A/N: This story is based on the fact that I'm in total denial of Ashley dying. And because I thought the writers should have explored the relationship between John and Ashley more.
Beta'd by the wonderful Cowboy1
Disclaimer: I so don't own it. If I did, Ashley would be alive and well.
"I can not believe this is happening." John looked up at the distinctly feminine sounding voice. He had come to the top of the south end of the Sanctuary to be alone with his thoughts. No one came up here. Helen and her protégé liked the roof of the north tower, Tesla preferred to be down in the SHU, Mr. Foss enjoyed being surrounded by his computers. They each had their own little spaces for thinking but this was never one of them. "This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks!"
Not only was the voice feminine but it sounded like his dead daughter. Clearly he had been alone with his thoughts for too long. He was hearing the voice of one long dead as he had the few days after James had died. He turned the voice and actually saw Ashley pacing there. "By god a true apparition," he murmured.
The girl whipped around to stare at him. "You can see me?" she demanded.
"I can," he agreed. "And hear you as well. But I wonder why if you are a ghost you come to me. I would always think that you would see Helen first. She needs the reassurance more so than I."
"Dude I am not a ghost," she told him.
"Then I am hallucinating." John gave her a self deprecating smile. "It does not surprise me. Losing two very dear people would cause anyone to lose their sanity. And I have always had very little control on my madness." He sat down and looked at her. "I must say, this is the gentlest madness I have ever experienced. I almost prefer it to reality."
Ashley resisted the urge to clamp her hands over her ears. "You're not hallucinating either," she snapped. She folded her arms and looked away. "Wish I was," she grumbled.
"You can not be real," he denied quietly. "I watched you die."
With a huff Ashley sat down in front of him. "I'm real," she insisted in the same tone. "I'm not entirely sure how but I am."
John gave her a bemused smile. "Let's pretend for a moment that I believe you," he decided. Ashley snorted at his tone. "Explain to me how you ended up in this…state," he gestured.
"I think it happened when I tried to teleport," she sighed. "Something went really wrong. I ended up like this." She ran a hand through her hair. "I've tried to talk to Mom, Will, Henry, even Tesla. So far you're the only that has responded at all, in any way." She looked away again. "Not really sure how I feel about that."
John studied her for a few moments. "I suppose there's no way to test whether or not you're real," he commented. "After all if you're a hallucination, you'll already know the answers to the questions I could ask."
Ashley shrugged. "Ask anyway," she said. "You never know. I might surprise you." The ghost of a smile crossed her face.
"You've already surprised me," John told her. "And not just by showing up here."
Ashley shifted, uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. "Anyway, I know I'm not a ghost at least. I've walked out of the Sanctuary a couple of times, not very far mind you but far enough. As for a hallucination…well, that's your choice really. So can we get back on topic? As in how to fix this?"
It was John's turn to shrug now. "I have no idea how you got into this state. It would be impossible for me to try and get you out of it."
Ashley wanted to try other options but before she could say anything her mother walked out. "John, there you are," she greeted. The smile she gave seemed hollow. Ashley moved so she didn't have to look at it. "I have been looking all over for you. What are you doing up here?"
John flicked a glance at Ashley who shook her head. "Without proof we'll just make her upset," she pointed out.
"I was merely thinking," John assured her. "I wanted to be alone for a bit." He reached out to take her hands in his own. Ashley made a gagging sound from behind her mother. John kept his eyes on Helen. "I didn't mean to worry you," he said softly.
Helen was fighting a blush. "It's alright," she told him. "I just prefer to keep everyone sight these days. After James and…" She looked away for a moment before turning back with a fake smile. "It helps my nerves," she explained, then laughed. "Overprotective feminine instincts I suppose."
John gave her a reassuring smile. "It is perfectly understandable," he told her. "It is not easy to lose people we love. I should have told you where I was going. I promise I will do better in the future."
Helen ducked her head. "You shouldn't have to tell me every detail," she murmured.
"I want to," he insisted. "If only to keep you from worrying."
Ashley couldn't hold it in any longer. "Could you not?" she whined. "It's a little gross." She turned back to the Sanctuary. "Can't believe I have to put with this."
Helen gave his hands a squeeze. "I merely wanted to tell you that dinner should be ready shortly, even if most of us have no appetite." John smiled at her remark and Helen returned it. "You should come and at least try to eat. We'll be no threat to anyone if we're all dropping from hunger."
"I shall be in soon," he told her. "I just want a few more minutes."
Helen nodded. "I'll be waiting," she said softly. With a small yet honest smile, she headed back inside.
John turned to his daughter. "You really must work on your manners," he informed her.
"I thought you believed I was a hallucination," she snapped.
"I'm not sure what to believe," he admitted.
Ashley rolled her eyes. "You need to get back inside," she told him. "Mom likes to worry too much. Even if she shouldn't."
John regarded her quietly for a moment. "Would you like me to stay longer?" he asked. "I wouldn't want you to be lonely."
Ashley let out a hollow laugh. "I haven't had any real contact with anyone since before the Cabal," she pointed out. "I'll survive a few more hours." With a bow, her father disappeared in a flash leaving the girl alone with her empty thoughts.