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
Eden Ashley has been working at the New York crime lab, for just over a month now. Everything is going great, work is going great. Slowly but surely she is getting her apartment sorted too. This is mainly thanks to Adam and Flack helping her unpack, in exchange for Pizza and Beer. Ashley has slotted in so well, and has been made feel so welcome, especially by those two, this is probably down to the fact that she can be herself completely with them. Finally she seems to have her little crush on Stella under complete control, thank God.
She is currently heading towards the main lab, its 8.45am Wednesday morning. It's been an uneventful week so far. Little does she know how much that is all about to change.
Stella is in the main lab with Mac, Danny and Flack; she can't believe what's happening. She also hates the fact that they are discussing Eden behind her back. "I think we should just wait until she gets here, before we all over react. She probably has a perfectly good explanation." Stella was practically pleading now. Just as she finished getting her words out, Ashley strolls into the lab. Stella immediately stops talking and looks down at the floor; this action is mirrored by Flack and Danny.
Ashley can feel the tension in the room. She can tell the conversation stopped as soon as she stepped in, which is pretty conclusive evidence that she was the topic, which is confirmed by the shady looks on everyone's faces. She is currently racking her brain to try and figure out exactly what she's done wrong. When she comes up with a blank, she decides she better ask.
"Err is everything okay?" Obviously not, Stella still can't bring herself to look up from the floor. Mac breaks the silence.
"Eden, where were you last night?" Ashley doesn't say anything, she is so confused. Mac continues. "Between the hours of midnight and three am?"
Stella inwardly cringes at how Mac has phrased the question; she still can't bear to look at Eden. Ashley is even more confused, but now also a little worried. "Is there any particular reason you're asking me like I'm a suspect?"
Initially nobody says anything, she looks over a Stella internally pleading with her to look up and give her one of her famous reassuring looks. Stella can feel Eden stare on her, but she can't bring herself to make eye contact. The panic begins to rise in Ashley. "What the hell is going on here guys? Am I a suspect for something?"
Stella can't take this anymore. Over the last few weeks, she has become incredibly protective over Eden. Her head whips up at Eden's words, she needs to reassure her, and give her some form of explanation. "No of course not." She inwardly wrestles to find the right words to continue. Ashley can see Stella is in turmoil, which just increases the panic level in Ashley another notch. Luckily for Stella, Mac steps in to save her from her anguish. It seems Ashley is finally going to get the explanation she craves.
"Do you know a Jenifer Sturridge?" Ashley wracks her brain, trying to think of anyone she knows with that name. She draws a blank. Stella watches Ashley's expression closely willing her to come up with a reasonable explanation for all this. . .
"I don't think so; the name doesn't ring a bell." Ashley can tell this is obviously not the answer they were after. "Why? Should it?"
Mac continues. "She was murdered at home last night, sometime after 2am. She was found in bed this morning by her house keeper. She had been stabbed," Ashley listens but she still has no idea where she fits into this, she gestures for Mac to continue. "We found two DNA profiles on the bed sheets. One belonged to her, the other belonged to . . . you."
It all suddenly fits into place. Ashley's mind is racing, Jennifer, of course, she knew her as Jen; she hadn't bothered to ask her, her surname. Why would she? Mac can see her processing the info, but needs answers.
"Your fingerprints were all over her apartment. Can you explain this?"
"Yeah, I was at her place last night. She lives uptown right, 31st and Lexington?" Stella can see Ashley is starting to panic, and she can understand why, she's a little confused herself. Ashley is trying to get things straight in her head. This is like a nightmare; one she hope she wakes up from soon.
"Yeah. That's right. Ashley I thought you said you didn't know her?" Ashley looks up at Mac; he's staying incredibly calm, although he does look massively confused. Ashley takes a deep breath, resigned to the fact that ultimately nothing good can come out of this.
"I don't." Now Stella is extremely confused, and it looks as though she isn't the only one. Danny looks just as bewildered. Flack who has finally lifted his gaze from the floor; looks slightly less confused. Understandable, he gives Ashley a reassuring smile. She knows she is going to have to explain, she really doesn't want to have to do this in front of Stella. After a quick glance at Stella she drags her eyes back to Mac.
