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



They returned to an empty house, Spencer's brothers still attending whatever after school activity that they were involved with and Arthur still at work.

"I need a shower," Ashley sighed, scrubbing absently at a dirt smear on her cheek with an equally grubby hand, thus only succeeding in making the smear into a smudge. Spencer giggled and gently wiped at her girlfriend's face.

"You certainly do," she agreed. She was relieved when Ashley leaned into her touch and then took a step towards her to lay her head on the blonde's shoulder. She had been worried that Ashley was going to pull even further away from her after the way she'd responded to Madison's attack.

"I'd never hurt you like that," Ashley said, her voice soft and hurt. Spencer ran her hand through the smaller girl's dark tresses, soothing her. She understood immediately what Ashley was referring to.

Madison's cruel insinuation that Ashley somehow 'raped' her had been bothering Spencer since the words were uttered. Plus Ashley's reaction to the taunt was making her nervous. She knew that their relationship was equal; something that they both wanted. Ashley had in no way forced her into anything. If anything, the brunette's waiting and letting Spencer figure things out without added pressure from her had made the decision more Spencer's than the other girls'. She let Spencer come to her and Spencer never once regretted the choice.

"I never even considered that you would, Ash," she whispered back, feeling Ashley cuddle into her as they stood at the bottom of the stairs. "You're not like that."

"I wouldn't," Ashley repeated into the skin of Spencer's neck. Spencer hugged her tightly.

"I know. Don't worry about it, baby," Spencer advised. "You can't let things that people say get to you. Madison doesn't really know you; I know she used to be a friend but a friend wouldn't do or say the kinds of things Madison says to you on a regular basis. She doesn't know you and it doesn't matter what she says, what rumors she spreads because in the end, the people who really matter know who you are. And the people who believe the lies without getting to know you aren't worth your time anyway."

"When did you get so wise?" Ashley snickered. Spencer gave her a nip on the earlobe making her yelp.

"Hush, brat," the younger girl chided. Ashley laughed and pulled away. The sound of a genuine laugh from Ashley was rare lately that Spencer gladly basked in the unguarded moment.

"So, yeah, shower," Ashley repeated, heading up the stairs. She grasped Spencer's hand and pulled her along behind her. Spencer arched a brow when they reached the top of the staircase.

"Is this," she held up their hands. "Your not-so-subtle way of inviting me to shower with you?" Ashley dipped her head slightly and grinned back at the other girl before she nodded.

"Yeah," she admitted.

"Best offer I've had all day," Spencer joked as she walked behind Ashley. Ashley stopped and looked at her, one dark brow arched.

"Wait…you've had other offers?"

Spencer drank in the moan that escaped her girlfriend's lips as the smaller girl leaned back into her, her body arching under Spencer's hands. The shower had started innocently enough, both girls washing off the dirt and grime left over from being under the bleachers at school. But then, after all the dirt was gone and hair clean, they'd seen each other's bodies, hot and wet and naturally, for them at least, hands started roaming.

"Shit, Spence," Ashley groaned as Spencer's talented fingers danced over her clit, the blonde's soft breasts pressed against her back adding to the myriad of sensations currently overpowering her body. Spencer pinched an erect nipple between her fingers as she kissed and licked the shower wet skin of Ashley's neck, enjoying the unique flavor of Ashley she could taste beneath the lingering cucumber and melon body wash.

"Mmm, Ash, you feel so good," she growled. Ashley's right arm snaked up behind her head and wrapped around Spencer's neck, keeping her close as her fingers buried themselves in golden tresses. Spencer pressed down on the slippery nub beneath her fingers and felt the answering tug on her hair.

A chill rushed through Spencer at the slight pain caused by the tug, surprising her as her desire increased. Ashley had never been remotely rough or forceful with her during their lovemaking, always careful that Spencer was new to the experience and, Spencer guessed, probably afraid of scaring the younger girl. The tug on her hair became a yank as she pressed again.

"Spencer, more, please…" Ashley begged. Spencer complied, slipping down further and entering Ashley with two slim fingers. Ashley moaned loudly.

"Baby, you're tight," Spencer whispered, feeling the muscles around her questing digits twitching with each stroke, squeezing them together. "And hot…"

"Spencer…" Ashley whined pulling on the strands of hair in her fist as her other hand clawed at the tile wall. She felt like she was on fire and about to fly apart. The only thing holding her together was Spencer pressed up against her, inside her, surrounding her.

"Are you going to come for me, baby?" Spencer rumbled. Ashley whimpered in response, her hips moving more and more erratically as she got closer to her release. Spencer felt the form in her arms freeze and then shudder as she brushed her thumb over Ashley's clit.

