AN: I just want to make it clear that I don't encourage suicide in any way. That was never my intention or "message" for this story. As I say repeatedly to people below, I'd written half of the previous chapter before I'd even started chapter two. Those versions of Spencer and Ashley, and the conclusion they had, were already there in my head and I couldn't alter it. Not even when I tried. It was a natural progression for those two and to those who were disappointed it turned out the way it did? I am sorry.
On a lighter note, to all who have read and especially those who have reviewed: Thank you. This has been so great to write again and get back into their world. Despite the angst-filled content, it truly was theraputic to write. And okay, yeah, downright depressing :P. I hope you enjoy the final chapter and look out for more of my work soon. xx
MissMaclay - lol That's too bad. Dude, no! That was you! It was in with the Amber link. It's not my fault if Tony was in it, too :P. I know, poor Ashley. "Not just because of naked Ashley", sure about that? :P. You rock, too ;).
Movies7Too - Thank you :). There are a hundred different ways that particular situation could go, but Ashley knew it was the only way and she knew it would only help. Again...that's something I can't answer. It's never, ever going to be written about because this obviously is entirely Spencer's POV and I would never write about suicide that detailed, I don't think. It was never intended to be written about. Acknowledged, sure. But nothing more than that. Sorry if that disappointed you.
Jenna - Thank you :D.
rocola - I love how you always get exactly what I try to put across in words without actually saying it. Thank you very much :).
notintolabels29 - Just like with the poster above, thank you. I love it when readers pick up on things I try to avoid spelling out. Reviews like yours kinda make my day, so, yeah, thanks :].
MissMaclay - *nods* She just knew. It was there and she was certain. Exactly, and that's the hardest part for Spencer. It was a good thing Ashley took it out of her control, god knows what would have happened otherwise. *bows* Thank you :D.
jco32 - Captivated? Now there's a word I love hearing. Especially regarding my writing, so thank you very much :). Glad you enjoyed it.
lulubirdy - That's exactly how I felt. Truly. I mean, I had half of that chapter written before I'd even started writing the second chapter. THAT'S how far ahead I was in my head. These characters were just there and this was how it had to end and they were who they were. Simple as. I know a LOT of people were disappointed that it had to come to that...but I had to write it how it felt natural to me. I know it's a very tough subject for a lot of people and I certainly have never meant to "promote" the act itself, it was just a natural progression in this story. Ha, you liked it, then? :P
Lanae - Hi there. Are you kidding? Of course I don't mind! Thank you so much, I'm glad you were both able to enjoy this together :).
MissMaclay - Dude, you're everywhere lol. No, I'm kidding, I like seeing you've commented again. I am, yeah. I don't sound it, but no, I have stomach flu. It sucks balls. But I'm having an hour where I don't feel like I'm going to be sick, so I decided to post. Yes, it's a Sarah McLachlan song. "Empty Corridors, Stars Fall Like Dust, Salvation Under My Breath, Winter Air, Almost Lover, Speeding Cars, Breathe Into Me, Arms of the Angel" were all songs, or lyrics from songs that I listened to when writing this story. :)
Dianelis - Thank you. There's just this final chapter, and then we're done. *looks down to chest* Definitely a girl. Why?
DeadWitchReading - I know. I wanted there to be very subtle hints throughout the story and for the readers to be completely stunned when they saw the outcome. I was very bittersweet. Both final chapters were, to be honest. It's always kind of bittersweet ending a story. Well, I sincerely hope the final conclusion doesn't leave you disappointed and thank you so much for all your lovely reviews throughout this fic :).
RUlov3r - Aw, I'm sorry! *hugshugs* Thank you very much :D
Goober37 - Ha, I'm sorry. Thank you. I hope you like this sliiightly altered version just as much, too.
Anonymous - Thanks! This is the final chapter, though. Hope you enjoy.
Conscious - Haha, a little stumped, are we? No, it was perfect, I wanted you to "flip shit" :P. Right, seeing as you were too busy going crazy and forgot to post with your super stealthy alias, I'll just say it here, just because it's the final chapter and this FOF (feedback on feedback) business is coming to an end: Sarah Is Kick Ass.
s0nFan16 - Shock value is what I was hopin' for :D. Glad you liked it and I hope you like the final chapter.
