DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my love of Kinks. Yes, yes, I'm riding that sled into hell. Pervy writer and director thank you.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've recently become perversely entertained by AMC and have been watching it nightly on Soapnet. This new fic series is the result. I hope you like.
AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://www.dreiser.net/
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What Happens When Bad Dressers and Drama Queens Fall In Love
By Dreiser

Part One...

336 hours, seventeen minutes, and thirty three seconds had passed since Babe told Bianca and the entire town of Pine Valley that Bess was Miranda. During that time many things happened. Babe had gotten both a slap in the face and a quicky divorce from JR, Bianca and Babe's relationship had gone from friends to foes then back to friends again, Kendall almost faced an arrest warrant from her reaction to the news about Miranda, and the tabloid media noticed with utmost interest when Babe moved into a newly bought house with Bianca and baby Miranda.

"White Trash Romance Revealed!" Babe dramatically intoned with a loud gasp from her rocking chair as she read The Tattler to Miranda who was lying comfortably in her arms. In the background the not so soothing sounds of Aerosmith played. "Only days after her divorce to millionaire heir to the Chandler fortune, JR Chandler, Babe Carey has moved in with the mother of the baby she had thought to be her own, lesbian daughter of Erica Kane, Bianca Montgomery." Arching an eyebrow, Babe looked at Miranda and drawled, "Why do you suppose they're always bringin' up the fact that your Mama likes to sleep with ladies? I bet when they write about you it's gonna say somethin' like 'Miranda Mona Montgomery aka Mimo Daughter of the Lesbian.'" With a scrunch to her nose, Babe scoffed, "Yeah, that sounds real classy indeed. Then again," she frowned as she looked back at the story, "what would I know about class? I'm the reason that headline says white trash, after all."

In response to this, Miranda let loose an adorable squeak and shifted in Babe's comfortable arms. Smiling at this, Babe went back to her dramatic reading of the article. "The two women reside in a comfortable suburban estate," Babe paused at this and looked around Miranda's nursery, thinking about the house she was living in. "This is an estate?" She said with a low chuckle. "Hell, that must mean my old trailer was a manor!" Her smirk grew and she laughed, "I'm a regular Bruce Wayne."

Looking at the tabloid, Babe threw it aside and said, "I just don't have the patience to read that crap right now." Standing up, she cradled Miranda who smiled up at her and drawled, "You like this song, baby girl? You wanna have a dance with me?" Miranda let loose another cute squeak and Babe laughed, turning up the portable cd player as Dude Looks Like A Lady by Aerosmith came pouring out of its speakers. "I'm not even gonna comment on the irony that this is your favorite song. Mostly because I think I like it even more than you do, Mimo."

Exiting her shower and drying off her hair, Bianca heard the song playing and shook her head with a fond smile. Clutching her robe closer to her body, she wandered down the hall and into Miranda's nursery. She found her daughter happily laughing in Babe's arms as the blonde danced about the room singing the lyrics to their favorite song.

"Oooh, what a funky lady... oooh, she like it, like it, like it, like that! Oooh he was a lady!" Babe sang out, shaking her bootie as she leaned down to croon to the pleased Miranda.

It was at this point that Bianca couldn't hold back her laughter. No matter how many times she saw something like this occur in the past two weeks, it still got to her. The happiness they inspired while together... the joy they felt. That was why she asked Babe to keep the promise they made to each other. To help raise Miranda with her until Lena returned.

Although more and more lately Bianca wondered when or if that would ever happen.

Shaking the dark thought from her mind, Bianca walked into the room as Babe sheepishly turned down the cd player as it went onto the next Aerosmith song. "Was I bein' too loud?" asked Babe with concern as Bianca reached down to let Miranda to capture her index finger in an iron grip.

"You're never too loud," said Bianca softly, smiling up at Babe as she allowed Miranda to play with her hand. "I love having you here with me, Babe. I mean that."

A light blush covered Babe's cheeks then she nodded towards the discarded copy of The Tattler and said mischievously, "Even though I'm your secret White Trash Romance?"

"First of all, nothing is a secret if it's in The Tattler," Bianca teased, returning Babe's smile, "and secondly you aren't white trash so I wish you'd stop saying that."

"Please," Babe scoffed, rolling her expressive eyes. "I know where I come from, Bianca. I grew up in a trailer and I never knew who my Daddy was until a few weeks ago. But all the same, I know bein' white trash isn't such a bad thing. It could be worse," she drawled humorously, "I could be a spoiled trust fund brat who doesn't have a lick of sense about the real world."

"Well, gee," said Bianca with a slow smile as she took Miranda from Babe's arms with perfect ease, holding her daughter close to her chest. "I wonder who that could be? Perhaps the ego tripping 'I am the master of my domain' JR Chandler?"

"Now, now, Bianca," Babe shook her finger at her friend. "You know damn well that JR's no Jerry Seinfeld. Don't you go givin' him more credit than he deserves. That's not right."

Watching as Babe picked up the issue of The Tattler, Bianca frowned and then carefully placed Miranda in her crib. Gazing down at her peaceful daughter, she murmured, "Have you spoken with him since..." She trailed off, unable to say the words.

"Since the meetin' with the lawyers?" Babe offered, folding The Tattler and leaning against the wall where the very elaborate toy chest Kendall had bought was resting. "No, I haven't. Then again, I didn't think I would... even if he was shocked to find out I don't wanna suck him for every last penny he's got." Clenching her jaw, she gazed out the window and at the tall Willow tree in the backyard of the house. "I think his Daddy has him now and I don't want to see that, Bianca. He's not my JR anymore and I think he hasn't been for awhile. I just couldn't recognize it."

"I'm sorry," said Bianca in heartfelt tones.

