Best For Me: Chapters 21-25

Previously: Chapters 16-20 [A]

Chapter 21: The One with the Dead Rabbit
Chapter 22: The One where the Realisation Sinks In
Chapter 23: The One where Spencer Tells Grey
Chapter 24: The One at the Supermarket
Chapter 25: The One with the Eavesdropping

Rating for this set of chapters: A. Mild swearing.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-One

“I still think you should go to the hospital,” Ashley grumbled.

Her arm was tight around Spencer’s waist as she helped the blonde through the front door. Spencer could walk just fine but Ashley was refusing to go anywhere. Her face said it all: she was damn worried and wasn’t going to let go of her friend until she was safely tucked up in bed, preferably after she’d seen a doctor.

“I’m FINE, Ashley. I feel just fine. It was a little warm and I fainted was all,” Spencer protested, trying not to let the insistent worry in her mind seep through into her tone. She’d never fainted before in her life. It was a very un-Spencer-like thing to do, but she’d be damned if she was going to tell Ashley that.

“Okay, but I’m putting you to bed and I’m not going home tonight. I can sleep on the couch,” Ashley parried defiantly.

“You don’t have to stay!” Spencer replied. “But, if you do, you’re not staying on the damn couch. I have a spare room.”

“Oh… yeah.” Ashley grinned at her own silliness.

“You’re such a dweeb sometimes.” Spencer withdrew from the arm around her waist and sat on the couch. She’d enjoyed the closeness, but had to admit that her head was still swimming somewhat and her enjoyment of teh contact had been tempered by her actual need for support. “You don’t have to stay, though. I really will be fine. I am fine!”

“It’s okay. I just want to make sure you’re not going to faint again in the morning.”

“Why would I?” Spencer smiled at her friend’s worry. “It was a one-off, Ashley, I swear. It was just warm with all those people. I’ve never done it before. It won’t happen again.”

When the look of panic flashed across Ashley’s face, Spencer realised that she had let the cat out of the bag.

“You’ve never fainted before?”

“Um… not as such.” Spencer grabbed a pillow and hugged it to her chest. It was an unconscious gesture that she repeated a lot. It was times like these that she wished Mr Ruffles was around; he was always good for a hug. “It’s fine, Ashley. Honest. I feel just fine. Lots of people faint. It’s no big deal.”

The brunette did not look convinced. “I’m staying.” She emphasized every syllable and Spencer didn’t have the energy to argue.

“Okay.” She glanced at her watch. “I think it might be time for bed, then.”

She ignored the quickening of her pulse at the thought of Ashley and bed, and left to find the girl all the necessary things she might need. The musician insisted on walking her to her room and making sure she was safely inside. Spencer was glad that she didn’t insist on tucking her into bed. Swimming head or no swimming head, had she stayed any longer, the blonde knew that Ashley wouldn’t be in the spare room. She was feeling woozy and in no way to be strong in her resolve. But Ashley left her at the door.

Despite everything that had gone on, she slept easily. Maybe that should have worried her more.

Ashley was already up and about when Spencer emerged from her cocoon of sleep. Running a brush through her hair and another across her teeth before she made her way into the living room, Spencer mused over her actions. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that she’d greet the sexy brunette with morning breath, despite their ‘friend’ status. Said brunette was sitting at the table with her back to the blonde, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. For Spencer, who had just escaped domesticity in its worst form, it was such a beautiful scene that it made her stomach rumble.

“Morning,” she breathed, pretending that she hadn’t been standing in the doorway watching Ashley for the last few minutes.

“Hey.” Ashley turned with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

“One hundred percent,” Spencer lied with a grin.

“Glad to hear it.”

Spencer busied herself making coffee. “You want breakfast?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“It’s no bother,” Spencer reassured her. “I like cooking. Besides, it’s the least I can do for you.”

“You like cooking?” Ashley stood up and leant on the breakfast bar, smiling at Spencer and wrinkling her nose. “You’re crazy.”

“That may be true,” laughed the blonde, “but not because I like cooking. You don’t?”

“I get by, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. Too much work!”

“Well, it always gives me time to think, y’know.” Spencer opened the fridge and perused its contents. “Scrambled eggs and bacon okay?”

“Spence, that’s a lot of work!”

“Naaah, it really isn’t.” She took out the eggs and began cooking.

Spencer loved that they could do this. That there was this easy morning conversation and she felt completely at ease. Okay, maybe not completely at ease but mostly. If it wasn’t for the persistent butterflies in her stomach, she’d be calmer than a mill pond. Ashley was eating her breakfast and chatting away when Spencer came to the conclusion that perhaps her the problem with her stomach wasn’t just ‘musician nerves’ as she liked to call them. Two spoonfuls of the eggs and she wasn’t feeling so fantastic.

“Uh, Ash, just give me second, okay?” Spencer moved away from the table and in the direction of her bathroom, moving faster with each step. She made it just in time, landing on her knees in front of the toilet and emptying the contents of her stomach into the bowl.

She barely noticed cool hands pulling back the hair from her temples and handing her toilet paper when she was done. She leaned back and felt the comforting weight of Ashley behind her. Stomach still growling defiantly, she let herself rest back, shaking and wobbly.

