Best For Me: Chapters 26-30

Previously: Chapters 21-25 [A]

Chapter 26: The One with the Head Wound
Chapter 27: The One where Ashley Does the Right Thing
Chapter 28: The One with the Big Announcement
Chapter 29: The One with the Invitation
Chapter 30: The One with the Brownies

Rating for this set of chapters: A. There’s kissing.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Six

Spencer was through Elly’s door in a heartbeat and had her daughter in her arms before she knew what was happening. There was blood streaming down the side of the little girl’s head and she was crying. Spencer wrapped her up tight and held her, rocking back and forward, murmuring gentle phrasesm as she tried to calm her daughter. Slowly her eyes took in the scene of the room: the open wardrobe and the kitchen chair in front of it, said chair lying forlornly sideways on the ground, and the bedside table askew. Spencer pulled back to gently look at her daughter’s temple. It was still seeping copious amounts of blood and the sight made Spencer’s stomach turn. Elly was whimpering in her arms and Spencer wasn’t sure what to do. It looked fairly painful.

She felt Ashley kneel down next to her and watched her gently press a rolled-up towel to Elly’s forehead. It drew a louder whimper from the little girl but she didn’t stir much. Spencer felt Ashley’s hand gently grasp hers and bring it to the towel. She realised that the brunette wanted her to hold it there.

“We should get her to the hospital.” Ashley’s voice was steady, but Spencer knew she wasn’t calm. Her own voice was missing, gone in her panic and concern. It must have radiated from her because Ashley cupped her cheek gently for a second and whispered, “It’s okay. Scalp cuts always bleed a lot. It’s not that big, but she should get checked out.”

Spencer swallowed, tears welling in her eyes, and nodded. She picked up Elly, who was pretty light anyway, and, still holding the towel to her daughter’s forehead, headed towards the front door.

She didn’t know if she would have managed without Ashley. Perhaps it was just that the girl’s ever-calming presence made Spencer let her take charge. She had grabbed Spencer’s keys and had steered them to the door. Elly had let out another whimper and all of Spencer’s attention had flown to the little girl in her arms, her baby. She had rocked her back and forward, pressing kisses to the non-injured temple and whispering her love to the little girl.

“It’s okay, momma’s here. It’s okay now. We’re gonna get you all fixed up, okay? Momma’s here and she loves you.” She chanted the litany over and over.

Spencer had no idea how they got to the emergency department or how they got inside. She vaguely remembered Ashley prompting her for details at the window and answering them. Luckily for them, it was a quiet night and Elly was seen fairly quickly. They were seated in a bay of the children’s area, Spencer still holding Elly tight. The little girl seemed to have calmed, although she looked as though she might vomit on anyone who suggested taking her away from her mommy. Not that Spencer would have let them. The pain and shock had clearly taken all of Elly’s words away and, for once, her gorgeous little hands were still. She looked up at Spencer with those piercing blue eyes that perfectly matched her both own and Paula’s and the residue of tears nearly sent Spencer over the edge again. She felt Ashley’s hand on her arm and looked up at her. The tentative smile on the brunette’s face made Spencer feel a little less tense.

“Oh, I brought someone with me. He said he’d be upset if he didn’t come.” Ashley turned to the seat next to her as Spencer raised an eyebrow. The musician turned back with a scruffy grey elephant in her hands. Elly moved slightly and reached out with one hand, grasping Mr Ruffles and pulling him into her chest. Cuddling him, she nestled further into her mother and stuck her thumb in her mouth.

“Thank you,” Spencer whispered, the first words she’d spoken – except to give Elly’s details at the triage window – in what seemed like hours.

“I grabbed him on our way out. I thought he might come in handy.” Ashley settled back in her seat.

“Mr Ruffles always comes in handy,” Spencer confided. “He would have to be my favorite elephant.”

Ashley chuckled. “Are you sure you didn’t hit YOUR head?” she asked teasingly.

“I feel like I have,” Spencer admitted shakily.

“It’ll be okay, you know,” the brunette soothed. “She’s okay.”

“I know,” Spencer whispered back. “But she’s my baby and…”

“I know, I know.” Ashley was cut off by the doctor approaching.

“Mrs -”

“Carlin,” Spencer interrupted. Somehow that felt important, even now. “Miss.”

“Sorry, Miss Carlin. Come this way, would you?”

