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 24

Eden Bonasera is happy, and it unnerves her. You see this hardly ever happens. Usually something comes along and spoils it. The first time she was really happy, when she finally accepted who she was, boom, her family disowned her. The second time she was truly happy, with Katy, boom, she's cruelly murdered. The third time she allows herself to be happy, with Stella, well it hasn't exactly been all fun and games, from Stella's initial denial of her feelings, that slap, to Eden nearly being murdered, to Stella nearly dying, to Amelia trying to split them up, and then actually dying, to all the heartache caused by finding out Mac was her father, oh yes, it's been a ride.

Now to this contentment. Stella's 'incident' in the Hudson, was almost five months ago, they have just passed the six month mark in their marriage, and they couldn't be happier. Ashley is starting to panic; it's almost as if she can't let herself enjoy the happiness, because she knows deep down, that something along the line will happen to take it all away. It's a feeling she can't shake.

She's currently having these thoughts laying in bed, not for the first time she has woken before her alarm, she can hear the gentle rise and fall of Stella's chest as she sleeps soundly next to her, she decides to take this moment, to just look at her beautiful wife, drinking her in.

Even in sleep Stella can feel eyes on her, she opens her own, and his greeted by Eden's bright blue orbs, and a huge smile which she can't help but reciprocate. No words are spoken between them, Ashley just dips her head and takes Stella lips with her own, which she readily accepts, the kiss grows between them, a small moan escapes Stella's throat, and it drives Ashley wild, even now, after all this time together, she still loses herself when Stella kisses her like this. The passion and need she has for her wife astounds her.

Stella can tell Eden is feeling pretty emotional, and she's more than happy to fulfil her wife's needs this morning, hell she wouldn't complain about be woken up like this every morning.

Although Ashley had woken up before the alarm, their love making this morning had made them late, not that either of them really minded. After rushing round the apartment like mad women, they were now just stepping out into the lab from the elevator. Stella glances at her watch.

"Made it in time. Just."

Ashley smiles as she remembers what they'd been doing to make them late. Mac see's them both and greets them warmly.

"Morning ladies."

Ashley leans over and gives him a kiss on the cheek, something she'd started doing since she found out he was her father.

"Hey pop's what's up?"

Mac smiled, he loved the little name Eden had taken to referring to him by, but professional as ever he needs to get them out on assignment.

"Stella, I need you with me, double homicide in Tribeca. Eden, I need you at an assault in Riverdale, the victim has been taken to the hospital, I'm not really sure what's going on, other than that he's been beaten pretty badly, and won't talk."

He's hands each woman a slip. "Oh and I need you to go solo on this one, everyone else is tied up."

Already intrigued by the case, Ashley is more than happy to work it solo, it's just an assault after all.

"Cool, right ill head now then." She smiles at them both and jumps immediately back onto the elevator she has just vacated. Stella and Mac disappear into the bowels of the lab, discussing their latest case.

Riverdale is one of New York's more suburban areas. Ashley gathered from the slip that Mac had handed her, that the victim was Bradley Green a 15 year old boy, but other than that the information was very vague. She decided to head over to the family home first to try and get a grasp on what had actually happened. Then she would head to the hospital.

When she knocks at the door to the spacious family home, she is surprised to be greeted by what she assumes are the boy's mother and father, she had thought at least one of them would be at the hospital with their son.

"Hi, my names Detective Eden Bonasera, I'm with the New York crime lab." She's smiles warmly at the parents, who to put it bluntly do not respond in the same manner.

The gentleman grunts at her.

"I'm Mr. Morris, this is my wife Mary. Can we help you detective?"

This surprises her no end, and she has to think for a second if she has the correct house, the victims surname isn't Morris.

"Erm, I'm here regarding the assault of Bradley Green. Do I have the correct address?" She starts pawing through her papers to double check the address. Mr Morris exhales loudly, which implies he is not remotely impressed.

"You've got the correct address." He sees the look of confusion on Ashley's face, and continues, "I'm Bradley's step father, that's why the names are different."

