Author: CelticX PM
Four popular sophomore girls, the very best of friends for 10 years, each with her own issues and problems, will find out exactly how strong their ties of friendship are when it all starts to fall apart. Contains F/F. All the usual warnings.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 35 - Words: 110,626 - Reviews: 214 - Favs: 43 - Follows: 32 - Updated: 07-04-12 - Published: 02-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3000200
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
During the week that Taylor was out of school Ashlyn made a point of attending that week's SAGA meeting. She probably shouldn't have been surprised given the turnout for the fight on the school's front steps, but her jaw nearly dropped when she opened the door to see over thirty kids already there. It started as soon as she stepped into the room. First one person, she thought it was Josh, began clapping. Then another, and then another joined in until every single one of them was on their feet clapping . . . for her!
"Uh, can I assume this has nothing to do with being State Champs?" she asked shyly which resulted in the applause turning into shared laugher. Blair, with Stewart Underwood next to her, came up to her where she was standing just to the side of the now closed door.
And crutching behind them was Jenny.
"Jen?" Ash asked a bit dumbfounded.
"When my best friend in the whole world tells me she's gay I couldn't just not join," the brunette shrugged with a shy smile.
At that moment Ashlyn wondered how such words could both fill her heart with warmth and happiness while at the same time piercing it with such pain that she wanted to cry. From the corner of her eye she saw even Blair wince. Did everyone know who it was that she was in love with!
"I'm glad you decided to come visit with us," Stewart said with a smile, breaking into the slight pause. "Please don't feel that you have to join us, but know that you are always welcome here."
"Um, is there a sign-up sheet or something?" Ashlyn asked, looking around. She'd already made her decision to join up if she could.
"No, we don't keep a formal record of members," Stewart replied. Thinking about it, she could probably see his point. "We know who's here on a regular basis, who attends occasionally and, to a lesser degree, who might benefit from being with us but for reasons of their own have elected to stay where they are for now," the boy told her while thinking of a certain silver haired beauty. "Even still, we look out for them whenever we can."
"Yeah, I wanted to thank you again for the other day," Ash smiled at the two of them. "I was surprised at how many came running when the whistles blew."
Stewart turned around and waved an arm indicating those still gathered around the room talking together. "This is about two-thirds of our regular membership. It's still a very small percentage of the overall school population; certainly less than two or three percent, but still it's enough to provide some level of protection to the LGBT community. We also spend a lot of time simply discussing the issues that arise in our lives - straight, bi, gay, or trans - and the ways that we can find to cope. Every so often we'll also have a guest speaker come in. Last month it was a transgendered member of the county board. The month before that it was the president of one of the local companies to talk about Federal and State anti-discrimination laws governing employment."
As he had been speaking they had been wandering around the room, stopping every so often to introduce Ashlyn to one member or another. Each and every one of them welcomed her unstintingly with a smile and a nod, a handshake or, in the instance of a couple of girls and one almost stereotypical guy, with a hug. At no point did anyone actually mention whether they were gay or straight, nor did they ask her.
"We're all just people," Blair told her, almost as if reading her mind. "We don't care whether a person is gay, straight, or trans. All we care about is the heart beating inside. It's those hearts that we want to try to help and protect. There are some pretty amazing stories, but they're not mine to tell. I'm sure if you get to know these people you'll find out for yourself just how strong they really are."
The group spent about twenty minutes simply socializing before taking their seats so that individuals could raise questions, discuss various topics, or talk about what was happening in their lives. On this last one Ash felt as if she was coming into the middle of a soap opera with no reference points as to what had happened in the previous episodes, but still she was quickly caught up in some of the tales. The highlight of the afternoon's session seemed to be when one boy quietly told the group that his father had spoken a few words to him that morning at breakfast.
Ashlyn realized just how fortunate she was to have a family and friends that supported her. The other kids in the group were kind enough to ignore the tears flowing down her cheeks. Jenny, sitting in the desk next to her, reached over and gently laid her hand atop Ashlyn's and gave it a tender squeeze. The silent look between the two had nothing to do with romantic love, but everything to do with the love and support of one friend for another.
