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 Ten...

The movers had long since gone, the fugly house was somewhat in order, and their friends were definitely exhausted when Maggie suggested to Kendall they pick up the lavish dinner she'd promised in exchange for help moving. In Maggie's humble opinion, if they didn't get food soon someone would end up gnawing on the oddly fruit colored walls to Kendall's house in retaliation.

While Kendall found this argument amusing but still exaggerated, she decided to heed Maggie's advice upon hearing seven pairs of stomachs growl simultaneously. The departure of Kendall and Maggie from the house gave the group a perfect chance to discuss a very interesting topic that was previously unapproachable with their presence.

And that was the startling reality that Maggie and Kendall were dating.

"I have to confess, even after our scandalous lunch that made the front page of the Tattler I had my doubts," revealed Simone in her usual brash tones, directing this statement towards Greenlee. Per usual, she arrived fashionably late and caused more trouble than she helped but still, no one could deny that Simone meant well. Of course, this wasn't true all of the time but most of the time yes, Simone meant well. Like now. Sort of. "I mean, I knew they were dating! There's piles of evidence in the form of traditional French facial affection in public, right? But I doubted the coupleness." Releasing a loud sigh, Simone rolled her eyes and drawled sardonically, "How wrong was I? They're so coupley I was waiting for the dread finishing of each other's sentences sickness to emerge." Shuddering at this, Simone muttered, "I hate that. It's a sign of Satan, I just know it is."

"Quite," was Ethan's short and supremely dry response that caused Greenlee to chuckle appreciatively before she could stop herself. His lips quirking up in a smile, Ethan met her gaze and murmured teasingly, "Tell me... did you muck about with such rubbish? Creating a complex theory as to how our girls managed to find themselves romantically entangled?"

"You talk too much," replied Greenlee sharply, unable to stop her cheeks from reddening from both Ethan's words and the sentiment held in his dark eyes. "And no, I don't have any theories." Turning her attention to her brother, she said, "Reggie does though, but it's more of a story. Isn't it, Reggie?"

All eyes focused on Reggie and in response, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat and scowled at Greenlee. "Why you gotta do stuff like this to me, big sis? You keep telling me you're not angry about Danielle borrowing your dresses, shoes, makeup, and that red bra but then this kinda crap goes down and I'm finding myself doubtin' that."

"His girlfriend absconded with your red bra?" asked Ethan rather incredulously, deciding to ignore Greenlee's clear request for him to shut up. "That's brilliant," he then remarked as he laughed heartily now. "After all, what young man doesn't enjoy seeing his girlfriend look like his sister from top to bottom and everything underneath?"

"See! That's exactly what I said," exclaimed Reggie, looking immensely relieved to have found someone who agreed with him about this subject. "Except I didn't say nuthin about absconded like you but who wants their girlfriend dressin' like their sister, right? That's just messed up."

"Tremendously," remarked Ethan who gave a solemn nod. His lean body stretched out and he said to Reggie with mock confidentiality, pretending as if no one else could hear him, "I wager your girlfriend refused to listen to your complaints as well, didn't she? I'm afraid that's a trait all too familiar in the fairer, but very often selectively deaf, sex."

"Tell me about it," Reggie muttered. He studied Ethan for a moment then forming a huge grin, he affectionately whapped him on the shoulder, causing Ethan to fall forward just a bit. "Y'know, you're a pretty cool. Down with that James Bond suave. I dig it."

"A grand compliment, I'm sure," replied Ethan, straightening himself up and resuming his former sitting position. No longer looking quite as suave as before thanks to Reggie's friendly gesture that instead revealed a side to him that was both ruffled and adorable. Deciding to ignore Greenlee's snickering much like her request for him to keep quiet, Ethan turned to Reggie and said, "You never told us your theory. Lets have it, shall we?"

"It's not really my theory, just an story I sorta told when I found out about them datin'. Sorta making fun of this book we found at the house, I guess..." Reggie trailed off, looking embarrassed.

