Slut

by Miss Kitty E

Erik wondered if Ashley had gotten the same bad wrap in high school. If he had been the kid that everyone talked about after the big party, the kid in the corner making out with somebody's girlfriend, somebody's boyfriend. Watching Ashley in the clubs made Erik think, yeah, it had to be that way.

It wasn't that Ashley was really that cheap, that stupid. Just na´ve and eager to please. Anybody that knew anything about the business knew that Lou was not someone to be trusted, and still Ashley was ever willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It made Jacob roll his eyes and want to throttle him, but it just made Erik feel a little protective. And maybe little envious. It would be nice to see things and trust the way Ashley did, to be protected the way Ashley was. The sweetness of his smile, the earnestness of his friendship made half the people who met him want to love him and the other half to use him. As it was, Ashley never learned to be cynical, every time he was burned there was someone who wanted to heal his wounds.

So Ashley was na´ve and eager to please. He liked to have a good time, liked to get attention, so he got in trouble a lot for surrendering to kisses. Generally, girls wanted Ashley to be as sweet as he looked, to keeps his hands chaste, and his mouth just barely open. Ashley never made a girl feel cheap. But the boys who sought him out, giggled and swayed nearer to him, whispered in his ear and pulled him into dark, forgotten corners or bathrooms, wanted Ashley to be their boy toy, their pliant fantasy. Willingly, Ashley let their hands wander, let their tongues invade, let their teeth mark his neck. How far it went Erik didn't really know, though he thought it must stay pretty tame since Ashley could neither take someone home nor be taken home. Management was miffed enough that there was a handful of boys that knew Ashley sweetly swung both ways.

Jacob, who never really got to make out with anybody because girls either quickly got tired of him or were only looking for Ashley, thought it was disgusting the way he let boys touch him. His staunch take on Christianity made him comment, purposefully cruel, about gay issues whenever they might come up. Gay marriage, gay adoption, gay art, gay songs, gay recognition were all things he disapproved of loudly. Erik, who never looked at Jacob when Ashley was in the room, saw Ashley's eyes fall to the floor, his mouth open for a moment then snap shut whenever Jacob said those kinds of things. It made Erik mad that Ashley never thought to feel bad about himself until Jacob reminded that there were people who, in fact, didn't like him or everything he was about.

Trevor and Dan were much cooler about the whole queer thing, were just a little quick to judge about why Ashley did things the way he did.

"Jeez, Ashley, do you gotta hook up with someone at every party?" Trevor asked one night after having to pry Ashley away from somebody so they could all leave.

Ashley looked confused for a moment, "I don't," he said, without really putting much feeling into it.

Dan came up and put his arm around Ashley, "Sure seems like it. Keep it up and you're gonna get a rep like Joey Fatone."

Ashley Parker Angel was no Joey Fatone, Erik knew that. Used, not the user. The one trying to please, rather than the one expecting pleasure. It was wasn't right to call him a slut; he didn't want or ask for anything.

It never really bothered Ashley to hear it, though, from the mouths of the boys he kissed, or the people who snubbed him. "Slut, whore, tramp, flirt, easy, cheap," even things spit out in foreign languages, he shrugged them all off like he probably had in high school. He told Erik all about the people he'd met, Amanda and Dante and Mary and Louis and Cal down in Miami. All he ever said about them, beyond the usual recount of who they knew and had worked for and all the gossip they'd spilled while buttering up Ashley for the kiss, was that they "were fun." Ashley never really had much more of an opinion about them.

It made it a little hard not to ask, knowing what Ashley did, how easily he surrendered. Erik thought about how would it be, put himself in the place of all the boys he'd glimpsed with Ashley, holding his hips, or pressing him back against a corner. It would be nice, but it would be the same for him as everyone else. A one time thing, Ashley would pull away with a smile and a laugh, and Erik would never have the courage to ask again. He wanted Ashley to give in to something he really wanted for once. Once that was decided, he tried very hard not to ask for anything, to see what Ashley wanted, not was willing, to give him.

Na´ve as one could claim Ashley to be, he wasn't stupid. He knew that Jacob didn't like him, and that the other guys would freak and get a little homophobic if he got too close. Far from home and family, Ashley turned to Erik for comfort. He knew instinctually from the smile he got when he sidled closer to him on the couch when watching a movie, the intent look on Erik's face when Ashley talked about anything, that he would get what he wanted here, with Erik. Rare times when Ashley was scared or tired or gripped with some sadness he would never explain he'd corner Erik in some secluded place and bury his face in his shoulder and let Erik touch his hair.