"God!" Ashley gasped as her orgasm washed over her. She panted, held up by Spencer's strong arms as the water continued to pour over them. She let out a satisfied grumble as she turned around in the grasp and pressed her lips to Spencer's.

"Ash, I…oh!" Spencer breathed as Ashley's fingers suddenly entered her. She folded herself into the warm wet body before her, her hips rocking against Ashley's hand.

Touching Ashley as she had, hearing her come as well as the way she'd been yanking on her hair had made Spencer unbelievably aroused. Then again, making love to her girlfriend always did that to her; knowing that it was her touching Ashley, making the beautiful girl feel that way, always turned Spencer on.

"So hot…" Ashley groaned. "Spencer…baby…" Spencer lifted her right leg and wrapped it around the slim waist in front of her, drawing Ashley deeper inside. Ashley curled her fingers and sped up her thrusting, feeling Spencer's orgasm approaching.

Spencer dragged her nails across Ashley's back, inadvertently aggravating Ashley's bruises and scrapes but the brunette didn't care. At that moment she felt no pain and was only focused on Spencer, the girl she loved even if the words eluded her.

(Someday, Spencer, I swear I'll tell you) she vowed to her herself as Spencer's head fell back and her breath hitched. (When I feel safe, baby. I'll say it)

"Gah! Ashley!" Spencer cried out as she came, hard, around Ashley's fingers. She whimpered with each contraction of her muscles, the warmth spreading throughout her body and leaving her weak-kneed. Her leg slid from Ashley's waist to the floor and only the older girl's arms around her waist kept her from slumping all the way down to the bottom of the tub herself.

They huddled together under the spray of the water, panting as they recovered from their climaxes.

"I love you, Ashley," Spencer whispered, her voice rough and sending a shiver down Ashley's spine. The brunette nodded.

"You too, Spence."



Arthur returned home in the late afternoon and found the girl's sitting on the couch eating ice cream and watching television. He smiled fondly at them, happy to see Ashley as relaxed as she was. He had no doubt that Spencer would take excellent care of the injured girl; he just hoped that it didn't lead Ashley to become too dependent on the younger girl.

"That's not much of a supper," he pointed out with chuckle. Both girls looked up at him and offered him smiles in return.

"Maybe you could make some of your famous lemon chicken and help improve our eating habits," Spencer suggested jokingly. Ashley smacked her lips together and hummed at the thought.

"Yummy!" she chirped. She was feeling much better than she had been at school. That was something Spencer never failed to do; lift her spirits, make her feel better and chase away her pain, physical and emotional.

"Well, if changing your teenage eating habits is that easy, I'll get right on it!" Arthur joked and headed towards the kitchen to indeed begin cooking dinner. It was odd with Paula gone at the moment; his pain at the deterioration of his marriage was palpable. However, instead of running from it, hiding in a bottle of whiskey or spiraling into a deep depression, he chose to focus more on the things in life that still brought him joy, like his children, taking care of them and providing for them. And that included their friends, like Ashley and Chelsea.

With her father busy in the kitchen, Spencer refocused her attention on her smaller girlfriend. She shifted on the couch so that she was straddling Ashley's waist who looked back up at her with bemused brown eyes.

"Comfy?" the brunette queried with a grin. Spencer smiled and nodded. "Yeah, baby, you are definitely a 'top'." Spencer mock scowled and tapped the older girl on the nose with her spoon.

"Spazzy Perv, behave yourself," she chided as she felt slim hands cupping her ass. Ashley pouted back at her. "Hey, no pouting." She bent down and kissed the other girl on the lips softly. "My dad is a room away…"

"And your mother is in the doorway," a disgusted voice growled. Spencer lifted her head and looked over the back of the couch into the angry face of her mother. She felt Ashley freeze beneath her and an almost imperceptible tremor course through the battered body. To anyone else, the shudder would have gone unnoticed but to Spencer it registered a 10.8 on her alarm scale.

(Ashley's terrified of my mother! Great, and Mom hates her; that's a help) Spencer thought sarcastically as she simply stared at her mother blankly. (Mrs. Davies really fucked Ash up badly)

"Could you at least pretend not to be a sick and depraved sinner when I'm around?" Paula spat out, making Spencer roll her eyes.

"Didn't know you were going to be over today," she sighed, sliding to the side of Ashley simply out of a need to avoid more conflict with the older woman. She wrapped her hand around Ashley's and squeezed to reassure the other girl.

"This is still my house," Paula snapped. "I can come and go as I please. Speaking of going, when is Ashley leaving?"

"Not any time soon," Arthur announced from behind her. Spencer shot her father a grateful smile as Paula turned around to face him, a disdainful expression on her face.

