DISCLAIMER: ABC Daytime owns all. I just took BAM out to play.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a very, very, very long serial that has been in progress since 2005. So, stick with it, because it's good... it's just lacking regular updates.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By carpesomediem


Part 20

"This isn't a good idea," Jackson pressed. "Not in the least bit."

"I know you don't like it," Maggie replied, "But I'm doing it anywhere. I don't know what else I can do but try at this point. It's worth a try, isn't it?" He shrugged, she frowned in response and sunk as far as she could go in a metal chair behind plexiglass.

"I just don't like it at all," he said solemnly. "If the wrong people get wind of this-"

"-Then let them get wind of this," Maggie sighed, "It's either try or give up, and I'm tired of giving up. If this is all I can do, or this is the beginning of what I can do, then, I'm going to do it no matter what happens." Jackson nodded.

"I think you should leave some details out," he straightened himself in his chair, adjusting his tie in the process. "I don't think the judge should know you were drinking on the flight back."

"If I leave any details out, she'll know I'm not being completely honest," Maggie countered.

"If she knows you were drinking, a detail I might add, nobody but me, you and David know," he replied, "Who knows what repercussions might come of that. Same goes for the things you were thinking about on the plane, because if they were half as bad as what I thought about doing after that... that... he did to Bianca, well..."

"I know," Maggie closed her eyes, flashes of the night she confronted Michael coming to the forefront of her mind. She shook her head to free herself of the images fluttering before her. "But they can't try me again. That's double jeopardy or something like that."

"Still," he sighed, "I don't want to make this any more difficult than it has to be."

"I know," she said again, flatly. She was tired of convincing him that this was the right course of action. In her heart, she knew this was the only way to do it. No matter what happened, she couldn't live with herself if she didn't just lay her cards out on the table. That's what she'd always done, from the very beginning, until she met Bianca. Bianca changed her. Now, she had to use that change to find a get out of jail free card.

After exchanging a few more words on the subject at hand, Jackson bid Maggie a farewell and she was escorted back to her cell. She sat on the cot-like bed, elbows on her knees and head in her hands. She wasn't crying, not yet, but she was on the verge of tears. After all, the judge suggested the meeting, but she just didn't know what good it would accomplish.

She decided, even after her consultation with Jack, that honesty would be the best policy. She would lay out in detail what happened before, during and after as best as she could for the judge. She'd relate the history her and Bianca shared, the good and the bad, from the beginning to now. What more did she have to lose? 'Nothing,' she thought morosely, 'Nothing could be worse than losing Bianca... and now Miranda.' That's when the tears began flowing down her cheeks, staining her hands with a salty warmth.

Maggie Stone waited anxiously outside the Warden's office. This meeting was taking place within the jail so as not to alert the press to it. That was Jackson's idea; he may not have liked the overall plan Maggie laid before him, but nevertheless, he did what he could to make sure it didn't get out into the open for the likes of Fox News and tabloid journalists to sink their teeth into. They'd already had a field day with the case, no sense in giving them more fodder to feed their voracious readership.

'Take a deep breath, Stone,' the brunette tried to calm her nerves but to no avail. She was running on empty, having only managed a couple hours of sleep the night before. She spent most of that night staring at the concrete ceiling above her to wonder just what good this meeting would do her. 'Just keep calm, be honest and whatever happens, happens...' She repeated that mantra over and over: 'Whatever happens, happens.'

"Ms. Stone," the Warden broken the girl's concentration, "Judge McLaren is ready to see you." Maggie merely nodded; she immediately felt queasy and instinctively wrapped an arm around her stomach to calm her down. It didn't work.

Judge Caitlan McLaren was a formidable older woman. In her early fifties, grayish blonde hair cut short laid in short curls on her head. Her dark blue eyes seemed to bore a hole through Maggie's tiny frame as she entered the office.

