Best For Me: Chapters 31-35

Previously: Chapters 26-30 [A]

Chapter 31: The One with the Polar Bear Pyjamas
Chapter 32: The One with the Shower Sex
Chapter 33: The One where Ashley Disappears
Chapter 34: The One with the Tears
Chapter 35: The One with the Confession

Rating for this set of chapters: X. Adult in all sorts of ways. NSFW.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty-One

Spencer pulled back the covers and grinned at Ashley. The brunette was wearing flannelette pyjamas and looked damn adorable. They had polar bears all over them; some of the polar bears were even eating ice-cream. The brunette looked down at herself and back at Spencer with an unreadable look on her face.

“What?” laughed the blonde.

“Just these PJs… I guess I’m not used to them. How come you get the silky ones?” She pointed at Spencer’s silky blue pair.

“Well, because you’d rather feel them against your skin than on it?” Spencer’s eyes twinkled as Ashley swallowed. “What do you normally wear to bed?”

“Underwear and a wife beater. Or, nothing.” It was Spencer’s turn to swallow.

She slid in between the covers and let Ashley slide in next to her. Then she switched off the light. It was practically a scene from a movie: both of them lying still, on their backs, staring at the ceiling and not quite touching. Eventually Ashley just laughed.

“Roll over, you goof. Let me hold you.”

Spencer rolled onto her side and smiled, feeling warmth flood her and loving the feel of Ashley’s hand sliding around her waist. She also loved the feeling of the small, tender kiss that Ashley placed on the nape of her neck and the incredible sensation of having the brunette’s body pressed full-length against hers. It was warm, it was safe and it was turning her on like she’d never thought possible.

“Ash,” she murmured.

“Yeah?” The musician’s breath was warm against her hair.

“Thanks for staying.”

“Any time.”

Oh no, not any time: there was no way that Spencer could endure this night after night. It was some kind of delicious torture. Spencer had no idea how she was supposed to sleep tonight. It was calming, in one sense, to have Ashley there. And, in another way, it was useful because, with the brunette pressed up against her, she could think of NOTHING else. This was the one and only night this would be happening. Otherwise, Spencer would go insane.

That put the thought in Spencer’s head. One night. Just this one night. God, could they? She wanted to. There was nothing technically stopping them. She was no longer married. She knew Ashley wanted her. What if? Letting that thought linger in her head, she slowly turned in Ashley’s arms. Her eyes had adjusted to the dark and she could see beautiful brown eyes looking back at her. Spencer brought her fingers up and ran her thumb along Ashley’s bottom lip. It quivered in response.

“Spence…”

The word was a whisper. If she hadn’t just caught it, she might have thought it was a dream, but Spencer knew that it was real. She reached forward and stole those delicious lips in a soft kiss that made her insides gelatinous. Ashley responded and her arms moved around Spencer’s back, pulling her closer. The kiss melded, soft and beautiful, yet sensuous and warm. Spencer felt fingers delicately rifle through her hair and she responded with a moan.

“God, Spencer.” Ashley pulled back from the kiss. “We have to stop.”

“I don’t want to,” Spencer whimpered, aware that she sounded somewhat like a petulant five-year-old.

“I know.” Ashley ran a finger along Spencer’s jaw. “I don’t want to, either.”

“So, why are we stopping?” Spencer propped herself up on one elbow to look down at the beautiful woman next to her. “We’re both adults, unattached. Why are we stopping?”

“Because it could get very complicated very quickly,” Ashley said, but Spencer knew she was bending the girl’s resolve.

“What about tonight?” Spencer whispered, and Ashley’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What if we said, just tonight? Tonight we’ll do what we want, be together how ever we want, and tomorrow,” Spencer shrugged, “we go back to being friends.”

Ashley looked at her through hooded eyes. “Can we do that?”

“Yes,” Spencer replied simply. She prayed to God that Ashley would believe her. She wasn’t really sure, but the idea of not being with Ashley tonight was too much to bear. She nearly groaned in thanks when the brunette simply threaded her fingers through Spencer’s hair again and pulled her into a searing kiss.

Spencer’s hands worked on Ashley’s back, sliding up and down, kneading in response to the fevered kiss. After minutes of enjoying the warmth and heat of Ashley’s mouth, the incredible feeling of her tongue sliding forward to meet Spencer’s in a dance of eroticism, Spencer was desperate for some contact, some basic skin-on-skin action. She slid her hands down and under the hem of Ashley’s shirt, sweeping them up along her back and half way up, scratching her ever so slightly with her nails. It was a knee-jerk response to the strange tongue dance that Ashley had just done across her upper lip. The sensation flooded her with wetness below and she could barely handle it. Crying out in frustration and need, Spencer slammed her knee between Ashley’s, wrapping her arm around the brunette and grinding on the thigh above her, desperate to ease some of the ache growing. Ashley’s mouth broke off from hers with a growl, and her head fell forward to the crook of Spencer’s neck. The breath was warm and moist as Ashley’s hips moved in cadence and the friction along Spencer did nothing to ease and everything to heighten her arousal.

“Jesus, Spencer!” Ashley cried out, pulling away slightly. She rolled them to the side and placed a hand on the blonde’s hip, ceasing the thrusting motions and stilling them. She rested her lips on Spencer’s shoulder, kissing slightly as their gasping breaths calmed slowly. “God, baby, take it slow. We have all night.”

“Sorry,” Spencer whispered. She blushed and pulled away. Ashley must have realised her mistake because she immediately pulled the blonde back, refusing to give up the full-length contact they had.

“No, no sorry needed. It’s just that, at that rate, we’ll be there in three minutes and I don’t want to sell you short.” She kissed Spencer delicately on the nose. “We have tonight. I plan on using it to the fullest.”

“Oh.” Spencer was still blushing, but she didn’t pull away. “I’m sorry, I just… I want you so much.”

“I know,” Ashley grinned and Spencer slapped her shoulder playfully. “Oh, don’t look at me like that!” the brunette chuckled. “You know I want you just as much. I can’t stop thinking about how damn sexy you look when you come. I want to make you look like that again.”

The playful mood darkened as both girls took in the comment, both swallowing convulsively and regarding each other. Spencer moved her legs slightly as they lay tangled with Ashley’s, the sliding sensation making both girls breathe a little harder. Spencer stroked Ashley’s back slightly and swallowed again.

“You know that night?” she whispered.

“Mmm. The one I replay in my head every, oh, ten seconds.” Ashley smiled, placing a soft kiss on Spencer’s cheek.

“Yeah… Hey! It took longer than ten seconds!”

“I play short sound and picture bites.”

“Oh. Okay.” Spencer looked at Ashley with guarded eyes, running a finger along the brunette’s tattoo and smiling as she felt her shiver under the touch. “That night…”

“Mmm?” Ashley’s head dipped back to Spencer’s neck, lips moving softly along the skin and making it hard for the blonde to hold a coherent thought, let alone finish her sentence.

“That was the first time I’ve ever…”

It took a second or so for the comment to register and Ashley’s lips stopped. Her head came up to regard Spencer with some curiosity. “With a girl. I know.”

Spencer cut her off. “No, not that. The first time…”

Ashley looked confused. “But, pregnant, Gray, married?”

Spencer smiled at the girl’s innocent misunderstanding. “NO! At the end, the way you made me feel, that was the first time I’ve ever… That anyone has made me…”

A look of understanding dawned on Ashley’s face. “Come?” she choked out, finishing the blonde’s sentence for her. Spencer nodded shyly in response. “Oh Lord.” Running a thumb deftly along Spencer’s bottom lip, Ashley considered this for a while, a myriad of expressions flitting across her countenance. “But, baby, you’ve been married for how long?”

