this chapter reveals Ashley's dramatic past and shows Stefan's feelings growing as he tries to reassure him!!
Ashley was only fourteen years old when his mother kicked him out of his own house for something he didn't even do. She had claimed that he was taking drugs when he knew he would never touch the stuff. Ashley was heartbroken and confused but he had no choice although he wanted to stay at home more than anything. He could still feel the fresh pain every morning when he awoke and usually lay in bed until midday crying away the pain and wondering what he could of possibly done to deserve this. He now lived with his grandma, Nanny Horne. She was a nice enough old lady but she was a bit odd. Well, very odd. But he would always appreciate the fact she disagreed with her daughter and agreed to look after him until he was old enough to move out.
Every night in his dreams he saw the look of pure anger and disappointment on his mother's face and she said 'get out of my house' and chucked the roughly packed suitcases out of the house, where he piled them into the back of his grandma's car, vicious tears pouring down his face, loud sobs racking his skinny body. Watching his childhood home get smaller and smaller behind him, he had felt his whole world shatter around him and he had never managed to fix it back up again.
Back to present day, it was a Saturday morning and as usual, the weather was dull and a pale shade of grey. He had agreed to see Stefan since they hadn't hung out in about a week and that was very unusual for them. They normally saw eachother every single day of the week but Ashley had been really busy and his Nan was a very bossy person and had him running around Reading doing her chores and running errands. He couldn't really complain since she took him into her home but it was getting quite annoying. In a way, she was taking up his summer, the time where he could finally take a break from the pressures of school and just hang out with his friends.
Ashley gradually pulled the covers off him but still lay still in his dark blue boxers, trying to gather the energy to actually get out of his bed. He rubbed his brown eyes and threw his legs over the side of the double bed, running his fingers through his permantly dishevelled hair. The first thing he saw every time he got out of bed were the scars on his left wrist and down his arm. The ones that he had done himself to relieve himself from the pain he was in. He was ashamed about it and nobody knew but Stefan but he couldn't help it. Things had been really hitting him recently and he found the weight of it all was just too much. He heard about self harming and how much it helped different people and he agreed, it did help. But only for a little while. A few hours after doing it though, Ashley would look at the scars and feel so much self hate and guilt that suicide seemed to cross his mind way too much.
He could always speak to Stefan about it all though. They had known each other for atleast five years now and they basically knew every little detail about each other possible. He even knew that Stefan had the tiniest mole on his bum. He didn't even know how he knew that one. Anyway, he shook away the thoughts of his mother, bit back the tears and changed into his clothes for the day; a grey hoody, that was a little too big for him and plain blue jeans with white trainers. His mother always preferred his sisters to him so they got all the nice clothes and treatment when he wasn't really left with the choice of clothes, his mum tended to pick out the most random, unstylish clothes he could think of.
He quickly shouted to his nan that he was leaving and walked out the house, carefully closing the door behind him. He bit back the instant tears that shot to his eyes when he thought of the times he could shut the front door at his childhood home, when his mum used to wave goodbye to him as he went off to school every morning. The wind and cold air stung at his skin, making his eyes water, which was a perfect distraction from his tears.
When Ashley reached Stefan's front door he knocked twice and lingered a little, shoving his hands in his pockets and glancing around, up and down the street. He knew that Sally would answer the door and greet him with a big smile and a welcoming hug. He also hoped that she would make smores like she usually did, because they were much better than any of the food that Nanny Horne ever made.
Sally pulled open the door and, as expected, she grinned at him, some sympathy in her eyes, and dragged him straight into a tight hug, that nearly took the breath out of him.
"Hello Ashley dear! Come on in, I'm making smores. Stefan's watching telly at the moment, I think he wanted to show you a new video game or something..." She explained and lead him into their apartment. Ashley knew this place like the back of his hand after their frequent sleepovers and daily visits. Sally was basically his mum now and Stefan's dad, Keith was just as good as a dad. Although Ashley's dad was against kicking him out, Ashley still wasn't very close with him anymore, which was really sad.
"Cool cool, i'll go straight in then." He gave her his usual cheeky smile and entered the lounge, where Stefan was sat crossed legged on the sofa watching Phineas and Ferb. Stefan instantly scrambled up to his feet, looking happy to see Ashley as he smiled at him and approached him.