"Your Honor," she choked out, stuttering a bit, "Your Honor, thank-you so much for meeting with me. I appreciate-"

"-Cut the formalities, Ms. Stone," she said, extending her hand. Maggie took it and was met with a firm shake. Maggie looked down at their joint hands, realizing this was going to be infinitely harder than she ever could imagined. "Let's get down to business." She motioned for the brunette to take a seat, and after Maggie did, she sat down herself and folded her hands. "I understand you want to discuss the possibility of an earlier appeal hearing, correct?"

"Yes," Maggie replied.

"You do realize that I have very rarely - and under only extreme circumstances - have granted such a request," she continued, studying the younger woman's facial expressions as she spoke. She could see the sadness written across Maggie's face. No matter what she did to try and mask it, she wore that sadness as if it belonged there.

"I understand that, Judge," Maggie began, meeting the older woman's eyes for the first time since sitting down, "I didn't ask for this meeting to ask for any special favors or requests, I merely want to tell you what happened. In my own words. Without lawyers fighting over what I get to see and when I get to say it."

"Very well," the Judge sat back slightly in her chair, relaxing a bit, perplexed by the concept of this very unorthodox meeting. "Then, let's hear it. From the beginning. I want to know exactly how a woman with such a promising future threw it all away to murder a man in cold blood."

"That could take awhile," Maggie responded, trying to resist the urge to flinch, in all seriousness. She didn't expect to begin at the very beginning, more like the beginning of Michael Cambias' arrival in Pine Valley. If she was going to start from the beginning, she was going to have to start with Bianca.

"I have all day, Ms. Stone," the Judge nodded for her to begin.

"It all began the day I came to Pine Valley," Maggie took a deep breath, "The day I met Bianca Montgomery..."

Maggie began to relate that first day. She showed up at SOS, not realizing Bianca didn't know that Frankie had a twin sister. She was shocked the way the brunette reacted, almost crazed and reaching out to her like she was on some sort of drug, or so it seemed. It all happened so fast, she did the only thing she could think of doing: Protecting herself. She put up a guard, she went on the defensives, and when the poor girl passed out, she couldn't for the life of her figure out what had caused such a strong reaction from a stranger.

She shuddered recalling the way Bianca cupped her cheek, as if she was looking at a ghost, how foolish she had been to freak out at the time. And the many times after that. She should've known there was no way she could ignore Bianca Montgomery; after all, that's who, at the root of all things, brought her to today.

Maggie spent the next five hours going over every single detail that brought her and Bianca closer together. She shared the pain, the tears and some of the good times, too. All the moments at the boathouse, all the confusion when Lena Kundera came to town, and all the crazy antics Erica, Kendall and the rest of Pine Valley through their way over the years.

The Judge listened, interrupting every so often to ask a question or for clarification. Most of the time, Maggie stared at very places on the walls in the Warden's office, she very rarely made eye contact with the Judge. McLaren chalked this up to Maggie processing everything that had brought her to this point. She figured Maggie had never actually told the story this way, not from the beginning, and that she may very well be figuring things out as she went along that she might've missed when contemplating what landed her in jail to begin with.

Judge McLaren noted the different emotions waving over Maggie's face as she told parts of the story, lighting up when she talked about Bianca, even during the rough patches. She could tell the young woman loved Bianca very, very much and that her actions, were a product of those feelings.

"And that's... it," Maggie said, looking up and meeting the Judge's penetrating eyes. "That's the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

"Thank-you for... being as honest as you were, Ms. Stone," the Judge rose, stretched her back slightly, and nodded. "I will let you know my decision in a few hours. If you'll excuse me-"

"-That's all?" Maggie interrupted in disbelief. She stood, too, staggered a little, her foot still asleep. She felt the pins and needles as she tried to wake it up, but she didn't want the Judge to leave without knowing one way or another if she'd made a difference.

"I have to weigh the decision, Ms. Stone, you understand that."

"With all due respect, Judge McLaren, I just laid out my heart and soul and pretty much might've screwed up even more in the process," Maggie began, angrily, "I think I deserve to know... something..."