It was very professional and quick. The doctor turned out to be fantastic with Elly and, between him and Mr Ruffles, they had her sorted out fairly soon. They had to wait around the inevitable hours for a CT scan – just a precaution, Spencer was assured – but it wasn’t long before Elly was all bundled up on her lap asleep, safe and sound with six small stitches in her head, a lovely bandage and a sticker for being such a brave little girl. And she was so very, very brave. Spencer was the one who was barely holding on by her fingernails, even now that Elly had been certified fit and well. The only reason she wasn’t shaking was because she was holding Elly so tight.

Looking down at the little angel asleep on her lap as Ashley drove them home, she caught Mr Ruffles staring back up at her from Elly’s arms. He was cradled tightly but for a minute Spencer was certain that he looked as worried as she did. Oh God, she really was losing it if she was empathizing with a stuffed elephant. She looked out of the window and then to Ashley, who momentarily took her eyes off the road to catch the gaze and smile softly.

“Doing okay over there?”

“Yeah, she’s gone to sleep.” Spencer punctuated her sentence with a soft kiss on her daughter’s head.

“I meant you, actually.”

“Um, best we leave that until I’m not made of jelly.”

“Okay, probably a good idea. Especially if you’re lime jelly, because then I’m going to be following you around with a spoon.” Ashley grinned.

“Duly noted,” Spencer laughed. “I’d be more raspberry anyway.”

“Two spoons.” Ashley nodded sagely.

Spencer just laughed.

Spencer tucked Elly up in bed without the little girl even waking up. Kissing her softly on the head, she watched the sleeping form as she curled up, never letting go of her precious elephant.

“You’re gonna have to leave her at some point, Spence,” Ashley whispered from the door. “She really is all right.”

“I know,” Spencer replied back in a soft voice. “I know.” Another kiss and she snuck out of the room.

In the living room, she found two cups of steaming coffee on the coffee table. Ashley was leaning against the couch with her hands in her pockets.

“You may wanna get changed first, though, before coffee.” The brunette pointed at Spencer’s shirt.

Spencer looked down. Elly’s blood was pretty much all over her shirt. It was ruined. That didn’t bother her so much but the sight of the blood made her shake all over. Her knees went weak and she wobbled. And then Ashley was there to hold her up, just like every moment she’d needed her in the last few weeks. Trembling with everything that was inside her, and held up by Ashley’s arms loosely looped around her waist, Spencer brought her hands up to her neck and deftly undid the buttons on her shirt. She slipped it off and threw it across the room.

Standing in Ashley’s arms in her bra, she was still shaking. She knew the brunette was torn between wanting to hold her up and the fact that Spencer seemed to be undressing in her arms.

“Spenc-”

Ashley’s words were cut off by Spencer thrusting both hands in her curls and covering the brunette’s mouth with hers in a searing kiss that had nothing to do with innocence.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Spencer’s fingers clenched reflexively in Ashley’s curls as she ran her tongue over the other girl’s lips frantically, demanding entrance. The musician groaned, opening her mouth to the onslaught and sliding her hands to Spencer’s waist where the skin was soft and just slightly tanned. Spencer gasped, intensifying the kiss and pushing her body into Ashley’s. Tilting her head, she pulled the brunette into her, grinding her body against the slim frame beside her and sliding her hand down to the small of Ashley’s back. Their bodies moved against each other, the heat building quickly and threatening to explode inside Spencer like a hydrogen bomb. She couldn’t get enough of the other girl, running her hands over every piece of skin she could find and devouring her mouth with kisses that she’d never experienced before.

Ashley was responding move for move, driving Spencer crazy and taking her to a place she’d never been before. She’d never wanted anyone this much in her life. Desperate for more, she dropped her hands to the clasp of the brunette’s jeans and made to unsnap it. To her surprise, Ashley’s hands grasped her own and pushed them away, at the same time pulling away from the kiss.

And so they stood, Spencer in her bra, hands held in Ashley’s, and Ashley a foot away from her, panting and flushed. Spencer’s heart was beating a mile a minute and, despite having been thoroughly kissed just seconds before, her throat was dry and she couldn’t speak.

“Spencer.” Ashley’s voice was shaking to the same rhythm as Spencer’s insides.

“Please,” she whispered, not really knowing what she was asking for.

“We can’t do this, Spencer. It would be a mistake.” Ashley took another step back, letting go of the blonde’s hands.

Spencer covered her face, only to find Ashley suddenly in front of her again, pulling her into an embrace.

