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



Spencer stared at her brother, her hand stinging from the impact of her palm on his face. She felt no remorse for what she had done. Glen had called Ashley the same thing that Paige had, that four letter word that rhymed with 'runt' which Spencer loathed. She could put up with almost anything else; 'dyke'. 'lesbo' etc, but that one word irked her to no end.

So the moment Glen had hissed it in reference to Ashley, her arm flung out and she hit him. He was still just gaping at her in total shock. They had always fought on and off as children, as most siblings tend to but never had they struck each other in anger the way Spencer just had.

"You hit me," he stated obviously. Spencer nodded.

"Yes, I did. And if you ever talk about Ashley like that again, I'll punch you instead," she declared, turning to look at her girlfriend but only seeing Madison smirking evilly and Ashley's quickly retreating back.

"Oh fuck," she sighed. She started after Ashley only to be stopped by Madison grabbing her arm.

"Let her go, Spencer," she advised. "You're so much better off." Spencer tore her arm away from the grip and narrowed her eyes.

"Touch me again and I'll rip your arm off and beat you over the head with it, bitch," she growled, making Madison take a step back. Spencer enjoyed the momentary flash of fear on the smaller girl's face. She walked away and chased after Ashley.

As she got closer to that bowed back, she could see slim shoulders shaking and wished that she had punched Madison while she had the chance since it was obvious that the Latina had said something to upset the sensitive brunette.

"Ash! Ashley wait up!" she called, catching up finally with the long strides of her girlfriend. She grasped Ashley's shoulder lightly and turned her around to face her.

"Aw, baby, why are you crying?" she asked reaching up to wipe at the fat tears. Ashley pulled her face away and shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself as though she were cold.

"Don't Spencer, don't touch me someone could see," she whispered. Spencer scowled, angry that Glen and Madison had just destroyed the progress she was making with Ashley recently. Again, before her stood the broken and lost beautiful girl that had returned from that weekend.

She wrapped her arms around Ashley tightly, feeling the older girl stiffen in the embrace and it broke her heart.

"I don't give two shits who see's what, right now, Ashley," she said softly. "You're upset and you need me." She nuzzled at her girlfriend's neck, hearing Ashley sigh. "What did she say that upset you, baby?" Ashley sniffled and pulled away.

"Nothing important," she shrugged. "She just ran her big mouth." Spencer looked at her.

"Don't lie to me, Ashley," she said gently. "I hate that." Ashley looked at her with wide 'puppy' eyes.

"I'm sorry, Spence," she apologized, wondering in the back of her mind what was going to happen when the blonde discovered exactly how many lies she'd been told. Visions of Spencer slapping her and walking away played themselves out behind her eyes.

"She said that I was destroying your family, Spencer, and I can't help but wonder if she's right," she admitted. Spencer growled low in her throat and looked over her shoulder at Madison and Glen who were still standing in the quad whispering to each other and glancing at them periodically.

"You are doing no such thing, Ashley. I am who I am, independent of you. If they can't deal with it, when I finally tell them the truth, it won't be anyone's fault but their own." Ashley nodded, believing the words as the bell rang, signaling the start of their school day.

"Let's get to class and forget about those two."

"Really, why does Madison hate you so much?" Spencer asked in a whisper as the cheerleader in question shot dirty glances at the two of them over the top of a few chemistry tables. The three were in a chemistry lab class; Ashley and Spencer were paired up while three tables away, Madison was teamed with some poor plebian girl who was almost literally shaking in her Converse.

"I dunno," Ashley shrugged. She was eyeing the chemicals in curiosity.

"Seriously, Ashley, you guys used to be friends, right?" Spencer continued.

"Yeah," Ashley agreed, grasping a pair of vials and tilting her head in interest. The teacher, Mr. Fairbanks, was droning on about the periodic table of elements and their experiment for the day at the blackboard while his class donned their safety goggles and gloves.

"Then what happened?" Spencer's tone was light, curious. She wasn't prying and Ashley knew it. Smiling to herself, she poured a little of one vial onto the special dish in front of them.

"OK, here, I'll try to explain and I'll use visual aids," she grinned. A tad nervous that her ADD girlfriend was playing with chemicals, Spencer took a small step back. Ashley snickered.

"Oh, relax Spence, I've been studying," she scoffed. "OK, so that there is me. Simple, elemental Zinc. I'm a daily vitamin and whatnot. This," she held up another small vial. "Is Madison. Simple, inert Iodine. See, together we're fine; a little of column A and a little of column B. We mix and get along. Nothing happens. However, add a little from column C, we'll call this Aiden," she put water into a dropper and dangled it over the two mixed substances.

