Hopefully the mild Spashley action in this helps make up for the long wait, I think I am a little over halfway done, but I really have no clue as this story kinda goes where it wants to. Reviewing makes my day.

Two Weeks Later

As usual, Spencer's eyes are continuously scanning the hallways while being careful to avoid eye contact. It isn't until she reaches her locker with a frown that she realizes she was searching for her brunette friend and was unable to find her. She shuts the locker door and does another sweep of the hall and again her eyes fail to land on the young rock star. She makes her way to class with brow furrowed, 'It's Tuesday, she wasn't out drinking last night as far as I know so it isn't a hangover. I guess she did sound kinda weird on the phone this morning and was quieter than normal yesterday, but I just figured it was because she was tired. Maybe she is just running late.'

If she was, it was really late. Spencer went through the first half of the day without coming across her sole friend. After an Ashley free PE she sends a text that never receives a response. She even tried asking Madison what was up and was basically blown off, all though she got the impression it was not meant in a mean way. Madison was protecting Ashley. Curiosity was killing Spencer by lunch and she manages to catch Kyla on her way to the table.

"Where's Ashley?"

Kyla's feet slow, "She didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

The younger Davies girl jerks her head and they make a detour towards a less crowded part of the cafeteria, "Three years ago today our Dad died in a car accident."

Spencer gasps and her eyes fill with concern, "I'm sorry."

"Ashley still hasn't gotten over it, not that you ever get over it. She stayed home today, just like she did last two years. And just like the last two years she is probably spending the day in bed with a bottle of tequila."

Spencer doesn't even think about the words coming out of her mouth, "Could you take me to her?"

Kyla looks stunned, "Huh?"

"I don't think she should be alone."

"Look, Ashley doesn't like people trying to comfort her. I know, I've tried, she will brush you off, probably say some nasty things and maybe even shove you. It is best to just leave her alone. She will be better tomorrow."

Kyla turns to leave but Spencer tries one last time, "Please Kyla? I don't know what she has told you, but I've been going through a pretty rough time and your sister has helped me a lot. I want to return the favor."

Kyla bites her lip and glances at her watch, "If we leave now I can make it back for most of my next class."

"Thank you Kyla."

"Who am I to stop someone from trying to bust through that wall she puts up. But, I warned you, and you are on your own getting back to school."

"That's fine."

"You live here?" Spencer asks in awe.

Kyla can't help but grin a little, "Yeah, if you haven't noticed Ashley and I are kinda loaded."

"Ashley said you guys lived in a big house, but this…"

Kyla laughs, "It's not Mount Olympus or something, we are but mere mortals. Now come on, I better show you how to get to her room."

Spencer follows in silence, starting to doubt her decision to go try to comfort her friend. She wants to, feels like she owes it to the brunette, but she has no clue what to do. And then there was the warning Kyla gave before they left, that Ashley will respond by pushing her away. 'Well, at least I can understand the want to push people away,' Spencer thinks to herself wryly.

They stop in front of a black door unable to muffle the rock music coming from within and Kyla speaks quietly, "This is it. I'll wait in the car for a couple of minutes in case she gives you the boot."

Spencer just nods her head and waits before Kyla disappears around the corner before placing a tentative hand against the wood. With a deep breath she knocks. No answer. She knocks again with a little more purpose. Still no answer. This time she bangs on the door. Ashley still remains silent so Spencer knocks again, this time shouting out to her friend. The music keeps playing and Spencer is debating to leave or try again when the door swings open and she comes face to face with confused and bloodshot brown eyes.

"Spencer?" Ashley asks dumbly.

"Hi."

Ashley rubs her eyes and Spencer notices the half-full bottle of vodka in hand, "What are you doing here?"

Spencer shuffles her feet and bites her lip, "Kyla told me…" She can barely hear herself over the music and raises her voice, "I thought maybe you could use a friend."

Ashley stares at her for a minute, Spencer can see her weighing her options. The blonde takes it as a good sign that Ashley does not shut the door in her face. The troubled girl turns around and walks back to her king size bed. Spencer follows quietly behind and blushes as she finally notices Ashley's attire, black boy shorts and a grey tank.

"Do you want to talk?" Spencer practically shouts.

"About what?" Ashley's tone is short.

"About whatever."

"So you didn't come over here to hear about how my dear old dad got killed in a car accident?" Ashley asks skeptically after another swig.

Spencer cautiously sits down next to her friend, "Come on Ash, I understand better than anyone not wanting to talk about something from the past. But, I also know from experience that having someone there you can talk about whatever to is rather helpful."

The brunette looks her friend over carefully, "You're skipping school."

"I've heard from a reliable source it is healthy to ditch once in a while."

Ashley manages a light chuckle as she flops backwards, never spilling a drop of alcohol in the process, "You can stay, but I don't want to talk."

"Fair enough."

The two girls lay silently a foot from each other on the giant bed for an hour. Both are pleasantly surprised at the lack of awkwardness, although Spencer eyes the ever dwindling bottle of vodka with obvious distaste. Suddenly Ashley jerks up and rushes through a doorway, not even a second later Spencer can hear the distinctive sound of stomach contents being emptied. Spencer makes her way into the attached bathroom and finds her friend resting her forehead against the toilet taking deep breaths.