Well that explains one confusion, Ashley still has no idea why these parents are being so flippant though, one thing she does notice however, is that Mrs Morris, is letting her husband do the talking, she has been transfixed with her own feet, and hasn't made eye contact with Ashley at all, she files this away in her brain for later. The husband continues to speak.

"Bradley isn't here Detective, he's gone to the hospital, we told the other police officer that."

The lack of compassion oozing from this guy is starting to annoy Ashley; she decides to be as blunt as him.

"I am aware that Bradley is at the hospital, but the other police officer has only left me bare details, I'm not really sure what's happened. I was hoping you could give me an idea?"

She looks at them hopefully.

"Well he got beaten up." He looks straight at her as if she's stupid for wanting to know more than this, his reluctance to offer more information is making Ashley really start to wonder about this guy, that and the fact his wife appears to be terrified of him.

"Again I am aware of that Mr Morris, can you tell me where?"

"Nope he came home like it." Now the annoyance is apparent in his voice.

Ashley is clearly getting nowhere with this fool, she shakes her head, just then the telephone rings inside the house, Mrs Morris, head still firmly down, moves past her husband and disappears inside to answer, as she does the door opens slightly, and Ashley sees a lot of commotion at the top of the stairs, there seems to be broken glass or vase, and a number of things look out of place. This is starting to look like classic domestic violence.

Mr Morris see's Ashley eyeing up his stair case, and promptly pulls the door closed again.

"You should really talk to Bradley miss."

She decides if it is in fact domestic violence then she really isn't going to find anymore out from this guy.

"Right you are thanks for your time Mr Morris." She smiles and heads back to her SUV. Next stop the North Central Bronx Hospital.

Ashley waltz's into Bradley's private hospital room. She is startled immediately by his appearance, brilliant blue eyes and dark brown hair, and of course lots of bruising, she smiles at the young man, he looks terrified.

"Hi Bradley, my name is Eden, I'm from the New York crime lab, I need to ask you a few questions if that's okay?"

The boy just nods, he looking at her curiously, like he's deciding if he can trust her or not. Ashley completely gets this, especially if her suspicions are correct.

"So what happened then Bradley?" She tries to keep her tone light.

"I fell over." Not a good start, Ashley pulls her camera out of her bag.

"How do you feel about having your photo taken?" She gestures the camera at him, and gives him her most brilliant smile, it works, she gets the slightest grin in return.

"I don't mind." He looks at her as he speaks, but quickly looks away again.

"Good. Don't worry you don't have to smile." Again this seems to have the desired effect and she gets a small smile from him.

She starts taking photos and chatting as she does.

"This is some fall you've taken here Bradley." No reaction. "You know I'm a crime scene investigator, if there's no crime, there's really no reason for me to be here?"

She sits on the end of his hospital bed, and scans his face for any show of emotion. All she sees is struggle, she can tell he wants to confide in her, but he's scared.

"Your Step Dad seems like quite a controlling guy, do you two get on." His reaction confirms to her that he is in fact the aggressor, Bradley immediately clenches, reverts right back into his shell. He won't talk now.

She carries on with the photos, she notices some bruising on his arms, and without thinking she grabs one to straighten it out for a clearer photo. She has never see anyone move so fast, the pace at which he moves his arm out of her reach and the look of pure panic and fear on his face, is as if she'd given him a thousand electric shocks. She knows the poor kid has just been beaten up, probably by his step dad, but even so, that was an overreaction, there is definitely something else going on here. She needs to calm him down, if she's going to get to the bottom of it. She uses her finest soothing voice.

"Hey relax; I just need to get photos of the bruises on your arms."

He reluctantly straightens his arm out and lets her take the photos. At this point Ashley notices the book he has brought with him, 'History of the English Premier League' Jackpot. Ashley loves sports, and due to having spent her childhood in Britain, none more so than soccer, this could be her 'in' with Bradley, a good way to try and get him to open up.

"Wow, you like soccer huh?"

His face actually lights up at the mention of the word.

"Yeah, I notice your accent, that's English right, do you like it?" his sentence is fast and enthusiastic.

"Yeah I grew up in England, I love soccer. Who's your team? If you say Manchester United, me and you can't be friends."