"Add water, a.k.a Aiden, and…" A small puff of purple smoke and heat erupted from the Petri dish, startling Spencer and half the class.

"Thus it explodes and then fizzles. Much like me, Aiden, and Madison," Ashley smiled smugly to herself. She found that very amusing.

"Miss Davies, what on earth do you think you're doing?" Mr. Fairbanks asked angrily. Ashley blinked and looked up.

"I was demonstrating the redox reaction of zinc and iodine combined with water to Spencer here," she said cheekily. Mr. Fairbanks frowned.

"Well, then, perhaps you can explain to Spencer as well as the rest of the class exactly what happened in your little demonstration," he challenged. Ashley shrugged and turned to face Spencer.

"OK. See, iodine can act as an oxidant of a number of elements like phosphorus, aluminium, iron or in this case, zinc. Oxidation of thinly dispersed zinc with iodine can be started by traces of water. The reaction mixtures are heated up gradually during the whole thing because it's strongly exothermic, and iodine sublimates in the form of a deep purple vapor, thus making the 'poof'." She looked at the teacher and smiled.

"All right, you told us why it caused the purple cloud, now can you tell us why we would use an experiment like that?" Mr. Fairbanks added to the question, secretly impressed and pleased that Ashley knew what she was talking about.

Ashley nodded.

"Sure," she chirped, her confidence in her intelligence increasing with each passing moment. She could see the teacher was pleased with her answer and seeing a teacher happy with her was rare. More than that though, Spencer looked very happy and proud which was really all that mattered to Ashley.

"According to the text, experiments like this show the formation of salts through the reaction between a metal and a non-metal," she said and closed her eyes, trying to picture the text that she read the night before. "The strongly negative reaction enthalpy of these processes can be used as an introduction to the discussion of the enthalpy balance of salt formation or Haber-Born cycle. Furthermore, it can provide a contribution to the topic of aluminium recycling." She recited the last from memory, proud that she seemed to have a semi-photographic memory.

"Very nice, Miss Davies," Mr. Fairbanks smiled. "I am honestly impressed with your knowledge. However, please follow along with the rest of the class during lab time and don't go mixing things I haven't told you to, understand?" Ashley nodded, blushing slightly from the praise.

"And I would like to see you after class as well," he added before turning and addressing the rest of the class leaving Ashley to worry about what he was going to say after class. She knew that she was now passing the class with a C average. She hoped that she wasn't getting a detention for her 'demonstration'.

At the end of class, Ashley milled around waiting for the rest of the students to exit. Spencer made sure she was the last one out other than Ashley, sending a sympathetic and supportive look at her girlfriend as she reached the door.

"Actually, Miss Carlin, if you wouldn't mind, you can stay as well," Mr. Fairbanks announced. Spencer stopped in mid step and turned to face him. He cleared his throat and leaned against his desk, looking intently at Ashley.

"Well, Miss Davies, I just want to tell you that your performance today in class was outstanding. Honestly, I was surprised at the extent of your knowledge." Spencer watched Ashley beam under the praise and was very proud of her girlfriend as well. Plus she knew how much hearing such positive things from a teacher meant to Ashley who was usually on the receiving end of a lot of distain.

"A few of your other teachers and I were discussing the recent changes in your performance the other morning. I just wanted to tell you that we are all very pleased to see you finally applying the brilliant mind that everyone but yourself was aware you possessed." Ashley blush deepened and she hung her head in a shy manner, looking unbelievably cute to Spencer.

"I would hardly say 'brilliant'," Ashley protested softly, still smiling. Mr. Fairbanks shook his head.

"Well, we all do," he argued, smiling back at the brunette. "Ashley, you have a very sharp and keen mind. It's been such a horrible thing to witness someone so possessed of potential squander it the way you have until recently. You are capable of so much more than you realize." Ashley snorted and shot a silly look at Spencer.

"I've got ADHD, the MTV attention span, and no respect for authority; I hardly call that 'potential'," she retorted. "And I highly doubt that I'm capable of much more than giving all my teachers stress induced headaches." Mr. Fairbanks laughed.

"Until recently, no doubt we would have all agreed with you. But whatever changes have occurred recently that have brought about this wonderful transformation in your attitude," he explained, shooting a pointed and knowing look at Spencer who ducked her head and found herself blushing. "Keep them and keep up the good work." Ashley nodded and headed to the door with Spencer.