“No, no, no,” she whispered urgently into Spencer’s hair. “Don’t cry, baby, don’t cry. It’s not like that. I want you. God, do I ever want you. But you’re really, really upset about what happened today and this is how you’re letting it out.” She kissed Spencer gently again. “I’d be the worst person ever if I took advantage of that.” Spencer shook a little as Ashley tipped her chin up and stared deep into her eyes. The chocolate brown was almost melting and Spencer was pretty sure she was starting to melt in the gaze as well. “Spencer, this is so important to me. I’m not going to fuck this up.”

Spencer was the one to take a step back now.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Ashley sighed and moved back to lean against the back of the couch. Sitting on her hands, she looked at Spencer with some uncertainty. “I… I’m not good at this stuff. Being a good friend, being there for people.”

“Well you could have fooled me,” said Spencer, disbelievingly.

“I’m not. Not before now. Spencer, I like being your friend. With you, this is easy. I’ve fucked up every major relationship I’ve ever had with anyone: friends, lovers, family. I never know what to say or do but somehow, with this, with you, it’s easy. I know what to say, I know what to do. You’re just… incredibly important to me. You know I want you. I know you want me. But we both know it’s gonna mess things up royally and I won’t do that to you. I won’t do that to us. And can you please put a top on?”

Spencer looked down at her half-naked body and gave a lopsided smile.

“Okay. Um, I’m going to go process that and put a shirt on.” She turned to go and then stopped. Looking back at Ashley, she cocked her head to one side. “Don’t leave, okay? Please.”

Ashley nodded, and went back to staring at the floor. Spencer emerged five minutes later in fresh clothes and regarded the brunette carefully.

“Our coffee is getting cold” she said.

Ashley shrugged and moved to sit on the couch. Spencer followed her. Sipping her coffee, she waited out the silence between them. Somehow she knew she’d have to be the one to break it.

“I do want you, you know,” she murmured softly.

“I know.”

“And I wish I could do something about it.”

“I know that, too.”

“And whatever happened in the past, Ashley, you’re not bad at this. You’re a good friend, probably the best friend I’ve ever had. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through the last few weeks without you.”

“I would never intentionally let you down.”

“I know.” Spencer sighed. “In a way, I wish you hadn’t stopped us tonight, but I know it was the right thing to do. I just wish things weren’t going to stay as complicated for as long as they will.”

“I don’t care, you know,” Ashley said, turning to her. “I’m not exactly impatient.”

“Ash…”

“No, seriously, I’m not hanging around in the insane hope something will happen, Spence. I just want to be your friend. Well, I need to be your friend. No, wait, I want to STAY your friend.”

Spencer couldn’t help giggle at Ashley’s sudden inability to form coherent sentences. This was kind of a new side to the girl.

“Ashley, I’m honoured that you’re my friend. And I definitely don’t expect you to wait around for me to be less, ‘complicated’,” Spencer made air quotes. “I promise.”

“I’m just here, Spencer. Just here. Not waiting, just… here.”

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Spencer jiggled up and down on the front step and shook her hands nervously at her sides. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Spencer, calm down, no-one is going to eat you alive!” Gray laughed gently.

“My mother might.”

“She’s not going to. Just calm down. We’re doing this together, right?” Gray sounded so calm and in control. Well, it wasn’t his parents he was going to tell; that was next week. On the other hand, it couldn’t be that easy walking into your soon-to-be-ex-in-laws house and saying, ‘Hi, she’s pregnant, we’re still getting divorced. See ya!’

Spencer still couldn’t shake her butterflies. Gray squeezed her hand understandingly one last time and then rang the doorbell. Spencer’s mother answered it, smiling her pretty smile and, on seeing Gray, Spencer couldn’t help notice that the smile went all the way to her mother’s stunning blue eyes, the exact same shade as their daughter’s.

“Spencer, Gray, it’s so good to see you both. Come in, come in.” Letting them through the door, she gave her daughter a knowing grin and a squeeze on the shoulder. Spencer rolled her eyes at her mother’s retreating back. Trust her mother to read way too much into them coming over together. Well, she should have expected that, really.

They wound their way through the house to the back porch where Elly was safely ensconced in her grandfather’s lap with Mr Ruffles grasped in her arms. Seeing Gray, she hopped down and ran over excitedly and threw herself into his arms, accepting his hugs with giggles.

“Hiya, champ,” he said, and Spencer felt like rolling her eyes again. Would he ever remember that Elly couldn’t hear him?