"Want me to get you some water?"

"There are bottles in the dorm fridge next to my closet," Ashley mumbles. Spencer leaves and returns a moment later and hands the bottle over, cap already off. Ashley manages to get half of it down then closes her eyes and tries to stand. She wobbles but is prevented from falling over by Spencer's arms. "I don't feel so good."

Spencer moves to stand next to the intoxicated girl and glances briefly at the toilet, "Well, you downed nearly an entire bottle of vodka on what appears to be an empty stomach. I feel like you shouldn't sound so surprised."

"Can you make fun of me once I am feeling better?" Ashley whines.

Spencer chuckles, "I suppose. Come on, let's get you into your bed."

The pair make it to the king size bed without incident but the trek took a lot out of Ashley, who gratefully climbs in and is sound asleep the moment her head touches the pillow. Spencer shakes her head and grabs a blanket off of the floor to toss over the now passed out girl and takes a seat next to her, back against the head board. Spencer looks at Ashley for a minute, watches her back rise and fall, before casting her gaze around the room. Band posters litter the walls, some signed and framed, others tacked up haphazardly. A couple of guitar cases lean against the wall to her left, a drum kit and keyboard on the wall to her right. An enormous entertainment system sits along the far wall and Spencer starts to look around for a remote of some sort, ideally the one to the stereo.

The afternoon passes with Spencer flipping through trashy day time TV, but not following anything because her attention darts back to the sleeping brunette every five seconds or so. A couple of times her attention would linger, a tentative hand would reach out and brush brown locks back and maybe even linger on a soft cheek. Around three Ashley starts to stir and Spencer is ready with the rest of the bottle of water and some aspirin she found on the night table.

"You're still here," Ashley mumbles when her eyes finally crack open.

"Sure."

Ashley closes her eyes again and takes a deep breath, "I might throw up again."

"The trash can from the bathroom is right next to you."

A brown eye peeks out, "Trash can, water, and it looks like aspirin, I think you have done this before."

"My brother has been known to celebrate a little too hard from time to time."

Slowly Ashley rolls over onto her back and slides up the back of the bed until she is in enough of a sitting position to accept the water and pills. The minutes tick by in further silence, Spencer carefully watching the other girl. When Ashley opens her eyes again they lock onto crystal blues, "I am definitely still kinda drunk."

"That does not surprise me."

"You are being rather blithe today."

"Big word for still being kinda drunk," Spencer teases with a light smile.

"I loved him even though I barely knew him," Ashley whispers. Spencer doesn't say anything, just shifts so her body is angled towards the depressed teenager. "He was either on tour or in the studio my entire life. When he was home he was the world's greatest dad, but that was so few and far between sometimes I wonder if I made it all up. He taught me how to play the guitar, how to read and write music, how to sneak a cookie from the kitchen without getting caught. For years I would tell myself that he loved me and one day would come home and stay, that some day he would choose his family over his music career. For so many years that was my birthday wish, that he would come through the front door before I finished opening my presents and say he was done. God was I stupid."

"You weren't stupid."

"Yes I was. He died three years ago today in a car accident on his way to the plane for yet another tour. I was fifteen. His band got a record deal when he was seventeen and had me when he was twenty six, nine years, he had nine years to live that life, but that wasn't enough. He couldn't give it up, so he became a part time dad. What was I on that I could convince myself he would suddenly decide to give that all up just so he could watch me and Kyla grow up? How could we compete with the life of the famous musician who gets to travel the world without a care other than the set list?"

"Oh Ash…"
"What hurts the most is how much I miss him. I wish I could just write him off as a bad father and hate him. But I can't. I still wish he would walk through that door and say he chooses us."

Spencer slides over and wraps her arms around the now crying girl, "I didn't know your dad, but I am positive he loved you. It sucks that he kept choosing his career, but you said it yourself that he made the most when he was home. He loved you, and there is nothing wrong with loving and missing him."

"I miss my daddy," Ashley says brokenly, prompting Spencer to start rocking them back and forth.

Right around the time Ashley calms down Spencer's phone starts going crazy. She glances at the piece of plastic on the night stand but makes no move towards it, that would involve letting go of a certain musician. "You should probably answer that."

"Probably."

Ashley lifts her head off of Spencer's shoulder, "Did you tell anyone you were coming over?"

"Kyla."

"Shit, Spencer, your family must be freaking out. For all they know you have been kidnapped." Ashley would have to be severely impaired not to notice the flinch that follows her statement. Her eyes widen and this time when her stomach churns it is not because of the vodka. Spencer's eyes are unfocused and her breathing is coming out in uneven bursts. "Oh my God, Spence… Do you want to talk?"

Spencer shuts her eyes and takes a steadying breath, "No, today is about me comforting you."

"You don't have to comfort me."

Spencer turns and opens her eyes so they are staring straight into Ashley's, "Yes I do. I want to be there for you too."

