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
Danger greeted Spencer as she walked up the pathway to the sprawling mansion. He smiled slightly and extended his hand to shake Spencer's.
"It's great finally getting to meet you," he said as he led the teen indoors. "Although I wish it wasn't like this and Ash wasn't out cold."
"Where is she? Can I see her?" Danger smiled at his daughter's friend.
"She's in the master bedroom, this way."
He started to lead Spencer through the house, telling her what he knew of the story before she even had a chance to ask.
"I don't spend a lot of time here or at my place in Laurel Canyon. I know I really should cuz they're close to Ash and all but my managers and such keep me constantly on the move," he explained. "But Ash has keys to all my houses and can stay in any of them whenever she wants. I stopped in last night on my way through to grab some stuff from the studio, and I found her drunk off her ass, wandering the house."
He sighed and ran a hand through his unruly white hair.
"No matter what I said, she wouldn't talk to me or tell me what was wrong. Then I tried to keep the liquor away from her but that didn't seem to help. And I gotta get going soon or I'll miss my flight and then the label will kill me."
He opened the door to what Spencer assumed was the master bedroom and there was Ashley, sprawled out across the bed, fully clothed. The smell of alcohol in the room was nearly enough to make Spencer gag.
She walked over and brushed Ashley's messy bangs off the unconscious girl's forehead.
"Oh Ashley, what have you done?" she whispered. Danger hovered at the door and cleared his throat.
"Hey, uhm, if you've got this, I gotta go. My manager called and said that the flight got bumped up and I have to go."
"We'll be fine," Spencer assured him.
"OK, look, anything you need, just call the butler and he'll take care of it. He lives in the guest house across the way. I told him to do whatever you told him to but to stay out of your way. If you get hungry, help yourself to the kitchen, it's fully loaded." He walked over and kissed his daughter on the forehead.
"Take care of her for me, OK? And have her call me when the hang-over is through." Spencer nodded.
"I will." Danger left, shutting the door behind him, leaving Spencer alone with Ashley's prone figure.
"Let's get you actually out of these smelly clothes. You reek, hon." Spencer stood up and walked to the other side of the bed where Ashley's feet dangled over the edge. She removed her friend's sneakers and socks, sighing when there was no reaction save a snort as Ashley slept on.
Smirking, Spencer thought of a different approach.
She went into the adjoining bathroom and turned the shower on as cold as she could and then went back for Ashley. It took a few minutes of work, but she managed to haul Ashley into the bathroom.
"This would be so much easier if you'd just walk," Spencer growled at the girl slumped over her shoulder. She then put Ashley's head into the shower. The water splashed down on the drooping head for a few moments until the drunk teen reacted.
"Holy fuck!" Ashley tried to remove her head from the shower but Spencer was stronger given that Ashley was still inebriated and kept the girl's head under the spray.
"Wha' th' fuck you doin'?" Ashley barked.
"Wakey wakey!" Spencer yelled back. "OK ALL IN!" She shoved Ashley bodily into the cold water, watching as Ashley stumbled and only caught herself on the far wall. She turned, wobbled and then glared at Spencer.
"Some friend you are," she spat angrily. Spencer crossed her arms across her chest and smiled.
"It's exactly because I'm your friend that I'm standing here right now," she pointed out calmly. "And that's the same reason why I know I'll be holding your hair back when you start puking later." Ashley had the good grace to look sheepish.
"Can I get out of the shower, please?" Spencer nodded and helped her staggering friend out of the water and then turned it off. Ashley shivered and her teeth chattered from where she was sitting on the closed toilet seat.
"Where's your room so that I can get you some dry clothes?" Spencer asked, placing a towel around her chilled friend.
"Th third door onna left," Ashley slurred.
"Stay right there," Spencer ordered. She went down the hall into what was obviously Ashley's room once you opened the door and after a few moments found some underwear and pajamas and headed back to the bathroom. Ashley was still sitting on the toilet seat although she was now leaned back with her eyes closed.
"Hey, wake up or it's shower time again," Spencer warned. Her voice was light though. She couldn't be mad at Ashley, even for behavior this stupid. At least not until she had a chance to speak to the girl. When she was sober, that is.
