Title: Wild At Heart
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Pairing: Spencer/Ashley
Summary: AU. Very AU. The Carlin family gets a new addition.

Chapter 1 - Wolf Like Me

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Spencer. Spencer was an average girl, living with her average family in an average small town. She was your typical all American girl, except for one small difference; she was gay. So very, very gay. However, living in a small town in Ohio and afraid of being the only gay in the village, Spencer had learned to hide it well.

"Spencer, can you take Lance for a walk?" her mother called up the stairs, one fateful afternoon. Lance was Spencer's seven year old Husky, who had been named after her favorite N'Syncer. When all the girls were pretending to marry Justin Timberlake in the playground, Spencer was pretending to crush on Lance. Go figure. Lance was her beloved pet and she would've gladly taken him out for a walk any other time. Not, however, when she was in the middle of reading some particularly smutty Serena/Blair fanfiction.

"Now?" she whined. "Uh, I can't…I'm doing homework." Well, in a way, she was.

Spencer barely had time to remove her hand from her pants and minimize the window before her mother barged into her room. "Spencer, you're always locked away up here doing homework." Paula may as well have put air quotes around her words. "You can afford to take a break for twenty minutes. Now hurry up." She tossed Lance's harness and leash at her daughter. "It'll be dark soon."

Spencer slumped in her desk chair and waited until her mother left the room to bring the window back up and save the story into her favorites to read later. Then she shut down the computer, just in case her annoying brother decided to come snooping.

"Come on, Lance," she called to the large dog who was sleeping on her bed. He patiently waited while Spencer strapped him into his harness, his bushy tail wagging lazily. "Let's go for a walk."

-

It wasn't that she was lazy, it was just that she had better things to do than walk her dog. Spencer couldn't remember the last time she had taken Lance for a walk and, feeling guilty about it, she decided that she would make this one extra long to make up for it. And it wasn't like she wasn't enjoying herself, out in the fresh, crisp air with Tegan & Sara blasting through her headphones. It was rather relaxing.

"It's alright, Lance," she said absently to her dog who was balking as they approached a small creek. "It's just water."

But the big dog wouldn't budge.

Spencer sighed and looked back at her dog, who had his tail between his legs. She realized with a start that they had wandered into the woods at the back of a neighboring property. "What's the matter?" she asked, concerned by Lance's uncharacteristically skittish behavior. She pulled her headphones down off her ears and now could hear Lance's whimpers…and the low growling coming from the woods that surrounded them.

Spencer tensed, scanning the bushes for any sign of movement. This is just great, first time in ages I take him for a walk and I'm going to get eaten by a bear for my trouble. She could barely contain her gasp when she spotted the first pair of glowing yellow eyes emerge from the darkness.

She swallowed hard, silently telling herself not to panic, and tried to get her bearings. Fortunately, she realized that she wasn't in as unfamiliar territory as she had first thought. The Reynolds' farm wasn't that far away, they could probably make it if they ran.

"Run, Lance, run!" she yelled, making a break for it. Lance tore ahead of her, essentially dragging the blonde along as he fled. Spencer's stride faltered as she tried to keep up with the dog and when her foot caught on a exposed root, she tripped and fell heavily to the ground. Lance's leash flew from her hand, he didn't even look back at his fallen master.

Spencer groaned, squeezing her eyes shut, trying not to pass out from the sharp pain radiating from where her head had connected with a rock. She struggled against nausea and rolled onto her back, momentarily forgetting the danger she had been running from. She remembered all too quickly when a blast of hot, rancid breath hit her cheek.

Please be Lance, please be Lance.
Baby blue eyes flew open, only to snap shut as her vision swum. It had only been a quick glance but it had been more than enough to confirm to her that the animal, sizing her up, definitely was not Lance. She opened her eyes again, slower this time, to find herself staring into the salivating jaws of a large gray wolf. And the assorted yips and growls she could her coming from the area around her, let her know that he wasn't the only one.

The wolf's lips pulled back into a vicious snarl, exposing it's deadly fangs. Frozen with fear, Spencer could do nothing but squeak when it's paw pressed heavily against her chest, pining her down. Spencer closed her eyes again and resigned herself to the fact that she was about to die. I can see the headlines now 'Local Closeted Lesbian Mauled To Death By Wolves'. God, I hope they don't figure out the password to my computer. If anybody discovered her extensive collection of girl on girl porn, she would die of embarrassment…you know, if she hadn't already been killed by the wolves.

Another growl cut through the air, this one was different, louder and more distinctive, and just like that, the paw weighing down on Spencer's chest was removed. Spencer opened her eyes again, seeing the wolf, that had been about to eat her, cowering and backing away as another blurry figure, approached. As it got closer, Spencer realized that it was a girl. A very hot and very naked girl.