As the meeting broke up and a second round of socializing commenced, Jenny turned to look at the tall blonde.
"I still don't know . . . yet . . . if I can return your feelings, Ash," Jen said softly. "I'm still working that out, but after listening to some of the stories these kids have to tell, I think about how horrible I was when you told me . . . and about everything you must have been going through trying to come to grips with the changes in your life . . . I know you accepted my apology, but I still feel guilty about what I said. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for making it just that much harder for you and . . . and when I think about what I might have lost if you decided you never wanted to speak with me again . . ."
"That wouldn't have happened, Jen," Ash spoke into the girl's pause, a slight smile on her face. "Your friendship means too much to me," she said as her ears pinked in embarrassment at what she was saying. "And on the other thing . . . don't force yourself or think about it too much," she grinned and shrugged. "It will happen or it won't. I'm happy either way just so long as I'm in your life and you're in mine."
Desks aren't overly conducive to sharing hugs, but they somehow managed.
Stewart and Blair watched from across the room as the two girls embraced.
"You're not going to say anything to her, are you?" Stewart asked the brown haired beauty at his side. It had been more of a statement than a question, but Blair answered it anyway.
"I can't," she replied with a wistful smile. "I've liked Ashlyn since I first saw her last year when she was a freshman. She's so pretty, and you can tell that she really cares about people. Then I met her mother at the store and we got to talking about Tommy and Ashlyn, you can really feel the love in that family. And when I finally got the chance to speak with her . . . she's so sweet, anyone would be lucky to have her as their partner."
"But?" Stewart prompted.
"But she's in love with someone else," Blair sighed. "I'm not going to get between them."
"But?" Stewart grinned.
"But," Blair said with a fierce smirk, "if Jennifer Hughes is stupid enough to not take her, I plan on being the first in line to ask her out; and if she agrees, I promise that I won't let her go so easily!"
"I always thought you had good taste, Blair," the blonde haired president chuckled. "You two would make a good couple. If she lets Jenny wriggle off the hook, make sure your right there to reel her in yourself."
"You and your stupid fishing metaphors," Blair laughed at him, "but since fishing is considered a sport in some circles I guess it still counts as a sports metaphor."
"Speaking of which," he said as he glanced around the room, "I was thinking that it might be nice to do a group outing over Spring Break. Maybe even a camp out at the lake. What do you think? It might be a good bonding experience for everyone."
"Ugh! Just so long as you don't ask me to put any worms on my hook," she shuddered. "I think it'd be fun. Fly fishing's acceptable at a lake, right?"
"Fishing, boating, hiking, cooking over an open grill; Farmer's Lake even has a putt-putt golf course and batting cages now. There should be enough for everyone to find something to do. Anyway," he smiled, "just think about it. We've got some time before we have to decide. And" he grinned wickedly, "if Ashlyn's still single by then, I might even be open to a bribe to assign the two of you to the same tent."
"I might just take you up on that," Blair smirked as she watched the blonde girl that had become her own unrequited love walk out the door with her friend. "Oh, yeah, I could really get into that," she growled sexily.
Suzy went directly from playing in the State game to being an assistant coach for the indoor track team. There had been only a one week overlap of the soccer schedule and the track schedule due to the girls' getting all the way to State. One of the assistant basketball coaches had been kind enough to run the track practices for that first week until she and Brandon could take over. Since the first week was primarily conditioning and having the student athletes make the "church run" – a two mile run from the school up to one of the local churches and then back again – the substitute coach had little to do other than try to keep up with kids twenty years his junior.
The Monday after the State win found Coach Preston and Assistant Coach Blake making the church run and then splitting the team up into hurdlers, sprinters, distance runners, and jumpers. For the hurdlers, sprinters and jumpers Brandon had Suzy start them on explosive exercise training to help with their starts or, in the case of the long and triple jump athletes, their jumps. Brandon took the distance runners out to the track since the weather was still clear.
A grueling two hours later the two coaches met in Coach Preston's office to go over their notes so that they could prepare for the next day's practice.