AbsoluteGarbage - I know that feeling, it's completely morbid and gross. Sorry I made you feel that lol. Aw, thanks, I'm glad you liked it.
weightofitall - Then I say, "Thank you very much" :). I'm so, so glad it lived up to the anticipation. Truly. It really was the biggest part to this fic and I wanted to do the moment justice, so I'm glad you thought I did. Basically, you're the shit :P
TutorGurl - Yup, the biggest. I wouldn't really say morbid. I even got a handful of PMs since last year, asking me how Ashley died. And I dunno...I never really decided on it because it was never, ever going to be written about. The subject is so delicate and I'd never want to promote it, or whatever. I didn't even want to type it out, which...I guess I didn't. Not in so many words, anyway. I'm glad you liked both of their reactions. I always love to see what you have to say about any of my work. When I eventually get around to Ashley's oneshot, your questions might be answered in there. I don't know when to do it from. Like, before she could see Spencer, when she could see Spencer, before she could touch her, etc. Maybe I'll end up doing parts of both? I dunno, we'll see. And even though I've wrote it tons in the past, I'm really not a fan of smut anymore, either. You've probably noticed the lack of it in other fics lol, but yeah, I just can't write it that much anymore, so I'm really glad you liked the "softer" smut. :)
Pendulum666 - Thank you very much :D
angelperry7 - Thanks a lot!
lexj - Glad you were a fan. Yup, just this last one and we're all done.
Coachkimm - Neither am I. I certainly don't encourage it, quite the opposite, but this was just always how it was going to be. I wrote half of the previous chapter right after I'd finished writing chapter one. Those characters and that conclusion were there and, while it was bittersweet, I had to keep it like that. There was no other way for this version of Spencer and Ashley to be together.
jann4ice - Haha, glad to hear it! Aw, no, I'm sorry. No coma Spencer. Oh no, you guessed my ending! :P Thank you very much :D.
NotxxWhatxxItxxSeems - Mastered? I would reeeeally disagree, but you're very sweet, so thank you. Haha, aw, well at least you're being treated! I know! I read that they only lasted 3 days, and by that point, I'd had it for 8. It was crazy. 8 years for education is very crazy, but when you're all professional, you'll at least be sexy. Professional people are really, really attractive. And I didn't mean that to sound like you aren't already sexy, and I didn't mean to make that sound like I'm hitting on you. .Mouth. Haha, thank you. Now, be a doll and try to enjoy this chapter, too. It'll make my day.
Wildchild86 - LOL oh, wow, I completely got that visual of you sobbing out Ashley had died and him having no clue what you were talking about. Thanks for the compliment though, lovely.
midnight'sxfallenxangel - Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can't wait to read more of your really nice reviews :P. Hope you enjoy the final chapter.
SpashLuva - I don't either, and I've said that repeatedly in my FOF (and will say it again in an Authors Note), but it was the only way for this particular version of Spashley. UGH. Why the hell would they do that? Jim was the shit in S1 (I stopped watching religiously after they killed Aisha's character, too. I only catch episodes now and again) and I just don't know why they'd do that to Melinda. It just doesn't make sense. Maybe as a one-off episode, but not for real. Denny was Izzie's patient and they fell in love while he was waiting for a heart transplant, I think. I floved his character and their relationship, though.
sayheystevieray - I know, lots didn't, but it had to happen. There's no chance of that, no, sorry. Hope you like the last chapter :].
jtsec9143 - Thank you so much for that! I don't know how you have such a good attention span. I can't read entire fics like that. At least, it's very, very rarely. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a lovely review, it's much appreciated :).
wannabebo352 - Yep, it's bittersweet. That's the word going around. Thanks for your feedback and I hope you like the final chapter.
If I didn't know that it was impossible, I would have sworn that I almost fell asleep that night. Being with Ashley however I wanted to be and being as close as I wanted to be without my usual physical reaction, was indescribable.
For the past few hours, I haven't spoken to her much. I give her my smiles of reassurance and my hands caress when she walks past, but I don't know what to say. We're in her room. I'm sitting on the floor leaning against the wall and Ashley is sitting on the bed next to her mother.
Her parents arrived home yesterday morning after I assume the police got in contact with them. I couldn't look at their faces when they walked through the front door. I didn't want to see their grief. They could have been better parents, no question about it, but they could have also been worse.
Ashley is sitting close to her mother, her head is leaning in toward her shoulder and she doesn't look like it's hurting her at all. Christine looks at a picture of Ashley that has been in her room for months. She's sitting on the beach at sunset, candidly smiling at someone out of view. The picture is lifted and brought closer to her face. I see her smile faintly and trace the edge of Ashley's face in the photograph.
I expected Ashley to cry at least once with her parents, but that hasn't happened. She's looked upset but no tears have formed. I don't know what's going through her mother's head, how could I? She isn't crying. I didn't hear her cry all day yesterday, either. She's been like this ever since I finally dared to look at her last night.
When Ashley was with her father, I told Christine that I was sorry. I was so sorry.