The girl regarded Spencer curiously. Tilting her head from side to side, trying to figure out what this strange creature before her was. I'm dead and this is heaven, Spencer thought as the girl cautiously approached her, sniffing the air.

They locked eyes, brown meeting blue for the first time and Spencer was taken aback by the sheer intensity in the brunette's eyes and couldn't bring herself to look away. Something was happening, something important, they could both feel it, even if only one of them could recognize it.

Spencer whimpered as the mysterious girl leaned in and started tenderly lapping at the wound on her head, trying to soothe the painful bump with her tongue. The was a rustle when one of the other wolves tried to approach. The change in the previously docile girl was startling. She turned on the only wolf that was brave, or stupid, enough to approach her, snarling and snapping with a terrifying ferocity.

The wolf yelped and scuttled away to join the rest of the pack.

Just as Spencer had gathered the courage to say something, a loud shot rang out in the distance. The girl stiffened and turned tail, fleeing back into the woods with the rest of the wolf pack.

"Spencer!" A vaguely familiar voice called out, followed by an accompanying bark. "Spencer, are you out here?"

"Y-yeah," Spencer stuttered weakly. Realizing that she would never be hear that way, she cleared her throat and tried again. "I'm over here!"

Lance found her first, jumping on her and slobbering all over her face happily. Behind him was a middle aged man wearing coveralls with his rifle clutched in one hand.

"Thank god, I found ya," he breathed as he helped the fallen girl to her feet. "Are you alright?"

"I-I think so," the blonde stuttered, trying to wrap her head around what had just happened.

"I can't tell ya how scared I was when Lance here came running up to me. I knew he wouldn't be out here on his lonesome so I came lookin' for ya. What happened, did ya take a tumble?" He gestured to the growing lump on Spencer's temple.

"There were wolves-" Spencer felt like an idiot just saying it.

"Damn bastard things have been hanging around for weeks," Mr Reynolds said in disgust. "They've taken three of my sheep and the idiot rangers haven't damn done a thing about 'em."

"I didn't even know that we had wolves around here."

"Eh, it's that global warming, messing everything up," the portly man explained as he escorted Spencer and her dog back up to his house. "They're lookin' for food, they can't find enough of it in the woods so they're comin' closer and closer to towns."

"So they've been around here for a while?" Spencer asked curiously. "Have you ever seen-" She stopped herself. "Nevermind."

"I'll drive ya home," Mr Reynolds said firmly, guiding Spencer to his red pickup. "Help ya explain what happened to your mother."

Oh, this should be good.

-

Overwhelmed with guilt, and after thoroughly checking Spencer over, Paula agreed to let Spencer choose what they had for dinner -pizza- and what movie they watched that family night -Bring It On-. Spencer figured that she could milk this whole 'I sent my only daughter out to be attacked by wolves' guilt trip for at least a month.

But still, Spencer couldn't totally enjoy it. She couldn't get that girl off her mind. Who was she? Where did she come from? So many questions and no answers.

A knock on her door drew her out of her brooding.

"Are you okay, sweetheart?" Arthur stood in her doorway, looking at her with fatherly concern.

"Mom said it was just a bump. I don't even have a concussion," she answered flippantly.

Arthur smiled and took a seat on the end of her bed. "I know. You've been awfully quiet. Would you like to talk about what happened?"

Spencer shrugged. "It's not about that. Well, it is, but not in the way that you think." He probably thinks I've got post traumatic stress or something. She released a huge breath. "There was a girl."

"A girl?"

"Yeah."

"Where?"

"When I got attacked."

"Wait." Arthur frowned, trying to process what his daughter was talking about. "She watched you get attacked and she didn't do anything about it?"

Spencer shook her head and immediately regretted it as it brought back the dull ache. "No…she was with the wolves…like she was one of them. But human." Okay, even I think that I sound crazy.

Arthur grimaced. "Like she'd been living with them?"

"Yes!" Spencer exclaimed, relieved that her father seemed to believe her.

"So what did she look like?"

"Oh." Spencer bought up the image of the girl that now seemed to be burned into her brain. "Okay, um, she had really long dark hair but it was all, like, dreadlocked and, um, brown eyes and short, I think shorter than me, I couldn't really tell. She was always on all fours. She was around my age too and, uh…naked," she finished in a small voice, blushing furiously. Very, very naked.

"Right. Well, we should alert the authorities."

"No!" Spencer panicked, grabbing her father's arm. "What if I was imagining it? Or hallucinating, I did hit my head, you know."

Arthur pursed his lips, thinking it over. "Fine, we'll keep it quiet. For now. I'll do some digging around, try to find out if there have been any more sightings and check through the missing persons reports tomorrow, see if there are any girls that fit that description. If we get a match, we'll reassess. Okay?"

