DISCLAIMER: CSI New York and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement is intended. Eden Ashley is an original character. All mine.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To debrafitzakerley[at]yahoo.co.uk

Eden Ashley Chronicles
By EdenAshley


Part 19

Today is Ashley and Stella's first day back at work since the wedding. They had a small break in the Hamptons, just for a few days, Mac has promised that as soon as he can allow it, he will give them at least a week off so they can have a real honeymoon.

They weren't bothered by the lack of an immediate honeymoon, they have had the most incredible time away just the two of them, they hired a house on the beach, and just spent the time immersed in each other.

And even now being back at work they still can't tear the smiles from their faces, they are loving married life so much so far. Little did they realise the trauma that was waiting for them just around the corner.

Amelia Ashley is back in New York, it looks different somehow, but then again everything does these days. She has a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach, nervous, anxious, butterflies, they're not feelings she would usually associate with her daughter, usually she would be happy or excited, that she was about to deliver some news that would destroy Eden, but my how things have changed now.

She's waiting outside of the lab building expecting that her daughter will be out soon, and she's not disappointed, she strides out of the main door, with a man, Amelia assumes this must be another crime scene investigator, but she doesn't recognise him, Eden is smiling as she walks in her direction. Amelia smiles nervously as her daughter looks directly at her.

Ashley is heading out to her latest assignment with Danny in tow. Nothing is going to ruin her mood today, her face immediately drops when she sees her mother in front of her, at first she thinks it's her eyes playing tricks on her, at least she hopes it is. As she gets closer she realises no such luck, it is unmistakably her. The only thing that makes her doubt that it might actually be her mother is the awkward smile currently on her face, one that is definitely not going to be reciprocated by Ashley.

Ashley has no intention of stopping or acknowledging her mother, she braces herself to just walk straight past her. Amelia senses that this is what's going to happen, and she can hardly blame Eden for it. She starts to speak.

"Eden, I know I'm the last person you want to see right now, but. . ."

Ashley is not going to let her, mother ruin her mood. "Not Interested."

She holds her hand up to reaffirm her words, and just gestures to Danny to follow her into the SUV. Which he does rather obediently after picking up on the tension. He smiles wryly at Amelia, not really knowing who she is, and just follows Ashley into the car.

Well Amelia guessed that would be the reaction she got. Oh well, onto the next, she heads to the door that Eden just excited, to make her way up to the lab.

Ashley pulls her seatbelt on, Danny still feels pretty awkward, and it shows, Ashley just explains as simply as she can.

"That was my mother." She looks a Danny for a second, and then quickly looks away, at the steering wheel.

Danny of course has heard many stories about Ashley's mother, and her reaction is fully explained in an instant, Ashley is obviously finding it difficult so Danny quickly moves on.

"Right lets hit the scene then."

Ashley smiles at Danny happy he has swiftly changed the subject. She revs the engine and they head off.

The knock on Stella's office door startles her slightly, she is catching up on some paper work, she looks up and see's that a sheepish looking Amelia has let herself into her office. Amelia decided this was best, if she had waited for an invitation she have been in the corridor forever.

If possible Stella looks even unhappier to see her than Eden did. One thing she notices straight away on Stella is the wedding ring and engagement ring on her left hand. They must have gotten married.

Stella notices Amelia fixating on the ring. She's not willing to discuss her and Eden's life with her.

"I thought I told you I didn't want to see you again?" Stella just looks up at Amelia stony faced.

Amelia can't help the next words that fall out of her mouth. "You got married." She smiles as she says it.

Stella can't quite put her finger on it, but something has definitely changed with this woman. Amelia has the sudden realisation that maybe Stella hasn't married her daughter, a thought which surprisingly makes her feel sick, she doesn't stop to think how this next sentence might sound.

"I assume to my daughter?"

Stella smiles and shakes her head, maybe she hasn't changed that much after all.

"You still haven't told me what you're doing here?"

This snaps Amelia out of her thoughts about the wedding, she realises she didn't phrase her last question very well, and any chance she had of getting Stella to help her has quickly dissolved. Well she may as well ask, as she's here.