"I think you better explain yourself Ashley." Everybody's stare is fixated on her now. The oxygen in the room seems to have gotten a lot thinner. She can't bear to look at anyone whilst she explains, especially not Stella, so it's now her turn to become mesmerised by the floor tiles.
"I don't know her, not really. I only met her last night. I was in a bar, we got talking, and I guess we hit it off. And we ended up going back to her place for a drink."
Ashley chances a look up at Stella, she looks confused. She doesn't just look it, she is now confused for a completely different reason, why would she go back to someone's apartment, that she just met? As she posed the question to herself in her own head, this seemed to make the penny drop in her, mind, but she wanted to be sure she was correct. Ashley meanwhile looks over to Flack for reassurance, which he provides in the form of another smile. Mac looks the most confused he's been all day, he needs clarification.
"Let me get this straight, you meet a girl in a bar, and you end up going back to her place for a drink? And you've only known her for five minutes?" When Mac puts it like that it just confirms Stella's previous thought. She actually feels quick hurt that she didn't know this about Eden, it's obvious to her now that Flack knows, she feels really disappointed, strange, well she couldn't put her finger on exactly how she felt, but she definitely felt something, which was unexpected. It seems the only person in the room still be dense is Mac. Ashley resorts to pleading.
"Come on Mac; don't make me spell it out." She makes eye contact with the still completely bemused Mac, its appears she is in fact going to have to spell it out. She exhales loudly. "It was a one night stand Mac." Finally the penny drops. The expression on Mac's face is like a light bulb above his head just switched on. Ashley continues.
That's why I didn't recognise her name, I only knew her as Jen." Ashley looks up at everyone in the room. Danny and Stella have reverted to looking at the floor. She could swear Stella looks a little hurt. Stella is surprised to find that she is a little hurt, she's not sure if it's because Eden felt she couldn't share this part of her life with her, or if it was a slight pang of jealousy? Surely not? Stella shakes it off; there are far more important things for her to be concentrating on right now. Ashley continues. "It's not something I'm proud of."
And it really isn't. Ashley isn't adverse to one night stands; it's something she's done in the past, but never with a complete stranger. But what is she supposed to do; she's only been in New York for five weeks.
At this point Ashley suddenly realises she's been concentrating on the wrong thing. She was so worried about coming out to the team, it momentarily slipped her mind that this girl is now dead and she's a suspect.
"Mac she was alive when I left. I swear."
"I believe you. What time did you leave?" Ashley is comforted by Mac's quick backing. But she realises she is still in trouble. She can feel her eyes filling up, but she is determined not to let the tears fall. She cannot believe this is happening.
"Right go with Flack, he needs to ask you some questions."
"He's going to interview me? Like a suspect?" Flack obviously hears the panic in her voice.
"Hey Ashley relax, I'm going to take a statement, you're the last person to see this girl alive. No one thinks you're involved in this."
Stella has been relatively quiet up to this point, silently mulling over her own reaction to Eden's bombshell. She moves towards Eden almost involuntarily, she has an overwhelming urge to comfort her. She places her hand on Eden's shoulder. Ashley can't bring herself to look at Stella. Stella is actually worried about her, obviously Eden was extremely reluctant to share this part of her life with the team, but she has no idea why, the only thing she is sure of is that there must be more to it. Although she is still struggling to come to terms with her own reaction to Eden's news, and the strange feeling its caused within her, she know she needs to reassure her, and let her know that they all have her back.
"No one suspects you of anything okay. The evidence will find whoever did this okay. Danny lets go." With that Stella and Danny leave the lab, Stella with a new found determinism to clear Eden's name. Mac goes to follow.
"Stella's right okay. No one thinks you've done anything wrong. But I can't have you anywhere near this. Give your statement to Flack, and then I want you on desk duty until this is resolved. Okay." She just nods. Mac leaves the room. Ashley turns to Flack; she can no longer hold in the tears, they begin to run freely down her cheeks. Flack envelopes her into a bear hug.
