DISCLAIMER: South of Nowhere and its characters are the property of The N network, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This started as a 'get-well' one shot for Clomle and well, took on a life of its own.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Aeryn Sun


Part Three

Spencer bounced nervously as she stood on the front step of Ashley's beach house. She was early, by over thirty minutes but she had been up and ready since six and couldn't stand sitting around the empty sorority waiting for nine to roll around. So she had headed out, making a quick pit stop to the grocery store and then arrived at Ashley's.

"What, not going to break and enter this time?" Kyla teased when she answered the door. Spencer blushed and shook her head.

"Nah, I figured I'd enter legally," she responded. She watched Kyla's eyes travel down to the item in her hand. The younger sibling's eyes narrowed.

"Uhm, I dunno if she told you but Ash..." she began.

"It's sparkling cider," Spencer cut in quickly. Kyla lifted her gaze and eyed her carefully. Spencer shrugged. "The night we first...ah...met, she mentioned that she didn't drink. And she only has things like soda and milk and water in her fridge so...I just kinda figured..." she trailed off wondering if she'd assumed too much. Kyla's expression seemed to change from suspicious to curiously pleased.

"Oh, yeah, Ash was right about you," she finally muttered. "You are such a keeper." Spencer's mouth dropped open and Kyla laughed, ushering her into the house.

"Ash is in the kitchen if you wanna go say hi," she informed the blonde. Spencer bit her lip and looked at the younger sibling.

"Is it OK if I...?" she started and then stopped, struggling for the words. Kyla smiled in understanding.

"Spencer, despite whatever happened to scare her, you are all she talks about," she said, amused. "'Spencer did this' and 'Spencer said that' or 'Spencer has the best taste in music' and 'I can really talk to Spencer'. God, I was getting ready to marry you myself, she made you sound so great." Spencer blushed so hard she wondered if she was catching fire starting at her ears. "So, what I'm saying, oh mighty and great Spencer, is please go say 'hi' to her, she's been anxious all morning and I know it's cuz you're supposed to be here." Kyla put her arm around Spencer's shoulder.

"So please, for my sake before she drives me completely insane, go say 'hi'!" She gave Spencer a friendly shove in the direction of the kitchen and wandered towards the living room humming to herself. Spencer quietly headed to the kitchen, poking her head into the room where already there were a myriad of tantalizing smells wafting around.

"Hi," she said softly to the back that was turned to her. She watched as Ashley jumped slightly and then turned around, her face neutral.

"Hey," she responded. Spencer could tell from her body language that she was still feeling uneasy. She didn't know what to do to fix it.

"Smells great in here," she offered, hoping that if she acted calm and relaxed it would spread to Ashley. She was relieved to see some of the tension ebb away.

"Of course it does," she said flippantly, waving a spatula around. "I am cooking, after all." Spencer grinned, glad that Ashley was making an effort at humor.

"True, very true," Spencer agreed. "So, what is on the menu for the day? Turkey, I know..."

"Oh not just any turkey, Spencer," the brunette wagged her spatula at the taller girl. "This turkey was special. King of the turkeys and therefore the tastiest, meatiest gobbler ever to waddle across the plains. All the girl turkeys clamored to be his bitch." The older girl sounded so serious that Spencer nearly fell over trying to keep herself from laughing.

"I'm glad you think that the reign of Simon the Turkey is that funny," Ashley playfully scolded. "Sadly all the girl turkeys were out of luck since he preferred the company of Sidney, another male turkey. It was a huge scandal. Still, he should be delicious." Spencer nodded, trying to keep her composure somewhat.

"So, what happened to Sidney?" she asked with faux concern. Ashley frowned.

"Ironically, he abandoned Simon and escaped the turkey hunt. I think he's in Mexico," she responded without pause. At that, Spencer lost her ability to keep a straight face and laughed loudly.

"Oh good, there's no bloodshed," Kyla said when she poked her head in the door. Ashley arched an eyebrow.

"Yet," she supplied sarcastically. "Aside from Simon here, we have mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce...you name the traditional Thanksgiving fare and I guarantee it's here."

"Traditional?" Spencer wondered. Ashley nodded.

"Yeah, I tend to go by the book at the holidays. Turkey on Thanksgiving, baked stuffed shrimp and prime rib on Christmas. Corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy's...uhm...ham on Easter. You know, normal not fancy stuff."

"Hey! Don't forget my sweet potato casserole," Kyla protested. Ashley rolled her eyes.

"Don't worry, I can't," she complained. "I keep trying to though." Kyla stuck her bottom lip out in a pout towards her sister.

"It's not fair," she whined playfully. "Just cuz I didn't go to France to learn to cook..."

"Ky, I don't think even France and Chef Paule could salvage your cooking abilities," Ashley teased. Spencer smiled to herself thinking that the Davies siblings were the cutest things. Their banter was fun and relaxing.

"Now, Spencer here," Ashley started, walking over to the blonde and putting her arm over the taller girl's shoulders. "See, she at least can recognize and accept her inability to cook. She admitted it to me and I respect her for it." Kyla crossed her arms over her chest.

"Oh yeah?" she challenged. "Maybe she just said that to help boost your ego."

"My ego needs no help, thank you very much," Ashley retorted. Spencer tried not to shiver at the touch of the brunette. Ashley's hand was absently rubbing her shoulder, those slender fingers tracing circles on her sweater. Spencer wasn't sure Ashley was even aware that she was doing it but she welcomed the comfortable touch.

"Ain't that the truth," Kyla snorted. Ashley removed her arm from Spencer, much to her disappointment and grabbed a hand towel from the counter. She snapped it towards her sister who yelped and ran away.

"Stay out of my kitchen, Shakespeare," she called out after the retreating girl.

"As you wish, d'Artagnan!" Kyla called back with a giggle. Spencer arched a pale brow at Ashley.

"'Those trophies are my sister's'?" she teased. She loved it when Ashley blushed.

"My other sister," Ashley shrugged with a wink.

"The one who wears a mask and is smoking hott?" Spencer asked jokingly. Ashley nodded.

"Yeah, her. Horrible sense of timing that one. You know, I heard that she once left a beautiful, blonde girl alone in a hotel room," she said softly. "That's really bad manners, you know. I told her she was being rude but, she's a stubborn ass." Spencer smiled, happy that Ashley was mentioning what happened between them even if it was in a roundabout way.

"Well, I heard that she had her reasons," she said, her tone forgiving. "So I'm sure that the blonde forgives her." Ashley ducked her head.

"I'm glad," she whispered. "She doesn't know what she'd do if she didn't." Spencer walked over and took a chance, reaching out and brushing a spot of flour off of Ashley's face.

"It's OK," she told her gently. "She understands." Ashley lifted her head and graced Spencer with a blinding smile.

"I'll let her know," she said happily. "Wanna taste test the filling for the pie?"

After a hot mouthful of apples and cinnamon, Spencer was shooed into the living room with the instruction to 'play with Kyla and keep her out of trouble'. She entered the room and frowned, confused by the piles of boxes that Kyla was rooting around in.

"What's all this?" she asked. Kyla popped her head out of one of the boxes and smiled at her.

"Ashley and I have a tradition," she started. "She cooks Thanksgiving dinner and I start the decorating."

"Decorating? For what, Christmas?" Spencer wondered. Kyla nodded. "Kinda early though, don't you think?"

"You must not get out to shop much," Kyla giggled. "Department stores start decorating for Christmas before we even get to Halloween. It's annoying, really."

"Yeah, you're right," Spencer realized. She sat down on the floor near the younger girl and peeked into a few boxes. "So, what's the plan?"

"Well first, we string up lights all around the deck outside," Kyla announced. "I was so glad when she bought this place a few years ago. I love that freaking deck. I just wish she'd get around to building the staircase she keeps talking about."

"Tell me about it," Spencer scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Would have made my life easier the other night." Kyla burst out laughing.

"Not cut out for the life of a cat-burglar?" she teased. Spencer shook her head.

"No, definitely not," she decided. "So, Ashley is going to build a staircase? She cooks, fences, and does woodworking in her spare time?" Kyla looked up from the tangle of wires in her hands.

"Yes, yes, and not exactly," she explained. "But you can learn almost anything from the people who work at Home Depot." Spencer smiled.

"Only if you find that one lone employee that knows what the hell you're talking about," she added. They both laughed.

"God, ain't that the truth," Kyla snorted. "Anyway, so she's been saying that she's going to put a staircase in so that you can just go directly down to the beach without using the side door or the basement. And I keep telling her, 'yeah I'll believe it when I see it'."

"She's really kinetic," Spencer said absently, sorting out extension chords. Kyla set down an untangled set of wires and picked up a new one while she eyed Spencer.

"Some people are just not cut out to sit still," she said carefully. She looked down at her string of lights. "It tends to get them into trouble." Spencer glanced up to see a serious if distracted look on Kyla's face and wondered what exactly Kyla just told her. It went together with what Madison had told her about Ashley's drug past. If Ashley had been an addict like Spencer figured it looked like she had been, she'd need something to occupy her time so that she didn't fall back into old patterns.

After hearing Madison's 'interesting' version of the events surrounding the prom shooting and Ashley's subsequent absence, Spencer had been frightened that the beautiful brunette might resort to that again. She then realized that she was giving herself far too much credit to think that she could have effected or hurt Ashley so badly that she'd 'fall off the wagon.' The older girl had obviously been clean for quite a while and had probably gone through more trying and stressful things since then besides having some girl scream her name in ecstasy.

Really though, how bad is it when the girl you're having sex with screams your name? Spencer pondered silently with a small smile. I've never cried out anyone's name before. She does something to me that makes me lose all control. And I really like it.

"We can't have that," Spencer offered cheerfully. Kyla lifted her head, eyed her and then smiled slightly.

"No, definitely not," she agreed. "I've spent the better part of two years trying to get and keep that girl out of trouble. At least now she's got something new, something good to distract her." Spencer glanced up through her bangs to see Kyla giving her a knowing wink along with a mischievous smirk. At that moment, Spencer could see the resemblance to not just Ashley, but Z as she had leaped into the window that first night and slid down the string of lights.

She thought that it was somewhat fitting and ironic that she was now sitting in Ashley's living room surrounded by boxes of decorations and colored lights.

"So, little sister, does she have any other hobbies besides fencing and cooking?" Spencer asked in a teasing tone, wanting to learn more about Ashley but not wanting to put Kyla in an uncomfortable position. Kyla snorted in an unladylike fashion.

"Ashley is a hobby," she announced. She looked pointedly at Spencer. "I hope you know that." Spencer shrugged slightly.

"I have a lot of spare time," she replied in the same amused tone that Kyla had used.

"Oh really? So, what kindsa hobbies does Spencer Carlin, cat-burglar wanna-be have?" Kyla joked. Spencer thought for a moment, forgetting that as much as she wanted to know things about Ashley, the brunette and her little sister wanted to know just as much.

"I don't really do a hell of a lot," she admitted. "I go to school, I do my homework, I go to the occasional costume party where I'm rescued from the hormonally driven, assfaced jock by a hot girl in a mask. You know the usual stuff." Kyla burst out into a fit of giggles, rocking on the floor in amusement.

"You know what's really funny?" Kyla asked when she'd calmed down. "I remember the days long ago when Ashley was the hormonally driven, assfaced hot girl." Spencer smiled at her but knew that it didn't reach her eyes.

She was still haunted by Madison's 'fuck 'em and leave 'em' comment about Ashley's past a few days earlier. She knew, was almost positive that what was beginning between herself and Ashley wasn't that same thing. The fact that she was currently sitting in the girl's house talking to her sister and waiting for a holiday meal helped to calm that fear somewhat.

"She's not that girl anymore, Spencer," Kyla said gently, seeing the look on the blonde's face. "She's been through a lot, come really far and I would not be sitting here untangling lights with you if I thought that she was still the same." Spencer nodded her understanding.

"Hors d'oeuvres in ten minutes," Ashley announced from the doorway before disappearing into the kitchen again.

"Hors d'oeuvres?" Spencer questioned. Kyla nodded.

"That's another tradition; Ashley sets out trays of food, snacks and stuff early on and you munch all the way until dinner," she told the blonde.

"Then how do you still have room for dinner?" Spencer wondered, smiling. Kyla looked at her blankly.

"When Ashley cooks, you make room," she replied.

"I told her that she should just get a job as a famous celebrity chef but she says she cooks for enjoyment and doesn't wanna lose that," Kyla explained.

"I can understand that," Spencer nodded. "Still, if she ever opens a restaurant, I am so there."

"Me too!" Kyla agreed. Ashley then appeared carrying a few trays.

"Right. I ever open a restaurant and both your asses are working for me," she snorted, setting down a tray. Spencer felt a wave of affection and happiness surge through her at the thought of Ashley keeping her around for something like working in her restaurant. It showed that maybe there really was something building between them.

Kyla bounced up off the floor and made a beeline for the platters.

"Whatcha got? Whatcha got?" she chirped. Ashley bumped her away from the table with her hips.

"Usual fare, Ky," the older sister said cheerfully. "I have 8 different cheeses and crackers, spinach/artichoke dip with Hawaiian bread, stuffed mushrooms..."

"What are those?" Spencer asked, pointing to another plate when Ashley finished laying out the dishes.

"Oh! One of my favorites!" Kyla twittered. The more food Ashley put out, the more hyper Kyla seemed to become. "They're pickles, somewhat dried out, and they're wrapped in ham and cream cheese." Spencer wrinkled her nose.