Elly’s fingers flew, and Gray looked to Spencer who translated. “She said: ‘Daddy, I hurt myself but it’s all better now.'” Spencer looked at Gray pointedly. He had the decency to half-smile ruefully. He kissed Elly gently on her bandage and put her down. Holding Mr Ruffles by one forelorn leg, she ran off to chase her grandparents’ cat around the yard.

Spencer sat down at the table after kissing her father on the temple and grabbed a glass of lemonade. She wished that it was something stronger but, even if her parents had something remotely strong on offer, she couldn’t anyway. Funnily enough, it was the first time since becoming pregnant that she had even wanted any alcohol. It was just like her mother to be the one to drive her to drink. Actually, that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t her mother, so much as Spencer’s own anxiety over her mother’s response.

Now that Spencer thought about it, leaning back in her chair and regarding her mother tending to Gray with over friendly gestures, Spencer seemed to care an awful lot about what her mother thought while always being intently fearful of it. Spencer’s gaze narrowed slightly. Why was that? It was awful the way her relationship with her mother had disintegrated.

Spencer sometimes wondered how her mother showered without screaming, “I’m melting, I’m melting… Oh, what a world!” And that was unfair. Yes, in point of fact, Paula had put unfair pressure on Spencer, but it was Spencer who had caved. She was the one who had married a man whom she frankly didn’t love because it made her mother happy. She was the one who had studied things she hadn’t wanted to because it made her mother happy. Enough was enough. Spencer loved her mother, and she knew, deep down, that Paula loved her. Only now she was going to have to love Spencer on Spencer’s terms and no-one else’s.

“Mom,” she interrupted Paula doling out potato salad and caught her dad’s attention too. “Can you sit down? We need to tell you something.”

Paula sat down with a knowing, happy look on her face. Spencer decided to tackle that first.

“Mom, we’re not getting back together.” It took a few seconds for the truth to dawn on Paula’s face and for it to crumble a little. “I’m sorry, I know you were hoping. Um, we do have some news though.” Taking a deep breath, she went for it. “I’m pregnant.”

The silence was intense. Eventually, Arthur broke it, putting his hand over Spencer’s and standing up. He leaned over the table, hugging her and smiling.

“Congratulations, honey.”

Spencer couldn’t help but be both warmed and surprised, although she shouldn’t have been shocked by the fact that her father was the first person to respond in a truly wonderful manner. He was, after all, a truly wonderful man.

“But…” Spencer’s mother finally spoke. She looked at Gray and then at Spencer. Her head played a miniature tennis game between the two. “But, how can you not be getting back together?”

“This doesn’t change things, Mother,” Spencer said softly, trying to keep her annoyance in check.

“It changes EVERYTHING, Spencer! How can you bring a child into this world without a father when you have the opportunity? How can you be so cruel?”

“Paula!” Gray interjected at the same time as Spencer said, “This child will have a father! Gray is this child’s father. There is no way I’d come between him and this baby. But bringing a child into a loveless marriage is not a good idea. And not something I would do to them, me or Gray.”

“I don’t understand!” Paula was all but wailing now. “You could build a family. Love takes work, Spencer. You don’t just run away at the first sign of danger.”

“Mother,” Spencer’s voice had a heavy note of caution in it, “this is between Gray and me. How we choose to do this is just that: our choice. This, once again, isn’t up for discussion, Mom. I just wanted you to know what was happening.”

If Paula had been about to open her mouth, she was stopped by Arthur’s hand on her arm and a warning look.

“Spencer, honey, we understand that completely.” Her father always knew just what to say, and the young blonde was sure that a very pointed look passed her mother’s way at that moment. “We’re here to support you in any way. You too, Gray. This can’t be easy for either of you.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Despite all her efforts to the contrary, Spencer and Arthur, with occasional input from Gray, kept Paula quiet for the rest of the lunch. Retrieving Elly from her play mat, Spencer breathed easier, lnowing that she’d made it through. Now everyone except Elly knew and Spencer was fairly convinced that her daughter would take the news with with bouncy excitement. Mr Ruffles might give her a knowing look or two, but the blonde knew that there was a subtle understanding between the two of them.

Gray met her at the door and smiled wryly.

“That didn’t go to badly, under the circumstances.”

“I know. Thank you so much for coming, Gray.” Spencer was genuinely grateful. His presence had made it so much easier.

“Hey, it’s fine.” He regarded the sky calmly. “You made the right decision, you know.”
He received a quizzical look in response. They walked slowly down the path together. “Breaking off the marriage. You were right, and I’m sorry.”

“Gray…”

“No, really. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but you were right. And… and I’m glad we can be friends.” It was part-statement, but also part-question.