Looking to Bianca and melting as she always did when she looked into the kindest eyes she'd ever seen, Babe smiled and replied softly, "I know, sweetheart. And I'm sorry too. For all of this sorry mess and the part that I played in it."

"We have each other now," Bianca said, her words strong and confident, filled with happiness and hope. Her eyes immediately went to the sleeping Miranda, "And we have her. That's all that really matters. Everything else will take care of itself."

"Yeah," replied Babe, smiling gently. "I gotta agree with that."

Funny thing about rich folks, Babe realized, was that they were rarely happy. They also tended to throw a lot of fits. Loud and all too embarrassing over the top crazy insane fits. Ones that would cause Jesus himself to turn red and question his ability to remain calm.

Being that Babe was in no way shape or form close to being anything like Jesus, as a matter of fact she wasn't even sure she was a Christian, she had quite a different to Erica's detoxed alcoholic fits. She laughed her ass off at them. Laughed long and hard and to such a degree that every time Babe visited she had some sort of expensive belonging flung at her by Erica.

Kendall and Reggie had begun taking bets as to how long it would take for Babe to get something thrown at her, sucking Lily and even Greenlee into their betting pool. Jack knew about the pool but refused to participate though he never shut it down.

Today's bets were one minute and three seconds for Kendall, fifty seconds for Reggie, thirty seven seconds for Lily, and the ever risk taking Greenlee chose two minutes and ten seconds.

They were barely inside the penthouse when Erica whirled around to face them and pointed a sharp finger at Babe. "You!" she accused. "You're trying to rob and seduce my baby! It's Lena all over again but in a shorter, less attractive, Non-European unsophisticated guise!"

Miranda released a garbled laugh and coo which caused her doting Aunt Kendall to rush to Bianca's side. "How is my little Mimo today?" Kendall asked with a huge smile. "Do you know what I got you? I got you new toys, yes I did!"

"Mother," said Bianca with frustration, allowing Kendall to make off with her daughter to undoubtedly spoil her to death, "I wish you'd stop accusing Babe of things like this. We're just friends. We're living together so we both can care for Miranda."

"She's a Jezebel! A money grubbing Jezebel!" Erica shrieked.

"Jezebel?" Babe's lips quirked up in a smile. Shoving her hands into the back pockets of her low rider jeans, she drawled, "Now I feel like a real Southern Belle, honest I do. Makes me want to take a visit to the Piggly Wiggly and play Sweet Home Alabama in my beat up truck."

At precisely one minute Erica flung a nearby cushion at Babe who didn't move out the way, allowing it to hit her in the face with a muffled thump, the sparkly purple tassles of it going down her face as it fell to the floor. Across the room where she was showing her niece the various toys she'd bought, Kendall smiled triumphantly at her perpetual nemesis, Greenlee, who rolled her eyes at this and mouthed that she was extremely lucky to have won the bet yet again.

"Mother!" Bianca shouted in irritation.

"Bianca!" Erica raised her voice out of sheer habit.

"Erica!" Jack chided with exasperation.

"Babe!" Babe exclaimed in manic tones with certain glee.

"Babe!" Bianca scolded but smiled fondly at her friend.

"Bianca!" Babe responded giving a naughty leer.

"Jezebel!" Erica declared and threw another cushion at Babe's head which hit its target perfectly.

"Mother!" Bianca exploded and formed an upset scowl.

"My make up!" Babe said mournfully, more to herself than anyone else.

"You gotta dig these wholesome family meetings we have," Reggie remarked. He looked to Lily who had managed to ignore all this while keeping busy rearranging Erica's colossal shoe collection. Eyeing the pile, he murmured, "Don't like high heels, huh?"

"Heels are bad people," Lily replied matter of factly.

"Yep," replied Reggie with a nod, now totally at ease with Lily and her unique way of talking and socializing with people. "You got that right, sis."

"Getting high is taking drugs," Lily went on as she tossed another high heel onto the pile of soon to be banished shoes. "That's bad. Like red is bad. Like Ryan is bad."

Reggie's lips quirked up in a smile at the last statement. He didn't know exactly why Lily had taken an instant dislike to Ryan but he did agree with it somewhat. In his opinion, the guy was not only jerking around both Kendall and Greenlee romantically, he had also tried his damned best to take away the rightful inheritance of the Kane family. His family. And that didn't sit well with him. Not at all.

When he looked back, Greenlee had loaned Babe the arsenal of beauty supplies that lurked in her purse while Jack led a foaming at the mouth Erica to her room. In other words, he probably had missed some of the most entertaining stuff. Oh well, Reggie thought with a resigned smile, looking at Lily. Such were the duties of a good brother and he did enjoy them.

"I'm sorry Babe," said Bianca sadly, glancing at her mother's bedroom door. "I didn't think she'd do that... maybe we should stop coming here together? I don't want her to keep doing this to you and I have a feeling it's not going to stop anytime soon."

Fixing her lipstick efficiently, Babe arched an eyebrow and drawled, "They were just silly lookin' pillows, Bianca. That didn't hurt or bother me at all. And I told you already, this is funny as hell to me, even though I know it shouldn't be." Her lips pulled up in a fond smile and she continued reasonably, "I know you don't like this but I figure the more she sees of me with you and Mimo the faster she'll get the idea I'm not goin' anywhere. Then she might just calm down. Or stop throwin' things at me."

"Good luck," Greenlee snickered. Taking back her compact as Babe handed it to her, she noticed Bianca's slight scowl at her and added, "What? I'm only saying what we're all thinking. There's nothing wrong with that."

"As always, Greenlee, you are the sole of familial tact," called Kendall from across the room as she looked up from the elaborate circle of toys she had made around herself and Miranda.