"Oh here, just try it," Ashley said, picking up one of the slices and holding it to Spencer's mouth. "Open. If you don't like it, fine, spit it out. But at least try it." Spencer did as she was told and the hors d'oeuvres was placed gently into her mouth. She tried not to shiver as Ashley's fingertips lingered a moment too long on her lips before moving away. Slowly, she began to chew.

"Well?" Kyla wondered excitedly. Spencer waited a moment before smiling.

"That was good!" she decided as she picked up another piece. It was tangy but still not.

"Ha! Told you so," Ashley snickered. "Don't turn your nose up at something until you try it, all right? Not when I'm cooking at least." Spencer nodded.

"You got it," she said around a mouthful of another pickle. She grinned at Ashley, pushing a little pickle against her teeth and loving the way that the brunette scrunched up her nose even as she smiled.

"Ew, Spence, just ew," she giggled, shaking her head. "How are the decorations coming?" Kyla looked away.

"Uhm...we got a few strands untangled," she said hopefully. Ashley rolled her eyes.

"You know, Ky, if ya took the time to actually roll the chords up when you put them away instead of just shoving them in the box, we wouldn't have to go through this every year," she informed her sister in a teasing tone. Kyla stuck her tongue out.

"No worries," the younger sibling chirped. "I have more lights in my car!"

"Oh God," Ashley groaned. "Ky, I do not need my house visible from space, OK?"

"Awww," the smaller girl pouted. She looked at Spencer, confused. "Why not?" Spencer laughed, loudly, startling the sisters. She just found their banter hilarious not to mention that she enjoyed seeing this new, relaxed side to Ashley. It was different than the sides she'd seen so far, an almost maternal side that made her that much more endearing. It also helped to make her slight case of homesickness less bothersome. Ashley and Kyla reminded her, on some level of Glen and Clay although neither were an ass like Glen or as straight-laced and stiff as Clay.

"OK, Spencer's nutty," Kyla declared as the blonde finally smothered her laughter into periodic fits of giggling. Ashley gave a half shrug at her little sister.

"Yeah, I think I mentioned that to you before," she responded flatly. Spencer's laughing stopped and she glared at the two other girls.

"Yeah, you did say she was a weird one," Kyla sighed dramatically. "I didn't think she was that weird though. Yup, you sure can pick'em, sis. Real winners."

"Hey!" Spencer protested the teasing while at the same time elated that they were including her in their playful banter. She really felt like she was being accepted into Ashley's small but important family. "I am not weird."

"Uh huh, sure," Ashley mocked from behind a smile. "You keep telling yourself that, Spence. Whatever helps you sleep at night." She stared heading back into the kitchen.

"I'm not weird!" Spencer yelled back to her, stomping her foot in playful petulance. She looked imploringly at Kyla. "Really, I'm not."

"This from the girl that likes cinnamon coffee cake muffins and brown sugar on her pancakes," Ashley called out from the kitchen. "I mean, hello? Sugar rush much?" Spencer's jaw hit the floor.

"How did you..." she shook her head. It didn't surprise her that Ashley knew what her favorite topping on plain pancakes was. She thought for a moment and then remembered seeing Ashley picking up a 'to-go' order from the local IHOP one morning when she'd managed to scrape together enough change for a real breakfast. That was shortly before the costume party. And she was more than pleased that in her own way, Ashley had just admitted to being Z and sending her the baked goods. More pieces of the intriguing and increasingly fun 'Ashley puzzle' were falling into place.

"In my defense, those muffins are effing good!" she decided as a comeback. Ashley's rich, unguarded laughter floated back from the kitchen, warming Spencer inside and out. She shook her head, smiling and then looked at Kyla who was eyeing her in curiosity.

"What?" she wondered, feeling a little uneasy with the sudden scrutiny.

"Has she baked you muffins?" Kyla asked seriously. Spencer frowned and nodded.

"Muffins...some cookies once...oh and a really yummy lunch last weekend," Spencer admitted. Kyla's eyes widened.

"Shit," she muttered. "She must be serious if she's cooking for you outside of a holiday. Holy shit."

After Kyla's cryptic comment, she wouldn't divulge anymore information, even when Spencer pouted. So, the two had returned to the boxes piled in the living room and with plates of food and sodas beside them, went back to trying to untangle the various strings of lights. They were an unholy mess, tied together in tangles and balls that Spencer couldn't make heads or tails in. Spencer wondered if maybe they would be better served by using the new ones in Kyla's car and going to buy anything else that they needed instead of working at unraveling these but Kyla was determined.

She wanted to ask more about what Kyla had meant about the cooking being special or something but knew that like her sister, Kyla wasn't someone who could be pushed for information. She had already 'accidentally' divulged a few facts that were either unknown or formerly fuzzy to Spencer. So she knew that little by little the younger Davies would fill in the blanks. She was just too chipper and friendly, not to mention somewhat hyperactive not to say something without thinking.

"So, if we're decorating, where's the tree?" Spencer asked as they went out onto the deck with a handful of strands that they had successfully fixed and started winding them around the banisters and edges. It was a cool and cloudy November day so Kyla had handed her one of Ashley's nearby jackets to wear. Spencer shivered, not from the cold but instead from the fact that she could smell Ashley on the grey material, her sweet unique scent under a thin layer of vanilla and cinnamon. It was almost like being wrapped in the girl's arms and she wasn't sure that she was going to able to take the jacket off when she went back inside.

"Oh, we don't get that until about a week before Christmas," Kyla informed her, leaning over the railing to hang one of the many ornaments that apparently went with the lights and garland. Spencer was amused by the differing and unique decorations that the Davies sisters had for the Christmas holiday. There was something from different countries overseas that Spencer figured Ashley had traveled to at some point.

There were things she recognized that both girls probably had made as children. There were more that had 'Kyla' scrawled across them in messy childlike writing than 'Ashley' which in a way made Spencer sad. There were only three small things with the older sister's name on them when Spencer knew she herself had probably close to a dozen at home in a box in Ohio. Even Kyla had many scattered about; stars, hand prints, clay blobs that at age five probably looked more like a reindeer or snowman than they did now along with cut-out trees and paper ornaments.

How could her parents care so little? She wondered. From the few photos that she'd seen of Ashley as a child she knew that the girl had been nothing short of beautiful even then. She didn't understand how they couldn't have noticed or cared about their own daughter. She found it disgusting and reprehensible.

Seeing the difference in Ashley's childhood memorabilia as opposed to Kyla's made Spencer think about how different their upbringings must have been and to wonder if that obvious difference bothered Ashley at all. If it did, if she harbored any resentment towards Kyla for her happy upbringing in Baltimore, without the money or materialistic things she had had, she showed no sign of it.

"Usually the weekend before. We go to this little tree farm out in the country and then we pick one out and cut it down. It's a two hour ride one way so we make a whole day of it," Kyla told her happily. "Last year we actually rented a hotel room and spent the day in this tiny Christmas village. Oh my God, it was so funny! They had this town square with a Santa that arrived by helicopter and Santa kept asking Ashley if she was 'naughty or nice' and Ashley just kept running away from him in this state of horror. I laughed so hard."

"I bet," Spencer said, giggling somewhat at the mental image. The story was making her remember her own holidays back home. Her father always did something similar to the tree hunting with her and her brothers as it got closer to the holiday. He would take Spencer and her two brother's to Welsh's Tree Farm one town over and they would spend hours looking for just the right tree. It was usually hard to get the three children to agree on a single tree.

Glen usually wanted the biggest because in his mind, that was the best. At first, Clay didn't understand that he was allowed to have an opinion and the first few Christmases with him were awkward because the experience was new to him. After he began to understand that he was a member of the family, he worried more about the cost of the tree than how it looked. Then there was Spencer, who harbored a slight 'Charlie Brown' complex and always wanted the tree that had possibly two needles and a branch to it, thinking that it was lonely and needed a home and worried that its feelings would be hurt if no one chose it.

Eventually, their father would have to decide on a medium size one, usually in the back of the lot and then they'd cut it down, pay and tie it to the roof of their car before they headed home for hot chocolate and grilled cheeses. There was usually snow involved as well when they went tree hunting. Despite it being her second winter in California, she still couldn't get used to the lack of snow. She missed the snowmen, snowball wars and tiny igloos that she and her brothers always enjoyed together.

"Play your cards right and maybe, just maybe Ashley will invite you to that too," Kyla teased with a wink as she plugged one strand into another and clapped happily when they lit up when she tested them. Spencer felt herself blush at the knowing look on the smaller girl's face.

"We'll see," she agreed hopefully, wrapping sturdy green garland around the lights. Together, they strung every string of lights that were in the boxes as well as the new ones Kyla retrieved from her car. When they finished a little over an hour and a half later, the finger foods were nearly gone and there was barely a spot on the deck or around the interior of the house that wasn't in some way lit up in festive colors or adorned with a decoration.

"Nice job, Spence, thanks," Kyla said satisfied as the two took a step back to admire their work. Spencer had to admit, it was just shy of looking tacky but somehow, the setting of the house and the way they'd done it, it was quite pretty.

"I enjoyed it," she said honestly. Kyla grabbed her by the elbow.

"Let's go see if Ashley's almost done yet, I'm starved," she announced, pulling the blonde towards the kitchen.

"How the heck are you hungry?" Spencer wondered, laughing.

"Davies trait," Kyla replied. "Always hungry. Go figure."

"No lights in my kitchen," Ashley warned when the two girls entered the fragrant room, giggling.

"I know, Ash, I know," Kyla muttered, pouting. "I try, every year to put a little Christmas cheer in here...hey! That rhymed!" she laughed as she spoke to Spencer. "Anyway, and each year, Ashley plays Grinch and I can't."

"I am not a Grinch," Ashley argued lightly. "I just don't want garland and tinsel falling into my food and the lights bother my eyes."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I have to pee." Kyla declared a little over dramatically and reminding Spencer of a sugar rushing six year old. She then took off in that direction leaving Spencer and Ashley alone for the first time since Spencer had arrived.

"God, it smells good in here," Spencer sighed happily as she approached Ashley's turned back.

"Thanks. Hey, you're in luck," Ashley smiled. "Kyla decided in honor of you as our guest, not to make her insult to sweet potatoes. So that means no trips to the emergency room for us tonight. Yay!" Spencer giggled and then looked over Ashley's shoulder into a pot she was stirring.

"What's that?" She pointed to the mass of brown swirling around the pot.

"Chocolate fudge," Ashley replied simply. "After it's cooked, I'll put it in a pan and then in the fridge to cool and set. It'll be fantastic later tonight when we're watching movies and dinner has settled. It's sweet and well, chocolatey. It's an old family recipe."

"Mmm, sounds delicious," Spencer decided, her mouth watering slightly because of more than just the delicious food Ashley was preparing. Standing behind Ashley as close as she was, she couldn't help but to again notice the usual vanilla and cinnamon scent of the older girl as it mixed with the sweet scent of the fudge along with everything else. She fought with herself for a few moments, before giving in and placing her left hand on Ashley's hip and brushing a gentle, barely there kiss to the nape of Ashley's neck, visible from under the ponytail the brunette was sporting as she cooked.

She felt Ashley freeze at the touch, her hand pausing in its stirring. Thinking she'd overstepped her bounds yet again, Spencer went to move away. Ashley's hand covering her own on her hip stopped her. For a few long moments, Ashley's fingers stroked slowly across the expanse of skin on the back of Spencer's hand, sending pleasant chills up the blonde's arm and then down her spine.

"I'm sorry," she whispered in offering, stepping closer to the smaller body again. She could feel the tension coming off of Ashley as well as the hesitation in the warm hand still covering her own as it trembled slightly. Ashley's nervousness somehow made her even more endearing to Spencer.

"Don't be...I just...Spencer, I..." she sighed and bent her head forward in mute defeat. "Slow, OK? Please? I can't...crap...it's OK, I didn't mind." Behind her, Spencer smiled.

"Whatever you want, Ash," she replied softly. She decided then to let Ashley chose how fast or slow they went in whatever it was that they were doing. "I just...enjoy touching you..." She blushed hot and tried to move away when she heard Ashley chuckle and then turned around.

"Oh really?" she challenged, arching an eyebrow and smirking slightly. Spencer felt relief that despite the intensity of only a few moments before, Ashley was teasing her again. She jumped when both of Ashley's hands found her hips and pulled her closer until they were nearly touching.

Spencer felt her heart leap to her throat where it beat so hard and loud she could barely function. She knew that her breathing had picked up and she let out a tiny 'squeak' when Ashley's fingers slipped through her belt loops. She then nearly fainted when Ashley leaned up and brushed her lips over her ear, her voice a breathy whisper.

"It's OK," she purred. "I like you touching me." Each word that she spoke caused her nose to nuzzle Spencer's ear, increasing the intensity of the chill that was rocketing through the younger girl's body and was now settling somewhere much lower than her ear.

What the fuck happened to slow? Spencer wondered and then decided that she didn't care. If by her backing off some let Ashley feel more comfortable, comfortable enough to act the way she was now, only moments later, then Spencer was more than willing to go with the flow.

"Whoa! NC-17!" Kyla whined as she entered the room and covered her eyes. "I so don't need to see my sister macking up on some chick." Ashley snorted and pulled away, much to Spencer's disappointment. She told herself that she did not suddenly feel cold with Ashley now standing only two feet away; she told herself that it was her imagination.

"That was not NC-17, Shakespeare," she retorted, checking on the fudge and a few other boiling pots as she spoke. "Now, what I caught you and Vance Fisher doing that one time behind the bleachers..." Kyla 'eeeped' and leaped at her sister, covering her mouth with her hands and shooting an apologetic look at Spencer.

"That was one time, d'Artagnan," she hissed, embarrassed. She took her hands off of her sister. "God, you are never going to let me live that down." Ashley shook her head.