"Trust me," she grinned at Spencer. "I plan to."



"I wish you could come over tonight," Ashley sighed as she dropped Spencer off at home. Spencer nodded her agreement. There was a teacher's holiday the next day so they had off from school.

"Me too," she smiled. "I wanna come over and over and over again," she sang, causing Ashley to laugh and blush.

"Melissa Etheridge, huh? Soooo gay, Spence," she teased.

"You know it," the blonde laughed. "But not too gay to function."

"Cuz gay means happy and happy means gay," Ashley sang, sending them both into another fit of giggles.

"I swear, if you start singing that song from the South Park movie, I'll pee my pants," Spencer snorted. Ashley wiped at the tears of laughter that were rolling down. She loved their 'silly' moments and that she felt safe enough to act that way with her girlfriend. Not many people knew that Ashley was secretly a goofball.

"What's with the family pow-wow, anyway?" she asked as Spencer grabbed her backpack.

"My Mom is leaving for some week long medical conference in Miami tomorrow and wants us home for a 'family night' before she goes. But on the bright side, she'll be gone for a week," Spencer explained.

"Woo!" Ashley cheered. She then frowned as another thought struck her. "Is that Ben guy going too?" Spencer sighed.

"Probably. Which makes me wonder whether or not there really is a conference or if my mother is simply going on a little vacation with her boy-toy. That whole idea disgusts me." Ashley shrugged.

"Well, maybe it's time you talked to your dad?" she wondered. Spencer nodded.

"Yeah, I think so," she agreed. "Well, I'll call you tonight and tell you how it goes." Ashley grinned.

"Talk to you later, baby!"

She walked into the house, noticing that it was eerily quiet. She put her bag at the bottom of the stairs and headed to the kitchen for a snack.

"Spencer, what is this?" her mother asked angrily, emerging from the kitchen and holding up a small black and grey box. Spencer looked at the box and felt her heart rate speed up as fear formed a thick lump in her throat.

"Err…a box?" she asked with fake cheerfulness. Her mother glared at her hotly.

"Spencer, it's a pair of edible underwear. Edible underwear for women," she explained, disgust evident as she spoke. Spencer tilted her head.

(Oh fuck…fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck me…) It was something she had picked up on her shopping spree with Ashley at the mall. Spencer's Gift's had a wide selection of items that she pondered before settling on that particular one. She had planned on giving it to Ashley during the time when her mother was gone.

"Well, I don't know what kinda stuff Glen and Madison are into…" she started trying to deflect the blame she knew was coming her way. Judging from the way her mother's face turned purple in rage, it probably wasn't the best course of action.

"Don't drag your brother into this; down this path of sin you seem all too happy to skip down, young lady," Paula screeched, making Spencer wince and roll her eyes. Although the image of herself and Ashley holding hands and skipping down some path that sprang to her mind at her mother's words was oddly humorous.

"Mom, calm down," Spencer said.

"I will NOT calm down! I found this in your room, Spencer. YOUR ROOM! With a note, addressed to…that girl…a sick perverted disgusting note," her mother ranted. Spencer tried to swallow the sigh that rose to her throat. Again, her mother resorted to not saying Ashley's name, in a way negating the beautiful brunette's existence. It irked Spencer to no end.

"It was addressed to Ashley," she stressed the name. "Not you so you had no right to read it. And it wasn't 'sick', 'perverted', or 'disgusting' either. It was a joke, meant for Ashley."

"'I can't wait to chew my way through these to you, baby'," Paula spit each word out like it was poisonous to repeat it. "'But you taste so much sweeter.' Spencer, this is deplorable, revolting, sinful behavior."

(Wow she is pulling out all the adjectives today)

"Mom, just calm down, ok?" Spencer asked, hoping not to get into a horrible screaming match with the incredibly irate woman in front of her.

"Relax? RELAX? Spencer Ryan Carlin, how can you say something like that when I know what sort of nasty, disgusting things you're doing with that…girl…that whore!?" Spencer felt her blood pressure skyrocket.

"First, her name is Ashley. Ash, like cigarette ash, followed by a 'lee' sound. OK, not that hard. She knows your name; you could at least try to say hers."

"Spencer…" Paula growled in warning. Spencer shook her head.

"No, Mom, her name is Ashley and she is NOT a whore. You don't even know her; you've made no effort to get to know her. Don't you dare pass judgment on her." She saw her mother beginning to open her mouth and decided to cut the woman off at the knees.