Upon looking at her sister, Bianca said with dismay, "Kendall you need to stop buying her so many presents. Pretty soon there isn't going to be room in Miranda's nursery for Miranda."

"It's okay, Binks," said Kendall as she picked up Miranda who had lifted her arms up and settled her neatly in her lap, giving her the stuffed shark she had been fascinated by. "We can leave some of this here and then at my condo. That way Mimo will have toys to play with wherever she goes." Looking down at her niece, she picked up the shark and made an exaggerated gobbling noise while she had it nuzzle Miranda's belly. The baby released a happy squeak at this and Kendall beamed. "See? She likes it." Turning her attention back to Miranda, she said seriously, "You're going to be the next Jacque Cousto, aren't you? Sharks aren't scary!"

"This has to be a frightening preview of how she's going to be with her own kids," Greenlee said with quiet humor. She said this so softly that only the nearby Babe and Bianca heard her.

"Well," said Bianca with a resigned sigh, looking around the penthouse. "I think it's pretty obvious we're not going to be able to talk to Mom for the rest of the day. Who's up for lunch? Babe and I are meeting Maggie at S.O.S. in half an hour."

"Half an hour?" questioned Greenlee, a smirk forming. "Didn't have much faith in your meeting with Mama Kane, did you?"

Babe chuckled and replied, "We got brains, so yeah, we didn't put much faith in her changin' her tune. There hasn't been any falling stars to make a wish on these days."

"I'll come," Kendall informed, rising to her feet and cradling Miranda who was still happily in possession of her stuffed shark. Grinning at the baby, she said, "Mimo and I haven't come close to satisfying our regulated Aunt/Niece quality time yet."

"I'd like to go but me and Lily are busy fixing Erica's shoe collection," Reggie offered with a mischievous grin. "Which I'm sure she'll be very happy about."

"Of course," said Bianca, laughing as she pictured Erica's reaction to finding over half of her shoes suddenly missing. "You let me know how that turns out, okay?"

"I'm not turning anything inside out," Lily said seriously, tossing yet another high heeled pump into the pile of undesirables. "That isn't good. I'm not Inside Out Boy."

"Inside Out Boy?" Greenlee murmured to herself.

"Better not question it, Greenlee," said Kendall, smiling warmly as Miranda abandoned her stuffed shark to place a tiny hand on her Aunt's lips while she spoke. "Accepting is far easier and much more fun in the long run." She squeezed Miranda's tiny hand in a gentle hold then kissed it before it returned back to its original place of resting on her lips. "You coming to lunch with us?"

Smiling at the natural bond that existed between Kendall and her baby niece, Greenlee was about to reply when the shrill ring of her cell phone loudly sounded from the depths of her purse. Hurriedly, she searched through it and on seeing the Caller ID, answered it with a warm, "Ryan!"

At this, Kendall's face shifted into an emotionless mask and she stiffly turned towards Bianca and Babe who were gathering the bag of baby care essentials they took with them everywhere. A few tense moments passed and Kendall could feel the hurt and anger in her rising but just as it did, she felt a sharp tug to the left side of her head. Looking down, Kendall couldn't help but smile on seeing Miranda holding a handful of her distinctive curly locks in a pair of tiny hands.

"You always know just how to cheer me up, don't you, Mimo?" Kendall murmured affectionately. In response, Miranda tugged on her hair again, this time quite a bit stronger, making Kendall wince. "All right," she said apprehensively, "now it's starting to hurt. Definitely not a good thing."

"C'mon, baby girl," Babe said with wry humor, carefully detaching Miranda's grabby hands from Kendall's expensively maintained hair. "You don't wanna be the reason for your Aunt endin' up with female patterned baldness. I don't know if she could forgive you for somethin' like that."

"Sure I could," said Kendall easily. "I'd just make her mother pay for all of my treatments, that's all," she finished slyly.

"Always bringing me into it," said Bianca with a laugh. "If I'm responsible for paying for your hair then I'd rather invest in a nice series of wigs. Who knows, you could look good as Mom did when she was posing as a blonde showgirl in Vegas."

"It's only because I do not want my precious niece to grow up without her mother that I'm stopping myself from hurting you right now, Binks," said Kendall solemnly. "You remember that."

"Yep, remember that Bianca," Babe called over her shoulder as she exited the penthouse with Miranda who was busy tugging on the collar of her shirt. "You got yourself a get out of jail free card all the time with your big sis. That'll come in handy."

Giggling at the irritated look on Kendall's face at Babe's words, Bianca turned to Greenlee who was still on the phone with Ryan. She looked as if she was about to voice a question when the soft words of Kendall who walked over to her side were said.

"Leave her be," Kendall murmured in an understated sadness. "I think it's fairly obvious that she wants to talk to him. We should go."

Looking from the withdrawn Kendall to the happily smiling Greenlee who was talking on the other side of the room, Bianca's gaze became lidded. "I'm sorry," she offered, taking Kendall's hand and giving it a soft squeeze. Sadly realizing that her words were nothing but a cheap consolation.

"It's not your fault," said Kendall with a sigh. Turning to gaze at Greenlee, she continued quietly, "I'm not sure it's anyone's fault. It just is... and right now, I'd like to get away from it."

"Then lets get out of here," said Bianca, smiling and tugging her sister's hand, leading her out the door. "Your niece is waiting for us and I have a good hunch that she inherited the infamous Kane patience or complete lack thereof."

"Pine Valley beware! There's a brand new generation of Kane women in the making," Kendall remarked with a grin. Turning to close the door to the penthouse, she got one last look at Greenlee on the phone with Ryan before firmly pulling it shut.