"'M awake," Ashley countered. She opened one eye and looked at her friend. "How th' hell did you get here?" Spencer smirked as she helped Ashley strip off her soaking wet top.
"Your dad. He called me and asked me to come help. He even sent a car and everything."
"Is he still here?" The hopefulness in the brunette's voice broke Spencer's heart.
"No, sweetie, I'm sorry," she said sadly. "He had to go to Chicago for a concert." She watched as Ashley's face fell.
"He wants you to call him later, though. When you're sober and feeling better. Come on, off with the bra, you can't sleep in it all wet and cold."
"'m too tired," Ashley whined and didn't move. Spencer sighed and reached around her friend to undo the contraption. She suppressed a shiver as Ashley leaned her wet head against her chest.
<It's just cuz her hair is cold and wet> she told herself. She then quickly pulled the dry shirt over Ashley's wet hair and shook her head.
"You're on your own for the pants, toots," she turned around and heard Ashley swearing behind her as the girl tried to strip off the rest of her dripping clothes.
"Spence, I can't. Th' room keeps spinnin'," she cried a few moments later.
"Fine. At least you're too drunk to remember this tomorrow." She helped pull the wet jeans down Ashley's legs and then let the drunk girl stand up and lean on her to remove her underwear.
"Come on, Spence. Ya got me undressed. I'm not all that bad, am I?" Spencer rolled her eyes at her friend's lame come on.
"I'm sure you're fine. You're also drunk as hell and so not attractive right now." Ashley pouted as Spencer helped her pull on dry panties and bottoms.
"But you do think I'm pretty, right?" she wondered. Spencer couldn't help but smile.
"When you're sober, you are beautiful," she replied honestly, looking deep into Ashley's doe like eyes. "But right now, you not only look like a drowned rat, but you smell like a bar. And neither of those things is attractive. Now, let's get your hair dry and then get you into bed."
"HA! Knew you wanted me 'n bed," Ashley tilted to one side, forcing Spencer to move quickly to prevent her from falling completely over.
"Your ego never fails to amaze," she laughed as she guided Ashley back into the bedroom and sat her on the side of the bed. She then started drying Ashley's damp locks, using slow languid motions, making sure that she left no moisture in her friends' hair.
"Mmmm feels good," Ashley moaned, her head falling limply from her shoulders as Spencer massaged her scalp. Spencer smiled to herself.
"And come tomorrow, you won't remember any of it," she chuckled. She tossed the now wet towel onto a nearby chair and pulled the bed covers down.
"OK, into bed with you." She helped Ashley under the covers as the inebriated girl started to fall asleep again. She kissed Ashley softly on the forehead and pulled up the covers. Suddenly, Ashley grasped her wrist in a death grip.
"Please stay. Don' go," she begged. Spencer felt tears stinging her eyes at the lost tone to her friend's voice.
"I'm not going anywhere, sweetie. I just need to get changed and call my parents. Then I'll come right back, I promise." Ashley nodded and curled up on her side.
Spencer lucked out in the fact that her overprotective mother was working late at the hospital and she got to explain the situation to her father instead. She gave him a somewhat edited version of the circumstances that included her location and that Ashley was very sick.
<So what if she isn't so much 'sick' as incredibly hung-over?> Spencer giggled to herself. She disliked lying to her parents but was finding that she had to more and more often, especially to her mother, if she had any interest in having a life.
Her father simply told her to call again in the morning with an update and for Spencer not to worry about her mother, he'd deal with her. He just wanted her to take care of her friend and to call if she needed anything. There were times when Spencer really adored her father.
She then went to Ashley's room and got something comfortable to sleep in. She poked around, looking at the room to learn another aspect of Ashley's multifaceted personality. Her room in LA was big and brassy, graffiti on the wall and generally like Ashley herself: bigger than life. This room was much more subtle. Spencer figured that Ashley must not stay there a lot because the room was geared more towards Ashley's younger years. The posters were a few years old and it didn't have the sort of electronic equipment that her usual room had. Other than the clothes being recent, the room itself was more of a testament to her childhood.
