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: Alright, all you amazingly fantastic people out there in internet land. This is it, the end of it. I want to apologize for how long this took to get out. For as long as I've had this story in my head I hadn't realized until after I posted the last chapter that I had never thought passed it. There was no plan for how I was going to end this so I have about seven different starts for this last part on my computer that were not what I wanted at all. It was really frustrating, plus there are things going on in my life that, while I won't get into it here, weren't letting me get in the proper mind for writing what I wanted to write and I don't really have anyone here to talk things like that through and definitely no one with which I could talk this story out with. And while things aren't necessarily better I didn't want to leave this unfinished, like I have a terrible habit of doing.
I didn't want this to be another one of those pieces. This story has meant too much to me, many of you have mean too much to me to let it go like that. I started this to work through some things I was dealing with and it's been a form of catharsis, so to speak. People tends to write what they know and, while this is in no way, shape or form based on anything even resembling a true story, there are elements that are more personal than others involved. I needed to finish this. For better or worse, I did (although I sincerely hope for the better).
I started to go back through and reread the reviews because I actually wanted to thank everyone who had ever took the time to sit down and type one out. I got a little teary-eyed, for real. I just, I don't know how exactly to thank everyone except to post this and hope against hope that you like it. Two years is a long time to wait for this, but I'm so glad you all stuck it out with me. Seriously, I want to find you all and give you great big hugs (that's not creepy, right?)
Ashley leant her shoulder against the doorframe and let the heat from the coffee mug warm her hands. She lifted the mug to take a sip, not letting her eyes stray from the sight in front of her. She grinned, lips curling around the ceramic edge and marveled at the journey that got her here, to this place at this moment. It hadn't been easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, what with the things that needed to have happened to throw them together. Miscarriages, accidents, deaths, adulterous parents and tragedy lined the path they took but with the sight before her Ashley couldn't bring herself to regret a single moment.
The blonde girl that lay curled around Ashley's pillow and tangled in their sheets shifted in her sleep and her eyelids fluttered but the brunette knew she wouldn't wake up until the alarm clock went off. Ashley let her eyes trail over the oh so familiar features of the blonde's face, down the slope of her neck and across the newly stained plane of her shoulder that was left exposed by the cut of her white tank top. That weekend in Baltimore felt so far away and the idea that she could have looked into Spencer's bright, blue eyes even once and not known exactly who she was such a foreign concept that the musician had to shake her head at herself sometimes.
She grimaced when she thought of all the drama Spencer had been dealing with that weekend. As if a semi-psychotic girlfriend and a State championship weren't enough, the legal battle over her custody that had been simmering in the background since her grandmother's death had also weighed prominently on her mind. Her social worker, a kind but over-worked woman by the name of Janice, had informed her via letter that the courts would make a decision about her guardianship sometime in the following week.
Originally the blonde was supposed to go to Jerry Carlin, her father's brother, who had raised her elder brother after her parents' accident. And that would have been fine, except they lived in St. Louis, almost a thousand miles away from everything Spencer knew and loved. At seventeen she was more than a little upset by the idea of having to pick up her whole life and start over. Eileen, ever brilliant and maternal Eileen, had jumped at the chance to offer her own home, as the girl had already secured her place in her heart years before. The woman was a professional with a steady job and strong relationship with the blonde, citing that the girl was practically her daughter in all but genetics anyway. The judge ruling the case was wary, especially when certain things were brought to light, like the reparative camp, Spencer's cutting, her suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behaviors.
But what he couldn't argue with was Eileen's role in helping Spencer out of that darkness, which was more extensive than even Kyla had known about. It was the deciding factor for the judge. Spencer stayed in Baltimore with Eileen for her senior year and was able to complete high school with all her friends. Or rather, most of them as her best friend was back on the West coast with her two newest friends that were quickly becoming more and more important to her.
Spencer and Aiden were like two peas in a pod, with so much in common (mostly girls and sports) that the blonde was quickly elevated to the 'bro' level. Most of their interactions were limited to social networks on-line though, and they usually only talked on the phone when there was a major sporting event happening that meant something to both Coasts, or, you know, when Aiden needed advice about Kyla or girls in general. As for Kyla, the petite brunette had gotten more busy their senior year when she had started volunteering at shelters but still made time to talk to her best friend on the other side of the country several times a week, if not more. On-line or over the phone, the were always caught up on each other's lives.
But again, with Ashley it was different. Starting with the first few 'getting to know you/20 Question' texts in the weeks following their return from Baltimore it evolved quickly into something more. Then throughout the last year of high school it was rare that a day would pass without some sort of contact with Spencer Carlin. Texts were for quick conversations about nothing, but they could also talk for hours on the phone about everything.