After moments of holding her, she heard a murmur in her ear, “Uh-huh, I can see you’re just fine.”

Spencer laughed unsteadily. “Okay, I don’t feel so well.”

“Yup. Want to go back to bed?”

Spencer appreciated the concern laced through Ashley’s voice. “No. I think I’m okay now.”

One perfectly manicured eyebrow raised itself in disbelief. “I think you should see a doctor.”

“It’s just a stomach bug,” Spencer protested. “And it’s Sunday. My doctor isn’t open.”

“Tomorrow, then.” Ashley was looking so worried that her next sentence took all the fight out of the blonde. “Please. For me.”

“Okay, okay.” She threw her hands up in defeat.

“Good. And I think you should call your parents and ask them to keep Elly. You need to rest today.”

Spencer couldn’t think of a good argument against that one either, and briefly wondered where all her thoughts had gone. Usually she debated rather well: she’d been on her school debating team.

They spent the rest of the day together. Ashley would barely let Spencer up off the couch to do anything, even though the blonde was feeling back to her old self by mid-afternoon. She was grateful for the company, nonetheless, and the brunette’s presence had at least prevented her father from driving over in worry. Knowing that a friend was taking care of Spencer reduced his panic. Spencer grinned. Her dad was such a nice guy sometimes. She knew that she was the quintessential daddy’s girl, but that was okay. She loved it. Besides, Ashley was taking care of her better than anyone else had before, especially Gray. He had tried his best but, given that he was both a sympathetic vomiter and not very good at this kind of thing, he tended to be fumbling and annoying. Mostly, Spencer ended up shooing him away to look after Elly, having to take care of herself, so it was nice to have someone look after her for once. She made sure she didn’t enjoy it too much or take advantage of it. And she refused to let Ashley wait on her hand and foot. But she did enjoy the company.

Ashley left with an apology for not being able to come back the following day to take Spencer to the doctor. She had a job to get to and was all for cancelling but Spencer wouldn’t let her. The doctor’s visit was thankfully brief and easy. She probably had a stomach virus and was told to take it easy. They stole some of her blood for routine tests and let her go home. She picked Elly up on the way and the little girl was fascinated with the cotton-wool ball stuck to the inside of her mother’s elbow.

Holding Mr Ruffles tightly to her chest, she touched it gently and pulled back, afraid of hurting her mother. She had a terribly worried look on her face and Spencer’s heart melted, as it always did in the presence of her daughter.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. It was just a blood test,” she signed soothingly.

“Did it hurt?” Elly kept up her worried look and hugged Mr Ruffles a little tighter. Spencer thought it was a good thing the elephant didn’t need to breathe because he probably wouldn’t be getting much air in at the moment.

“A little. But it was over very quickly and doesn’t hurt now.” Spencer knew better than to lie. Elly had had enough blood tests in her lifetime and knew that they hurt, so there was no point in pretending. “You’ve had them before and you were very brave.”

Elly grinned, but Spencer did note that she spent the day a little closer to her mother, as if unconsciously needing contact. Spencer didn’t object.

Wednesday came in a rush. Ashley was due to come pick Elly up and take her to art class because Spencer had another doctor’s appointment and the times clashed. When they’d arranged this, Ashley had looked worried but Spencer had reassured her that it was just a routine follow-up which occurred every time they took bloods. She added had that, if there had been anything worrying, they would have called her in sooner. The brunette hadn’t looked convinced.

The day passed in the same rush that it had come in. Ashley came and got Elly, giving Spencer a sudden kiss on the cheek that made the blonde forget all about the world and things going on around them. She left Spencer with the slightly disconcerting words of “Good luck, see you soon.”

The next time she saw Ashley, she was walking through the thinning crowds of the community centre. For once, she didn’t hear the voices or notice the din. She could barely see where she was going and, thank God, her auto-pilot was propelling her towards the music room. She was late and most of the children were either leaving or already gone. Moving in distinct slow motion, she got to the room to find it empty save for Ashley and Elly who were sitting on the front desk laughing together. Ashley looked up when Spencer entered the room. Her expression changed like lightning and she hopped off the desk, moving towards the blonde with disarming speed.

“Spencer, what’s wrong?”

The look on her face must have been classic but there was no mirror so Spencer couldn’t see. She felt the brunette take her by the elbow and pull her into a seat. She knew, rather than saw Ashley kneel down beside her. And opened her mouth to speak.

No sound emerged.

“Spencer, what is it?” Ashley was sounding panicked now. Spencer turned and stared into those liquid-brown eyes that shone with intensity and worry, and then opened her mouth again, this time finding the words.

“I’m pregnant.”

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Two

Ashley had tried to insist on driving them all home, but Spencer needed her car and wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, the brunette trailed them as Spencer deliberately drove very carefully and cautiously home, aware of the tornado of turmoil within her own self. She got home and got Elly and Mr Ruffles out of the car with slow, pointed movements. Everything was still moving in slow motion and her skin felt numb.