"Arthur, she doesn't belong here," Paula sighed. "She doesn't need to be around Spencer…"

"Hi, yeah, Mom? She's sitting right here," Spencer grumbled angrily. She heard Ashley sigh and lower her head so that her bangs effectively obscured her face.

(Hiding) Spencer noticed sadly. Paula turned her attention back to her youngest child.

"Spencer, I understand that she's been through a lot lately and I'm not saying that she needs to go home but she doesn't have a place here. This is our home," Paula explained slowly, as if she needed to speak to her daughter like she was five years old again. The tone annoyed the hell out of Spencer.

"Ashley is my girlfriend," Spencer said simply. "My home is her home."

"No, Spencer, it's not," Paula countered. "This is the home you were raised in to be a good and virtuous person, not some disgusting heathen." Spencer frowned.

"I'm not a heathen; I'm a lesbian," she said simply. She was starting to enjoy pushing her mother's buttons. And apparently the word 'lesbian' hit all those buttons because Paula's face turned bright purple and she sputtered to answer.

"You are NOT a lesbian and we are not discussing your…mistake…right now. This is about the fact that Ashley doesn't belong here and is not welcome in our home…"

"Actually, Paula, the moment you chose to leave this house and stay in a hotel, you gave up your right to say what happens here," Arthur pointed out dryly. "And I believe that I made it clear to you that Ashley will always have a place in this home whether you like it or not."

As her parents began to fight in earnest, Spencer watched as Ashley lay on her side, turning so that she was facing the back of the couch and burrowed into the pillows, closing her eyes and shutting out everything around her. It worried the blonde as much as it upset her. She'd just gotten Ashley out of the funk that Madison had created and now Paula was sending the poor girl back down into the depressed state she'd been in.

"…disgusting pervert praying on our daughter's vulnerabilities…"

"…narrow-minded, hate-filled…"

Arthur and Paula spiraled further into their argument, the words becoming harsher. They seemed like strangers to Spencer, the once even tempered and happy couple now suddenly vicious with each other and watching the destruction of her parent's marriage was painful to her.

"Come on, Ash, let's go upstairs," she whispered, nudging the unmoving girl lightly in the back. Ashley grunted and curled up into an even smaller ball, effectively shutting Spencer out. She knew that her girlfriend was reacting to the situation the only way she knew how, by closing down. It made her angry that her own parents were making the situation worse.

As the volume of the voices rose and the words being slung even harsher, she felt Ashley start to tremble in earnest beside her.

(Oh my God, they're scaring her!) she realized. The insight that every time an adult or parent screamed or yelled around Ashley previously in her life it had probably resulted in the abuse she suffered shocked Spencer into action.

"God damn it what is wrong with you two!" Spencer screamed at the adults in the room who fell immediately silent and focused on her. "Don't you see that you're making the whole thing worse? You're scaring her!"

Arthur stepped closer and saw the huddled and shaking form on the couch and was instantly contrite.

"Spencer, I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't think…"

"Obviously," Spencer snarled as she hugged Ashley and got her to sit up. Arthur looked at the two girls and glared at Paula.

"Spence, take Ashley to your room. Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes and I'll bring it to your room. Your mother and I will discuss this in private, as adults." Spencer nodded and guided Ashley to her feet.

"Really, Ashley, I'm sorry," Arthur repeated. Ashley gave him a brief nod, her face pale and eyes downcast. Arthur mentally kicked himself. His own training and education in Social Services should have warned him that a tense situation like that one would trigger a semi-panicked response from the traumatized teen. And yet his anger at his wife's bigotry blinded him to that sad truth.

"Arthur, you are not letting that girl stay here…" Paula interjected.

"Paula, enough!" Arthur snapped back. Paula gaped at him in shock as Spencer led Ashley up the stairs. The blonde left the turmoil of her family's implosion behind her and laid Ashley on the bed.

"I'm sorry," the brunette sighed softly. Spencer shook her head.

"It's not your fault, baby," she responded.

"It is too," Ashley countered. "Everything was fine until I came along and fucked your life up. You had loving parents who were together and never argued before I came into your life." Spencer curled up behind her, cuddling close with her arms wrapped tightly around her girlfriend.

"I had a half-life, Ash," she explained. "A home with parents pretending to be what they weren't; with me pretending to be who I wasn't. You set me free…"

"I destroyed your entire life," Ashley sobbed. Spencer held tighter and tried to calm her.

"No, Ashley, you didn't so just stop," she soothed. "If my parents are meant to stay together then they will work their way through this. If not, well then it's better it happens now then when they're truly miserable. Everything happens for a reason, baby." Ashley turned around in her arms.

"Do you truly believe that?" she wondered, brown eyes curious and bright. Spencer smiled at her.

