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Chapter 10: Sober

Walking back into the room we just left, my shoulders felt heavy.  I feigned ignorance, and won over sympathy from the most respected person in our community.  I'm pretty sure I locked in my spot for "most likely to fuck themselves over".  When she nods at me to sit in the same chair I was just in, I got right to it.  As soon as I sit down, my eyes become glued to the table in front of me.  The seconds that tick by feel like hours, and my whole body is tense from waiting for Buffy to start screaming.

I jump a little when she pulls out the chair across from me and sits down.  Even though I can feel her eyes staring at me, burning a hole in my skin, I never look up.  I know I lied, I fooled her, I broke her trust the minute I earned it, and the last thing I wanted to do is look up into her eyes to see everything I already knew.  Even though I'm not looking, I can sense her moving around in her seat, and when she leans forward, putting her elbows on the table in front of us, I lean back in my chair crossing my arms over my chest.

"Okay, you're clearly not going to start; even though you just came to me five seconds ago to confess.  I really don't know what you want me to say to you, Ashley. This is some really big, really bad news."  Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I could see Buffy let out a sigh, and run her fingers through her hair. 

"Aren't you going to start yelling?"  I asked, figuring if she knew I was waiting for it, she could finally just get to it instead of killing me with the wait.

"Yell at you?"  She asked with a confused face,  "Ashley, I don't even know what happened.  All I know is what you've told me, and I am doing my best not to create this big horrible story in my head, so please tell me what happened. That's all I care about at the moment." 

The sincerity in her words and eyes made me feel even worse than I already did . When we got back in here I expected anger, but instead she's trying to understand what happened.  "Oh, and Ashley," She interrupts me before I've even begun, "no lies.  This is your last chance with me, so tell me everything. Trust me, okay?"

"No lies.  I promise."  Pausing for a second to take a deep breath, I try to relax before revisiting one of the lowest points in my life.  "My father died the year before I came here,"  I started speaking as I received an encouraging look from the head Slayer.  "He and I were extremely close, even though I barely saw him.  My mother and I never really got along. And even though I'm only a few months older than Kyla, I felt as the older sister I always need to be the strong one.  I am sure you know how that is."  When she gave me a slight nod, I continued.

 "Losing him, and then finding out I'm some sort of super hero that is destined to save others, kind of messed me up.  I never told anyone how I felt, because honestly, a small part of me was just waiting to leave home.  When I got here I tried to pretend everything was alright, but it was only a matter of time before my grades started to slip, and I started using sparring class as a way to let out all my anger,"  I closed my eyes for a few seconds to collect myself before continuing.

"My dad's passing was in late May, and normally we're back with our families by then, so no one here has ever had to deal with the way I can get.  Last year was my junior summer,  and being here without Kyla, or anything that reminded me of him, just made me feel even worse.  I guess you could say I was really depressed, because I just didn't care anymore. I started sneaking out every night, getting drunk. Or I'd stay in, get drunk, and hook up with one of the girls here."  Turning away from Buffy, I went back to staring at the table.

"After three days of skipping classes and training, Faith showed up at my door and told me to come with her."  Closing my eyes again, my breathing began to increase as I replayed that horrible day.

Walking the halls with Faith, I found my steps to be sloppy from being slightly drunk.  When she opened the door in front of me, I was barely together enough to know where we were.  Following her inside the office, I saw Wood sitting at his desk with a stern look on his face.  Feeling like they were about to gang up on me, I turned to leave but Faith was leaning against the door behind me.

"Do I really have to say something, because I think you know why you are here, Ashley." 

The tone of his voice should have made me sober up, but maturity wasn't really a strong point of mine when I was drinking.

"Well, if you know why I'm here, and I know why I'm here, then I think we're on the same page and I can go."  Turning around, I found Faith right behind me.

"Sit down, Ashley."  Not waiting for me to do it myself, she pushed me into the closest chair.

"Well, Ashley," Wood began, "since you know why you're here, there's no reason for us to dance around the issue.  Your absence is inexcusable, and your behavior this last month has been  intolerable.  You have a week, one week, starting today to clean up your act or you'll be suspended the rest of the summer."

"Fine, are we done?"  I was angry, but the last thing I wanted was to let them know that they got to me.

"You have nothing to say?"  Faith asked.

"I'm pretty sure Woody here has said it all, but thanks for standing up for me,"  I spoke without looking at her.

"What?"  Joy. I managed to piss her off.