“Too long,” Spencer smiled ruefully. “And I’m a much better actress than you’d think.”

Ashley considered that comment, too, very carefully, before answering, “Uh, you -” Not so much a coherent answer.

“Faked it?” Spencer grimaced. “Yeah.”

“With…” Ashley swallowed and started again. “With me?”

Spencer pulled the brunette close and kissed her soundly with a growl. “Don’t be such an idiot. That was the most incredible thing I’ve ever felt in my whole life. The whole night, not just the end. And, no, you goofball, I did not fake it with you. That was real, one-hundred-percent, pure Spencer, um, bliss.”

Ashley grinned and pulled her back into a kiss. It changed from playful to sexy in a slow arc of sensation and before long they were moving against each other, the heat rising. Very slowly, Ashley pulled back out of the kiss, watching Spencer, who had her eyes closed with a rather dreamy look on her face. “Well, I guess I’m going to have to manufacture a few more moments of one-hundred-percent Spencer bliss to make up for lost time.”

Spencer’s eyelids fluttered open. “A few?” she swallowed. “Like, more than one?”

“Hell, yeah,” Ashley breathed. “More than one.”

She wrapped her arm around Spencer’s waist and any space that still lay between them vanished, as they were pressed inch-by-inch against each other. Pyjamas were rapidly becoming redundant and they both knew it. Their mouths found each other again, heat rising so fast that Spencer wondered if they’d create steam. Hands found their way into hair, gripping gently and holding close, slightly desperate. They fought for control of themselves, trying not to take it too fast, losing each other in the soft, delicate movements of their mouths that rapidly translated into hot, sensual couplings causing writhing and moans.

Ashley gently pushed Spencer onto her back, rolling them with minimal loss of contact. Spencer looked up at her, one hand still gently tangled in the brunette’s curls. Ashley leant down to place a gentle, soft kiss on her lips, before one hand slowly undid the first button of the blonde’s pyjamas. Spencer’s breath caught in her throat, her anticipation building. This was like nothing she’d ever experienced before. Their first night had been about passion and need with Spencer having no road map, no idea of what might happen. This night was about need, too, and passion, but also about want. It was about an incredible sense of rightness in being with someone and knowing that you would be safe: safe enough to feel whatever you wanted and also to do whatever you wanted; safe enough to trust that, whatever happened, whatever you felt, it would be exquisite. The anticipation of that moment was stunning.

As the buttons slowly came undone, Spencer was aware of the seconds that Ashley was there, hovering with her hand over the blonde’s abdomen. Spencer was in the sexy position of having her shirt open, offering a glimpse of what might lie underneath and, at the same time, being fairly chastely covered. She had a vision of Ashley in the same disarray and groaned again. Pulling the brunette back into another frantic, needing kiss, she used her spare hand to unbutton the brunette’s shirt. Not waiting for the teasing, she slid it off and threw it sideways without breaking the kiss. Ashley’s hands slipped inside her shirt, sliding around her rib cage and making the skin ripple with sensation. Pressing upwards, Spencer found the warm skin of Ashley’s torso pressed against hers and moaned again, feeding off the commotion it was causing within her.

Clothes began to be shed, slowly enough to cause the delicious anticipation to climb higher and higher, and slowly enough to intensify the ache to a point of no return. By the time that Ashley’s hand was hovering over the edge of Spencer’s underwear, the blonde was gasping with the need for the touch.

“Ashley!” she groaned, fingers flexing on the brunette’s shoulders. The musician was bathed in a shaft of moonlight that escaped the curtains’ clutches and lit her face like a madonna. Spencer gasped as she felt fingers trace the line of her panties down her thigh. As they approached the juncture, they deviated, sliding down the blonde’s thigh with teasing, stroking motions.

“Ash, you’re killing me here,” she managed to get out in another gasp.

Ash chuckled breathlessly and then dropped her head to the blonde’s shoulders as a knee pressed home its advantage. “No fair,” she groaned. She moved against the thigh unconsciously, and her fingernails began to scrape a slow, long, teasing path back up Spencer’s thigh. When they reached the point of no return, Spencer arched into them, the motion pushing her own thigh harder between Ashley’s and getting her a strangled cry in response.

Levering herself up suddenly on her knees, Ashley slid a finger either side of Spencer’s hips, under the waistband of the fabric that kept her from the one thing she really wanted, and slid them down off Spencer’s legs. Swallowing, she threw them across the room with more fierceness than she intended. Her eyes trailed down the sexy blonde lying beneath her and she scraped her fingernails delicately across the abdomen under her eyes. Spencer’s own eyes flew open in response.

“Ash!”

The brunette leaned down, supporting herself over Spencer on a knee and an elbow. She let her mouth linger whisperingly next to the fragile shell of one beautiful ear. Then she murmured low and sexily, “God, Spencer, the things that I want to do to you.”

The blonde’s hips jerked in response. Ashley’s fingers were now tracing a line up and down the crease where Spencer’s thigh met the gentle curve of her stomach. Every time they reached dewy curls, they’d swing back and trace a line back to the corner of Spencer’s hip, and then back again.

“I want to touch you so badly,” Ashley murmured again, causing a low moan to emanate from the blonde’s mouth. “I want to slide my fingers down, feel how wet I’ve made you…”

“Please,” Spencer groaned, her fingers now pressing into gently rounded shoulders and causing half-moon marks to appear.

“I want to touch you everywhere and, yet, the one place I want to be is deep, deep inside you. Pushing. Pulling.” Ashley’s breath was oh-so-hot on Spencer’s ear, and they were both getting close to complete loss of control.

“A..ash.” Spencer’s hips jerked again and again. “Please-oh-please-fuck-please.” She’d never realised how incredibly arousing talking dirty could be.

“Spence, I want to be inside you.” Ashley’s voice was getting harsher with her own arousal but she was determined to push the blonde to the limits. “I want to taste you, run my tongue all over you while my fingers touch every part of you. I want to fill you.”

“God, YES! Fuck, yes! Ashley, please, for the love of God, fuck me!” The moan came from Spencer’s mouth with bullet speed and echoed around the room. The sudden juxtaposition of Spencer cursing – so unlike her – drove Ashley beyond any semblance of control. Her fingers rifled through dark blonde curls and, finding Spencer wetter than she’d ever dreamed of, she slid down. Taking a second to stare down at the incredible sight beneath her, she thrust, two fingers surely finding their mark.

“CHRIST!” Spencer’s cry was hoarse and guttural.

Ashley groaned in response, thrusting desperately and reveling in the cadence of Spencer’s hips as they met her. For Spencer, it was the most intense experience of her life. Ashley was everywhere, all around her, within her. Her body was thrusting all by itself, finding contact and squeezing the life out of it. She was insensible with want and need and, yet, fulfilled in a way she’d never known before.

She felt a loss as Ashley was no longer in contact with her, the beautiful, lithe body moving away, but her fingers were still deep inside and she realised that Ashley had just repositioned herself a little further down. She gulped, having a damn good idea of what was coming, but still distracted by the feeling of the brunette deep inside her.

“Spencer, look at me.” Ashley’s voice was a whisper.

Spencer’s eyes opened and she propped herself up on her elbows, aware that what she was feeling inside her must be written all over her face. She swallowed, her legs moving apart slightly further than they already were, opening for Ashley. The movement made the brunette shudder slightly. Staring into the deep, chocolate brown eyes, Spencer watched Ashley intently and then felt her world nearly collapse as Ashley somehow curled the fingers inside her and found something that Spencer didn’t even know existed.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuck!” Spencer groaned in response. “Oh. My. God.”