Ashley nods her head, because that is all she trusts herself to do, and lays her head back down on Spencer's shoulder. They sit for another half hour, vaguely aware of the television and the phone that goes off every minute. When Spencer finally slips off the bed she shoots four quick texts assuring all is well and she will explain when she gets home.

"I think I heard Kyla a bit ago, I am gonna ask her for a ride home. If I stay out any longer my parents will probably kill me."

"You should definitely go then, I have kinda gotten used to you these last couple of months."

Spencer gives a small smile and turns towards the door. She is stopped by a soft hand on her arm and when she turns she is wrapped in a warm embrace, "Thank you."

"Anytime."

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Kyla drops Spencer off in front of her home and she is maybe a step towards the house when the door flies open and four livid Carlin's emerge. She straightens her shoulders and braces herself for a storm.

"Where have you been?"

"At Ashley's. Kyla told me she told you two when she got back to school."

"She shouldn't have to tell your brothers anything. First of all, you should have been at school. Second you are expected to tell us yourself if you are going somewhere. Third, you should have been in school," Spencer squints her eyes to see if actual smoke is coming out of her mother's ears.

"I'm sorry, I didn't plan to leave school, something came up and I left."

"Spencer, honey, you really had us worried."

She turns her attention to her father, "Again, it wasn't like you didn't know where I was, Kyla told them I was at Ashley's."

"She told your brothers she dropped you off there, but with you not answering your phone how were we to know you were still there? Why weren't you answering your phone? And what could possibly have been so important that you would skip a day of school?"

"Can we go inside? The sun is setting and I am getting a little chilly," Spencer replies tiredly. Her parents exchange furious and confused glances before signaling for her to lead the way. Once inside their home her parents pin her with gazes demanding an explanation.

"I noticed that Ashley had been acting a little weird yesterday and that she wasn't at school today. She wasn't responding to any of my texts so I started to get worried. I caught Kyla in the lunch room and asked her what was up. Their father died three years ago today and Ashley didn't make it to school because of that. I asked Kyla if she could take me to their place so I could try and comfort Ash or something. I was being a good friend, something Ashley deserves. I missed school because I felt this was a legitimate situation and I didn't tell Glen and Clay myself because they would have stopped me. I didn't answer my phone because…because I didn't feel like it."

Her entire family stands dumbfounded for a minute. Her mother, no surprise, is the first to recover, "While your heart might have been in the right place, you severely mishandled the situation. You are never to go off on your own without informing your father or I, and you are absolutely never to skip school like this again, do I make myself clear?" Spencer nods her head. "Good. Your father and I talked about it, and seeing as how you are ok and this is a one time incident, you will only be grounded over the weekend, which means Ashley is not coming over." Spencer nods her head again, amazed that is all the worse she is getting. "Now, go upstairs and get cleaned up for dinner."

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"You should stay for the game tonight, Spencer, Cobras always kill the Pirates," Aiden says through a mouthful of fries that Thursday.

"I'll be there," Spencer says with a polite smile.

"You should come too, Ash. I mean you have so much school spirit it would be good for you to show it," Kyla teases her sister. Everyone is perfectly aware that Ashley has the least amount of school spirit in all of King High.

Ashley pretends to consider it, "Mmmm…nope. Not gonna happen."

"Oh come on Ashley, please?" Spencer tries.

"I am yet to go to a sporting event and plan on keeping my record intact. And as a general rule I avoid school functions."

Spencer widens her eyes, "Please? Don't make me go alone."

Ashley curses the blue eyes, "Won't your parents and Clay be there?"

"Yeah, but they aren't fun."

"Hey!"

Spencer smiles sheepishly at her brother, "I love you Clay."

"Uh huh."

"Well Kyla will be there," Ashley reasons.

Spencer tilts her head, "But I want you to come."

Ashley narrows her eyes, "You are too good at manipulation and you know it."

"Is that a yes?"

"You owe me."

Spencer stands up smiling widely, "I will supply your caffeine addiction tomorrow." She walks away with her tray and Ashley scowls.

"What have I told you about gloating?" she calls out. When the brunette turns back to her table she scowls more at the open mouths of her friends.

"You are actually going to a school event? A sporting event no less?" Madison asks in disbelief.

Glen looks at Clay with a raised brow, "Spencer likes Ashley more than she likes you."

Clay shrugs and stands as the bell rings, "I am ok with that, because now I don't have to feel guilty about sitting next to Chelsea."

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Ashley leans back and tries to focus on the basketball game only to fail miserably. She turns her eyes to the blonde next to her and scowls, "I cannot believe you talked me into this. You owe me so big. I mean more than a day's worth of coffee. I mean something shiny and - "

Ashley blinks slowly, trying to register what just happened. She had been complaining for the umpteenth time since the game started twenty minutes ago and then been cut off. By a pair of lips. Lips that could only belong to the blonde next to her. She leans forward and Spencer is watching the game intently with a small smile gracing her lips. Ashley leans back again, this time the biggest smile she has worn in years firmly in place for the rest of the game.