First Time, Part 5

Previously: Part 4 [U]

Happy flangsty New Year.

Rated: U.

* * * * *

Part 5, A Very Inconvenient Truth

Ashley was not a good patient. This had not been unexpected. She complained bitterly about her cast, day-in and day-out. She frequently tried to do things for herself that she really shouldn’t, which almost always led to her having to be rescued in some way. Even though Spencer tried to get her to pay attention to her exercise regime, she ignored almost everything that her physical therapist told her. She did, however, become really adept with her crutches. She could execute a quick turn with an acrobatic grace that frequently left Spencer’s heart in her mouth. When the cast finally came off, to be replaced by a padded brace, everyone heaved a sigh of relief (except Ashley, who declared the dark blue support to be the ugliest thing that she had ever seen in her life).

Surprisingly, the only person that Ashley seemed to pay any attention to was Paula, who became a regular visitor to Ashley’s apartment. Spencer supposed it was partly down to her mother’s medical authority, but mostly it was because Ashley had always been scared of Paula. That was understandable: like the Incredible Hulk, no-one liked Paula when she was angry.

They settled into what was, on the face of things, a very comfortable life. Although Spencer felt guilty about Ashley bankrolling her (she even added Spencer as a cardholder to her bank and credit accounts), Ashley was most insistent that she was saving money by having Spencer there. She argued that Spencer had saved her from having to employ someone to look after her personal and medical needs. She also claimed that having Spencer there saved her the best part of a few hundred dollars a week by cooking her meals and doing her laundry and any manner of other tasks that Ashley would have had to pay someone else to do for her.

Spencer didn’t mind. She liked looking after people: it was in her nature. And Ashley was, despite everything in their shared past, the most important person in her life and she was therefore happy that she could be there for her when needed.

Ashley was in the cast for eight weeks, then on crutches with the brace for a further two and finally just the brace for two more. By the time she was fully back on her feet, Spencer had been offered some work on a crowd-sourced documentary project that one of her film school friends had tipped her off about. Location filming itself was only a few days’ work – a week to ten days – but it was in Seattle, not Los Angeles.

With Ashley able to take care of herself again, Spencer concluded that the time was right to discuss her moving out. They had talked a lot over the previous three months (with so much time on their hands, they had little else to do), but they hadn’t ever talked about Spencer leaving. She didn’t know if Ashley would welcome it or not. The one thing that was always guaranteed to make Ashley happy was Spencer’s cooking, so she went to the market and bought a ton of food and began preparing a proper, three-course meal for them.

Ashley was out for most of the day, meeting with her business manager, Bernie, at his office. It was the first time she had been out of the apartment on her own since the accident and was just further proof, as far as Spencer was concerned, that the time was right for them both to move on.

“So, what’s the big deal?” Ashley asked, as she sauntered into the kitchen while Spencer was chopping vegetables.

“What?” She put the knife down, turning around and leaning against the kitchen island.

“Are your parents coming over for dinner and I forgot?”

“Um, no. I just thought it might be nice to have a sit-down meal.” She had hoped that Ashley wouldn’t really notice that the meal preparations were more complicated than usual. She had planned for them to be sitting at the table – possibly with a glass or two of wine to fortify her – when they started this conversation.

“Okay.” Ashley obviously wasn’t convinced. “Do you need a hand?”

“No, it’s fine. I’ve got everything under control.” She turned around and resumed her preparations. “So, how’d it go with Bernie?” she asked, desperate to change the subject. As Ashley filled her in on the Davies finances, Spencer continued to peel, chop and cook, inserting the odd question here and there to keep the conversation going.

“You’re trying to distract me.”

“Pardon?”

Ashley put her hand on top of Spencer’s, stilling the blonde’s chopping. “You’re asking me about stuff you’re not really interested in.” She let go of Spencer and picked up a piece of chopped carrot, popping it into her mouth. “And you’re being evasive yourself. Either way, this is not of the good,” she concluded.

“It’s nothing. Go do something else and I’ll call you when everything’s ready.” She tried to sound unconcerned.

“Or, you could just tell me what all this is about and I’ll stop bothering you.”

Spencer ignored the question for a few moments as she turned on the burners on the stove and placed the pots of vegetables on to heat. The chicken was already in the oven and the desserts were chilling in the refrigerator, so she was pretty much finished. “Pour us some wine, then,” she conceded.

“Red or white?”

“Not bothered. We’re having that chicken thing you like, so whatever you think goes best with that.”

Ashley grabbed a bottle of red and two glasses and took them over to the main living area of the spacious loft. As Spencer sat down, she took the corkscrew and bottle from her friend and fiddled with the metal foil around the top of the bottle.

“I wanted to tell you something,” she began. She eased the cork out of the bottle and placed it on the table between them.