She fell back to the bed, her hands twisting the sheets, and then bucked her hips as Ashley’s tongue found her hard nub of nerves with unerring precision. She thrust, knowing she was crying incoherent noises into the night. She was sure that she said words but she couldn’t remember what they were. Ashley’s tongue was talented and the feeling was beyond compare. She could feel the horizon shooting towards her with unbelievable speed and then she was there, screaming her orgasm into the night.

She fell back to the bed, stunned and speechless. Ashley’s body, still gently bringing out the waves with her fingers, slid its way back up over hers and gently lay next to her. The bereft feeling she carried as Ashley slowly withdrew was replaced with a flood of warmth, of absolute safety and comfort as the brunette pulled her into an embrace and stroked her hair.

“God, you’re beautiful,” the musician whispered.

“I think I might be dead,” Spencer mumbled back into Ashley’s shoulder, her arm tightening on the brunette’s back.

“I hope not,” chuckled the reply.

“Mmm.” Spencer flexed her fingers. “Nope, just very, very satisfied.” She sounded it. She sounded like the kitten that definitely got the cream.

Ashley chuckled again. “Glad to hear it.”

Spencer pulled back. “You’re very good at that. Should I be worried?”

“Hell no, there’s just you and me here, Spence. And, for the record, I’ve never felt like that before either.”

“You haven’t even…” Spencer’s words trailed off, suddenly shy.

“I don’t need to. You’re amazing. You make me feel the most incredible things, Spencer. I -”

“You don’t want to?” Spencer apparently had a one track mind.

“Um, no, I didn’t say that, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t -”

Spencer’s lips cut her off. When the slightly bruising kiss was over, she regarded the blonde carefully.

“I want to make you feel like that.”

“Spence, you really don’t have to…”

“Shh.” The blonde kissed her again. “I know I don’t have to. I want to. A lot. Now. Right now.” Spencer’s fingers tiptoed across Ashley’s abdomen.

A gasp escaped the brunette’s mouth and Spencer grinned. It was going to be a very, very long night.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty-Two

Spencer stretched out languidly and frowned when she realised that Ashley wasn’t next to her. The sun was starting to filter through the curtains and the clock on the bedside table showed that it was still quite early morning. Spencer stretched again. She hadn’t exactly had much sleep, a few hours at most. When Ashley had promised ‘more than one’, Spencer hadn’t appreciated that the brunette was very serious about following through. And she had followed through in ways that still had Spencer’s eyebrows glued to the top of her forehead in a permanent look of surprise. And arousal.

As she moved, Spencer felt the slight tug between her legs. She’d never really felt it before but she knew where it came from, a night of incredibly passionate sex, the most incredible sex she’d ever had in her life.

A look of rather satisfied knowing passed across Spencer’s face. Okay, she’d never exactly been a tiger in bed, but the thought had just crossed her mind that Ashley was probably feeling something similar in her nether regions. Spencer had also followed through on a few promises and now she couldn’t help replaying those scenes in her head.

Ashley with her head thrown back, one hand still tangled in Spencer’s curls, urging her on… Spencer, straining on her outstretched hands, never so sure of anything in her life… Her tongue, moving, in ways she’d never imagined, and loving it… Ashley’s gasps, her cries into the night. God, they had driven Spencer wild. Even after Ashley had made love to her twice, feeling herself flood in response… Ashley moving faster, Spencer deep inside her. Spencer feeling her poised, so close.

Spencer clasped her thighs together in response to the thoughts. This was going to be a lot harder than she’d anticipated. Somehow, with all of these memories in her head, she had to go back to treating Ashley like a friend and ignore the fact that they’d just spent the better part of a day naked in bed together.

She rolled over and listened out for evidence of movement. As she lay in the stillness of the morning, tangled in the bedsheets, Spencer heard the shower switch on. There was no way Elly was up yet; her daughter always slept the sleep of the dead until at least eight. It could only be Ashley. Part of Spencer was eternally grateful that the brunette was still in the house. Wrapping herself up in the bedsheet, on the off-chance her little girl would get up early, she moved through the house to the bathroom. She pressed down on the door handle lightly. It wasn’t locked and that brought a smile to Spencer’s face. She opened the door slowly and slid through the gap.

“Hey,” she said softly, making Ashley jump.

“Jesus, Spencer, you scared the living hell out of me!” Ashley poked her head around the shower screen. Her hair was wet and the curls were deliciously hanging around her face. Spencer felt her insides tighten once more. The brunette’s eyes swept up and down the figure in front of her and Spencer could tell she was drinking it in. She was tempted to let go of the sheet a little, just to tease, but held on to it.

“Sorry. I heard you up and I wanted to say hi.” Spencer scooted forward and put a hand on the shower screen, moving closer to the brunette. The opaque screen shielded the brunette’s body, but the shapely nature was still evident, and Spencer was interested. Very, very interested. So much for just one night.

“Hey,” Ashley smiled. “You want the shower? I can be quick.”

“No. Well, yes, I do need a shower but you don’t need to get out.” Spencer thought about it for a second and took a deep breath. “I could always join you.”

Ashley’s eyebrow raised slowly enough for Spencer to watch its path. As the delicate arch hit its peak, Spencer couldn’t help smile.

“Does this morning count as last night?” Ashley asked hopefully.

Spencer grinned more. “Oh, yes. Definitely yes.”

Ashley snaked out an arm and found the top of the sheet as it bunched around the top of Spencer’s chest, covering her breasts, knotted off on the side. She slowly pulled the blonde the last foot between them and sealed her mouth off in a passionate kiss. Spencer responded, but the shower screen was in the way, and she let out a frustrated groan.

“You,” Ashley punctuated her words with a kiss. “Are. Wearing. Too. Much. Sheet.” The kisses continued and Spencer giggled.

“Easy,” she whispered, and let the sheet fall to the ground. Ashley smiled in appreciation and pulled her into the shower. Stepping over the bath’s edge, Spencer felt her body be jerked forward and suddenly she was pressed full-length against a naked, wet, hot Ashley.

Spencer moved forwards until they were both under the warm stream of water. She pulled back from the kiss, wrapping one arm around Ashley’s waist and staring into her eyes. She’d never realised how erotic it was to watch droplets of water slowly make rivulets down one of the sexiest people alive. Well, she was in Spencer’s opinion, anyway.

She reached up to cup Ashley’s face, running a thumb along the brunette’s bottom lip and adoring how it trembled in response. She slid her hand down slowly, running it over a taut neck and appreciating how Ashley’s breath caught in her chest. Spencer trailed her hand down, tracing a line over the collar bone and then sweeping slowly down Ashley’s arm. Trailing her fingers back up to the collar bone, she caught Ashley’s eye and then slowly moved her palm down to cup one perfect breast.

Ashley’s breath shot out of her and she groaned, “Spencer”

“Shh,” Spencer whispered, moving forward to snag Ashley’s bottom lip between her teeth, pulling her into a fierce kiss. She gently massaged the soft orb under her hand and felt the nipple harden under her palm. Breaking the kiss, she slid her lips down Ashley’s neck, finding the pulse point and sucking gently. Fingers wound their way into her hair. She heard a groan as her mouth moved southwards.

“Spencer. Oh, Christ!”

Spencer kept moving, small nips and kisses as she went, finally resting her lips on one swollen nipple and suckling it gently into her mouth. She felt Ashley jerk beneath her ministrations. Raking her teeth across the swollen nub, she moved to the other breast, tending to the one she abandoned with fingers. It was a bad angle, leaning down, and she needed to balance herself out. She considered sliding back up for a kiss, but she was getting wet and it wasn’t just the shower. She’d never done this before but she somehow knew Ashley was ready anyway. She moved her mouth southwards, sliding it across the brunette’s taut abdomen and leaving a trail of small marks.