"Nothing. Seriously, can I go now?"  With a nod of his head, I was up and out of the office in seconds.  Fuck them, just fuck them.  I have heard every story ever told about Faith and she was no good girl, so fuck her. 

Being angry and drunk just led me  to be royally pissed off  and wasted.  I can honestly say when I snuck out that night I was looking for a fight, which is why I intended to go slaying.  I don't remember how long I walked around, but I eventually realized I had drank  too much to remember where the cemetery was.  But instead of going back to the school, which would have been a good idea, I stumbled my way into town to cool off.  

I remember it was the strangled  scream that got my attention.  The dead silence of the surrounding area made it sound out of place, so I went to investigate it.  I got to a creepy alley and  saw a figure attacking a woman, and I thought I had  finally found a vamp to beat up on.

"Hey stupid face, how about you pick on someone smaller than you?"  Drunken quips are not the best ones.

When the figure turned around I saw the surprised face of a regular guy, and also  noticed his fly was open. I glanced quickly to the woman on the ground, and saw that the top of her dress was torn and her lip was bleeding. "Call 911!" she pleaded.

Seeing how drunk and tiny I was, the guy smiled at me, and kicked the woman in the face, knocking her out.  I didn't need to be a telepath to know what he planned on doing when he started to approach me.

"Hey pretty girl."  Was the last thing he said to me when  I attacked.  Looking at the scene around me, I was enraged.   A few minutes into the beat down, someone pulled me off him. I turned around and saw Faith. I'm pretty sure I mumbled to her about what had happened, but if she'd heard me she didn't show it. She was on the phone.  I assumed  it was 911, but when Wood showed up, I realized they must have both been looking for me, so I turned to him and restated my case.

Without a word, Faith helped Wood put the guy into his car and Wood took off with him.  Then, still without speaking to me, Faith picked up the woman and we dropped her off at the hospital, saying we found her outside.  When we got back to the school, Faith walked me to my room and I did not see her and Wood until the next day.

"It's not like they let me off easy, I promise you that, Buffy.  We had an all-day meeting in Wood's office the next day. They told me the guy was in a coma, and I cried.  I'm sorry, I really am. I know we're supposed to protect people, but not to the extent of almost killing another person.  Am I glad I stopped him? Of course, but not in the way I went about it."  Tearing up, I could not get the picture of his bloody face out of my head.

"We all knew I should have been kicked out, but I begged them for hours.  Please don't blame them for taking pity on me.  Everything that happened is on me, and I'm sorry. But I understand  the situation you're in and I accept my punishment."  Meeting Buffy's eyes for the first time since I began my story, I could not read the look she was giving me. 

Turning from my glance, after holding it a few minutes, she stood up from her chair and walked around the table to my side.

"Oh honey," Buffy said, giving me a hug as I continued to cry,  "I understand, more than you probably know.  I once thought I killed my mother's boyfriend after he hit me and I felt just like you."

"What happened to him?"  I can't believe the Golden Child of the slaying world fucked up like me.

"He turned out to be a robot, I'll tell you about it another time,"  Figures. "Still, before the truth  came out, I knew standing up for myself was the right thing to do…but as a Slayer there is a line we are not allowed to justify crossing."

"So I'm out, right?"  I don't know why I was asking.

"Don't think about that right now, okay?  I still need to talk to Faith and Wood, and then I need to make some calls, but you worry about you and spend some time with your sister and your friend."  The way she rubbed circles on my back as she spoke calmly to me helped me to catch my breath and stop the flow of tears.

Without saying anything else, Buffy stood up straight and waited on me to walk out of the room.  The hall was almost empty except for our families. Walking toward our own groups, I glanced over at Spencer and caught her eye. But as quickly as our eyes locked, she turned away from me completely and walked the other way.

Chapter 11: Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't

"I'm sorry."  The brunette Slayer said for possibly the tenth time.  Watching the older Slayer pace back and forth with a grim look on her face made the younger girl feel like a child who just got caught doing what she was told not to do.

"Stop apologizing, this is as much my fault as it is yours."  Even though Faith believed the words she spoke to Ashley, a part of her still felt betrayed.  She knew the young Slayer meant her no harm when she told her story to the blonde, but even the best intentions can create some shitty results.

"I told her it was all on me.  Everything that happened came about from my own bad choices, and that you guys only did what you did because you took pity on me.  I swear I tried to make her understand,"  The desperation in Ashley's voice made it clear she was also trying to make Faith understand. 