"The book was called Passionate Wri --" Lily began only to stop upon seeing Reggie wave his arms so wildly that he almost smacked Jamie with them. Tilting her head to one side, Lily frowned in confusion. "Why are you doing that, Reggie? Are you signaling a plane?" Not waiting for an answer, she smiled brightly then exclaimed, "I know! This is a social signal using body language." Her frown returned and she murmured to herself, "What does Reggie's body language signal mean?" Looking to her brother rather sadly, Lily said, "I don't know what it means. Maybe I shouldn't have spoken?"

In an instant, Reggie was on his feet and his wild Erica Kane style hand gestures returned but this time to accentuate the story he came up with as to how the Maggie/Kendall romance came to be. Not because he really wanted to talk about his story, mind you, but he had to in order to protect his sister's delicate and precious feelings. Something as a good big brother he was more than happy to do. No matter how embarrassing it could sometimes be.

1. Reggie's Story
1.1. Contains:
1.1.1. Epic theme music playing.
1.1.2. A rather coincidental meeting.
1.1.3. Cheesy seductress attitude from Kendall.

What Happens When Bad Harlequin Romance Falls Into Pine Valley Hands

Part One

By: Reggie

Maggie could hardly believe it... Bianca was really leaving. Although she knew logically that she had nothing to do with the decision, that it was all about Lena and their relationship she still couldn't help but feel abandoned. That's what really ripped at her if she was honest because she also knew it wasn't her place to feel that way. Bianca was her friend, nothing more.

Perhaps once they could have been together but not now. What small nagging doubts Maggie had disappeared on seeing Bianca get on that plane flying across the world to Lena. Before she realized it, Maggie found herself at Fusion Headquarters.

Drawn forward without knowing why, she exited her car in a daze and walked into the elevator. The doors opened onto the main floor with a ding and Maggie was greeted with the sound of music playing in the background. The soft and steady sounds filled her ears as she entered the offices of Fusion.

Watching every motion in my foolish lover's game
On this endless ocean finally lovers know no shame
Turning and returning to some secret place inside
Watching in slow motion as you turn around and say

Take my breath away

Through the hourglass I saw you, in time you slipped away
When the mirror crashed I called you, and turned to hear you say
If only for today I am unafraid

Looking around, Maggie found the office was empty which struck her as odd because why would an empty office be filled with music? Just as she wondered if the night janitor for Fusion had a penchant for 80s love ballads a warm breath of air hit the back of her neck and a husky voice said her name.

"Maggie," murmured Kendall, a soft chuckle accompanying her smile on seeing Maggie jump slightly at this. "Did I surprise you?"

"Yes! No! Well, okay, yes but..." Maggie trailed off, looking around the offices of Fusion which she only now noticed was completely lit by candles. That coupled with the playing of what she thought had to be the ridiculously romantic theme song to Top Gun and Kendall looking rather sultry just made it difficult to concentrate. "Yes. Definitely yes."

"Definitely?" Kendall chuckled again, lifting an eyebrow.

Feeling nervous, yes, definitely nervous, Maggie looked away from Kendall and walked towards the large empty portion of the office that was void of any desk or work related materials. "What are you doing here so late?" she finally asked.

The moment of silence seemed like hours but it was seconds then Maggie felt the warmth of Kendall's breath on her skin as the other woman whispered in her ear, "Why are you here?"

Before Maggie could reply, Kendall spun her around so they were face to face and her blue gray eyes were blazing brighter than the candles providing them light. There was no hesitation in her as she leaned down to capture Maggie's lips in a heated embrace that swept over them with the force of a thousand tsunamis in the wave of Global Warming. Yes, this cherished kiss was that powerful and so much more--

"Fusion offices, that's where the story just goes wrong if you ask me," said Greenlee as she interrupted Reggie's stilted effort at storytelling. Wearing a smug expression, she crossed her legs and declared, "These stories have to be much more romantic than that to snag an army of loyal female readers. You need to pick a suitable locale." "Oh?" drawled Ethan who smiled slowly and turned his attention to Greenlee. A playful yet challenging expression on his face, he said, "Then why don't you have a go at it then? Lets hear your version of this grand romance." The smile quirking upwards and dark eyes twinkling, Ethan rested against the arm of the couch and cupped his chin in his hand. "Unless you don't fancy you have it in you. I'm sure it takes all of your wits to produce cosmetics campaigns. Literature, even the most horrible sort, is likely to be too much for you."