“Spencer. God, Spencer. Fuck.”

Spencer loved the fact that little phrases were coming out of Ashley’s mouth. She loved that it was her name. It was erotic and mindblowing. She’d never gotten so much pleasure out of giving someone else pleasure before. Emboldened by the response, she shifted to her knees, kneeling on the bathtub floor and kissing a path to Ashley’s inner thigh. A moan made her smile against the silken skin she found there. She trailed her tongue around teasingly, moving from thigh to thigh and getting higher and higher, but somehow just missing the hot, wet centre that both girls were concentrating on. Spencer waited, wanting to hear more.

“God, yes, Spence!”

She let her tongue drift a little closer, and blew out softly against the place she knew Ashley wanted her.

“Fuck, Spencer,” Ashley let out a shaky breath, “who knew you were a tease?”

Spencer smiled and ran her tongue lightly over the hot, moist tangle of nerves in front of her, reveling in the sensual cry it caused.

“Spencer, PLEASE!”

Giving into both their desires, Spencer began to stroke Ashley with her tongue, slow and tender at first, and then a little harder as she tasted the wetness she was creating. Ashley’s strangled moans were echoing around the bathroom and it was tantalising. The brunette moved her leg up onto the edge of the bath, giving Spencer better access, and moaned again when two fingers slid into her centre.

Inexperience meant nothing. Spencer knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it. She pushed Ashley to the limits and then a little bit further. She could feel the brunette getting close. Her cries were more incoherent and soon they crumbled into merely a repetition of Spencer’s name, over and over, as she clenched down on the blonde’s fingers and came, hard and long.

Spencer, stood up, her knee aching, watching as Ashley supported herself on the shower walls with arms outstretched. She smiled, wrapping her arms around the brunette to help support her, and pressed a kiss into those rosy, beautiful lips. Ashley managed to gain some control over her body and senses after a few minutes.

“Jesus, girl, you learn fast!”

Spencer grinned. “I had a pretty good teacher.”

The brunette surprised them both by switching off the water. She pulled Spencer out of the shower before more words could be spoken and grabbed one of the towels. Spencer stood on the bath mat, letting Ashley gently dry her off. She began with her face, patting it dry and punctuating the motions with kisses, before moving down across her arms. The sudden sensation of soft terry towelling on her breasts gave Spencer a whole new appreciation for the fabric, and then Ashley was on her knees in front of her, staring. Spencer closed her eyes and waited. But nothing happened. Opening her eyes, she looked down and found Ashley still staring, first straight ahead and then up at Spencer.

“You’re wet,” the brunette whispered, barely on the edge of hearing. They both knew that she wasn’t talking about the shower.

“You’re…” Spencer swallowed, “sexy.”

And then Spencer was on her knees, too, and their mouths were fused in a kiss that was fast, furious and unbelievably good. She felt herself tip over backwards, Ashley on top of her. The brunette’s mouth was everywhere, fierce and sensual. Hands dipped and Spencer got wetter. She’d never realised that she could be so ready for someone so quickly. Ashley was bringing out a whole new side in her that she’d never known about. Then the brunette’s fingers were parting her, legs falling aside, and she was inside.

“Ashley. Christ!” Spencer arched up, her body hot and desperate on the bathroom floor.

She felt Ashley dip down, her tongue hitting Spencer’s centre. The brunette’s thrusts were hard and fast, nothing gentle about them. Spencer clasped Ashley’s head and pulled her in, pushing back harder. It was almost brutal, but oh-so-good. She’d never known sex like this, never experienced any of these sensations before.

“Ashley!” she cried out, wanting something. She couldn’t think, her brain exploding with colours as the musician’s talented fingers pushed harder and faster. She couldn’t articulate her needs. Fighting for breath and some kind of coherent sentence, she pushed out her words. “Ashley, God, harder. Please, harder.”

The brunette doubled her efforts, straining into Spencer and letting her tongue work on triple time. The blonde arched up off the floor over and over, heels digging into the bath mat. She whimpered, hands still pulling Ashley closer, aware that she was probably hurting the girl but unable to stop. Thrusting her hips into the mouth and hand pleasuring her, she urged her on. A new sensation evolved: suddenly there were three fingers in her and she was so full she thought she’d burst. There was a slight edge of pain, but only enough to amplify the pleasure a thousand fold and make her cry out harder. It was coming now and she knew it, a world fusing with hers and toppling her over.

“ASHLEY!” Spencer screamed, coming in waves that seemed to go on forever. In the end, she slumped on the floor, shaking. A solitary tear slipped out of the corner of her eye.

She wiped it away surreptitiously, but more followed. Ashley was on her in a minute, pulling her into an embrace and holding her tightly. She could hear Ashley softly murmuring, “Oh God, Spencer, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Oh God, I’m so sorry, baby,” over and over.

Spencer opened her mouth but wasn’t able to make any sound. She settled for bringing a shaky finger up and placing it across the brunette’s mouth, silencing her. They lay together, tangled, and Spencer made sure she’d stopped crying and was a little more solid before she opened her mouth.

“It’s okay.”

“No, no, it’s not. I hurt you. Oh God, Spence, I’m so sorry, I never -”

“Shh!” Spencer cut off the sudden rush of commentary. “You didn’t hurt me.”

“You’re crying.”

“Yes, but not because you hurt me, and I’ve stopped.” In truth, the blonde felt like a bit of a fool for her tears.

“What happened?” Ashley looked down at her, worried and guilt-ridden.

“Ashley, stop worrying. I’m fine and you didn’t hurt me.” Spencer pushed up, sitting up and pulling the brunette with her. “It was just… really intense.” She bit her lip. “I guess I’m not used to that.” Then she blushed. “Okay, I’m an idiot.”

Ashley kissed her, her face suddenly soft with care and knowing. “You’re not an idiot. It’s okay! Who hasn’t cried after really good sex?” she asked with a chuckle.

“Well, me!” Spencer retorted. “But then, before you, I’d never really had good sex. Or had really good sex.” Spencer bit off her sentence, blushing again.

Ashley laughed and kissed her forehead. “You’re welcome.” She groaned. “We need to get off the bathroom floor before your daughter wonders what all the screaming was about.”

“Ashley, she’s deaf,” Spencer reminded her. “She didn’t hear the screaming.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m such an idiot.”

Spencer laughed and kissed her. “No, you’re not. You’re beautiful.”

Ashley looked serious as she pulled the blonde to her feet. Neither of them was willing to talk about the fact that they had agreed to go back to being friends now. Neither of them was sure it was going to work. Spencer felt she should broach the subject but, deep down inside, didn’t want to. So she didn’t. She let them get dressed and then kissed Ashley goodbye at the door. As it closed behind the brunette, she slumped against it.

How much could one life change in a night?

A lot.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty-Three

Spencer let the dial tone ring in her ear for at least the hundredth time that hour. There was no answer. After so many rings, it just shipped her through to the voice mail. Spencer hung up. There was no point in leaving another message; she was fairly sure that the five she’d already left had put her somewhere in the ‘stalker’ box. Sighing, she went back to cleaning the hallway cupboard, a sure sign that she was very upset.

Even Elly was tiptoeing around her. That was probably because Spencer had yelled at her over the little girl’s messy room, which was so unlike Spencer that both of them had known something was wrong. Elly was now very pointedly being a good girl. She’d cleaned up her room, even though Spencer had apologised with hugs and ice-cream, and she was quietly watching cartoons in the living room. It was easy for Elly to be quiet – she didn’t exactly speak – but she made plenty of noise anyway: running through the house with Mr Ruffles in tow, sending her towers of blocks crashing to the floor, was one of her favorite games. She was a bouncy kid and Spencer loved that. She cringed inside at the thought of her own mood affecting her daughter so. Maybe it wasn’t just her own mood. Maybe Elly missed Ashley, too. In fact, Spencer was sure that Elly missed Ashley, too. The child had asked after the musician many times, several times a day, in fact.