“Me, too,” Spencer whispered softly. “Believe me, me too.” She put Elly in her car seat as Gray held the door open for them. “I have my 12-week scan next week. Do you want to come? They’ll do a tape if you can’t.”

“I’d love to.”

He grinned. And she grinned back.

Only one thing could make the day better and that was already happening: Ashley was coming over to dinner. Spencer couldn’t help holding her grin all the way home.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Nine

“Are you excited about tomorrow?” Ashley asked, leaning across the table to wipe some spaghetti sauce off Elly’s chin. Spencer smiled warmly at the gesture.

“I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you. She’ll be covered in it before long.” Spencer twirled her own pasta on her fork and cocked her head sideways in a gesture that was so very Spencer. “I am excited. I mean, I get to see the baby for the first time. But you don’t see much, and…”

“And?” Ashley prompted.

“And I know that I’m going to have an argument with my obstetrician, which will be less than fun.”

“Why?” Ashley’s forehead wrinkled with the not understanding.

“Because she’s going to want to do more tests.” Spencer took a bite of her spaghetti, snagging a meatball as she went.

“Is that a bad thing? Don’t more tests make things more safe?”

“Nope. She’ll want to do an amniocentesis to see if there’s anything wrong.”

“Mmm… I don’t know what that is.” Ashley bit her cheek thoughtfully. “But don’t you want to know if something’s wrong?”

“It’s a needle thing. And no. What am I going to do? It’s not going to change anything. I’ll still have and love the baby. And the amnio can cause a miscarriage, and I don’t wanna chance that.” Spencer leaned over and filled Elly’s glass with water.

“Okay, I guess. But what if the baby has a heart problem like Elly? Don’t you want to know that before it’s born, so you can be prepared?”

“I guess I’ll be half-expecting it anyway, even if they were to tell me that everything was fine. Anyway, they can’t tell everything from amniocentesis. All the pre-birth tests could be perfectly normal and the baby could still have something wrong. Or different. I think Elly is perfect, just as she is. And this baby will be the same. Perfect. To me. No matter what.”

Ashley smiled. “You’re beautiful, you know that?”

Spencer blushed and laughed embarrassedly. “Where did that come from?” She began to clear the table, very flustered. She liked the fact that the sexy musician thought she was beautiful and it created that oh-so-familiar flutter inside her.

“No, not outside, inside.” Ashley considered what she’d just said. “Okay, outside, too, but what I’m referring to is your insides. This isn’t very eloquent is it?”

Spencer laughed. “It’s okay, you called me beautiful. That gets you off the babbling hook.”

“Phew!” Ashley got up and grabbed a squealing Elly out of her chair, tickling her as she went. “I think I’ll take this one for a clean up.”

Elly squealed delightfully, her face smattered with sauce. Spencer watched them giggle up the hall and sighed happily. This was how things were supposed to be. If only she could actually end the night with Ashley in her arms, in her bed, maybe her life would be perfect.

She could. There was nothing actually stopping her.

Except the future. The scary, scary future and ridiculously complicated life she had going on right now. Not only would it make things a million times more complicated, it also wouldn’t be fair on Ashley. And Gray probably wouldn’t react too well. He’d certainly smell a rat, even though, technically there wasn’t one. Oh, all right, there had been one minor indiscretion but that wasn’t the reason she’d left Gray. It was just something that happened. And something she desperately wanted to happen again.

No, no, Ashley is right. We’re better off as just friends. So much better off. Spencer thought as she loaded the dishwasher and cleared the table. By the time she was finished, her four-year-old was in pyjamas looking very pleased with herself, and even Ashley was grinning, although a little damp.

“She threw the rubber duck at me.” Ashley nodded seriously, looking at her hands. “I don’t know how to sign that.”

Spencer grinned and signed it slowly for her. “Why’d did you throw the duck at Ashley?” she signed back to her laughing daughter, while speaking for Ashley. She made an effort to keep her movements slow and obvious for the brunette who copied them.

“Cos she made it bite my stomach,” Elly signed, much faster than Ashley could read. Spencer laughed with eyes sparkling and translated. As Elly picked up Mr Ruffles and headed for her bedroom, Spencer raised an eyebrow at Ashley.

“I think you possibly deserved some duck.”

“Uh-huh,” Ashley agreed. “Good thing I know how to duck.”

Spencer slapped her forehead in dismay. “Ashley, that was a terrible pun.”

“Atrocious,” the brunette agreed cheerfully. “I have lots more where they came from.”