"Come here everything is going to be okay." He kisses her head, she feels safe. "Let's go grab a coffee and then head downstairs okay?"
Ashley just nods despondently and follows Flack out of the room.
Around 30 minutes have passed since Ashley came out to the whole team, and found herself at the centre of a murder investigation. She is currently sitting in the Interview room, across the table from Flack, just going over what happened last night.
"I got out of work around 8.30 last night; I headed straight for a bar I go to sometimes when I'm on my own. It's called Coyotes. Its downtown. I was having a drink, just one, and chatting to the barmaid, her name's Caitlin. She's cool; I've spoken to her a few times before. Anyway, this blonde comes up to me and says I look bored, she offered me a game of pool. I took her up on the offer. We got chatting, and as I said one thing led to another and she invited me back to hers."
"What time did you leave the bar?"
"Around ten, we got to her place around 10.30. We walked, it wasn't too far. We said hi to the concierge on the way in."
"That's good. You don't have to go into details about what happened inside the apartment. Unless you want to of course." Flack chuckles, and for the first time since she arrived at work Ashley smiles back; she appreciates him trying to lighten the mood. He continues. "What time did you leave the apartment?"
"Like I said to Mac it was around 12.30am, I got back to may place around 1am. I took a cab, I said hi to my concierge on the way in. And I'm pretty sure both buildings have CCTV at least in the lobby."
"That's great. And how was Jennifer when you left her apartment?"
"She was fine. She thanked for a great time, and said we should do it again sometime." She inhales loudly.
"Cool, well I'm gunna go verify the info you've given me. Ashley don't worry, we will find who did this. Why don't you go and wait upstairs." With that Flack rose from the table, and held the door open for Ashley.
Ashley trudges upstairs. Back through the corridors of the lab, she feels like everyone is looking at her. She continues arms folded. She stops when she feels a hand on her shoulder, she looks up to see Stella looking at her, face full of compassion.
Stella was just heading out to meet Flack, so they could verify Eden's story. When she noticed her back in the lab. "How are you holding up?" Stella already knows the answer to this question, Ashley looks like hell. She looks embarrassed, which Stella still doesn't understand.
"I'm not really, my heads all over the place; I can't believe this has happened. I feel like everyone's looking at me now."
"Well it's not because they think you're a murderer."
"That's not why I thought they were looking at me." Stella picks up on the meaning. She can't believe that Eden would be embarrassed about her sexuality. Ashley becomes very aware that Stella's hand is still on her shoulder. She can't help herself but look down at the hand. Stella see's this, and without thinking lets her hand drop down back by her side, and immediately regrets the speed at which she does it.
Ashley feels cold all of a sudden, so much so that she places her own hand onto the same spot, she just looks down at the floor, feeling almost rejected. Stella feels a weird tension between them, she doesn't care that Ashley is gay, she isn't remotely homophobic, so can't understand why there is this weird tension between them. Stella feels almost uncomfortable. She decides to put the feeling to one side for now; she needs to put Eden's mind at rest.
"Hey no one's looking at you because of that either. Unless they suddenly think they're in with a chance." Stella doesn't quite know where that came from, but is glad when a slight laugh escapes Eden's lips. Ashley still has no desire to look at or respond to Stella.
Again Stella finds it difficult to explain her next actions even to herself. But she can't help herself. She places her hand under Ashley's chin and gently pushes her head up, forcing Eden to make eye contact with her, when she does she is memorised by the sparkling sea of blue that meet her own eyes. The depth of feeling in Ashley's eyes almost takes Stella's breath away. She composes herself. . "Nobody cares if you're gay. And I have no idea why you think it's such a big deal. But it isn't. Okay?"
Ashley just nods she can feel the tears begin to sting her eyeballs again. And the last thing she wants to do is cry in front of Stella. Stella senses that she is uncomfortable, so releases her face. . "Why don't you camp out in my office for the rest of the day? That way you'll be away from prying eyes, and I can keep you updated."
"Yeah, means I'll be able to keep my eye on you too."