"Ms. Stone..." McLaren trailed off momentarily, "One week from today. My courtroom, 10 AM on the dot. You want another appeal, you got it." Maggie broke out into a grin and could barely contain herself.

"Oh my God, thank-you, thank-you so much, Judge McLaren, I can't even begin-"

"-Save it for the courtroom, Ms. Stone," she extended her hand once more, and Maggie took it feeling more confident than when she'd first shook it. She just nodded in response and watched as the Judge exited first and her armed escort came back to take her to her cell.

"Mr. Montgomery," a paralegal knocked on the open door. Jackson looked up from his desk, smiled at the young man.

"What is it, Jimmy?" he asked.

"This just came by courier," the young man replied, heading into the office towards the desk with a letter from the courthouse, " I was at reception when it came in, offered to bring it to you."

"Well, thank-you for the trip," he reached out and took the envelope, raising an eyebrow, "If that's all."

"Yes, sir," he nodded, eagerly heading back to reception for the time being. Jackson shook his head as he bounded out. He always thought the kids around the office were just a little too eager for their own good, especially when it came to ass kissing.

"Well, I'll be damned!" Jackson exclaimed, reading the notice for a third and then fourth time. "She certainly does not how to surprise everyone."

"Hey," Anna knocked gently on the door. Jackson stood, smiling.

"I take it you heard the news," he smiled, standing to greet her. She entered, smiling, too.

"Something like that," she beamed, "Maggie called asking for a new suit for her new appeal. How did you manage to pull that off?"

"I didn't do anything," he shook his head, sitting on the edge of his desk, "It was all her. That girl's got gusto."

"That isn't the half of it," Anna smirked. Jackson smiled, genuinely, if Judge McLaren was willing for another appeal this soon, chances are, Maggie Stone just might be a free woman come next week.


Part 21

"I believe it's time we got to know each other," Ethan broke the uneasy silence.

Since he'd joined his family's business, Ethan Cambias had very little time to do much else. Between press conferences, meetings with subsidiaries and just trying to get the hang of things in Pine Valley, he hadn't really been able to get to know Bianca Montgomery as well as he'd like. He wanted to spend more time with his cousin, Miranda, too, but Bianca was still shaky about having a Cambias in the same room as herself let alone her daughter.

"I know this isn't easy," he continued, "For either of us, I suppose, but if we're going to be running this company together, I think it's a good idea if we know a bit about each other and how we do things to make the transition as smooth as possible."

Bianca merely nodded. When Ethan suggested the meeting, she was hesitant that he was going to insist on taking over the entire operation. After a lengthy late-night talk with Ryan, she'd given in to the idea of giving the cooperation thing a shot. After all, what did she have to lose? Even if Ethan did try to take over Cambias, she still had a stake in the game – or Miranda did – a fact she was more than willing to throw on the table if things went sour.

"Did you want something to drink?" Ethan asked, not sure how to read Bianca's face. She was sitting before his desk, in an office overlooking downtown Pine Valley. It was smaller than her own, she thought, but it was bare. He hardly had time to decorate; he was busy acclimating himself with the American dealings as well as how they related to the more financially positively European industry. His grandfather had little interest in the American market, something Bianca and Ryan tried desperately to fix once Michael was out of the picture.

"No, thank-you," Bianca said, looking him over for what seemed like the millionth time in fifteen minutes of being in his office. She wasn't sure what to make of him just yet. Michael, too, had been kind and compassionate when he first arrived, hiding his monstrous side from everyone until it was too late.

Bianca didn't want to believe Ethan, raised away from the Cambias namesake, could be the same. But she knew better. She'd changed, she wasn't as naïve as she once was, and she knew to keep her guard up.

"I believe this meeting will be beneficial for both of us," she added, "Ryan was right."

"He talked you into coming, didn't he?" Ethan sat behind his task, leaning back slightly. "It took some convincing to me, too. I believe we have very different goals, which can make working together difficult."

"I agree," Bianca nodded.

