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31 December 2012 @ 11:48 am
Fic Post: Comfort and Joy, Part 2/3  
Title: Comfort and Joy
Author: Montiese
Category: AU/Drama/Family/Holiday/Humor/Romance
Characters: Ashley Seaver, Erin Strauss, David Rossi, Spencer Reid, Penelope Garcia, Olivia Hopkins, OMC, OFC
Pairings: Rossi/Strauss, Ashley Seaver/Olivia Hopkins
Rating: MATURE
Summary: But he always wanted her to know if there was no other safe place in the world, this big old house with all of its strange inhabitants and visitors would be the one place that Ashley could be Ashley.

(Part 1)


Ashley moaned, biting her lip as her breasts pressed against Liv’s. She loved that feeling and it always made her shiver. Something else that made her shiver was the way Liv always gripped her hips when she fucked her. Ashley had her fair share of sex partners over the years but Olivia had quickly become her favorite. There was just something about the way their bodies fit together.

She loved the noises Olivia made, the way she touched her, grabbed her, and made her feel like she was on top of the world. Fucking Olivia was like taking the good drugs. Not that Ashley had tons of experience with drugs. But who needed drugs when this woman had to do everything in her power not to scream your name. That was one thing Ashley would miss about the attic. Quiet sex wasn’t her favorite but she wasn’t giving up sex so they would make do.

“Oh God Ash, fuck me, fuck me!”

“You're so sexy when you want it. You want it?”

“Mmm,” Olivia arched her back as she gripped Ashley’s hips tighter.

She loved being fucked. She loved to feel the strap-on deep inside of her. She loved breasts pressed on breasts and the way Ashley grunted from the energy she exerted. It was something her girlfriend hadn't even been into when they first started dating. Ashley had been with both men and women, but she was practically innocent in the way of sex toys. Like everything else, she was a quick study. And Homer, yes Olivia’s strap-on had a name, got quite a workout after they’d been together for a few months.

Ashley’s smile was almost feral when she stroked Liv’s clit. She didn’t care anymore if they woke anyone or who the hell knew. All that matter was making Olivia come. She didn’t care when she kissed her and Liv bit her lip. She didn’t give a damn about the marks that might be on her back or hips in the morning. All she cared about was feeling that quiver and hearing that sound and knowing that the girl she loved was satisfied.

“Ashley, Ashley, oh God, oh God, ohhh God.”

Even though she was breathless, Olivia kissed her. Ashley tasted like herself from the kisses earlier and it turned Liv on. Everything about Ashley Seaver turned her on from the first time she saw her running across the grass playing field hockey. From their first conversation she was smitten and the first time she saw her naked she was hooked. Olivia had been in lust before and even in deep like. She’d never been in love. With Ashley Seaver she was all three and then some.

“I love you, Ash.” She caressed her face.

Ashley just smiled. She smiled and felt tears in the back of her eyes. No one had ever said that to her before. Well her parents and siblings had but they didn't count. There were times Ashley could be in a room full of people and feel alone, isolated.

She never knew why she felt that way but she did. With Liv, she could live. There was something about her where Ashley wanted to share everything. She wanted to experience the good and bad with her. She wanted to make love until they collapsed from exhaustion, which they had a couple of times.

She wanted to build a life with her and enjoy every moment they were together. That was scary as hell and awesome all at the same time. Sighing, Ashley pulled out and moved onto the bed. She ripped the Velcro off of Homer, laying him beside her on the mattress. Liv immediately turned on her side and slipped her hand between Ashley’s thighs.

“You love me?” Ashley asked, taking gentle hold of her wrist as she stroked her.

“I love you.” Liv kissed her earlobe.

“I love you too, Liv. I've never done this before so I might be no good at it. I should apologize now.”

“You have nothing to apologize for. I've never done it before either…I can't really believe I'm doing it now.” she hugged her tight.

“I'm going to tell my family about us.” Ashley said. “I need you to know that you're not a dirty secret.”

“Take all the time you need with that. No one ever pretended it was easy. Just because I love you doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to pressure you. I like things the way they are. I'm going to like them when you tell your family too but I like them just fine now.”

“Do you even know what you're getting into?”

Ashley turned in her arms, caressing Liv’s face. There was so much she wanted to say but the words weren't there. Ashley carried a lot of baggage and she didn’t want to weigh anyone down. That was especially so for someone she adored as much as she adored Olivia.