"Hell no," she said jokingly. "Not only did it scar me for life, it's great blackmail material."

"You wait," Kyla warned, wagging a finger at her sister. "Someday I'll have something worth holding over your head." A strange look passed between the sisters that Spencer caught but couldn't decipher before Kyla moved away and stuck her finger in the hot fudge.

"Get outta there!" Ashley hissed, grasping Kyla's hand and slapping it lightly with a wooden spoon. "No, bad Kyla." Kyla looked at her and pouted, her lip quivering and eyes tearing in a dramatic way. Spencer had the distinct feeling that given her melodramatic flair and the nickname 'Shakespeare' that Ashley sometimes called her, Kyla was a drama major. Somehow, it suited the younger girl.

"But...but...you always let me sample," she whined. Ashley shook her head.

"We usually don't have company," she pointed out, gesturing towards Spencer who was grabbing another soda. "No sticking your fingers into anything...not until at least Spencer gets a chance first." Kyla looked at her sister and then crinkled her nose.

"Ew! I don't...Ashley, ew," she chuckled as she grabbed some plates and headed to the living room. Spencer stifled a laugh as she watched Ashley flush bright red and then glare at her sister's back.

"PERVERT!" she accused, picking up her wooden stirring spoon and glowering towards the dining room where they could hear Kyla laughing.

"You opened the door, d'Artagnan!" she called back. Ashley huffed.

"Yeah, but you didn't have to go charging through it," she sighed, defeated. She glanced at Spencer. "Oh, did you find that funny?" she asked, her expression stern but her tone light. That as well as the way the side of the brunette's mouth was quirked up let Spencer know that she was being played with again.

"Actually," the blonde said flippantly as she twisted the top off her bottle. "Yeah, I did."

"Perverts," Ashley muttered turning back to the stove. "I'm surrounded by perverts."

"Well then, remember," Spencer teased, taking a long swig from her soda. "Kyla and I are both younger than you so we had to have learned it from somewhere." Ashley spun around and gaped at her. Spencer shrugged.

"What? You walked into that one too, Ash." She then winked and headed into the dining room where she could still hear Kyla laughing.

Later, the table was set and Spencer took her seat across from Ashley. Despite the massive amounts of money she knew Ashley had at her disposal, Spencer loved the simple, small red oak table that Ashley had in the dining room. There was enough room on it for most of the meal and their plates but at the same time it was cozy, friendly and the three girls were in arm's length of each other to pass plates around.

Ashley returned from her final trip to the kitchen with three champagne flutes which she then expertly poured Spencer's chilled sparkling cider into. Once their plates were full of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and other assorted dishes, Ashley stood up at her seat and cleared her throat.

"Uhm, a toast, I guess," she said hesitantly. Kyla paused with a mouthful of mashed potato almost to her lips and put her fork down under the withering glare of her sister. She picked up her glass as well. Spencer smiled, pausing in her silent grace prayer to grasp her own glass and turn her attention to Ashley. She didn't feel like mentioning her families habit of saying grace at each meal, not wanting to push her religion on the other girls. Besides, she had long grown accustomed to saying it silently to herself while sitting with Madison the gossiping chatterbox in the school commissary.

"To good food and to...good company," Ashley offered, looking first at her sister and then at Spencer whom she smiled warmly at. "Cheers."

"Cheers!" Kyla echoed, draining the cup in almost a single sip. Her eyes watered and Ashley just shook her head at her.

"Cheers," Spencer agreed, sipping her drink. They then all dug into the food between them enjoying the flavors and the pleasant company. Spencer found that snacking all day had done nothing to hamper her appetite, if anything she was hungrier. Plus, Ashley was such a fantastic cook that she wanted to sample everything.

"So," Kyla started around a mouthful of turkey. "Ash said that you have two brothers? One was adopted? Is that weird?" Spencer swallowed her mouthful and looked at the younger sister, shrugging.

"No, not really I guess," she offered. "I was seven when Clay joined the family and never really thought anything of it. I was just glad to have someone else on my side against Glen since he was so much bigger than me."

"Cool," Kyla said. "I was an only child up until well, I was 15." Ashley dropped her knife suddenly, the clang startling Spencer and Kyla.

"Sorry," Ashley said sheepishly as she shot Kyla a glance. Kyla sunk down in her seat a little, a move that did not go unnoticed by Spencer.

"Well, was it weird suddenly getting an older sister?" she asked, hoping to spark a conversation and learn a little about the two sisters. For a pair who had only come into each other's lives a little over five years ago, they got along like they'd been together all through childhood. Kyla looked to Ashley for a moment and when it was apparent that the older girl wasn't going to offer anything, she looked at Spencer.

"Yeah, kinda," she confirmed. "I mean, I went my whole life as an only child and then boom, I had a sister, a step-mother of sorts and a father I had never met."

"I forgot the gravy," Ashley announced suddenly, pushing her chair back. It made a rough dragging sound as it moved. "I'll be right back." Spencer frowned, feeling bad that she'd managed to upset Ashley yet again.

"I'm just going to keep my mouth shut and not speak out loud anymore," she sighed into her stuffing. Kyla shook her head.

"No, don't," she encouraged. "Look, it's hard for Ashley to talk about some stuff, her father being one of those things. Sorry, our father. I forget sometimes since he was never really a part of my life. Anyway, she's not open about stuff, Spencer. You know that. I tend to be a bit more forthcoming about stuff so, please, go ahead and ask. Ashley can deal with it if it bothers her. It's the only way she's going to be able to move on."

"OK," Spencer agreed warily. She liked Kyla but for a moment was unsure of her motivation. Does she want me to get closer to Ashley or ensure that I screw everything up?

"Here's the gravy," Ashley said when she entered the room a few moments later. Spencer was relieved to see her come back as fast as she did and looking somewhat calm and relaxed.

"Yummy!" Kyla reached for the sauce and poured a generous helping onto her potatoes. It was quickly becoming apparent to Spencer that the fast acting metabolism Ashley seemed to have must run in the Davies family.

"Did you tell her about your coming to LA?" Ashley asked. Kyla stared slack jawed at her sister for a moment as Spencer hid a smile. She could see Ashley hesitantly trying and felt incredibly happy that it was happening.

"Uhm..." Kyla stammered. "No, not yet." Ashley shrugged.

"You should," she said simply. "It's a good story." Kyla looked at Spencer, shocked and then a large grin spread across her face.

"OK, so, first I have to start with finding out that Raife was my dad," Kyla began excitedly. Ashley hardly ever let her talk to anyone about their family life so she was almost bouncing in her seat with excitement. "See, I grew up on the East Coast, in Baltimore actually. It was just me and my mom, Anne. I was a bit wild until a point which knowing what I know now, I understand is a family thing." Ashley snorted but offered nothing else.

"So, I woke up one morning and found my mother crying at the kitchen table which was weird because one, she was usually at work and two, she never let me see her cry. She's sitting there crying and holding onto a newspaper clipping. She told me to sit down and then told me that Raife Davies had been killed in a car accident the night before. I thought that sucked since I was into the whole 'retro 80's/90's' rock scene and liked his music but that didn't explain why my mother was sitting there sobbing like a maniac into her Irish coffee."

"I'm sorry," Spencer said, feeling the need to say something as Kyla regathered her thoughts. She looked over at Ashley who was listening intently while chewing on her food.

"It's OK," Kyla said in response. "My mom then proceeds to tell me this story about how she was a groupie for 'Purple Venom' back in its heyday and that one night when they were performing in Baltimore, she met Raife. I first I wasn't following her, all I could think was how cool it musta been to meet such a popular rocker, especially at the height of his career. Then she tells that the best thing to come out of the meeting was me." The younger Davies shook her head in bemusement as she spoke, remembering the day clearly.

"Needless to say, I freaked out and not in a good way," she went on. "Here we are, scraping to have enough money to pay the bills and still eat, clipping coupons and using food stamps when my father was a fucking millionaire. Why couldn't she had said something earlier? Not only that, but now the man was dead and I was never going to get to know him. I was angry at her for lying to me my whole life about who my father was and him for dying on me like that."

"Then you came out to LA?" Spencer wondered. Kyla nodded.

"Then the lawyers called and suddenly I'm uprooted and thrown three thousand miles away to live with strangers, hostile strangers," she looked pointedly at Ashley who smirked as she speared a string bean.

"Yup, three weeks before my seventeenth birthday and ding dong, the stork delivered a bouncing, tweenage girl on my doorstep," Ashley snickered. "One who liked to steal my clothes, my music and invade my space."

"I was trying to get to know little miss stubborn bitchy ass over there and she totally snapped at me all the time," Kyla complained. Ashley smiled at Spencer and nodded, confirming the story. Spencer giggled at Ashley's unapologetic manner. She could see the bond between the sisters was strong and that any rough patches in the past had served to make them as close and strong as they were.

"Eventually you became close though," Spencer prompted. The table grew quiet for a moment and Spencer worried that she'd said something wrong.

"Yeah," Ashley finally said when Kyla simply looked at her blankly. "Kyla kept trying and I kept being an asshole but eventually she got through to me. She uh...I owe her my life really." Spencer sat stunned at the admission as Kyla covertly wiped at her eyes.

"Ash..." Kyla started. Ashley looked directly at Spencer.

"Want more turkey?"

The conversation after that admission was lighter, more about school than anything else. Kyla complained that she didn't really like the classes she was taking at Berkley and that she hated being as far from Ashley as she was while Ashley countered by saying she enjoyed most of her classes and loved that Kyla lived where she did. Her retort had won her a sliced carrot to the nose and it was unanimously decided that dinner was over.

Spencer helped the sisters to clear the table and put the various foods into containers before they were labeled and stacked in the enormous fridge that Ashley owned. She noticed that some of the plastic containers were simply listed as 'Kyla's' by the girl in question and that Ashley set those aside. At her questioning look, Kyla smiled.

"I usually take a lot of this stuff back with me," she explained. "Ash is such a great cook and I hate fast food and stuff so, I live offa this for as long as I can."

"And the packages I send her," Ashley added off-handedly while taking plates from Spencer and setting them in the high powered dishwasher.

"You send her packages?" Spencer wondered. Both brunettes nodded.

"Yeah, all the time," Kyla piped up. "Sometimes it's muffins or cookies; other times it's stuff like frozen homemade stews and her meatball sauce is fucking heavenly. See? You're not the only special one." She stuck her tongue out at Spencer playfully and laughed when the blonde returned it.

"Kyla, I cook for you because otherwise you probably wouldn't eat," Ashley teased while she filled the soap in the dishwasher. "I cook for Spencer because I want to." Both Ashley and Spencer blushed at the comment and Kyla rolled her eyes.

"Awww so sweet," she joked. "I could just puke, really." Ashley snapped a dish towel at her sister again, making Kyla squeal.

"Shut up, brat!" she ordered although the smile on her face let both girls know that she was kidding. "You're just jealous." Kyla paused and looked between both girls who were sporting goofy grins.

"Yeah," she sighed. "I am."

"And on that note," Spencer broke in feeling a little exposed. "I need to use the restroom." Ashley nodded.

"You remember where it is, right?" she asked, a slight smirk on her face. "Just remember not to pee in my office like you tried to last time." Spencer glared at the smaller girl who smiled back innocently before she headed towards the bathroom.

She felt like she was floating; if it wasn't for the fact that her stomach was incredibly full she'd think that she was dreaming. Ashley was being open, letting her see her tease Kyla and letting the younger sister make fun of her all in front of Spencer. Not to mention that both sisters were teasing Spencer just as much. She felt comfortable and welcome in Ashley's home instead of like an outsider or a guest. She loved it.

She also loved that Kyla seemed accepting of her despite the fact that their first meeting had been awkward and hadn't shown Spencer in the best light. The younger sister was a joker and loved to tease Ashley and she carried that attitude onto Spencer which wasn't hard for the blonde to put up with since she had siblings of her own. But still, the bond between Ashley and Kyla was somehow different than the ones Spencer shared with Glen and Clay. She really didn't know how to put it into words but, it was on some different level than what she had.

She washed her hands before she returned to the living room, pausing just outside in the hall when she heard Kyla say her name.

"Spencer is a nice girl, I like her," Kyla said happily. Spencer heard some rustling in the room that she guessed to be Ashley setting things up for their movie marathon. She'd been told during dinner that their usual tradition at Thanksgiving was to pick a theme and rent or buy a bunch of movies to watch. This year they had decided on comedies.

"Yeah, she's great," Ashley replied. Spencer felt her heart rate pick up at the sheer happiness she could hear in the musicians voice. She found herself smiling at the simple sentence.

"You should really try to reign in the bi-polar though," Kyla admonished.


"Don't think I haven't noticed," Kyla challenged. "You keep playing the whole 'come here, go away' game you were always so good at in high school."

"I am not," Ashley growled. Spencer didn't like the hurt she could hear tinting Ashley's words."I am not that person anymore."

"I know you're not, Ash," Kyla soothed. "But you still have some of the same habits and that one in particular is pure Ashley. You keep trying to let her close, then when she gets close, you panic and push away and while Spencer is patient and I think she really likes you, she's not a saint and I don't wanna see you accidentally push her away or something."

Not gonna happen, Spencer thought to herself. She felt bad for eavesdropping but at the same time liked getting a secret look at how Ashley thought.

"I don't mean to," Ashley said sadly. "I'm just...scared."

"I know," Kyla said softly. Spencer could tell that the younger girl was trying to help her sister and she was happy that she had Kyla on her side. "Just...Ash, I really don't think that you have to worry about Spencer hurting you. She seems so nice and sweet and genuine. Honestly, I wish you'd met someone like her sooner."

