Disclaimer: I don't have anything to do with South of Nowhere or any of its characters.

Author's Note: Short but not so sweet background on Ashley. This was her life before Spencer. My mood was sour today and this was the result. Booyah.

Gracefully Falling

Before Spencer life was different. Back then Ashley was spending her days and nights flying, but not in any Titanic sense of things. She was single handedly flying a plane of her own creation, the type that got thrown off of cliffs and for a split second you believed it really was working before it hit you--all it was really doing was gracefully falling. That's all Ashley was really doing, gracefully falling.

She saw the signs just as well as anyone else who would ever bother to look. She had resigned herself to the crash and at times she would simply give in and enjoy the fall as she watched life rush by her, speeding up until her breath was taken away with it. She would spend those moments of free fall just trying to remember where the change took place. When did she become one on the outside looking in? When did she lose her innocence and become so jaded? When did she stop believing in magic?

When she was younger it bothered her to wake up everyday to an empty house only then to step outside to an empty world, a meaningless one where everybody played their parts perfectly. It was all a well executed charade that left Ashley feeling hollow and empty. Once her part in the play was done she would run home from the bus stop as fast as her legs would carry her, run upstairs, and slam the door to her bedroom where she was safe. Leaning against the door and panting raggedly she would wonder if it really was possible to outrun loneliness.

Then one day she had just stopped fighting it. She stopped trying to prove herself, stopped trying to change the path that seemed destined for her. She let gravity take hold and do its thing. She just stopped caring. She stopped feeling, she stopped thinking, she just acted along with everyone else. But she was left with a sense of bitterness that kept her on the outside. She stopped traveling in circles because having a group meant creating bonds. And in Ashley's world bonds were only made to be broken.

Her nightlife was full. She kept it that way because she had a fear of sleeping, she wanted to see the ground when it finally rushed up to meet her. There was alcohol and drugs, both equally numbing and opening her up to new avenues. They created the perfect place to hide when reality just became too much of a bother. She was free to do what she pleased, no one caring enough to second guess her choices.

And then there was sex. Ashley wasn't new to sex, a fact everyone was well aware. But even sex was different when you were dead inside. It was clinical and straight forward. Do this, say this, touch here, kiss there. But like the drugs it made her comfortably numb. It was something she did well and she reveled in that fact. She was leaving her mark. She wouldn't go out with a whimper, Ashley would leave the world blazing in a fire impossible to ignore.

She no longer ran home when her part in the charade was finished. She walked, her head held high, until she made it into her room. But there, leaning against the door, she would still grasp at her sides holding in the ragged emotion afraid she was about to explode. She was older and aware that loneliness was an emotion that you could never escape, but it did grow and threatened to smother her until she would go out again and hide behind her addictions. There she would laugh and pretend to be alive through everyone else.

This was how it went. She knew she was falling through life, swearing she could actually feel the wind against her face even as she stood still on a clear day. Those days were filled with fleeting moments of intimacy, fast talking, even faster courtship making it hard to take a moment to breathe.

Then one day a pair of blue eyes caught hers in the movement. As the scenes flew by never changing one hand reached out and grabbed hers. That was all it took, someone seeing her in the chaos that was her life. And everything changed.