"You don't know her, Mom. She's a sweet and gentle girl who's had shit handed to her for her entire life. You've never given her a chance but she tried with you. She was always nice and polite to you."

"Because she was trying to get to you, Spencer. To corrupt your innocence and damn your soul," Paula explained. Spencer rolled her eyes.

"Do you even hear yourself? I mean, do you understand the words that come out of your mouth?" she asked sarcastically.

"Spencer, don't speak to me like I'm stupid. You are grounded, young lady and forbidden from EVER seeing that…Ashley ever again," her mother ordered angrily.

"Mom, you lost your right to punish me the minute you started whatever it is you have going with Ben. Ashley's not the whore here, you are," Spencer declared hotly. Her mother's hand collided with her face so hard tears sprang to her eyes. She stared at the older woman; understanding in that moment the shock Glen had felt earlier when she had slapped him at school.

"Don't you ever speak to me like that again!" Paula warned. Spencer glared at her.

"You know what, Mom. I think it's past time you and I had a nice long talk."



"Spencer, I am your mother and you will respect me as such…" Paula declared coldly.

"I respect those who earn my respect, Mom," Spencer shot back in much the same tone. "You don't want my respect; you want my fear and obedience. There's a difference." She flexed her face, the sharp stinging sensation fading to a dull ache. But it was nothing compared to the ache of betrayal in her chest at that moment.

"That girl has turned you into a disobedient, mouthy brat," her mother spat.

"No, Mom, Ashley has helped me realize that you are not always right," Spencer argued. "I think for myself now and that bothers you."

"No, what bothers me is that you think that being friends with that girl is ok, that following her down the path of sin is acceptable…" Paula preached.

"The only one of us 'sinning' here, dear mother, is you," Spencer spat, fed up with her mother's hypocrisy. "I'm pretty sure that your 'relationship' with Ben is not a purely 'business' one. And this trip to Florida? Yeah, have a nice vacation, Mom. Make sure he rubs the lotion in real good cuz you don't wanna get a burn…"

To her utter shock, Spencer felt her cheek stinging with another hit. She glared at her mother hotly as her father entered the house.

"Paula!" he scolded, stunned at seeing his wife strike his young daughter. Never in their marriage had they ever struck one of their children in anger; occasionally when they were little they were spanked for misbehaving but never across the face in such a forceful way. He wondered what Spencer may have done to cause Paula to react in such a way.

"Go to your room, Spencer. You are grounded indefinitely and are to NEVER see that girl again!" Paula screamed. Spencer flinched slightly, the anger in and volume of the other woman's voice disturbing her on a basic level. She'd never seen her mother so angry.

"Spencer, you stay right there. Someone had better start telling me what is going on here right now," Arthur demanded. Spencer and Paula simply glared at each other, both visually daring the other to speak. When neither female uttered a sound, Arthur looked at his wife.

"Paula?" he questioned. Tearing her eyes from her daughter, Paula thrust the small box at her husband.

"Look, just look what I found in her room," she growled. Arthur took the box and examined it. "Read that nasty, perverted note she wrote for that…that girl." Arthur read the card before glancing at Spencer. The teen tried to hide the smile that tugged at her lips as she witnessed her father blushing slightly at the intimate and private sentiment. She was slightly embarrassed but at the same time not.

(I'm not ashamed of what I wrote or how I feel) she decided.

"Do you see?" Paula howled. "Do you see the path of perversion that horrible girl is leading Spencer down?" Spencer rolled her eyes.

"Ashley," she emphasized the name again as she spoke. "Isn't leading me down any 'path of perversion'."

"How can you say that, Spencer?" Paula asked near tears as she watched her daughter's descent into sin.

"Now, Paula, calm down," Arthur soothed. "Spencer, can you explain this?" Spencer sighed and nodded.

"I bought it for Ashley," she said simply. Arthur frowned for a moment and then looked back at his wife.

"Before we go any further, where did you find this, Paula?" he asked. Spencer let herself smile fully this time, knowing where her father was going with his question.

"I uh…" Paula stammered. "I was in Spencer's room looking for that that beach bag we gave her for her birthday when I found that…"

"In my bottom dresser drawer under my jeans!" Spencer pointed out. "Where you had no right to be snooping!"

"I am your mother and this is my house," Paula argued. "I have every right to look around and make sure that you are not ruining your life, which you so obviously are. Arthur, I think it's time we discussed that boarding school…"

"WHAT?" Spencer screeched indignantly. "Boarding school? Ohh is it ALL GIRL, MOM? That should help with my gay 'issues'."