“Oh God, now you warn me.” She punched the musician playfully on the arm. “I’m just gonna tuck Elly in and I’ll be out. Coffee?”

“You bet. I’ll make it.”

When she returned, Spencer sat down with Ashley and sighed.

“You okay?” the brunette asked.

“Yeah, actually. I am kind of looking forward to tomorrow.”

“You’ll stop by and say hi? It’s my hospital day.”

“Of course,” Spencer snorted. “Like I’d miss it. Actually, I booked my appointment for half-an-hour after you finish. I thought I’d bring Elly along because she does enjoy it so. Is that okay by you?”

“Are you kidding?” Now it was Ashley’s turn to snort. “I love having you guys there. I’ll wait around for you.”

“Ash, you don’t have to do that.”

“I want to. I want to hear how it went.”

“I know. I want to tell you. But…” Spencer looked away from her friend. “Gray’s coming.”

“Aah.” Ashley understood, but Spencer still felt lousy.

Ashley had been there for her so much in the last four months, through every crazy up and down, every mad thing that had happened. She was the person that Spencer felt she could trust more than anyone else, except possibly her father and Clay. Certainly, she’d been more reliable than Gray, although he seemed to be making up for lost time. Nonetheless, Spencer wanted Ashley to be there, too. If it was complicated now, how hard would it be if they were actually together? Sighing ruefully, Spencer bit her lip.

“Spence, it’s okay.”

“No, I want to share this with you.”

“Don’t be silly. This is something you have to share with Gray.”

“I know, I know. I want to share it with both of you. Is that dumb?”

Ashley laughed. “No. Touching, but not dumb. Look, I’ll be around the hospital. I have some research to do in the library anyway and, if Gray leaves, we can go for a coffee or something. You can catch me up, share everything then.”

“You always have the right answers,” Spencer smiled.

“Darn tootin’.”

And so it was that Spencer found herself in the playroom of the paediatric ward at Callahan Memorial, talking to Ashley after her session. She was helping the brunette tidy up and checking her watch almost religiously. Fifteen minutes to go and Gray still wasn’t there. He’d promised to be early.

“He’ll be here, Spence. Stop worrying.” Ashley zipped up her guitar case and shouldered it. “Where are you meeting him?”

“Down in the lobby.”

“C’mon, then. Grab Elly and we’ll go wait for him together.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Spencer protested.

“Don’t be silly. I work here, we’re friends. Of course I’m going to wait with you. C’mon, he might be down there right now.”

Spencer shrugged and retrieved her daughter from the pile of stuffed animals in the corner. Making sure that Mr Ruffles hadn’t been left behind, which would have been a tragedy beyond compare (she knew this from previous experience), they trooped down to the lobby. There was no sign of Gray.

With five minutes left before her appointment, Spencer was starting to get a little worked up. She checked her watch again and groaned. As if in response, the cell phone in her bag started ringing. Setting her lips into a thin line she flipped it open and answered it.

“Spencer, it’s Gray.”

“Where are you? We have five minutes to get there.” She was sounding frantic and she knew it.

“Spencer…” He let the silence settle between them. She knew what he was going to say. “I’m sorry, a meeting has come up. I can’t miss it. I’m so sorry.”

“Gray, you promised.”

“I know, Spencer, but this project, it’s really, really huge right now and there’s no way I can miss this meeting. Please get the visit taped for me.”

“Fine,” she snapped, hanging up on him. She felt Ashley slip an arm around her shoulder and pull her into a quick hug with a very quick kiss on her temple. Spencer sighed and looked at the ground. Scuffing the floor with the toe of her shoe she bit her lip. “Ash?”

“I’d love to come with you, Spencer.”

Standing up, the brunette swung her guitar back up onto her shoulder and held out at hand to Elly and hand to Spencer. “Come on, you two. We have a very important date.”

“No time to say hello, goodbye?” Spencer couldn’t help smiling.

“Uh-huh. We’re late, we’re late, we’re late.”

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty

Spencer lay back on the couch with some trepidation. Even though this was just a scan, she couldn’t help feeling a little like she was at the gynaecologist. That was a feeling which wasn’t exactly calculated to make her comfortable, specially since she was with Ashley and Elly. Her obstetrician came in with a smile. If the doctor saw anything in Ashley being by her side, fingers laced through Spencer’s, she didn’t say anything. Elly was strangely subdued, staring at the equipment in front of them like it was a spaceship. She reached out a finger to gingerly touch the edge of the ultrasound machine and then pulled back, afraid.