"I probably wouldn't be so fucked up if I had," Ashley sighed and Spencer's heart broke.

"We all make mistakes, sis," Kyla pointed out. "You need to stop dwelling on shit you can't change."

"Yeah," Ashley sighed again. "I know."

"Then here's your chance, Ashley. Take the risk with Spencer. I can tell she's worth it and if you jump, she'll catch you," Kyla encouraged, making Spencer smile again from her hiding spot.

"And if she doesn't," Ashley replied. "You get to help pick up what's left of me at that point."


Deciding that she'd been gone long enough and if she stayed to try and overhear anything else they'd get suspicious, Spencer faked a sneeze to alert Ashley and Kyla that she was approaching and rounded the corner to see Kyla sprawled out in the overstuffed armchair with her legs over the side, much the same way that Ashley usually sat in the chair and Ashley in the corner of the couch. She looked at the other smaller chair on the other side of the couch and then at the empty space on the sofa that Ashley wasn't currently occupying. She wanted to sit with Ashley but wasn't sure that it was what Ashley wanted.

"Plenty of room here," Ashley said softly, patting the space beside her and making Spencer's decision for her. She grinned at Ashley who smiled and ducked her head in response. Spencer heard Kyla snort at them as she turned on the movie.

"OK, so we're gonna start with 'Talladega Nights'," she announced. Spencer nodded and reached for her fresh, unopened bottle of Sierra Mist, glancing at Ashley in silent thanks as she did so. She kind of wished that they were going to watch scary movies so that she would have an excuse to grab onto and cuddle with Ashley but they'd done horror for the holiday last year so she'd have to make do with the comedies.

Spencer settled into the cushions on the couch to watch the first movie trying not to notice the warmth of the beautiful girl beside her or her intoxicating scent. She also tried to ignore the slender thigh pressed against her and the knee that sometimes rubbed slowly over her own. What she couldn't quite ignore was the pounding of her heart and the flashes of heat each touch, however innocent, seemed to create. Having Ashley so close beside her was making her thus far successfully suppressed urges roar back to life. She wanted Ashley, not Z, not some illusion but Ashley in all her flawed glory.

Sitting as close to Ashley as she was, she could see the bite mark she had left in the heat of the moment a week earlier. She felt somewhat guilty that she'd apparently broken the skin and left a mark that was just beginning to heal over. When she was sure that Kyla was absorbed in the movie she placed a quick kiss to the area which made Ashley jump.

"Sorry," she whispered. Ashley glanced at Spencer and then at her shoulder.

"That?" she asked. Spencer nodded. A slow, sly smirk spread across the brunette's face. "Don't be," she said simply and turned back to the movie.

Spencer could feel the goofy grin on her face as Ashley readjusted how she was sitting so that she was pressed even closer to the blonde. Somewhere about halfway through the first film, Ashley had readjusted again so that her arm was over Spencer's shoulder and the taller girl was nestled with the crook of Ashley's shoulder and chest. Their close proximity did nothing to ease the ache at her center but Spencer relished the feeling of being held, willingly, in Ashley's arms.

"Yay! I like that movie!," Kyla announced when the credits rolled. "What's next?"

"Cookies, cake, fudge and pie," Ashley answered. "Then Borat." Kyla jumped up from her seat.

"Nice! High five!" she yelled to no one in particular.

"Maybe she shouldn't have any more sugar?" Spencer asked Ashley.

"Trust me, she's always like that," the brunette replied. "Spazzy as hell. Come on."

Reluctantly, Spencer stood up from her perch so that Ashley could get up. She smiled to herself as a warm hand slid into her own and pulled her along to the kitchen. Kyla glanced at their joined hands and just smirked, shaking her head.

"So, we have a few different pies," Ashley said as she let go of Spencer's hand to open her fridge. "We've got strawberry rhubarb, apple cinnamon, blueberry and cherry," she listed as she removed them. "Then there's chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter chip, M+M and peanut butter blossom cookies. Chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter fudges are ready too. Help yourself, Spence." Spencer stared at all the treats laid out on the counters, amazed.

"When did you have time for all this?" she wondered. Ashley shrugged as she bit off a huge piece of chocolate fudge.

"Now you know what I was doing when I should have been in class this week," she said evenly around a mouthful.

Spencer hung her head for a moment, her guilt at hurting the sensitive girl returning. A cookie waved under her nose brought her head back up where she met Ashley's face. The older girls expression was nothing short of adoring which eased Spencer's guilt.

"Hey, don't do that," Ashley soothed. "It's fine, Spence. This kept me occupied and that's good. Plus, I knew you and Kyla would appreciate the treats." Spencer took the cookie and munched happily.

"You know," she said after she swallowed. "You keep this up and I'll gain 30 pounds before the end of the day." Ashley grinned.

"So let's see...Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday...you'll be 120 pounds heavier by Monday? Awesome." Spencer looked at her surprised and watched the smile fall from Ashley's face.

"You know if you stayed all weekend which you can if you want cuz I have a spare room so you'd have your own room but you don't have to stay but you're welcome to and oh, look, pie," she muttered all in one breath, blushing. Inside, Spencer was doing a 'happy dance' at the invitation and thinking that Ashley was adorable.

"I thought I was the babble queen. Are you inviting me to stay over the weekend, Miss Davies?" she teased. Ashley smiled bashfully.

"If you wanna," she responded. Kyla made and overly dramatic choking noise behind them.

"Ug, please stop before the overwhelming snuggly, cuddly cuteness kills me," she whined. Ashley tapped her lightly on the back of the head.

"Hush," she scolded. "Spencer can't help it if she's cute." Kyla's eyes grew wide as Spencer felt herself flush.

"Oh my God, Ashley, are you gay?" she gasped, shocked.

"No, I just like to sleep with girls," Ashley returned sarcastically. "Other than that, straight as an arrow."

"Kyla, uhm, are you okay with Ashley being...er...gay?" Spencer asked timidly. She was nearly positive that the younger girl was indeed fine with her sister's sexual orientation. Ashley was obviously out and proud. But since her own exposure to gay people and their families was severely limited, and usually not pleasant stories, she wanted to learn more. More than that, she had a strong suspicion that her own family was going to be far less accepting of her than Kyla was. She wanted to see and listen to someone who had a gay family member and was okay with it to remind herself that whatever eventually happened with her and Ashley, someone would understand and accept her.

"Shit yeah," Kyla scoffed. "It was one of the first things I noticed about Ashley. It went 'Wow, she looks a lot like me' and then 'who is that skank in her bed. She's ugly.'"

"Kyla," Ashley hissed. The younger sister shrugged nonchalantly.

"What? It's the truth. Paige was fugly. All eyes and tits," she said, making a face at Spence. "So totally fake boobs too, by the way."

"Kyla," Ashley barked, this time her tone a clear warning. "Spencer does not need to hear about that shit." Kyla waved her off.

"Whatever," she grumbled. "And if I had known what kinda shit she was getting you caught in, I would have kicked her bubble-butt, J Lo wannabe ass sooner."

Ashley shot her a dirty look that Spencer knew if looks really could kill would have reduced Kyla to a pile of smoldering ashes on the kitchen linoleum. Ashley was pissed and it showed in the way her eyes narrowed and darkened. Spencer tried to distract herself from remembering how those eyes looked when they were darkened for another far more pleasant reason, with a cookie.

"So, how about you Spencer?" Kyla inquired, totally not bothered by her sister's ire. "How does your family feel about you being a lesbian?"

"Oh, for God's sake," Ashley groaned. Spencer felt all the color drain from her face.

"I...I don't...I'm not...I haven't," she stuttered uselessly.

"You fuck up," Ashley growled at her sister. "I told you not to pry." Kyla put her hands up in apology.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," she said earnestly. "I didn't realize that you might not be out or comfortable, Spencer. I'm sorry."

"Of all the dumbass..." Ashley sighed, looking apologetically at the stunned blonde. "You'll have to excuse my sister, Spencer," she spoke through clenched teeth. "She suffers from a chronic and acute case of 'foot-in-mouth-itis' and sometimes speaks without thinking. I'm sorry."

There was a long awkward pause where all three girls refused to make eye contact.

"No, it's not...I'm not uncomfortable, I just...," Spencer struggled to find the right words. She needed Ashley to know that while she was scared and nervous to travel this new terrain, she still wanted to do it with her.

I'll just be honest. She decided, taking a deep breath.

"I'm scared," she blurted out. She watched as the formerly open yet guarded expression on Ashley's face began to become stony. "It's new," she added hastily. "I've never done something like this or...or been gay. I'm scared and nervous and...and..."

"You're right," Kyla said seriously, looking at her sister. "She is really cute when she gets flustered." Spencer looked shyly at Ashley who now looked amused. Thankfully, Kyla's remark had popped the bubble of tension that had developed.

"I was babbling, wasn't I?" she asked playfully. Ashley nodded.

"Oh yeah. Totally."

After Borat ended, Ashley yawned widely as Kyla looked at a few of the DVD cases. Spencer picked her head up from where it had been lying on Ashley's shoulder during the movie and glanced at the tired girl. Her dark eyes were slightly glazed with fatigue and her eyelids were droopy, showing her exhaustion.

"Sorry," Ashley whispered to her. "I got up real early today and it's catching up with me." Spencer nodded her understanding and put her head back down. She figured that after pulling off the fantastic meal and desserts she had managed, Ashley had every right to feel exhausted. Not to mention that throughout the day, the older girl had been trying to be more open then Spencer was used to and she knew that doing that sort of thing could be fairly tiring as well.

"That's cuz you're getting old," Kyla announced, deciding on 'Night At the Museum' as their next choice. She missed the pouty glare that Ashley sent her way which Spencer found adorable.

"I am not getting old," Ashley protested. "You'd be tired too if you got up at five thirty in the morning to start cooking. But no, lazy ass stayed in bed until just before you got here, Spencer. Lazy." Kyla made a face at her sister as she set up the movie.

"If you weren't so worried about impressing your blonde over there, you could have slept in," she teased. Spencer looked up at Ashley from where she was again snuggled into the older girl. She liked the perch; it was warm, smelled good and it was as close as she could get to her at the moment so she was going to enjoy it as much as she could. Plus, the feel of Ashley's arm around her, fingers lightly tracing circles on her side over her shirt was pure heaven to her.

"You were trying to impress me?" she asked, amused. She thought that is was incredibly sweet. "Why?" Ashley blushed and gave a slight shrug.

"I wanted the dinner to be perfect, you know?" she replied shyly. Spencer felt her heart swell with affection. "You weren't going to see your family for the holiday and I figured that that must suck so...I wanted to make it special." Spencer smiled happily and wrapped her arm around the brunette's middle, hugging her. She was elated to feel Ashley's arms wrap around her as well, hugging back.

"There's that and she feels like an ass for last weekend," Kyla added, dodging the throw pillow hurled in her direction. "What? Don't get mad at me because you're emotionally retarded."

"Stunted," Ashley corrected her. "I prefer 'stunted'. And whatever happened last weekend, happened and it can't be changed or fixed so let's move on." Spencer felt the brunette's body language stiffen as she spoke, indicating her uneasiness with the subject.

"'Stunted', 'retarded', 'stubborn'. 'thickheaded', 'stupid', 'rude'," Kyla listed absently. Another pillow bounced off of her head as she chewed on some fudge she had on a plate. She glared at Ashley and then shrugged. "And touchy too."

"Well, whatever you wanna call it, Ashley, I appreciate all the trouble that you went through to make it so awesome," Spencer said softly hoping to ease Ashley's discomfort. "It means a lot to me." Ashley looked away again, hiding a yawn as she blushed.

"Hey, Spencer, if you're staying the weekend, you're going to need some stuff, aren't you?" Kyla wondered. Spencer looked at Ashley and shrugged.

"I uhm, didn't know until earlier that I was invited," she pointed out. "That tidbit of info was left outta the original invite." Ashley smiled warmly at her.

"Are you going to stay?" she asked softly. The words were so hopeful and unguarded that any doubt about it, which was really none, vanished instantly. Spencer pretended to think about it before she nodded and grinned.

"I'd love to!" she answered, seeing a bright, happy smile light up the older girl's face and the signature nose crinkle appear. "It sounds a lot better than sitting in my room at the the sorority house all alone. Or being bothered by a pledge."

"Three meals a day, cooked by Ashley and an expensive soft bed to sleep in. Yeah I can see that as much better than the sorority," Kyla snickered. "Oh my God, I can see the name of Ashley's restaurant slash inn, 'Three hots and a cot by Ashley'." She broke up into a fit of giggles. "God, I amuse me."

"So, you're gonna need some of your stuff, huh?" Ashley asked, ignoring her sister's behavior like she usually tried to. Spencer nodded. "We have stuff here, like shampoo and that sorta thing but you'll need clothes and probably your homework..."

"Nope, I did that yesterday so that I wouldn't have to worry about it again," Spencer grinned.

"Ah you planned ahead didja?" Ashley teased. "OK well, anyway, Spazzy Kyla will go with you." Spencer frowned slightly. She had wanted to spend the time with Ashley, maybe talking in the car and having a little time without Kyla as a chaperone. Of course, with Kyla not there, there was always the chance that something else would happen. That thought made her shiver slightly and she then wondered if Ashley had turned the heat up any because she was suddenly sweating.

God, I don't think I've ever been this...or craved someone like I do Ashley. Maybe it's a good thing that Kyla's here. I don't wanna push Ashley too far too fast.