“Its time for bed.” she kissed Ashley’s nose. “No bad thoughts tonight; only good ones.”

“Good thoughts.” Ashley repeated.

“Exactly. We’ll sleep and then whenever we wake up we’ll go out for brunch.”

“We can go on our tour of DC tomorrow. That should be a lot of fun.”

“I think that’s a great idea.”

“OK.” Ashley snuggled in her arms. “I think I'm happy again.”

It wasn’t exactly true but it was close enough. Liv was right, now was not the time for bad thoughts. They were in love. And Ashley was home with her family whom she loved so much. Not to mention that Christmastime was her favorite time of the year. There were so many things to be grateful, excited, and happy about. She could make a whole list, and would if it came to that.

***


“Tell me how you're going to do this again.”

“It’s simple. I hook the black box into the TV. Then I send info from my laptop to the black box via waves of awesome. Then on Christmas Eve, voila, 50 inches of Santa.”

“That sounds like a porn flick.”

“Stop talking that way young Strauss or you're going to end up on Santa’s naughty list.”

“If I'm not there already I’ll be disappointed.” Ted laughed. “I'm really excited about this, Penelope. I think its something the whole family will enjoy.”

Penelope Garcia nodded as she made sure the black box was intact. This would be an easy job but only if all of her equipment worked. No one wanted to be in the middle of a Santa watch and have it go out on them. She had a reputation to uphold.

“So the family hasn’t killed each other under one roof yet?” Penelope asked.

“We’re doing fine. You’ve got to meet Ashley’s girlfriend, she’s totally hot.”

“We know for sure it’s a girlfriend girlfriend?”

“I know.”

“In other words, no.” Penelope looked at him.

“OK she hasn’t said it out loud yet, and she might not on this trip. But I know. I can read body language. My mother is a profiler…I came by it naturally.”

“Your mother is a Section Chief. I don’t think that’s the same thing.”

“Fine, my stepfather is a profiler…I got it through osmosis.”

“That’s more like it.” Penelope smiled.

“So what are you doing for the holiday?” Ted asked. He sat on the arm of the couch as Penelope worked her magic.

“Kevin and I are going to see his family in Pennsylvania. I tried to beg it off but I've done that too much lately. I just don’t want to be the weird girl, you know? But I'm pretty much always going to be the weird girl so…what do you do?”

“Kevin’s kind of the weird guy so it works.”

“It does work.” Penelope nodded. “His family is normal though. They're like postcard normal. I think they hoped he would find a normal girl and slip into their Norman Rockwell painting life. No such luck.”

“But he has the most awesome girl on the planet. If I liked girls in that way I’d give him a run for his money.”

“I've been beating gay boys off with a stick since high school.” She replied. “Come at me, bro.”

They were laughing when Erin walked into the living room. She smiled at the happy sound.

“I didn’t know you were here, Penelope.”

“Oh hey ma'am. I'm just hacking into NORAD for you.”

“What?” Erin’s blue eyes went wide.

“She's kidding Mom; kidding, kidding, kidding. Penelope’s hooking up the Santa tracker for us. It’s through NORAD but there will be nothing on the TV until Christmas Eve night, when they start tracking the big dude delivering gifts. I thought it would be cool for Noah.”

“And you're sure we’re not breaking any federal laws?” Erin asked.

“No ma'am. Everyone is allowed to follow Santa and no one will be privy to any classified info. But if you need me to get you anything…”

“Stop while you're ahead Penelope.” The older blonde held up her hand.

“Yes ma'am.”

“And stop calling me ma'am. Would you like some coffee?”

“I would love some, thank you. Have I ever told you how much I love coming over to your house?”

“I bet.” Erin smiled.

Ashley and Olivia came through the door laughing and talking. They'd been in DC all day, going to museums, shopping, and spending quality time together.

“Hey Mom, we’re…hey Penelope!”

“Little Ashley Seaver, come and give me some love.”

Ashley rushed over to hug her, still holding Olivia’s hand. Penelope just smiled at her.

“This is my friend, Olivia.” Ashley said. “Most people just call her Liv. And Liv, this is the one and only Penelope Garcia.”

“It’s so nice to meet you.” Liv held out her hand.

“Oh sweetie,” Penelope pulled her into a hug. “We hug around here. So you're spending Christmas with the Strauss-Rossi clan?”