It was starting to become clear, just what Erik could ask for.

They were going out to another club, to be seen and maybe get their picture in a magazine or the paper, wherever. And Ashley walked out looking, well, a little easy. His tight vintage shirt was threadbare and almost see through, his soft gelled hair, and loosely hanging pants, he looked like he was just begging to be toyed with. Erik knew Ashley just thought it was cute because he'd seen JC wearing the same kind of thing at the Teen Choice Awards.

Jacob rolled his eyes, "You look like a proper two dollar ho, now don't you?"

"What?" Ashley's mouth twisted down and Erik stood up.

"Looking for a little action tonight, huh, Ash?" Dan hooted, cutting deeper than he meant to, compounding the wound Jacob had already made.

"No, I just-" he stopped talking because Erik was walking toward him. Erik could see that Ashley was afraid, afraid of what Erik might say or think of him.

"Come on, Ash," Erik tugged him back into his room as if he intended to fix him.

Of course, Ashley went without protest. When Erik closed the door, Ashley looked at the full length mirror bolted to the back of it, and tried to see what it was he thought everybody else must see. Erik turned him around and kissed him.

"Hm?" Ashley hummed, asking a question without stopping anything. He let Erik do what he wanted, let him hold his hips still and press their mouths tightly together. He slipped his arms around Ashley's waist and squeezed, and Ashley hummed again, softer and more content as he put his arm around Erik's shoulders. They kissed and embraced until Erik pulled away and looked at Ashley's face.

"I wanna be your boyfriend," Erik said.

"You do?" Ashley made quick eye contact with him before looking back down between them where Erik's arms held them loosely together.

"Yeah. Do you wanna? Would that be okay?"

Ashley smiled. Erik couldn't see it exactly, but he guessed as much from the way the muscles flexed in Ashley's temples. "Sure it's okay. I guess."

Erik leaned forward and they kissed again. This time Ashley put something into it, tilting his head and laying his palm on the back of Erik's neck, holding Erik's mouth to his. After all that Ashley gave, it wasn't surprising that he needed so much, pulled Erik so close and demanded his kiss.

"Come on already, guys, it's not the frickin' prom!" Trevor called. And when they broke apart Ashley blushed and wiped his mouth quickly.

"You gotta promise," Erik said, "Not to let anyone use you like you've been letting them."

"It wasn't like that," Ashley said, lifting his eyes to show that he was serious.

"It sorta was," Erik said, not believing him. "But you're in a monogamous relationship now, so don't let anyone call you a whore."

"Okay," Ashley nodded and they kissed again, giddy this time because they'd just skipped all that silly crap about wondering what the other felt, and second thoughts about where to take this. They were starting off knowing where they stood, excited about where they could go now.

"You didn't fix anything," Jacob observed when Erik and Ashley emerged. "He still looks a little... sluttish."

"You know what Jacob? Fuck you." Ashley pulled on his jacket, and smiled at Erik.

Erik smiled back and laced his fingers with Ashley's. "No one wants to fuck Jacob, that's why he's always in such a bad mood."

"Oh man," Jacob groaned, "I can't believe y'all guys are gonna start up this queer shit."

Ashley grabbed the keys on the coffee table and jingled them in their air, "I'll be going to the club now, if anyone wants to join me."

"I'm in," Erik said brightly, and everyone was forced to agree, effectively ending any argument.

Outside, Erik and Ashley walked ahead of everyone else down to the parking garage of the apartment complex.

"You doing anything after the club?" Erik asked, bumping hips with Ashley as they walked, "Or is it too soon to ask?"

"I think I'll be free." Ashley said smiling. "Want to go to that all-night coffee shop?"

"They might kick us out when they realize who we are."

"Might be fun just the same."

"Okay, seriously guys. I'm cool with the whole gay thing but not if you're gonna act all cute and shit about it," Trevor whined.

"No one cares what you think," Ashley said unlocking the door the Explorer.

"When did you become such a bitch?" Trevor snarked back.

"I've always been a bitch." Ashley hopped up into the driver's seat and Erik snagged shotgun. "Just never had a reason to act like one."

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