There was more than one thing bugging Spencer at the moment. The obvious top of the list was the fact that she hadn’t heard from Ashley for a week. They’d seen her the night after the -. Well, the night after. It had been moderately awkward, mostly because they kept going in for a kiss and realising they couldn’t, shouldn’t. And, to their credit, they hadn’t. Spencer had hugged her goodbye at the door, feeling more frustrated and confused than ever. And now, nothing. At least she couldn’t argue that she’d been used in bed and dumped, because, well, firstly, Ashley wouldn’t do that and, secondly, she’d come over the night after. But why hadn’t she heard from her? Where the hell was she? And why wasn’t she answering her phone? Spencer was worried, but she knew Ashley was alive because she’d seen her on Wednesday night at Elly’s art class. One wave and then the brunette had disappeared. Spencer was hating this.

The fact that she and Elly both missed Ashley was even more worrying. The whole point of their agreement had been to make things less complicated. Instead, it seemed that both mother and daughter were miserable without Ashley’s company. Three wasn’t a crowd, it turned out. Elly never asked after Gray, but she’d asked after Ashley with a determination that had drawn admiration from Spencer.

And, to top it all off, Spencer had to admit to being just a little sexually frustrated. Who wouldn’t be, going to sleep in that bed? Thinking about it. Dreaming about it. Waking up, drenched in sweat from reliving it night after night. Okay, that was on the bottom of her list of concerns at the moment but, still, it was always there in the back of her mind.

So, with all of her frustration, not to mention her angst at not getting through to Ashley, Spencer cleaned the hall cupboards. Then, she cleaned the kitchen cupboards and the bathroom. She stopped to put Elly and Mr Ruffles to bed, making sure she took an extra long time reading their story and giving them both lots of affection to make up for her grumpiness earlier. As she moved to turn off the light, she heard a tap on the wall, Elly’s way of getting her attention.

“Is Ashley coming over soon?” the little girl signed. “Mr Ruffles misses her.”

Spencer smiled weakly. “I hope so, honey. She’s just busy with work at the moment. She’ll come by and say hi to us soon, okay?” It might be a lie, but Spencer was hoping it was the truth so much that she dared to give her daughter that hope, too. Switching off the light, she went to find something else to clean.

Two more days passed, making it nearly a week and a half since they had seen Ashley. Spencer knew that something was very wrong. She ached with missing Ashley and not in a sexual way. Her heart ached and she missed the presence of the brunette in her life. She missed her hanging around the kitchen while Spencer cooked dinner, missed watching her swing Elly around the living room, playing and laughing. She missed everything and the aching wouldn’t stop. Elly was still missing her, too, although she’d stopped asking so much after her. And, of course, that worried Spencer even more. Although Elly never asked after Gray, Spencer still tried to make up for her ex-husband’s lack of fathering skills because she knew Elly felt a little abandoned by him. And now she was feeling it again. That wasn’t Ashley’s fault, God knew. It was Spencer’s, if anyone’s, but, still, it made her worry.

She tried Ashley’s cell again. Turned off. It had been for days.

Another week and Spencer had found a new definition of torture. Her own worry about Elly and herself was now pushed firmly to the back of her mind. Ashley wasn’t home. Ashley wasn’t answering her phone. Ashley had someone cover for her at both the hospital and the community centre. Spencer knew she was bordering on scary with her checking of these places but now it was genuinely out of concern. Her friend had disappeared. Ashley’s bosses had just shaken their heads and done their best to reassure Spencer that Ashley was okay. Well, the fact that they’d heard from her meant that she was alive. But okay? No, Ashley was not okay. There was a feeling deep in the pit of Spencer’s stomach that she could no longer ignore – an instinct, perhaps – but one that the blonde was willing to trust. Ashley was not okay. Now, if only Spencer could find her and find out why, she might be able to do something about it.

Spencer sat at home, chewing her fingernails in desperation. She’d asked her parents to take Elly and they’d agreed instantly. Her father had taken in the bags under her eyes, her slightly drawn face and her worried look and had given her an almighty hug. After reassuring him to the best of her abilities that she was fine, she admitted to being worried about Ashley. Doing his social worker best, he’d pulled her inside and made her talk. After letting it all out, she felt better. She was still worried, but better than before.

She remembered her father’s parting words: “You’re a good friend, Spencer, to worry so. She could do a lot worse than depending on you.” Spencer hoped so. She was just scared to the very root of her being that she was, in this case, the cause of the problem and therefore could never be the solution.

She started out by ringing all of Ashley’s numbers again. They were still turned off or, in the case of the home number, ringing straight through to the answering machine. Still determined, Spencer set off for the musician’s home. If she wasn’t there, Spencer would camp out. Or something. Or find one of the brunette’s bosses and shake them until they declared the whereabouts of one Ashley Davies.

Pulling up in the rapidly darkening dusk of the evening, Spencer spied a light on at the back of Ashley’s house. That definitely hadn’t been there the last two times that Spencer had driven past. And it looked like there might be a car in the garage. Well, that was good. Now, all she had to do was pound on the door until Ashley let her in, or until the neighbours called the cops. Maybe the cops would let her in. Unlikely.

Taking a deep breath, Spencer moved purposefully across the road. This time, there would be no waiting at the door, memorising the grain of the wood. And there would be no agonising. This was definitely no longer about Spencer. If only her friend, the person she cared more about than anyone else in this world bar her daughter, was all right, then everything would be fine. Taking another deep breath, she knocked on the door.

There was no answer, so she knocked again. Still no answer. But the light in the back of the house did flick off and Spencer didn’t miss it. Setting her mouth in a grim line of determination, she knocked again and again until, finally, under her bruised knuckles, the door opened.

Ashley looked like a wreck. Her hair was down, but her face was gaunt and there was no light in her eyes. She was dressed in jeans and a comfortable sweater, but Spencer could tell from the clothes that half the life had gone out of her friend. It was awful.

“Ashley.” Spencer reached out to the girl, face creased with concern.

“Spencer.” The blonde’s name was dull on Ashley’s lips. The life was also missing from her voice, and the cadence that always gave the brunette’s tone such song was missing, too.

Spencer quivered. She had been right: something was desperately wrong here.

“Um, look, I can’t… Can you come back another day?” Ashley’s voice was limp.

“Hell, no!” Spencer said. “Ashley, what’s wrong? Talk to me.” She reached out, brushing a hand along the brunette’s cheek and recoiling when the other girl pulled away as though stung.

“Spencer, I…” Ashley swallowed visibly. “I can’t right now.”

There was so much choke in her voice that Spencer knew another word would mean tears. She was horribly torn between wanting to make her friend feel better and worrying that pushing her would make it worse. But she couldn’t leave Ashley like this. She just couldn’t.

“Ashley, babe, I’m just here to make sure you’re okay. I was worried about you. And you’re clearly not okay, so…”

Spencer watched her friend take a defensive step backwards, and the body language that screamed ‘Leave me alone. I want to curl up and die’. Spencer stepped inside the other girl’s house, refusing to leave. Closing the door behind her with one hand, she took a few steps forward, invading the other girl’s space and throwing her arms around her. She pulled Ashley into the unavoidable embrace, sheltering her from whatever storms were raging within, and holding her tightly. She felt Ashley’s head drop to her shoulder and then her arms went around Spencer’s waist in a final burst of pain and defeat. Spencer could feel her shaking and tightened the embrace harder, pulling the smaller girl against her and cuddling, stroking, soothing.