Unlike Ashley's room at her mother's house, this room had a huge bookcase in the corner, stacked full of books, mostly hardcover. Spencer smiled as she read some of the titles, seeing everything from 'Harry Potter' to 'A Wrinkle in Time' and other classic children's books. But, being that it was Ashley's, Spencer wasn't surprised to see a complete tome of Edgar Allen Poe as well as works by Shakespeare, Frost, Dahl, and a few names she herself was unfamiliar with.
She pulled out a book, the unauthorized guide to Ashley's father's career and flipped through the pages, catching a glimpse or two of her friend as a small child. Putting it back, she spied a picture of Ashley sitting on the table beside the bed. It was probably taken when she was around age 7, on the beach with her father, sitting atop his shoulders and smiling from ear to ear. It was so cute that she took it back with her to the master bedroom and put it on the bedside table so that Ashley would see it in the morning.
She wandered the house, gathering the things that she knew she'd need. It was a beautiful house but very empty.
<Kinda like Ashley's childhood> Spencer sighed.
"You must be Spencer," a male voice stated from behind her. She jumped in surprise and turned to see a young man behind her. He was probably in his thirties, tan and buff.
<Must be the butler?> Spencer wondered.
"I'm Kevin, the housekeeper," he explained, extending his hand. Spencer shook it while frowning.
"The butler?" she asked. Kevin laughed.
"If you want to be all formal about it, sure. I prefer 'housekeeper'. Danger keeps me around to watch the house, keep the fridge stocked and keep an eye out for Ashley if she shows up." Spencer nodded in understanding.
"I'm about to head in for the night. Is there anything you needed before I go?" he asked.
"A bucket, in case Ashley gets sick. And where can I find some aspirin?"
"Here," Kevin reached under the sink and grabbed a large bucket that he then handed to Spencer. "That should do. And there should be aspirin in every medicine cabinet in all the bathrooms along with some Pepto and stuff like that."
"Great, thanks," Spencer smiled. Kevin nodded.
"No problem. If you need anything else, the number to the guest house is posted next to each phone. Just call, don't worry about what time it is. If Ash needs help, please call."
"Thanks again. I will." Kevin nodded and left Spencer alone again. She returned to the master bedroom with what she felt she needed, putting the bucket on the side of the bed. She placed the various other things she knew she'd need if Ashley got sick on the bedside table and crawled into bed beside Ashley.
She turned on her side to face Ashley's back and reached over to pull the sleeping brunette's hair away from her face.
"Sleep well, Ash. We're going to have a long talk when you're up to it." After debating for a few minutes, she moved closer to her friend and molded her body into Ashley's warm back, spooning her. She tossed one arm around Ashley's midsection and pulled the other girl a little closer.
Ashley murmured happily in her sleep and snuggled into the embrace.
<Heh, Ash's a snuggler. I love it.> Spencer smiled to herself. She scooted that extra millimeter over and gave a quick kiss to the back of Ashley's neck before settling back down and deciding to catch up on her sleep.
"I love you, Ash," she whispered. Her eyes slid shut but as she drifted off, Spencer could have sworn she heard Ashley's soft, sleep-filled respond.
"I love you too, Spence."
Roughly two hours later, Spencer's surprisingly relaxing sleep was interrupted by Ashley gagging and choking as she began to get sick. Spencer was immediately awake as she pulled Ashley upright and then hung the ill girl's head over the side of the bed towards the bucket she's put there earlier just in case. A few minutes later, Ashley's stomach seemed to calm down so Spencer leaned off the bed, picked up the bucket and put it into the brunette's shaky hands.
"Thanks," she murmured to Spencer, closing her eyes and trying to concentrate on her breathing while her stomach whirled around inside like it was riding the Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Spencer watched as some of the green tint to Ashley's normally bronze skin seemed to fade.
"Are you OK?" Spencer asked softly, sitting alongside Ashley and stroking the girls back while she brushed the strands of sweat soaked hair away from Ashley's face.
Ashley shook her head slightly, immediately regretting the action.
"No," she whimpered, putting her head back over the bucket when her stomach rebelled again.