"Absolutely," she said honestly. Ashley seemed to ponder this for several moments.

"I wish I had your faith, Spencer," she finally said, her voice soft. "But there's nothing that I believe in…" Spencer grasped her gently by the chin and lifted her face to meet her own.

"Then believe in me, sweetie. You can believe in me because I swear that I will never let you down," she promised. "And don't worry, I have enough faith for both of us."



The next day at school, Spencer was on a mission. She made sure that Ashley was with Aiden sitting in the grass during lunch and excused herself for a few minutes, seeking her target carefully. She waited until Madison had finished bitching Sherri out for whatever imagined cheerleader infraction she had had the misfortune of committing before she walked up to the malicious Latina.

"Madison," she began slowly. "I'm only going to ask you this once; stop harassing Ashley." The smaller girl arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow and looked Spencer up and down before smirking.

"And if I don't?" she challenged. Spencer rolled her eyes at the childishness of the other girl.

"I am not telling you again," she warned, her voice taking on a gravely edge. "That scene from yesterday is never going to repeat itself, understand?" Madison snickered.

"If that whole 'butch bully lesbo' act is supposed to intimidate me, I'd try again, hon. You just look pathetic." Spencer started grinding her teeth together as she wondered what in God's name Glen saw in the girl.

"I'm not trying to intimidate you," she said flatly. "I just want this whole hobby of yours of taunting Ashley until she freaks out to stop."

"Face it, Spencer, the freak deserves it," Madison decided. Resisting the urge to groan out loud in frustration, Spencer shook her head.

"Why?" she wondered. "What is it about Ashley, what has she done that makes her so deserving of your constant emotional abuse? What did she do? Kick your puppy? Look better in a cheer suit? What? Tell me, Madison, other than the fact that you are a narrow-minded, petty, childish, hate-filled, jealous bigot with nothing better to do, what had Ashley ever done to you?"

"I'm not jealous of that whore," Madison spat. Spencer smiled to herself at the shorter girk's defensive reaction, knowing that she had succeeded in hitting a sore spot with the other girl.

"Oh no? Then why do you tease her so much?" she asked, slightly mocking. "Wait…do you like Ashley; as in 'homo-erotic, girl-on-girl, lip smacking lust like?" Madison shoved her.

"Fuck you, you psycho," she growled. "You wait, Spencer. She'll fuck you over the same as she does anyone who gets too close in her life. Frankly, I'm surprised you've lasted this long without her fucking one of your brother's behind your back." Spencer crinkled her nose.

"Um, ew," she responded. (Is that why she hates Ashley so much? Did she like Ashley only to have Ashley pick someone else? Aiden?) Spencer thought to herself.

"Awww, did the big bad cheerbitch lose out on her chance with Ashley?" she teased. Madison's face turned a livid purple.

"That is fucking disgusting, you freak!" she hissed. "I see Ashley has twisted you into the same kind of pervert she is."

"You're just jealous that I have Ashley and you don't," Spencer sing-songed. The sting of the slap across her face did nothing to diminish the somewhat inappropriate glee she was experiencing in creating the same kind of teasing with Madison that Madison routinely visited upon Ashley.

"I am not a disgusting dyke homo, you ass hole," Madison spat, her nostrils flaring with anger. "And don't you dare tell anyone otherwise." Seeing her opportunity, Spencer grinned.

"Then leave Ashley alone and I won't tell everyone that you like girls," she reasoned.

"I DON'T!" Madison argued. Spencer shrugged.

"Honestly, I don't think you do," she said seriously. There was no doubt in her mind that Madison was indeed straight; however, the very idea of anyone thinking otherwise was panicking the malicious girl so Spencer was willing to use the lie for her own benefit.

"But given the way you tease and taunt Ashley, how you do everything you possibly can to be all up in her face and whatnot, some people are bound to believe the lie." Madison's eyes narrowed to a hot glare as she realized Spencer had the upper hand.

"Fine, whatever," she grumbled. "I've got better things to do anyway. That whore isn't worth my time."

"She is not a whore," Spencer pointed out as Madison stalked away. The cheerleader paused and turned to look at Spencer.

"You wait, Spencer. You'll just have to learn the hard way."

A week passed, blissfully uneventful for the two girls. Ashley continued to heal, letting Spencer change any bandages that still remained. A few of Mrs. Davies strikes had broken the skin and while she hadn't needed stitches, Spencer made sure to keep the damaged areas clean and dutifully covered in antibiotic cream. She was glad to see that the bruises were fading and Ashley was flinching in pain less when touched. She hated causing any pain, however inadvertently to her girlfriend.