"Spencer, stop baiting your mother," Arthur warned. Spencer nodded and took a few deep breaths to calm herself, watching as her mother's blood pressure rose and she grew angrier.

"I think a structured, monitored environment, like a boarding school, is exactly what you need right now since you apparently won't listen to your parents," Paula said snottily. "Your father and I…"

"Don't assume to speak for me, Paula," Arthur interrupted her, causing the older woman to stammer and stutter a few syllables before she came to a sputtering stop. "First off, you did not have a right to rifle through Spencer's private things."

"As her mother I had every right…" Paula started. Arthur shook his head.

"To respect her privacy and individuality as a young adult. Neither of which you've done. You invaded her privacy and from the sound of it, went through her things and that is something that I do not condone."

Paula fumed silently, glaring at her husband and daughter in equal measure. She felt betrayed by them both.

"Arthur, that girl…"

"I believe her name is Ashley, Paula," Arthur supplied for his wife, knowing the reasoning behind the woman's refusal to say the name. If she continued to speak about Ashley as if she weren't actually a person, she felt power over her and it was something that he personally couldn't stand.

Paula rolled her eyes.

"Fine, Ashley," she grunted. "Is perverting our little girl and making her do things that she never would have considered without that bad influence." Arthur looked at his daughter whose jaw was twitching in anger.

"Spencer, is Ashley making you do anything that you don't want to or are uncomfortable with?" he asked gently. Spencer shook her head.

"No, never," she said firmly. Arthur looked back at his upset wife.

"And I trust Spencer's judgment. She's not going to be influenced into something she doesn't want, Paula. She is a big girl and doesn't need her hand held to make the right decisions."

"Oh I do not believe you, Art. Always taking the kids sides over me, just to be the 'good parent'. You can't see how twisted Spencer is getting," Paula ranted.

"I am not the one who is 'twisted', Mother," Spencer growled. "You are. I'm through here and going to my room to clean up the mess you probably left. Have a wonderful time with Dr. Ben!" She climbed the stairs, her parent's voices growing softer the further away she got.

She entered her room and sighed. Her mother had made a half-hearted effort to cover her tracks but Spencer knew her room well enough to know when someone went through her things. It was a talent she developed during Glen's phase of going through her stuff when she was younger.

She went into her closet and pulled out the locked box that she kept hidden behind clothes and old books. She took the key from the hollow of her bedpost and unlocked it, gazing lovingly at the items inside.

Pictures of Ashley, of her and Ashley and items from their time together were carefully lying in the box, taken care of. Things like movie ticket stubs and small notes exchanged in class. Spencer made an effort to save as much as she could. She knew that she was a packrat in that sense but didn't care; each piece was a reminder of her time with Ashley.

She took one item in particular out and ran her fingers over it. It had cost Ashley two dollars when they'd 'lost' one of the card keys to their hotel room that weekend but Spencer felt no guilt for pocketing it. She considered it one of the most special nights of her life when Ashley first made love to her. A few dried flowers were also contained in the box.

"I'm just glad Mom didn't find this," she whispered to herself, replacing the card key in the box and closing it, locking it and returning it to its hiding place. She put the key away and climbed into her bed, the earlier excitement making her feel tired. She closed her eyes to take a nap, wondering when she woke up, what kind of shape her family would be in.



When she woke up and went down for dinner, her mother was already gone. Her father, with sad eyes and pale face, simply told her that Paula had left early for her conference. But Spencer knew by the look on the gentle man's face that he knew about his wife and Ben. She felt guilty about it but didn't know what to say to make it better.

She sighed, running water for the dishes and wishing that her parents were still the same people that they'd been in Ohio. She knew that it was a futile wish but all the same she longed for the days when she was little and it seemed like they never fought. Now that she was older she knew that they undoubtedly did fight when she was a child but hid it from their young children. Unfortunately it gave both her brothers and herself a false sense of security as far as the family environment went and now they were ill-equipped to deal with the fallout.

(I feel so responsible) she lamented. (I know that my relationship with Ashley, just being friends with her, caused stress between Mom and Dad. I don't regret being with Ashley. I just wish that it didn't make so many people upset. I mean, it's love; why does it have to matter so much that she's a girl too?)

She rinsed the plate in her hand and put it in the tray to dry, pausing to look at her reflection in the kitchen window. She didn't think she looked any different than she did before she got involved with Ashley. If anything, she looked happier.