A kiss is placed on the photograph and it's put back in its resting place before she takes a deep breath and leaves the room. I take her mother's place on the bed and let Ashley lean her head against my shoulder, I take her hand without thinking and hold it with my own.
"I'm okay," she says without me having to ask.
"It's okay if you're not," I remind her.
"I know." Her hand applies a little more pressure to my own.
"I need to ask you something," I begin softly, "But I don't want you to take it the wrong way, all right?"
"Yeah, okay," she acquiesces
I lean toward her a little more, pressing us closer together. "Why did you decide to do it when you did?"
"Because I needed you," she replies seriously.
"But you said you would wait."
Her head nods briefly in agreement. "That was before Erin, Spence." She exhales softly. "And I know you're thinking that it was a huge risk to take, but I just knew, Spence. I knew I'd be able to be like this with you."
I open my mouth to speak when she cuts in softly. "Don't say that we could have found a way because you know there wasn't one. There was never a way. It doesn't hurt when you're close to anyone else, and it doesn't hurt when I sit close to my Mom or my Dad, it was just something between us." She runs her thumb across the smooth skin of my hand. "I swear to you, I haven't regretted it, not even for a second. Okay?"
"What about your parents, Ash?" I ask her quietly, feeling terrible for them and not being able to imagine how losing a child would change you forever.
"We'll take care of them. They'll be okay Spence, I know they will."
I rest my head on top of hers, seeking comfort. "I don't know what to say. I didn't have to do any of this." I didn't have to console grieving parents.
"You don't have to say anything."
So I didn't, I gave her the simple contact she needed and kept hold of her hand.
I can't begin to imagine how I would have felt if I had to say goodbye to my family. Part of me thinks that I would have never been able to leave them, and part of me thinks that I would have never been able to witness their grief in the first place. I wouldn't have been able to hear them cry, watching a part of them die too, and, eventually, see them begin to live again. Without me.
Ashley spent another week with her parents, helping them cope and hoping they felt that she was there, that she was okay. And she was more than okay, I made sure of it. We heard them discussing moving house again and going back to California. Ashley isn't worried because she knows that it doesn't matter where they are, she'll always be able to find them as long as they're underneath the sky.
I've been feeling something for the past two days, something that tells me it's time.
I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to admit to being a little scared. I've gotten so used to being here without really being here and having this safety bubble in the form of my house and being able to see my best friend and fall in love with the girl who took over my bedroom and made me feel alive, that I wonder how I'll fare without it
"You feel it too, right?" Ashley asks from her position on the floor, sitting in front of the couch I'm on.
"Yeah," I reply quietly.
"Don't be scared," she tells me softly before lifting my leg upward to rest over her shoulder and kisses my quickly exposed ankle.
My hands reach forward and run through her soft hair to lightly scrape against her scalp.
Ashley wanted to spend one more night in the house and I had no objections, I would have done anything for her. We went to bed when her parents went to bed and I spent the entire night kissing her and touching her, making her feel loved.
I don't know if I was expecting her to go to the funeral or not, but she decided not to attend. I didn't want to go, either. I couldn't see that. She rubbed Christine's arm that day before she left for the church with Raife and I know that a lot of their family from California flew over and stayed in motels, not wanting to invade their privacy.
I didn't look outside the window once. I didn't want to see the car or what was inside it, just like I didn't want to see the cars with my family. Erin's family sent flowers and a card which was incredibly thoughtful considering they only met once. News travels fast.
I wonder what people will say about the house now.
Christine and Raife are finishing breakfast when Ashley looks to me and squeezes my hand. I take that as my cue to leave the room so she can say goodbye.
My eyes close when I hear her whisper that, despite everything, she loves them and she's sorry she didn't try harder to be a better daughter. I stop listening after that.
I told Ashley I wanted to say goodbye too and she let me have my privacy. Christine isn't looking at me, but I kneel on the floor next to her chair and put my hand on her forearm. She glances down briefly and refocuses her attention on the wall across from us. I imagine it's a feather touch at most. "I'll take care of her, I promise," is all I can whisper to Ashley's mother.
We leave the house and I close the door as quietly as I can manage. Ashley threads her fingers through mine and takes a deep breath.
"Are you okay?" I can't stop myself from asking even though I know it's more than likely a stupid question to ask at a time like this.
Her eyes quickly find my own. "I'm good, Spence."
"You're sure?" I need reassurance.
"I'm sure," she assures before she kisses my hand.
We begin walking away from the house that I doubt we will ever forget, past the little wall that I carved a greeting into, where Ashley first said hello to me without realising, where she used to sit with me without realising.