She barely paid attention to the brunette pulling into the driveway behind them as she ushered Elly into the house. Leaving the door open, she started going through the motions of being at home, turning on cartoons for Elly and moving towards the kitchen to start dinner. She didn’t notice the door close or Ashley coming towards the kitchen. She only really noticed her surroundings when she realised that she couldn’t hold the saucepan still enough to fill it with water because her hand was shaking so badly that the pan was dancing like a hot griddle. She felt strong hands take it out of her grasp and then the world went to mush. Shaking, she let herself be pulled into Ashley’s embrace, winding her arms around the brunette’s waist and resting her head on the girl’s shoulder. She felt soothing hands dance up and down her back, calming her shaking.

No words were spoken. Spencer figured she’d put most of what needed to be said into those two words she’d uttered in Ashley’s classroom: “I’m pregnant.”

Jesus-H-Christ-on-a-bicycle-Holy-Mother-of-God.

What would her mother say if she could hear the blasphemy in Spencer’s head? The thought of her mother hearing her thoughts made Spencer giggle but it was the calm before the storm, the small laugh turning into a torrent of tears that she couldn’t hold back. Ashley’s arms held her up and the soothing voice murmured in her ear. Ashley said nothing concrete that Spencer could discern through the flood of her tears, but it was comforting in its tone. Combined with the gentle caress of the brunette’s arms sweeping up and down her back, Spencer’s tears were over almost as soon as they had begun. Sniffling pitifully, she pulled back.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

“No, no, no.” Ashley tipped the blonde’s head up and looked into Spencer’s beautiful azure eyes. Spencer felt the world shift a little to the better under the gaze of her friend. “You can cry as much as you like. Hell, you can storm and rant and rave and throw things if it’s gonna help. I think you have the right.”

Pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes and wiping away the moisture, Spencer groaned. “I cannot believe this is happening.” She felt Ashley brush a tendril of hair off her temple and hook it behind her ear.

“It’ll be okay.” The brunette sounded so sincere that Spencer wanted to believe her. Achingly, she wanted to believe her; however, her inner monologue was screaming the opposite.

“I’m not sure how,” she admitted.

“Spence, it WILL be okay.” Ashley’s mouth made a line. “I’m not sure how either at the moment, but you’re not alone and we’ll work this out.”

Grateful as she was that she wasn’t alone, and briefly aware of the companionship offer that had just been made, the news was still making Spencer reel and she leant back against the bench in mute confusion, crossing her arms in an unconscious defensive pose.

Oh God, what the hell was she going to do?

Elly was thankfully unaware of her mother’s distress, happy watching cartoons. As sick as it was, sometimes Spencer was grateful for her daughter’s deafness. It did save her from hearing a lot of things that Spencer wouldn’t want her to know. She managed to wash her face and look vaguely presentable before sitting down at the table with Ashley. She cradled her coffee but her heart wasn’t in drinking it. She was also a little unsure as to whether her stomach could take anything, the butterflies of the weekend now multiplied a thousand-fold by the recent news.

“What are you going to tell Gray?”

Spencer’s head shot up at Ashley’s carefully worded question. “Oh God, I have no idea.” Her hand flew to her mouth and the tears threatened to fall.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” Ashley reached across and rubbed her fingers across the back of Spencer’s other hand, gently stroking and calming. There was a pause. “It is -”

Spencer looked her in the eye as the question dawned on her. Her face darkened and she pulled back her hand in fury. “What the fuck, Ashley? Of course it’s fucking his!”

She stormed off from the table in such a rage that she knocked over her chair, making Ashley jump and Elly look up. All she saw was the retreating back of her mother and nothing to worry her, and she went back to watching cartoons. Ashley carefully followed Spencer into the kitchen.

“Spence,” the brunette reached out.

“Don’t touch me!” Spencer swung on her heel, eyes blazing as she stared down the other girl.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean -”

“What? What, Ashley? You didn’t mean what? Didn’t mean, ‘Hey, Spencer, fucked anyone else lately’?”

“No, Spence, no. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry. Of course I wouldn’t think that.” Ashley’s face was a pattern of agony, her lip chewed furiously between her teeth and her forehead creased. “It… I… I have no idea where that came from because it had no basis in my thoughts, I swear.” She held up her palms in apology.

Spencer let her anger seep out of her. She was far too upset by her news to stay angry at her only friend and, besides, she believed her.

“Good.” She bit her lip. “For your information, you are the only person I’ve slept with aside from my husband in a very, very long time.”

Ashley tipped her head to the side. “I never thought anything different.” The silence that ensued was a little uncomfortable. It was the first time either of them had brought up what had passed and now no-one knew quite what to say. “I’m really sorry, Spencer. Do you want me to go?”

“No.” Spencer chewed on her lip. “Unless you want to.”

“Hell no.”

“I’m still mad at you, you know,” Spencer parried, but the corners of her mouth were twitching. “You don’t get off that easy.”

“And fair enough, too,” Ashley grinned. “I’ll just have to spend hours making it up to you.” The sexual implications made both girls shiver, and Spencer wisely chose to ignore the subtext.

“Damn!”

Spencer’s epithet made Ashley jump. It was clearly not in response to her own last comment.

“What?”

“My parents.”

“Oh, hell.”