"So how was your first day coaching," her boyfriend asked her with a smile. "Did any of the students give you any problems?"
"Not after I showed them up by being able to run, hurdle, and jump farther than most of them," Suzy chuckled. "And when I started in on the explosive training and they started seeing almost immediate results any and all issues went out the window."
"I'm surprised you were able to get those short legs of yours over the hurdles in the first place," Brandon laughed.
"I'll remember that when you finally ask for these 'short legs' to wrap around you," Suzy replied softly with a smirk.
"The door's open Ms. Blake," Brandon reminded her.
"That's why I said it quietly Coach Preston," she grinned.
"Not quietly enough," Ashlyn said from where she was leaning against the wall just outside the door, "and if you don't mind me saying so . . . eww! I could have gone my entire teenage life without having that picture implanted in my head!"
"Why only your teenage life?" Suzy laughed.
"I'd hate to limit myself while I'm still young," Ash grinned, not bothering to look into the office that she was guarding while waiting for Suzy to finish up for the day.
The twin set of laughter that came floating out of the office towards her was, for some reason, both satisfying and painful. She guessed the satisfaction came from knowing that Suzy had finally gotten, at least to a degree, the man she wanted and being happy for her friend. But that also brought with it a touch of pain knowing that she herself had not yet accomplished the same. She still had some hopes that Jenny would be able to return her feelings, but those hopes were dwindling the longer Jenny sat on the fence "thinking" about her own feelings. Ash sighed, wondering if she was simply being unrealistic.
She knew that Jenny was straight. She had spent weeks' worth of time, if not months, over the past ten years listening to Jenny talk about this boy or that; how this one was so cute, but that one was so sweet. Not once had she ever said anything about a girl being pretty without it being followed up with how the girl's personality didn't match her looks. Then again, Ash had never commented on the looks of any girls either during the time of their friendship. It had been only recently that she had become aware of her feelings; first towards Jenny, and then towards other girls. No one else could still hold a candle to how she felt about her friend, but that didn't mean she hadn't noticed them.
Blair for instance.
There was an extremely pretty girl who was nice, intelligent, caring, as well as strong in her own right. And there was no question about Blair's orientation. She wouldn't have to worry about "turning" Blair like she did with Jen. Ash knew it wasn't fair of her, but she couldn't help her feelings, which was why she had finally decided that she would try to be happy no matter which decision Jenny made. If she felt that she could return Ashlyn's feelings, so much the better. But if she couldn't, Ash would still be happy simply to have her as a friend. She knew this rationally. So why did it feel as if she were leaking? She could feel the moisture in her eyes and wiped them quickly before anything more could happen.
Suzy, sitting so that she could both see the door as well as Brandon, noted the movement and the slightly shaking shoulders.
"Can we finish this up tonight at the apartment?" she asked quietly.
Brandon glanced out the door, seeing the slumped shoulders of his favorite keeper, and nodded his head.
"Sure. I'll stop by after dinner. It shouldn't take too long," he replied with a soft, knowing smile.
"Thanks," Suzy returned his smile and gathered her notes, stuffing them in her bag. She stood and, with a quick glance out the door, leaned over and kissed her boyfriend on the cheek. "Don't think I'm folding," she told him. "I just appreciate your understanding."
"Take care of her," he told her as she turned towards the door.
"Always," she responded with a grin and a wave. "See you later."
"Come on, Ash," Suzy told her friend as she exited the office, linking her arm through the taller girl's. "I'll treat you to a chai latte."
"That's only a stereotype you know," Ashlyn chuckled, wiping her eyes once again.
"True, but if I can't tease my friend who can I tease," the redhead giggled.
Later that evening, as a certain individual was getting out of their car to visit a friend, they happened to notice Coach Preston's car parked at a neighboring apartment building. They'd seen Suzy Blake around that building on previous visits and knew the two were coaching together this Winter, but wasn't it a bit odd for a high school coach to meet at a student's apartment even if it was for work?
The individual decided that they would have to spend a bit of time watching over those two for the sake of the student as well as the reputation of the school.