“Yeah, I kinda figured that.”

Spencer gave her a withering glance. “I, um, I got a job.”

“Spence! That’s brilliant! Doing what?”

“It’s a documentary on the anti-globalisation movement and its lasting effect on the way that young voters interact with the political system on a single-issue basis, without really taking part in the mainstream political process. I’m gonna be the first assistant director.”

“First AD? That’s good, right?”

Spencer smiled. She was proud of getting the job, no matter how short term it was. “Yeah, I’m going to be doing a lot of the direct interviews, but also a fair bit of background research. Putting together archive footage, that sort of thing.”

“And that sort of thing sounds right up your street.” She was trying to sound supportive, but Spencer knew full well that Ashley’s interest in politics was limited at best.

“Yeah, it’s exactly the sort of work I’ve always wanted to be involved with.”

Ashley helped herself to a large glass of wine and held it up to the light, swirling it in the glass, before lifting it to her lips and taking a tentative sip. Spencer’s knowledge of wine was probably less than Ashley’s of politics, but it amused her to watch Ashley pretend to know about it. She always figured that Ashley judged wine by the cost, rather than anything else, but she supposed that she might be being unfair.

“It’s in Seattle,” she added quietly, looking into her own glass rather than at her best friend.

“The job?” Ashley’s face fell a little.

“Yeah. I’m slated to work about ten days up there and then there’s probably footage research before and after. I can probably get a month’s work out of it, depending on how the money lasts. It’s internet funded and it reached its minimum project costs, but they might get some more in from private investors, so we’ll have to see.”

“Why Seattle?”

“Most of the leaders of the anti-globalisation movement were based there and that’s where I’ll have to shoot background footage.”

“Well, I’ll miss you, but it’s only ten days, so I’m really happy for you.”

Spencer took a drink of wine and a deep breath to steady herself as she continued, “And I was thinking it might be a good thing anyway. I mean, you don’t need me to look after you any longer, so I’m sure you’ll be happy to get this place to yourself again.”

“I might not need a nurse any more, but I’ll always need you to take care of me, Spence,” the brunette replied softly.

“Well, I guess what I’m really saying is that, when I get back, I should move in with my parents.”

Ashley put her glass down carefully, almost too carefully. “Why?”

“Well, like I said, you don’t need looking after now and this was only meant to be a short-term thing while you were recuperating.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“And we haven’t really talked about when I should move out, but this seems like a natural break.” She stopped, resisting the urge to fill Ashley’s silence with babbling.

“If that’s what you want.” Ashley seemed far too calm. “It is what you want, right?”

She shook her head. “This isn’t just about me, you know. I mean, you must want your life back, too.”

“Oh, so I’m in your way?” There was a definite edge of bitterness creeping into Ashley’s tone.

“That’s not what I said. But having me here means that you can’t -“

“Can’t what?” Ashley cut her off.

“Your days revolve around me, Ash. You must want more than that.”

“I don’t, but I’m guessing from this conversation that you do.”

Spencer sighed. She really didn’t want to admit the truth behind her decision: that the thing that she feared most was that Ashley would return to her normal life and she would one day wake up to find some random guy emerging from Ashley’s bedroom. She couldn’t face that idea at all. It was definitely best for both of them if she left while things between them were as good as they had been since they were teenagers.

For so many months, it had been just the two of them, Spencer playing dutiful nursemaid to Ashley’s recalcitrant patient. The main issue for Spencer was that she had fallen in love all over again and it was worse than it ever had been before because it was just the two of them.

Every time that she helped put Ashley to bed, she longed to climb in beside her. When, in the first few days after she was discharged from hospital, Ashley had struggled to negotiate the apartment on her crutches and Spencer often had to catch and hold her, she had found it hard not to touch Ashley more intimately. And then there was the time when Ashley had fallen, naked, in the shower and Spencer had drawn blood by biting the inside of her lip so hard at being confronted with that particular scene. She might also have replayed the image of naked Ashley in her about a million times since then.

But they weren’t a couple and they weren’t about to become a couple, no matter how much Spencer wanted that to be the case. They were closer than ever, but very much in the friend zone. If flirting had colour-coded levels like terrorist threat warnings, then their status was probably about an amber – barely more than playful teasing.

She reasoned, “We’re both adults. We can’t just play house forever like we don’t have lives and responsibilities.”

“Have you met someone?”

Spencer’s head whipped up. “What?”

“I mean, if you want to bring someone home, then, you know, that’s fine. It’s your place, too.”

“That’s not what -“

“Is it that girl you were with before? I heard you talking to her the other day.”

“Mel?” Things were getting surreal. Ashley thought she wanted to bring someone home? She thought that she wanted to bring Melanie home? “You know me and Mel are just friends, right?”