"So, why don't we just lay our agendas on the line?" Ethan smiled. "Basically, I've spent my whole life trying to live up to an image I didn't even know what my family's image. I worked hard, went to school and learned how to run companies from the ground up. I know what people think of the Cambias name, especially in America, and I want to change that. I don't want it associated with… with the mess my uncle left it in."

"I believe that's important, too," Bianca chimed in, relaxing somewhat when she realized her assumptions that Ethan was going to drive her out of Miranda's stake in the company was false, "However, I also believe that your grandfather neglected to build a public image with the people supporting his company. I've spent some time establishing charity work, as well as donations, with programs and charities I believe merit our support."

"My grandfather must be rolling around in his grave," Ethan joked. Bianca smiled at the remark. No doubt Alexander Cambias, Sr. had no intention of donating millions of dollars a year to charity. He invested it, turned it around and then adding to the multi-billion dollars bankrolling into Cambias Industries.

"I've compiled a list of the charities we've invested in so far, as well as other ones that we should look into both locally and nationally," Bianca pointed to a portfolio on his desk. Ethan picked up, paged through it and nodded.

"I'll definitely take a look at it this week," Ethan said, impressed. He never thought somebody with little business experience would be so professional. He was thoroughly impressed with Bianca so far; she was by far, without a doubt, eager to learn and dive into her role as co-owner of Cambias. "By the looks of it, I'll be taking over where Ryan left off, and you'll continue to do your side of the business. I don't intend on intruding, but I do want to be kept in the loop."

"Of course," Bianca replied, "I have no intention of shutting you out. From what I've seen, and from Ryan's own opinion, you're going to do a wonderful job filling his shoes."

"I can only hope," Ethan smiled again, "I can only hope I can do for this company what my family has tried to destroy. So, why don't we talk a look at what else has been going on before I started?"

Maggie was beyond frustrated. She'd been intent on calling Bianca, letting her know personally about the new appeal, even going so far as to make everyone who already knew swear not to be her to the punch. However, she was on her third call to Bianca's cell, and so far, no answer. It kept going to voicemail. She contemplated calling her apartment, but if she wasn't answering her cell phone, she was probably busy as Cambias. She could call her office, but again, if her cell was off, she was most likely stuck in a stuffy business meeting that could last hours.

So, Maggie dialed Bianca's cell again, determined this time to leave a voicemail with the good news. If that was the closest she could get to telling Bianca herself, then it's what would have to do.

She listened to Bianca's voicemail for the fourth time that day: This is Bianca Montgomery, I'm not available right now, but if you leave your name, number, brief message and the best time to get back to you, I'll do my best to call you back soon.

"Bianca," Maggie hesitated, not sure what to say to a machine, "It's me, Maggie. Well, of course, you probably knew that, recognizing my voice and all." She stopped again. "I just wanted to tell you that I had a meeting with Judge McLaren earlier today, and she's granted me a second appeal for next week. I'm sure Jack will fill you in on and all the details, but I really hope you'll have the time to be there. I don't know if it will work or not, but I'm trying to keep my hopes up…" she trailed off, tears threatening to fall. "I just had to do something, Bianca, whether it works or not. I can't keep pretending like there's no hope, because there is some, as long as I have you. I love you. And I love Miranda, and I hope to be able to tell you both that very soon."

Maggie hung up the phone reluctantly, filling her eyes well up. She did her best to keep from crying as she was brought back to her cell. Once there, she collapsed onto her cot, pulled its thin blanket up to her chin and let herself cry. She resolved, this was it, for the next week, she'd do everything she could to keep her hopes up, her spirits high and her confidence in tact.

If she was going to get out of jail, this very well could be the last chance she'd get to prove she'd earned it.

"Bianca!" Erica Kane rose from her seat outside her office. She'd been there for little over an hour, something that agitated her greatly. Who made Erica Kane wait? Apparently, Bianca had a very good secretary.

"What are you doing here, mom?" she asked, hugging the petite woman and pulling away. "I told you I was in meetings all day."