He grins. "No way. Liverpool."

Now it's Ashley's turn to grin. "Shake my hand. I don't often come across fellow reds out here?"

He shakes her hand energetically. Genuinely excited. "Have you ever been to Anfield?"

"Yeah, my grandpa took me a few times when I was a kid."

"Is the atmosphere as good as it looks?"

"It's better."

Bradley seems to get lost in his thoughts at this point. Ashley needs to broach the subject of the assault again.

"You know, if your step father did do this to you, I can help." He doesn't say anything, the sparkle immediately escapes his eyes, and looks down at the bed, almost holding his breath, Ashley can tell he wants to talk to her but daren't.

"You know if you're worried about telling me and then having to face him, don't be. We can protect you."

Still nothing, he doesn't even move. Ashley decides a change of tack is required.

"Okay Bradley, then I have no choice. I told you I'm a crime scene investigator. . ." she starts packing away her stuff as she's speaking. "Apparently I have nothing to investigate here, so I guess I'll be going."

The panic in him rises, he can't let her go, he watches as she slings her kit over her shoulder and heads for the door. She slips her hand around the knob and just as she about to twist, he shouts.

"Wait." Thank god for that, Ashley thought he was actually going to let her leave. She turns round and looks at him expectantly. He swallows hard, whatever he's about to say seems like it's going to be very difficult.

"It was my stepfather." Ashley watches him, it appears he hasn't finished, she lets him speak. He looks firmly away from her, "He raped me."

That was the last thing she was expecting, she feels like all the air has been knocked out of her, she looks at him, and for the second time that day, his appearance is the one thing that sticks in her mind. Those eyes, those big blue eyes, which now have tears falling from them. She swallows the wave of nausea that threatens to overtake her. She needs to be strong for him. He looks away, almost ashamed. She moves to him, gently touches him on the arm.

"I'm going to make sure that he goes away for this, for a very long time. But I need your help. Are you strong enough to help me?"

She speaks softly slowly and clearly, and makes sure she keeps eye contact with him at all times. He nods his head in response to the question.

"What do you need me to do?" he says it a lot more confidently than he must feel.

"Well first of all, I need you to tell me exactly what happened, and where it happened so I can process the scene." He nods indicating he is taking it all in.

"Then were gunna need to examine you." He looks confused, Ashley explains the best she can, she knows how incredibly courageous he is being right now. "It's a rape exam. The more evidence we get the better chance we have of putting him away."

"Will you do it? I don't want to see anyone else."

"Of course." She smiles and is elated when he smiles back, it seems at some point in their conversation she has grabbed his hand, she strokes it gently and then lets it go.

"I've gotta make a call and get some equipment. Are you gunna be okay."

"Yeah." He looks almost relieved.

Ashley quickly leaves the room, she calls Flack immediately and tells him to go and collect the parents from their house and take them back to the station, she doesn't really explain why, but Flack trusts her, so he will do it. She wouldn't be ready for them for a while, but she decided they could rot down at the precinct, plus she assumed she would probably need them to vacate the premises, the scene was more likely than not, somewhere in that house. When she hangs up on Flack she leans against the nearest wall, and struggles to breathe, Bradley's face haunting her.

Taking his statement had been harrowing, for Bradley of course, and for Ashley. Seems this isn't the first time his step father had abused him, but it was the first time Bradley had threatened to tell. Hence the beating he took, trying to beat the silence right into him. It had taken place in Bradley's bedroom, the room directly at the top of the stairs to the right. Ashley could have guessed.

After she had taken his statement, she bagged his clothes and collected trace from him. Then came the rape exam. It was horrendous, but ultimately worth it. She had found semen. All she needed now was a match. She gave Bradley some scrubs, he was being discharged from the hospital but obviously had nowhere to go so he was waiting at the hospital, with support worker while Ashley went and processed his room, even with the semen, she needs to bury Mr Morris, with the evidence, she doesn't want any risk of him getting away with this.