Nearly twenty minutes had passed before Greenlee noticed they were gone and that they hadn't said goodbye. Somehow in that moment, Ryan's phone call didn't seem desperately important.

There were many things people could say about Maggie Stone which could or could not be debated as true or false. That was true for nearly every person, in fact. Only when it came to Maggie she had one absolute truth to her that couldn't be argued as a falsehood. Not even by the most talented of lawyers and the most silver tongued of liars.

And what was that fact? Oh... nothing of Earth shattering importance. Unless you were Erica Kane or a woman of her less than substantial values. Simply because the terrifying truth about Maggie Stone was that she was, without a doubt, through and through, until the end of time...

A horrible dresser.

What concerned Babe and Kendall was the fact that lately Maggie was nearing Opal's level of outfit tackiness. And how she had managed to accomplish that was an honest to god mystery.

Now Maggie's lack of fashion sense was seen as just part of her unique personality by some. I.E. Bianca and David. The rest of the town either found it criminal or just criminally sad. Babe and Kendall belonged in both the former and latter categories. They had come to a sort of unspoken agreement to attempt to cure Maggie of her perpetual blindness when it came to clothing choices.

So far it wasn't working.

Today's ensemble, if one could call it that, was a prime example of their plan's failure thus far. It began with a pea soup green sweater covered in ostentatious bright yellow daisies up around the collar which looked as itchy as it felt. How did they know that? Kendall's hands work fast and are very talented.

But continuing on the outfit, the rest of which included an ankle length skirt which did fit the blonde's compact body nicely but at the same time was an unfortunate combination of plaid and circular bubbles. The color scheme of it was... well, it had colors on it that Babe wasn't sure were in the box of Crayola crayons they had back at the house. And she thought Crayola knew all the colors.

The shoes were what made Kendall want to start crying though. Babe knew that from the several kicks her legs received from across the booth as Kendall jerked her head at the white Nikes. Yes, the shame of all shames. Maggie was wearing tennis shoes with a skirt. This just could not and should not be done. Not in their world of fashion. Such a crime was unforgivable. Obviously their plan would have to be raised up as a high priority before Maggie crossed into a place from which she could never be rescued.

The land of Opal where she would reign as Princess of the Tacky and future Queen of the Tacky. This couldn't be allowed to happen. Not to Bianca's best friend who, despite her clothing issues, was a nice girl with a sweet disposition and gentle heart.

They had to save her.

Needing and wanting a distraction from Greenlee and Ryan's marriage along with the state of her own broken heart, Kendall decided she would take it upon herself. Babe had Bianca and Miranda to care for, so between them she had the most free time. Besides, she did like Maggie. Even if she was wearing tennis shoes with a skirt that didn't officially exist in Newton's Color Spectrum.

Which is why when Bianca and Babe exited to change a fussy Miranda in the restroom, she turned to Maggie and gave her most dazzling of smiles. One that had Maggie dumbfounded as she found herself instantly captured by warm blue gray eyes.

"We don't spend nearly enough time together, Maggie," Kendall gushed, reaching down to clasp the blonde's hands. "Would you consider going shopping with me tomorrow? I need to update my wardrobe for the fall." Leaning in closer, putting their faces an inch apart, she said with confidential humor, "In my line of business, I always have to look my best. But I hate shopping alone."

"You always look your best," replied Maggie rather dumbly, unwittingly falling into her age old habit of speaking the truth before she could ascertain if it was appropriate or not to do so. Seeing Kendall blink at her words, Maggie felt her face heat as she blushed and she turned away from the other woman. "I'm sorry. I just... I guess I don't think before I talk. It's a problem."

"No it isn't," said Kendall softly. Maggie felt a tug to her hands and she reluctantly looked to her companion who wore a reassuring smile. "I promise you, it isn't. I like it." Closing her eyes, she laughed as she thought of the current status of her love life. "I haven't had a lot of honesty in my life, Maggie, so I appreciate it a lot when it appears." Opening them and looking to Maggie who was studying her with a thoughtful expression, Kendall murmured, "Telling the truth will never be a bad thing in my eyes."

"Okay," said Maggie with a nod. Forming an infectiously bright smile, she asked, "Where and when should we meet for our momentous shopping trip tomorrow?"

Laughing at this, Kendall remarked, "Why don't I pick you up at your apartment at noon? That way we could go out to lunch and reduce our gas bills at the same time."

"I seriously doubt that," Maggie groaned, rolling her eyes as she leaned back against the wall comfortably. "I think nothing could lower mine short of selling my car and getting a bike. Then again," she mused, looking down at her legs, "my thighs might like that idea."

Following Maggie's gaze, Kendall examined said thighs for a moment then gave one a friendly slap and declared, "These are fine! But if that's how you feel, I could get you a temporary membership at my gym. They have a fleet of high tech exercise bikes there."

"A whole fleet, huh?" asked Maggie, who was trying her best to ignore the unusually enjoyable reaction Kendall's gesture had caused. One that before now she only associated with Bianca. Maybe this meant it extended to the entire clan of Kane women?

Seconds later, Maggie felt sick at the possibility of becoming sexually attracted to Erica Kane.

Lucky for her that was when Babe and Bianca returned with a considerably happier Miranda. Wherever her beloved niece would appear, Kendall's attention instantly went in that direction. This gave Maggie a greatly needed break to stop, think, and consider what the hell was going on right here. Did she like Kendall? Or did she want to sleep with Kendall? Or was she confused again?

God dammit! She was sick of being confused. That was it. Maggie Stone had officially decided that she would no longer be confused. She hated being confused and now, well... she didn't want to be that person anymore. From this point on, Maggie would like who she would like and she wouldn't analyze it until Freud rose from his grave and became a zombie like in that horror movie she had seen on late night television the other day. What was its name again?