"Spence, I'm gonna have to go home soon," Ashley said softly from where she sat on Spencer's bed her back against the headboard while Spencer painted her toenails. The blonde shook her head.

"You can't go back there, Ash," she countered. Ashley pulled her feet away and hugged her knees to her chest.

"Well, I can't stay here," the brunette pointed out. Spencer sighed and put the cap back on the nail polish.

"Why not?"

"Because," Ashley began, rolling her eyes slightly. "As long as I'm still here your mother won't come back, for one. For another, I can't just not ever go home again." Spencer moved to sit beside her girlfriend.

"Again, why not?" she asked, smiling slightly at the exasperated expression on Ashley's face. "Look, Ash, if you go back there, your mother probably isn't going to be all that welcoming. As for my mother, well, she'll either come around on her own or she won't but you can't let that chase you out of here." Ashley shook her head.

"It's not," she protested. "It's just…whatever problems your parents are having, I'm compounding to just by being here. And since you know about…how my mother treats me sometimes, chances are she won't do it again. People know, Spence. She's not that stupid."

"No, your mother is not stupid, but she is dangerous. And the last thing I'm going to do is let you just walk back into a house where you were abused, victimized…"

"I am not a victim," Ashley growled defensively, glaring at Spencer. The last thing that Ashley wanted was for Spencer, or anyone to look at her differently because of what had occurred. She was not going to live a life of pitying looks and sad glances.

"Ash, you suffered at her hands, you endured years of abuse, abuse that she herself did to you…" Spencer began gently, reaching out to brush some hair away from the smaller girl's face. "I don't know what you want to call it and I understand that you don't like the term 'victim' but this isn't just going to go away. And you can not go back to living with her." Ashley grunted and pushed Spencer's hand away, standing up.

"Whatever, Spencer," she hissed, beginning to pace a little. This was what she was afraid of; Spencer only caring for her out of pity and a sense of obligation.

Spencer resisted the urge to bang her own head against the wall, knowing that she'd pushed a little too far. Ashley's insecurities had a habit of cropping up at random moments.

"You are totally innocent in the whole thing," she continued hoping to calm the agitated girl. "I am so proud of how you're handling the whole thing. But going home, back to your mother's is not an option." Ashley sat back down on the bed with a huge sigh, all the anger instantly draining from her and making her look smaller than she already was.

"I just want my life back, Spence," she whispered. "I feel so lost." Spencer moved to hug her from behind.

"I know, baby, but that isn't your home anymore. This is," she soothed. Ashley wiped impatiently at the stubborn tears that would not stop falling now that they had begun.

"Everything's changed," she whimpered. "I have no home, no family…"

"You home and family are here, Ashley, with us," Arthur's voice suddenly coming from the door startled both girls. He stood there smiling slightly at both girls. "I came to tell you that dinner is ready. I didn't mean to overhear…"

"It's ok," Ashley sniffled. "Guess it's all just hitting me, you know?" Arthur came over and put a reassuring hand on the teens shoulder.

"Yes, I understand," he nodded. "I was thinking, Ashley, how do you feel about therapy?"



Despite Spencer's objections, the following Sunday while her blonde girlfriend was at church with her father, Ashley parked her car a few houses down from the Davies mansion and snuck in the service door.

Carefully looking around various corners and down halls on the watch for her psychotic mother, Ashley made her way through the house. Given the covert nature of her adventure, she was amusing herself by softly humming the 'Mission Impossible' theme. She knew that it was either distract herself with that or shake and panic to the point of not being able to function.

The sound of someone shuffling in the next room made her stop in place and wait, afraid that even taking another step would alert them to her presence. Only when the sound of footsteps faded into the background did she make the mad dash up the stairs to her room where she carefully shut the door and took a deep breath.

(At least she hasn't sold any of my stuff) Ashley thought wryly as she sat on the bed and looked around. While Arthur had conspired with Sabrina, the maid to get a lot of Ashley's things, if she wasn't returning to that house any time soon there were some things she wanted to have with her. Things that meant a lot to her and she didn't want to let her mother keep and possibly sell.

She picked up the duffle she'd brought with her and quietly started going through her closet, grabbing some items of clothing that she wanted, a few knick knacks, cd's, dvds, and other miscellaneous stuff. She slid her laptop from its secret cubby in the closet and shoved it in its carry bag, glad to have it back. Her music and writings were on it and she kept it hidden in a bid to keep her mother out of her private life. The woman was a snoop and constantly looking for ways to undermine her daughter's happiness.

"Laptop, clothes, cds, notebooks," Ashley muttered her mental list to herself. She wanted anything with any sentimental value to her so that her mother couldn't take it away. Thankfully, or perhaps sadly, there was little that Ashley really felt sentimental towards, aside from what she had already grabbed.