The room was a mess, Flack true to his word had taken the folks downtown so she had the house to herself. The first thing she noticed was the door, scratch marks on the outside, like someone had frantically been trying to get in, her mind wandered to the wife. The room itself was upside down, there had clearly been a struggle, Bradley wasn't a little boy he was 15 years old, she imagines he put up quite the fight. She collected semen samples from the sheets, nothing surprising there, he is a 15 year old boy after all. She knew if she could pin the step dads DNA to the sheets that would help the case.

When she was satisfied she had collected all of the evidence she could, she collected Bradley from the hospital and headed for the lab, and that's where they are now. She steps off the elevator with Bradley in tow, protective arm slung around his shoulder; they immediately bump into Stella and Adam. Stella wonders what on earth is going on and she's not backwards about being forward with Eden.

"Eden what the hell is going on?" Ashley just looks at her blankly hoping she will provide some sort of explanation as to why she appears to be so mad. Quickly too, Ashley is exhausted, physically and mentally, she feels drained.

"The Morris' have been here for hours, they aren't happy. In fact they're in there with Mac now; he's trying to convince them not to complain about you."

Ashley basically ignores Stella, her attention is taken by Macs office now, she strains her head to look, and sees the Morris' inside, and she feels the anger rise immediately. She removes her arm from Bradley and looks at Adam.

"Adam, this is Bradley, he's a Liverpool fan, so look after him okay."She smiles, but she doesn't really mean it. "Will you take him to one of the smaller labs, one of the quieter ones?"

"Okay." Adam doesn't really understand what's going on, but like most of her colleagues he trusts her implicitly so he asks no questions. Ashley turns to Bradley.

"This is Adam, he's one of my best friends, and I would trust him with my life. You okay to go with him?"

Ashley is acutely aware, that recent events may mean he doesn't want to be left alone with a guy. But Bradley lets her words wash over her, and eyes Adam suspiciously, again Adam just looks perplexed. Bradley nods, and follows Adam.

Stella has watched her wife with interest, she's managed to get attached to this boy, in less than a day, something they're taught to never do, something Eden is way too professional to let happen. Something is obviously very wrong with her. Ashley has been retrieving a DNA swab kit from her kit whilst Stella has been observing her, which intrigues her further.

She repeats her earlier plea, this time softly. "Eden, sweetie what's going on?" Eden looks at her, and Stella immediately sees the pain in eyes and for the first time takes in just how weary, how tired she looks, now she's worried.

Ashley just shakes her head. "I don't have time for this right now Stella."

She strides in the direction of Mac's office, Stella not satisfied with being fobbed off so abruptly, follows her at a pace. Ashley doesn't bother knocking, just storms straight in, three sets of eyes immediately on her. Mac can tell she is angry; it appears her anger is matched by Mr Morris. He erupts.

"Oh here she is. You've finally bothered to show up then. Do you know my wife and I have been here for almost 5 hours? Nice of you to finally show up."

Ashley glances over at Mrs Morris, once more her eyes are firmly looking south, she flinches a little when her husband raises his voice. Stella watches the scene unfolding with great interest; clearly Mrs Morris is scared of her husband. He continues, voice still very much raised.

"Well are you going to stand there gawping all day, or are you going to offer an explanation?"

She ignores the question, she holds up the swab. "I need a DNA sample. To eliminate you from my enquiries." In reality she means 'to send you to prison for a very long time.' It takes all she has to be professional.

"I know my rights miss. Do you have a warrant?" Of course he wasn't going to volunteer the sample; he's as guilty as sin. Ashley doesn't have a warrant, she could get one, easily with the evidence she has, hell she could get an arrest warrant, but she doesn't want Bradley to suffer anymore, she wants the bastard now. Drastic action required. Stella see's the look on Eden's face, and she's almost certain she isn't going to like whatever happens next.

"What are your views on homosexuals?" This takes everybody in the room by surprise; even Mrs Morris for the first time that day lifts her head in shock. Mac senses that a line is about to be crossed.

"Eden what are you doing?" Mac doesn't get an answer, as Mr Morris' rage is about to take off.

"What?" He rises from his seat, Stella gets ready to pounce.