When she realised that Ashley wasn’t going to let go any time soon, Spencer gently manoeuvred them to the living room, keeping a firm grip on her girl. Once they were on the couch, she let go slightly, but only so she could press kisses into Ashley’s temple and smooth back her hair. The brunette was less shaky now but still crying, and the tears fell straight into Spencer’s heart, burning like acid.

As the crying slowly stopped, she pulled back and looked deep into Ashley’s eyes. The brunette hiccoughed slightly, the way you do when you’ve just cried your eyes out, and Spencer smiled warmly, though still with a patently worried look. She gently wiped a tear off the musician’s trailed cheek.

“I’m here,” she whispered. “It’s going to be okay. Whatever it is, we’ll sort it out, okay?” Spencer was murmuring words against Ashley’s forehead, letting them come out without really thinking them through. She was just so worried. This was so unlike the Ashley she’d come to know, she had no idea where to start. But maybe just being a good friend was the only start she needed to make. She guessed time would let her know, once she’d found out what the hell was wrong with Ashley.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty-Four

Spencer didn’t really know how to deal with Ashley in this situation. The brunette was leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees and pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. All the blonde could do was run slow circles on Ashley’s back and sit there next to her, looking worried. She could feel the intensity in the room, and it flowed out of the brunette in waves. The urge to say something was fighting inside Spencer, and she found the silence overpowering.

“Ash, talk to me.” Spencer hoped her words were the right ones and, yet, her instincts were screaming again: Don’t push her. Don’t push too hard. Okay, she wouldn’t push.

“Spencer,” Ashley rubbed her eyes again, “it’s okay. I’m fine. Can we just leave it?”

Well, maybe she would push a little.

“For how long, Ash? Till it eats you from the inside out?” Spencer kept her voice deliberately soft and she slid a little closer to the girl next to her. “Until you talk to someone else? Because, if I actually thought that might happen, I’d leave it. But I know you well enough now to know that you’re going to throw this down inside and pretend it’s okay.”

“It is okay!” Ashley was not being the most convincing of liars at this point.

Spencer leaned forward, brushing the hair off the brunette’s cheek and face. “Ash, please, hon, talk to me. Everything will be fine, I promise. Just talk to me.”

“I can’t!” Ashley cried in response, a cry so deep and guttural that it made Spencer’s insides twist. “You don’t understand who I am, what I can do, Spence.” It was clearly getting worse. Ashley was keening with some inner grief that Spencer couldn’t identify and all the blonde could do was pull her close and hope to help her ride through it.

“You’re wonderful, Ash. You’re amazing.” She was murmuring whatever she could think of to calm the situation down and it wasn’t working. Ashley had worked herself up and she was becoming insensible. “Ash, Ash.” Spencer pulled her closer, into her arms, rocking and praying that things would be all right. “Ash, sweetie, it’s okay. Shh, I’m here. It’s okay.”

“Spence. God, Spence.” Ashley’s head was pressed into the crook of Spencer’s neck and she let her body fall against the blonde’s. “I can’t do this. I’ll… I, I want so much. I can’t -”

“Shh, shh. It’s okay, Ash. It’s okay. We’ll work it out, whatever it is. We’ll work it out. Shh.” Spencer rocked the girl in her arms back and forth, soothing and praying. She hoped some divine intervention was going to appear soon, because seeing Ashley this upset was breaking her up inside.

To her somewhat relief, the crying subsided slowly. It didn’t make a huge difference since the turmoil was still radiating off Ashley in waves and Spencer still didn’t know what the hell was going on, but she decided this time to keep quiet. She’d pushed and that hadn’t gone so well. Now she’d just hope that Ashley would feel the need to fill the silence.

They’d fallen backwards slowly, more like a general slump. Spencer rearranged them so that they were side-by-side, Ashley’s head still tucked gently into the crook of her shoulder as Spencer stroked the brunette’s curls, her shoulders, her arm, and murmured gentle whispers in her ear. She felt fingers tighten on the back of her shirt and pulled back slightly.

Ashley’s tear-stained face peered up at her. The pain in her eyes was so evident it brought tears to the corners of Spencer’s own. Wrinkling her brow with concern, care, and just a touch of confusion, Spencer leaned down and kissed her companion gently on the forehead, still soothingly stroking her arm. She let her instincts carry her, brushing kisses down to the corners of Ashley’s eyes, where moisture still gathered, kissing her temple, trailing them down her cheek. She kissed the downturned corner of her sweet, soft mouth, her chin, the other corner of her mouth. She lingered there, maybe a second too long, because while Ashley hadn’t been moving at all for the last few minutes, she was quick now.

Spencer found her lips captured in a kiss that began as soft and needing, but almost instantly deepened into something far more powerful. She felt Ashley’s hands slide around her, one of them rifling through her hair almost painfully as the kiss became one of the most intense experiences of Spencer’s life. She could feel things slipping beyond her control rapidly, Ashley becoming so wound up in the movements that Spencer wasn’t sure she could extract herself. This was probably a mistake, right now, at this time. Ashley wasn’t exactly in her right mind.

Ashley’s hands were on her and the musician’s body was pushing her back into the cushions of the couch. Despite Spencer’s misgivings, she could feel frissons of want and need, pure sexual energy streaming through her. She felt Ashley’s hands find her breast, bringing her nipple to a sudden hard peak, and a knee slid between hers, finding its mark successfully. Spencer couldn’t help gasping into Ashley’s mouth as the slender girl ground down into her. She moved her hands to the brunette’s shoulders, trying to find the strength inside – or at least some manner of control – to get her to stop. Only, it wasn’t that easy. Part of Spencer was screaming for Ashley to rip her clothes off, thrust inside her and make her climax so hard she would forget her own name. But a reasonably sane part of Spencer – and, at this moment, that was a fairly sizeable chunk – was telling her that this would be a mistake.

Ashley’s hand was skimming up Spencer’s skirt, reaching the edge of her underwear and dipping under, almost before the blonde had time to register what was happening.

“Ashley!” she gasped, fingers suddenly making it impossible to think of anything else. And then the brunette was inside her, thrusting. Spencer was barely ready, and she gasped again, a slight pain throwing her off. But with the next thrust Ashley’s fingers hit the right place and her head fell back. She gripped the brunette’s shoulders, moaning and arching her hips, losing herself to the feeling.

Oh God, this had to stop. And yet it felt so fucking good. Spencer wanted to let it go on, feel that incredible crest she knew, but she knew that it wasn’t right. Even with the incredibly arousing sensations that Ashley’s fingers were creating, Spencer could feel it wasn’t right and she didn’t want that. She didn’t want it to be like this.

“Ashley,” she groaned, “st-. Oh, God.” It was hard to talk when someone was pushing you very, very close to the edge. “Stop,” she croaked, and yet the thrusting kept coming, insistent and more forceful. Spencer bit her lip, grasped Ashley’s shoulders and forced it out of her mouth. “Ashley, STOP!”

That had an effect and she felt the movements cease. Then Ashley was pulling out of her, propping herself up on her hands and looking down at Spencer with a look of absolute horror on her face.

“Ash,” she began, but couldn’t finish the sentence. The brunette in front of her was scrambling backwards like she’d been burnt, off the couch and down the hall. Spencer shook her head for a second, thoroughly stunned, and then righted her clothing before following her friend.

She could hear whimpers coming from the bathroom and knocked softly. “Ash, it’s okay. Let me in.” There was no reply. “Ashley, I’m worried. Please, hon, let me in. It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Still no reply.