“That would be one way of looking at it. Quite an accurate way, actually.” Spencer laughed bitterly.

“It’ll be okay.”

“I wish I had your enthusiasm.”

“It’s not enthusiasm, it’s a strongly-held belief.” Ashley took a step forward and gently held the blonde’s upper arms, rubbing up and down gently. “Whatever happens, you’re not alone, okay? I’m here whenever you need me.”

Spencer nodded. She leant forward and wrapped her arms around the brunette’s neck, pulling her into a new embrace.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Three

Spencer knew that she didn’t exactly have a lot of time to waste before she told Gray. By her calculations, she was pretty close to eight weeks pregnant. If Elly’s pregnancy were anything to go by, she’d be showing within a few weeks. That was going to look suspicious but she could always throw most people off by saying she’d gained weight. Gray, however, had the right to know, and probably sooner rather than later. Her parents also needed to find out, but they could wait, as could Elly, really. It was more Gray she was worried about now.

Part of her was annoyed that she had to call him. It had been just over two weeks since they’d agreed to part and Gray had yet to call by to see Elly. Spencer supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised, but she was still annoyed. While Elly took it all in her stride at the moment, Spencer was worried that, at some point in time, the lack of a father’s attention was going to have some detrimental effects. Well, that wasn’t something to worry about right now. The list of things to worry about was growing by the minute, so there was no point in looking for things to add to it.

With those thoughts revolving through her mind like so many office doors, Spencer picked up the telephone and dialled a familiar number. It only rang a few times before a voice like velvet answered, “Hey you.”

“Hey, Ash.” Spencer couldn’t help smiling just at hearing the other girl’s voice. It was mildly ridicilous, she knew. She’d called Ashley, so who else was she going to hear?

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Does something always have to be wrong for me to call?” Spencer got worried. “Am I acting like a user?”

“No, no, no,” Ash laughed. “Don’t be silly. I know that things are difficult at the moment is all and I worry. And you’re anything but a user. You feed me half the nights of the week.”

“Yeah, well, I worry about you. You don’t eat right,” Spencer replied obstinately.

“If you feed me any better, I’m going to need to borrow your maternity clothes.”

“You can’t. I’ll be using them. Anyway, I cook healthy food, hence the ‘eat right’.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain.” There was a sincere note of amusement in her voice. “Spence, I gotta go. I’m running late. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I really just wanted to say hi. Promise me you’ll be round for dinner tomorrow?” Spencer hoped that she had put just the right amount of need in her voice. She wanted Ashley to be there, but she didn’t want to sound desperate.

“Of course. You’re sure you’re okay?”

Okay, so Ashley maybe wasn’t convinced.

“YES! Now go or you’ll be late.”

Spencer sighed. Now the phone call she didn’t want to make. She dialled another familiar number from her memory. Gray picked up, and Spencer wondered if she was essentially attracted to great voices. For all his faults, Gray sounded good on the phone.

“Spencer, I’m a little busy right now. Can I call you back?” Trust Gray to get to the point.

“Not really. I’ll be quick, okay?”

“Mmm, please.”

Spencer stopped herself from swearing out loud and internalising the curse did nothing for her mood. “I need to see you.”

“What?”

Okay, that had probably come out the completely wrong way. “We need to talk, Gray.”

“Fine, look, I’ll call you to organise something. I really have to go.”

“Wait!” she exclaimed, worried he would hang up. “Soon, Gray, like tonight or tomorrow.”

“I don’t think I can do that. Things are really very busy here and -”

“Gray,” Spencer cut in, “this is REALLY important.”

“Okay, okay. Tomorrow night?”

“Thanks. Come over?”

“Okay. I have to go.” And he did.

Well, that hadn’t been too bad, all things considered. Now, she just had to tell him.

It was only when the next evening rolled around that Spencer realised she had arranged for both Ashley and Gray to drop by at the same time. On the one hand, that sounded like disaster; on the other, it could possibly be her saviour. It really depended on who arrived first. It ended up being Ashley. It was predictable, really: Spencer would have been surprised if Gray had got there before Elly was in bed, but it was still worth thanking some deity over. Ushering her in, it took Ashley mere seconds to change her facial expression from greeting to concern.

“What’s wrong?”

“Gray’s coming over. I’m telling him.”

“Oh God. I’ll go.” Halfway through taking her coat off, Ashley made to shrug back into it. Spencer reached out to stop her.

“Please don’t. I think I might faint again if you do.” She was smiling, trying to joke, but she wasn’t so sure there wasn’t an element of truth in it. Spencer felt awfully wobbly on her feet.

“Don’t do that. I’ll panic. That never looks good. And it always mucks up my hair.” But she did take off her coat.

Spencer chuckled. “We can’t be having that. Actually, I’d love it if you were somewhere nearby. I’m scared out of my shoes.”

Ashley looked down at Spencer’s wiggling toes on her bare feet and raised an eyebrow. Then they giggled. “Want me to make myself scarce when he arrives?”

Spencer winced but looked thankful. “That’s awful, isn’t it?”