"I need to speak to Eden." She looks at Stella hopefully.

Again Stella keeps a poker face on the service, but underneath she is frantically trying to decipher exactly what is going on. One thing's for sure she certainly appears to have lost the streak of evil she had before.

"Eden isn't here."

"I know I bumped into her downstairs, she doesn't want to talk to me."

"Well then I guess you have your answer." Stella is in no mood to be stuck here talking to Amelia.

"I was hoping maybe you could talk to her for me?" She knows it's a long shot. Stella actually laughs out loud; this woman can't actually think she is going to help her get to Eden.

"No absolutely not, and if there's nothing else I have a lot of work to do."

Well that went as well as expected, Amelia just nods as she turns to leave, as she reaches the door, she turns back to Stella.

"I know what you must think of me Stella. But I promise you I'm not here to try and ruin her life." Solemnly she just exits the office, not really giving Stella a chance to respond, she sighs as she enters the corridor again, two down, one to go.

Stella leans back in her chair, her brain racing, she has no idea what's going on, but she's sure that if Amelia is involved, it won't be good, for Eden, or for her for that matter.

Mac had been processing evidence in the lab all morning for a case he and Hawkes were working on. He is now on route to his office to analyse the results, he looks up from the folder he currently has his head buried in, and sees the silhouette of someone sitting in the chair facing his desk, obviously waiting for him. He doesn't really recognise the outline, other than that's it's definitely a female, he enters his office intrigued.

The sound of the office door startles Amelia, the sick feeling from earlier returns to the pit of her stomach, this time not because she's scared that the person won't give her the time of day, but because she knows Mac definitely will.

Mac looks down at the woman, who reciprocates his eye contact, whilst smiling anxiously, this woman is unquestionably nervous. He recognises her instantly, even though he guesses it must be a least 30 years since he's seen her.

"Amelia Harbridge. I don't believe it."

Mac instantly drops the folder onto his desk, and pulls his old friend into a hug. Amelia immediately lets the emotion get to her, something she hasn't been used to in the past, she can feel the tears forming in her eyes, she is determined that they won't spill over. She hugs Mac back willingly, she feels safe in his arms, it takes her back to when she was 16.

Mac pulls back, and looks into Amelia's eyes, she looks tired. He moves round to his side of the desk, and takes a seat; Amelia does the same, the smile never leaving either of their faces.

"Wow." Mac is genuinely in shock, this woman was his first love back when they were kids, a whole lifetime ago, he is astonished that she is now here, in front of him in his office.

"To what do I owe this pleasure Ms Harbridge?"

This brings Amelia crashing back down to earth, and she remembers what she's here for.

"Actually I got married, so it's not Harbridge anymore." She looks up at Mac sheepishly, he just smiles.

"So what should I be addressing you as then? Mrs . . . ?" Mac still smiling waits for Amelia to confirm her name, he has no idea why Amelia looks so sheepish, surely she can't think he would be jealous by the fact she got married, she must have been 17 the last time he saw her.

"It's Ashley. Amelia Ashley." She looks down at her hands.

Of course Mac recognised the name instantly, he had heard many stories about Eden's mother, but he never put two and two together. The Amelia he knew and the Amelia described by Eden and Stella seem worlds apart.

Amelia chances looking up, she can tell Mac obviously knows who she is. She's guessing from his expression that Eden probably hasn't painted her in the greatest light. Fairly.

Mac's posture immediately changes, the Amelia he knew obviously doesn't exist anymore, he knows that from her behaviour, from the stories Eden has shared with him. He has no interest in being used by her as in pawn in one of her games to get to Ashley, he decides best to find out what she wants and get rid of her as soon as possible.

"Eden's mother." It's not a question, it's a statement of fact, he shakes the sorrow he feels, at the loss of his good friend, out of his head and concentrates on the task in hand.

"What can I do for you?"

His voice lacks the emotion it had a few seconds ago, he is pure business mode now. Amelia's heart sinks.

"I take it Eden has told you all about me." She smiles wryly.

Mac has no interest in small talk. "Your name has come up in the past."