"Thanks." Ashley is genuinely grateful. With that the two part ways, Ashley watches Stella make her way to the elevator, and then heads into her office. She sighs heavily as she collapses into Stella's chair and turns the computer on. What an awful so far, she thinks, may as well get on with some paperwork.
Ashley has been in Stella's office for a couple of hours now. She is going out of her mind. She has completed all of her outstanding paperwork, and rearrange Stella's desk, ad is currently resisting the urge to rearrange the entire office, she is pretty sure Stella wouldn't be too happy about that. She is relieved when she see's Adam walking towards the glass door, and is amused as he checks left then checks right, before opening the door and quickly steps through it, holding two coffees, and wearing a huge grin.
"Please tell me one of those is for me." Ashley gestures towards the coffee.
"Absolutely, Hazelnut Latte, your favourite. I thought you could probably use it today." He smiles as he hands it over.
"I knew I loved you for a reason." She smiles as she gratefully accepts the coffee and takes a sip. Divine.
"Anything for you Princess." Ashley nearly chokes on the coffee, which causes Adam to start wetting himself laughing.
"How many times do I have to tell you?! Stop calling me Princess." He tries to apologise but can't quite get it out through all of his laughing.
"So how's it going out there in the real world? I'm starting to get cabin fever in this office."
"It's all good. I'm doing the labs on your case."
"Adam please don't refer to it as my case."
"Oh sorry yeah, but you know what I mean." She just nods."Between you and me, I've heard you could be in the clear. I'm sure Stella will come update you officially when she can."
Ashley is relieved, she has a million and one questions, but she knows she would be putting Adam in a really awkward position if she were to ask them, so she holds back for now.
Adam can see she is dying to know more, and he wants to put her out of her misery. He crouches down over the desk, and whispers, "On the down low, your story checked out perfect, got you on CCTV getting home at the time you said and everything." Ashley smiles at Adam's attempt at discretion, she can tell there is an impending change of subject when he straightens up and starts to talk full volume again, "On another note. I think I may have lost my crown as stud of the lab."
Ashley giggles, she feels a lot more relaxed with the info Adam has just given her regarding the case. So she is willing to entertain his banter; in the hope that it will take her mind off things. "Is that a title you've ever actually held?" the look of fake hurt on Adams face is classic, they both laugh out loud. The first time today Ashley has felt like laughing. "What makes you say that anyway?"
"Couple of the lab hotties, seem interested, now they know you bat for the other team." Ha Ashley laughs again at his turn of phrase. "What are you laughing at? I'm being serious."
"Adam please, not one person in this lab is remotely gay, besides even if they were, the first person I have sex with in New York, ends up brutally murdered. Yeah I'm sure they're queuing up."
Now it's Adam's turn to laugh. "First of all no one here thought you were gay, appearances can be deceiving, there are a few interested parties trust me. Secondly, no one in this lab is stupid enough to think that you sleeping with that girl is why she died!"
"You make a good point." Adam smiles as he rises from his chair.
"I have to go Princess, ill check back in later." Ashley tut's and shakes her head as Adam leaves the room. She smiles to herself. Looks like this day is slowly getting better.
It's been a really difficult day for Stella, she has thrown all of her efforts into clearing Eden's name, and ultimately she has been successful. A small smile escapes her lips as she has the thought. At the moment she is on route to her office to give Eden the good news. She is still rather unsettled by the emotional affect today has had on her. Her heart actually ached when she first heard that Eden was a suspect, and now that she is in the clear, she feels as though her heart could burst with excitement.
This is the first time she has really allowed herself to really think about these 'feelings', she has merely brushed them off in the past, but could it be possible she was having feelings, romantic feelings, for another woman? No that definetly wasn't it; she has never been attracted to another woman before. Eden was different though, is it possible she's attracted to her? To Eden the person, Eden the woman? That is definitely more plausible, and actually quite terrifying.
Stella swallows her fear as she reaches her office, she peaks in, the light is on but there is no sign of Eden. She quietly enters, and sees Eden asleep on the couch. The vision before her takes Stella's breath away. She looks beautiful. That terrifying feeling from moments earlier reaches the pit of her stomach, again her heart seems to take control of her actions, and she gently sits down on the couch next to the cause of all her anxiety, and reaches out . . .