“Hell, no. I don’t think you really need a third person hanging THAT close nearby. If Elly’s awake when he gets here, we can hang or something. If not, I’ll go out for some ‘fresh air’.” Ashley didn’t seem bothered in the slightest but Spencer knew she was asking a lot. The guilt must have been plastered across her face because Ashley laughed and patted her on the shoulder. “Stop looking so damn worried, it’s FINE. Like I wouldn’t be rushing over here after you told him anyway.”

Spencer looked alarmed. Did she really ring Ashley in a tizzy every time something went wrong? Probably.

“Ash…”

“Spencer, I worry about you. You could tell me that you scraped your little finger and I’d rush over here. I have an anxiety problem, okay?” Spencer highly doubted that.

She busied herself with dinner while Ashley played with Elly in the living room. Spencer wandered over to see what they were doing while the casserole was in the oven. They were playing with Mr Ruffles and his friend Humphrey on the rug. Elly was giggling as Ashley walked Mr Ruffles over to a “pool” in the floor. Spencer’s insides warmed and there was an incredible sense of calmness and perfection in her. It was shattered by the doorbell.

Gray.

Ashley’s head shot up at the sound and Spencer gulped, making her way over to the door. Indeed, her ex-husband was standing on the doorstep, handsome in his charcoal grey suit. Spencer tried a warm smile and greeted him.

“Hello, Gray.”

“Spencer.” He sounded friendly and she wondered how long it would last. She let him inside.

Ashley was standing, Elly’s hand loosely grasped in hers. Elly let go and ran to her father, a grin on her face. He swung her up, kissing her on the forehead and accepting her hug with a warm smile that in some ways disquietened her. He really did love Elly and would probably love this child, too. That probably wouldn’t make this any easier. In fact, him wanting to completely separate from the whole family would make this a LOT easier.

Gray looked at Ashley with confusion. She worded a careful hello and held out her hand to Elly. They disappeared with quiet speed and Spencer was suddenly alone with Gray. Her palms were sweaty.

“Can I get you coffee?”

“That would be great.” He made his way to the breakfast bar and sat down. Spencer busied her hands making coffee, trying to keep them as steady as possible and failing miserably. Gray let her be silent for a while and then asked the inevitable question, “Why did you ask me here?”

As tempted as she was to find a pithy remark about his lack of parenting to Elly, she didn’t think it would help the conversation ahead.

“I got some news earlier this week.” It was a cautious beginning.

“Okay.”

“Gray…” She had no idea how to say this. What the hell? Just say it. “I’m pregnant.”

The silence was deafening. He stared at her and she stared back. In the background, the kettle began to whistle and steamed up the kitchen window, completely ignored by the people in the room. Eventually, it gave up on squealing its readiness. The silence was endless. The ticking of the clock in the living room became loud enough to drown out an orchestra. Eventually, one of them broke and Gray coughed.

“Are you serious?”

“I can’t think of a good reason to be joking, Gray.” Spencer amazed herself at the calmness of her voice.

“Is it mine?”

That did it.

“What the hell is up with this new ‘Spencer is a slut’ idea that’s going around?” she yelled. “Jesus Christ, Gray, what the hell are you talking about? Of course it’s yours. I cannot BELIEVE you just asked that!” Her knuckles gripped the edge of the bench and turned white.

“Okay, sorry, sorry.” He held his hands up in apology. “I’m just in shock. I know it’s mine. I’m sorry.”

“Thank fuck for that.” She was still angry. She’d forgiven Ashley that question but she was starting to tire of it. And from Gray, of all people.

“When?”

She laughed bitterly. “Jesus, Gray, we’ve had sex once in the last six months. When the Christ do you think?”

He swallowed again.

“Are you keeping it?”

That stumped Spencer completely. She stared at him, utterly dumbfounded. It took her an eon to find her voice and it was croaky. “Oh my God.”

Another silence.

“Get out!”

“What??” He was surprised.

“Get out! Get out of the house, Gray. You can’t ask questions like that. This is unbelievable. This is incredible. Get the hell out!” Spencer was yelling now. At least Elly couldn’t hear and, in her fury, Spencer had completely forgotten that Ashley was in the bedroom.

“Spencer, Spencer.” He was on his feet, trying to soothe through her monologue but she would have none of it, striding over to her door and opening it.

“Out. Now. Fuck off!”

“Spencer…”

“No. Out now, Gray. You were married to me for six fucking years. You know where I come from and what I am and you still have the fucking gall to ask that question. On top of the first one. Get out, Gray. I can’t look at you right now.” She opened the door, staring at him furiously and setting her mouth in a line.

“Spencer, please.”

“Out.”

She must have looked serious because he made his way over and stepped out on the doorstep, looking at her defeatedly with a pleading gaze.

“Please. Surely we need to talk abo-”

She shut the door in his face. Thankfully, he didn’t knock and she leaned against it wearily. Surely, she could claim pregnant hormones for that one? He probably hadn’t deserved to be thrown out, but things were so messed up right now that she’d lost it. Leaning against the door, she felt tears slide down her cheeks and she prayed that Elly wouldn’t come out now. Instead, she felt warm hands on her shoulders and was pulled into a tight embrace.