"I know, but I just had to rush over and tell you the good news myself!" she smiled, "Your Uncle Jack wanted to wait, and he promised me not to tell, but I just can't keep that promise!"

"What is it? What's the good news?" Bianca pressed on, leading her mother into her office. She was half expecting Erica to announce another engagement or elopement or even a pregnancy thrown into the mix. She never knew what to expect from her own mother of all people.

"Now, you can't tell Jack I was the one who told you," Erica started, positively ecstatic, "But Maggie's got another appeal scheduled for next week!"

"Wait, what? Are you serious? What did you do? How did you do it?" Bianca asked the first questions popping into her mind. Her mother had to have pulled some strings for Maggie to get another appeal so soon.

"I didn't do anything," Erica started, "Neither did Jack, apparently. Maggie somehow convinced the judge for another appeal."

"She did?" Bianca couldn't help but break into a grin. She couldn't believe it; Maggie managed to do what nobody else in town could do. She had another chance, another chance of freedom, to join her and Miranda. They could start a life together, the way they wanted it now, free from everything that had held them back before.

It was then that Bianca began to cry. Erica pulled her into another hug, trying to stifle the tears.

"It's okay," Erica said, "Honey, really, it's okay. Everything will work out, you'll see."

"But… what if…" Bianca said between sobs. She couldn't help but think, despite the good luck, that Maggie might still be denied her freedom. It was Pine Valley, and anything was possible in the small town.

Bianca still hadn't checked her voicemails for the day.


Part 22

It was half past eleven when Bianca finally made it home that night. Between her meeting with Ethan, a conference call with the company office in Amsterdam and her mother's surprise visit, she'd hardly had time to breath let alone remember to charge her cell phone.

She rarely went anywhere without it, and it had died on her way to work in the morning. She left it with her secretary to charge, turning it off before plugging it in and forgot to turn it back on when she left the office. When she finally made it into her apartment, she paid her nanny before depositing it on the coffee table and checking on Miranda.

"Hey, little girl," she said softly. Miranda was sleeping soundly for once, and she didn't want to disturb her. "Pretty soon, we might have some company around here." Bianca couldn't say Maggie's name, and it pained her, but she didn't want to get Miranda's hopes up any more than her own. Even though Miranda was too young to understand it all, she still felt the need to protect her from the truth she

After saying goodnight, and showering Miranda with I love you's, she headed back into the living room inching out of her suit jacket and laying it over the sofa's arm gently. She lounged into the sofa, closing her eyes for a moment before reaching for her cell phone and frowning that she forgot to turn it back on after talking to her mom.

Six voicemails later, she heard the familiar voice that brought a smile to her face. She wished, as she listened to Maggie break the news her mother so desperately couldn't wait to share: Bianca… It's me, Maggie. Well, of course, you probably knew that, recognizing my voice and all… I just wanted to tell you that I had a meeting with Judge McLaren earlier today, and she's granted me a second appeal for next week. I'm sure Jack will fill you in on and all the details, but I really hope you'll have the time to be there. I don't know if it will work or not, but I'm trying to keep my hopes up… I just had to do something, Bianca, whether it works or not. I can't keep pretending like there's no hope, because there is some, as long as I have you. I love you. And I love Miranda, and I hope to be able to tell you both that very soon.

Bianca's smile was soon replaced with tears. She threw the phone onto the loveseat across across from her without even deleting the voicemail. Even Maggie, despite trying to be strong, didn't seem to believe the appeal could work out completely. All the disappointment they'd shared showed them not to expect happiness but to expect the worst to find them.

Despite the tears, despite the longing in her heart and despite the voice in her head telling her to walk away, Bianca knew deep down inside that no matter what happened during Maggie's appeal, she wouldn't walk away. She couldn't. It'd taken them too long to get to where they were now, finally where they both wanted to be, and she wouldn't walk away from that. Not now. Not ever.