Still, she couldn't help but feel disappointed that Ashley wasn't going to ride with her. A gentle finger hooked under her chin lifted her eyes to meet Ashley's. Chocolate orbs twinkling with happiness gazed at her.

"Hey, why the long face?" she asked softly while Kyla was pulling her shoes on. "Spence, I'd go with you but...I'm kinda worried that Madison or someone would see me. And...well, you know what she thinks of me. I don't wanna make trouble for you and her anymore than I already have."

"You don't make trouble for me," Spencer said truthfully. She meant it; she didn't care how mad Madison got about her being friends with Ashley, it was none of the Latina's business. And if Madison kept trying to make it her business like she was by emailing her mother she was not afraid to set the smaller girl in her place.

"Yes, Spence, I do," Ashley countered, her voice sad. It made Spencer's heart constrict to hear exactly how much pain was in that voice over the whole thing and she hated that she was part of the cause. "I see how you two fight and I hear the shit she has to say about me."

"Madison is a twit...always was, always will be," Kyla snorted. "She has the brain capacity of a fire ant and the same temper. I never really did like her; such a fucking phony. She could tell me that the sky was blue and I'd insist on checking. And then checking my wallet, the little thief."

"Wow, Ky, don't hold anything back," Ashley joked. "Tell us how you really feel." She and Spencer giggled while Kyla scowled.

"No, really," she growled. "That little infected twat fucked you over bad, Ash, before I even came on the scene. When I heard the stories of the shit she did to you it just made me even angrier. I just wanted to pop the little self-righteous, ignorant slut in the mouth. And after Prom..."

"Kyla, stop," Ashley said lowly. She gave her sister a death glare and to Spencer's surprise, Kyla's mouth closed with her lips pressed into a thin line. That was obviously an 'off-limits' topic between the sisters, at least with someone else present. Sensing the tension that had now found its way into the room, Spencer cleared her throat to speak.

"So, my car or yours, Kyla?" she asked carefully. "Cuz honestly, we'll be lucky if mine starts."

"Car problems, Spence?" Kyla wondered, glad for the change in subject and jumping at it. Ashley was still sitting almost perfectly still on the couch, her eyes narrowed and angry. Spencer rubbed at Ashley's back, feeling how tense it was beneath her fingers and gave the older girl a worried look. After a moment, Ashley relaxed marginally and gave Spencer a wane smile.

"Are bad brakes, an oil leak, a malfunctioning gas gage and no air conditioning considered 'car problems'?" she tried to joke, looking back over at Kyla. The exchange between Spencer and Ashley had apparently not gone unnoticed by the younger sister but Spencer couldn't quite read her facial expression. It was somewhere between amazed and annoyed and it confused Spencer somewhat.

"Then we'll take mine," Kyla decided. "Grab your bag, Spence, I wanna have a word with Ashley."

"Let it go, Kyla," Ashley warned. Spencer stood up uncomfortably. She didn't like seeing the anger between the two sisters.

"I'll be at the door," she said awkwardly. Ashley stood with her, shaking her head.

"It's OK, Spence," she sighed. "There are somethings that I'm not ready to talk about is all. Madison and prom and whatnot are only some of them. Kyla knows that. She's just looking out for me. I'm sure that living in such close quarters with her has given Madison a chance to tell you her version of shit by now and I'm just amazed you continue to speak to me at this point."

"Like Kyla said, 'Madison is a twit'," Spencer joked, making both sister's giggle. "And yeah, she told me some...stuff but I'm not letting it color what I think about you." Ashley let out a breath.

"Thank you," she said softly, her head falling forward. "That means a lot."

"And I like you even more now!" Kyla announced, giving Spencer an impromptu hug. "Yay! Huggles!" She then charged at her sister and wrapped her arms around her before lifting herself up and wrapping her legs around Ashley as well.

"Falling!" Ashley yelled as she fell backwards onto the couch. They collapsed into a pile of giggles for a few moments before Kyla climbed up and got her her feet. She grinned at Spencer.

"Ready to go?" The blonde nodded. "Let's hit the bricks, yo." Spencer arched an eyebrow.

"And you called me weird?" she asked.

"This is a really nice car," Spencer said as she buckled her seatbelt and Kyla started the engine. Kyla nodded as the radio came on and nearly blew Spencer into the back seat.

"Heh, sorry," she said sheepishly, turning the volume to a more tolerable level. "I love blasting it and making the windows of the other cars rattle. Yeah, it's a sweet car. Ashley convinced me to buy it. See, I'm not as used to having money as Ashley is, even after all this time. Growing up I was lucky if we even had a car and I didn't have to ride the bus anywhere I needed to go. Any car I remember us having was used, almost run-down to the point of being useless."

"Oh, like Guadalupe?" Spencer asked. Kyla looked at her strangely.

"Huh, who?" she wondered. Spencer laughed.

"My car. Her name is Guadalupe," she explained. "I know it doesn't make much sense but when I got her, she seemed to be a 'Guadalupe'."

"Oook, again, Spencer you are a weird one," Kyla decided. "So anyway, being able to just go out and buy a new car was a new experience. I'm out shopping for a car, looking at prices and whatnot and Ashley reminds me that I'm a fucking millionaire so, well, I splurged." Spencer smiled as she listened to the story, playing with some buttons and switches that were within reach.

"I can't even imagine," Spencer admitted. "I go home every summer and work two jobs just to be able to afford school." Kyla frowned as she headed down the main road.

"Your parents don't help?" she wondered. Spencer knew that the ride to the sorority house was going to be chock full of personal questions. Kyla wouldn't be much of a sister if she didn't ask the pertinent questions so that she knew who her sister was seeing. Spencer thought it was cute and caring of her.

At least someone's looking out for Ashley, she thought sadly. She seems so isolated. I hope I can change that.

"Nope," she replied. "My mom said that they'd help if I went to school somewhere nearby to them and lived at home. She wanted me to commute back and forth and they'd even buy me a better car if I would just go to medical school there. But no, I was stubborn and came out here. Thank god."

"Medical school, huh? Wow. What are you studying?" Kyla questioned.

"Uhm, nothing and everything," Spencer said vaguely. "I'm concentrating on getting all the required classes out of the way first so I can then decide on what I wanna do. I take some interesting things here and there; enough to know what I don't wanna be."

"And that is?" Kyla prodded.

"A doctor mostly. I do not want to grow up to be my mother," Spencer said honestly. "Despite her efforts to mold me into her own personal mini-me. It's not what I wanted and a big reason I came out here to get away from her."

"You're originally from Ohio, right?" Kyla clarified. Spencer nodded.

"Yup, born and raised," she confirmed. "College is the first time that I've left or been away from home for long. I mean, I never even went to camp...well, except Bible camp and I went home everyday anyway."

"First time away from home, that's cool. And ew, Bible camp, no offense," Kyla mock gagged making Spencer smile.

"No offense taken. And as much as I enjoyed church growing up, I enjoy sleeping in on Sundays a bit more," she confessed.

"I bet! So when you came out here for college, your parents cut you off?" the tiny brunette wondered.

"My mother more than my dad but she kinda wears the pants in my family," Spencer snickered. "My Mom is a doctor and the disciplinarian; Dad is a social worker and the cool parent that you enjoy talking to because he treats you as an equal."

Her parents were great but sometimes she wished her father was a little stronger in standing up to her mother. He was a sweet and understanding person; Spencer knew that out of her whole family, if she decided to 'come out' about being with Ashley and realizing her sexuality, her father Arthur would be the one who would understand the most and support her. It helped to ease some of her fears especially the ones that cropped up when she thought about how her 'good God fearing Catholic' mother was going to react to the whole thing.

"Ashley's mother wore the pants there so we can relate," Kyla told her with a smirk. Spencer giggled.

"I've seen pictures of her," she admitted. "Scary."

"Oh you have no idea," the younger sister sighed. "I swear that they based 'Cruella Deville' on one of that woman's good days."

"So, your parents? No help, huh? I'm sorry," Kyla apologized. Spencer shrugged.

"It's OK, thanks. I get by. I just have to eat a lot of Ramen and I'm glad that I can stay at the sorority house cuz it's cheaper. I don't always like the house but it does have its perks."

"I imagine," her companion agreed. "I skipped the whole 'sorority' angle and Ashley? One of the houses tried to get her to pledge; I think they just smelled money when they found out who she was. Anyway, they learned pretty fast that Ashley is not a team player for the most part."

Spencer bit her lip, Kyla's words reminding her of the lie she had told Lucy about why she was befriending Ashley. Without a doubt, that was going to come back to haunt her at some point in time. She just hoped that she had a chance to actually explain it to Ashley before it blew up in her face.

"The fencing team is uhm...well, a team," Spencer pointed out. Kyla laughed.

"Yes, a team where Ashley is captain and leads it. Again, not so much a follower, really. She never was," she clarified. Spencer's eyes grew wide.

"She's captain of the team as a sophomore? Wow, that's awesome," she gushed, then blushed when she realized how school-girly she'd sounded.

"Not only captain but she qualified for the Junior Olympic team but she turned it down. See, you have to understand something about Ashley," Kyla began slowly. "She's incapable of doing something halfway. She's either in, all the way, balls to the wall, or she simply doesn't participate. So, she learned to fence as a distraction...then it was almost all she did for a while. She read about it, watched movies about it, practiced until she was the best in a three state radius."

"Slightly obsessive?" Spencer teased, loving the insight to Ashley's psyche that Kyla was offering her without hesitation.

"Single-minded and determined," she replied, stopping at a red light. "She's been that way since I met her and it wasn't always a good thing. But, the fencing and the cooking keep her healthy. Apparently she has a natural aptitude for sharp objects. But whatever, cuz personally it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders."

"You worry about her a lot, don't you?" Spencer asked gently. Kyla sighed as she nodded.

"Yeah, with good reason," she turned and looked at Spencer seriously for a moment. "Despite how she comes across sometimes, there is a huge heart beneath all the layers of bullshit. It's slightly damaged from people fucking with it her entire life, but it's there. And she's so freaking oversensitive that it gets her into trouble."

"OK," Spencer said a little unsure of how to react. The look on the younger Davies face was protective and determined.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Spencer," she said earnestly. "You have already proven that you deserve better than that. I really did almost lose her at one point. She took everything to heart and let it eat away at her. She had no one for so long that she had no idea what to do with any pain that she was feeling. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for her, treading water, so to speak, for as long as she did with no one helping her."

That image was absolutely heartbreaking to Spencer. She could see Ashley, as she is now and as the cherub faced child in photographs, lost and confused, not knowing how to ask for help. She wondered how the wounded girl hadn't turned out cold and mean by this point.

"She'd kill me if she knew I was telling you shit like this but, if you're going to try and start something with her, which I can tell you both want, then you need to know the things she can't tell you," she continued. Spencer shifted in her seat uncomfortably.

"I'd rather hear that stuff from her, though," she said softly. "When she gets to the point that she can tell me." The light turned green, illuminating Kyla's face so that Spencer could see the smile that had appeared there.

"I knew there was a reason I liked you," she chuckled. Spencer frowned.

"Huh?" Kyla glanced at her quickly before looking back at the road.

"Here I am, basically offering to answer any questions you might have about my sister because I have the feeling that you really care and you're good for her. And you're so not taking the bait," she explained, clearly amused. "But as curious as you are, you respect my sister enough not to ask. You are awesome, simply awesome." Spencer smiled at the praise.

"Well, there are things that I want to know," she said honestly. "And things that Madison told me that I want Ashley's side of..."

"Did that ass tell you about Prom?" Kyla grumbled. "Because she fucking loves that sob story because you know, no one else was effected but her. It's all about Madison and her trauma." Spencer looked down at her hands in her lap and nodded.

"Yeah, she did," she admitted. She heard Kyla let out a low growl.

"That whore," she whispered. "When did she drop that on you?" Spencer looked out her window at the passing scenery a moment before answering.

"The afternoon before I broke into Ashley's house," she said quietly. Kyla's eyebrows shot upwards.

"And you still haven't mentioned it?" she asked, surprised. "Damn. Most people, it's the first thing they ask. Is she still selling the story as it all being my sister's fault?"

"Unfortunately," Spencer confirmed. "She'd been telling me for a while that Ashley had killed people. I finally had to practically beg her to tell me the story and promise not to talk to Ashley anymore afterwards."

"Ha, I'd bet the little bitch would die if she knew you were with her for the holiday," Kyla scoffed, now highly amused with the situation. "I love that she makes it all Ashley's fault like she was holding a damn gun or something. She probably left out the parts were Ashley gets shot and I take two bullets to the chest. Fucking convenient." Spencer gaped at her in shock.

"You were shot in the chest? Twice?" She couldn't believe that the small girl had survived such an injury. The newspaper articles that Spencer had read were never very specific about what injuries Kyla or Ashley had sustained; just that Ashley was released within a few days and Kyla was in critical condition for a long time. A heavy sigh brought Spencer's attention back to the present.

"Yeah, I did," Kyla said flatly. "Let me tell you, it sucked ass. Almost died, right there on the concrete in front of the school. But thankfully I didn't. I think if I had, Ashley would have followed close behind."

"That's awful. I'm sorry," Spencer sympathized. "She did say that Ashley was too 'fucked up' to notice you were hurt or that she was shot." Kyla let out a breath.

"Don't be sorry," she said lightly. "And what Madison said is a lie. Ashley did notice that I was hurt. She didn't notice at first that she was because she was trying to put pressure on my wounds and well, it didn't seem important at the time."

"Wow," Spencer breathed, the images playing out in her mind and making her shiver slightly.

"It sucked hardcore but it brought Ashley and I closer in the end. It was hairy for a while but, hey, we both have awesomely cool scars to show for it," she announced. Spencer stopped and thought for a moment.