"I know."  Was the only reply the former rogue could provide.  She knew Ashley was sorry and that giving her the cold shoulder was the last thing the girl needed, but trust is a hard thing for Faith to give; and when she feels it's been betrayed, even accidentally, forgiveness isn't something she can easily provide. 

A knock on the door gave relief for the older brunette because it gave her a distraction from the sad girl in her office.  Without waiting for an invitation to come in, the door opened and Robin Wood quickly entered.  Pausing before he spoke, Wood took in the scene before him and felt the heaviness from the tension in the room.

"Hello Ashley, I heard you had quite an interesting chat with Buffy this morning."  Unlike the elder Slayer, his tone seemed to be more inviting and sincere.

"I'm sorry, Wood, I -"  Ashley paused when Wood raised his hand in a stopping motion and gave her a friendly smile.

"It's okay, Ashley, I completely understand.  Honestly, I knew this would all come out eventually, it just happened sooner instead of later.  I see the way Buffy talks to you young girls, she has a way about her, and I'm really not surprised.  Besides, as much as I am sure she told you she understands, you still have just as much to answer for as we do. So focus on you and we will take care of us, okay?"  Holding the eye contact he had with the young girl, he gave her a smile.  "Now I need to speak with Faith.  As soon as we hear anything, we will let you know, okay?"

Instead of feeling hurt by his dismissal, the brunette gave the head Watcher a smile of her own.  Though she still felt she had much to make up for with Faith, she did forget she was still in just as much trouble as they were, and having at least Wood's forgiveness was better than nothing.  Tossing one more look in Faith's direction, and once again receiving nothing back, the younger brunette took her leave.

"That's nice, Faith, I'm sure she feels bad enough, but why don't you go push her down a flight of stairs while you're at it?"  Though the tone held no anger in it, Faith could see Robin disapproved of how she handled things with Ashley.  "I get that you're mad, but I'm sure she feels just as bad as you do about everything."

"I know, I suck at life; I get it, okay, and when I'm ready I will make it up to her, but right now I just need some space."  Even though a majority of what she said was spoken with sarcasm, Robin knew she knew she was wrong and he decided to let it go, for now.

"Fine, I may as well get to why I rushed over here.  Buffy wants to talk to us."  Pausing to see how the Slayer was going to react to the news, Robin was surprised to see she looked more defeated than angry.  "She emailed me a few minutes ago, and told me to go to your office to get you and we would all meet at my office."

"Why didn't you just call me?"  Faith asked, wondering why he walked across the building when a phone worked just as well.

"Well, I didn't know how you would take it.  Plus, me coming here and then going back means a few extra minutes before Buffy attacks."  Though he was being honest, and they both knew less than awesome things awaited them, the two shared a smile and walked out together to the tiny but powerful blonde Slayer.

The sudden knock on the door caused the two occupants of the room to jump in surprise.  Seconds ago they were engrossed in deep conversation and now they wondered who was interrupting them.  Opening the door, Dawn was surprised to find Ashley and her group, Kyla and Aiden, standing outside with nervous expressions on their faces. 

"Can we come in?"  Stepping aside, Dawn ushered the serious looking group into the room Spencer and she were hanging out in, which was the library. 

"How did you know where we were?"  Dawn asked.

"I asked Vi.  She said you told her that Buffy told you to wait here for her, and I needed to talk to you, so I asked around and they told me you were in one of the back rooms."  The worried look on Ashley's face and the rushed sentence told the girls that she was seeking them out for something important.

"So what do you need to talk to us about?"  Dawn once again spoke as Spencer remained silent but clearly interested in the answer.

"How bad is it?"  Seeing the confused look on both girls, Ashley continued.  "Buffy seemed like she was trying to get where I was coming from, but I know that doesn't mean Wood, Faith, and myself are out of trouble."  Seeing the look that passed between the two girls made Ashley's concerns even worse.

"It's pretty bad."  Dawn said, returning to her seat at the room's study table.  "Buffy didn't say what you did, but for the past couple of hours she was locked up in her room on the phone, and I'm sure that was anything but a social call."

When the Slayer and Watcher arrived at Robin's office, they were surprised to find that the blonde Slayer was not outside waiting for them.  Instead of standing outside to wait for her, the two decided to just go inside and prepare themselves for the hell they would soon find themselves in.  Upon opening the door, their curiosity on the blonde's whereabouts quickly vanished when they found her sitting in Robin's chair looking at them with a blank expression.