Ashley had never had anyone in her life like the blonde, someone who would drop everything to answer a call and talk about stupid viral videos for an hour so that the musician had time to build up to the important stuff. She'd also never been that person for anyone else before Spencer. But there she was, listening to camp horror stories or about nightmares or the few memories the blonde had of her parents. And she cared, seriously freaking cared, about every single word. Until that point it was easy to pretend Spencer was just a friend, a very good friend, but just a friend nonetheless. But once she realized that? It changed her.
Spencer was still in Baltimore, though, on the other side of the country so things were unlikely to ever actually amount to anything. Not like Aiden and Kyla who were located in the same zip code and therefore (after permission from Ashley which stemmed from prodding from Spencer) able to date, and they did, starting a week or so before the start of their senior year.
It was a tough time for the eldest daughter of Raife Davies.
And while things were looking alright in LA they weren't so shiny on the East Coast. Marissa and Val hadn't lasted much past the end of their Junior year, especially with the blowout they had over Juliet and her erratic behavior. Marissa, a girl who had been in the system for a while and had seen quite a bit, was under the impression that Juliet needed help for her drinking, her eating disorder, her mood swings and bouts of depression whereas Val was all about making excuses for her friend and didn't like the implication that she wasn't enough for her. The blonde couldn't be blamed for wanting to remain in her blissful state of ignorance, not entirely in any state, Juliet had been her best friend since kindergarten and no one wants to believe there is anything wrong with the people they care about the most. Spencer had tried her damnedest to stay out of the whole ordeal, and she had succeeded for the most part, until her ex showed up on her doorstep after midnight one Saturday about halfway through their senior year. The athlete had actually been on the phone with Ashley at the time, who was stuck at home by herself while Kyla and Aiden were out on a date. Spencer was offering suggestions about what the West coast girl could do with her evening when she suddenly had a drunk and disheveled Juliet throwing up in her toilet and crying, curled up in a ball on her bathroom floor.
Ashley had been in such a state by the time that her half-sister and best friend had gotten back that Kyla immediately dismissed Aiden to sit with the older girl and figure out what the hell was going on. That was the night that Ashley told Kyla about kissing Spencer in Baltimore to which the smaller girl replied: "Yeah? Spencer told me about that months ago." It was also the night Ashley admitted out loud that she might actually like Spencer and that was why she was freaking out (just a little) about the blonde being on the other side of the country with her crazy ass, drunk ex-girlfriend. Kyla's response for this was a sarcastic smile, a pat on the shoulder, and "No, you think?"
That stress didn't go away until late the next night when the blonde finally called her back. There was a moment, Ashley remembers, when she seriously contemplated ignoring the ringtone, letting it go to voicemail, and making Spencer feel a semblance of what she had gone through the night before. She hadn't, of course, and she let the blonde explain what was going on in a worn-out and dull voice that made Ashley feel hollow inside. Spencer only ever gave her an overview of that night, saying that the things that happened were for Juliet to talk about but she had made it a point to let Ashley know that although much had happened, nothing had happened between the two. Ashley believed her without question.
The year ended without much fanfare, except for the day that Ashley pulled into her driveway to find an unfamiliar rental car parked in her spot and a very familiar blonde sitting on her front steps talking with Kyla and looking for all the world like she was made for the California sunshine. Spencer's skills on the field had garnered the attention of several college recruiters, including UCLA, and she and Eileen figured it would be nice to get a tour of the campus the blonde might be calling home for the next four years.
That weekend, showing the two around LA had been the most fun the California native had had in years. Even with the little hiccup on the last night when Ashley, Aiden and Kyla took Spencer to Grays and the blonde was sought out by Carmen Mendez. The thin Latina wedged her way between Ashley and Spencer and without so much as glance at the other brunette and pulled the East coast girl onto the jam-packed dance floor. It took Kyla finding her sister muttering darkly into a glass at the bar to shake the older girl out of her state of mind. The fashionista pointed out Spencer's 'Dear Lord, some one save me now' look and informed Ashley that if she didn't step in soon the smaller girl was going to make Aiden do it. And, seriously, how awkward would that be?
As far as Ashley knows, that was the first time she's even initiated a hug with Kyla.
She and Spencer hadn't started any kind of relationship that night, they couldn't really because there was still time before anything definite was decided with the University and the blonde was heading back to Baltimore for at least five more months in the morning with no guarantee where she would be after that. But she did shut down any hopes Carmen may have had for that night with the blonde, which made the statement that without defining it, there was definitely something there in the space between the two of them. And that was enough, for the time.
It was weeks after that, on the phone with Ashley once more, that the blonde opened her letter of intent from UCLA and asked if Ashley thought she would look good in blue and gold. Ashley had tears in her eyes and they must have been in her voice as well, because the athlete had picked up on it right away. "Hold onto to those tears," the blonde whispered through the phone, her own voice thick, "I'll be there soon to wipe them away." Which of course made her cry harder.
After that it was Ashley opening the file that gave her the name of her randomly assigned roommate (which was only happened because of Eileen and her weird desires for them all them all to have "the proper college experience" ). So, personal saviors during the apex of crisis, strangers meeting through happenstance and a mutual social contact and then randomly paired roommates at their freshman year at UCLA.
