Their first kiss isn’t something as innocent as it should be, but rather a chain reaction, emotions and movements snowballing into something they’re both too caught up in to stop.
They’d been dancing around each other for weeks now, a few flirty smiles here and some suggestive hints there, and maybe it’s the kiss that makes it official. It’s been anticipated for quite some time, by the both of them, but when the moment is here and it’s real, they both can’t help but feel pleasantly surprised by it.
Johnny can’t really remember who initiated the kiss, because it doesn’t really matter at this point, but what does matter is that Ashley’s here and she’s kissing him and it’s enough to cloud Johnny’s mind and make him stop thinking entirely.
Kisses eventually become a mutual habit. Like sleeping, or eating, or fucking.
Quick ones spared before parting ways. Needy, sloppy ones shared on lonely nights spent together. Meaningful, passionate ones following reoccurring “I love you”s and “be safe”s.
It’s a routine they fall into together, one that gives them the comfort of knowing that their relationship is real and absolute.
The light, barely there kiss on his cheek after all the apologies she’s given is probably what breaks him. He doesn’t flinch away from her touch, because he’s too exhausted to push her away, so he lets it happen.
It’s all meaningless: her excuses, her tears, everything. Johnny isn’t sure how long this has been going on, and he isn’t sure that he wants to know, because if he does, it’ll probably shatter him even more.
“Billy means nothing to me,” Ashley is saying, and Johnny wants to believe her, he really does. “it’s you I love, baby, not him.”
Johnny’s mind is screaming at him to retaliate. Then why did you sleep with him?
But, it’s a question that Johnny isn’t sure he wants to know the answer to. So, he doesn’t say anything.
It’s when Ashley reaches out to grasp at his arm that his brain starts working again and he jerks away almost instinctively. The expression on Ashley’s face seems to mirror his anguish and it’s more of a torment than it is an accomplishment.
“Fuck you,” Ashley flinches away from the words, and it’s like a final stab to Johnny’s heart. “It’s over.”
And Johnny leaves her standing there, on the sidewalk outside the clubhouse, the feeling of her lips on his cheek still tingling within his skin.
He shouldn’t be here, but he is.
Johnny was sure he’d moved on. He was with Lelia, and Ashley was still with Billy, and yet he’s here, in Ashley’s home, in Ashley’s bed.
Johnny can barely recall what had made him come here in the first place, had it been some specific reason or because he just wanted to.
Ashley was just as pleased to see him as she ever was, and that came as a feeling of relief that Johnny will probably never admit to.
The thought of kissing Ashley had appeared in his mind like an unwanted guest, because it would’ve been so easy just to lean in and kiss her like it’s nothing, like he’d done many times before. But, he’d said something affectionate or sweet or stupid, probably, and she’d been the one to kiss him, instead.
A kiss that had lead to them shuffling to Ashley’s bedroom and clothes being scattered in clumsy, hurried movements.
And it’s wrong, because he left Ashley for the very thing he’s doing to Lelia now, but it’s a guilt that he probably won’t beat himself up over until later. Because he’s selfish, and because this is something he needs.
So, he lets himself be kissed by Ashley, all rough and furious like her life depends on it.
And he lets himself kiss her back, just as feverishly, and maybe he can put off the guilt and regrets until it’s over.
It’s something that Johnny still has the reflexes to catch, similar to the unexpected “I love you”s that Ashley tosses at him even though it’s been a year since Johnny’s said it back.
A year, a whole fucking year, and he hasn’t gone anywhere.
But, it’s nothing new: Ashley still advancing onto him like she always had, maybe in the hopes that Johnny won’t reject her or brush it off.
Today, however, while they’re sitting outside the burned remains of the Lost MC Clubhouse, it’s a kiss that Ashley tries throwing his way instead of some useless declaration of her love.
They’re both back where they started, Ashley still heavily on drugs after being kicked out of rehab and Johnny struggling with his attempt at trying to rebuild the Lost MC from the ground up.
Life’s put them in a pretty vulnerable position and Johnny doesn’t blame Ashley for wanting some form of comfort. Whether it be a shoulder to cry on or a kiss from someone who doesn’t love you back.