"If you don't mind me asking, where was Ashley shot?" she wondered. Kyla smirked at her.

"You mean you haven't noticed?" she asked. Spencer shook her head. "Her back, Spencer. She took a bullet right above her right kidney. It didn't exit and they had to go in after it. She'd got about four nice scars there. We call them our 'battle scars' after everything we went through."

Spencer smiled to herself. Ashley's back, that far up, was one area of the beautiful girl that she hadn't seen or explored. She made a mental note to fix that oversight.

"OK, now when we get there and Madison's car is there, you go grab some stuff and I'll stay here in the car in case that mental patient is hanging out in a common room," Kyla instructed. "I don't want her to see me and get mad at you. Not to mention I'd probably try to rip her fake ass weave right off her fool head." Spencer laughed.

"That is a really ugly weave."

They arrived at the sorority house and Spencer was relieved to see very few cars in the lot, including the distinct lack of Madison's semi-expensive car. She let out a breath that she'd been unconsciously holding and exited the car.

"Wait, do you see her car or do you want me to go with you?" Kyla asked from her seat. Spencer bit her lip for a moment as she thought.

No one really knows Ashley although they might recognize her but only Madison would know Kyla. It should be OK, she thought.

"Madison's car isn't here and if for some reason she is here, I'll act all shocked that you're Ashley's sister or something," she decided. Kyla laughed and got out of the car, following Spencer into the building.

"Hey, Spence, back so soo...oh hi!" Katie chirped as she walked by to check on who was entering. With it being a mini-vacation for the school someone had to stay behind and watch the house. Since Katie didn't have much family, she usually opted to stay behind so Spencer wasn't surprised to see her.

"Hey, Katie," she replied watching as the older girl eyed Kyla carefully. "Uhm, this is my friend Kyla. We're just gonna get some of my stuff for the weekend." Katie's eyes grew huge.

"Kyla? Wait, what happened to Ashl...oooooooooook...wow Spence, when you open a door you don't waste time do ya? You run right through," Katie laughed. Spencer felt herself blush and shook her head.

"No, no Katie, this is Ashley's sister," she tried to explain. This only made Katie laugh harder.

"Sister? Daaaaaaaamn Spence, keeping it in the family are you?" she teased. Spencer glanced at Kyla to see the younger girl laughing, understanding that the other sorority sister was joking with them. Relief flooded through her and she smiled.

"Well, you know those Davies sisters," she retorted sarcastically.

"We are irresistible!" Kyla piped in. "We're hot. It's a proven fact."

"And modest too," Spencer giggled, rolling her eyes. "So, yeah, I'm staying at Ashley's for the weekend..."

"Again, daaaaaaaaaamn," Katie interrupted her. "You pick the most socially reclusive person on campus and now you're moving in. I am amazed." Spencer gave her a slight shove.

"Hush!" she scolded, still amused. "I am not moving in; I'm just spending the holiday weekend."

"With the fam damily," Katie added cheekily. Spencer just shook her head and laughed.

"C'mon Kyla, let's get my stuff," she suggested.

"Spencer and Ashley up in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g!" Katie sang as the two girls climbed the staircase.

"First comes love, then comes marriage!" Kyla joined in with the next verse as she reached the landing.

"Then comes Spencer with a baby carriage!" both Kyla and Katie sang loudly and, Spencer noticed, off key. She shook her head in amusement as both girls burst out laughing loudly.

"Look, Kyla, someone who shares your mentality," Spencer scoffed jokingly. "You've found your soul-mate. How sweet." Kyla wiped at the tears of laughter that had fallen and looked at Spencer.

"Nah, you and Ashley can play on that side," she responded. "I like the pole." Spencer scrunched up her nose as she unlocked her door.

"Crude," she snorted. "I didn't mean that you had to sleep with her, perv. Just that your senses of humor are the same. Oh never mind."

Kyla entered the room and immediately started poking around.

There wasn't much of a personal touch to the room itself; Spencer hadn't seen any sense in decorating with money she didn't have. The walls were a curious mix of peach and pink but not disturbing to the eyes although at this point it was not one of Spencer's favorite colors. Her bed was a simple twin with a blue comforter which clashed with the walls but kept Madison out of the room since she felt it offended her 'fashion sense'.

Her father had gotten the comforter for her along with a few other supplies her freshman year, behind her mother's back. Apparently the woman felt her 'tough love' approach to dealing with Spencer's life by not helping her youngest child pay for college extended to any supplies she might have needed such as books or clothes. Thankfully, her father didn't feel the same.

Arthur Carlin was the direct opposite of Paula Carlin. Where she was strict and unbending, Arthur was sweet and easy-going, laid back and go with the flow. He was the parent you always went to with problems or just to talk; he was the most understanding and gave the best advice. Paula would yell, punish and look disappointed, all of which Spencer hated.

So, the week before Spencer left for college, things in her house were strained. She was the youngest and the last still living in the 'nest' so her parents were reluctant to let her go. Her mother was barely speaking to her; she'd expected and then demanded that she attend a nearby medical school. After all, she had a recommendation from Dr. Paula Carlina and half the staff of the hospital; none of which Spencer had wanted or asked for. When it became clear that Spencer was going to California, her mother had tried the whole 'you owe me for doing that for you' angle which ended in a screaming match between the two.

Arthur had separated them and then offered to take Spencer out for ice cream. After a hefty helping of red raspberry sherbet, he took her shopping for school supplies. She'd been surprised and relieved, to be honest. She'd saved and scrimped every penny she could manage since halfway through her sophomore year just to make sure that she could leave when she graduated. It wasn't that she disliked being home; she just wanted to prove that she was more than just the baby of the family and wasn't going to live the life her mother had had planned out for her since gestation.

Having her father help pay for her supplies took a huge weight off her slender shoulders and afforded her the opportunity not to work while at school. Plus, unknown to her mother, her father sent monthly checks; not a lot but enough for her to buy gas, some food and a little emergency cushion if she needed something important.

"Well, this is....homey," Kyla tried as Spencer grabbed a few things, among them her school knapsack in case (as she hoped) she didn't make it back to the house before school started back up on Monday and a duffel in which she threw a few days worth of clothes into.

"Liar," Spencer chuckled. "It's my little hide-away where I'm usually left alone...unless Lucy or Madison have their panties in a wad. The pledges pretty much don't bother me and Katie only comes up when I get mail. It's small but enough."

"So, you're not social?" Kyla wondered. "Cuz you strike me as the social type." Spencer shrugged.

"I am social. I love being around people and talking and all those sorta things," she explained, grabbing a few pairs of underwear and tossing them into the bag. "But the whole college 'party til dawn, drink til you puke' lifestyle isn't me. So, if that's my choice, I'd rather stay here and study. Or sleep."

"You went to the costume party," Kyla pointed out, picking up the Zorro teddy bear from it's place on the bed and smiling at it. "My sister is such a mush." Spencer looked over at her, seeing that she was looking at the bear and grinned.

"Yes, she is," she agreed. "I love that about her. All bad-ass and solitary yet a total and utter goofy romantic. And I went to the costume party mostly cuz Madison dragged me to it." She looked at Kyla as she hefted her bag on her shoulder to see the younger Davies sister looking at her funny. "What?"

"'Love that about her', eh?" she parroted. Spencer blushed and looked away.

"Uhm...I'm all set," she deflected. "I have everything I need so...yeah." Kyla nodded and exited the room. The nervousness Spencer felt closing in around her suddenly faded as she heard Kyla quietly humming the 'Kissing song' from earlier.

"So, Spencer," Kyla began slyly as they headed back to Ashley's. Her tone of voice made Spencer nervous again, especially after the 'love' comment. It was too soon for that, Spencer knew but at the same time it was something that was floating around in her head. She'd never felt the way she did for Ashley for anyone else before. It confused her, scared her and made her feel elated at the same time.

"Uh yeah?" she stammered hoping that Kyla wasn't going to start interrogating her with things like 'what is your intentions towards my sister?' or some such.

Cuz I have no idea what my intentions are, Spencer realized silently. I know I like her, she likes me and God I wish Kyla had a room somewhere or something because it's so hard to be near her and not touch her. Or maybe for the sake of Ashley's insecurities it's a good thing that Kyla's there so that I don't jump the poor girl and pin her to the couch or something.

God, I need to get a grip!

"How 'close' have you and my sister gotten?" she asked saucily. "I mean, I'm pretty sure that you've had sex but she won't give me any details, the prude. So, dish." Spencer stared at the younger girl in amused shock.

"You wanna hear about your sister's sex life?" she asked incredulously. Kyla snorted.

"Half-sister and not really," she admitted. "I just want some dirt to hold over her head like she does that damn Vance Fisher thing..."

"So, Kyla," Spencer started in the same tone Kyla had used. "What did you and Vance Fisher do under the bleachers?"

"One time!" Kyla screeched. "One time and it had to be the one time Ashley came looking for me. Honestly..."

"What the hell were you two doing?" Spencer laughed. Kyla glanced at her with a devilish smirk.

"LetmejustsayoralsexwashadandIwasn'tperformingitandthat'sallI'llsayaboutthat," she blurted. Spencer took a moment to rewind and replay the words in her head and then laughed hard.

"And she caught you?" she couldn't stop laughing. Kyla nodded.

"She beat the shit out of that boy and cuffed me good upside the head," she confessed. "Still, it was fun while it lasted."

"I bet," the blonde chuckled. "But to answer your question, no, I have not had sex with Ashley. Technically."

"What?" Kyla squeaked. "Then who the hell gave her that bite mark? The tooth fairy?...oh wait...I get it now. You and Ashley haven't been together but you and her alter ego have?" Spencer looked at her in surprise.

"You know about that?" she wondered. The horrible thought that Ashley had done something similar before made her heart seize painfully in her chest.

"Somewhat," Kyla confirmed. "I asked her how she met you and how she managed to let someone close like that when she's so solitary and guarded. She told me that she had to pretend to be someone else. Which, as sad as it might be, I am so glad that she did. She hasn't really been with anyone or let anyone get to know her like you're in the process of doing since she ov...since high school." Kyla caught herself and changed whatever it was she had originally intended to say. "I've been worried about her again lately."

"Why?" Spencer questioned, worried that there was something else going on that she wasn't aware of. So far she had pieced enough things together, between what Madison had told her and what Kyla was saying along with her own observations to realize that Ashley must have had a drug and/or alcohol problem.

"She's just so lonely," Kyla sighed. "I haven't been around to make sure she's doing all right. She takes such good care of me but I feel like I'm not holding up my end."

"I'm sure you are, Kyla," Spencer reassured her. "She seems OK, if like you said, a little lonely." Kyla nodded.

"Yeah, I guess. So, is Ashley your first...uhm...girl?" she stammered. "And wow, that was invasive and rude of me. I'm sorry. There's my 'foot-in-mouth-itis' that Ashley mentioned. You don't have to answer that." Spencer fidgeted with a few of the buttons on the dash in front of her to distract herself.

"It's OK, Kyla, I guess...I just...I never," she grunted. "Yes, she is."

"So, all this, being gay is kinda new, huh?" Kyla asked. "You seem pretty OK with it though."

"I guess," Spencer shrugged. "I mean, I've never done something like it before but Ashley...she just...it doesn't seem like such a big deal, you know? And well, it's Ashley." She blushed and ducked her head, embarrassed.

"Oh you so have it bad for my sister," the brunette accused happily. Spencer felt her ears burn at the words although there was no denying the truth of the statement.

"Yeah, I think I do," she admitted, smiling slightly. "My family is going to flip, badly when I tell them." She shuddered at the thought. She could just see her mother's face contorting in rage, turning purple as she screamed and ranted, condemning Spencer as well as Ashley to burn in hell.

"When are you gonna tell 'em?" Kyla wondered. Spencer ran a nervous hand through her hair. She really didn't want to out a time table on the whole thing. She actually preferred not to think about it if possible but she knew that it couldn't, in the long run, be avoided.

"No idea, I mean, I don't even know what this 'thing' with Ashley is. We haven't really talked about it." She sighed and stared out the window. She was starting to know what she thought she wanted from whatever she and Ashley were beginning but she had no idea how the older girl felt and that scared her.

"Let's see, you hang out at her house, she cooks you meals and sweets, buys you stuff and you have hot monkey sex," Kyla wagged her eyebrows as Spencer groaned and slid down in her seat. "I dunno what you call that back home in Ohio but out here we call that 'dating'." Spencer thought for a moment before she agreed.


"I'm not sure that you can call it a 'relationship' just yet," the younger girl added. "At least not until you two talk and make sure you are both on the same page."

"Good point," Spencer muttered. Kyla smiled warmly at her.

"Spence, stop worrying. Whenever you decide to tell your family, Ash and I will be there for you, whatever happens. But if you spend all your time worrying about what might happen you will miss what is happening. And as for Ash, believe me when I say you have nothing to fear in talking to her. She's completely twitter pated with you."

"Twitter pated?" Spencer echoed with a laugh. Kyla gave a curt nod.

"Twitter pated. Completely. It's a tad annoying really. I'm being replaced as her #1 girl. I could just cry about it, honest." She shot Spencer a devious look.

"And now maybe since she has you, I can concentrate in getting my own piece of ass!"

They arrived back at Ashley's house and let themselves in with Kyla's key. While Kyla disarmed the alarm system, Spencer carried her stuff into the living room to ask Ashley where she should put it. She was slightly disappointed that Ashley had mentioned her staying in a guest room but at the same time, understood that whatever happened between them had to go at Ashley's pace in order to work.