"Erica," Maggie's surprised tone did nothing to jar the woman from her appraisal. Erica Kane sat down on the other side of the plexiglass, looking Maggie over as if she was studying a fashion model in the latest issue of Vogue. Maggie squirmed underneath the scrutiny, wishing she had more fashion sense than the orange jumpsuit she now wore to the visit. "What are you doing here?" she practically snapped.

"I want to know how much longer you're going to put my daughter through this hell," she said point blank. "Because frankly, the more I see her break down, the more I wonder if you really, truly care about her-"

"-Of course, I care about her!" Maggie jumped out of her seat, slamming a fist into the counter before her.

"Ms. Stone," a guard warned her from the door, stepping forward slightly in the event she had to restrain her. "Take your seat." She shot a dirty look at her before following the order, she then turned that glare towards Erica.

"I care about Bianca a hell of a lot, more than you even know," Maggie began, "If you came here just to start trouble, you can just leave. I don't have time for this."

"As if you have time for anything else in this… place," Erica shrugged, taking a look around as if to prove her point.

"Look, I don't need this," Maggie said, "I've had just about enough of you butting into my business when it comes to Bianca."

"She's my daughter," Erica countered.

"How could I forget?" Maggie threw back, sarcasm-laced. She crossed her arms, leaned back in her chair and held the glare Erica kept trained on her.

Maggie was tired of Erica's constant flip-flop behavior. One day she supported them, the next she changed her mind. She couldn't keep heads or tails whether or not the mighty Erica Kane actually cared about her daughter or cared about her daughter when it might affect the headlines of the day. In this case, it seemed Erica once again flipped, because Bianca just might find happiness.

"I will do anything to protect, Bianca," Erica said, "You of all people should know that."

"How could I not know that?" Maggie replied, angrily at the implication, "You only tried to bribe my sister out of town to get her away from Bianca."

"Your sister was a-"

"-Don't finish that sentence," Maggie leaned forward, putting both palms on the counter before her, trying with all her strength to resist the urge to put a fist through the glass before her, "This isn't about Frankie. It's about me. Me and Bianca."

"It's always about you and Bianca," Erica began, "But there's never been a you and Bianca, not the way Bianca wants it. And I'm not about to let her spend the rest of her life holding onto the hope that someday, just maybe, you might get out of a jail. Especially earlier than the sentence allows. She's been through enough already, more than enough for a lifetime, and I will not continue to stand by and alone her to wallow over you like you might be home in time to actually start a family with her and Miranda."

"How high and mighty of you," Maggie spat, "It's Bianca's life, she can love who she chooses, and I happen to know for a fact she chooses me. You may not like it, you may not want it, but if you truly cared about Bianca's happiness, you'd support her instead of try to sway me to give up. Because, let me tell you something Erica, I'm not giving up. I won't ever give up on Bianca or Miranda. I love your daughter, and you may not like that fact either, and it sure may have taken me longer than it should've to figure it out, but I'm not about to let you stop me from getting out of her and being with them."

"Maggie…" Erica shook her head dismissively.

"You know what , Erica?" Maggie stood up defiantly, holding her gaze, "Why don't you go home to Jack and you tell him exactly what you told me today? Or why don't you call Bianca and tell her what you've said to me today? But, of course, you won't, because you're used to getting your way and if you can't get your way, you'll still find a way to get it because everybody in this town just falls all over the great Erica Kane. Well, listen to me, because I promise you: If I get out of here next week, I swear with everything I am that I'm going to spend the rest of my life proving you wrong. I'm going to love Bianca and Miranda with every fiber of my being, and if you still object to that, then you can continue objecting, because I am not going anywhere. I'm not giving up Bianca without a fight."

Without another word, Maggie headed over to the guard who then led her back to her cell while a stunned Erica Kane stood, shocked. 'Maybe, just maybe,' Erica thought before rising and leaving herself, 'She might be all right for my daughter.'