Spencer tried the door handle and, to her utter relief, she found it wasn’t locked. Pushing the door open slowly she found her friend curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor.

“Go away,” Ashley said dully.

“No,” Spencer answered. She knelt down on the floor in front of the brunette, but the other girl had her face turned away, hiding it in the corner of the bath and the wall. “Ashley, it’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

The scared, emotional, internally battle-scarred face of the woman she was falling in love with turned to face her. “How can you say that? HOW? After… After I just jumped you?” Ashley broke off with a sob. “How can you stand to be near me?”

“Ashley, Ashley, you didn’t do anything wrong. Shh.” Spencer knelt closer, urging the other girl to believe her.

“Aside from goddamn assault you, Spencer! How could I? How?”

“How could you stop when I asked you to?” Spencer cut in. “How could you reach out when you needed someone?”

“Spencer, I’m poison. You can’t be near me.” Ashley pulled her knees in closer, like she was shutting herself off from the world completely, pulling away.

“Ashley, you’re being stupid. You’re not poison.” Spencer put her hand on Ashley’s knee and sat crosslegged in front of her. She wasn’t going to let her pull away, and she wasn’t going anywhere. “Ashley, talk to me. Please. Tell me where all this is coming from.”

“You’ll hate me,” Ashley whispered.

“Not possible,” Spencer replied.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty-Five

“Please!” Spencer was imploring now.

“Spencer, go away. I can’t do this.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Ashley. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone this upset. How could you think I’d leave you like this?” Spencer bit her lip. “Tell me what’s wrong. Whatever it is, we’ll sort it out. Together.”

Spencer really hoped that no-one had died because that probably meant they couldn’t sort it out. Oh. God. This was the point at which Spencer usually realised she’d stuck her foot in her mouth. It was something she was rather good at, as her brothers liked to point out. She winced slightly at the thought, and then brought her attention round to the girl in front of her.

“Ashley.” Spencer gently but firmly caught the musician’s chin in her hands and brought the forelorn face around to meet her gaze. “Ashley, tell me what’s wrong.”

“No, you’ll hate me.”

Spencer couldn’t help but smile. She knew she’d broken through by the slightly petulant note in the girl’s voice. It reminded her of the look that Elly got sometimes when she knew Spencer was going to win an argument. “You know I won’t. You know I could never hate you.”

“Maybe that’s true, but you should, and I shouldn’t be around you.” Ashley turned her head away, the bitterness in her voice seeping onto the bathroom floor and making haze.

Spencer cupped Ashley’s face in her palms and slowly wiped a tear from the corner of the beautiful girl’s eye. “Ashley, if I did something wrong and I’ve upset you, you need to tell me what it is.”

It was a daring plan: either Spencer had done something wrong, in which case she wanted to know what it was and fix it, or, alternatively, she hadn’t, in which case she hoped that the brunette would protest so loudly over the fact that she would have to volunteer what was actually wrong just to get Spencer to believe her. It was quite a devious plan, actually. If Spencer hadn’t been so determined to find out exactly what was wrong with her friend, then she might have taken some pride in it.

“No! God, no, Spencer! This is nothing you’ve done.”

Phew. Score one for Spencer. Not entirely her fault. Now to find out what was actually going on.

“Spencer, it’s me, okay? I’m the problem. You shouldn’t be here. You, you don’t know who I am.”

“Are you a man?”

Ashley stared at her.

“Secret agent?”

“Spencer…”

The blonde ignored her, looking up at the sink in a pondering fashion. “Wait, you’re a hippopotamus?”

“Spencer, quit it. I’m serious.” Ashley looked furious and Spencer couldn’t help smile.

“Ashley, I know who you are.” The mother of one, and another on the way, got to her knees and framed the face of the girl she was falling in love with. “You’re Ashley. You’re the person that’s been there for me every second of the last few months. You’re my best friend. You’re more than that. You’re someone I care about deeply. I know exactly who you are.”

“It’s a lie, Spencer.” Ashley bit her lip and closed her eyes. “It’s all a lie.”

“How?”

“I’m not who you think I am!”

“Stop saying that!” Spencer bit out. “You’re nothing but amazing to me.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not who I used to be.” Ashley turned her head away, oblivious to Spencer’s touch.

“Everything you’ve done for me -”

“Is a lie, Spencer!” Ashley interjected bitterly. “It’s all a lie. It’s who I’m trying to be. It’s a game.”

“A game?” Now Spencer was confused. “You have ulterior motives?”

“You could say that.” Ashley wouldn’t look at her.

“And they are?”

“Leave it, Spencer!” The brunette rested her head in the corner tiredly. “Just leave it and go. Trust me, you’d do better to pretend we never met.”

“Ha!” Spencer laughed. “That’s not going to happen. Ever.” She leaned forward. “Ashley, I don’t believe you. When you were there for me, when you held me and helped me, that was what? You didn’t care?”

“No.” Spencer heard the other girl’s whisper on the edge of her consciousness. “I cared.”

“Were you there because you cared?”

“Yes.” Another whisper.

“Well, gee, Ashley Davies, that’s some ulterior motive you’ve got there!” Spencer declared. “Being there for me because you cared. I can see why that’s just the most dastardly thing you could do! You could be a cartoon villain with motives like that!”

Ashley turned her head back, and Spencer could see that her stupid attempt at humour had gone nowhere.

“I care. But it’s not enough. I…”

“You what, Ashley?”

“I’m using you.” Ashley buried her head in her hands, the tears moving again. “I’m using you,” she sobbed.

“Shh, shh. It’s okay.” Spencer pulled the other girl forward, into her arms, and tried to soothe her. “Ashley, you’re not using me. There’s nothing you could possibly be using me for.” And Spencer believed it. Even if it was true, what Ashley had given in return was incomparable.

“I’m using you and I hate it.” Ashley sobbed harder, almost like Spencer wasn’t even there.

“Ashley, Ash.” Spencer gripped the brunette’s hands and pulled them away from her face, catching a chin in one hand and bringing it up to stare into those soulful, pain-filled eyes. “What are you using me for?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

“To…” She let out a choked-off sob.

“To what, Ash?”

“To make me feel better! To make me feel like I’m not such… To make my guilt go away!” She pulled away from Spencer and buried her face in her arms, curling up into a smaller ball than the blonde thought was possible.

“Ash,” Spencer tried cautiously, “talk to me, baby. What’s going on?”

“I can’t, I can’t. I hurt her and I can’t, Spencer. I can’t do it again, I can’t. I’m sorry I can’t, I can’t.” The litany continued as Spencer tried to take Ashley back into her arms, made practically impossible by the girl being curled up into a tight little ball.

“Shh, Ash, it’s okay. I’ve got you. It’s okay.” Oh God. What now?

“It’s not okay. It’s not, Spencer. She’s dead and it will never be okay again, and I hurt her and I can’t, I can’t do it again. I can’t. I’m sorry, Spencer, I’m so sorry. I can’t. Oh God, I can’t, I’m so sorry. Please, I’m so sorry, I can’t. I’m so sorry. Spencer, I’m so sorry. I can’t.”

Ashley was truly insensible now and Spencer felt like she might have lost her. Oh Christ, oh God, what to do?

The musician was still lying, half in her arms and half out, rocking back and forward whimpering, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I can’t. I can’t. I’m so sorry, Lisa, I’m so sorry. Lisa, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby.” It took Spencer a minute to realise what Ashley was now saying and then the volume got louder. “I’m so sorry, Lisa. Baby, forgive me, please.”