“It’s okay, you can touch it,” Dr. Daley said laughingly. She was a friendly young brunette and Spencer had always gotten along with her. She’d delivered Elly with skill that Spencer had admired and she had great trust in the woman. “Shall we get started?” Dr. Daley asked.

“Sure,” said Spencer. “This is Ashley.” She introduced the two, feeling uneasy at not explaining who Ashley was. She smiled as the two women shook hands. Elly clambered into the safety of Ashley’s lap and clung to Mr Ruffles. She wasn’t usually this shy but, for some reason, today was her day for holding it all in. Her little blue eyes grew as round as saucers as Spencer pulled up her top and the doctor squirted gel onto her stomach.

Spencer chuckled and signed to Elly, reassuring her that it was all right. She appreciated the subtle tightening of Ashley’s arm, holding her daughter safe, and the subtle squeeze of Ashley’s hand on hers, telling Spencer is was okay, too. Spencer shivered at the chill of the gel on her stomach as the probe gently pressed into her slightly swollen abdomen. She’d shown early with Elly and she was just barely showing now, even at three months.

As the fuzzy images sprung up on the screen, a sudden noise made Ashley’s hand jerk. Now it was Spencer’s turn to squeeze.

“Oh my God,” the brunette whispered. “Is that the heartbeat?”

Dr. Daley smiled and nodded. “That’s the heartbeat.”

Spencer listened to the soft rapid pounding and felt her eyes go wet with tears. Squeezing Ashley’s fingers, together they watched the ultrasound as it brought Spencer’s new child to life in front of them.

After it was done, the doctor kindly left them in some privacy and Spencer wiped as much of the gel off as possible.

“Ew.” Ashley giggled. “That looks gross.”

“Just cold,” Spencer grinned.

“That was incredible.” The musician looked a little awed.

“Yeah, it is. Each and every time.” Spencer realised that their fingers were still intertwined. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much for being here.”

“It was an honour,” Ashley replied solemnly. “It was… amazing Spencer. Thank you for letting me come.”

The picture they made walking back to the car was one that Spencer wished she could stop time for: Ashley and Spencer, laughing in the orange and pink sunset, swinging a giddy Elly between them, Mr Ruffles tucked under Spencer’s other arm safely. It felt safe. It felt warm. It felt… perfect.

Spencer gave in for the moment. She knew that it was going to make it harder when she had to let Ashley go home for the evening, but this time that they had was so close to what she really wanted that she couldn’t help but bask in it for a few hours. So she basked all the way home to make another dinner with the three of them. Elly seemed to have adjusted to Ashley’s presence without question or issue. Most nights, the musician joined them for dinner and she was frequently around when neither of them were at work. Elly had taken to the other girl with a sweetness that touched both Spencer and Ashley. Possibly, it was because it was the first time that anyone but Spencer had paid this much attention to her. Gray had never really been the most active of fathers.

Just that thought made Spencer angry inside. She pushed it down. She was trying to enjoy this space, this time, and thoughts of Gray were not going to intrude. For the last few months, she’d had space and time and not once had she regretted leaving Gray, not even when he was being his sweet and wonderful good-guy self. Even then, she knew she was right and, yet, he still managed to get her more riled up than anyone else imaginable. She shook her head ruefully at the thought.

“Penny for ’em?” Ashley offered, leaning across the breakfast bar to steal a piece of brownie off the plate Spencer was uncovering. The blonde slapped her hand away jokingly.

“They’re not worth that much.”

“Aww, c’mon, they looked deep and meaningful.”

“Nup. Shallow and boring.” She picked up a brownie and leaned across the counter. The brunette moved to take the chocolate goodness but Spencer pulled it away. “Nuh-uh.”

“What? I want brownie.”

“You can have brownie. Just…” Spencer broke off a corner of the sweet block and leant closer.

Both girls were now leaning from either side of the counter and only inches apart. Spencer brought the crumbly corner up to Ashley’s mouth and gently slid it inside. Ashley moved forward with grace and speed that Spencer didn’t expect and swallowed both the piece and the tip of Spencer’s index finger, suckling the chocolate off the end and making Spencer suddenly flood with need and want. Ashley’s tongue snaked out to run across the tip of the blonde’s fingertip. Now it was other areas of Spencer that were starting to flood. Slowly and surely, she slid the finger out of Ashley’s mouth and stared deep into her eyes. Both of them were breathing harder than they should have been from just standing around the kitchen.