“Yes. I didn’t feel like traveling all the way to St. Paul this year and freezing my stockings off.”

“Oh I bet. I'm going to Pennsylvania and they're already talking about a White Christmas.”

“While we don’t always have a white Christmas, we always have cold ones. Virginia isn’t Hawaii or anything but it may as well be.”

“And you and Ashley are friends?” Penelope asked.

“Best friends.” Liv squeezed her hand.

“Don’t believe anything Ted tells you.” Ashley said. “He's just wildly speculating as usual.”

“Why not?” Ted asked. “I keep things interesting around here and you know. Penelope is hooking up the Santa tracker for Christmas Eve.”

“Oh that’s awesome.” Liv smiled. “I follow it every year and get all excited when I know he's right over St. Paul.”

“Well you'll be able to see it on the 50” TV this year.” Penelope said.

“I think after we watch a movie, we’ll turn on Channel 5 and watch his flights with coffee and snacks.” Ted said.

“Is this family even real?” Liv smirked.

“We get along extremely well at Christmastime to make up for being at each other’s throats for the other 360 days.” Ashley replied.

“Tell me all about yourself, Liv.” Penelope said. “If you're special to little Seaver then you're special to me. Sit and tell me everything.”

Liv looked at Ashley and she just smiled. So that sat down on the couch and chattered while Ted kept a close eye on things. He just wanted Ashley to be happy and she seemed to be with Liv. He was one of the few people who could see through her mask. Growing up she hadn't always been as together as she pretended to be.

Not that it was easy to grow up in the shadow of two such amazing people. And Ashley also had the long shadow of her brilliant troubled mother, her unknown father, and her certified genius big brother. It was easy to get lost in all of that and sometimes she did. But since going away to college he saw her blossom.

She found something she wanted to study, picked up a sport, and made friends. Now it was possible that she also found love. Ted would never out her, if it turned out that she and Olivia were more than best friends. But he always wanted her to know if there was no other safe place in the world, this big old house with all of its strange inhabitants and visitors would be the one place that Ashley could be Ashley.

***


“Dad, I'm not sure you're doing that right.”

“No, I've been doing this kind of thing for about 40 years. I think I would know if…wait, I might not be doing this right.”

“Yeah.” Noah nodded and even though he tried not to, he laughed.

The sound of his laughter made his father laugh. Dave turned the bicycle right side up and looked at the wheel. It was definitely on incorrectly. Smirking, he flipped it upside down again and grabbed the ratchet wrench.

“Sometimes you're too much like your mother.” Dave pointed at Noah’s nose.

“Does that mean I'm right a lot?” Noah grinned.

“Something like that. Don’t worry, we’ll get this bike up and running in no time.”

“I have complete faith in you, Dad.” Noah patted his shoulder.

“OK, that was definitely your mother coming through.”

The seven year old giggled. He went to sit on the porch swing across from where his father worked on the bike. Noah had been there when he installed that too. He was always Dave’s helper on projects.

“Dad?”

“Yeah kiddo?”

“I can talk to you about anything, right?”

“You most definitely can.” Dave nodded, tightening the back wheel. He still had to put on the training wheels.

“This friend of mine at school, his name is Brian; he said that Santa Claus is fake. He said parents buy all the gifts and if you don’t get the stuff you want it’s because you're poor.”

“He doesn’t sound very nice.”

What Dave wanted to say was that Brian sounded like a douchebag. He wasn’t going to say that in front of Noah. He thought about it though. He thought really hard.

“He's alright.” Noah replied. “I would think poor kids would get more gifts though cuz Mom says that Santa works extra hard for them. During the year they don’t always get stuff so Christmas is special.”

“If they're good it can be. Remember you don’t get anything if you're on the naughty list.”

“So he's real, right Dad? I mean he doesn’t have to be really real, but he's real right?”

“He's real.” Dave nodded. “There are people who don’t believe and it’s always been that way. I think that people just get confused about Santa.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well Santa doesn’t bring all the gifts. He shouldn’t be blamed when kids don’t get everything they want. Its 2010 and there are 300 million people in America alone. Back in the olden days he could have elves make wooden trains or metal Slinkies. Santa can't make a Wii. Things are more complicated in the 21st century.”

“Santa had to get with the times.” Noah said.

“Exactly. Don’t believe the other kids if they say he's not real. Santa is always in your heart and as long as you believe then he's real for you.”