Maggie began pacing up and down the length of her small cell; she was reeling. She could feel the anger boiling inside her. Erica Kane switched sides more often than a politican running for office. She should've expected this, sooner or later, but she'd been worrying about more important things than whether or not Pine Valley's equivalent to Mussolini was on her side or out to get her.

"Why do I let her get to me?" Maggie asked outloud. Sounds reverberating off the walls slightly. Most of the other inmates were outside playing basketball or walking around the dirt grounds, it was rec time, but Maggie opted to stay in her cell and contemplate the very frustrating meeting she'd had with Bianca's mother. "Fuck! Fuck. Fuck!"

She spent the next few hours walking around her cell, she was sure if she didn't get her appeal, she'd be able to grind her way through the concrete and break out eventually. She chuckled at the thought of showing up at Bianca's doorstep, no doubt stinking of sewage and covered in dirt to say "hello honey, I'm home." Bianca, being the good girl she is, would insist on Maggie cleaning herself up before heading to Chief Frye and turning herself in.

In reality, she didn't know if she'd be able to change Judge McLaren's mind about the appeal, but she was going to do her best to show that her motivations were laced with the love she had for Bianca. Even if she could reduce her sentence in some way, shape or form, that would be a stepping stone in the right direction.


Part 23

Erica Kane smiled to herself. She sat at her desk in her Enchantment office tapping her perfectly manicured nails against the glass beneath her fingertips. 'That better have worked,' she thought to herself, 'Otherwise Maggie Stone is an idiot.'

"Ms. Kane," her assistant called out to her via the intercom, "Kendall Hart is here to see you."

"Thank-you," Erica replied, "Please, send her in-"

"-Mother," Kendall cut her off, speeding into the office without so much as a knock or confirmation that it was okay. 'Typical, Kendall,' Erica thought, shaking her head. "How did it go? Did it work? What'd she say?"

"Calm down, Kendall," Erica rose a hand. "It went well. Please, sit."

"Mother!" Kendall did as she was told, "What did she say though? Do you think it worked?"

"I believe I got my point across," Erica smiled deviously.

"Mother, seriously!" Kendall threw her hands in the air, almost sending her purse flying. "I need more than that! Details! Details!"

"Oh, Kendall," Erica shook her head again, "Always one for gossip, now are you?"

"You know me," Kendall shrugged, "But really, do you think she bought the act?"

"I can only hope, but I'm pretty sure my performance deserved an Emmy or two." Kendall smiled; the plan was devious, they both knew, but it was well worth the possible results. Erica Kane may not have been able to buy Maggie a get out of jail free card, but she was going to do everything in her power to kick the young woman's ass into getting out of jail herself.

"An Emmy or two?" Greenlee popped her head into the office, entering of her own free will. "As if, Erica!"

"Greenlee, haven't you ever heard of knocking?" Erica asked, rolling her eyes. "Really, I'm trying to have a conversation with my daughter here."

"Well, I really need to have a conversation with your daughter, too," Greenlee replied. "At Fusion."

"What did you do now?" Kendall asked, standing.

"Me? I didn't do anything! It's Simone!" Greenlee became defensive, standing her own with the taller woman.

"It's always Simone!"

"Can we take this somewhere else. You two are giving me a headache!" Erica threw her hands up in defeat.

"Stay out of this!" Kendall and Greenlee both said at once, causing the two of them to begin giggling like schoolgirls caught ogling at the cute boy in class. Erica just shook her head.

After saying her goodbyes, even Greenlee was playing nice, they headed out of the office and out of the building for Fusion.

"So, what was that all about?" Greenlee asked in the elevator.

"What was what about?" Kendall rose an eyebrow.

"What performance was Erica talking about in there? Because I don't believe for a second she could win an Emmy." Greenlee crossed her arms and smirked, keeping her eyes trained firmly on the doors before her. "Oww!" she cursed as Kendall slapped her forearm. "What was that for?"

"If everything goes according to mother's plans, she should get more than just an Emmy for her performance today," Kendall replied, smiling genuinely, as the elevator doors opened and they headed back into their office to deal with the crisis Simone once again brought upon them.