"That's what you think, huh?" Greenlee demanded, her face darkening and her brown eyes showing a certain fiery determination that had been long absent from her.

"That's what I think," replied Ethan with a smirk and a nod.

"Fine," snapped Greenlee who jerkily stood to her feet. She looked from Ethan to the rest of her companions and smiled benevolently at them. "This," she began grandly, "is how I think it would happen." Glaring at Ethan, she added, "And I'm sure none of you will find it horrible."

"We'll see," Ethan chirped, smiling impishly.

Scowling heavily at Ethan before turning to the others who weren't nearly so negative, Greenlee cleared her throat and started her version of the tale.

1. Greenlee's Story
1.1. Contains:
1.1.1. Romantic location spot.
1.1.2. Maggie making the moves.
1.1.3. Heart wrenching confessions.

What Happens When Bad Harlequin Romance Falls Into Pine Valley Hands

Part Two

By: Greenlee

Kendall had found Maggie at the beach by sheer accident. It wasn't a place she normally visited but something had drawn her to it and the moment she saw Maggie's hunched figure she knew why. Cautiously approaching her sister's best friend, she sank down onto the sand next to her and they sat in quiet companion for several minutes.

Then Maggie spoke.

"Bianca's in Poland," she said starkly, her eyes fixated at the sea and sky which were nearly as dark as her mood. "I'm jealous even though I know I shouldn't be. She loves Lena, not me. She's loved Lena for a long time now and I thought I was fine with that, I really did. But then she left." Maggie turned to Kendall, eyes filled with sadness and tears. "She left, Kendall. And I'm not fine. In fact, I'm nowhere close." A ragged sob escaping her, she said, "I don't want to be like this. I want to move on. Why can't I move on?"

Pulling Maggie into her arms, Kendall embraced the shivering blonde and wrapped her up in her long black overcoat to try and keep her warm. Rubbing her arms and releasing a soft soothing murmur, she said, "It's hard to move on from things we dream of having. I think it's even harder to move on from things that we don't let ourselves even acknowledge we want. That's what Bianca is for you, Maggie."

"But I shouldn't want her," Maggie shuddered, unconsciously moving closer to Kendall, feeling safe in her arms. "Why should I think about things I shouldn't want?"

"Because until you think about it you can't move on," replied Kendall simply, wrapping the coat around Maggie and pulling the blonde closer. Maggie was now in her lap, face pressed into the curve of her neck, breath hot on her skin. Shivering on feeling it, Kendall continued, "You want to move on, don't you? Find someone for yourself?"

"Like who?" asked Maggie, suddenly aware of the pleasant sensation caused by her body against Kendall's. Tilting her head, she studied the fine features above her. Sharp and strong like a Greek statue with just as much resilience as the materials they were made out of. Kendall could be a hard person, she knew that but now she also knew she could be soft as well. Very soft, Maggie realized, her fingers trailing upward to allow her hand to cup a breast that perfectly fit in her grasp. As if it was made to be there and perhaps, Maggie thought, it did. "Like you?"

"That's not what I meant," Kendall said, voice strangled and decidedly unlike her.

"What did you mean then?" asked Maggie, now knowing exactly who she wanted to move on with and honestly feeling she couldn't have chosen better. Trailing her warm hands upwards, she wound them around Kendall's neck causing the taller woman to move away nervously which caused her to then fall backwards onto the sand with Maggie still firmly on top of her. A moment passed then Maggie said, "You're scared, aren't you?" Her voice was concerned and gentle as she rested a hand on Kendall's cheek.

Flushed red with humiliation, Kendall turned her head to one side and stated rather emotionlessly, "Please get off me."

"Not until you tell me why you're scared," said Maggie in tones which revealed she had a stubborn streak equal to a Kane's. Cupping Kendall's face in her hands, she locked their eyes and said with tender encouragement, "Tell me."