“Do you believe in Santa, Dad?”

“Yes I do.”

“And you're not just saying that so I can stop asking questions?”

“You can ask me any question in the world.” Dave replied. He looked at his little boy. There was so much of him, and Erin, in Noah’s face. It wasn’t just his face.

So many aspects of his personality could be attributed to his mother or his father. Waking up everyday and experiencing him was fascinating. “That’s what I'm here for. I used to ask my old man questions from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed when I was your age.”

“OK.” Noah nodded. “I'm gonna tell Brian that Santa is real. I don’t know if he’ll believe me or not but I believe. I hope I get lots of good stuff this year.”

“Did you ask for a lot?”

“Mom said I had to ask for the three things I wanted the most. Anything else was overin-, overin-…”

“Overindulgent?”

“Yeah. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.” He did it for emphasis.

“I’ll do the same; I promise.”

“Just wait until you're finished with my bike, OK?”

“So noted.” Dave laughed as he began work on the training wheels.

***


“Nan, I swear you're cheating.” Ashley laughed as she pushed the controller.

“I’ll have you know I'm a very good driver.” Joanna Parkinson-Strauss leaned forward. “Back in the day they were eating my dust.”

“I'm eating your dust right now.”

They were playing a racing game on Playstation. Ashley loved spending time with her grandmother. They’d always been close, even though Erin wasn’t her biological mother. As soon as she started school in New York Ashley made it a point to spend every other Sunday with Joanna. Nan was one of her all-time favorite people.

“Ashley, can I talk to you?” Spencer walked into the living room. He looked at his grandmother and sister playing video games on the couch. Olivia was on the chair across the room writing in a journal.

“I'm wiping the floor with Nan at the moment.”

“It’s important.”

“OK.” She looked up at him. “Pause the game Nan. Hey Liv, can you come fill in for me?”

“Sure.” she got up from the chair and went over to the couch.

“If she wins Nan, I totally set her up for it.”

“I doubt it.” Joanna smiled.

“What's up bro?” Ashley smiled as she popped up off the couch and stood in front of him.

“Can we talk in the den?”

“Oh sure.”

She didn’t know what was going on but she followed Spencer out of the room and into the den. He seemed strange since she’d been home and Ashley could admit that she hadn't spoken to him much between Thanksgiving and now. As much as she loved her big brother, they didn’t have a lot in common. She knew how hard Spencer was working on this second PhD so she mostly left him alone with his studies.

For the New Year she would make the resolution to talk to him at least once a week. That would probably be good for both of them. Family was so important. After all that they'd been through sticking together was essential.

“What's up?”

“I'm really pissed off that you won't come with me tomorrow.” Spencer said.

“What?” she was slightly taken aback by his peevish tone.

“Every year you make up some excuse why you won't go and see Mom. How do you think that makes her feel?”

“I don’t think it makes her feel any kind of way, Spencer. She doesn’t even like me.”

“That’s not true. She’s your mother.”

“No, she gave birth to me and there is a difference. And if you recall she tried to throw herself down the stairs during her fifth month and get rid of me. That doesn’t exactly make for great conversation.”

“She's sick Ashley, and it’s not fair to blame her for that.”

“I don’t.” Ashley shook her head. “I'm sorry she's sick, I am, but she's not a mother to me. The few times we’ve gone together to visit her she barely acknowledges my existence. You want to talk about feelings; that makes me feel like crap. She didn’t want me and she doesn’t have to have me. I have to do what's best for me Spencer. Its not mean, its survival.”

“We’re family…we’re blood and that should be important to you.”

“Why are you getting on me like this? I don’t know what you care for. She loves you; thinks the sun rises and sets on you. Its Spencer this and Spencer that and I'm just some bastard that she passed off as soon as I came from her womb.”

“She couldn’t take care of you!” Spencer exclaimed. “She wanted us, more than anything. This damn schizophrenia…”

“No, she wanted you. You’re the one she wanted so much and she still has you. Tell me, does she even ask about me? What the hell is so important that I need to be there? If I want her Christmas to be merry, which I do as I would never wish ill for her, I’ll just stay away.”

“Well if you're not going to acknowledge your mother’s existence, its no doubt that you could care less that I'm your brother.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh c'mon, you're closer to Ted than you'll ever be to me. I'm your blood and you pretend I'm not in the room half the time.”