"Fuck!" she spat when she opened her jewelry box and noticed that most of her stuff was gone. She imagined her mother, old and pathetic, trying to look young and hip wearing some of it.

"Pathetic hag," she decided. "She's got enough fucking cash to buy her own shit…"

Disgusted with her mother on every level, she grabbed a few more things, mostly that were either gifts from friends or that she bought herself. The money her parents had meant very little to her growing up. The gifts and presents that they (or more accurately her father) showered upon her in place of the missing attention and love that she longed for were useless and did little to diminish the loneliness she felt as a child. They used material items as a band-aid, a cover up for their constant neglect of her well-being and emotional health. So, other than a few mementos of her father's career and things he shared with her, she was done collecting items in less than an hour. She grabbed one more important thing, her guitar, and reached for the door.

She squeaked in surprise when it opened on its own and Sabrina nearly screamed in fright.

"Madre del dios, Ashley," she gasped, clutching her chest as she waited for her heart rate to return to normal. She hadn't expected to see the teen there in the house so opening the door into someone had frightened her greatly. "You scared me."

Ashley looked at her feet sheepishly, her hair growing out long enough to shield her face.

"Sorry," she muttered, half afraid that Sabrina was going to get her mother.

"Your mother is in Aruba, Ashley," Sabrina said softly, recognizing the look on the brunette's face. "The house is safe." Ashley let out the breath she had been holding and gave the older woman a small smile.


"Can I help you get anything else? Is Spencer waiting for you because you can let her in, I won't tell…" Sabrina rambled. Ashley impulsively dropped her bag and wrapped her arms around the maid.

"Perdóneme, Ashley. I am so sorry," Sabrina sniffled, hugging the girl back. Ashley pulled away and shook her head.

"You didn't know, Sabrina. I don't hold it against you," she explained.

"I knew something wasn't right, Ashley. I should have done something…" Sabrina challenged. "I just never thought…"

"It's done, can't be changed. I just need to get my stuff and go. I want to get back to the Carlin's before Spence gets out of church," Ashley explained, grabbing her bag and guitar again. Sabrina reached out and touched her arm as Ashley tried to go past.

"Wait, mi querida, I have something of yours. Come down to the kitchen while I go to the back house and get it." Sabrina led Ashley to the kitchen and then went out the back door. Ashley stood uneasily in the middle of the room, afraid that at any moment her mother would appear and pick up where she'd left off that last night she was home.

(There's no Spencer here to help me this time though,) she worried. She opened the cabinet below the sink, her mother's secret stash, and pulled out a few bottles, hiding them in her duffle before Sabrina returned with a small cloth bag.

"I don't trust your mother so I grabbed these when she wasn't looking," the maid explained, opening the top of the bag and pouring Ashley's jewelry into her waiting hands. Everything she had been looking for, the ring she got from her father when she was 12, silver with the opal stone was there along with the diamond necklace he got her when he forgot her 13th birthday. It was all there in the safe keeping of her mother's head of staff.

"Thank you," Ashley whispered, tearing up slightly at the woman's thoughtfulness.

"It was the least I could do, Ashley," the woman pointed out. Ashley shook her head.

"No, you've helped me out a lot, what with helping Mr. Carlin get my stuff and keeping these safe. If my mom caught you it would have cost you your job."

"I'm already leaving this place," Sabrina told her. "Now that you aren't here to keep an eye on, I can not work for a monster like your mother.

"Where are you going?" Ashley asked, worried. She knew that Sabrina used the incredibly well paying job at the mansion to support her two sons. She couldn't afford to work at 7-11. Sabrina smiled at her.

"Your friend's father got me a very nice job at the hospital," she told her happily. "I start next week. I am going to be a unit secretary." Ashley beamed at her, proud and very thankful to Arthur Carlin for not the first time that day.

"He's really covering all the angles, isn't he?" she said more to herself than to Sabrina. The maid nodded.

"Si. Today is my last day and I was hoping to see you but I wasn't sure you'd risk coming here. I told Mr. Carlin that if I didn't see you before I left today I would grab anything else I thought you might want and bring it to his office. And that he could get a hold of me if you wanted to press charges against your mother. He told me that you were doing good. Spencer and her family are very nice people."

"The best," Ashley grinned, the first real smile she'd shown all day. Sabrina kissed her on the top of the head.

"They are good people, Ashley. You are lucky to have such people in your life." Ashley nodded.

"I know."

"Baby, I have a weird question for you," Spencer said later that night. She had been surprisingly understanding when Ashley explained what she'd done during the morning, not wanting to keep it from the younger girl. She knew that it was something Ashley had had to do. She didn't like that her girlfriend went alone without at least letting her sit in the car but it was over and done with so there was no point in arguing about it with her.