Psychotic Psychoanalysts Zombie Phobia Fiends Group Therapy.

It was actually pretty good in a 'it's so bad it's good' kind of way. Maybe she would try to find it on dvd then ask Kendall to come over and watch it with her. She looked to the taller woman who had pilfered the baby Miranda from her mother's arms with certain expertise. Kendall was currently occupied with telling her niece precisely why it was her destiny to become the prettiest girl on the planet. As she observed this, Maggie could practically feel her insides begin to melt in a very pleasing manner.

Feeling Maggie's eyes on her, Kendall turned and smiled wryly as she said, "Oops. I forgot myself for a minute there, didn't I? It's what I tend to do when Mimo's around." Tilting her head, her expression became teasing and she continued, "Forgive me and be my gym buddy?"

"I would've picked another way to say that, but sure, I'm there," Maggie said, smiling. Reaching out to let Miranda grab her pinky in her infamously iron grip, Maggie added, "And I think everyone who knows this little lady gets temporary amnesia in her presence." She moved closer to look solemnly into Miranda's big blue eyes. "You are definitely the future heart breaker of Pine Valley. But remember that you're part of a long line of extremely attractive women and you must use your powers for only good and not evil. And sometimes to get gifts." With a silly grin, she looked up at Kendall. "Because everybody likes those."

Miranda's response to this was to beam adorably before she latched her lips onto Maggie's nose with an unusual ferocity. A good long moment passed before anyone reacted. When they did, it was one of enormous hysterical amusement and Maggie instinctively knew this would become a story that would be retold over and over again in the years to come. Much to her own embarrassment.

My Favorite Things.

Thanks to her childhood growing up in Poland which at times was nothing short of blatantly tragic, Lena was never one for musicals. It seemed to her they projected a type of manic happiness that could never be hoped to achieve in real life. Bianca, however, loved them.

And Lena loved Bianca. Desperately, utterly, and with complete abandon. Everything that she was belonged to Bianca. There was no one else as important to Lena, except for her mother. Which is why she was in Poland, watching as the last days of her mother's life dwindled out in a sort of comfortable ease. The cancer was taking its toll but somehow Paulina was at peace.

Lena wished she could feel the same way but it hurt too much, seeing her mother die in front of her eyes. She was lost in her thoughts, mulling over her mother's condition and the long ago past days of her youth when her cell phone rang, playing its obnoxious version of My Favorite Things.

The song Bianca had been singing in the shower during their last day together. Even now, just hearing it made Lena feel lighter and a little bit happier with the world and her place in it. Picking up the phone, she answered with a smile and a sultry pronunciation of, "Bianca."

As always, this was greeted by a soft sigh and a happy combination of a chuckle and a giggle. It never ceased to please Lena, hearing how Bianca would react to how she said her name. This was yet another example of her lover's sweet nature, totally open and caring in her professions of love whether it be through her words or action. Yes, it was true. If Bianca Montgomery loved you, there was no way you wouldn't know. She made it entirely clear and that was why Lena treasured her so.

"How are you?" Bianca questioned, her voice soft and concerned.

"It is difficult," said Lena after a moment of pause. Turning to gaze out the window, looking over the lush forest that rested around the house she had rented for them. "She's no longer in pain but... it hurts me to see her this way. I know it is selfish of me, but I cannot help it." Releasing a frustrated growl, she then muttered, "I should be stronger than this! She needs me now and I'm... I'm..." Lena choked up, biting her lip as she rested her forehead against the window.

"Lena," Bianca's voice washed over her, infusing Lena with love and reassurance, "it's okay. You can't expect yourself to be strong all of the time. Things don't work like that. Anytime you feel like this, I want you to call me. Promise me you'll do that."

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Lena chuckled and said, "I promise. But tell me... when exactly did you become wiser than me? Between the two of us, I suspect I am in the role of the child."

"I'm not sure I want to think of you that way," replied Bianca, who laughed but sounded mildly disturbed at the thought. "And I'm not wise. I'm more than a little selfish because mostly I want you to call so I can talk with you more. I miss you, Lena. So much." There was the sound of a quiet shuffle then Bianca's voice returned, happier than before and immediately Lena knew Miranda was there. "That goes for Miranda too. She loves hearing you talk in Polish." There was a pause then Bianca said impishly, "Maybe you'll do that for her now? She's supposed to be taking a nap but isn't cooperating. I bet if you talked to her she might just do it. After all," Lena could practically see Bianca's playful smile, "she loves your voice."

"You mean you love that she chronically falls asleep when she listens to my voice," Lena said dryly. "Which isn't good for my ego, Bianca. Honestly, every single time I have spoken to Miranda whether it be in English or Polish for seconds, minutes, or hours she falls asleep with the speed of an Olympic sprinter." Sighing dramatically, Lena mused, "I must be terribly boring. Perhaps if I stopped reading the Wall Street Times to her it would help."


Instead of a reply or even Bianca's charming laughter or the soft gurgles of Miranda there was echoing absolute silence. That was when Lena realized she had been tricked. During her entire joking 'I put Miranda to sleep with my voice' rant, Bianca had the speaker turned on. Upon hearing the sound of footsteps approaching, Lena decided to make it clear she knew what was going on.

"Bianca," Lena drawled the name out in such a way her lover knew she was in trouble but not too much. "That was a mean trick."

"Sorry Lena," said Bianca sheepishly and Lena heard the phone return to its normal mode when Bianca shut off the speaker option. "But Miranda was getting cranky. She spent most of the day with her Aunt Kendall and well... you know how that works her up."