Ashley sees Mr Banks for the first time and he offers me the usual nod of recognition with a smile—and one for Ashley too—before sitting next to his wife. We walk past all the places we used to go and we barely utter a single word, not really needing to. Hands being held says everything that needs to be said.
When we get to the bottom of the road where we first saw each other, I look across the road and see Erin walking with her boyfriend. Her eyes land on mine and I send her the smile I wasn't ready to smile the last time we saw each other, it's a smile I'm certain lights up my entire face. The boy next to Erin is oblivious as her feet stay rooted to the ground, her eyes already filling.
She can't see Ashley but it's okay, this is our goodbye. "I'll see you when you're old and gross!" I yell across the street, knowing it's likely she will only hear it faintly at best. This is more than I've had before, so maybe, just this once, she will have heard me properly.
Bewildered and overwhelmed, Erin smiles a smile I haven't seen in over a year. She can only mouth "Loser" to me before she's nudged by her boyfriend, taking her attention away from me. When she turns back, she frowns. She can't see me anymore.
Re-facing Ashley, I hold her hand just a little bit tighter and we carry on walking.
"I wonder if we'll get to hang out with Elvis," she ponders aloud.
"I wonder if we'll sprout wings."
"You could rock a halo," she comments while looking at the space above my head.
"You could serenade me with a harp., I suggest, already picturing the sight.
The look she gives me causes me laugh and I awkwardly swat her on the arm with my free hand.
I barely noticed our surroundings change but suddenly everything looks different, it's clearer. It's clearer than I ever remember seeing anything, yet I see the same houses and roads I always did.
I hear Glen first.
"Sis, where the hell you been? We've been waiting," he says lightly.
I gasp and spin around in the direction of his voice and see him standing next to my parents. My mother is already crying but for just a second, I can't move. I can feel my heart beating again, I can feel it pounding. I'm certain it has everything to do with being here and finally seeing them again, hearing their voices and seeing the shapes of their bodies, knowing that after a second of looking into my father's eyes I can tell they haven't changed a bit.
I bite my bottom lip and try not to split my face in half with the smile that threatens to break free.
I feel Ashley squeeze my hand and I look to her before squeezing back and taking a step forward to introduce her to my family, to make it her own and to keep my promise to her mother. As we walk closer I can smell the perfume my mother always used to wear and I can't help breathing it in a little deeper.
Ashley releases my hand just before we reach my family and I know it was only done for my sake, so I can hug and greet them properly. My resolve not to cry crumbles as soon as hands that belong to my mother rest against my face.
"Mom," I breathe out, already crying.
She doesn't say a word, she just pulls me into the closest hug we've ever shared.
My eyes are closed but I hear Glen make a silly joke about him dying and going to heaven when he saw Ashley. It makes me laugh pathetically.
I love him.
"Spence," my dad calls softly.
I slowly pull out of the hug with my mother and keep hold of her hand when I turn to look at my father.
"Don't I get a hug?" he asks with the same friendly look on his face that he's always had, the same friendly look I know he'll always have.
I rub my thumb across my mother's hand and squeeze briefly before letting go and allowing bigger and stronger arms to pull me close and hold me even closer. I embrace him as tightly as I can, which probably isn't very strong from his point of view. "I love you so much," I say as clearly as I can manage, meaning everybody.
He kisses the side of my face and tells me that he loves me, too.
When I turn around, I look at Ashley and my shoulders slump because I don't know what to say to her, how to begin thanking her for giving me this. She nods knowingly before I even open my mouth.
I don't ask Glen for a hug. I just walk up to him and tiptoe before wrapping my arms around his neck and I feel his arms go around my waist right before I'm lifted off the ground. He's still wearing the cologne I used to hate but missed when I couldn't smell it anymore.
The hugs and introductions with Ashley went as well as I knew they would. They had knowing looks in their eyes before I even introduced them and I didn't see even a flicker of disappointment or disgust in my parents' eyes. Not even once.
My mother tells us we can go home and Ashley and I follow in the direction they all walk. I'm holding her hand tighter than usual, needing to. "I love you," I say to her, knowing that's all I'll ever be able to say to her.
She pulls my hand up to her heart. I can feel it beating again, reacting how it used to react when I'd kiss her in bed all those weeks ago. "I love you, too."
Before I join my family inside, I sit on the small wall at the edge of the lawn and watch them interact, something I haven't had the luxury to do in far too long. The once described mediocre house on Kenwood Avenue is now far superior. My family, including Ashley, are in the living room discussing something which, judging by the looks on their faces, is light and funny. Acting as if they don't have a care in the world. Acting as if they aren't dead.
But are we really?
Does any soul ever created through the ages really die?