“Spencer, if you can't fathom how much I love you, if you don’t think I would lay down my life for you then you're no genius. I love you, just as much as I love Ted or Nora or Noah. Not more, for blood or anything else; just as much. We’re all a family and I'm not going to start picking favorites. You have some damn nerve. You talk about me being selfish but all I hear you talking about is yourself. What’s the matter with you?”

“Why should I talk to you, you don’t give a damn.” He crossed his arms.

“You know what? To hell with you then. I am so through. I am so through trying to be what everyone wants me to be. I can't be that girl OK, and I'm not trying anymore. So if you can't handle it then you know where to stuff it Spencer Reid.”

She opened the door and rushed out of the room. Ashley went straight down the hall, out the front door, and slammed it. Erin popped her head out of the kitchen where she was making a sandwich.

“Hey, no door slamming guys!” she exclaimed. “Who was that?”

“It was Ashley.” Spencer came into the kitchen. “We just had a fight.”

“Why did you have a fight?” Erin asked. “What happened Spencer?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

He was notorious for his clamming up skills. Erin decided not to try and pry him open right now. Maybe she could get some answers out of Ashley.

“Is she alright?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “You should probably go and check on her.”

Concerned by his tone, Erin put down the butter knife. She walked out the front door but didn’t have to look too far. Ashley was sitting on the steps crying. Erin walked over but didn’t get too close. She knew that her youngest daughter lashed out when she was angry.

“Ashley? Are you alright, sweetie?”

“Mommy.” She looked up at her and began to sob.

Erin went down the steps and wrapped her arms around her. She held her as Ashley cried. The kids fought sometimes, it was normal. They didn't usually have knockdown drag outs but there were times when Dave or Erin had to separate them.

That was one of the many tests of being a parent. But it was rare that Spencer was involved in one of those kinds of battles. And he never once made his sister cry as long as she could remember. Erin Strauss had quite a long memory. It was a blessing and a curse.

“Aww Ashley, I'm sorry you're so upset.” She stroked her blonde hair. “You and Spencer never fight and I'm so sorry.”

“He’s an asshole.” She muttered.

“No he's not. You may have had an argument but you're always going to be brother and sister. He’d slay a dragon for you and you'd do the same for him.”

“Dragons aren’t real.”

“What happened?” Erin took the young girl’s face in her hands.

“He's never going to stop pressuring me about Diana.”

“Diana who?”

“His mother.” Ashley spat the words out.

She didn’t know whether to be angry or crushed. She felt both but anger was usually her default position in a situation like this. She never wanted people to see or perceive her as weak. She was a Rossi dammit, and Rossis could kick ass and take names. Falling apart wasn’t an option.

“She's your mother too.”

“She doesn’t even know me and she hates my guts.”

“You know that Diana is sick.” Erin said gently. “She's been sick for a long time but she's in a place where she can stay get the help she requires. Part of that help is being able to see and interact with her children.”

“I'm not her child.” Ashley shook her head. “She gave me away. And I'm not mad at her for that, I swear; it was for the best. But she won't even look in my face. Maybe she hates my father.

“I don’t know…I don’t even know who he is. Just like its not her fault she's sick, it’s not my fault that I'm here. Every time I'm around her I feel unwanted. I shouldn’t have to feel that way. Spencer should understand that. And if he doesn’t then whatever. I'm not going to suffer so that he can be happy.”

“He misses his mom. He wants to be a normal family and is smart enough to know that it’s not probable. That has to be painful for him.”

“Everything isn’t always about him.” Ashley moved away from Erin on the step.

“Each of you has your own little selfish things. I even have mine and Dad has his. It’s human nature. When dealing with the pervasive illness of someone you love unconditionally, this behavior is not that surprising.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know if your brother will ever understand where you're coming from. You may explain it a million times but he might not get it. That’s not your fault. You just have to be patient and gentle with him Ashley. He goes through a lot. And I know you do too but you both have to work on it. We all have to work on it, everyday.”

“I just want to be mad right now.”

“OK.” Erin nodded. “But you’ve got to let some of that go by dinner time, Mom’s orders. Its Christmas, we don’t get to be together that often anymore, and you know deep down how much Spencer loves you. I'm going to suggest something and I don’t want to upset you. Go to the luncheon.