"Kendall does tend to do that," Lena chuckled knowingly. "I forgive you but next time perhaps you could tell me what you have planned? I'd prefer to be a more interesting conversationalist the next time I put your darling daughter to sleep. I have a reputation to maintain, you realize."

"Right, right," Bianca laughed in return. "I promise that I'll let you know next time I want Miranda to play Sleeping Beauty. And don't worry about reading her the Wall Street Journal. I'm sure it has to be better for her than The Fluffy Bunny on some level. Maybe."

Just as Lena was about to reply, a loud knock sounded at the front door. One that even Bianca heard thousands of miles away in Pine Valley.

"I guess you've got company," said Bianca wryly.

"Apparently," Lena murmured, more than a bit annoyed at the interruption. She had wanted to talk with Bianca longer than this. "If it isn't too late may I call you tonight?"

"Lena," Bianca's voice was soothing and warm, "you never have to ask that. Call me whenever you need. I'll always be here. I promise."

"I love you, Bianca," said Lena with quiet and solemn affirmation. Saying the words in such a way they couldn't ever be doubted. "I'll speak to you again... very soon."

"I love you too," said Bianca softly then came the sound of a dial tone.

Sighing deeply, Lena hung up the phone and walked to the front door already irritated at whoever was standing behind it. She wasn't sure who she was expecting but certainly the man who stood in front of her in a sharp black suit and a humorless expression didn't figure as a large option in her mind. Lena had thought perhaps it was friends of her mother's or a nearby neighbor. Not a stranger.

"May I help you?" asked Lena, easily slipping into Polish. Her expression and voice clearly showing her confusion at his presence on her doorstep.

"Are you Lena Kundera?" the man asked in Polish.

Dark brown eyes narrowed and Lena decided to not waste anytime dealing with the situation. "What is it you want?" she demanded. "Who are you?"

At her words, the man seemed to relax and he reached inside his coat to produce official U.S. Government Identification which he handed to Lena. "My name is Gordon Mercer and I'm an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. I need to speak to you about your various business dealings that involved Michael Cambias. Particularly the ones of the less than legal nature."

"That would be all of them," Lena replied with a grim smile. "Now," her eyes grew lidded as she studied Gordon, "tell me what you want. What you really want and what this is all about. If you do then I'll invite you inside and we'll speak like civilized people. Or you can try and deceive me then see where that leads you. I can assure you right now it will be to an unpleasant destination."

"Fine," Gordon said shortly, returning the grim smile. "I'll cut to the chase and tell you what this is about as that's apparently what you want."

"I'm delighted," said Lena coldly.

"It has come to our attention that several business partners of Michael Cambias are aware of your relationship to Bianca Montgomery," began Gordon, noting that Lena's eyes widened but she kept her expression impartial. "They are also aware of her child and who the father of that child happens to be. Making it the heir to quite possibly the largest fortune in the developed world. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what that will mean to Ms. Montgomery and her young daughter. You've met and done business with all of these men, after all. You know what they are capable of doing."

"Bianca," whispered Lena in shock, huge brown eyes looking helplessly up at Gordon who appeared almost sympathetic as he looked at her now. "What must I do to help her? How can I...?"

"That's why I'm here," Gordon said as he walked into the house. "We already have a plan in motion but in order for it to succeed we need your help."

"I'll do anything you ask in order to protect Bianca and Miranda," said Lena in a strange combination of quiet panic and complete certainty.

Then the front door to the house closed and with it, so did another chapter of Lena Kundera's troubled life. Whether she wanted it to end or not was a question for another day. The only thing she did know was that she had to keep the ones she loved safe. No matter the cost to herself.

The shopping trip had been a bigger success than Kendall could have ever predicted. Not only had she helped Maggie pick out more than a few stupendous outfits she'd also enjoyed herself in the process. It made Kendall stop and wonder why she thought she wouldn't have fun in the first place.

Maybe it had something to do with Maggie studying medicine and her general background. Although apparently it was medicine along with Maggie's case of chronic insomnia which resulted in some of her more infamously horrible outfit choices.

"You didn't!" Kendall laughed as they entered a nearby restaurant to eat lunch and take a break from their shopping expedition. "There's no way you can run that fast."

"Oh, I did," said Maggie with assured confidence. She leaned against the wall and waited for the hostess to arrive then take them to their table. "The final exam was slated to begin at 10 a.m. and I ran out of my place at exactly 9:47 a.m. on the dot." A self deprecating smile tugging on her lips, Maggie went on, "Why did you think I was wearing pajama bottoms, a black tank top, and Nikes at noon anyway?"

Shaking her head and following after the hostess who had just arrived, Kendall grinned and looked over her shoulder, laughing. "I didn't really think about the why of the situation, Maggie. I was just shocked it was even happening."

They sat down as the hostess walked away and Kendall wore an exaggerated look of contemplation. "I should revise that. I was," Kendall paused to form a playful smile, "a flurry of scandalously astonishing bewilderment on the fact that you were wearing Tigger pajama bottoms in public."

"The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that their bottoms are made out of springs," replied Maggie in solemn tones, staring Kendall down with an utterly serious look on her face.

"Is that so?" drawled Kendall, arching an eyebrow and looking very amused. "Then does that mean you're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun since you wear Tigger pajamas on your bottom?"

"I have been known to bounce," Maggie laughed, her hazel eyes twinkling in a charming manner that Kendall took notice of. "But you have surprised me. You quoted the great musical achievement that is the Tigger song. I didn't expect that to be coming."

"I'm unexpected," said Kendall in sly tones, smiling easily.

"Yeah? I'm pooped," Maggie feigned a look of exhaustion. "You should have warned me the reason you wanted me to join your gym was so I could keep up with you when you go shopping."

