his apparent concern for her missing girlfriend. Still, she appreciated the question and shook her head sadly.
"No, nothing," she sighed. "I'm really worried, Glen." She didn't want to explain to him, of all people, why she figured Ashley had taken off. When anyone asked, she simply said they'd argued. She hated lying but couldn't think of any other excuse to give.
"Well, try not to worry," Glen said, heading back to the stairs to go to his room. "Let me know if you need anything." Spencer gaped at him as he disappeared up the staircase.
(What the hell was that?) She wondered.
Spencer jolted out of bed when her phone rang, Ashley's ring tone filling the silent air of her room. It was after two in the morning and she was making an effort to sleep but not succeeding very well. She figured she'd gotten maybe thirty uninterrupted, nightmare free minutes.
"Hello? Ashley? Where are you?" she asked, her voice scratchy from sleep.
"Is this Spencer?" a female voice, obviously not Ashley's asked. Spencer frowned at the phone.
"Yes, who is this?" she asked, feeling even more worried than she was and starting to get angry.
(Who is this girl and how does she have Ashley's phone? I swear Ashley, if you've done something...) she didn't even want to finish the thought. She prayed that Ashley hadn't gone out and in a drunken stupor or out of pain at admitting her childhood, gone and cheated on her.
(Have faith in her, Spencer) she reminded herself. (No matter how hurt or upset she is, Ashley loves you)
"This is Maggie...and I think I have something that belongs to you."
Spencer took the address that Maggie was calling from and then hung up, throwing on some clothes. She left her room to go wake someone to take her to the address. Maggie wouldn't tell her much, just that Ashley was there and that she needed to go get her as soon as she could, preferably immediately.
Worried, Spencer knocked on Clay's door. She didn't want to wake her father because she had no doubt that she'd have to actually explain what prompted Ashley to flee. Right now he thought Ashley was staying at her father's in Venice Beach and just wanted some time alone. She'd hated lying to him but she didn't want to tell him the real reason Ashley had freaked and run.
Spencer knew that divulging the things Ashley had, admitting to the sexual abuse she'd suffered for years as a small child, had rattled Ashley's calm and confidence. She was feeling weak and vulnerable, exposed and raw and none of those things were something Ashley was familiar or comfortable with. She hated being seen as someone who could be hurt or at all vulnerable. She used walls and barriers to protect herself and give off the image of invulnerability. It was a shield that very few people, Spencer among them, were allowed to see past.
But at the moment, Ashley was feeling too transparent and true to form, she'd taken off to parts unknown leaving Spencer to worry about what trouble she'd get into and what condition she'd be in when located. Spencer was less than pleased that Ashley had somehow found her way to Maggie. It caused each and every insecurity and doubt that she thought she'd conquered to resurface and scream at her.
(What if she cheated? What if she decides that she can't do this with me, that I'm too close and she's terrified of being hurt? What do I do then?)
She waited, impatiently, for Clay to open his bedroom door, his eyes blinking sleepily at her.
"What's up?" he asked, voice scratchy from sleep.
"Can you take me somewhere?" Spencer asked, giving him her best 'pitiful baby sister' look hoping that it would work.
"Ashley?" he asked, knowing right away that the only reason that Spencer would wake him at almost two-thirty in the morning was if there was something wrong with her girlfriend.
She nodded. "Yeah, I just got a phone call telling me where she is."
"Let me get my shoes on."
Clay parked his car at the end of the lot at the motel that Maggie had told Spencer she could find Ashley. It was a dive of a place if Spencer wanted to be polite about it and she was terrified about what she was going to find when she got inside. Her brother gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she exited the car and walked over to the room marked '6' like Maggie had told her. She knocked and waited anxiously for the door to open.
"You must be Spencer," a tired looking brunette said when she opened the door. Spencer nodded, her voice gone at the moment when she laid eyes on the mysterious Maggie. She was gorgeous, even tired and lit up by nothing more than the flashing neon light of the motel sign. She looked like a cross between Jordana Brewster and Jennifer Beals and she exuded a confidence that made Spencer nervous.
"Yeah," she finally managed, her heart sinking in her chest. With Ashley as screwed up in the head right now as Spencer figured she was and a beautiful woman whom the smaller girl had already been with standing right there, Spencer knew, without a doubt that Ashley had cheated on her.
She felt her heart implode painfully in her chest and her throat threaten to close up with hurt and grief. She stood there, staring forlornly at Maggie for a few moments.
"Come in," Maggie sighed. "She's over there." Spencer entered the dank room somewhat reluctantly. She didn't want to face the inevitable truth of Ashley's betrayal but at the same time her guilt over making her girlfriend confront her demons made her feel obligated to help her. She drove her to this place, she might as well help mop up the mess it'd created.
Sighing, Spencer looked over at Ashley and felt what remained of her heart leap to her throat. Ashley was face down on a nasty looking comforter, fully clothed and out cold. Spencer glared at Maggie.
"What did you do to her?" she asked, her anger beginning to surface. She was angry at Ashley for running; angry at herself for pushing Ashley somewhere she didn't want to go; angry at Madison for spilling Ashley's secret and angry at Maggie for being the person Ashley ran to.