"Please shut the door and have a seat."  Buffy instructed from the comfortable chair.  Without speaking, the two head chairs of the school took their seats and waited for the yelling to begin. 

"Let me start by saying that I understand, really I do.  Ashley is a sweet girl, pretty fragile, and this was just one mistake that snowballed on her.  I feel for her and everything she's been going through, but there is something I just don't understand.  How could the two of you make this bad situation even worse?  How could do that to her?"  Even though the blonde never raised her voice, her eyes were burning with anger.

"We were trying to help her,"  Faith spoke back in a pissed-off tone,  "Everyone knows what you do when girls get out of hand."  Scar tissue never fades.

"Is this what you would call out of hand or is this just too close to home?"  Standing up, Buffy quickly cut off Faith before she started to speak again.  "You see Ashley and you see yourself, hell she reminds me of you too but that is no excuse.  Yes, we have taken away powers in the past, but we have also spared other girls.  Case by case that is how things are done, that is what you agreed upon when helping us rebuild, but when it's one of your girls I guess things are different."

Leveling her gaze on them, Buffy continued.

"These girls need to trust us, everyone, not just you two.  What you did was teach her that the system we have set up will not protect her.  I don't care how close you both are to her; we do not break rules for any one person."  Sitting back down in her seat, Buffy paused as she tried to calm herself down.

"So what does all this mean, for both us and Ashley?"  Robin asked while Faith stared out the window, refusing to look at the other occupants of the room.

"Honestly, I should be suspending you both and shutting the school down for the summer so we can investigate how much you both really enjoy breaking the rules."  Turning from the window, Faith gave Buffy a shocked expression at how far things where about to go.  "However, this isn't a typical case, and luckily enough for both of you, the quality of Slayer your school has processed is allowing us to take a different approach."

"I guess it's case by case even for the admin."  Wood said with a smirk.

"By order of the new Council, I am now in control of the Cleveland School for Slayers.  While you both remain heads in your field, any and all action must be green-lighted through me."  Though Robin and Faith stared open mouthed at Buffy, she continued on as though she did not see them. 

"The school shall continue, but we're now in an investigation of all activity that has taken  place during these past few years. Once our investigation is complete, and the three of you questioned further, a decision shall be made concerning Ashley's status as a Slayer, and to your respective statuses as department heads of the Slayer and Watcher divisions. Questions?
"How dare you…" Faith began.

"Don't start with me, Faith.  You both did this, not me.  Also, until further notice, neither of you are allowed entry to your offices unless escorted by a head Council member or by one of the investigators."  Though Buffy voice fell back into a calm manner, her face remained all business.

"What investigators?  I thought you Council members do all your own dirty work."  Faith spit out her words.

"For just us to do this would take longer than we'd like.  Since Kennedy is coming with Willow, I asked her for some help and I plan on having Dawn and Spencer help as well.  I'm just trying to move this along as quickly as possible."  Buffy said in a sympathetic tone.

"Yeah, well, don't do me any favors.  Are we done here?"  Faith's stubborn side once again peeked through as she stared out the window and spoke, choosing not to look at the blonde Slayer.

"Robin, you can go."  Buffy said to Wood while looking at Faith.

"Okay, can I at least have my briefcase before I go or do you need to search it?"  He said in a light voice.

"Already taken care of."  The smile on her face and the glint in her eye made the Watcher unclear on if she meant it or not.  With briefcase in hand, Robin nodded at the blonde with the briefest of smiles and lightly patted the brunette Slayer on the back on his way out.

"What do you want?"  Faith asked after a minute of silence, even though she still didn't look in the blonde's direction. 

"Professionally, I just wanted to let you know that I am going to look at this with an open mind."  Buffy spoke in an even voice.

"Really, then why not say that when Robin was here?"  Faith said in an empty voice.

"I got the feeling Robin knew, but I just wanted you to know that professionally that's how things are going to be.  On a personal note, I can't stand looking at you right now."  With those words spoken, Buffy had Faith's full attention. 

"I thought we got past everything, that we were moving forward, but we're not.  The scenes keep changing but we're just standing still, and if that's how things are going to be, then fine.  I'll make the only move I can make and walk away."  Pausing for a moment to collect herself, Buffy took in a deep breath.  "Now you can go, now you can leave, Faith."  Turning her chair around so that she was no longer facing the other girl, the golden Slayer missed the broken look she received from the ex-rogue as she left.