Stefan stood before Ashley with a goofy smile on his face. He felt completely gormless and rigid. He didn't know what to say. He felt the relief of seeing him again flood through him like some sort of drug. In all honesty, he wanted to hug him. Just hug him until the cows came home and tell him how much he actually missed him. But those thoughts freaked himself out, never mind what Ashley would think. So instead he just nodded.
"Hey Ash, I was just watching... Lost." He lied, feeling immediatley ridiculous as he remembered Ashley had clearly seen that he was watching a Disney Channel show. Ashley frowned at him although there was an amused smile on his face. He smirked.
"Whatever Stef, so whats this new video game you wanted to show me?" he wondered, glancing around the room, looking a lot more comfortable now he was in a friendly environment.
"Uhm yeah, I've got it in my room... wanna go see it now?" Stefan suggested, he had managed to dig out one Ashley definitely wouldn't remember as he had no money whatsoever for a new game. Ashley nodded and followed Stefan into his tiny bedroom. The room only had room for his bunkbed; the desk and computers that sat underneath them; a tall white wardrobe pushed up against the right wall; and a few shelves that held in toys and even his small telly, which faced the bunkbed diagonally so they could stay up on the bed whilst playing the games. The walls were painted dark blue but they were mostly covered by posters and stickers from his favorite bands and even his red electric guitar hung up on one of the walls next to the shelves.
"Ok, so its called Brothers and Arms or something like that, and its about the war and shit like that. Its really cool." He opened up the game case and slotted it into the xbox. The atmosphere hung heavy in the room and he could already sense that something was wrong with Ashley. Something was really getting him down and Stefan could probably guess what it was soon. And if he couldn't then he'd ask Ashley. Ashley nodded and climbed up onto Stefan's bunkbed, sitting with his back against the wall. Stefan tried to keep his eyes on him as he climbed up too, taking his place next to him.
"Multiplayer, yeah?" Ashley said, nudging him. Stefan felt completely ashamed when he felt his skin tingle where Ashley had touched him, even though it was just his elbow. He just still couldn't believe he actually had a crush on him. A crush on him. He briefly closed his eyes before nodding and handing him a controller.
"You know it." He laughed, ignoring the butterflies in his stomach when Ashley laughed too. The only way to really describe Ashley was with the word cheeky. His grin was cheeky, the mischevious glimmer in his eyes, and the way he loved to play pranks. He even pulled pranks on Stefan sometimes, but only stupid ones; like one time they had a sleepover and Ashley stood in the doorway with a sheet over him and holding a creepy puppet, which scared Stefan so much that he sobbed his heart out.
"So... Ash..." he licked his lips and looked sideways at Ashley, who just nodded solemly but kept his eyes on the telly screen, "whats up? I mean, theres obviously something wrong..." Ashley let out a heavy sigh and Stefan could tell that his teeth were biting into his lip extremely hard and that Ashley was in pain. He frowned and nudged him: "Ash, stop it. Whats wrong with you?" He then saw tears building up in Ashley's eyes and thats when Stefan took both controllers and paused the game. Ashley rubbed his eyes and sniffed back the tears, failing as one or two escaped, rolling down his cheeks.
Stefan tucked his legs beneath him and turned to Ashley, placing his hand catiously on his shoulder, careful not to touch him too much, because if he did he knew that it would have that effect on him he still wasn't used to. Ashley looked at Stefan and tried a smile but it dissolved into tears that poured down his face and his body shaking with the sobs. Stefan watched in horror as Ashley's head bowed and his hands clasped together. His sleeves were rolled up and Stefan could see the cuts on his arm. The cuts that Ashley had shown him months ago and the cuts that wouldn't heal because he kept renewing them. It really hurt Stefan every time he thought of Ashley's self harming addiction and it hurt even more knowing that he couldn't do anything to help him apart from tell him not to do it and that never worked. In instinct, Stefan took Ashley's wrist and stroked his thumb over one of the cuts, hoping Ashley would think nothing of it. And although it was nothing much, it still sent shivers through his veins. He hated it.
"I just... I just cant believe... my own mum hates me... " he sobbed harder and rested his forehead against Stefan's shoulder, his own shoulders slumped. Stefan froze for a moment, unsure of what to do with himself, not knowing where to put his hands or whether he should hug him or not. Maybe that would make things awkward. They had hugged loads of times before but he just knew it was much different now. It wouldn't be the same. Not now he was certain he had feelings for Ashley. He almost felt sick.