“I’m pretty sure you were ‘just friends’ before.”

Spencer ignored the veiled insult. “She called to tell me about her latest tour and her awesome new girlfriend.” She shook her head. “But this isn’t about me, or about Mel. You honestly think that we should continue to live together now that you’re all better?”

“Yes! And you know I’ve always thought that.”

“But you must want more than this?”

“You keep saying that like ‘this’ is something terrible. Am I that bad to live with?”

“No, that’s not what I mean at all.”

“But you want more than what we have?”

“Yes!” That was exactly what she wanted, but not in the way that Ashley meant. She didn’t want to bring someone else home. She wanted to come home to Ashley every day for the rest of her life, but that wasn’t their reality. She was never, ever going to get over being in love with Ashley while they were living together. She couldn’t say any of that out loud, however. “We both deserve to have full lives, Ash.” She knew as she said it, that it wasn’t coming out the way she meant it.

“I hadn’t realised that I was cramping your style quite so much. I thought you liked it here with me.”

“I do!”

“And yet you still want to leave? This isn’t enough for you when it’s the best thing I’ve ever known?” Ashley sounded hurt and defeated.

“You know we can’t go on like this forever.”

“Why not?”

She really didn’t want to have to say it, but Ashley was being her usual stubborn self. “Because, at some point, one of us is going to meet someone and I don’t think that’s a good place for us to be. You wanna watch me making breakfast with my girlfriend?”

“No!” Ashley was vehement.

“Yeah, and I don’t want to see you with someone, either,” she admitted.

“So why can’t things just stay as they are until that happens?”

Because that’s never going to happen for me while I’ve got you here to remind me of what I really want, she thought. She shook her head. “You know it can’t.”

“But why not?”

“Ash.”

The brunette stood up, hands on her hips and stared down at Spencer, “When are you leaving for Seattle?”

“Three weeks.”

“Then I have three weeks to convince you to stay, right?”

She shook her head. “Life doesn’t work like that, Ash.”

“It does if I want it to.” The brunette turned on her heel and marched towards her bedroom.

Spencer watched her leave and then got up herself, heading into the kitchen. She debated turning everything off, unsure whether they would even be eating the meal she had so carefully prepared. She still didn’t understand why Ashley thought that their current living arrangements were the best thing ever. Surely she must want to return to her old life, whatever that was. She knew from their conversations that Ashley had toned down the partying since she had been away at graduate school, but Ashley Davies was still no-one’s idea of a quiet homebody.

She walked over to Ashley’s bedroom and knocked quietly. “Ash?” There was no answer, so she pushed the door open. The brunette was lying face down on the bed, her head buried in the pillow. “Come back out, Ash,” she urged. “I’ve made all your favourites, even that banana creme pie you love.”

“You can’t buy me with pie,” her best friend huffed.

“Oh, a little over ten years of experience says different.”

“Hmph.”

“We don’t have to talk about any of this,” she offered.

Ashley moved so that she was lying on her side, her back still to Spencer. “Are you going to drop the idea of moving out?”

“No, but we don’t have to make any final decisions right now.” She shook her head at how easily she always found herself giving in to Ashley.

“I don’t want you to go.”

Spencer didn’t answer. It was pointless to start the conversation again because she wasn’t going to change her mind. She had made her decision, despite what she had just said. Besides, if there was one thing that she and Ashley were good at, it was avoidance. After a long pause, Ashley pulled herself to a sitting position and turned towards her. It almost looked to Spencer as if she had been crying, but there were no visible tears. Possibly, Ashley was just tired.

“Is it the one with the caramel sauce?”

Spencer laughed with relief. “So, you can’t be bought with pie?”

“No, but I’m willing to let you try anyway.”

* * *

Quietly, Spencer started moving her things out of Ashley’s apartment and back to her parents’ house. As the date of her flight to Seattle approached, Ashley continued to behave as if nothing unusual was happening, but she must have noticed. The only real conversation that they had about the future was agreeing what would happen on the day that Spencer left. Ashley had wanted to take her to the airport, but Spencer felt that it was better if they said their goodbyes at the apartment.

The façade that Spencer was just going away on a trip was maintained on the day that she left, when she stood with just a small suitcase and a single carry-on bag, as if she would be returning in a few days. Her room – Ashley’s guest room, as she would have to start thinking of it again – still held plenty of her things, but it had always been filled with varying levels of Spencer’s and Kyla’s belongings, as they were the two who used it the most.

“So, you’ll call me and let me know you landed okay?” Ashley asked solicitously. She was standing in front of Spencer, trailing a pattern across the wooden floor with her bare toes, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Of course.” Confronted with the reality of the situation, Spencer could feel the lump rising in her throat, but she was determined that she should not cry in front of Ashley.