“Just go and see Diana to say hello. Have no expectations; just go and see her. You have a certain memory of her and sometimes our memories play tricks on us. You're not a little kid anymore. Go and see your mother adult to adult. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn't work. But give it a try.”

“I don't know.” Ashley shook her head.

“And its OK not to know.” Erin said. “I would never push you into anything you don’t want. All I've ever wanted, and Dad too, is for you to be happy. We know that you worry about your brain and if you're going to lose your mind and countless other things that millions of people worry about and those that are unique just to you. One thing that never has to be on that list is your family loving you.

“Ashley, you are strong, beautiful, smart, amazing, and that’s never going to change. We’re always going to support you and love you. Nothing you could do would stop that. Even if you decided to become a bohemian pothead in Bratislava, which I don’t recommend,” She smiled when Ashley did. “We would still love you.

“If schizophrenia rears its ugly head we’ll still love you and help take care of you. If you love Olivia like I love Dad, we’re still going to love you. Be yourself because yourself is awesome. I know something has been weighing on you but if its love, don’t let it. You can say it out loud; keep it to yourself; do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Just know that if you love her then we want to love her too.”

“Mom…”

“Don’t push yourself.” Erin kissed her forehead. “I'm here whenever you want to talk about anything. I mean it. Come inside soon sweetheart, its cold out here.”

“OK.”

Ashley nodded as her mother got up and started up the steps.

“Olivia is amazing Mom, and I do love her.”

“It’s written all over your face sweetheart.”

“Was there any money on this?” Ashley asked.

“Perhaps just a little.” Erin replied. “It was all out of love. You’ve never brought anyone home before. Something in your voice sounded different when you talked about her, even if it was just a little.”

“OK.”

They didn’t say anything else and Erin went back in the house. Ashley didn’t know how long she sat on the steps after that. She’d begun to shiver and got up to go in the house when Spencer came out.

“Its cold.” He held out her windbreaker for her. “You should put this on.”

“Thank you.”

“I should probably say...”

“Don’t say anything.” Ashley held up her hand as she slipping her arms into the jacket. “You’ve said enough.”

“But I think…”

“Spencer, stop it.” she spoke through clenched teeth. “I don’t want to get into another fight but I don’t care about what you think at the moment. You overreacted, you want to apologize; you, you, you. I need to clear my head and I need to do that without you hovering. Please just leave me alone.”

He stood there for a few minutes as if he wanted to say something and changed his mind. With a heavy sigh, Spencer turned and went back into the house. He ran into Olivia on her way out.

“Hey what happened?” she asked. “Are you OK?”

“My brother is a fuckin idiot.” The blonde wiped away fresh tears.

“Which one?” she put her arms around Ashley.

“Spencer. We got into a fight about Diana. She's our mother.”

“Are you going to be OK?”

“Yeah.” Ashley nodded. “I just need to suck it up.”

“You never have to do that. You have every right to all of your feelings, especially where your biological mother is concerned.”

“She's more than that to him.”

“That’s to him. You’re completely different.”

“So this isn’t as difficult a concept as some pretend?” Ashley couldn’t help but smirk when she asked. “Spencer just has a lot of stuff under that big, giant brain. I try with him, just as I know that he tries me. Sometimes…”

“It’s a sibling thing.” Olivia hugged her tight. “Believe me when I tell you that I know.”

“I told my mom about us too.” Ashley mumbled it as she held onto Liv. “Well I didn’t tell her so much as she told me so I could escape the awkwardness of the entire thing. I don’t do awkwardness well.”

“I think you're adorable when you're awkward.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmm hmm.” Olivia nodded. She kissed her nose and then her lips. “Let’s go back inside. It’s cold out here.”

“Should I talk to Spencer?” Ashley asked.

“Not right now,” Liv took her hand as they walked in the house. “You deserve to have time to work it all out in your head. Later on is fine.”

“OK.”

“I bet playing another round of Pole Position with Nan would bring a smile to your face.”

“I think you might be right.” Ashley nodded. “Even though it’s sad how bad she's kicking my ass right now.”

“C'mon, let’s do it.” Liv let her hand go as they walked into the living room.

“Yeah.” Ashley took her hand again, lacing her fingers through hers. “Let’s do it.”

Liv smiled but didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to; she and Ashley were often beyond words anyway.

***

 
 
Where am I?: the dining room
Feelings: okayokay
Background Noise: Pretty Bad Girls on ID
 
 
 
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