"Then I completely understand your reaction . . ." Mac cuts her off.

"What I can't understand is what you're doing here? I hope you don't think you can involve me in some sordid game to upset Eden."

Amelia knows she can't just blurt out what she has to say, otherwise Mac will think it's exactly that, a game. She needs to explain, she can tell Mac is quickly losing patience with her, so she needs to do it quickly.

"Do you know how old my daughter is?" Mac just looks Confused; Amelia takes this as a sign to continue.

"She's 32 her next birthday." Mac still doesn't seem to grasp the significance, so Amelia ponders on.

"I was 17 when I gave birth to her."

This gets Mac's attention. He and Amelia had been high school sweethearts back in Chicago. They had gone to junior prom together. Unfortunately they complied to the stereotype, back seat of the car and everything. She can't be implying what he thinks' she's implying can she? He can't speak, but Amelia knows by his facial expression that the penny has dropped.

"Didn't you ever wonder why I disappeared?" As soon as her parents knew she was pregnant, they decided it was best to take her away from prying eyes, so she was home schooled, until she gave birth, and a month later the whole family relocated to England.

Mac of course did wonder at the time what had happened, he was heartbroken. He can't believe what he is hearing right now, and he certainly can't cope with it.

"Get out."

Amelia is taken aback by the venom in his voice, she felt certain that once she explained it, he would be a lot more understanding.

"Mac you understand what I'm saying here don't you? She's yours. She's your daughter."

Hearing her say the worlds out loud, just causes mass panic within Mac he can't comprehend it rationally right now, he needs to get his thoughts and his head together, but he needs to get rid of her immediately. He rises and moves around his desk, he grabs Amelia's arm forcefully, and drags her towards the door.

"I told you I won't be part of your silly little games, and this. I mean this is beyond a joke." He shakes his head as he pulls her into the corridor.

Amelia starts to protest loudly. "This isn't a game Mac." The raised voices start to catch the attention of people in the lab.

"Think about it Mac, really think about it and you'll know I'm not lying."

Stella hears the commotion from her office and is taken aback when she sees Mac physically, and quiet violently dragging Amelia towards the elevators, she moves as fast as she can towards them to find out what the hell is going on. She notices the Eden step off the elevator, of course she immediately sees the scene in front of her, but neither of the main protagonists appears to have noticed her.

"I told you to get out." Mac is shouting now, he releases Amelia's arm in more of a throwing actions towards the elevator. Eden is shocked, not that someone would dislike her mother, that she can completely understand, but for Mac to be displaying such emotion towards a woman he has never met is very surprising, she voices her confusion.

"What the hell is going on here?" Eden looks back and forth between Mac and Amelia. Mac freezes. Amelia smiles, now is her opportunity to get it out in the open.

She looks over at Mac and smirks. "Do you want to tell her? Or should I"

The panic again takes over Mac's being, Stella picks up immediately that he is acting very strangely. He knows there's no way of Eden not finding out now, but he meekly tries to fight against it.

"There's nothing to tell." He looks down at his feet. If Amelia's previous form is anything to go by, she would take immense pleasure in telling Eden what she had just told him.

Amelia waits a couple of seconds, giving Mac ample opportunity to tell Eden himself, when he just continues to stare at his feet, she sighs, well she's always the bad guy, why break character now.

"I was just telling Mac here that he's your father." Ashley can't believe what she's hearing, her mother has finally lost the plot, she starts to laugh, her mother has really surpassed herself this time. Stella eyes are fixated on Mac, she can't read his expression, but there is definitely something not right with him. This couldn't possibly be true.

Exasperated Ashley still in disbelief starts to talk. "Wow, this is low even for you. I mean do you really expect me to believe this?"

Amelia, now defensive just nods her head towards Mac. "Ask him."

Ashley looks over at Mac, he doesn't look up from the floor, which does worry her slightly, but there is not one part of her, which believes this could actually be true. She looks back to her mother.

"I don't need to ask him. The two of you have never even met before."

Amelia just looks over at Mac, he looks up first at Amelia then over to Ashley, the poor kid, she hasn't done anything wrong, she deserves to know the truth, thing is Mac isn't entirely sure what that is himself.

