Summary: Everyone is damaged, she explained, but not everyone is broken. Ashley never thought that going back to Baltimore with Kyla would bring her face-to-face with the one person who made her feel like she wasn't broken.
Disclaimer: I don't own SoN. What I do own is a computer and the amazing ability to not do what I am supposed to with my time.
AN: First SoN fic, so I don't know how well this is going to turn out, but I promise to try if you all let me know how I'm doing. This is rated for dark themes that will be addressed later and, as the site says, 'minor suggestive adult themes' which will appear later as well.
PS: If you are reading my HP fic (which I don't know why you would read that and this, seeing as how they are completely different media) I'm working on that. And I'll finish the next chapter after my MCAT next Thursday.
Ashley stared down at the impossibly dark waters that churning beneath the furthest back railing of the cruise ship. It was rare that her mother had good ideas and even rarer for her to pick up on her only child's mood and do something nice for her. And this little act of seemingly good intentions just went to prove how off the mark the woman could be.
She had apparently noticed how sullen her dark-haired girl's mood had been, took note of how the scrumptious little boy that often trailed behind her offspring had been absence from her home, and decided to include the girl in her fun time. What she hadn't done was bother to ask what was wrong, or think to spend time with her own genetics once they had boarded to ship. Instead, she had Ashley shown to her room and told her to ring if she wanted to catch brunch one day.
Not for the first time, the brunette vehemently swore to never treat her children the way her mother treated her, she would be there for her kids. She would be able to tell when they were going through something. Tell when they were pregnant at fifteen.
Tell when they miscarried three months later.
Ashley pressed one hand against her own flat stomach and the other across her face, bravely biting back a fresh wave of tears. She leant over the railing, feeling like she would be sick once more and figuring that this would be the safest place to do so without getting in anyone's way.
The cruise liner rolled over a wave in the middle of the night and the brunette tightened her grip against the railing, lest her foot slip and she be lost overboard. Yet, as she looked down at that deceptively silent water, she entertained a thought of leaning just a little further over, of just slipping away like a flash of light.
Would it really be all that bad? All that tragic?
Would anyone notice until she did not show up at the limo at port in three days time? Would her mother notice even then?
She leant further across and glanced down. Tilting her head to one side she judged the distance and wondered if the fall would kill her outright or whether she would have to wait to drown. The metal of the guardrail bit harshly into the soft flesh of her belly and she was reminded that the action hurt her alone and no entity growing within her.
She stepped up on the next rung of the rail.
"I really hope your not thinking of jumping."
Ashley jumped at the soft, feminine voice causing her foot to slip and for a brief second she thought that this was it, she was gone, but instead of falling into the harsh water so many yards beneath the ship it was into the strong, steady hands of the girl on the deck.
She was shocked for a second until this latest failure hit her and she cried out, "Why?" flailing her arms and contorting her body so the new girl had to wrap her arms around Ashley's thin hips to prevent an accident.
"Looks cold," the girl shrugged, allowing the brunette to twist in her hold and bring them face to face, "and I'm not a big fan of being cold."
Unexplainably angry about the nonchalant answer she pounded her fists weakly against the interloper's chest, sobbing silently and pushing, pushing, pushing, wanting that oblivion and silence and just to not hurt anymore. But no matter how much she struggled the girl did not let go and took what ever was doled out until Ashley just went limp and cried heartbreakingly into her shoulder.
She felt strong arms come up around her shoulders and across her back, pulling her into an effortless embrace that had her feeling safer and warmer than she thought possible. They stood there for what seemed like hours until Ashley felt her knees give out a little from the strain of her life finally catching up. Without so much as a word the stranger holding her shifted to slip an arm under the brunette's knees and pick her up carefully. Ashley tightened her hold on the front of the girl's hoodie and felt more than anything when the girl's back hit a wall and she slid down to a sitting position, with Ashley cradled preciously in her lap.
There were gentle hands in her hair, kisses to the forehead, and a simple rocking motion that brought forth a new round of tears to her chocolate brown eyes. This was exactly what she had needed; she just never knew it because she had never had it before.
In sentences punctuated with shuddering breaths and sobs, she told her story out loud for the first time. She explained to a complete stranger everything that was wrong with her, cried about how broken she was and fiddled helplessly with the girl's fingers and the strings of her sweatshirt. In the silence that followed, as she picked at this girl's chipped blue nail polish, Ashley finally asked her why she would jump off a cruise liner after a complete stranger, fully convinced that this girl would have.
"Everyone is damaged," she explained in a scratchy tenor that did weird things to the brunette's concentration, "But not everyone is broken." She pressed the hand Ashley was playing with flat along the brunette's stomach, "You're not broken. I promise one day you're going to realize that."
Ashley tried to get a good look at the girl but the moonlight whitewashed everything, making her appear pale and bright and it was hard to see through the tears in her eyes. It didn't seem to matter though, as it was the presence of her savior that Ashley figured she would always remember.
"What's your damage?" she asked, tracing bitten nails along dried tear tracks on the stranger's cheeks. Beneath her fingertips the girl offered a hollow smile that reflected the empty light in her bright eyes.
"I want to be as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside."
Ashley frowned at the confession and rested her warm palm along the sad girl's cool cheek, blinking heavily when she turned to kiss the exposed skin at inside of the brunette's wrist. Ashley bit her bottom lip as she slid her hand to cup the back of the girl's head and pulled her down just far enough to brush their lips together.
She pulled back slowly as the girl's eyes fluttered open and Ashley was struck but how intensely blue they were. "I think you're absolutely beautiful," she declared assertively, curling further into herself so that she could tuck her head under the girl's chin. She fell asleep listening to her wonderfully strong heartbeat.
When she woke up in the morning it was in a chaise lounge next to the on deck pool, alone, but wrapped in a dark blue hoodie that smelt like peaches, felt like safety, and had the letters SC sharpied on the tag.