Plus, Ashley seemed so happy, able now to strum her guitar randomly as she sat on the bed. She had a notebook of lyrics and notes sitting open in front of her as Spencer worked on her history homework which Ashley had already finished. Gone was the quiet, brooding girl who had awoken with her that morning and in her place was the Ashley whom Spencer knew. It seemed like having her music back was exactly what she needed.

"Ok," Ashley responded, carefully retuning her guitar. It had been sitting too long and she was unsatisfied with its sound. Spencer put her books on the floor and looked at the older girl.

"Well, uhm…I don't want to say this wrong but I had a weird thought earlier," she said hesitantly. Ashley looked up from her guitar and smiled, turning to put the instrument on its rack beside the bed. She turned back and gave the blonde her full and undivided attention.

"Whatever it is, Spence, I'm sure it's fine," she reassured the suddenly shy girl. "Just ask."

"See, I know that you have some…experience before me," Spencer started, blushing slightly as she ducked her head. She heard Ashley snort and looked up to see the older girl blushing as well.

"Very polite way of saying it, Spence, but ok," she joked. Other than their run in with Paige that night at Gray, her past wasn't something that they really discussed. There were certain aspects to it that Ashley hoped that she'd never actually have to talk about. So she was curious, and worried, as to what Spencer was going to ask.

"It's just…" Spencer stumbled and tucked a stray lock of blonde hair nervously behind one ear. "You are my first…well maybe not my first first but well you are my first because you're the first that I really love and I don't want to be with anyone else and I trust you and…"

"Whoa, Spence, disengage babble mode," Ashley giggled. "Take a deep breath and try that again, baby." Spencer smiled and nodded.

"OK, uhm, I was just thinking that I'm experiencing all my firsts with you and I wanted to know if there was…er…anything that would be a first for you that we could, you know, share," Spencer asked, her voice becoming painfully soft as she finished. She was also so red in the face that Ashley was worried she was going to have a stroke.

She leaned over the bed and wrapped her arms around her girl, hugging her and giving her a light kiss.

"All of it," she whispered. Spencer lifted her head and gave her an incredulous look.

"Oh come on, Ash, I know I'm not your first," she pointed out, her tone joking and yet understanding. Ashley shook her head.

"First person I ever slept with, no, you're not," she agreed. "If you want to be technical about it, there are some things I haven't done and if we share those things, yes, you will be my first. But that's not what I meant." Spencer waited patiently for the brunette to continue.

"You are my first in the ways that it matter, Spence," she went on, taking a deep breath so that she could get it all out before she lost the nerve. Spencer had inadvertently given her a perfect opportunity to express how she felt when the three words she really wanted to say were still beyond her reach.

"I have shared by body with other people. But I have never shared my heart the way that I do with you," she said simply. "So, in that way, in the most important way, Spencer, you are my first." Spencer's eyes flooded with tears which Ashley gently wiped from her cheeks as they fell.

"Really?" Spencer wondered, smiling.

"Oh yeah," Ashley confirmed, stealing another, longer kiss with the girl. "You are my first and hopefully, baby, my last." Spencer's smile grew to a full grin.

"You know," she teased. "For someone who can't say 'I love you', you say everything else perfectly."



"Spencer, you are so naïve it amazes me," Madison sneered. Spencer rolled her eyes. She really wasn't in the mood to deal with the head cheer bitch. She just wanted to catch up with Ashley and go to their next class in peace. She'd hoped that after her little 'discussion' with Madison two weeks ago that she wouldn't have to actually ever talk with the girl again, aside from a polite greeting whenever Glen brought her to the house.

"Madison, has anyone ever told you that listening to your voice is like listening to a banshee with the hiccups?" she shot back sweetly, loving the confused frown on Madison's face. The fiery Latina shook it off and continued.

"I mean, I don't know how you could possibly be with Ashley given her past," she teased darkly. Spencer sighed. It wasn't bad enough that the day was overcast and dull but Madison had to add to it with her own particular brand of 'charm'.

"Look, I don't care if she's got a reputation or if she's slept with a lot of people," she said simply, meaning every word and hoping to head Madison off before the tiny brunette really got going. "She loves me and you can't handle that." Madison shook her head.

"I wasn't referring to her whore-ness, mija," she said quickly, letting sarcasm color her words along with a layer of thinly veiled knowledge. Her tone pretty much sang 'I know something you don't know' to Spencer and it annoyed the blonde; not that Madison might know something about Ashley that she didn't yet but that Madison was all too willing to use that knowledge as a weapon.

"Although…" Madison let the statement hang knowing that her tone of voice was building tension. Spencer stopped walking and turned to face her.