“Uh… Uh… nice brownies. I definitely love these brownies,” Ashley choked out, breaking the tension.

“Thanks. They’re my mother’s recipe.” Spencer wiped her hands on her jeans and looked down, hoping her heart rate would calm down before she had a heart attack. “Want another one?”

“Yeah.”

For a second, Spencer considered feeding it to her again. The sensation had been exquisite but she didn’t want to end up making love on the kitchen floor, and that’s exactly where they would be heading if Ashley’s tongue got anywhere near her finger again. She handed Ashley a brownie and damn near quivered when the girl’s hand brushed her own.

The doorbell broke the tension like a hammer and both girls heads flew around to look at the door.

“It’s nine-thirty at night, who could that be?” Ashley looked at the door confused.

“I have no idea.” Spencer moved towards it, looking through the spyglass in the middle and then sighing. She opened the door. “What?”

Gray’s tall form filled the doorway. Ashley looked at him and took it as her cue to jump off the barstool she’d been occupying at the breakfast bar and find the bathroom.

“Can I come in?” Gray asked, ignoring the brunette’s presence.

“Why?”

“Spencer!”

“Fine, okay.” She let him in grudgingly and closed the door. She folded her arms and stood behind him, biting her lip. “What?”

Gray held out the flowers he’d brought, hoping they’d appease Spencer. Spencer was having none of it.

“Save them for your mother, Gray. Spit it out and go home.” She was clearly not amused.

“Spencer, I’m sorry. About today.”

“Gray, I’m kind of not in the mood.” She didn’t add that it was mostly because she’d been in a stunningly good mood until he showed up and now it was gone. “You’re sorry, fine. I’ll just remember not to depend on you next time.” Leaving him gaping, Spencer walked over to the table and picked up Gray’s copy of the ultrasound. She thrust it into his hands and shoved her own in her pockets. “Here, today’s video.”

“Thank you. I’ll watch it.”

“Good for you.”

“Spencer, please, come on.”

“I’m sorry, Gray. You say you want to be here, be part of this, but you keep skipping out. Look at tonight, you couldn’t even ring. Or show up when Elly was awake.”

“Work -” he interjected, but Spencer cut him off.

“Work! It’s always WORK with you, Gray. Work isn’t life. Life is more than that. Look, I don’t care, Gray. Do what you want. But don’t make promises you can’t keep, because I’m getting a little sick of it.”

“What, Spencer, like our marriage? That promise that you didn’t keep? Or how about to love and cherish? That promise you didn’t keep? I’m sick of you being so high and mighty all the time. You’re not perfect. You’re whiney, needy and you never care about what other people need.”

With that parting shot, Gray stormed out the door, throwing the flowers to the side of the garden path as he went. Spencer stood, stunned, watching him leave. It was Ashley who closed the door and turned to face Spencer. After everything that had gone on, the blonde simply lost it. Tears rolling down her face, she shook. Ashley had her arms around her in an instant.

“Spence. Spence, baby, it’s okay. He’s wrong, so very wrong, okay? It’s okay, it’s okay. Nothing he said was right. You’re beautiful, you’re amazing, you’re wonderful. Shh.”

Spencer wrapped her arms around Ashley’s waist and let the litany of soothing words wash over her. Head buried in Ashley’s neck, she slowed her crying to the brunette’s soft stroking and eventually stilled.

“I’m sorry,” she gulped. “I just…”

“No, he’s an ass.”

“He isn’t.”

“He bloody well is!” Ashley said explosively. “I heard what he said, Spencer, and he couldn’t have been more wrong. You’re wonderful. You’re not whiney and you care deeply about everyone around you. You’re also going through one hell of a difficult time at the moment and you’re dealing with it in a way that is so impressive.” Ashley brushed a lock of hair back off Spencer’s face and cupped her chin. “You’re wonderful, and he IS an ass.”

“I don’t want to talk about him.”

“Okay. That we can do. Spencer, you’re exhausted, you need to go to bed.”

“I know.” She gulped again, and then pulled Ashley back into another hug. “Will you stay, please?”

“Tonight?” Spencer nodded against the brunette’s shoulder. “Of course.”

“With me?”

“Spencer, are you sure?”

Spencer pulled back. She mirrored the musician’s earlier moves, brushing a lock of hair back and cupping her perfect face. “Please,” she whispered.

And Ashley could only nod.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapters 31-35 [X, NSFW]

One Comment

  1. Streak
    Posted 22 March 2009 at 4.28pm | Permalink

    I just love this story :)

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