Spencer held Ashley's hair off her face and tried to support the straining body. Ashley coughed and gagged pitifully.
"Kill me please," she begged between wretches. Spencer smiled lovingly.
"I can't do that, hon. Cuz then you'd never learn your lesson." She reached over to the nightstand and picked up one of the damp wash cloths that she'd set on the table earlier. She wiped down Ashley's forehead, her cheeks, and down around the back of her neck, soothing the flushed skin and cleaning away the sweat that had gathered.
"I don' wanna 'learn my lesson'. I wan' be put outta my misery," Ashley whined. Spencer hugged her from the side.
"Are you ever going to drink like that again?" she asked, softly petting the drunken girl's cheek. Ashley's eyes fluttered shut at the gentle contact.
<She must be so mad at me> Ashley sighed, disgusted with herself. <She's just being nice cuz I'm barfing>
"No," she admitted.
<Right now, if I never see another bottle of alcohol or beer in my lifetime, it'll be way too soon>
"Then you've learned your lesson. Here, drink some water and take the aspirin with it, OK?" Spencer encouraged. She watched the other girl slowly sip the water. "Not too much too fast, hon. We don't want you to yak again."
Ashley took the aspirin and then ran a shaky hand through her matted hair. She looked at Spencer, her normally bright chocolate eyes rimmed in red and watery.
"Do you hate me?" she questioned Spencer, fear lacing each word. If Spencer hated her, Ashley knew that her life was over. Without Spencer as some sort of grounding, she would simply fly off the planet, no longer restrained by the laws of gravity. She would fly away, never to be seen or reached by another person again.
<She hates me! She must by now after everything I've done!> Ashley started to cry, devastated that the one person she felt had ever cared for her, now hated her.
"No, of course not, honey," Spencer turned the upset girl towards her and pulled her close, enveloping the still shaking form tightly in the circle of her arms.
"I could never hate you, Ashley. Never," the blonde whispered and kissed the top of the head that was now pressed against her chest. She could hear Ashley's soft sobs and it broke her heart.
"Shhh, don't cry," she tried to calm her normally independent and self-sufficient friend. It was strange to see the usually unflappable Ashley so vulnerable and emotionally naked. She reached down and tilted Ashley's face up so that she could see into her eyes. She wiped the tears from Ashley's face with the pads of her thumbs, letting the rest of her hands cup the sides of Ashley's face and disappear into her hair.
"I don't hate you, Ashley. Even with you like this. You are my best friend and you mean everything to me. Now calm down and lay back before you get sick again." She helped the sniffling girl lay back down and wiped Ashley's forehead with the damp cloth again.
"You don't?" Ashley's voice was weak but the astonishment in it was very clear. Spencer smiled.
"That's right, I don't. Now, back to sleep. You need to rest. We'll talk about all this tomorrow when you're feeling better." Ashley smiled so brightly that Spencer could have sworn that it was daylight outside. The relief was so plainly evident on the older girl's face that Spencer immediately felt guilty. And angry. Not at Ashley but at the young woman's lonely upbringing that had made her so insecure in the first place.
<Your parents have no idea what a great daughter they have> she thought sadly as she lay down along with Ashley and the shorter girl curled up on her side, facing Spencer. Spencer smiled as Ashley's arm snaked around her waist as she lay on her back and the brunette's head came to rest on her shoulder.
She knew, and it was confirmed by Aiden earlier in the week that Ashley's exterior was simply a façade. Ashley pretended to be untouchable, aloof and uncaring about what everyone said about her or did to her in order to hide her deep-seated hurt and anxiety. She didn't want to ever hurt again, so Ashley had created the artificial 'bad-ass' persona to protect her feelings and to hide her feeling of worthlessness.
<You shouldn't have to live like that.> Spencer sighed, brushing at Ashley's long dark hair with one hand. <I want you to feel safe with me, Ashley. I'll never hurt you like everyone else in your life has. You should have been brought up knowing exactly how special you are. >
She waited until Ashley's breathing was slow and even signaling the other girl's descent into sleep before letting her own eyes drift shut.
