Author’s Note: Okay this is my favorite Ashton one I’ve ever written and one of my favorites overall. I want to be taken to the aquarium on a date so bad!
Ashton was a writer. He carried around his leather bound journal with him wherever he went. Opening it delicately to preserve the binding, he smiled at the way the pen flowed gracefully on the paper. His words staining the blank pages, filling them with his inner thoughts and struggles.
Ashton was a writer and yet here he was in a marine biology lecture. While everyone next to him was tentatively taking notes, Ashton was focused on his journal. The words of the professor becoming background noise to his inner monologue. This was a weekly occurrence for him. He had no interest in the lessons that were being taught, he was simply there to get the credit in order to graduate. That was until the day, you talked to him.
It would be a lie to say that Ashton hadn’t noticed you; in fact, he had noticed you the first day of class. You were seated in the second row near the aisle, your notebook opened to a fresh page, the pen perched in your hand ready to write. Ashton gravitated towards you. He took the seat to your left, not even bothering to ask if you were saving it for someone.
Ashton went half the semester without you uttering a single world, until the day you forgot your pen. You rushed in only moments before the professor was set to begin the lecture. Taking a breath you got yourself situated until you realized you had left your pen in your last class. It was in that moment that Ashton felt a sheepish tap on his shoulder, followed by the hushed words from your mouth. He went back to his dorm after class and wrote about the exchange. How your voice was like silk, sending calming shocks through his entire being. The way your hand felt through the fabric of his shirt on his shoulder. The wide eyed look you had in your eyes, like forgetting your pen was worse than failing a test. He wrote about it all.
After that, Ashton made a point to talk to you every day. He would pretend to not have his pen, which he always had. He’d ask to borrow a piece of paper because god forbid the horrid notes touch the pages of his beloved journal. When he was feeling rather brave, he’d even pay you a compliment which you shyly accepted before turing your attention back to the power point.
The day the professor announced an extra credit opportunity was the second happiest day of Ashton’s life. The local aquarium was doing a half priced student day and all the professor wanted from the class was a one page paper about what they learned while there. Ashton didn’t quite care about getting the extra credit - as far as he was concerned a C was good enough for him - but he did care about you. So as class came to an end that day, he mustered up the courage to ask you to accompany him to the aquarium that weekend. In his head the exchange went perfectly, in reality his words stumbled out of his mouth, getting caught at the end. With the sincerest smile he’d ever seen you give him, you agreed.
When Saturday rolled around, he was a bundle of nerves. With his trusty journal in hand, Ashton walked to your dorm building where he waited eagerly outside until you showed. The ride to the aquarium was quite which didn’t help Ashton’s nerves. He began to doubt his bold gestures as he pulled into the parking lot. There was a moment where he thought about backing out but he decided to stay.
The both of you got to talking at the ticket booth, with him eager to pay for ticket. Once that was settled, the both of you made your way into the grand entrance of the aquarium. While you marveled at the grand fish tank and whale fossil hanging from the ceiling, Ashton stood a few feet behind admiring you. Ashton was just about to reach for the pen buried deep in his pockets, when you boldly grabbed his hand and tugged him forward. Surprised by the action, he stumbled over his feet for a moment before his steps fell in tune with yours.
“Hey look it’s a Dory,” Ashton said, pointing to the blue fish swimming closest to where the two of you were standing.
“That’s a Blue Tang,” you corrected. “They’re super cool ‘cause they become semi transparent when they feel they’re in danger.”
“They should have made Dory transparent in Finding Nemo when they were with the sharks.”
You chuckled before breaking into a giant smile. “See that orange and green fish over there? That’s my favorite! They’re called Rainbowfish.”
“Like the book?”
“Mhmm, though they really don’t look like the book illustration much.”
You continued to name off the different types of fish in the tank while Ashton found a bench to sit on just behind you. With your ramblings as background noise, Ashton documented the conversation the two of you just had. Detailing the way your nose scrunched up when he called the Blue Tang fish Dory and how your lips tugged upwards when you saw your favorite fish. He wrote about how you eagerly waited for the aquarium staff to feed the fish and nearly squealed in delight as they all swam to the surface. He wrote quickly, his penmanship suffering, as he tried to keep up with you.
You moved on from the fish tanks in exchange for the tiny outdoor area of the aquarium. It was there that Ashton learned more about your knowledge of these animals. Maybe if you were the professor he wouldn’t be getting in the C in the class. Ashton followed you as you made your way to a tiny open pool. It was there that Ashton got to feel your hands once more as you placed a starfish in the palm of his hands. He was convinced the tingly sensation in his hands was from your touch rather than the starfish. From there the two of you found yourself at the sting ray tank. With your hands submerged in the water, Ashton was tempted to intertwine your fingers but never got a chance too. The sting rays passing at his finger tips instead.
It wasn’t until the two of you were back inside, did Ashton pull out his journal again. You were pressed against the glass enclosing the otters, intently watching their mannerisms leaving Ashton to escape to his solace. He was so deep in his own words that he didn’t realize you had joined him on the bench.
“What do you write in there?”
“You’re always writing in that in class but they’re never notes.”
“How do you know they’re not notes?”
“You write slowly. There’s no way you could be writing down what Professor Torez is saying,” you said. “Is it a diary?”
“No it’s not a diary,” Ashton grumbled. “It’s a journal. I’m a writer, I like writing.”
“I’m not good at writing,” you said scrunching your nose. “I’m good at marine biology though.”
“I can tell,” Ashton chuckled.
“Maybe I can read what you write sometime. You know ‘cause you know I’m good at telling fish apart but I don’t really know if you’re a good writer.”
The thought of anyone getting their hands on Ashton’s journal was enough to send him into full fledge panic but for some reason he liked the idea. It was no surprise you were good at marine biology - your A in the class was proof - but Ashton felt like he was the only one who knew how much you knew about the topic. It was as if Ashton was the only one worthy of your knowledge and excitement over fish. The least he could do was let you witness him in the same vulnerable state.
“Yeah, I think I’d like that but I have a condition.”
“I’ll let you read something I’ve written if you let me take you to get dinner when we leave here.”
The day the extra credit project was brought up was the second happiest day of Ashton’s life because this was the first.