Look at it this way, she told herself. I made it into her house, invited to the holiday, met her sister and apparently hit it off with her. Not to mention that I get to stay the weekend. It's progress and at least I get to spend the time with her. I'll take what I can get because eventually I know, I hope that it'll become so much more.

She stopped a few feet into the room and smiled at the sight in front of her.

Ashley was sound asleep on the couch, curled on her side with her back against the cushions. She had her hands folded under her cheek and her glasses were now precariously balanced on the very end of her nose as she slowly breathed in and out. The first thing Spencer noticed right away was how sweet the brunette looked, followed shortly after by how young she looked asleep.

Gone were the walls that Ashley used to barricade herself from everyone around her. In a deep sleep, the smaller girl's face was open and unguarded almost like the events of the past that traveled with her each day, weighing her down silently never happened. The lines of stress and worry were invisible, the slings and arrows that people like Madison shot at her on a regular basis couldn't touch her here, safely asleep. She looked so peaceful that Spencer was loathed to wake her.

It was also a rare opportunity to just look at the older girl without being noticed. Sometimes Spencer caught herself staring, almost gawking at the almost ethereal beauty that Ashley seemed unaware that she possessed. The brunette was so breathtaking in even the simplest clothing or action that Spencer often found herself captivated.

She tried not to get caught watching out of fear of scaring Ashley or the older girl thinking that she was odd but she wasn't usually successful. Several times during dinner Spencer had been embarrassed to be caught looking at her and each time, Ashley gave her a warm smile that did little to ease her blush, if anything, it increased it. Ashley had managed to, without a word, convey her amusement at the blonde's attention and her gratitude for it as well.

"Hey, Ash, where's the...oh!" Kyla entered the room in typical 'Kyla' fashion. Ashley stirred slightly in her sleep before muttering something incoherent about ducks and going back to sleep. "She's asleep."

"Wow, you're observant," Spencer teased in a whisper. It was to the point already where Spencer felt comfortable enough with Kyla not to worry about offending her. Not to mention that she figured it would take close to an act of God to actually offend Kyla. But the younger Davies sister (although Spencer did remind herself that Kyla was a Woods, not a Davies) already felt to Spencer like her own little sister. It seemed strange that in less then twenty four hours that the small brunette had made such an impact on her already but there was no doubting that she had.

Finally, a sister! Spencer joked with herself. And a younger one at that. I hated being the baby in my family. Now I have someone to tease like Clay and Glen teased me...OK like Glen teased me since Clay was always busy studying.

She headed towards the kitchen to let Ashley nap. It was still early, barely 8:30 so she figured that it wouldn't hurt to let Ashley sleep a bit longer.

"I was surprised is all," Kyla explained when she reached the fridge, opening the large double doors to search for a snack. Spencer grabbed a Mountain Dew, seeking a bit of caffeine and watched the younger girl rummage through the food as she chewed on a cookie. She stood back up with a large piece of turkey in her hand.

"Ash is a notoriously light sleeper," she went on with her mouth slightly full. Spencer crinkled her nose in mild disgust but chose not to say anything. "I'm surprised that just the sound of my car pulling up didn't wake her."

"She's that light a sleeper?" Spencer asked, remembering the time on the beach when she'd awoken to find Ashley wide awake and the older girl admitted to not sleeping. "Is she an insomniac too?" Kyla nodded as she bit into the turkey.

"Yeah," she swallowed. "I used to hate it since she heard like everything that was going on. I hated bringing my boyfriends back to the mansion because, God forbid I actually played around, she usually gave me 'that look' the next day. Well, she would on the occasions she was actually home at night or conscious in the morning." Spencer frowned. Sometimes the pieces of the past that Kyla absently mentioned made Ashley's life seem so sad and troubled which wasn't the girl she knew at all although she might seem it to other people. Whatever the problems the musician may have had in the past, while they had shaped and affected her, weren't who she was anymore.

"Anyway, I've never seen her sleep through people standing over her unless..." Kyla trailed off with a shrug but Spencer caught the flash of grief behind the smaller girl's hazel eyes before she masked it. The road that Ashley and Kyla had traveled along to reach the point that they were at hadn't been an easy one, Spencer could tell.

"Anyway, she's not one to sleep like that...unless you count the times she slept through class in high school. Honestly, how that girl managed to pass every class with flying colors and graduate with everything else she was doing, including sleeping through class, is beyond me. I was so pissed at her since I had to really work at it to catch up with my class after the shooting and my recovery. I worked my ass off just to graduate on time later on."

"It was worth it though, right?" Spencer asked. "You both go to good schools." Kyla gave a half-hearted nod.

"Yeah, the school's great but...I dunno...I'm really not happy there. I dunno why," she sighed.

"What are you studying, if you don't mind me asking?" Spencer wondered. "Although I figure since Ashley calls you 'Shakespeare' it must have something to do with drama." Kyla shot her a shy smile.

"Yeah, I wanna be an actress," she confirmed. "I actually audition on and off around LA when I can but...so far all I've managed to get is a few commercials."

"That's so cool!" Spencer exclaimed. She couldn't even imagine being an actress, putting herself out there for everyone to see and to judge. The thought of giving up her privacy like today's actors just wasn't her thing. Plus she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life still, even as a sophomore.

"I guess," Kyla muttered. "If you like standing there talking about your period or Valtrex." She stuck her tongue out as Spencer laughed. Now that Kyla mentioned it, she remembered seeing the commercials the younger girl was talking about. "Don't laugh! It's embarrassing!" This only made Spencer laugh harder.

"Sorry," she snorted. "But remember, everyone has to start somewhere."

"I know, but couldn't I have started in like a car commercial or something," Kyla whined. "Ashley teases me all the time about it. I should so totally go and write something obnoxious in lipstick across her forehead for falling asleep on us."

"I told you I got up early," a groggy voice rasped from the doorway. Spencer turned to see Ashley, eyes still half-mast as she scrubbed a hand over her face in the effort to wake up.

She is soooooo cute!

"Sorry if we woke you," she apologized genuinely. Ashley blinked a few times and then smiled warmly at Spencer.

"No worries, you didn't," she told her. "The nightmare that I was being chased around the subway by Borat and his chicken is what woke me."

"Nice!" Kyla chirped earning herself a playful glare from her sister.

"How the hell are you still eating?" Ashley asked when she realized that her sister had taken some turkey out. "Even I've hit my limit." Kyla shrugged.

"I dunno," she replied. "Maybe all the teasing and interrogating I did to Spencer worked up an appetite." Ashley groaned and looked at Spencer.

"Please tell me that she didn't give you the third degree?" she nearly begged, embarrassed. Spencer grinned.

"She didn't," she said, hearing Ashley mutter a 'thank God'. "It was more like The Spanish Inquisition..."

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Kyla chimed shrilly. Both Spencer and Ashley burst out laughing. Kyla glared at them. "What? Well they don't!"

After their giggles had died down, Ashley grabbed Spencer's bags and headed down the hallway to the right. The size of the house still amazed Spencer and she found herself very curious about the other rooms that they passed. She knew better than to ask anything or to go exploring since the last time she'd let her curiosity get the better of her she'd nearly ruined everything with Ashley.

Still, she knew that aside from the rooms she had seen, the kitchen, living room, dining, bathroom and study, there was Ashley's bedroom, Kyla's bedroom, at least one spare room that she was going to occupy and that locked room she'd encountered the first time she visited. And there were other rooms too; the beach house was a mansion in its own right.

"This is one of the spare rooms, " Ashley explained as she opened a door. Spencer swallowed the gasp that tried to escape when the light was turned on and she saw the sheer size of the room. It was close to three times larger than her room at the sorority house and more than that, three large picture windows faced the water, giving her an amazing view.

"It's beautiful," she said in awe and then blushed, embarrassed. Ashley gave her a knowing smile and placed her bag on the bed.

"Don't let Kyla hear you say that," she warned playfully. "I actually decorated this room and she thinks I have all the decorating sense of a blind two year old covered in finger paints." Spencer laughed and looked around the room. The walls were a soft blue with an indigo trim along the molding near the off white ceiling. The huge picture windows were also trimmed in a muted version of white, accentuating the view. The full, king size mattress sat on a dark wooden frame with ornately carved pillars at the ends. All the furniture in the room was of the same beautiful shiny wood; the dresser, bedside table and desk that sat near the window looked brand new and untouched.

The comforter on the bed was black with a pale grey design running through it. The room itself reminded Spencer much of the view that it afforded her, the ocean, and it felt warm and inviting to her.

"So, uhm, yeah this is your room and you have your own bathroom right over there," Ashley explained, pointing to the left. "I decorated it to match this room since I lack any original thought, or so Kyla thinks. It should have anything in it that you need but if not, let me know and I'll get it..."

"You don't have to," Spencer pointed out although she secretly loved the attention Ashley was showing her. After being almost completely shut out of her parents life, at least by her mother, it felt nice to have someone looking after her welfare and happiness for a change.

"Yeah, I know I don't," Ashley agreed biting her lip slightly as she ducked her head. "So, anyway, make yourself at home and don't worry about making the bed or anything. I have a staff that does that." Spencer looked at her in surprise.

"Staff?" she wondered. "I haven't seen anyone around..." Ashley let out a small giggle. It sounded almost musical to Spencer and she vowed to herself to try and make it occur as often as possible.

"No, you haven't because they're only here if I call them on days other than Wednesday and Sunday. You have met one though, Ian. He's the guy that was driving the buggy that night..." she trailed off with a small smile. Spencer's eyes widened in recognition.

"The British guy!" she remembered. "He was very polite." Ashley nodded.

"He used to work for my dad so I've known him my whole life. He's kinda like an unofficial uncle, always there, looking out for me. But after Dad died, Ian kinda just kicked around doing odd jobs for my mom and stuff, supporting his own family," Ashley told the younger girl.

Spencer listened intently, knowing that the glimpse into Ashley's childhood and knowledge about her father was privileged information.

"When I...uh...got my shit together I decided that since he never let my dad down, then I wanted him to work for me." Spencer nodded her understanding. "Plus, he's got a wife and three kids and needed a real job, not just being a bitch for my mother, carrying her fucking shopping bags around Rodeo Drive for a living. I dunno how much better it is for him to be driving a horse drawn buggy and whatnot on my every whim but...I do know it pays way better."

"He seemed really nice," she offered, immediately feeling stupid for the comment.

I am such a lame ass, she mentally kicked herself. She opens up a little about her father and stuff and you turn into a total dorkwad. ARGH! I swear, there should be a little buzzer in my mind that goes off when ever I'm about to say something stupid. Like 'DING—keep mouth shut, Carlin'. Good job.

"Wanna know something really funny?" Ashley teased. Spencer nodded, still looking out the window and hoping that her inadequate responses didn't stop Ashley from divulging the little bits and pieces that she was starting to. "His name is Ian Baggins. I totally bag on him for being a Hobbit."

"Seriously?" Spencer laughed, turning away from the window at last and looking at the amused expression on the brunette's face.

"Oh yeah," she affirmed. "I call him 'Bilbo' and he calls me 'Frodo'. He calls Kyla 'Samwise' which she doesn't appreciate." Spencer laughed even harder.

"And why's that?" she wondered. Ashley looked at her, a mischievous glimmer to her usually calm brown eyes.

"She hates being the gayest character in the movie."

They settled in to watch the movie Kyla had set up before the trip to the sorority, 'Night At the Museum' only this time, Spencer was delighted to find herself in the role of 'cuddlee' with Ashley curled up into her side. The older girl was obviously still exhausted, frequently yawning and rubbing her eyes. She let out tiny annoyed grunts as her glasses got in the way almost every time.

"Can you take them off?" Spencer asked softly. Ashley shook her head, her curls tickling Spencer's neck slightly and making her shiver and flush slightly.

"If I do, I can't see the screen too well," she explained somewhat grumpily. Spencer was beginning to to see that the smaller girl hated wearing the lenses and wondered if she was upset over the vision loss itself or what had happened to cause it.

Thanks to the fact that her mother was a doctor, Spencer was aware of people her age sometimes suffering from strokes although usually due to some underlying medical issue. Thus far, Ashley seemed to be very healthy aside from the shooting. Neither Kyla nor Ashley had mentioned there being anything else going on with Ashley's health and Spencer remembered the brunette saying something about that issue being 'fixed'.

Then again,she remembered what Madison had said about Ashley's being into drugs and alcohol. Thanks to Kyla's intermittent, unedited ramblings, the blonde was beginning to see that although Madison had skewered things and facts for her own benefit, not all of it had been untrue. It worried Spencer, this dark drug past Ashley seemed to silently harbor but at the same time it seemed to make Spencer that much more interested in unraveling the mystery that was Ashley Davies.

"I think it's time for bed," Kyla announced as she stretched when the movie ended. Ashley, already almost asleep on Spencer' shoulder mumbled her agreement and sat up so that Spencer could get off the couch. Immediately, Spencer felt a cold chill at the loss of Ashley's body against her.

"See you in the AM!" Kyla called as she headed to her room. "But not before 10, d'Artagnan!"

"Night!" Ashley and Spencer chorused as the blonde stood up.

"Uhm..." she stammered, shifting nervously from foot to foot as she watched Ashley whose eyes were barely open. "Thanks for the dinner and...ah...letting me stay," she ventured. She relaxed as Ashley smiled crookedly at her.

"Thanks for actually coming and putting up with my sister," she replied drowsily. She then mumbled a 'sleep well' and flopped face down onto the cushion Spencer had just vacated. Spencer thought the whole display was adorable.