(What Ashley and I have…it's wonderful and pure and she makes me so happy. People write about things like love, sing about it and everything. Everyone wants to be in love. I am in love. So why is that so wrong?)

Arthur walked into the kitchen and looked at his young daughter as she stood at the sink. His marriage to Paula was crumbling apart faster than he had realized and he had no idea what he was going to do or how they were going to approach the growing rift. The dissolution of his marriage was oddly parodied by Spencer's growing relationship with Ashley and he was aware that Paula wouldn't be the only one to match the two separate situations and tie them together. Glen would undoubtedly say that Spencer's sexuality added to the stress between his parents and helped cause the problem; Spencer's sensitive nature would in some way agree and she would needlessly take the blame that was in no way hers.

Arthur didn't want to see that happen. Whatever happened with his marriage, whether he and Paula managed to work things out or divorced, he never wanted Spencer to feel it involved her. The truth was that his marriage was suffering back in Ohio, he just didn't want to face it. Now it was shattering into sharp shards on the carpet and he was helpless to stop it.

Regardless of the outcome, he didn't want it to taint what Spencer was building with Ashley. He liked the brunette teen, liked the changes, the strength that he was seeing her bring about in his daughter. He was beginning to see the qualities he knew Spencer possessed and needed to be a confident, successful adult emerging. He understood that Ashley was partially to thank for that.

"Spence, why don't you call Ashley and go see her?" he suggested as he walked over. "Glen's out with Madison, Clay is with Chelsea, so why don't you go spend time with your girl?" Spencer smiled up at him.

"Can I?" she asked hopefully. Arthur smiled and nodded.

"Yes, pack a few things and go be with her. Oh and I never saw this," he said, reaching into a drawer and handing Spencer the box from Spencer's Gifts that had caused so many problems earlier. Spencer blushed profusely and took the box.

"Thanks, Dad," she squeaked, embarrassed. She gave him a tight hug and turned to leave. She paused and turned back to her father.

"Dad, about Mom…and Ben…" she started haltingly. "I'm not sure if…uhm…I was just trying to…" Arthur put his hand on her shoulder.

"I understand, honey. You weren't sure if it was true. Neither was I…until now," he said sadly. Spencer's eyes widened.

"You knew?" she asked. Arthur shrugged.

"I suspected. I didn't have any proof or anything…"

"Until I opened my big mouth," Spencer grumbled. "Dad, I am so sorry…" Arthur frowned and looked at his daughter.

"Spencer, don't you take the blame for your mother's mistakes," he said firmly. "This has nothing to do with you, at all."

"But…" Spencer tried to argue. "Me and Ashley…" Arthur shook his head.

"No, Spencer. It is not your fault. It has nothing to do with you or with Ashley," he informed her. Spencer sighed and nodded, looking at him dubiously. "Spencer, whether you want to believe me or not, you have done nothing wrong, nothing to cause this situation. I knew that there was a problem with my marriage before we even moved here. So don't feel that you falling in love with Ashley had anything to do with my marriage problems. Do you understand me?" Again, Spencer nodded.

"All right then," he smiled. "I believe that there is a certain young lady that would love to hear from you." Spencer gave him a dazzling smile and another tight hug before speeding from the room to call her girlfriend.



It was close to two in the morning when they were finally spent and fell asleep wrapped around each other. Spencer knew that she would never sleep as well as she did when she was with Ashley. She always felt so safe and loved, surrounded by the scent and presence of the other girl. She loved the nights when the last thing she saw was Ashley's sleeping face and adored the mornings when that same beautiful face greeted her first thing. She couldn't wait until they were older and out of high school, able to get their own place and no longer had to run the gamut of parental supervision. Then they could just be together without the added stress of someone like Paula getting in their way. She knew that there were bound to be countless obstacles but Spencer also knew that nothing stung more than the rejection of ones own family.

Her own recent experience with her mother had given her new insight to Ashley's inner strength. Ashley's family was never around, never there to support her or help her; Spencer couldn't fathom that. Even with the way her mother was behaving lately, she knew that if something went wrong, Paula would be right there, trying to help fix it. Or at least Spencer hoped she would.

But Ashley didn't have that, apparently never did. Spencer was amazed that her brunette girlfriend was as well adjusted as she was, with only a few lingering 'issues' stemming from her empty childhood. But now, Spencer understood the amount of strength Ashley truly possessed to have survived her parent's neglect.