"Fine, what? You obviously are just dying to tell me something because you wanna try and ruin what me and Ashley have so spit it out so I can get the hell away from you," the youngest Carlin snarled. Inwardly impressed with the blonde's bitchiness, Madison smirked.

"Ok then, let me ask you: why didn't Ashley ever tell you the truth about her mother?" she watched as Spencer's angry expression slipped slightly.

(Gotcha, that's a sore spot. Point, Madison Duarte) she thought gleefully.

"I know all about that, Madison. And I respect Ashley's privacy enough and trust her enough to know that she would have told me eventually," Spencer said calmly, believably which wasn't hard since she did actually believe that. She understood why Ashley hadn't told her of the abuse but now that she knew, she wasn't going to let a piece of scum like Madison use it as a way of hurting or controlling her girlfriend.

"Sure, sure," Madison said condescendingly. "So you know her mother smacks her around. Apparently still does judging from the way she looked a while back. And yet, it didn't seem to teach Ashley anything; she's still a bitch."

"Madison," Spencer warned. Madison smiled but it wasn't a pleasant smile; it was one of triumph knowing that Spencer had no idea what was coming.

"So you know all about her mother smacking the shit out of her…" a glare greeted her words so Madison decided to go for the kill. "Well, that's cool that she's told you about it and that you're OK with not only that but everything else. Most people wouldn't be able to deal with all that. I must say, you're a bigger person that I am."

"That goes without saying," Spencer grumbled. She frowned, hating herself for what she was about to do. "And what do you mean 'everything else'?" Madison lit up inside; she knew that Ashley wouldn't tell Spencer, dear sweet innocent Spencer the rest of the truth.

(Oh this is just too delicious) If you could see into her head, you would have seen Madison bouncing up and down on her feet, clapping her hands in joy. She put on her best 'fake concern' face and pretended to be hesitant to tell.

"Spencer, it really isn't my place…"

"You're right, it's not but that's not going to stop you so drop the fucking fake 'concerned friend' act and just say it," Spencer snapped, annoyed and about to walk away.

"Fine, you want to know, I'll tell you," Madison replied, all sweetness gone from her voice. "You're little slutty girlfriend Ashley is a whore in more than one way. Yeah she's slept around with her fair share of girls and not a few guys but you wanna know something? She's been a whore since she was like 8." Spencer paled and Madison thought that it was because the Ohio transplant was finally catching on to what a piece of trash her girlfriend was.

In reality, more pieces of the Ashley puzzle were falling into place. Especially her behavior a few weeks ago when she was avoiding any and all touches from anyone, even Spencer.

(Oh my God, Ashley what did they do to you?)

Taking Spencer's continued silence as permission and belief in her words Madison continued her dirty disgusting tale.

"Now, I don't know exactly when it started but I guess she's been 'servicing' her mother's friends since childhood. Her mother like, rents her out or something, like a car. Heh, I think Ashley has more mileage than an '84 Buick." Madison chortled, not noticing the red flush to Spencer's face as she kept talking.

"And I think she's still doing it. I saw one of her mother's old 'friend's' at Starbucks a while back. One of the ones Ashley told me about. See, she told me all about it while we were friends. And we were only friends, not girlfriends." She took a long dramatic pause, letting her words sink in to do maximum damage. This was going to ruin Ashley, she knew it. And she savored the feeling of victory.

"I mean, she must have liked it seeing as how she never bothered to leave or tell anyone. I'm just shocked that you will still sleep with her given the places she's been…"

Madison yelped and fell to the floor onto her ass as the pain from Spencer's punch to the nose registered. She looked up at the highly irate blonde with watery surprised eyes.

"That," Spencer growled, breathing hard. "Was for calling her a whore." She kicked Madison in the side before the head cheerleader could move.

"That was for betraying her trust and running your fucking mouth," Spencer continued, stepping on Madison's hand and putting all her weight on it, making the Latina scream.

"And that is a warning to never, ever tell another living soul what you just told me," she said lowly, her voice rumbling with implied threat. "It's none of your fucking business, it's Ashley's. If she wants to tell she will. Understand me?" Madison nodded mutely, totally astounded by Spencer's behavior and in a good deal of pain.

"Not a word, Duarte," Spencer growled, eyes dark with anger and rage. Madison wondered if that rage was directed at herself or Ashley. Although part of her knew it was directed more at Ashley's mother than the taller brunette. She couldn't help smiling to herself, knowing that if nothing else, she'd spilled Ashley's proverbial can of beans all over Spencer. She knew that no matter how sweet and kind Spencer might be, no one in their right mind would want anything to do with Ashley if they knew that truth. Not even Spencer.

Part 96

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