Fate was one persistent mistress and who was Ashley Davies to argue with the driving force of the Universe?
All of that, every moment, brought her here. No, it wasn't easy, not even those first two years in college when they were actually together, but damn it all if it wasn't worth it.
The alarm sounded, a low but relentless beeping noise that was silenced almost as soon as it started. Spencer stretched under the sheets and Ashley hid another smile at the semi-confused hand movements over the empty space where she normally slept.
Sleep darkened blue eyes sought her out. "You are awfully far away," Spencer rumbled in her just-woke-up tones and closed her eyes once more, relaxing back into the mattress. "You need to not be so far away."
Ashley grinned more widely and made her way fully into the bedroom. Setting the mug down on the side table next to the alarm clock, she sat down on the edge of the bed next to the other girl and gazed down at the exposed upper right shoulder where a lightly lined script tattoo was at the end stage of healing. All black except the thin line of red snug around the 'a', Fate was there, branded forever onto Her faithful believer. It's twin adorned the inside of the musicians left wrist, though the color outlining the lettering was a deep blue. She let her fingertips travel the length of Spencer's tattoo before following the same path with her lips, whispering 'I love you' between each kiss.
When she was done, Spencer twisted until she was on her back and able to slide a free hand into thick, brown curls and pull the other girl down into a proper kiss. "I love you, too," she breathed, voice vibrating along Ashley's lips due to their proximity. The brunette smiled widely and pressed herself fully into the other girl. Every cracked piece of herself she'd ever felt pressed up against her heart like the railing of the cruise liner had pressed against the soft flesh of her stomach on the night they first met fit perfectly against every one of Spencer's jagged pieces. Damaged, but not broken, she fit against Spencer like they made for one another.
Every moment, every tear, every heartbreak was worth it.
If only for this, right here, right now.
Thank you again to everyone who has ever reviewed/faved/alerted this fic.
From the first to the last, you all are incredible (anyone I miss, I'm SOOOO sorry and if I misspell your name I'm blaming autocorrect). Julia S., niecyx3, .HEART, katshark, wannabebo352, ladytink2011, Nighthawk88, Perfectsam1, YinYangTwin1, sugarrush78, lalalalee, soulstealer247, Sora-Hikari, KITTYKAT, , Noodlesmls, DarkHues, AbsoluteGarbage, Baley-fo-life, hugbudd13, Tvat, Anonona, off kilter, iknowhow, DushkusBitch, sonmcrtlwuuh, seyheysteviery, Bree, exist2believe, bitten2, hellooooo23, ashikinz, scooby2771, Doesitmeanjustice, slushhy, lez4life695, FRED, Aerize, booIczu, eMK, henessaycarter, JJ, justjibz, Isebella.E, kaila5707, KindainlovewithShadowStars, Elly1212, eternallymontyp, Anon, me, Alena, 14faraday, rookie802, PLLgleefan11, BlueRagingRaven, mkylsmth, Inmyownwords92, Wheezer, InMyArms6176196, Hmmmm, BlackanYellow, kahlelatara, ashleyss27, nwlifenwworld123, Reader, and .I Talk-2-Evil Little Pixies. (awesome name btw)
Breakdown: dearest, unfortunately this is the end, but I glad you enjoyed it.
shiftingaxiom: even "lazy assed appreciator"s are severely appreciated
annie: sorry for invading your subconscious, I'll try and control that better from now on :P
your,kat: you, dear heart, are a saint. Now that I'm done writing for a bit I can finally continue tackling your epic work
Allsmiles18, ConnieLaxer12: thanks for being super reviewers and also for letting my know my wikipedia search skills are spot on with the Lacrosse terms lol
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: holy heck! You read this? *bows down in awe* Thank you!
Lnkmstr10, Irishgrl33, suspenceme, mehnobigs: you guys are some of the most consistent reviewers I know and seeing your names always put a smile on my face. Thank you so much.
Xvolcom11x: you have a dirty mouth. I feel like I needed to tell you that. Thanks for making me laugh. You're aces.
xwpblue: I hope you get your Ashley Davies too. Thank you for being awesome.
Imaferrari, , WillowOn3, Sparklyleathers08 : damn, you guys write some epic reviews. I think my co-workers think I'm crazy with the way I would smile while reading them. I can't thank you enough.
Stephybearx, T: thanks for sticking with me from the beginning. You guys are amazing.
CMangaFan. I don't know if you are still reading this story, but I need you to know you're amazing and I wish only the very best for you. Thank you. And you should have talked to me! I would have loved it!
Conscious: I have a terrible feeling you don't read this anymore. But I need to thank you for everything in the beginning of this. I hope everything worked out for you the way you wanted it to.
I love you, guys. Legit.
On the very last note of this, I'll be around if any one wants to chat.