“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.” Ashley’s voice was low and soothing. After a little while of calming, Spencer pulled back and sniffed, tears ended.

“I take it that didn’t go so well?” Ashley asked.

“You could say that.” Spencer wiped her nose on a sleeve. “I really shouldn’t have thrown him out. But I was just… I don’t know… Oh, damn.”

“It’s okay. You can talk to him again. You told him, right?”

“Oh yeah.” Spencer laughed bitterly. “I told him all right.” In more ways than one.

“Well. It’s you and me against the world, babe. We’ll get him on-side.”

Ashley’s grin was infectious and Spencer couldn’t help catching it. This was risky. She could feel her insides melting and knew she was starting to have feelings she shouldn’t. But here, in this moment, she just didn’t care.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Four

It was Ashley who convinced Spencer to call Gray back. Spencer was willing to be grumpy for weeks but the brunette changed her mind. Actually, her mind didn’t so much require changing as calming down. Spencer knew she’d been somewhat out of line with Gray. He hadn’t deserved to be kicked out and Spencer was a little bit crazy. She appreciated Ashley managing to talk her into calling Gray back without actually making her feel bad about having kicked him out in the first place. That took skill.

The phonecall itself was rather less pain-free and if Ashley hadn’t been sitting next to her, literally holding her hand, Spencer wasn’t sure she could have done it. She’d been so self-righteous with Gray of late that sucking it in and admitting she was wrong was quite hard to do. Not that she’d admit it, but Spencer admitting she was wrong was a rare thing. It was one of her downfalls, actually.

“Gray.”

“Spencer.”

She wasn’t surprised he was so curt. She deserved it.

“Look, that was unfair of me. I’m sorry.” Spencer glanced at Ashley who smiled encouragingly and squeezed her hand. “I had no right to just drop that on you and kick you out. Nothing you asked was unfair. I’m really sorry. It’s just been a rollercoaster for me and I cracked a little.”

“Believe it or not, I get that.” Gray could be quite supportive. Spencer had forgotten that, although his tone of voice was still cautious. “Listen, we need to talk again, but not tonight. Let me at least get my head part-way around this.”

Spencer owed him that at the very least. “Call me, okay? When you have time.”

“I will. And, Spencer, please look after yourself.”

“I will. I promise. Call soon, Gray. I have to tell Mom and Dad and…” She trailed off.

“I promise. I won’t leave it too long. Hold off on telling them till we’ve talked, yeah?”

“Of course.”

So, it had turned out to be relatively painless. Spencer knew that she underestimated Gray a lot of the time. He was anything but a complete loss. It was just a pity that she didn’t love him any more. Glancing again at the girl who was holding her hand, she felt her heart flip in her chest and had some idea of why she didn’t love her husband. Pushing those feelings down inside her, she squeezed Ashley’s hand and then released the grip. Getting off the couch, she looked for something to busy herself with.

“Are you okay?” Ashley was clearly worried.

“Yeah. This is just a lot to deal with.”

Ashley pulled her into a hug. “You know you’re not alone, right?”

Spencer kissed her on the cheek gently and smiled. “I couldn’t forget.”

Ashley chuckled. “Not just me. Your parents, Gray. No-one is going to abandon you.” She hugged Spencer again and then let her go. Spencer couldn’t help but smile. How did the musician always know just what to say? “We’ll all be here for you, Spencer, no matter what.”

“Thank you.” Spencer felt tears well up. “You’re my best friend, you know that.”

“Yeah, well,” Ashley grinned, “it’s mutual.”

Gray was true to his word and arranged a coffee date with Spencer for Friday. They both agreed that seeing each other out of the house would be a good thing. She was tempted to ask her parents to babysit but, to her surprise, Ashley volunteered.

“I can’t ask you to do that,” Spencer said, a little shocked.

“Who’s asking?” Ashley grinned. “I’m offering. Besides, Elly rocks.”

“Yeah, I know, but still, you do so much for me already.”

“Ok, well, think of this as being for me.” Ashley raised both eyebrows.

“I would only -” Spencer stopped. “I’m confused as to how that works.”

“Um, I like kids. I like playing with them and I like your daughter. We’ll have fun together and you’ll be gone for a whole, what, hour? Let me have fun for an hour.” Ashley grinned again and nose wrinkled adorably.

“Okay. If you’re volunteering, I ain’t complaining.” She glanced at her watch. “Damn.”

“What?” Ashley looked up from tying her shoe, concern on her face.

“Nothing spectacular,” Spencer smirked. “I just have to go to the supermarket. Fun, fun, fun, eh?”

“I’m not busy. Want some company?”

“Sure.”

Spencer wasn’t quite sure why, but somehow the prospect of Ashley doing anything with her, even grocery shopping, made the whole venture seem more exciting and far more enjoyable. Just the simple act of wandering around the supermarket was made, well, vaguely thrilling by the girl at her elbow. That, of course, could just be the physical proximity she had to Ashley. It did things to her.

“Are you sure Elly won’t cause a coffee avalanche this time?” Ashley looked like she’d enjoy that and her question was only half-heartedly concerned.

“No, no coffee skiing for you.”

“Dang.” Ashley grimaced jokingly.