Chapter 12: Who I am Hates Who I've Been

My life is one big cosmic joke and I'm the punch line.  Okay so maybe I am being a bit on the dramatic side but give me a break, life isn't all sunshine and fucking bunnies at the moment.  I mean, what the fuck, she acts like I was purposely trying to hurt her. Excuse me, Princess, but my existence does not revolve around you.  Sure I broke some rules but I was thinking about Ashley, NOT me.  And when did we get over everything?

We never talk about it; about me, about her, about us.  Tell me B, how'd we get past what we've never even talked about?  Why did you stab me? Why did I jump? And did you ever really hate me, because I don't think I could ever hate you.  Today you stabbed me with your eyes and killed me your words, B. You killed me.

"Knock knock, anybody home?"  Stopping mid-pace in my living room, I see my door slowly open as the knocker comes in uninvited.  "Hey Sunshine, long time no see."

Kennedy is the only person I have ever met that just invites themselves into people's homes.  If she was here for a normal visit, maybe I would feel more welcoming. But if she's here, then I am sure Red is running around MY school somewhere too.

"Oh, come on now. I think I deserve a little smile, or you could at least pretend to be happy to see me."  Fuck you.

"Listen, Ken doll, we both know why you're here, so how about you stop pretending this is some fucking social visit."  The sag in her shoulders and sad look in her eyes makes me feel shitty for snapping at her. Great let's just pile on the guilt.

"Hey, I get it; you're seeing me as one of them.  Actually, I'm not really sure I'm even supposed to be here, but I ducked out when Will and Buffy starting babbling to one another as though I wasn't even in the room.  I figure if I'm going to be ignored, I may as well go find some fun."  I really shouldn't be surprised Kennedy isn't taking this that seriously.  I'm pretty sure slaying and Red are the only things in life Kennedy does takes seriously.

"Sorry to disappoint you, Silver Spoon, but I'm in no mood to entertain, especially for someone who's here to turn my life upside down."  I know I'm not being fair, but fuck it.  She's a big girl and life isn't fair.

"Do you really think I'm here to help them fuck with you? I don't even know what you did, but I knew that you'd want this over as soon as possible so that's why I'm helping."  Even though I clearly pissed her off, it didn't look like she was planning on leaving any time  soon.

"So Red didn't tell you?  Never knew the girl could keep a secret."  Lame joke meet Faith.

"You know that's against the rules.  The new Council is all about privacy, so I'm basically just a gofer. I can't read anything I touch, I just organize what they tell me to."  Jumping onto my couch, Kennedy lays herself across it like the conversation was suddenly boring to her.

"So you really don't know why you're here?"  As far as friends go, Kennedy and I are pretty tight…but I know where her ultimate loyalty lies. If Red really did tell her the details and told her not to say anything, then I'm sure she'd have no problem lying to me about it.

"Geez, Psycho, paranoid much?  I told you I'm completely in the dark; but you're my girl so I came to help. And I came to your place because Velma and Daphne were boring the crap out of me.  Seriously, I'm on no one's side, I just wanted to spend some time with my friend."  The honesty in her eyes made me want to believe her, but I was still a bit guarded. 

"So have Fred and Shaggy showed up yet?"  Before the Council and the schools were set up, Kennedy and I used to spend a pretty good amount of time together.  Even though we had our own places in the group, we still felt like outsiders looking in.  One day while the gang was having their own special conversation and were basically ignoring us, we figured out which character each Scooby was, but we've yet to share this info with them.

"Nah, the guys are on their way.  You know their stomachs never handle it well when Willow zaps them here."  It felt good to just shoot the shit with Kennedy.

"I think I'm pretty fucked, Ken."  As light as the atmosphere felt, I couldn't stop myself from going back to why she was here.

"Do you want to talk about it?"  One of the things about Kennedy was that she never expects people to just spill their guts.  If you need to talk, she'll listen, but if you don't, then that's just fine with her too.  

"Yeah."  So I told her everything.  I told her all about Ashley; about training the young Slayer, about the many conversations I had with Wood about her, about that night, and about what went down with Buffy.  I could tell Ken was surprised, but not in that judgmental way.  I talked for about two hours and she just sat there and listened.  "So that's everything."

"Damn,"  She says, and that pretty much sums it up.  "I can't believe you were such a douche bag to Ashley."  What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"  It was a good thought that needed to be expressed.