They’re sitting side by side, her thigh grazing against his, and occasionally, when he says something stupid or she makes a joke that’s not funny, she’ll nudge her boot against his and it’s almost as if time has rewinded itself.
For once in a lifetime, they feel at ease, and it’s nice.
Johnny’s entire torso is turned towards her, and Ashley’s laughing at some inside joke they’d shared, and Johnny thinks about how he doesn’t see her smile enough. Same probably goes for him, too. Who can find the time to smile when your life’s falling to shit?
And when Ashley’s giggles subside and Johnny sees her lean in, he thinks that maybe he should just let it happen, but his instincts kick in and he’s shoving her away before she can get any closer.
The movement isn’t harsh or rough, just a gentle push on Ashley’s shoulder, but Johnny sees an expression on her face like he’d straight up punched her, before she manages to hide it.
“Sorry,” Johnny says, and Ashley’s not looking at him anymore.
“Don’t be, Johnny boy,” Her gaze has fallen to her bitten-down fingernails, and the little splotches of chipped crimson fingernail polish stand out against the pale pigmentation of her skin.
They don’t say much after that, and Johnny wonders what it would’ve been like if he had let Ashley kiss him.
They’re nearly 3,000 miles away from Liberty City, in some seedy, rundown house in the middle of Grapeseed, Blaine County. It’s a far stretch from the rainy streets of Acter, but Johnny supposes that they’re not doing any worse than they were in Liberty. Apart from their drug addictions, which has overcome the both of them severely.
They’re standing in the bathroom of the safehouse conjointly owned by Johnny’s chapter of the Lost, and they’re both still a little high.
Ashley’s standing in front of the sink, examining her hair in the mirror, which is now the color of a rotted carrot, and Johnny watching her do so. Somehow, she thought it’d be a good idea to trade out her brunette for a cheap auburn, and she’ll probably regret it when she’s sober, but that’s something they’ll deal with when the time comes.
Right now, however, she’s beaming at herself like it’s the greatest decision she’s ever made, before turning to her boyfriend (along with the many changes in their life, their relationship status had been one of them), who tries mirroring her expression the best he can.
“You like it?” Ashley brings a hand up to her hair, which still smells heavily of the hair dye concoction, as does the entire bathroom.
“No,” Even in his drug-addled state, Johnny can still manage to be honest, and Ashley’s face falls. “but I’ll get used to it.”
It’s not much, but it’s enough to get a diluted version of the previous smile back on Ashley’s face, and she crosses the bathroom to wrap her arms around Johnny’s thinner torso.
“You’re sweet,” Ashley says wryly, voice muffled by Johnny’s shoulder, and Johnny allows himself to relax into her embrace.
It’s times like this when things are the easiest. When Johnny can just shut off his brain and breathe, and ever since he let Ashley back into his life, she’s helped him to learn how to do so.
That “live in the moment” way of thinking that Johnny used to mock her for, and maybe it’s just the drugs clouding up his mind, but Johnny likes to think of it as one of the many factors that made him fall in love with Ashley to begin with.
“Perhaps so,” Johnny says and Ashley grins up at him in a way that makes him lean down press his lips to hers in one seamless move, and she tilts her head up into the gesture and takes his kiss.
“Love you,” It’s rare that Johnny’s ever the one to say it first, but this time he does, the words barely audible against Ashley’s lips. He feels her smile rather than seeing it and she says it back, just as sincerely as she ever has, and for a moment, they're back in Liberty, and they're in their late-twenties, instead of nearing their forties and stuck in the middle of the fucking desert.
“Johnny,” Ashley says, his name ripping its way from her throat in hiccuped, almost hysterical sobs. She knows he isn’t hearing it, she knows he isn’t hearing anything, and yet, she can’t stop herself from saying it, like it’s the only word she knows.
There’s a hole in the back of his skull and there’s shards of glass glittering about in the blood on his face. Ashley tries covering it up with her hand, like a bandage, so she doesn’t have to look at it and she doesn’t have to be reminded that it’s there.
She has no idea what to do, because she’s here and Johnny isn’t, and she’d always thought it’d be the other way around.
So, she kisses him, because she isn’t thinking, because thinking would be too painful, and their last kiss isn’t something as resolving as it should be, just a quick little peck that causes Ashley’s sanity to come crashing down around her.