Spencer nodded, this time not caring about the pain it caused her, and engulfed her father in a hug. "You're the best dad ever!"

-

Working in social services in Sheridan county, wasn't exactly a job that moved at break neck speeds. So in between his 10am and 2pm appointments, Arthur had plenty of time to look into Spencer's mysterious Wolf Girl. He was checking through recent missing persons reports for possible matches when his phone rang.

"Arthur Carlin," he answered it, holding the phone up to his ear with his shoulder.

"Art, it's Ralph. Bob needs you to come down to County General, right away."

"The hospital, why?" Arthur asked, already slipping on his coat.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Ralph answered. "Just get here. You don't want to miss this."

"I'm on my way."

-

It was only a twenty minute drive to the hospital. Hell, it took twenty to get anywhere in Sheridan county. Twenty minutes to get to the strip mall, twenty minutes to get to the train station, twenty minutes to get to the only McDonalds in a fifty mile radius, twenty minutes…well, you get the point.

Once he arrived at the hospital, Arthur approached his scruffy co-worker, the young man's flaming ginger hair was hard to miss in the sterile white waiting room. "Ralph, where's Bob?"

"In there," Ralph said, nodding to the closed door he'd been casually trying to eavesdrop against. "He should be out pretty soon."

"So now that I'm here, do you want to explain what's going on?"

"Most definitely." Ralph rubbed his hands together eagerly. "You know, how the farmers have been complaining about the wolves for a while now."

Arthur suddenly had a very bad feeling about this. "Yes."

"Well, the rangers finally got off their asses to do something about it. The plan was to tranq the wolves and relocate them. Or at least it was until they found her."

"Her?" Arthur tried to sound surprised.

Ralph nodded and cracked open the door he'd been leaning against, allowing Arthur to see inside where several nurses and orderlies were struggling to pin down a dark haired young girl so that a doctor could inject her with what Arthur only imagined to be some kind of sedative. "Her." Ralph pulled the door closed, before he could get into trouble for peeking again.

I think I've found Spencer's mystery girl.
"Wow."

Ralph smirked. "And that's not even the best part." He held up the gold chain with a charm that said Ashley, attached to it. "She was wearing this around her neck when they found her. You know what this means, right?"

Of course Arthur knew what it meant, he wasn't stupid. "Let's not jump to conclusions, Ralph."

"Oh, come on, Art. It's hardly a leap, more like a tiny step," Ralph said, unaware that the door had opened behind him.

"Regardless," said the distinguished older man, who had just exited Ashley's room. "We are still awaiting positive confirmation of the girl's true identity."

Ralph's blush clashed terribly with his red hair. "Of course," he muttered. "Sorry boss."

"Arthur," Bob greeted the other man warmly. "The doctor should be out shortly, until then I suggest that we take a seat."

"I don't understand why this is our problem," Ralph complained as he took a seat on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs. "Isn't this a matter for the sheriff's department?"

"And what would they do with her? Hmm? Throw her in a cell down at the county lock up? That's the last thing she needs," Bob snapped at the inexperienced young social worker.

"Well, we're not exactly equipped to handle something like this either," Ralph pointed out.

"That's why I called Arthur down here." The old man turned in his seat to face Arthur. "You've encountered something like this before, have you not?"

"Briefly." Arthur frowned. "But it was twenty years ago, when I was working with the Peace Corps at an orphanage in India. But I'm hardly an expert."

"You once told me about a thesis you did on Amala and Kamala, the wolf girls of India."

"That was a long time ago, Bob." Arthur wondered if he still had his copy the diary of Joseph Singh laying around.

"Even so, you're still more knowledgeable in this case than any of us."

Bob was interrupted by the door to the girl's room opening and a harried looking doctor exiting through it. The three men stood as the doctor approached them.

"Doctor," Bob addressed him formally. "How is she?"

"We've finally managed to get her sedated," the doctor informed them. "And I've put a rush put on her blood tests." Arthur noticed that the doctor was cradling his freshly bandaged hand. The wound was fresh and blood was already starting to soak through the white cotton. "I can only assume that you'll be placing her in an institution."

Arthur grimaced at the man's snotty tone. "And why would we do that?"

"Because she's mad." A little bit of stress crept into the doctor's voice. "She was trying to attack anyone who came near her."

"Perhaps that's because she thought that you were trying to attack her," Arthur responded angrily. "And the girl is sixteen, institutionalizing her now is condemning her to one for the rest of her life. They wouldn't try to help her, they'd just pump her full of these drugs you seem to be so fond of." If there was one thing that Arthur hated, it was the way too many troubled kids were locked away just because someone decided that they would be too much work to try and help.