"While I get why you did what you did, even though it was totally against protocol, the way you just explained how everything went down with Ashley after Buffy found out was totally fucked up.  Right now this girl sounds more worried about you than herself, and you basically iced her out."  I hate it when Ken makes sense.  Why can't I ever be angry without feeling like I need to apologize to someone?

"Okay, so I am a douche bag.  What about B?"  She knew what I meant without me having to say more.  As far as I know, Ken doll was the only one who knew the full Buffy and Faith history, mostly because I told her everything.  She promised never to tell Willow, and I doubt the princess would ever taint her rep by telling her little gang about all the time she spent with the Big Bad Wolf. 

"Sorry man, I got nothing for you there."  Great.

"Yeah, you're wicked helpful, now get out."  I love being direct, the look on Ken's face is priceless.

"What the fuck, Faith?  I give you one bad answer and you kick me out?!"  She is so spunky for such a little thing.

"No, ass-hat, I have to go talk to Ashley and try to set things right with at least one person that's unhappy with me at the moment."  Duh.

"Oh okay, cool, maybe I'll go hunt Vi down and annoy her while she's teaching."  That kid can go from angry to smiles in two seconds. 

The walk to Ashley's dorm is shorter than I'd like.  I really hate apologizing, especially when I really am at fault because then I have to mean it.  When I reached her room I knocked as quietly as I could in hopes that if she didn't answer then I could convince my conscience that I did try.  In only seconds the door opens and my brilliant plan is foiled, damn it.

"Faith?"  I hate sad puppy-dog eyes; they always make me feel so guilty.

"Hey kid, mind if I come in?"  Giving me a sad little shrug of her shoulders I follow the girl into her room.  "Where are the others?"  I asked when I noticed her room was empty.

"I told them to go for a walk.  I had another meeting with Buffy, and since I didn't know how long I'd be I told them to go find some fun."  She replied, never once looking at me.

"Oh, so how was the meeting?"  The kid looks like crap so they must have torn her a new one.

"I guess it wasn't too bad.  I met the rest of the new Council for the first time and they were all pretty nice."  Geez, her sad-sack demeanor is making me feel worse.

"Well, that doesn't sound so bad."  Sitting in a chair across from where she sat on her bed, I tried to seem as relaxed as possible.

"I mean it wasn't, for me.  Buffy did most of the talking," Surprise, surprise. "And from what she was saying, it sounded like if their investigation went smoothly I would remain a Slayer."

"So why do you look so depressed?"  Seriously.

"Well, they told me what was happening to you and Wood.  I know that if I could've just kept my mouth shut then your jobs wouldn't be in jeopardy."  Okay, so apparently my cold shoulder affected her more than I thought it would.

"Ashley, hey, come on now, look at me,"  Once I gained eye contact with her I continued,  "What's going on is not your fault.  Wood and I made our own decision and we did so knowing what would happen if word ever got out."  Okay, I didn't actually think things would go this far, but still.

"I know but-"  I quickly put up my hand stopping whatever she had to say.

"We don't blame you, Ash.  You made some bad decisions and so did we, such is life.  When everything is said and done, and we see how this whole thing goes down, we'll  take it from there.  The Council is not out to get us."  I hope. "So we just need to stick to the facts and hope that it's enough to prove that the rules were broken with only the best intentions in mind."  Putting on the best smile I could, Ashley finally relaxes a bit and smiles right back at me.

"Thanks, Faith."  Go me.

"Hey, it's no problem. I should have said all of this before, and I'm sorry for freezing you out."  I was surprised when Ashley leaned over to hug me, but I managed to hug her back without pausing too long.  "Well, Ash, as fun as this is I have to take off, things to do, people to see, and all that shit."   I really had no place to go, but I'm not big on staying to bask in a sappy moment.

"Yeah, ok, I understand but I'll see you soon, right?"  Okay, so apparently she still thinks I am unhappy with her.

"Of course, we're in this together."  I think initiating the hug myself this time made her feel better.  "Peace, homie."  Giving one more dimple-powered smile I take my leave, with Ashley smiling back in my direction as she shuts her door.

I really do appreciate how easy that was, and even more so that there was no crying.  So far I have Wood, Ashley, and possibly Kennedy on my side.  My odds just keep looking better and better.  Now if I could just get Buffy to understand I'd be golden, but shit, I'm no miracle worker.



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