"Your mother and I went to school to together."

Confusion is Ashley's main issue right now, but she can't concentrate she has so many thoughts flying around her head. Stella's heart sinks, she knows everything is about to change for the two people she loves most in the world, whether or not the allegations are true.

Ashley needs answers; she needs so form of clarity. "But, I mean you never slept together right." She looks at Mac pleading. "Tell me you've never had sex with my mother."

"I can't." Mac can see the panic that has engulfed him since he heard the news take its hold on Eden. He feels helpless and powerless to stop it.

"Does the timeline fit?" Again her eyes are begging Mac to answer, but the truth is he doesn't know, his head has been spinning since he heard the news. Ashley is not satisfied with the lack of answer from Mac; she asks the same question again, this time with a raised voice, full of panic.

"Does the timeline fit?" The rise in the volume startles Mac. He can only be honest with her.

"I don't know."

Ashley can't take anymore, she feels sick, she needs to get away from all these people, she needs time by herself to think. She bolts, and heads straight for Stella's office, she doesn't even acknowledge that she passes Stella on the way, Stella's heart breaks when she sees the pain in her wife's face.

She is surprised when Amelia immediately follows Eden; she is about to protest, which Amelia obviously picks up on.

"I told you I need to speak to my daughter." She doesn't wait for Stella to respond, she just continues on her way to Stella's office, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake.

Ashley is sitting at Stella's desk head in her hands, trying to stop the thoughts spinning long enough for her to get a grasp of what's just happened. No such luck. She hears the door to the office open, she lifts her head up, probably the last person she wanted to see right now. Her mother.

"Hear me out. Please." Amelia needs her daughter to let her explain. Luckily for her Ashley needs some answers so she's willing to listen to her. She nods at her to continue.

"Now I'm here I don't really know where to start." She chuckles nervously. Ashley just wants to know what the hell is going on, no room for sentiment.

"How about from the beginning." She doesn't allow any emotion onto her face. Amelia swallows all of a sudden her mouth is very dry.

"Ok." She takes a deep breath as she's about to start the story of her and Mac, the office door goes again, and Stella walks in. Both sets of eyes go to Stella, who can tell she has walked in on something, so she doesn't speak, just goes and stands behind Eden, arms crossed.

"Go on." Ashley urges her mother to continue.

"Well Mac, and I went to school together in Chicago, we were high school sweethearts." Amelia smiles at the memory, thinking back that was probably the happiest time of her life.

"We went to junior prom together. One thing lead to another, and that was that. We were kids Eden. Neither wanted what happened." This takes Ashley by surprise.

"Did Mac know you were pregnant?"

"No of course not, not until today. I just meant neither of us thought I would get pregnant, I guess we weren't really thinking at all."

Ashley still has about a million and one questions running around her head. "I don't understand, why did you tell me Kenneth Ashley was my father?"

Amelia exhales, truth is a lot of the decisions were taken away from her back then, she decides the best thing is to explain exactly what happened.

"So, when my mom found out I was pregnant, she pulled me out of school. It obviously wasn't as common back then to have a pregnant 16 year old. I was home schooled until you were born, then we decided to move over to England, all mom's family was over there so we thought there would be a bigger support network I guess."

Stella has listened intently all the way through, she still doesn't know whether to believe Amelia or not, but she can't shake the felling that something about her has changed dramatically. She gently places her hand on Eden's shoulder, Ashley immediately puts her own hand on top of it, and gains immediate comfort, she's glad she doesn't have to face this alone. She continues to listen to Amelia.

"We moved when you were about 4 weeks old, and I met Ken pretty much straight away, we hit it off, he was so in love with me, he said he would take you on as his own. We got married, changed your name as well. It was stupid."

"You can say that again." Ken had turned out to be a bum that was in and out of both of their lives for Ashley's entire childhood. He was a loser, a pathetic excuse for a man. Amelia of course agrees.

"But it was done. He was the only father you knew, and it seemed easier to keep it that way, especially after what happened with us."