"Oh really." The doctor clearly didn't appreciated having his practices being challenged. "And how would you suggest we handle her?"

Arthur sighed wearily and looked around at his companions. "Has anyone tried talking to her?"

-

Arthur took a moment to prepare himself before entering the girl's room. He knew exactly how much was weighing on this first meeting and how Ashley reacted to him. If he screwed up or accidentally provoked Ashley in any way and she attacked…they would have no choice but to send her away.

"Hello, Ashley," he greeted gently, keeping near the door on the other side of the room, not wanting to look like he was cornering her in any way.

Ashley eyed this new stranger warily, something about him smelt very familiar to her but she couldn't quite place it.

"My name is Arthur, do you mind if I sit?" he continued, keeping his voice, and body language as unthreatening as possible.

He didn't wait for a reply. In fact, he was already half way into sitting on the chair when he was asking the question. There was still at least five feet of space in between where he was sitting and the girl on the bed, he didn't want to encroach on her personal space. "I think you met my daughter yesterday. Apparently you saved her life, so thank you for that."

Ashley was still glaring at him, however she had visibly relaxed as he spoke.

"I have a question for you," Arthur continued, slowly withdrawing a folded up piece of paper from his pocket. He'd used the hospital computers to find a picture of Raife Davies and had printed it off before he came to visit Ashley. He unfolded the paper and held it up for Ashley to see. "Is this your father?" It was a long shot and he knew it.

"Daddy," Ashley breathed, her face softening to that of a vulnerable child. She reached out towards the picture only to be stopped by the soft restraints around her wrists.

Arthur leaned forward, offering the picture to her. "It's alright, you can have it," he prompted the hesitant girl. Ashley eyed him a moment before quickly snatching it right out of his hand. "I believe this is yours as well," he said, holding up the necklace he'd taken from Ralph.

"Mine!" Ashley exclaimed in a voice that had been roughened by years of disuse. She started to whine and whimper anxiously as the necklace that had not once left her neck in eleven years was being dangled out of her reach.

"Would you like me to put it back on you?"

Arthur knew that he was taking a huge risk, he'd seen what Ashley had done to Dr. Pinket's hand. When Ashley didn't object to his suggestion, he moved from his seat, approaching her carefully, ready to retreat at the slightest sign of aggression. But the dark haired girl displayed none, she seemed content to lay there as he secured the chain around her neck. The only difficulty he encountered came from the girl's matted hair.

Arthur had been backing away from Ashley when the door opened and Dr. Pinket entered the room. Immediately, Ashley was on edge, growling and straining against her restraints. The doctor went white and kept a clear distance from the snarling girl.

"We have her test results back," he spoke directly to Arthur. "Against all odds, her blood work shows no sign of disease or infection."

Arthur blinked in surprise. Eleven years living in the wild and she hadn't picked up a single thing? "You're sure?"

"I had them run it twice," Pinket informed him, absently rubbing his injured hand. "They're all clear. And she doesn't seem to be caring any parasites on her either. Aside from the physical deformity, she appears to be in perfect health."

"Physical deformity?"

"Well, after spending so long walking on all fours, the tendons in her arms and legs have shortened significantly. In their current state, it would be physically impossible for her to even stand on two legs."

That's right, Arthur thought. Reverend Singh encountered the same thing with Kamala and Amala. He managed to loosen the limbs through massage and get the girls walking again. There's no reason that, in this day and age, the same thing wouldn't be possible through massage and physiotherapy. He nodded at the doctor and then turned to Ashley. "I'm just going outside to talk to the doctor, I'll come back to see you soon," he said, wanting to keep the girl informed.

Walking out with Dr. Pinket, Arthur chanced a look back over his shoulder and what he saw only further bolstered his determination that this girl be locked away. Ashley was gazing lovingly at the picture of her father, looking more human than anyone Arthur had ever met.

-

"So, what's the verdict?" Bob asked as the two men approached.

"She has a clean bill of health," Dr. Pinket told them. "It is my recommendation that she immediately be sent to an psychiatric institution for rehabilitation."

Arthur gritted his teeth at the man's narrow-mindedness. "I disagree."

"Arthur?" Bob turned to him.

"She can understand English, she can speak, she recognized her father," Arthur listed. "She doesn't need to be locked up."

"And what is it that you suggest she needs?" Dr. Pinket said, snidely.

"A family." It was as simple as that.

Dr. Pinket couldn't help but laugh. "And where do you think you're going to find a foster family willing to take her in?"

Arthur smiled serenely. Pinket was just making the decision easier with every word that spilled out of his mouth. "I'll have to speak to my wife, but I think that I've already found one."

TBC