Spencer laughed. When did grocery shopping get fun?

“How did you get her to behave today?”

“Mr Ruffles promised to look after her,” Spencer confided.

“And you trust that elephant?” Ashley asked in mock-horror. “He looks a little shifty to me!”

“Aw, heck no, he’s very dependable. Not shifty in the slightest. He’s feisty, though. One hell of a glare.” Spence nodded seriously.

“Okay. It’s your grave. If we get buried in Moccona, I’m so blaming you and Ruffles.”

Mister Ruffles,” Spencer corrected.

“Sorry, Mr Ruffles.” Ashley looked suitably contrite.

Elly chose that moment to appear with the aforementioned elephant and sign hopefully at her mother, “Can we have chocolate milk?”

“Nestle or cocoa?” Ashley signed.

“Nestle pink!” Elly signed back.

Spencer nodded and Elly ran off excitedly to grab the strawberry-flavoured concoction. Spencer was musing on the disgusting nature of the drink when she stopped dead in the aisle. Ashley made it a few more steps before she realised that Spencer was stationary. She turned, looking at the blonde quizzically.

“You just…” Spencer looked at Ashley and then at Elly.

“What?” Confusion laced Ashley’s voice and expression.

“You signed. To Elly. Just then.”

“Wasn’t I supposed to?”

“Uh, sure. Except you… When did you learn how to sign?” It hadn’t escaped her notice that it had been finger-spelling and slow, but it was still sign language.

Ashley blushed and shoved her hands in her pockets. She scuffed the supermarket linoleum with her sneaker tip and looked down. “I’ve been taking classes at the Y.”

“Ashley, are you for real?” Spencer was in awe.

“Yeah.” The curly-haired head shot up and a look of panic crossed her face. “Why? Is that not okay? It’s just, I figure I’m gonna be part of your life, I should be able to talk to Elly, right?”

Spencer was speechless.

In a whirlwind of emotion, she took two steps forward and pulled Ashley into a warm, solid hug. No-one had ever done anything like this before. God, Gray and her mother couldn’t sign, couldn’t be bothered to go learn, and Ashley had just done it. Just like that. No questions, no big announcement. Just so that she could be part of their lives in the easiest way. It was by far the sweetest thing that anyone had ever done for Elly. Spencer thought her heart might break. Pulling back, she felt Ashley’s hand come up and wipe a solitary tear from her cheek.

“Thank you,” Spencer whispered, “for being the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”

“You haven’t met enough people.”

“I’ve met you. I think that may be all I’ll ever need.”

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Five

The weeks rolled by.

Spencer found herself tensing more and more as the time passed and she was completely flummoxed as to how to break the news to her parents. She knew that this news should be joyous, but the timing was all wrong. She knew her father would be overjoyed but her mother would use the news as another lever to try and manoeuvre Spencer into doing what Paula wanted. Then there would be the inevitable questions: Why wasn’t she getting back together with Gray? How was she going to support them? What about Elly? For the moment at least, she was reasonably financially secure. The house was long paid-off and, since Spencer’s parents had paid the deposit in the first place as a wedding present, there was no question that Spencer would get the house in the divorce. Gray had been most forthcoming with child support, starting up payments almost as soon as he’d left. Without being asked. Trust Gray to come through as the perfect guy AFTER she left him.

But then this had never been about Gray. Gray was never the bad guy or even the good guy. He was just the wrong guy. Just the wrong person, Spencer corrected herself. And now… Now, had she found the right person? It was quite likely, if she was being honest with herself. It was too soon to tell, really, but, for the first time in her life, Spencer felt like she was falling in love. She’d never felt like this before: this amazing rush every time she saw someone; this incredible sensation in the pit of her stomach; this difficult-to-suppress urge to rip Ashley’s clothes off and pull her into the bedroom, or the bathroom, or the living room floor. These were all very new sensations to Spencer.

She’d married Gray because he’d been tall, handsome and the right kind of guy in her mother’s eyes, because she was supposed to, because he took her to romantic restaurants and said all the right things. He bought her flowers and jewellery and she had thought that he was exactly what life and romance were supposed to be about, not falling apart at the seams because the girl of your dreams had learnt sign language for your daughter. Or maybe that was exactly what life was about and that was where Spencer had been going wrong all this time.

Spencer sighed and put down the towel she’d been bunching up in her hands. The coffee date with Gray had gone surprisingly well. He’d been supportive and hadn’t questioned the fact that they were still separating. He’d been most accommodating on the subject of child support and, to Spencer’s utter amazement, had been rather prolific on his insistence at being part of this child’s life. Given his obvious detachment from Elly, Spencer had been a little taken aback by this. Oh, well.

She still had to tell her parents. And soon.

At least there was Ashley to distract her. And, boy, did she need it. A small smile appeared on Spencer’s face at the thought of the brunette and, as though the universe was – for some small moment – in complete sync with her, the doorbell rang. Spencer opened it to find a rather attractive brunette on the doorstop.

“Hi, can I help you?” she asked in a friendly tone.

“Gee, I could answer that in so many ways,” Ashley flirted gently. Spencer chuckled and let her in. “I’ll take a glass of water, though.”