“And you’ll be back soon enough and then we can start making plans for Christmas in Connecticut.” Kyla’s wedding ceremony was to be in late December, only a couple of months away. It was a vague general assumption between them that they’d be attending as each other’s platonic plus-one, although it hadn’t been discussed in real, concrete terms. “I’ve actually decided to go see the blushing bride while you’re away and get fitted for my dress.”

“Good.” Spencer was really glad that Ashley wasn’t going to be sitting around the apartment, moping – or, worse, out drowning her sorrows in the nearest bar where she might meet some random guy to sleep with.

“So, this is awkward and you know I’m not great with goodbyes,” Ashley gave a little self-deprecating shrug, “so I should probably just let you go.” The potential double meaning was not lost on Spencer, who just nodded silently. “And we’ll, you know, talk and shit.”

“We will.” The tears were so close. She was pressing her foot hard into the ground as a way of focusing her mind.

“And you’re going to be amazing and those documentary people are never going to know just how lucky they are to have you and -” The intercom buzzer interrupted her, signalling that Spencer’s cab was downstairs. “And that’s your cue to leave,” she finished.

The fact that Ashley had a slight hitch in her voice and her eyes were starting to glisten was not helping Spencer at all, so she just nodded again, biting her bottom lip. The next thing she knew, she was being pulled into a hug. She wrapped her arms around Ashley and felt the warmth of the smaller woman’s body seeping into her. They clung on tight to each other, swaying together.

The intercom buzzed again.

Pulling back, Ashley lifted her hands to cup Spencer’s cheeks. She looked deeply into the blonde’s eyes for the answer to a question that neither of them would ever ask, then leaned forward and gently brushed her lips against Spencer’s. She immediately stepped back again and wrapped her arms around herself in a protective gesture.

“Go.” It was almost a request, as if Ashley was holding herself back from begging Spencer to stay.

Spencer reached down and gathered her bags. “I -“

“Me, too,” Ashley nodded.

They didn’t need any more words, so Spencer just left, pausing only for a second in the doorway to let herself look at Ashley, who was doing her best to smile.

It was only after she had instructed the cab driver to take her to LAX and the cab had pulled away from Ashley’s building that she let herself cry. She didn’t stop until the taxi pulled up in front of the departures terminal.

* * * * *

Next up: The finale. Part 6, Past, Present and Future [X]

11 Comments

  1. spikkels
    Posted 1 January 2012 at 11.50pm | Permalink

    As usual never a dissapointment! Thank you for a great start to the year and hopefully a better (new) start to Ashley and Spencer’s relationship. With the lack of Spashley fic these days all around I’m in need of a serious fix up haha.

  2. Guin
    Posted 2 January 2012 at 6.58am | Permalink

    As much as I love seeing this updated… Why would you do that?!! Christ, my innards are drowning in angst. I have stuffed animals that are now Emo by proxy. Still, well written as always and here’s hoping Ashley gets a kick in the ass from Kyla to admit her real feelings to Spencer.

  3. waki
    Posted 2 January 2012 at 1.20pm | Permalink

    That’s the kind of start I’m looking for 2012 – one chapter layered with subtle innuendos, filled with longiness and love, frosted all over with love and care, and of course my favorite, a gigantic angst to top it all.

  4. cbrammer
    Posted 4 January 2012 at 6.10am | Permalink

    thanks for the update! loved it. anxious to see how long spencer stays away. i love how ashley says she has weeks to convince spencer to stay but follows it up with laying face down on her bed. i think she needs to learn a thing or two about effort. now that spencer is gone, maybe she will see that not making time to have that much needed conversation is the reason for their current separation. can’t wait for more.

  5. tee452
    Posted 6 January 2012 at 2.41am | Permalink

    I would like for this to be an official thing, please: If flirting had colour-coded levels like terrorist threat warnings . Life would be so much easier!!!!

    And I would imagine Ash closed that door and cried too. Thanks, Dev.

  6. Clom
    Posted 6 January 2012 at 1.05pm | Permalink

    I hate you for your brilliance and love you all at once.

    Why do you have to be the best writer I know? It’s awful hard to be jealous of one’s best friend…

  7. cosmic
    Posted 7 January 2012 at 3.03pm | Permalink

    Very nice. :)

  8. werik
    Posted 12 January 2012 at 10.19pm | Permalink

    love it love it love it!

  9. stacey
    Posted 22 January 2012 at 8.51pm | Permalink

    Soooo… Please update? Pretty pretty please… I love this story and I’m waiting for it to get to the good stuff =)

  10. stacey
    Posted 22 January 2012 at 8.51pm | Permalink

    Well better stuff lol. ;-)

  11. LL07
    Posted 23 February 2012 at 3.28am | Permalink

    More please!

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