"You heard me." Ashley is cocky and confident in her response, and gives Mr Morris a look he would love to knock off of her face. His panic is manifesting as rage, and he gets lost in it, he practically spits his response.

"I hate them." Now Mac and Stella are taken aback by the venom in his voice. Ashley doesn't flinch, just continues, making sure she is wearing her cockiest smile.

"You know they say that hatred can be a sign of latent tendencies." She draws out the last word, and raises her eyebrows as she says it, it has the desired effect, he goes off like a rocket, Mac and Stella are so confused as to what's going on, and they don't react quickly enough. The red mist has descended, and launches himself at Ashley, hands immediately round her throat and he starts to choke her over Macs desk.

"Mac." It comes out as almost a squeal as Stella begins to panic and jumps on him; Mac is round the table within seconds and joins Stella in trying to pull him off. Ashley is gasping for breath now, luckily Flack has seen the commotion in the office and runs in, and between the three of them they manage to get him off. They pull him up Flack holds one arm behind his back, Mac the other, Ashley gasps for air, but quickly regains her composure.

She takes the swab from the DNA kit, and calmly walks over to Mr Morris, it dawns on him what she has done.

"You're under arrest for assaulting a police officer. I'll take my DNA sample now."

She swabs the inside of his cheek. He lets her, there's nothing he can do, and he knows it's over. Stella looks at her wife in disbelief; she is obviously more emotionally involved than she first thought if she going to those lengths to get a DNA sample, she can't believe her behaviour.

"Flack, take him to interview, I'll be down in twenty minutes."

Again confused he does as Ashley says. She really does appreciate everyone doing as she asks, she knows it's not gunna cut it much longer with Stella and Mac, they will want an explanation soon enough. They will have to wait though. She heads for the small lab Adam is in, worried Stella follows her. Starting to feel a little like her wife's shadow.

She hands Adam the DNA sample she has just collected, and the other samples she collected earlier today.

"I need you to compare these samples, ASAP. I really need you to make this top priority Adam." He picks up on the weariness in her voice.

"I'll do it right away." He takes the samples and gets straight to work, she looks over at Bradley.

"Hey how you holding up?"

"Good, thanks." Satisfied she smiles.

"This is almost over" He nods his head and smiles back. "I won't be long. Adam page me."

He nods his head too; it's all he can manage, no fully engrossed in the samples now.

She heads out of the lab, and bumps straight into Stella. She does not look happy. She isn't, she looks at her wife's neck, the red marks now turning purple and blue, tears sting her eyes.

"Eden, you have just let a man throttle you, for a DNA sample. What the hell is going on with you?"

She hates that Stella is so upset, but she needs her to trust her a little longer. "I promise you I will explain all of this later. Trust me."

Stella can tell Eden is on the verge of tears. So she lets her be. "Okay. I love you."

It always amazes Ashley that Stella can tell instantly what she needs, and almost always provides it, that was exactly what she needed to hear. She pulls Stella into a hug, and swallows the emotion she feels.

"I love you too." She whispers it into Stella's hair. But Stella hears it, and it's all she needs. For now.

Armed with the DNA results, which prove conclusively that Mr Morris did in fact rape his step son, Ashley heads for the interview room. Flack is in there waiting for her, Stella and Mac, out of enormous concern for Eden, are watching with great interest on the other side of the observation mirror. Ashley strides in, she slams the cup of coffee she has with her down on the table, which makes Flack jump. Her eyes never leave Mr Morris, and he knows the game is up.

"How are we going to play this Mr Morris? Quick confession, or are you going to make me work a little harder for it?"

She is still standing but is leaning over the table palms flat, her eyes burning a hole in Morris, Flack hasn't said a word yet, he has a feeling his confusion is about to be lifted. He has never seen Eden so involved in a case. Morris exhales deeply.

"I beat the boy."

Unbelievable, he's a coward to the very last, leaving out a very significant part of his attack.

"Nothing more to say Mr Morris?" She gives him a chance to redeem his cowardice; it doesn't appear he is going to take up her offer. So she pulls the results Adam has just provided her with from the folder, and starts to explain frantically, emotion threatening to take over.