Squeezing her eyes painfully shut, Kendall replied reluctantly, "I shouldn't want you."

Hazel eyes went wide and Maggie whispered Kendall's name, causing the other woman to open her eyes and look at her with a wry yet sorrowful expression. One that was quickly wiped away by Maggie swiftly moving forward to meet their lips in a passionate kiss. Warming them both in a way that only another body can.

"I take it all back," announced Ethan with a unique sort of flair. "I must say that was simply lovely. Grand job, Greenlee. Just a grand example of romance."

Studying Ethan suspiciously as if waiting for an insult to arrive, Greenlee eventually replied, "Thanks. Since you spoke up first now it's your turn, Brit boy. Lets hear your version."

"Me?" Ethan chuckled at this thought. "I'm afraid I must admit I'm truly as poor an example of a storyteller as I had tried to make you out to be. I would butcher our leading ladies in poor verse and that shouldn't be allowed. At least, in my humble opinion. Though I do feel they shouldn't be quite so distracted with our dear Bianca. They do have lives of their own."

"Then c'mon, Big E," said Reggie heartily and with some cheer. "Lets hear it. I know you can do it, I got confidence. I mean, if I can spin together a story so can you. You're a college man, right?"

"Right," said Ethan skeptically. Heaving a sigh, he lifted an eyebrow and wagged a finger playfully at Greenlee. "I shan't forgive you for this anytime soon. Do remember that, won't you?"

"Oh, I'll remember this," said Greenlee, a slow smile forming.

Appearing just as pleased as Greenlee on hearing these words and seeing that particular reaction, Ethan straightened his broad shoulders to then stand and deliver his story.

1. Ethan's Story
1.1. Contains:
1.1.1. Ultra cutesy romance.
1.1.2. The romantic feeding of food.
1.1.3. Clever woodland creatures.

What Happens When Bad Harlequin Romance Falls Into Pine Valley Hands

Part Three

By: Ethan

"I love picnics, don't you?" Maggie said happily, turning around to face Kendall with a wide smile. In one hand she held a large wicker picnic basket and in the other a red checkered blanket.

Eyeing their woodland settings that included large trees, green grass, and frolicking animals almost warily Kendall wondered if they had accidentally stepped into a Disney movie. "I'm not sure how I feel about picnics," she said in a moment of total honesty. "I've never been on one."

"You've never been on a picnic?" asked Maggie with definite horror, sounding as if she considered this to be the utmost of travesties. Spreading the blanket out on the ground in an efficient gesture, she sat down and patted the place next to her. "Well, we're fixing that now, aren't we?"

"I guess," said Kendall slowly, taking a hesitant seat next to Maggie and keeping an eye on an nearby squirrel that she felt was watching them a little too closely. A sign to her that it might attack in any second. She was soon distracted by her face being held gently in Maggie's hands and unable to help herself, Kendall smiled softly at the other woman. "Sorry," she said quietly. "I'm not used to this kind of thing. Thank you for this. It's been a long time since someone has taken the time to do something like this for me."

"That's their loss," murmured Maggie, moving closer to put their faces just a breath apart. Pushing a lock of curly hair from Kendall's eyes, she said, "Don't you think?"

"I think," Kendall replied in husky tones.

Then she slowly moved forward for a kiss. Pulling Maggie onto her lap and wrapping her arms around the blonde's small waist as their tongues met and explored, making them both groan with pleasure. They parted, short of breath but extremely giddy and Maggie buried her face in Kendall's neck who held her close as she could.

"We should eat," said Maggie after a long while. Peering at Kendall who arched an eyebrow humorously at this, she poked the taller woman in the side. "Don't give me that look! If you want to keep doing things like that I need food to help me keep up my energy level."

"I wasn't aware kissing me was so draining," said Kendall sardonically.

"You should be," Maggie said mischievously, dropping a quick kiss on Kendall's lips before reaching for the picnic basket and dragging it over to them. Somehow managing to not leave her place perched in Kendall's lap.