Her last thoughts as she drifted off were about how she'd find a way to make Ashley feel as special and wanted as she truly was.
Ashley woke up several hours later, rolling over to look for the warm body she vaguely recalled being pressed up against her while she slept. Confusion marred her usually beautiful features as she found the bed empty.
<I must have imagined Spencer being here. It just seemed so real> She rolled onto her side, facing where she thought Spencer ought to have been and hugging the pillow to herself. The sudden movement made her already pounding headache increase and tears borne of loneliness and pain rolled down her face.
<Of course she's not here. Why would she be? I screwed things up with her so bad. First I tried to kiss her when it wasn't what she wanted and then I ran and ignored her. She probably thinks that I don't want her as a friend anymore or that I don't care. I suck!>
She sobbed into the pillow, making her headache worse and feeling a twinge of returning nausea.
<I am so screwed up that no one is ever going to care about what happens to me. Nobody; not my parents, not my friends and definitely not someone as wonderful as Spencer. No one.>
She was so distraught that she didn't hear the bedroom door opening.
"Oh, why are you crying, Ash?" Spencer asked lovingly as she set down the plate of food that she collected from the kitchen. Ashley sat nearly straight up in surprise, then groaned in pain and put her hands to the sides of her head.
"You're here? You were real?" she murmured, trying to hold her head together for fear that it was about to split wide open and spill her brains onto the carpet. She felt the bed dip as Spencer sat on the edge next to her.
"Of course I'm real," Spencer soothed, brushing a lock of Ashley's dark hair behind her ear. "How are you feeling?" Ashley lifted her head and opened her eyes to verify that Spencer was really there and she wasn't imagining things. She managed a weak smile when she saw Spencer's concerned face.
"My head hurts," she admitted softly. Even the sound of her own voice seemed like it was enough to make her head explode.
"Here, I brought more aspirin and water," Spencer whispered, mindful of the hang over headache her best friend was suffering with. She'd suffered through one herself no that long ago the night of Ashley's club performance. Ashley obediently took the offered items and then sighed.
"I woke up and you weren't there. I thought I'd imagined you," she explained. Spencer grinned.
"No, I'm quite real. I even threw you in a cold shower and held your hair back as you yakked." She watched as Ashley blushed furiously. "Come on, I brought you some toast and orange juice." Ashley made a disgusted face.
"Oh God, no no food, I'll puke again," she protested, feeling her stomach flop at the mere thought of eating.
"Just a piece, take small bites," Spencer instructed. "You need some food in your system. You were really sick last night and you need to build your strength back up." She watched intently while Ashley nibbled on a corner of the toast.
"I am so sorry that you had to see that " the brunette began. Spencer shook her head.
"It's OK, I didn't mind. You needed me so I was here. Don't ever doubt that, Ashley. I'll be there if you need me, always," Spencer declared firmly. She wanted Ashley to understand that someone cared; someone would always be there for her. And that that 'someone' would be Spencer herself.
"But I'll admit that I didn't like seeing you like that. And to know that it probably had something to do with me well that hurt, Ash." Tears leaked down the hung-over girl's face at the pain in her friend's voice.
"I'm sorry " Ashley breathed, dropping the toast from numb fingers. "I'm sorry " Spencer moved to hug the girl, wrapping her arms around her tightly.
"It's OK. I just want Ash, next time one of us is upset; can we please just talk about it instead of avoiding each other or drinking? Please?" She pulled away and wiped at the fallen tears much like the way she had earlier during the night, letting her hands linger on Ashley's cheeks.
"I'm sorry," Ashley sniffled. Spencer gave her a small smile.
"I think we covered that, hon," she joked. "But I'm just as much to blame here as you are. I am so sorry about last week. That night "
"Don't," Ashley cut off, her voice soft and pleading. "Please let's not talk about that. I get it; I screwed up and if I could take it back, what almost happened, I would. It's just, if you hate me or don't want to be friends anymore because of that or if it makes you uncomfortable I don't know if I can deal with "
"Ashley, Ashley," Spencer cut her off. "You're rambling. And while it's cute to watch, you're jumping to the wrong conclusions." Ashley frowned and then winced as her head pounded.