"Oh... Ash, i'm so sorry... and she doesn't hate you, trust me, she's just... deluded." Stefan said slowley, trying but obviously failing to reassure him. He felt very helpless at the moment. He just wanted to hold him. But he also wanted everything to be normal again, which he didn't think it would be in a while.
"But... but she does," he cried, the tears staining Stefan's top, "my mum, she's supposed to love me... like your mum loves you. Its not fair... i'm sorry." Ashley collapsed against Stefan, his sobs becoming louder. He was shocked when Ashley clung onto Stefan's top and his fists bunched up as his crying became uncontrollable. Stefan bit his lip and frowned to himself, glancing round. He didn't know what to do or say. So in the end he settled with a hug. He wrapped his arms around Ashley, slowley and unsurely, pulling him closer but not too close that Ashley could hear his heart beating double time or hear his thoughts. The thoughts that were shouting at him to push Ashley away and run away from everything. Away from home, away from Ashley and away from his troubles.
But he wouldn't. Stefan held Ashley and closed his eyes, just like he knew Ashley had done in order to stop the tears. But he also knew that Ashley had completely different feelings to the ones Stefan was having. He didn't want to let go. It felt so right but also extremely wrong at the same time, scaring him to the point where he could throw up all down Ashley's back but making him feel comfortable and happy to the point where he could stay there for the rest of the night just holding him until the sobbing calmed down and stopped shaking. He kept his arms around him, wanting to pull him even closer but restraining himself. This was so so wrong.
"Do you think I could sleep here tonight? It... just upsets me knowing I cant go home." Ashley wondered quietly, looking up into Stefan's eyes, which looked concerned as they met Ashley's red puffy eyes. He immediately nodded.
"Course you can Ash, i'll set up a bed for you..." Stefan said and was about to move when Ashley pulled him back and shook his head.
"Not yet. Lets just sit and chat for a bit, yeah?" He said, wiping the tears away from his eyes and the ones that had gathered at the corners of his mouth. Stefan nodded again, really not sure whether he should hug him again or just leave him to it. He just watched him for a moment while Ashley wiped away his tears, Stefan's eyes travelling down to the cuts on his wrists; the dangerously deep cuts that scared him more that anything. He just prayed that he'd never find the courage or misery to end his life.
He just couldn't believe it was all his fault.
"Look Ash... you really need to stop this..." Stefan pleaded, hearing the lisp in his own innocent voice. He nodded down at his wrist, a concerned and symathetic look in his eyes. Ashley chuckled nervously and nodded whilst biting his lip, instantly pulling down his sleeve. He closed his eyes and sighed. Once again, Stefan felt the need to hug him. And just sit there in the silence: "I dont know if you're addicted or whatever but you can easily become addicted and I dont want that because one day, you might accidentally hit a vein and... die." His voice was awkward because he never had been too good at comforting people, maybe Ashley would bring that out in him.
"I will... if I can." Ashley stated and rubbed his arm lightly. Stefan couldn't imagine Ashley sat down on the floor dragging that razor across his wrist, tears falling and exploding on the floor or against his palms. It broke his heart even trying to picture it.
"Well, next time you think about doing it, maybe you could give me a call? Then I could talk you out of it?" Stefan suggested and nervously patted his shoulder, knowing that that would never happen. Ashley was far too secretive about his self harming. He nodded anyway.
"Yeah, sure... maybe." He nodded again and just kept looking down at the covers, bunching them up in his fists, a small smile upon his face, as though he was trying to reassure Stefan that he was ok. Which he probably wasn't.
"Lets get loads of food and watch a film or something." Stefan suggested and began climbing down the ladder, it was quite a weight off his shoulders being away from Ashley but it was all he could do not to climb back up and wrap his arms back around him, pulling him against him and just staying that way for as long as he wanted, which would probably be hours after hours. Ashley stayed up on the bed, dragging the covers over his crossed legs and looking down, his tears much fewer than moments before. Stefan gave him one last reassuring smile before leaving the room to get some food, since the smores would most likely be done by now.
All he could think about as he collected the mountains of food and thought about what film they should watch, was the feeling of Ashley's heart beating against his as Stefan held him tight, holding him still in the blissful silence. It was wrong enough to make it feel right.