Disclaimer: Not mine.
Ashley Hammond/Astro Yellow: Fun? You do have a twisted mind. :P
Just Jill: Both.
Mel: Ashley's dad got into the accident, not Jeff, but the rest was right.
Jenny: Yeah, that was some progress, but if Andros wasn't being pigheaded, there would have been more. :P
Neviegirl: I'd hate to be their daughter too. But at least they're listening now.
"Ash?" Andros asked tentatively. He spared her a quick glance before turning his attention back to the road, his heart sinking as he met her glare. "Ash, I--"
"Did you have to yell at them?" she demanded. "They were trying to make things better!"
"I'm sorry," he muttered after a long silence, the words too obviously forced. "But Ash, that's not what it seemed like to me."
"What did it seem like to you, then?" she snapped. Andros swallowed, knowing she had meant to sound that harsh.
He shrugged, struggling to think up an answer. "I think... I think that they wanted to make you feel guilty... for leaving in the first place."
"Or maybe," she said coldly, "they really did realize that you can't take anything for granted."
"Maybe," he admitted. "But they still didn't look too happy to see either of us."
"They're just uncomfortable," she insisted. "The only time all of us have been together was that night at dinner, and that didn't go well."
"No," he agreed. "It didn't, but I don't think that that's all there is."
"Then what else is there?"
"They don't like me," Andros said with a calmness he didn't feel. "I don't think they ever will."
"If you act like you did tonight, you can't blame them," she retorted.
Andros sighed softly, remembering a time when she had defended him, not her parents. From the slight wince he caught on her face, she was remembering too.
"I'm sorry," he said again, the words now almost sincere. He sighed. "I'll apologize to them, too."
Ashley shot him a sharp look. "If you're trying to impress me or something--"
"I'm not," he cut in quietly. "I'm serious. Would it help any?"
"I..." Ashley hesitated. "I think it would. They might not show it at first, but... maybe with a few months..."
Andros sighed. He wanted very much for Ashley to have a relationship with her parents, but he truly didn't know how much of their animosity he would be able to swallow. Ashley's hand on his arm surprised him, but he quickly saw that her eyes had softened.
"I promise I won't let them go too far," she told him quietly. "As long as you promise you'll really try."
"I will," he murmured, making the final turn to their house. "You know I will."
"Yeah," Ashley agreed, squeezing his fingers lightly. "I do. You don't do anything halfway."
He smiled slightly, unbuckling his seat belt with a quiet sigh. "Ash, I love you."
"I know, Andros," she whispered. "I love you too."
His smile faded as he stepped out of the car and quietly shut the door behind him. Ashley stared after him in confusion, wondering what she'd said. She knew Andros didn't doubt her love for him, but that left her heart slowly sinking down into her stomach. Something was bothering him, and Ashley wasn't at all sure that she wanted to know what it was.
Still, she couldn't just hide out in the car all night long, so with a heavy sigh, she slammed her door behind her. Andros hadn't bothered to turn on any of the lights when he'd entered the house, and a dark hallway greeted her. Ashley sighed again and locked the door behind her, considering just leaving him alone. She decided against it a moment later, knowing she owed him an apology. She'd been frustrated with her parents more than with him, but he'd born the brunt of her anger.
"Andros?" she called, hearing no reply as she headed up the stairs. "Andros?"
Their bedroom and bathroom were silent and empty, and Ashley sighed. Turning, she headed down the hall, her feet silent of the carpet. Andros was where she had expected to find him, standing at the window in the room that would have been their son's. Ashley bit her lip as she watched her husband, silently taking in how he stood with his shoulders hunched and his arms clenched at his sides.
He turned to look at her then, and Ashley didn't know what to make of the resolve she saw in his eyes. She took a careful step towards him, and when he made no move to stop her, rushed over to take him in her arms. It was a moment before Andros returned the hug, but when he finally wrapped his arms around her, he held her almost too tight for her to breathe.
"He would have been born around now," Andros whispered, lightly kissing her hair.
Guiltily, Ashley realized that he was right. She would have been eight and a half months pregnant if they hadn't lost their baby, nearly a mother. It had been weeks since she'd thought about their little boy, and now that she realized it, she was disgusted with herself. She shouldn't have forgotten her own child like that.
Only when Andros dried her tears did Ashley realize she was crying. Sniffling, she buried her face in his shoulder, letting him hold her while she fought for control of herself.
"Don't cry," Andros pleaded, rubbing her shoulders gently. "Ash, I didn't mean... You're not a bad mother for not thinking about him."
Ashley sniffled a final time and swallowed hard. He could read her so easily. He'd always been able to, and it never failed to put her at ease. Letting out a deep breath, she buried herself deeper into his embrace, nodding uncertainly.
"Ashley, why did you marry me?"
The question came so suddenly Ashley nearly told him the truth. "Because I love you," she said firmly.
"Ash," he whispered, his voice so low and sad Ashley realized he already knew. "Why did you really marry me?"
"Because I was pregnant," she mumbled, quickly adding, "But I do love you, Andros, I really do."
"I know," he assured her, stroking her hair absently. "I've never doubted that. Ash, why did you want to go to KO-35?"
"To be with you," she answered instantly. "To help the people there."
"Ashley..." She felt him take a deep breath, and clung to him harder, the pit in her stomach growing as she realized what he was thinking. "Do you... When your parents said they wanted to work things out, did you believe them?"
"Yes," she whispered, tears forming in her eyes. "Andros--"
"Do you want the chance to do that?"
"Yes," she mumbled, her tears escaping her control. "But Andros--"
"Shh," he murmured, still stroking her hair. "If you leave with me, you'll never have that chance. Ash, I... I want you to stay here."
"No," she cried loudly, shaking her head wildly. "No, Andros, I'm not staying here without you."
"It's all right," he whispered, holding her so close Ashley wondered if he could just pull her into himself. "Not forever, Ash."
"I don't care," she insisted. "I don't want to stay here without you."
"You want to be with your family," Andros said, calmly drying her tears. "They do love you, Ash, and you should spend a few months with them before you move half a universe away."
"But what about us?" she persisted, alarmed to find her reluctance fading. "Andros, I can't lose you."
"You won't," he promised, kissing her hair. "You'll never lose me, Ash."
"Andros," she whispered. "I'm so sorry I was angry with you."
Andros just pulled her closer, but Ashley heard him swallow. "It's all right," Andros whispered back, rubbing her shoulder. "Don't worry about that anymore. It doesn't matter."
He didn't want to leave her, Ashley realized slowly, feeling how strong his grip was. He wasn't going to abandon her here on Earth and build himself a new life on KO-35. He really did want her to have time to say goodbye to her family and friends, and it was that that made her agree.
"How long?" she whispered.
"However long you need," Andros told her, kissing away her tears. "Just come back to me when you're done."
"I'd never leave you," she swore. "I love you."
"I love you too, Ashley," he whispered. "Always and forever."
Author's Note: There is a sequel to this, I promise you, but it won't be up for awhile. You've probably noticed how updates were getting further and further apart--my inspiration was dying. As soon as it comes back, I'll start work on the sequel, and I have another story ready to go as soon as I finish "Somebody to Love Part I." Please review.