"Sorry," said Kendall, laughing and not looking the least bit apologetic. "Try and think of it this way, now you have a head start for your first trip to the gym. I'm giving you a preemptive work out."

"Mmm," murmured Maggie in distracted tones, studying the menu and biting her lip in a thoughtful manner. "And for that, my body has come to a definite conclusion that it hates you."

"Your body hurts my feelings," Kendall pouted. Tilting her head, several locks of curly hair fell into her eyes. "I'm not that bad, am I? I did introduce you to the wonderful concept of silk underthings."

At these words, Maggie made the mistake of looking up. Causing her to once again become captured by Kendall's eyes. Their warm friendly gaze and the way they smiled at her. Maggie's fingers started to itch from wanting to reach out and push the hair back from Kendall's forehead.

This definitely didn't have anything to do with Bianca. These feelings were in regard to Kendall alone and Maggie didn't know what to make of them. Or what having them meant that she should do. The only thing she did know was they made her smile and so she did smile.

And Kendall smiled in return, making Maggie's heart to skip a beat.

"Are you okay, Maggie?" Kendall was concerned at the lack of response.

"I like silk underthings," was Maggie's only reply.

"Well, all right then," Kendall laughed, her nose scrunching up in the process and she leaned across the table to squeeze Maggie's hands which were resting in front of her. "I'm stating right now that I'm paying for our lunch because it has become very clear my insane shopping habits have temporarily put your brain into sleep mode. Something I didn't want to happen at all."

Maggie stared at their entwined hands and slowly looked at the other woman who was still smiling fondly at her. "Kendall..." she began in rather hesitant tones.

That was when their waitress appeared and Maggie immediately focused her attention on the menu, wondering what to choose while Kendall rattled off her own surprisingly large meal choice. When they were left to themselves, Maggie couldn't help but comment on it.

"Chicken Fried Steak?" asked Maggie, raising an eyebrow in speculation. "Complete with mashed potatoes and gravy? I was thinking you'd order more along the lines of a Caesar Salad."

Rolling her eyes, Kendall picked up her glass of soda and took a long sip before setting it down. "Why Miss Maggie Stone," she pronounced as a smirk tugged on her lips, "have you and everyone in this town forgotten that I grew up in the South? True, it's been some time since I've gone back but I still love good Southern cooking. Even if deep frying is murder on my arteries," Kendall finished with a laugh.

"Where in the South?" Maggie said curiously. When Kendall tilted her head and studied Maggie carefully, she blushed and said, "I knew you didn't grow up here but that's it... I'm sorry if I'm being nosy."

"You're not," said Kendall, smiling at Maggie's question. "I grew up right outside of Tallahassee, Florida." Seeing the expression on her companion's face turn in slight confusion, Kendall continued, "Most people don't think of Florida as the South but believe me... live there for just over a month and you'll definitely see the situation a lot differently."

"Pretty conservative area?" Maggie remarked knowingly. She had the unfortunate luck to grow up in such a place herself and it wasn't the least bit enjoyable.

"Baptist churches every five seconds," Kendall rolled her eyes and Maggie laughed. "We also had those huge billboards everywhere that just said Jesus with capital letters. I still have no idea what purpose they served. I just know they make me really nervous."

"You want to hear about nervous? Frankie and I grew up in the grand city of Lynchburg. How's that for an intimidating name? I had more than a few moments growing up where I thought the entire state of Virginia was out of its mind," said Maggie with a chuckle.

"Virginia?" Kendall drawled, sounding pleased. "Then you're a Southern girl too. Unless you're one of the many Southerners in denial."

"Bingo," said Maggie, pointing her unused and wrapped straw at Kendall who smirked at this. "Just because I lived in a state close to West Virginia is no reason for me to affiliate myself with them and their crazy ways." Looking at Kendall with an utterly serious expression, she murmured, "They have mountain men there, you know. It's very Deliverance with the dueling banjos."

They were silent, looking at one another and reveling in yet another unexpected connection they had made. Then Kendall turned to look out the window near their booth and said, "I left home when I was sixteen." Moving her gaze back and locking their eyes, Kendall finished quietly, "When did you leave?"

"Seventeen," Maggie murmured. "But I didn't come here until I was nineteen... when I heard about Frankie. I didn't really leave, I guess. I stayed in state and lived with friends of ours. Frankie though... she couldn't take our mom anymore. I wish sometimes I had left with her."

"No one ever asks about my adopted parents," said Kendall in thoughtful tones, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. "I'm sure a lot of people think they were horrible people because of how I was when I first showed up here. They weren't though. Bill and Alice Hart were good people, honest people, and they were nothing but kind to me. I just... never fit in. Even before they told me the truth about my parents I sort of knew it. I was like putting a square peg in a round hole. No amount of hammering would make me fit nicely into their world. That's probably why they let me go." Capturing Maggie's eyes in a perceptive gaze, Kendall smiled softly. "Was it the same for you and Frankie?"

Giving a harsh laugh, Maggie nodded her agreement then said, "Frankie used to rant on it... wanting to know why Mom had bothered to have us when we got treated the way we did. It would always end the same way, with Frankie saying she was too lazy to get the abortion. Just like she was too lazy to actually raise us. I think the way we grew up hurt Frankie more than me and that's why she left. I ignored it mostly. It was easier that way." Clenching her jaw, Maggie muttered, "I should have left with her though. She asked me to. But I wasn't ready, I mean... I think I've never been ready." Looking up into Kendall's eyes that reflected a clear understanding, Maggie said, "I don't like taking chances. That's the real difference between me and Frankie. She was scared of taking chances but in the end, she always did. For me, it's always the very last thing that I do."

The waitress then reappeared with their food and refilled their drinks, leaving them to eat in silence. Then Kendall lifted her head to smile mischievously at Maggie who looked at her, almost baffled.