"What's that look on your face?" Maggie asked, holding Miranda close to her waist. The little girl was giggling, pointing at the birds flying around the park. Bianca was looking at her intently, studying her profile to such an extent she failed to realize the petite blonde was talking to her.

"What?" Bianca snapped out of it, "What did you say?"

"Where were you right now? Certainly not Pine Valley," Maggie grinned. Bianca's eyes diverted for a second to the band of gold around the other woman's finger, then she glanced down at her own finger and smiled before finally speaking.

"I was just wondering how we got here."

"What do you mean?" Maggie asked, seeing the curiosity in Bianca's eyes. She sat down on the bench, letting Miranda down so she could run off and play with the other kids in the sandbox. Bianca watched as Maggie's eyes followed the little girl, a broad smile on her face. It seemed Maggie couldn't stop smiling when she was with her baby girl.

"I mean, it's finally just perfect," Bianca began, pausing slightly, "Me. And you. And, of course, Miranda. It's finally working, and I never thought it would, because gosh knows how many obstacles we've had in our way."

"I think that's the understatement of the century," Maggie joked, taking one of Bianca's hands in her own. "But, really, B, I'm not going anywhere this time. I promise-"

"-I know."

"Do you really know that, Bianca?" Maggie asked, taking her free hand and bringing it to her cheek. She caressed the smooth skin, forcing Bianca to meet her eyes once more. "What do I have to do to prove it?"

"You don't have to do anything, Maggie," Bianca sighed, breaking away from their contact. She stood, crossing her arms and smiled weakly as she saw Miranda playing with the other kids at the park. "It's just… It's…"

"It's what, B?" Maggie stood now, too, trying to figure out just what was going on with her fiancé.

"I just expect something to swoop down from the sky and ruin everything," she sighed. She turned once more, putting her arms down at her sides, and regarded the woman before her.

Maggie Stone was everything she ever wanted and more; it'd been close to four months since she'd won her appeal, shortly after which Maggie popped the question on an unsuspecting Bianca. Erica Kane was in a flurry to plan what she called the wedding of the century; it was something that both fascinated and terrified Bianca, but she let her mother have her fun, it was the least she could do to keep her out of their hair.

Maggie wanted to elope, but Bianca would have none of it. Although the latter wanted a small, private wedding officiated by her uncle Jack, Erica was having none of it. Since Erica was having none of it, Kendall and Greenlee jumped on board to help plan it, too. Pretty soon all the women at Fusion were on board as well, and Bianca figured she might as well sell tickets to the event.

"Things have just worked out, and it's happened before. Maybe not between us, but I've seen it with my mother and Kendall," Bianca continued, "But eventually it all falls apart, whether it's their own fault, which in the case of my mother… But I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"Then, let it, Bianca," Maggie replied, "Let the other shoe drop and then we'll take the shoe that doesn't and throw them both at whatever or whoever gets in the way!" Bianca was surprised by Maggie's sudden outburst of a response. "Bianca, look, I love you. I've always loved you. And I know in the past I've been stubborn and foolish, and I've just been outright dumb about my feelings for you, I'm not going back now. Not now, not ever. I love you. And I love that little girl," Maggie turned her head to smile at Miranda who was now waving with a fist full of sand. "I'm not going anywhere, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let the insanity that is Pine Valley stand in the way of our family."

"Our family…" Bianca trailed off, hearing a faint buzzing in the background as she did.

"Ms. Montgomery?" Janet, Bianca's secretary knocked on the now open door, "Ms. Montgomery?"

"Oh, Janet!" Bianca looked puzzled, "I'm so sorry, I must've spaced out for a second."

"More like ten minutes, Ms. Montgomery," the younger woman smiled gently. "Your three o'clock is here."

"All right, send them in" Bianca rose from her desk, running her hands down her sides anxiously. 'I can't believe I just did that,' she thought to herself, sighing sadly. 'I really miss, Maggie.'

Part 24

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