"That was impressive," Kendall remarked in staid observation.

"I'm glad you think so," said Maggie, beaming at this praise as she opened up the basket. Turning around quickly, she put her hands over Kendall's eyes. "Keep your eyes closed!" she ordered in strange ferocity.

"Why?" asked Kendall, drawing the word out in a decent impression of Jackson.

"Just do it, please," said Maggie irritably.

"Fine," Kendall said this as if it were a great favor Maggie was asking of her instead of a simple request. Then again, that was how Kendall tended to act about most favors.

Seconds passed then Maggie said, "Open your mouth."

Ignoring the urge to say something smartass in response, Kendall did what Maggie asked and was soon treated with the distinctive taste of cheesecake melting in her mouth. Opening her eyes and licking her lips, she smiled on seeing Maggie holding a small plate with her favorite brand of strawberry cheesecake on it.

"Yum," said Kendall, her voice low and appreciative.

"I thought that you'd like it," said Maggie, sounding exceptionally pleased with herself. "This is your favorite isn't it?"

"It's among one of my favorites," Kendall implied as she took the plate from Maggie's hands and set it down on the blanket. "There is something that I enjoy tasting far more though. And sadly, it can't be bought in any store."

"And what's that?" asked Maggie despite knowing what the answer was going to be.

In lieu of a reply, Kendall met their lips for another kiss far more involved than the last. So much so they ended up pressed into the soft cotton of the red checkered blanket. It was a kiss that would have kept on until it evolved into something so much more if it wasn't for the fact that Maggie felt the brush of a fluffy and furry object on her arm. Pulling away from Kendall in a desperate gesture she didn't want to be a part of, Maggie was met with the sight of the squirrel Kendall had been watching earlier eating their cheesecake.

"At least it has good taste," said Kendall, her eyes narrowed and matched the squirrel's beady black gaze. "Well?" she began, lifting a questioning eyebrow at the creature. "What are you going to do? You've been caught."

The squirrel paused in its eating and looked from Kendall to Maggie then back again. Then in a flash it was off, somehow holding the entire piece of strawberry cheesecake in its greedy paws.

"Smart rodent," Kendall remarked casually then focusing back on Maggie with a slow smile. "Now," she drawled in her best seductive tones, "where were we?"

"That story was horribly insulin inducing sugary overdose brand cute," stated Greenlee plainly.

"No good then?" asked Ethan sheepishly, rubbing his head of thick black hair and returning to his seat on the couch. "I told you to remember I was forced to attempt this under extreme duress."

"But I do remember," Greenlee replied, giving an easy smile. "And surprisingly, it wasn't that bad. It was just a little too sweet for my personal taste."

"Mine too," said Simone, deciding to offer her two cents. "In fact, I have to say all of your stories about the salacious Maggie and Kendall hook up have been millions of miles too tame for me. And it's not realistic! Please," she declared huffily as she stood on her feet. "Nothing but kisses? This is the new millennium, lets get with the times and hear my version, shall we?"

And as Reggie and Greenlee did their best song and dance act to get Lily out of the room and away from Simone's perverted ways, thus began the newest and most sordid tale.

1. Simone's Story
1.1. Contains:
1.1.1. Drinking.
1.1.2. Actions caused by drinking.
1.1.3. Sex, of course.

What Happens When Bad Harlequin Romance Falls Into Pine Valley Hands (NC-17 Edition)

Part Four

By: Simone

Like many other people in the world, Maggie had sex but she had never fucked. Not until she found herself slightly drunk and in the companionship of Kendall one late night at the Pine Valley Inn. They were drowning their sorrows in regards to Bianca's departure, Maggie for one reason and Kendall for another.

Despite their difference in reasons, the sorrow that they both felt was the same and the effect was resoundingly real. Reluctant to leave one another in such a state, the two women headed upstairs to the room Kendall had reserved earlier in the night when she first decided to spend it drinking. She was, after all, something of a planner.