Ashley feels instantly uncomfortable, her mother of course is referring to her coming out and all the repercussions that stemmed from it. Stella immediately feels Eden tense; she gently squeezes her shoulder to remind her that she's always her for her. There's something niggling away at Ashley in the back of her mind.

"Why now?"

This catches Amelia off guard. "What?"

Ashley reiterates her bewilderment, "Why now? I've worked here, with Mac, for coming close to two years, why all of a sudden now?"

Amelia of course still had the second part of her bombshell to drop, although she assumes Eden won't be half as bothered by this part.

"To be brutally honest, when I first heard you were working with Mac, I didn't care; I didn't think you deserved to know." She does actually feel ashamed, Ashley just shakes her head in disbelief, and tears begin forming in her eyes. Amelia looks up and can instantly tell she's upset.

"I'm aware of the kind of person I was back then Eden."

Ashley can't believe her ears, Stella is a lot calmer, she thinks they're both about to find out what's happen to Amelia, because there is no denying something has changed with her.

"Oh what and you're so different now?" Ashley can't stop the tears that are falling from her eyes, just a couple she hasn't completely lost it yet.

"Things are different Eden."

"How?" Ashley is desperate to know.

"I am so sorry for the way I've treated you all these years." She looks up at Eden, the look of shock on her face is understandable, tears are now freely falling from Amelia's eyes now too.

"I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a month ago. And I wanted to try and put right some of the wrongs I've done in my life."

This hits Ashley, right in the heart, regardless of all the things she's done, this woman is her mother, she would never wish her dead, but she is so full of anger right now, angry that it has taken something as bad as this to make her mother change, angry for all the thing she's ever done to her, angry for not being truthful about who her father was, and now irrationally angry at her for dying.

"How long?" Ashley is of course referring to how long Amelia has to live; she knows pancreatic cancer is one on the most aggressive fatal kinds.

Amelia full is full of sorrow. He daughter is still looking at her full of hatred, oh well at least she tried. "They told me I had a month to live, a month ago. So I guess I'm on borrowed time." Again Amelia's face wears a wry smile; if she didn't smile she would crumble.

Ashley rises from her seat, she needs to get away from her mother, she is still raging with anger, as she moves round the table, and passed her mother, she wants to hurt her as much as she is hurting right now.

"Yeah. Well good riddance." Ashley doesn't wait for a reaction; she just flies out of Stella's office.

Amelia guessed she should have expected that kind of reaction; she begins to sob, Stella, can't imagine what this woman, is going through, and although she can't bring herself to actually comfort her, she place her hand on her shoulder, causing Amelia to look up into her eyes.

"For what it's worth. For once, I think you've actually done the right thing."

Amelia knows this is the closest she is going to get to acceptance from Stella, she is eternally grateful. She manages to get a word out to Stella in between sobs;

"Thank You."

Ashley is heading to the main lab where she knows Adam will be, on the way she grabs her cell phone, and presses the speed dial for her grandmother. It rings a couple of times before Audrey answers.

"Kiddo, it's not like you to call at this time of day, is everything alright?"

Ashley is in no mood for pleasantries, the fact is that if any of what Amelia has said is true, then her beloved grandmother, has known all along, and has been lying to her, her entire life.

"Is it true?" That's all Ashley can muster through her rage and her tears.

Audrey immediately knows what she is talking about, since she found out that Eden had started working at the New York Crime lab, and that Mac Taylor was her boss, she had been expecting and dreading this call in equal measure. Of course it would eventually come out; she was actually surprised it had taken this long. She decides honesty is the best policy.

"Yes." She exhales loudly with her confession.

Ashley is woman with a mission, that was all she needed to know, she ends the call with her grandmother immediately, and strides into the lab, Adam is in there with Lindsay, it's obvious they were talking about her, as the conversation stopped as soon as she walked into the room.

Adam is clearly worried about his best friend. She looks awful. Ashley however still has the blinkers on, she wants to sort this out, then hit a bar and get disgustingly drunk.

"Adam I want you to do a DNA test." Straight to the point, the request takes Adam by surprise.

Ashley reinforces her wish. "You're the person I trust most to do this, will you do it?"