"Hey," Kendall said slowly, leaning across the table to put her face close to Maggie's. "Will you do something for me? A taking a chance sort of thing?"

"I just told you I don't like taking chances," said Maggie, frowning.

"This is harmless, I promise it is," pleaded Kendall, blue gray eyes going wide and looking adorably helpless. "Pleaseeee?" she said with her hands clasped together and her eyelashes being batted.

"What is it?" asked Maggie suspiciously.

Beaming widely and looking triumphant, Kendall's hand immediately appeared in front of Maggie's mouth holding a fork that had a large piece of Chicken Fried Steak on it. "Eat this," Kendall demanded.

Studying the fried monstrosity in front of her that had substances on it Maggie wasn't sure existed in modern science, Maggie made the worst sort of face she could and said, "No way." She then looked up at Kendall whose eyes, she had discovered, were something one could slowly develop immunity to. "I'm joining your gym to lose weight, remember? And unlike you, I don't have a strange love for food that creates premature heart attacks."

"It's good," wheedled Kendall, waving the food in front of Maggie's face which retreated further backwards at this gesture. Releasing a huge sigh, Kendall scooted back then said, "Fine. You'll have to do something else for me then. Only what...?"

"I went shopping with you, wasn't that enough?" Maggie replied, her words falling on deaf ears. "And I'm joining that gym," she grumbled. "But that's more for me than you. Well, my thighs and me."

"I know!" Kendall declared, clapping her hands. "You should help me babysit Mimo this Saturday." Smiling warmly, she said, "I managed to convince Binks to go out on the town with Babe. She's been keeping herself locked away in that house ever since Lena left."

After saying this, Kendall trailed off and her eyes became veiled, showing that she was lost in her thoughts. Maggie observed this for a minute before she said with soft concern, "Kendall?"

Snapping back to reality on hearing Maggie say her name, Kendall gave a weak smile then said, sounding very subdued, "If I tell you something now will you promise not to tell anyone else?"

"If it doesn't hurt anyone, yeah, of course," said Maggie, frowning and scooting forward in her seat to be closer to the other woman. Her hand then reached out, almost of its own volition, to cover Kendall's own. "What's wrong? What's bothering you?"

"When I found out about Miranda," Kendall began in low and even tones, "when I found out Babe had kept her from Bianca all that time... I don't remember ever being that angry." Lifting her gaze to lock with Maggie's, she continued, "It was almost more powerful than the hatred I felt for Michael after the rape." Seeing nothing but acceptance in Maggie's eyes, Kendall felt it safe to go on. "You know how I ended up in jail?" When Maggie nodded, Kendall gave a smile and a short laugh. "I... I scared myself that day. I just went after Babe, you know? I wanted to hurt her like she hurt Bianca and god, she was afraid of me..."

"Kendall, it's all right," murmured Maggie, squeezing her companion's hand. "I wanted to hurt Babe when I found out too. I think a lot of us did."

"But all the same, I'm the only one who actually did it," said Kendall roughly. Clearing her throat, she shook her head. "I talked with Bianca and she helped me get past that anger but I realized something." Looking out the window of the restaurant, Kendall said in a far off voice, "I have it in me to be a violent person and it's not because I'm a child of rape. It's because of how people throughout the span of my life have reacted to that truth about me. I'm glad I realized that, Maggie. Now I can help Miranda... I can make sure she never feels the way I did. Never feels that same overwhelming wave of hurt and anger."

"Kendall," Maggie whispered in something akin to amazement when the woman turned to face her with an open expression. "Thank you for trusting me with this."

Feeling a little embarrassed at her unexpected need to divulge such personal information about herself and wondering precisely where that need had come from, Kendall blushed. "Well," she laughed lamely, "thanks for listening to me." Releasing a huge whoosh of breath, Kendall then said in wry tones, "It's kind of funny that these days it's Babe I rely on the most to keep Bianca happy."

"Life can be strange that way," Maggie commented with a grin, realizing Kendall's need to move onto lighter conversation. "But you know," she leaned back and reluctantly removed her hand from the top of Kendall's. "I don't think you need my help to babysit Miranda." Maggie frowned involuntarily as she recalled her most recent and very embarrassing encounter with the baby. It had taken a few minutes to detach the little girl from her nose. "She loves you, Kendall. You'll do perfectly fine without me there."

"I know that," replied Kendall, a little exasperated and already missing the feel of Maggie's hand on hers. Wanting a distraction from this, she looked at her plate of food and tried to decide what to eat next. "I want you there. That's the difference. Babysitting alone can be a little boring at times. Especially after the baby falls asleep." Spearing a piece of Chicken Fried Steak, Kendall smiled. "Babysit with me?"

In a sudden and unexpected movement, Maggie ducked her head down to take the piece of Chicken Fried Stake into her mouth, appearing smug as she ate thanks to the flabbergasted look Kendall wore on her face. When the food was gone and swallowed, happy in its new home in her stomach, Maggie licked her lips and said with slow satisfaction, "Yummy."

Kendall remained in stunned silence for a good long moment then she laughed happily and said, "I told you that it tasted good. Unhealthy for you, yes, but good all the same."

"Sort of like you," replied Maggie teasingly as she stole another piece of food from Kendall's plate. "And yes," she said impishly, peering up at the other woman, "I will babysit with you. It sounds like fun."

"Anything involving me is fun," Kendall purred in rather seductive tones, wearing a matching expression.

This didn't last long though, as she broke into laughter on seeing Maggie's droll reaction to this. One that made Kendall think that perhaps she'd have to revise that statement to say anything involving Kendall and Maggie was fun. Since right now, it surely did feel that way.

Part 2

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