"Come on, Ash, you can't sleep out here," she teased. For some reason, she didn't want to see Ashley sleep on the couch in her own home the first time she spent the night. She hoped that this was only the first of many times she'd spend the night at Ashley's and that eventually she'd start spending them in Ashley's arms and not the guest room.

"'m tired," Ashley gruffed. "Comfy." Spencer laughed at the response.

"Your bed is probably much softer and besides do you really wanna wake up to find yourself stuck to the leather?" Ashley lifted her head, her cheek coming away from the black material with a 'sssttt' sound illustrating Spencer's point. She frowned.

"OK, you have a point," she decided. With a groan, she sat back up.

"Come on," Spencer encouraged, offering her hand for Ashley to grasp and pull herself up with.

The moment the brunette's warm hand slipped inside her own, a jolt raced through Spencer's body making her heart thunder and her stomach to feel like there was a horde of hyper butterflies holding a rally. She swallowed the naked desire that accompanied the jolt to settle low in her belly and looked down at their entwined fingers.

Perfect, she realized as she gently pulled Ashley to her feet. They fit together perfectly.

Ashley stood up but stumbled sleepily into Spencer who caught her. Both girls froze and held their breath as Spencer brushed some of the smaller girl's lush chestnut locks behind her ear.

Crystal blue eyes, heated and darkened to sapphire as they stared into rich brown ones. Spencer was momentarily stunned. She wasn't entirely sure if it was intentional or if her drowsy state was responsible but Ashley's eyes were totally clear, open and unguarded. There were no walls to climb or shadows to illuminate; there was only Ashley, looking at her openly. She looked happy, content as she stared back at Spencer although the blonde could still see the uncertainty and fear she knew Ashley felt. But beyond that was the genuine affection and if Spencer wasn't mistaken, desire that Ashley felt also.

"Goodnight," Spencer breathed out as Ashley brushed the backs of her knuckles of her free hand down Spencer's cheek. The blonde's eyes fluttered slightly at the touch and she gasped quietly. There was something about even the simplest of Ashley's touches that was profoundly intimate. Spencer had never encountered anything like it before.

"So beautiful," Ashley whispered fondly. She stepped forward and gently pressed her lips to Spencer's in a chaste kiss that still managed to make the younger girl's toes curl at the heat that accompanied it.


Spencer laid in the bed staring forlornly at the ceiling. The simple goodnight kiss with Ashley had lit a fire inside of her that was refusing, two hours later to burn out. She refused, unequivocally to do anything to ease the ache that was burning like an inferno flowing through her veins, lava-like and boiling. She felt that that would be rude and uncalled for, no matter how tempting the impulse was.

God, how can a simple, closed mouth kiss do that? She wondered. I don't understand. I'm not saying that I don't like it but Jesus she sets a fire in me with every touch. I'm starting to wonder if agreeing to stay the weekend, so close but not able to do anything was the best idea I've had lately. Not that I don't wanna be here but rawr, I want her. Bad.

Still, I can't push her; I won't push her. She's opening up to me at her own rate which is really much faster than I thought it'd be. I bet Kyla has something to do with it. I love how relaxed and open Ashley is with her around. Having her here has been great; it keeps the pressure off of Ashley and I both to try and get passed those awkward silences and I don't have to worry about saying the wrong thing too much. Kyla seems to stick her foot in her mouth about every forty-five minutes so I haven't got time to do it. At least I haven't hit any of Ash's 'warning' buttons in a while. Go me!

She rolled onto her side and hugged a pillow against her chest as she kept thinking, hoping that if she chased down and caught her thoughts, sorted them out and pinned them down maybe she'd be able to get some sleep. She didn't want to end up tired all weekend because she was unable to get a wink of sleep thanks to the fact she appeared to be nothing more than a bundle of overactive hormones.

I can't believe that I let the 'l' word slip to Kyla. Thank God, she let it go fairly quick with a minimum of teasing. But, I said it without even thinking about it; it out slipped naturally. So, does that mean that's what I'm feeling? That scares the shit out of me. I mean, I just met the girl...hello? GIRL! And I've already had sex...wonderful, mind-blowing, hot, passionate, wild, uninhibited...ok, that's not helping the party that's already going on in my pj's so let's think of something else...like baseball, or snow.

I'm gay...? I'm...gay. I am gay. Gay? Queer? Homosexual? Lesbian? Am I bisexual...uhm, can't see going back to men after...that. So....

Holy shit! I'm GAY!

Holy shit, I'm gay and I think I love Ashley!


The sound of the door slowly opening drew Spencer from her thoughts and she looked toward the dimly lit hallway through lidded eyes. She wasn't frightened; she already knew that Ashley's state of the art security system would keep anyone unwanted from the house. Although maybe with the right knife and a little effort someone else could sneak in like she did but she doubted it. Plus, she recognized the silhouette in the door frame.

"Spence?" the raspy, slightly sleep laden voice whispered. It made the blonde shiver delightfully just to hear. "Spencer, are you asleep?" Confused as to why Ashley would be coming into her room at 2am, Spencer sat up slightly to look at her.

"No," she answered softly. "What's up?" Ashley shuffled further into the room, pulling the door shut behind her and casting them both into almost complete darkness. Despite how calm she'd managed to sound, Spencer's heart was racing, her throat dry and the moisture used to wet her lips started traveling somewhere else since the moment Ashley had entered the room.

"I...uhm..." Ashley stuttered, one hand absently scratching the back of her neck. "I, uhm, was asleep..."

"It is two in the morning, Ash," Spencer teased, hoping to ease some of the nervousness coming from Ashley in waves. "Normal people are usually asleep at this time..."

"You're right...I shouldn't have woken you..." Ashley said nervously, turning away to head back to the door.

"No! Ashley, I was awake," Spencer said hastily, hoping to stop the older girl before she retreated. "I couldn't sleep so I was just laying here thinking..." The fact that Ashley was even standing in her room at the moment amazed her; she knew that Ashley had probably been lying in bed wondering if waking her was all right or what and she was pleased as hell that Ashley was taking the chance.

"Uhm, OK," Ashley muttered. "It's just..." She sighed, obviously growing angry with herself. "Iwokeupandcouldn'tgetbacktosleepandIfeelbadthatlastweekIleftandnevergottoholdyousoisitokifIgetintobedwithyoubutIonlywanttocuddleandholdyounothingmoreIswear."

"You're so fucking cute," Spencer whispered under her breath. She pulled the blanket down and patted the mattress beside her. "I'd really like that." Even in the dark, she saw the bright, wide smile that Ashley gave her as she got into the bed. Silently they snuggled into the bed after Spencer pulled the blanket back into place; Spencer on her side with her back to Ashley and the smaller girl curled up around her with an arm over her waist and her leg over Spencer's hip. The blonde basked in the touch and heat coming from the other girl.

"Is this OK?" Ashley asked, her hot breath washing over Spencer's sensitive ear and making the ache in her center more acute. But Spencer didn't regret letting Ashley into bed with her; the pleasure of being held by the usually reclusive girl was more than worth the price of unquenched hot desire.

"Perfect," she replied honestly.

They both drifted off to sleep shortly after they curled up around each other, their even breaths eventually mirroring each other. It was warm and comfortable and both girls slept better than they had in ages. Spencer woke up to the sun streaming into her room, warming it as it did so and making it glow in soft light. She rolled over and felt her breath catch; Ashley wasn't in the bed with her.

Did I dream it? She wondered. Cuz if I did, damn, my imagination is thorough. I swear she was here...She rolled over into the spot she knew Ashley had slept in. I can still smell her on the pillow so she was definitely here. So, where is she?

The fear that somehow spending the night comfortably cuddled together had set off another one of Ashley's insecurities and in turn made her run, raced through Spencer's body. This time she hadn't done anything but what Ashley had asked and let her into the bed. If that was truly what had happened, then she had no idea how to fix it.

I wonder if her own feelings for me are as strong and confusing, exciting as mine for her are. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Sighing, she got up, grabbed her toiletries and headed to the bathroom to take a shower. She didn't know what sort of things that Ashley and Kyla had planned, if the night before bed sharing hadn't totally ruined the rest of the weekend.

God I hope she didn't like, take off to get away from me or something. She is so hard to read sometimes. Maybe I should ask Kyla if she comes with an instruction manual or something. I guess I'll just take my time and let her do what she needs to to be comfortable.

The bathroom, much like the guest room and the rest of the house was opulent and as Ashley had pointed out, decorated like the room was. Blue tiled walls and two grey marble sinks greeted Spencer as she set her toothbrush and things down. There were several large, fluffy indigo towels laid out waiting to be used along with several different brands of shampoo. The size of the shower bath astounded Spencer since it was nearly as large as her bathroom at home in Ohio all on it's own.

Several gleaming silver shower heads and knobs stared back at her. After several attempts, a few of which ended up with her getting splashed in the face, she managed to get the shower set up the way she wanted at the temperature she desired. She took her time, letting the water wash away her own insecurities and renew her for the day ahead.

By the time she exited the bath, still in her pajamas since she was feeling lazy, the aroma of something delicious was wafting through the house, giving Spencer hope that Ashley was still around. She glanced at the clock, seeing the digital numbers telling her it was 9:38. She wondered if Kyla was awake or not, smiling when she remembered her warning not to wake her before 10.

She wandered out into the hall and followed the wonderful scents down to the kitchen where she smiled upon seeing Ashley's back at the stove.

"Mornin'!" Ashley greeted her without turning around which surprised Spencer. Slowly the brunette turned to face her, a happy and natural smile on her face. "Sleep well?"

"Very," Spencer nodded. "Like a log really. It was kinda nice not hearing Lucy bellowing at a pledge first thing in the morning and someone burning something in the kitchen too." Ashley snorted.

"I never burn my dishes," she retorted. "Blacken, on occasion, but never burn." Spencer giggled as she approached.

"Whatcha makin'?" she wondered. Ashley turned back to the stove and flipped what looked like a pancake to Spencer, sending it into the air and catching it effortlessly back in the pan without batting an eyelash.

"Lotsa stuff," Ashley responded. "First off, I know that you love pancakes so we have plain and chocolate chip pancakes and hot melted butter with brown sugar." Spencer's mouth started to water, reminding her that no matter how much she had eaten the day before, she was starved again. "I also like potato pancakes and since I had leftover mashed potatoes, I made a few of those too."

"Sounds delicious," Spencer hummed.

"Well, that's not everything," Ashley said with a bit of a surreptitious tone. "I also have bacon and sausage, some hash browns and omelets made with turkey, green and red peppers, cheddar cheese with a hint of pepper jack for bite."

"Mmmmmmmmm," Spencer sighed happily. "Honest, you're gonna make me fat." Ashley pressed a feather-light kiss to Spencer's temple.

"No worries," she whispered somewhat huskily, making Spencer shiver and she felt herself flush. She also noticed that her nipples had hardened at the touch and tone and were somewhat noticeable through her thin shirt. "I'll still lo...cough like ya then." Ashley ducked her head and went back to the stove, attempting to hide but Spencer heard the word the smaller girl nearly said and it made her heart soar.

She almost said love! She screamed happily to herself. She almost said that she loved me. Oh my fucking god!

"Coffee," a gruff voice interrupted the moment and Spencer swallowed her disappointed groan as Kyla stumbled into the kitchen, making a direct beeline for the full pot of coffee that awaited her. "Ah, my lover, I've missed you," she muttered as she poured herself a cup. She looked at her sister's back and then Spencer, raising a brow. "Am I interrupting something?"


"No," Spencer said as calmly as she could. "Just Ash telling me what was on the menu for breakfast."

"Which is ready if one of you could please set the table," Ashley added, her voice slightly strained. Spencer frowned, hating that their playful banter had gone a step too far and hoping that Ashley recovered fairly quickly. Vowing to herself not to mention the near verbal slip, she grabbed some clean plates and silverware and headed to the dining room.

"You ass," Ashley growled at Kyla who was murmuring lovingly to her coffee. The younger girl looked up at her in surprise.

"Huh?" she blinked.

"I meant for you to set the table, blockhead," Ashley explained. "Spencer's a guest. God you're an idiot."

"Oh please, she is not a guest," Kyla scoffed. Ashley crossed her arms over her chest as she waited for her younger sister to continue. "Ash, that girl is about one U-Haul rental away from living here. That being said, she needs to learn where shit is and to start getting comfortable with being here." Ashley was quiet for a few moments before she responded.

"You really think that she...Ky, do you think she really likes me?" she asked. There was so much open vulnerability and insecurity in her sister's voice that Kyla immediately set her cup down and walked over to engulf her fragile sister in a tight hug.

"Oh Ash," she sighed. "I wish that you could see how great a person you really are; to see what I see, what Spencer sees in you. You are so fantastic and have so much to give. Don't be afraid to try, Ash. I really think that Spencer is worth it."

"I'm scared, Ky," Ashley admitted through a sniffle. "I'm so scared that she'll find out the truth, the things I've done and I'm not proud of and be so horribly disgusted that I'll lose her. I don't think...God, I'm so attached to her already, it scares me. I don't want her to end up hating me." Kyla shook her head, grasping her sister gently by the shoulders to make her look at her instead of at the interesting patterns the linoleum floor made down by her bare feet.

"Ash, she already knows a lot," she confessed, feeling the slender form beneath her hands stiffen slightly.

"Madison," Ashley breathed in horror. Kyla nodded unhappily.

"Yeah, that vacuous twit told her some stuff, about Prom and shit," she told her.

"She's still here," Ashley said, confused. Kyla smiled.

"Yes, she's still here. And waiting for breakfast so let's bring it to her," she decided, grabbing a few of the plates. "I can't handle all this melodrama on an empty stomach."

Part 4

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