"Of course I will."

Ashley gets a testing kit from one of the drawers, pulls the swab out, and rubs it around the inside of her left cheek, she seals the sample and passes it to Adam.

"Thank You." She turns to leave. Adam who seems to be stuck in a daze suddenly wakes up and realises she is leaving.

"Hey Ash, where you going?"

"Maguire's." She doesn't wait for a response, she knows Adam would disapprove of her trying to drink her troubles away, but right now she just needed to be numb, to not feel anymore. She exits the main lab.

Adam, extremely worried pulls out his cell, and calls Flack. He explains what has happened, and asks him to hit Maguire's as soon as he can to make sure Ashley doesn't do anything too stupid. Flack of course drops everything and says he will be there as soon as possible.

Adam just looks at the DNA test kit in his hand, the sooner he gets Mac's sample the sooner he can get the results.

Stella approaches Mac's office, today has passed in a blur so far, she can't believe how the lives of her two favourite people have changed, and could change so much. She knows that she needs to be strong for both of them, Eden isn't around at the moment, Stella assumes she needs time alone, she has tried her cell phone with no luck, but she knows Eden will call her back when she's ready. So for now she would focus her attention on Mac.

She knocks on the door, Mac looks up and gestures for her to enter, she does and makes herself comfortable in the chair opposite Mac. She smiles at him and he mirrors, but she can see the strain on his face. She speaks first.

"Some day huh?" He smiles at this statement, understatement of the century.

"Yeah, well we should have some answers soon; Adam is doing a paternity test as we speak."

Stella wasn't aware of this; she has escorted Amelia out of the building, and then just sat in her office in disbelief for a while. Today's events have certainly shocked everyone.

"Did Eden give a sample?"

"Yeah it was her that asked Adam to do it. She's gone to Maguire's with Flack by the way."

This doesn't surprise Stella, but it does worry her, it seems that Eden's coping mechanism more often than not involves alcohol, which obviously isn't healthy, and something she will raise with her once all of this is over.

"How are you holding up?" She decides to focus on Mac for now.

"I don't know. I was in complete shock."

"And now?"

"Now I just keep going over it in my head, does the timeline fit, could this really be possible?"

"And?" Stella is intrigued.

"From what I recall, and remember we're talking about 32 years ago. It fits." He sighs.

"And how does that make you feel?" Stella is trying to gauge Mac's emotional state. He ponders the question, for a while, and then settles on his answer.

"Angry." He looks Stella in the eyes as he says it. "If she is my kid, and I've missed out on her whole life. I'll be devastated."

He exhales, trying to fight the emotion. "She's such a good kid Stella; you know that more than anyone."

Stella just nods she can tell Mac is close to losing it. She decides to try and lighten the mood.

"On the bright side, I could be your daughter in law." Mac smiles, and Stella is glad, it seems to have cheered him up momentarily.

"Yeah. Looks like I walked the wrong woman down the aisle." He laughs has he says it, Stella does too. But it's not long before the gravity of the situation hits him again, and within seconds the chuckles turn into heart wrenching sobs. Stella is quickly around the table, and pulls Mac into a hug. She can't recall ever seeing him cry, let alone seeing him sobbing his heart out like this, she can't help the tears that fall from her own eyes as she gently rocks him, and strokes his hair.

Ashley is currently sitting at the bar nursing a glass of scotch on the rocks, she just swirls the drink in the glass, she hasn't had a drop yet, she just had thoughts steamrollering through her mind. She always thought the fact that her and Mac were from Chicago was just something nice they had in common; never in a million years did she think this could ever have happened.

She swirls her glass again causing the ice to clink, every time she thinks about it, she is hit with another wave of emotion, she is so close to tears right now. She's guesses she's probably getting an insight to what Stella went through when she rolled up and turned her world upside down. Because that's what's happened here, she feels as though her entire world has spun on its axis.

Her overriding thought, the one she can't shake, and the one which is the most likely to reduce her to tears is, what if Mac really is her father? She knows without doubt he would have been fantastic, the best even, and the thought that she has missed out on over 31 years of that, is what's really killing her inside.