“Ash, Ash, it’s okay, sweetheart, it’s okay,” Spencer murmured, as the brunette went limp and Spencer hauled the other girl into her arms. She wrapped her arms around the shuddering body and rocked. Then, thinking for a second, she wrapped her legs around Ashley’s waist too, cocooning her, protecting her. She swayed them back and forth, whispering and kissing, riding it out. “Ash, it’s okay, sweetheart. Cry it out. That’s it. Cry it out.”

And she did. The words got less coherent, as did the sobbing pleas to a person Spencer had never heard of. The crying got a little more intense, but they rode that out, too. Together. Spencer let her cry and, as the crying slowed, she let her murmurs quieten.

When things finally calmed, Spencer was sitting with her back to the wall. Ashley was between her legs, arms tight around the blonde’s waist and head buried in her shoulder. Spencer was still wrapped around her girl, holding her. She wasn’t sure she could let go. Even after the crying stopped, Spencer stayed there, just holding Ashley. She instinctively knew that no-one had been there for the girl before, not like this. And she instinctively knew that just because the crying was over didn’t mean the storm had passed. But she had let Spencer in, had let Spencer hold her, and that meant Spencer could help. It meant she could be there to ride out the rest of the tempest and keep an eye on the rudder. If necessary, she could bring in the big guns: Elly and Mr. Ruffles. She would do anything to keep Ashley from slipping under, especially as Spencer was starting to suspect that Ashley had been like this for the last two and a half weeks. She was more than a little afraid the girl would slip under.

Eventually, it was Ashley who pulled away. Spencer wasn’t sure that she could move. She thought her limbs might have frozen in that position. She tried them gingerly, unwinding her legs from around the brunette. She let Ashley move away, and couldn’t help noticing that she was moving like a sleepwalker, limbs not quite in control. Spencer knew it wasn’t just the time they’d spent on the floor; it was more than that. She got to her feet, wincing at the aching in her joints, and sent up a silent prayer of thanks that she wasn’t more pregnant or she might never have gotten up.

Spencer followed Ashley out to the kitchen where she found her making two cups of coffee. Given that, if you didn’t count drenching someone’s shirt in a flood of tears while sobbing, Ashley had barely acknowledged Spencer’s presence in the last hour, Spencer was grateful that the girl knew she was there. She let Ashley go about her business, perching her own self on one of the stools and watching. She smiled slightly at the fact that the brunette knew exactly how she liked her coffee.

Spencer waited until there was a steaming hot cup of coffee in front of her before she attempted any eye contact. There was no point in pushing this too far although she wasn’t leaving until she found out what the hell was going on. Ashley didn’t seem to be concerned about taking a seat, and leaned on the kitchen counter, not making eye contact with the blonde. Waiting a few minutes to see if there was going to be an opener, Spencer decided to make her own.

“Ash…”

“I guess I owe you an explanation,” Ashley interrupted lifelessly. It was the tone in her voice that made Spencer’s insides twist once more.

“Ash, it’s okay. I can wait. I just need to know you’re all right.”

“I am. I’m sorry for -” Ashley waved her hand around, and it wasn’t lost on Spencer that the brunette still wouldn’t look at her. “I’m sorry for everything,” Ashley finished, defeat lining her voice. It made Spencer’s heart ache for her.

In response, she picked up her coffee in one hand and grabbed Ashley’s hand with the other. That got her a look from the surprised musician.

“C’mon, grab your coffee.”

“Spence…”

“Coffee. C’mon.”

There must have been something in the blonde’s tone because Ashley did what she was told. Spencer led them to the living room and put her coffee on the table. Turning to Ashley, she took her coffee and placed it next to her own, and then pushed her on the couch. She dumped herself on the couch next to the brunette and tipped her head up so they were looking at each other. Ignoring the slightly uncomfortable look on the other girl’s face she smiled softly.

“Ashley, talk to me.”

“Spencer, it’s okay. I’m fine now.”

“I know. But if you don’t talk about this, you’re going to let it get to you.”

“Well, talking isn’t going to make it go away so…”

“Talking helps, Ash. It always helps. Pain shared is pain halved.”

“I don’t want to give you my pain, Spencer. I don’t want to cause you pain.” Ashley bit her lip. “Spencer…”

“Ashley, you’re not going to. You care about me. I KNOW you care about me. I know it like it’s set deep in my bones. I trust you and I’m not going to let you go. Or let you push me away. You’re not going to hurt me, okay?”

“I might.” Ashley looked miserable.

“Ash,” Spencer picked up the other girl’s hand and stroked the palm lightly, “this isn’t about me, or you and me.”

“It is in a way,” Ashley sighed. “I’m sorry, Spencer. I wasn’t just being melodramatic when I said I was using you.”

“I remember that. I also seem to recall that you were using me by being nice to me.” Spencer chuckled, and was gratified that she saw a twitch of a smile on Ashley’s face.

“Spencer…”

“Let it out, Ash. Tell me what’s going on.” She was pushing again, but this time carefully.

“I’m not sure I can.”

Spencer shifted a little closer and wound her fingers through Ashley’s. “I’m here, okay? And nothing is going to change that.” Ashley nodded in response but she didn’t say anything. After a while, Spencer came to the realisation that she was going to have to make the first move. “Ash, who was Lisa?”

For the first time ever, Spencer understood the meaning of the words ‘deafening silence’. The stretched seconds made her worry that she might have overstepped the mark, then Ashley began to speak.

“She was a girl, one that I loved very much. And one that I hurt. A lot.” She stopped speaking and Spencer waited. She knew there would be pauses, but she could also see the small hole in the dam, the one that had concrete crumbling ominously around the edges and had small trickles of water seeping through. Soon, there would be a stream and Spencer wouldn’t stop it. She waited, and it came.

“She was my girlfriend. Not the first, but the first that I actually loved. The first that I was faithful to.” Her voice choked. “For the longest time.” Ashley laughed slightly. “She was so beautiful, just… beautiful, inside and out. We were together for two years when… when things went bad. Things were going great and then she got sick. Breast cancer. She was so young, we just… We held on, you know? We fought it out and I was right there, right by her side. She had the mastectomy. It was okay, you know. We were strong and I loved her. There was nothing we couldn’t conquer. And six months later, she had the scan. It was in her bones, in her liver, it was everywhere. They said months. They meant it. I… I lost my grip, Spencer. I loved her so much and she faded away. I couldn’t handle it. I tried to be there, tried so hard.”

“In the end, she was in a hospice, for the pain and the nausea. I would go every day and hold her hand, watch her die in front of me. I couldn’t handle it. A few days before… I… I left. It was too much. I went to a bar, some bar, any bar. Got drunk. Fuck-off, kill-me-now drunk. And there was this girl, hot. God, I don’t really remember anything else except she was dancing and all I wanted to do was forget that I had a girlfriend and how much it was hurting. So I fucked her. In my car.” Ashley laughed bitterly. “In my fucking car. Oh, I’m sure she enjoyed it. Until I threw her out and vomited on the pavement. I…”

Spencer watched her swallow.

Ashley continued. “I went back. That night after I’d sobered up. And she looked at me, Spencer, and she knew. I didn’t know how she did until I looked in the mirror when I went home and saw the mark on my neck. She didn’t say much, just that she knew. I hurt her, Spencer, so much. She was so hurt and I… I did that. I couldn’t do anything to make it better. I… I just…” Ashley slumped back. “She died two days later. She was unconscious by the time I got back in the morning. I never spoke to her again.”

* * * * *

Next up: Chapters 39-40 [A]

2 Comments

  1. dev0347
    Posted 16 December 2009 at 12.08pm | Permalink

    I just bought polar bear jimjams and thought of this…

  2. SmurfyMc
    Posted 21 March 2013 at 1.08pm | Permalink

    This guts me, every damn time. And now I want polar bear pjs.

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