"This is the sample of DNA I took from you earlier." She lays out the sheet for him to look at. She swallows hard. "This is a sample if semen I collected from your step son's bed sheets." Another sheet gets laid out in front of him. "This is a sample of semen I collected when I did a rape exam on your step son." She lays the final sheet on the table.

Morris looks at the sheets, more because he's too ashamed to look up, than actually taking any of the information in. Flack is starting to understand Ashley's rage.

"They all match." She is really struggling to keep her composure now, but manages it. "How long have you been raping your step son Mr Morris?"

The question lingers in the air. Morris has a small outbreak of rage, and smashes his hand against the desk with all his might, Ashley doesn't even flinch. He obviously realises he's in enough trouble as it is, so puts a lid on his anger.

"That boy was so out of control, he pushed me to my edge, one too many times."

Ashley is appalled, she can't even formulate a sentence, has he really just tried to use that as an excuse. The silence in the room, spurs him on to look up, when he does he catches the appalled faces of both Ashley and Flack. Pathetically the next thing to drip out of his mouth is, "It's not something I'm proud of."

Ashley laughs exasperated. "No. I imagine it's not."

"What will happen now?"

She doesn't know why she's surprised at his colossal selfishness. Obviously his first concern will be for his own welfare. Ashley enjoys her next sentence.

"Well, you're going to prison for a very long time. With any luck, inmates will discover what you're in for, and you'll get a taste of your own discipline. Flack, book him."

Ashley immediately vacates the room; she can't stand to be anywhere near him anymore. Stella and Mac look at each other, they understand more why Eden has been so effected by the case, but even so, they have dealt with rapists and paedophiles before, and Eden had never had such a strong emotional reaction, Stella is convinced there is more to it.

Ashley had headed straight back up to the main lab, onto her next mission of an incredibly disturbing day. The mother. She needed to ascertain just how involved she was. How much she knew. She found her still sitting patiently in Mac's office. Not for the first time today Ashley takes a deep breath, and steadies herself for what lies ahead. She walks in closing the door behind her. She sits in Mac's chair and gently smiles at Mrs Morris.

Ashley fears about Mrs Morris maybe being involved are all swept aside with the older ladies first sentence, which she delivers teary eyed, but with a hopeful expression on her face.

"Is it over?"

Ashley smiles, relieved more than anything, and just states simply. "Yes."

Ashley speaks to Mary at length; she is appalled at the level of abuse she and her family had been subjected too. Apparently she was his punching bag to begin with, when Bradley stepped in to try and help his mother, Morris decided he was getting too big for his boots, and put him in his place, then Mary would try and step in to save her son, another beating would come her way, the vicious circle well and truly in process. She had brought Bradley into the room, to make sure he was comfortable to go home with his mum. He was. All in all the three of them were in Mac's office for around an hour, the majority of the team, all worried about Ashley have congregated outside in the hallway, waiting for her to emerge.

They don't have to wait long, Ashley holds the door open, and lets mother and son exit the office, she smiles as they say their goodbyes. Mary takes Ashley's hand.

"Thank you." It's the first time Ashley has seen a genuine smile on her face. She walks over to the elevator, to wait for her son, giving him privacy to speak to Ashley.

He shuffles his feet, nervous, when he eventually looks up, Ashley swallows hard, his features imprinted in her brain.

"I just wanted to say. I would never have done this without you." Ashley is slightly taken aback by his statement, which must be apparent from her face; he smirks and tries to explain himself.

"I mean, there was just something about you, I knew I could trust you. I knew you wouldn't let me down. I could tell the first time you looked at me, that you'd fight my corner. I can't explain it. But thank you."

Ashley just nods; this case has really taken it out of her. He hugs her, and she embraces him, the emotion of the day threatening to spill out, tears almost spilling over. She pulls back; she needs this conversation to end quickly, before she has an emotional breakdown right here in the middle of the lab.

"You're more than welcome. Don't forget to hit me up and we'll go watch a Liverpool match, in that sports bar I was telling you about."

