A/N: I am so beyond sorry for how long this took. I've just been completely unmotivated and 100% distracted by the wonderful writers on this site. I know it's probably less than what you were hoping for, but I do like the ending. I hope it meets expectations, but if it doesn't I apologize, and I thank you for sticking with me - and this story - for as long as you have. Yes, it's shorter than normal, but I could spend another 40 chapters on Spencer's time in the hospital, and I'd prefer not to drag it out or act like I actually know medical things.
Thank you to all my wonderful readers and, more importantly, my reviewers. You guys give me praise far beyond what I deserve, and I'll be forever grateful.
Though I haven't been awake that long, the noise from the monitor is actually some what soothing to me. Maybe because, after Ashley's departure, it's the one constant thing I have. My eyes stare at the door, as if expecting her to walk back in, though I know she won't. The doctor is all smiles and encouraging words, and had my ears not been buzzing slightly, and had I cared about something other than seeing Ashley again, I'd probably be listening.
I catch certain words every now and then, like how I'm such a fighter, a miracle, really, after being out for so long. I just want to tell him that I'm annoyed and ready to be out of this damned bed, considering I've been in it for months. My muscles feel tense, any movement I make seems awkward, like I'm in some one else's body, trying to figure out how to operate everything.
When my third attempt to fully sit up fails, and both the doctor and the nurse seem incapable of realizing what I'm trying to do, I flop back onto the bed – that feels like a brick, and I wonder how any one could sleep on this, coma or no coma. I allow my eyes to close again, hoping that when I reopen them, Ashley will once more be in the room.
No such luck. In fact, all I've managed to do is -finally- alert the nurse. She rushes over to me, making a fuss over checking my vitals, firing off questions that I wouldn't be able to answer being fully cognitive, let alone being vegetative for so long. I do my best to nod, mostly so she'll leave me alone and stop smiling at me with that pitying look.
As I glance over at the door, she follows my gaze and pats hand fondly. "Would you like me to go get Ashley?"
I probably should be surprised that she knows Ashley's name, but when I think of how present I'd be if Ashley were in my position, I know it's no shock at all. Instead, I do my best to give a subdued smile. At least she's finally being good for something.
Ashley pokes her head in the doorway, and despite the seriousness of, well everything, I find myself laughing at the picture she makes. Maybe it's the hesitant way she walks into the room, watching me carefully as if I might suddenly leap out of the bed and attack her. If only she knew how much I wish I could do that.
I finally get tired of watching her slowly make her way across the room. "You know, if you actually walked at a normal rate, you could be here in two steps, instead of two days."
She smiles sheepishly, and then stops and takes a big hop to the bed, smile widening as her eyes light up with childlike glee. I find myself inhaling sharply at the beautiful picture, and I can't help fall in love all over again. As if she reads my thoughts, Ashley's brown eyes soften and she leans down and kisses me tenderly on the lips, a message displaying her love and apology.
When we part, I'm surprised to notice that the doctor and nurse have stayed in my room, seemingly unperturbed by the kiss. Then I remember it's real life, not an episode of Grey's Anatomy, and that the emotion we show is completely understandable. If not more than a little hot – as Ashley just whispered in my ear.
I feel strong hands move underneath my back, pushing me up, and I give Ashley a grateful smile for instinctively knowing what I need. I laugh when I realize how true that is for everything in our relationship. And I wonder if, after months of being separated from her physically, I invaded her thoughts in her waking moments, just as she invaded my unconscious ones.
Ashley looks down at me lovingly, and I have no doubt that I was on her mind all the time, too.
Finally, after a few more days in the hospital being under what felt like constant surveillance – which I called being babysat – I'm allowed to go home. The only problem being, I don't know where that is. I don't think I could humble myself enough to ask them at the desk in the lobby, not without them admitting me back in the hospital, this time in the psych ward.
My parents' smiling faces greet me as I make my way past the nurse's station on my floor, and I watch with amusement as my mom practically throws a bouquet of flowers on the floor and runs to my side, squeezing me tightly. I can hear my dad's soft chuckle as I watch with blurry eyes as he picks up the discarded flowers, and it's some astonishment that I realize I'm crying. My shock grows as I recognize them as happy tears, and caused by my mother holding me.