Ashley's brain seems to wake up a few seconds ahead of the rest of her body. For that initial moment she is in darkness. She can however feel something on her face, stroking her face. Her brain assess' that she has obviously fallen asleep. Ashley suddenly realises that someone is however touching her face. Ashley springs upright, and opens her eyes. She registers that she is on the couch in Stella's office. She is now bolt upright, it takes her a few seconds to get her bearings, when she does she realises Stella is sitting on the couch with her, her hand still on Ashley's face.
"God Stella, you scared the life out of me." Stella smirks, as she removes her hand from Eden's face. All Ashley can think is 'God she is beautiful when she smile, and by the way, why is she stroking my face?' guess she's not completely over her little crush.
Stella seems to read Ashley's mind and becomes very aware that she has just been caught stroking her face, she decides a swift change of subject, is best. "Sorry. What are you still doing here? It's almost 9."
"9pm, you're joking, what are you still doing here?" Stella still has a beaming smile on her face, and that burst of pride returns to her heart.
"Well I've just finished my case." Now it's Ashley's turn to smile.
"So unless you're here to arrest me, can I take it, its good news?" Stella nods, and Ashley sits up properly on the couch allowing Stella to sit next to her.
"It's great news, was there ever any doubt? It was her girlfriend, apparently they were on a break, she saw you leaving the apartment, and wasn't too happy. We got a full confession."
"Well I know this is going to sound really cold, not to mention really selfish, considering someone has died, but I'm so relieved."
Stella can understand this as she has the same feeling of elation. She still can't get something out of her mind, she and Eden have become close over the last few weeks, she can't understand why she didn't tell her she was gay, and it's not like Eden to hide who she is.
The two of them have been sitting in silence for a few minutes; Ashley looks over at Stella, and can see she is fighting with herself, she obviously wants to say something, but doesn't know if she should. Ashley tries to prompt her a little.
"Hey what is it?" Stella looks over at Ashley with her piercing blue eyes; they are full of confusion at the moment.
"Why didn't you tell me you were gay?" Stella needs to understand, before the feelings she was having were just weird, now she knows about Ashley, they are full of possibility, excitement, terror.
But more than that she feels, betrayed, she knows it's irrational, but she can't believe Ashley wouldn't have told her, when they have grown so close. Stella starts to fret; maybe they aren't as close as she thought. Then the dreaded realisation that the feelings she have may not be returned by Eden. How arrogant was she? Just because she's gay doesn't mean she feels the same way, and even if she did, what did she think was going to happen, she couldn't have a relationship with another woman. Stella starts to panic; she needs to regain her composure.
Ashley feels awful at Stella's last statement, she and Stella have grown pretty close over the last few weeks. She could have told her, but there is something holding her back, something she isn't willing to share yet, and something she hasn't even shared with Adam or Flack.
Stella decides to put all the thoughts flooding her mind to one side and deal with the issue in hand.
"You told Adam and Flack, why not me?" Ashley can hear the hurt in Stella's voice now, as well as see it in her face.
"I didn't tell Adam and Flack, they guessed. If they hadn't I probably wouldn't have told them either." Ashley knew it was pathetic as soon as she said it.
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Stella is desperate for an explanation, even if Eden had just said it was because she is private about her private life, that would have been acceptable, Stella knows it goes deeper than that.
"I'm sorry Stella. But I do have my reasons. Maybe one day I'll tell you what they are."
With that Ashley stands up and leaves the office. She knows she's hurt Stella, she not entirely sure why she is so hurt, so confused. Maybe she thinks she don't value their friendship as much as she does, she's wrong. Ashley muses that she ordinarily wouldn't have told anyone by now, five weeks isn't enough time to suss people out.
Something is nagging at Ashley that maybe there is more to this than just friendship, but she can't put her finger on quite what it could be. All she can think about now, is the way Stella was stroking her face when she was sleeping. Dangerous territory Ashley, very dangerous.
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