“You okay?” Spencer looked concerned.

“Uh, yeah,” Ashley responded with a confused look, “just thirsty.” She gazed at Spencer like the blonde was a little crazy.

Spencer shook her head at her own strangeness and got the girl a glass of water. As she handed it to her, a small jingle sounded from Ashley’s pocket.

“Damn, phone.” The brunette pulled her cell out and flipped it open. “Hello.”

Spencer raised an eyebrow at the look on the other girl’s face.

“Liv, hey.” Ashley’s tone of voice changed completely and somehow Spencer wasn’t surprised. It took a few short moments for Ashley to grimace and point at the phone. Covering the mouthpiece, she whispered to Spencer, “Be right back.”

Spencer let her eyes follow the musician’s pert, taut behind to the door and then Ashley caught her staring as she let herself out. With a wink, she vanished, leaving Spencer blushing furiously.

Around ten minutes later, Spencer found herself gravitating towards the front of the house. She got to the living room window and, with some surprise, found that she could hear Ashley perfectly.

“Liv, please, it’s so not like that.”

Spencer gulped. She shouldn’t eavesdrop. That would be wrong, wrong, wrong. So very wrong.

“You don’t understand… Yes, I am sorry for that… And that, too… That’s really not fair!”

Spencer bit her lip. Her inner good girl was telling her that this was ridiculous and she should walk away. The devil on her shoulder, however, was swearing with her at the inability to hear both sides of the conversation.

“Liv, I’m sorry, I can’t help how I feel.” Ashley’s voice was thick with emotion and Spencer wanted to wrap her arms around the girl. “Liv, it doesn’t matter what she feels. I can’t help how I feel… Yes, I am aware of that… Can you see that it doesn’t matter? She needs me and I’m not going anywhere… Well, that doesn’t matter, either. I’m not around for that. I care and this is what caring means.”

Spencer’s eyes were as wide as saucers. Was Ashley talking to Liv about her? That was weird.

“Liv, if I felt this way about you, I never would have broken it off… I’m sorry, I can’t… No, it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t feel this way… Well, I’m sorry if you got that impression but, as a matter of fact, this is VERY much me.” Ashley’s voice was getting more tense with anger. Spencer realised her own fists were balling up but she didn’t know why.

“Hey, that’s not fair, I’ve been nice before… Yeah, well, I’ve never cared about someone this much before… Oh, for fuck’s sake, Liv, this is about you, not her. I’m sorry… I know I keep saying that, but you know we wouldn’t have worked anyway. I’m hanging up now… No, I’m really hanging up now.”

Spencer shot away from the living room wall and back into the kitchen, trying to look nonchalant when Ashley came back in. It was clear that the brunette was a little shaken and definitely ill-at-ease.

Spencer handed her the glass of water after dropping two cubes of ice in it. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked the musician cautiously.

“Not really,” sighed Ashley. “Let’s just say that I’m trying to be a better person than I used to be and I’m being accused of ulterior motives.”

“Well, I can’t imagine you being anything but wonderful,” Spencer returned loyally. “And, well, I don’t believe you have ulterior motives.”

“I don’t!” exploded Ashley. “Sorry, this isn’t your fault. I’m just a little upset now.”

“I can see.” Spencer reached out a hand to soothe. “How can I help?”

Ashley raised her eyes up and let out a wry sigh. “Not sure you can.”

“Aw, come on, not even with hot fudge sundaes?” That got a grin.

“Well, now you mention it.”

Spencer grinned and Ashley grinned back, the blonde’s heart now doing a familiar flip at the small wrinkle in the brunette’s nose. She was about to get tpgether the ingredients for said sundaes when there was a loud crash from Elly’s room, followed by a blood-curdling scream.

Spencer stared at Ashley in horror before taking off from the kitchen in a sprint and heading towards her daughter’s room.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapters 26-30 [A]

3 Comments

  1. Ringo
    Posted 27 March 2009 at 8.17pm | Permalink

    The scene where Ashley signs to Elly for the first time is still my all-time favorite scene in any Spashley fic ever. Just…it makes my heart melt.

  2. Serenity6982
    Posted 28 March 2009 at 10.38pm | Permalink

    wow i cannot believe there is one comment. Please do not get discouraged, you ae an amazing writer and you make so many people’s days just to come and read something with spashley that is written so good that it actually evokes all these profound emotions that the fic is describing. I swear not just this fic, all of them, they all have made us tear up, get angry, pits in ur stomach,etc and the fact that you have that ability says a lot about the amount of talent you have. It just reads so genuine the feelings the girls have for each other, you just seem to know how to portray love…and betrayal,distrust,etc and a whole gamut of emotions. PLease continue to post all of your work it is really hard to find the stories that can do this because there is no shortage of spahley fanfiction you know? Not to impune others of course. The inside skin is another i cannot wait for besides your new one, and ground beneath her feet of course!! don’t forget lol. :o)

  3. Fort
    Posted 10 September 2013 at 9.38pm | Permalink

    And the reason I felt like re-reading this was entirely my memory of the scene where Ashley signs to Elly in the supermarket. Probably one of the scenes from any of your fics that I remember the most

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