Whispered 'I love you's' are spoken into my hair, and I progress to full on blubbering as my father's strong arms complete the embrace, and I wonder why it takes something like this to make us feel like a family again. But as I watch Glen and Ashley walk up and join in on the hug, I find that I don't care what brought us here, because when you have moments like this, what brought you here doesn't seem all that important.
Glen is the first to let go, and we all laugh at his inappropriate comment of not wanting to be in the same car as me. We laugh louder as my mom smacks him hard on the arm for taking the bouquet meant for me and using it to chat up a nurse on duty. I stop laughing when I realize that I called my mother mom, because, suddenly, that's what she is. Because I realize that months ago, I almost had my last chance at her being that, and I don't want to lose that.
We all walk to the parking garage, separating with promises of meeting up for lunch. I get strong hugs from my family as they watch me get into Ashley's car. I don't think they understand just how scared I am and just how much it means that they gave me their comfort. I turn and look at Ashley, and I know she's just as scared, if not more, to have my life in her hands again.
"God Spencer, I promise it'll be okay." Her hand latches on to mine firmly.
It's after this that I understand how much guilt Ashley has been under all these months, and I know it's up to me to release her. "It's not your fault, Ash."
She lowers her head, sniffling heavily as she looks back at me. "How can you say that? Of course it was my fault. God, when I saw the car coming I just- I just fucking froze!" Her hand suddenly punches the steering wheel.
I wince, not at her cursing, but at the memory that still feels like it happened yesterday instead of months ago. At the IV hole that I can still see in my arm. "I've never blamed you." And I haven't. I may have only been awake for a short time, but that thought never once entered my mind.
"Then it's because you're too beautiful of a person to, not because of anything I did. Not a minute went by when I didn't feel sick about what happened." Her eyes bore into mine intently. "I couldn't decide between feeling so guilty and angry about the crash or feeling so sad and lonely that I could see you and not get to you." She runs a hand through her hair. "And then I'd feel even more terrible, because I couldn't imagine what you were going through. Being stuck, all alone, and scared and, just...just that I was so selfish."
I take my hands and hold her cheeks, making her eyes lock with mine. "But I wasn't alone." I pull her lips to mine and kiss her softly. "Even when I wasn't awake I saw you. You visited me every day that went by in my mind. So I wasn't lonely," I smile at her. "if I wanted to see you, all I had to do was dream."
Her gentle laugh flows into my mouth as we kiss, and I feel my whole body sigh into her as she wraps her arms around me. "Me too, Spencer. Every night."
My phone vibrates, and I roll my eyes when I read the text from Glen, telling me we can have sex later. "Glen says for us to come on."
"Really?" She raises her eyebrows. "That's not what mine says." She holds up her phone, revealing the same message.
"Okay, so I gave the CliffNotes version. Come on, I haven't eat in like five months, I'm a little hungry."
Ashley rolls her eyes at me. "You can only play that card for so long."
"I know, that's why I'm using up all the mileage now." I smile as she kisses me sweetly on my forehead.
"Oh, that reminds me!" She says suddenly, hand diving into her seemingly bottomless purse. I watch with interest as she digs around in it, shuffling various items aside as she searches frantically. "Aha!"
"What is it?" I say excitedly. I can't help it, her excitement is contagious, especially with the way she's hiding it in her hand.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Ashhh," I groan, not in the mood for her coyness.
Her face turns serious. "I love you, Spencer."
I smile back. "I love you, too."
Her hand opens and I gasp as she holds out a beautiful ring. "They managed to get it off before they'd have to cut it off at the hospital."
I can't even speak, I'm so overcome with...everything. I find myself nodding tearfully, holding my hand out.
"I figured you'd want me to keep it until you woke up."
Again I nod, overwhelmed with her thoughtfulness, with her faith in me. Her love.
And she takes my ring and slips it on my finger, sliding it back into its rightful resting place, and I realize that I don't need to ask where my home is.
I already know it's right here with Ashley.