"Hey, this is not my fucking fault, blondie," Maggie snapped back. "I'm not gonna take the blame because you couldn't keep a god damned leash on your girlfriend. Besides, I didn't do shit to her. She popped up unexpectedly and trust me, she was the last person I wanted to see." Spencer sighed again, running a hand through her blonde hair as she knelt down beside the prone figure.
She brushed some stray hair away from Ashley's face, noticing a new cut below her best friend's eye.
"Oh, baby, what have you gotten yourself into?" she whispered, petting the unconscious girl's cheek, hating the way she was pale and clammy. Spencer looked back up at Maggie who was grabbing her things. "What happened?"
"I don't know," Maggie said simply. She took a look at the worried expression on Spencer's face and relented, sitting down in a questionable looking chair. "I was tending bar last night at Spectrum," she started. "I was walking to my car after my shift, like three this morning, and there was Ashley, sitting beside my car. She looked like shit and was shaking like a leaf. She asked if I could give her a place to stay for the night."
"So, against my better judgment, I took her home. She just looked so damn pathetic sitting there that I didn't want to leave her there for someone to prey on and she didn't look like she was in any condition to protect herself. She just collapsed on the couch when we got to my place without another word," she went on. "I went to bed and when I got up around noon, she was still out cold on the couch. Let me tell you, my girlfriend was not at all happy to see her there."
A surge of happiness and hope flooded Spencer. (If she has a girlfriend maybe she didn't sleep with Ashley!)
"So, Hannah kicked her out and I don't know where she went after that," Maggie continued. "The next time I saw her was earlier at Spectrum. She was drunk off her ass and I'll be honest with you, she's higher than I think I've ever seen her. And that's saying something since when I knew Ashley she was rarely ever sober."
"Fuck," Spencer growled. (That would explain the cold, sweaty skin though. Oh Ash, why did you run? I just wanna help)
"She was trying to fight some skank off and not having much luck since she was tweaked beyond belief," the tall brunette explained. "This girl was all over her and Ashley kept repeating over and over 'no, no, I have Spencer, no'."
Spencer felt the bitter sting of tears at the news. (Oh how could I have doubted you, baby?) She felt horrible thinking that after everything they had been through so far and were still going through, that Ashley would throw it away like that.
"This girl though...I used to see her on the scene last year and I know she's around once in a while now...I think her name is something like 'Piper'," Maggie thought out loud. She frowned. "No, that's not right. Maybe it was 'Prue'? Fuck, it was one of the sisters from 'Charmed' names..."
"Lemme guess, huge eyes and huger boobs?" Spencer asked sarcastically.
"That sounds about right."
"Paige," Spencer ground out between clenched teeth.
"Yeah, that was her," Maggie agreed. "Anyway, she's a regular coke mule, always running around flashing little baggies of pills and powder. My guess is she gave some to Ash and when she went for payment, she wanted more than cash."
"I'm gonna kill her," Spencer warned lowly. Maggie arched an eyebrow and smiled.
"I don't blame you," she said evenly. "Honestly, I'm not exaggerating here but Paige was like, two steps away from raping Ashley. Ash started screaming and causing a scene and that's when I pushed my way between them and took Ashley out of there."
"Oh fuck," Spencer groaned knowing that Paige's behavior so soon after Ashley had revealed her childhood abuse was not going to help in her girlfriend's recovery. "Is that how she got the scratch? Fighting off Paige?" Maggie nodded.
"Yeah although she was pretty banged up before that," she said with a pointed look at Spencer.
"Yeah...there's ah...a lot of stuff going on right now..." Spencer admitted, not wanting to give away too much.
"Yeah, I figured," Maggie said. "Anyway, Ashley said no and Paige tried to force something and Ashley totally freaked out. Paige kept yelling something about Ashley owing her something for the past and whatnot."
"I don't know how tweaked she was, or is now, but she screamed something about her mother and then for you and it evolved into a cat fight and Paige got in a few good shots before she tried to drag Ashley out. I shoved her and took Ash out of there. I couldn't take her home again since Hannah was already pissed as hell at me. I don't have a lot of spare cash so we ended up here."
"Thank you," Spencer said honestly. "For watching out for her. You didn't have to..."
"I know I didn't," Maggie broke in, a little angry. "But at the same time, I couldn't let Paige just attack her like that and it seems like...it seems like something is really wrong with Ashley this time and someone should be looking out for her."
"I am," Spencer snapped back, a little annoyed at the implication behind the older girl's words. "I was in the shower and she took off..."
"Look, Spencer, you know what? It's not my place to judge you or your relationship with Ashley," Maggie decided. "You have the room until noon and she's probably going to be really sick for a few days while the shit she took works out of her system." She grabbed her things and headed to the door.
"How did you...how did you know to call me?" Spencer asked before the girl left. Maggie paused at the door.
"I turned on her phone," she said simply. "You are listed as the first contact after her voicemail; her voicemail which was full, all from you and the texts you left her. I just assumed." Spencer nodded mutely. "Take care of her Spencer."
"I will. Thanks again."
"Oh and Spencer, just so you know," Maggie said just as she exited. "To my knowledge, Ashley didn't cheat on you. I think you should know."
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