"Tell you what, Ms Davies," Spencer started to tease. "You eat your toast and lay back down while I go take a shower and then I have to call home. We can have this talk later when you're feeling better."
"Ok," the other girl agreed, picking up her toast again.
Spencer dried herself off and then threw on some of Ashley's clothes before peeking in the bedroom to check on Ashley. The brunette was asleep on her back, snoring softly. Chuckling quietly, Spencer shut the door and walked down the hall towards the kitchen to call home.
"Hello?" Spencer winced as her mother Paula picked up the phone.
<Guess my luck couldn't hold out forever>
"Hi Mom," she tried to sound nonchalant, like she didn't just spend the night in some strange house in Venice Beach.
"Spencer! Where the hell are you? What do you think you're doing? You are going to be grounded for a month when you get home!" Spencer rolled her eyes.
<Like her screaming at me is going to make me WANT to come home>
"Mom? Stop yelling, please. Didn't you talk to Dad " she started. Her mother's impatient 'huff' cut her off.
"Of course I spoke to him. He said that you were at Ashley's father's house taking care of Ashley. And I'm upset with him for not demanding that you come right home."
"Mom, Ashley needed my help "
"I've told you that I don't want you hanging around with her. I certainly don't want you staying over with her in some strange man's house. Especially not without supervision," Paula preached angrily. Spencer rolled her eyes again and stuck her tongue out at her mother, glad that the older woman couldn't see her.
"He's not a strange man, Mom. He's a world famous musician. And as for Ashley, she was very sick and there was no one here to take care of her," she tried to explain.
"She has parents, Spencer. It's their job to take care of her, not yours. And Glen tells me that Ashley wasn't in school all week. Why didn't she need help until the WEEKEND?" Spencer ground her teeth together in irritation.
"She was staying with her father for the week while he was in town," she boldly lied, angry at her mother for being so judgmental and for not understanding. "She got sick Friday and he had to get to Chicago for a show so he called me to take care of her. And you KNOW how Ashley's parents are. They aren't there to take care of her. They could care less."
"What help did you hope to be? If she were sick, then her father should have called a doctor; not a teenager." Her mother was getting angrier and angrier. Then again, so was Spencer.
"So what, Mom? Just pawn the poor girl off in some random hospital where she knows no one and no one cares about what happens to her? No, Mom, her father wanted someone here who actually CARES about Ashley." In the back of her mind, Spencer realized that lying to her mother so much was bound to backfire at her at some point. Right now she really didn't care. There was no way that she was ever going to get her mother to understand the situation.
<God forbid I actually ever get the nerve up to tell Mom I think I'm gay. She'll hunt poor Ashley down and sacrifice her to the gods of homophobia. She'll blame Ash when I know this would have happened even if I'd never met her.>
"Spencer, that girl is a bad influence on you. She has no grounding, no spirituality, and no family support. I won't even mention her 'lifestyle choice'."
"You just did!" Spencer barked angrily. She hated the expression 'lifestyle choice'.
<Like it's a 'choice' to be treated as an outsider in your own family or community or be singled out. To be afraid to hold hands with the person you love because you might offend someone for breathing. Yeah, great 'choice'
"And it's not a CHOICE, Mom. God, I hate that."
"Look at the way you're acting. You were never like this in Ohio. And it's Ashley that's made you this way. I don't want you around someone like that. I raised you better than that," Paula snapped. Spencer lost the little that was left of her temper.
"You raised me to be a good friend! To take care of the people who are important to me and not to judge people because they might be different from me! God, Mom, is it 'do as I say, not as I do' with you?"
"Spencer Carlin, don't you take that tone with me," her mother growled.
"Fine, whatever, Mom. Tell Dad that I'll be home tomorrow night. Ashley's starting to feel better but I don't want her to drive until she's stronger. I'm sorry if that bothers you, Mom. But you need to see that I'm not a baby anymore. I can make my own decisions and you have to learn to trust me at some point." She hung up the phone without waiting for what she knew would be an acerbic response.
<And I'll be grounded for the rest of my natural life when I get there but, I'll deal with that later.>
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