She nuzzled the drowsy girl's neck as they awoke the next morning, a school holiday giving them the opportunity to sleep in. Ashley began stroking the blonde's hair, both girls just enjoying the other's company. These were moments that Spencer wished she could capture and save for savoring later; quiet, peaceful time together.

"Ashley," a coarse voice came from the door as it swung open without warning. "I'm leaving for a few days. Try to stay out of trouble and here's some cash in case you need to bail your sorry ass out…" Her mother stalked into the room, digging into her purse for a few hundred dollar bills to throw at her daughter. She came to a screeching halt at the sight of the two girls in bed together.

"Mom!" Ashley said shocked. She thought that her mother was still in Aspen and had no clue she had returned, otherwise she would have locked the door. She watched as the older woman's face contorted in rage and felt her own panic beginning to build.

"I raised you, put a roof over your head, put up with all your…antics…and this is how you repay me?" her mother screamed as Ashley stood up off the bed and pulled on some clothes. Spencer hopped off the bed and reached for her own clothes. Ashley's mother was livid and Spencer was a little scared of that much anger coming from an adult. Her own mother's rage the day before came no where near the fuming woman in front of her.

"You keep bringing these random girls home, and for what? An easy fuck? I can't believe you," Mrs. Davies ranted.

"Mom," Ashley said calmly, hoping to head her mother off from a massive fit. It wasn't working as she watched her mother's face turn red with fury. "She's my girlfriend."

"Girlfriend?" Mrs. Davies roared. Spencer pulled her shirt on and her pants, watching as Ashley tried to calm the irate woman. Ashley's body language was subdued, her shoulders rolled forward to make herself look smaller and her steps tentative. This confused Spencer, who was used to Ashley being big and bold, not acting small and weak. It was eerily similar to how the teen had acted after the weekend she spent with her mother and now Spencer was beginning to see why.

"Girlfriend?" the woman repeated, approaching Ashley. "You keep playing this game, Ashley, baiting me and pissing me off with this behavior. Bringing home these little whores and then parading your disgusting depravity in front of me…"

Silently, Spencer wondered if Mrs. Davies and her own mother had attended the same 'narrow-minded bigot' class at some point.

"Spencer is not a whore!" Ashley yelled, any thought of staying calm totally gone from her mind the moment her mother had insulted Spencer. "You barged into my room without knocking, Mom, I didn't 'parade' anywhere. Don't get mad at me because you walked in on something you don't like!"

"How dare you bring her into this house?" Mrs. Davies screamed. Ashley rolled her eyes.

"I could ask you the same thing about each and every guy you've ever brought in here!" Ashley retorted, the same anger coloring her voice. "At least I love Spencer! At least she's not just some random 'fuck of the week'!"

The first three blows landed on Ashley before the images truly registered in Spencer's mind. Her feet were already moving her at high speed to her girlfriend's side in response, a girlfriend currently folding herself into as small a target as she could make on the floor as her mother continued to swing.

"STOP!" she screamed, pushing herself between Ashley's cowering form and the highly irate figure of Mrs. Davies. "Stop hitting her!" She pushed against the older woman, trying to get her away from Ashley. A strong backhand across her own face sent her sprawling to the floor in a heap. Shaking her head to clear it from the pain, she heard several thick thumps in quick succession, accompanied by hurt whimpers.

(Ashley!) She spun around and climbed her feet, eyes wide as she witnessed Mrs. Davies kicking Ashley viciously with the sharp toe of her expensive shoe.

"Stupid cow! Ugly, worthless little cunt!" Ashley's mother screamed, nearly each word accompanied by a hard kick. "What have I told you? What did I teach you?"

Spencer lunged over, trying to protect Ashley with her own body and earned a sharp kick in the side for her efforts.

"I'm sorry…I'm sorry…please Mommy, I'm sorry," Ashley sobbed quietly, desperately. She was curled into the fetal position, rocking.

"LEAVE HER ALONE!" Spencer roared as Mrs. Davies paused, seeing the wrong person on the receiving end of her rage. She glared hotly at the blonde.

"You have no idea what's going on here," she panted. Spencer shifted so that Ashley's mother would literally have to go through her to get to the crying girl and returned the glare with one of her own.

"You're beating your child! That's pretty fucking simple to understand," she growled angrily. She could feel Ashley shaking as she rocked behind her and kept begging her mother to stop. Spencer's heart was breaking in the face of the hidden reality of Ashley's life, all her own fears about it coming alive in stark clarity.

(I was afraid it was something like this. Oh Ashley why didn't you tell me?)