Flack enters Maguire's in quite a rush, he's panicking that Ashley will be wasted already. His nerves calm a little, when he sees her sitting at the bar, her glass relatively full. He just hopes that is the first one. He approaches her tentatively; he has absolutely no idea what's she going through right now, and no idea of her emotional state. He decides the gentle approach is best; he leans on his arms beside her at the bar. He exhales loudly then nods towards the glass.

"You sure that such a good idea?"

Ashley looks up into Flack's eyes, this is when he sees the enormity of the emotion she's feeling, she always gives herself away with her eyes. She shakes the emotion away, and states almost resignedly,

"Probably not. That's possibly why I haven't actually drunk any of it yet."

Flack smiles.

"You wanna talk about it?" He studies her face as he asks the question.

Ashley ponders it for a while, because truthfully, she does want to discuss it, but she's not sure she can hold it together enough right now, and the last thing she wants is to start sobbing in the middle of a the bar. She answers truthfully.

"I dunno. Maybe, I just don't think I'm ready right this second."

Flack isn't really ready to let it drop. "You know you couldn't ask for a better father than Mac?"

"I know. That's the worst part." She manages to swallow down the lump in her throat.

Flack immediately knows what she means. She's sad for what she might have missed out on. He decides to broach, what will be a particularly sore subject.

"What about your Mom?"

This really takes Ashley by surprise, of course she had been thinking about her mum in all this, but she never in a million years thought any of the guys would have given her a second thought. Her surprise is evident in her voice.

"What about her?" The high pitch in her voice makes Flack chuckle.

"Ash, I know what she's been like. I'm one of your best friends; I like to think I know more than most what she's put you through."

Ashley still isn't quite sure where he is going with this; she just fixates her quizzical stare on him, and gestures for him to continue.

"But I really don't think she's dropped this bombshell, to hurt you. I think she's done it because she knows this is her last chance to put things right."

Ashley takes on board what Flack has just said, and thinks about it, could he be right, could her mother really have changed that much? She supposes if something was going to open her eyes it would be the impending threat of death.

As she's pondering her thoughts, Flacks cell phone starts to ring. He checks the speed dial and answers immediately.

"Flack." He looks up at Ashley.

"Yeah I'm with her now." The expression on his face changes, Ashley can tell whatever is being said on the other end of the line cannot be good.

"Okay I'll let her know." With that he flips the cell shut and looks at Ashley his eyes full of concern.

Ashley is of course worried. "What is it?"

"It's your Mom." Flack exhales loudly.

Ashley is surprised by the nausea that begins to wrack her body, and the panic that she feels, she might not get her chance to talk to her, to talk this through. Flack continues.

"She's been rushed to Lennox Hill, it doesn't look good."

The relief Ashley feels at the realisation that her mother isn't dead is monumental. She knows she has to speak to her, and right away by the sounds of it. She spring s into action, and up off the bar stool, which takes Flack by surprise.

"I want to see her."

"I'll drive." Flack immediately heads to the door with Ashley following at lightning speed. They were in a real race against time.

Ashley and Flack made it to the hospital in record time, she had called Stella on the way, she needed her right now. Of course she dropped everything and was currently on route to the hospital herself.

Ashley had just been shown to her mother's room by the nurse, she thanked the nurse who headed back to her station. Ashley takes a deep breath, composing herself, although she is still in danger of the tears spilling over. She pushes through door, and looks at her mother lying there, pale and weak. She looks kinda pathetic. Her eyes are open and her face seems to light up when she realises Eden is in the room. This makes Ashley think maybe she is genuine.

"I waited for you." The way she says this is weird, Ashley can't quite put her finger on why. Amelia knows in her mind that she meant she waited to die, so she could see her daughter one last time.

"Well here I am." Ashley can't quite let go of the bitterness she feels towards her mother. The tears really are in danger of spilling over. She moves to the side of the bed and sits down next to her mother, she looks down at the floor, she has never felt more like a child in her entire life.

Amelia smiles, of course she didn't expect Eden to come in and profess her love for her, but just the fact that she came at all make's Amelia burst with joy. She can't help the next words that tumble out of her mouth.