"You're on." He happily joins his mother and exits into the elevator. Ashley turns round, tears still exceptionally close to falling; she is faced by the entire team, Stella and Mac looking particularly worried. Ashley's not sure she can handle the inquisition just yet; it doesn't seem Stella cares much about that. She touches her gently on the arm.

"Are you going to tell me what's been going on?" Ashley really can't speak, if she explains she knows she will lose it, not something she wants to do with all the team around, in fact Ashley is pretty annoyed Stella has brought this up right now.

Stella is not going to let this drop. "Sweetie something is going on here. Why can't you tell me?"

Ashley looks up into Stella's eyes, pleading with her not to push this anymore.

"Hey." All the eyes are immediately drawn to the voice, it appears the mystery voice is someone who has just stepped of the elevator, the 'hey' was filled with excitement. As soon as Stella and Mac saw the boy, 15 years old, piercing blue eyes, dark brown hair, it could have been Bradley Green, the resemblance was striking. But it wasn't Bradley Green, as soon as Stella and Mac saw him, the penny dropped, they knew exactly why Eden had been so affected, Stella feels so stupid, how did she not pick up on this before? It was Zane Parker.

Ashley's half brother was in New York to visit his sister for the first time, just like she had promised back at their mother's funeral. His excitement is tempered slightly when he sees the look on Eden face; she looks like she is going to burst into tears. She just pulls him into a hug, and hugs him as if she will never let go, he hugs back just as much, he doesn't know what's happened, but he knows she needs this, she pulls back slightly and kisses him on the forehead. She looks at the team, the majority of which still aren't sure what's going on, until Ashley speaks, voice thick with emotion.

"Guys, this is my little brother Zane."

There's almost a collective 'oh it all makes sense now' look on the face of the whole team. Ashley just pulls him in for another hug, she can't get the thought out of her head, it could have been him, they were so alike, it was almost like it was him, a tear rolls down her cheek at the thought, Mac can see she is on the verge of losing it.

"Zane, why don't you come with me, we'll get you something to eat, and you can tell me all about your flight."

Zane still highly confused, releases his sister, and follows Mac, no questions asked; Eden is obviously very upset about something. Ashley is grateful to Mac for taking Zane away, but she can't hold it in any longer, the sobs just start to vibrate through her body, Stella just grabs her and holds her, her heart breaks.

After an emotional day, Ashley, Stella and Zane, headed home. Zane had crashed and burned from the travelling already and was snoring his head off in their spare room. Ashley as usual when she's feeling emotional is out on the balcony, Stella joins her, still feeling pretty stupid.

"I should have picked up on it sooner." Ashley is brought from her thoughts by Stella's words, she is slightly startled she hadn't realised she had joined her; she smiles, and puts her arm around her pulling her into her body.

"Don't be silly, you've only met him once."

Stella gets lost in her thoughts. "The resemblance was uncanny."

Ashley laughs a little dejectedly. "I know." She immediately looks down onto the road below. Stella picks up on this; she can tell her wife is still in a strange mood.

"Is that all that's bothering you?"

Since Stella pulled her up on her always running away and not sharing her feelings, she has been a lot better at talking to her.

"I'm waiting for things to go wrong." Ashley feels pretty stupid, she again becomes mesmerised by the city street below.

"What do you mean?" Stella is authentically puzzled.

"Things always go wrong for me, and just recently, I've been so happy." Again although she initially looks up at Stella, as she says the words, she feels embarrassed for even feeling this way. Her head drops again.

"Sweetie." Stella says it in an extremely sympathetic voice, whilst snuggling further into her wife's embrace.

"I know, it's ridiculous. And if today's taught me anything, it's that I can't sit around waiting for things to go wrong. Life is too short."

"Listen to me, I think you've dealt with enough crap in your life, you've had more than your fair share. Way more." Stella is quite passionate in her summation.

Ashley just nods. Stella's not sure she quite believes her acceptance.

"Hey, you are a good person, who deserves nothing but good things okay."

"Well I've got you. I guess I just feel like I've been spoiled." She gives Stella a geeky smile; she's aware of how cheesy that was.

Stella grins. "I'm the one who's been spoiled."

Part 25

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