"Get out of my house you little slut!" Mrs. Davies ordered, leaning in closer. Spencer tried to puff herself up a little more to protect Ashley. Ashley's cries were growing louder in panic. Spencer wasn't even sure Ashley was aware of her surroundings anymore. All she was sure of was that Mrs. Davies wasn't going to touch her again. Ever.

"You need to get the hell away from us both before I call the police," she snarled back protectively. "This is called 'child abuse' and it's against the law." If anything else, her words seemed to enrage Mrs. Davies even more. She raised her hand to hit Spencer who braced herself. An ear-piercing scream startled them both.

Ashley had gone from crying and sobbing to all out screaming at the top of her lungs, rocking and holding the sides of her head. The screams were nearly endless, panic and horror filled and made Spencer's blood turn cold.

"Shut that little bitch up before I do! Permanently!" Mrs. Davies yelled to be heard over the racket and then spun on her heel, stalking out of the room. After the door closed, Spencer twisted around to wrap herself around the screaming girl and cradle her in her arms.

"Ssshhh, Ashley, shhhh, please stop screaming," she whispered close to the distressed girl's ear. Ashley kept screaming and rocking even in Spencer's arms for several long minutes. Spencer kept talking to her, begging her to hear her and know that she was safe with her.

"Please Ashley," she pleaded. "Calm down, I'm here, you're safe. She can't hurt you anymore. I won't let her hurt you ever again, I swear." Ashley's screams slowly tapered off into whines and whimpers again. Spencer wondered absently if the brunette would even have a voice left the next day after all that screaming.

Wiping away her own tears, Spencer focused her attention on Ashley, brushing away the desperate frightened tears that marked the older girl's face.

(Ashley, is this what your life has been like?) Spencer wondered as she cuddled her girlfriend and hoped that her calm presence would register in Ashley's mind. She knew that Ashley wasn't with her mentally at that moment and Spencer was a little frightened about how long it was going to take her to bring Ashley out of her current state.

(Dad will know what to do) she decided. The trick was getting Ashley to the car and then driving without a license to her father's office. She thought about calling him but didn't want him to run into Ashley's mother and have that evil harpy of a woman cause another scene.

She started to pull away from Ashley so that she could stand up only to have the brunette grab her shirt in a vice grip and the volume of her cries grow. While it hurt her heart to witness Ashley in this state, the fact that the other girl was clinging to her so tightly relaxed her a little. That meant that Ashley knew who she was and that she made the upset girl feel safe.

"It's OK, Ash, we need to get up and out of this house," she explained, moving slowly and letting Ashley lean on her. It took nearly a half hour for Spencer to get the now injured girl to her feet and steady enough to walk. Ashley still wasn't speaking, her brown eyes wild and lost, unfocused and scanning the room frantically.

"Come on, baby," Spencer coaxed, walking down the stairs carefully. "Let's get to the car and we'll go see my dad. You like him, remember? He'll help you, us both."

"Get that little slut out of my house!" Mrs. Davies emerged from the kitchen, a glass of what Spencer figured was vodka in her hand. Ashley buried her face in Spencer's neck and started to whimper loudly.

"Pathetic little bastard," the elder Davies ranted. "Good for nothing, worthless, waste of my time…" Spencer glared at the woman but refrained from responding. She knew that the last thing Ashley needed was her mother in a rage again. She led Ashley to the front door while trying to block out the dark haired woman's continued snarling.

"Ruined my life…I told her what would happen if she didn't stop acting like such a whore…same as she had to learn when she was little…stupid…selfish. You know that she's just using you, right?" Mrs. Davies words made Spencer pause in the open door and turn her head. Ashley's mother looked at her with a triumphant smile.

"That's right, little girl, Ashley doesn't love you; Ashley doesn't love anyone but herself. She's just fucking you for an easy screw!" The woman laughed, a cold evil sound that made Spencer's skin crawl. "She's just a little whore, fucking whoever she wants without caring. A WHORE!"

"You're wrong," Spencer responded, her voice shaking with barely contained rage. "Ashley does love me; but I can see how you think she doesn't know how to love. Children know what we teach them and all you've taught Ashley is hatred and pain. I'm going to fix that." She slammed the door behind her and led the quivering form in her arms to the car.

Once she had Ashley situated safely in the back seat, Spencer climbed in the car and started it, silently praying that she didn't get pulled over since she didn't actually have a license.

"I'm gonna fix this, Ash. I promise."

Part 81

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