"My beautiful baby girl."

Ashley looks up, she can no longer keep the tears in, she struggles to breath, and she feels like the emotion has wrapped its hands around her throat. She struggles to keep it together.

"I want you to listen to me. To just let me talk and you just listen. Ok." Ashley just nods; it's all she can manage.

The door opens again, causing them both to look over. Stella walks in a little sheepish, they're obviously sharing a moment, but one look at Eden makes her realise she made the right decision coming in; she looks on the brink of emotional ruin.

Ashley turns and looks at Amelia urging her to go on. Stella stays at the end of the bed and just watches the scene that's unfolding in front of her. Amelia begins to speak.

"I want to apologise, for everything." The tears are now falling freely from her eyes now too.

"I have been such an idiot. When I found about. . ." Amelia struggles with how to word it. "Your lifestyle choices."

Ashley's eyes roll back into her head. This doesn't go unnoticed by Amelia. She reaches out and grabs her daughter's hand, which causes Ashley's head to shoot up.

"When I found out you were gay." Amelia rephrases, Ashley realises how hard that must have been for her, a fresh set of tears begins to spill.

"It was a shock. Something no parent really wants." Ashley's head drops again at this point. Amelia continues.

"But instead of riding the wave, and getting my head around it, like I should have, like how any mother would have, I let my damn stubbornness get in the way. I think I hit a certain point where my stupid pride wouldn't let me go back. No matter how much my heart was crying out for you."

Ashley is really sobbing right now. Stella's heart is breaking. It's at this point Amelia seems to realise that Stella is in the room with them. She looks over to her.

"Look after my girl Stella." Stella just nods the emotion too much for her, she moves closer to the two of them, and places her hand on Eden's shoulder, to comfort her.

Amelia uses her last piece of strength to reach out and grab her daughter's hand, for one last time. Again causing Ashley to meet her eyes.

"I am so sorry." Amelia falters a little obviously struggling to speak. She closes her eyes to muster up her last portion of strength, to get her last words out.

"I will never forgive myself for how I've treated you." This sentence took all of Amelia's energy, her eyes close, and she sinks back into her pillow.

Ashley knows it's now or never, she swallows down the lump of emotion in her throat, she reaches over and grabs her mum's hand, this time causing Amelia to open her eyes and meet her eye contact Ashley struggles through her tears and emotion, but manages to say what she wants.

"I forgive you."

Amelia smiles, so Ashley knows she has understood her. Amelia lets go, content that she has achieved all she came he for, she heads for sweet release.

Ashley watches as Amelia closes her eyes once more, but this time all the machines start to beep and Ashley knows that it's over. Stella immediately runs for the nurses' station. Ashley just places her hand on her mother's face, and strokes it gently. Tears still falling freely. She leans over kisses her mum on the forehead, just before her lips reach, she mouths "Thank you."

She pulls back and takes one last look at her, she looks so peaceful. Nurses start to pile in. Ashley just turns to Stella, and smiles.

"Let's get back to the lab."

Stella obediently follows Eden out of the chaos of the private room.

Ashley is now determined to get this mess sorted out one way or the other, she strides out of the elevator into the main building of the lab, her hand tightly gripping Stella's, who is really worried about her wife it seems she has tunnel vision at the moment, she recognises Eden's steely determination, it's the same she gets when she knows she's on a good lead on a case. Eden is focused on the outcome of the test; Stella is more concerned about the fallout from the results.

They stride into the main lab; it appears everyone is waiting for them, Adam, Lindsay, Danny, Hawkes, and most importantly now, Mac.

No words are spoken, Adam just grabs the two brown envelopes he has just put the results into, he hands one to Ashley and one to Mac, Adam is currently the only person who knows the results.

Eden looks at Mac, and just smiles nervously and nods. Mac instinctively knows that she just wants them to open the envelopes and get the results. He nods make and takes a deep breath.

The rest of the room holds its breath in anticipation as the rip open the envelopes, they take one final look at each other, before diverting their eyes to the results. The results which could change all of their lives forever . . .

Part 20

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