Neither of them knew precisely how the kissing happened but they did know the result of it. The hot press of their bodies moving together, the slippery sweet feeling of tongues entangled, and the delicious ache that threatened to seize them whole. That heady feeling of uncontrollable want, falling over the edge into the abyss and not really caring because the desire simply was that great. They knew it all too well and when they parted with a gasp, chests heaving and eyes dark with desire, they also knew something else.

Maggie, that she was about to fuck for the first time.

Kendall, that she was about to fuck again.

They didn't dwell on this long though. Not with the memory of those heated kisses in their minds. With eager impatience, they shed their clothes and fell upon the bed, shoving the covers wildly aside as they pressed together. Satisfied moans silenced only by deep kisses as skin met skin.

Leaving a path of hot kisses and warm hands down Maggie's stomach, Kendall rested the side of her face against a firm thigh and smiled slowly as Maggie unconsciously bucked her hips with an instinctive need. Gently pushing tanned legs apart, Kendall leaned down to release a soft breath and was rewarded with uncontrolled quivering and a delicious moan.

"Please," was all that Maggie said and all that Kendall needed.

The first taste was always the best in Kendall's expert opinion and this case was no exception. Lifting tan legs up and over her shoulders, she easily settled in and tasted the blonde girl. She was sticky, sweet, and everything good a woman could hope to be.

Having a woman was always so soft, it continued to surprise Kendall who was perpetually used to the hard lines of a man. Even the noises they made were rough while a woman, while Maggie, released moans almost melodic and mesmerizing in the air. Pushing Kendall on in her pursuits. Making her want those moans to continue and grow more enthusiastic from her actions.

This want clear in her mind, Kendall skillfully pressed her thumb down on Maggie's clit, causing the small body to jump up and off the bed. Chuckling at this before she went back to her meal, Kendall made sure to alternate the pressure from hard to teasing then back again.

When the orgasm hit and Kendall felt Maggie's body quiver uncontrollably in her hold, she instinctively moved up and met their lips in a kiss. Tasting herself on Kendall's lips gave Maggie a new surge of energy and the taller woman found herself quickly flipped over onto her back.

"My turn," Maggie said, her voice a deep and husky purr.

On hearing this, Kendall nearly came on the spot. When Maggie slipped a long finger inside her, she turned her head to one side and bit her lip. Seeing this, the blonde stretched upwards and pressing a kiss against her lips, she then murmured, "Do you want me inside you?"

"Yes," Kendall's answer was guttural, ripped deep from her chest and it told Maggie everything she needed to know.

Kissing Kendall deeply, opening her up and tasting all that she was, Maggie slipped another finger inside her as she imitated Kendall's efforts from earlier. Her thumb tracing the clitoris, occasionally pressing down but always upon it, making the taller woman mad from the sensations.

The rhythm of her touch, in and out, the kisses growing more heated and desperate as it went on, Maggie almost came just from watching Kendall. Her body arched high off the bed when the orgasm seized her, making her tremble and quake in the loss of control.

Maggie had never seen anything so beautiful.

That was what she wanted to say when she moved up towards Kendall, but she didn't. Instead she pushed sweat dampened curly locks from her eyes and smiled softly at her as the brunette regained her breath and spoke first.

"That," she began breathlessly, "was--"

"Dinner!" Kendall interrupted the tale. Real life Kendall, that is. Not imaginary just had sex with Maggie in the Pine Valley Inn while slightly tipsy Kendall. Which, to be perfectly honest, wasn't that far off from real life Kendall when you considered current circumstances.

Entering the room holding three large bags of Chinese food and followed by Maggie who held two, Kendall looked at the stupefied expressions and frowned. "What?" she demanded. "Did we take so long your brain cells ate themselves out of sheer desperation for sustenance?"

"They do look fairly brain dead," remarked Maggie. Directing her gaze to Jamie who appeared the most affected, she asked, "Want to tell us what's going on James? Were you guys doing quantum mechanics or something equally as horrible?"

"We were telling stories about you," Lily's voice rang out clearly, she had a wincing Greenlee and Reggie behind her. It was hard to stop someone from talking or entering a room when you couldn't touch them. Hence them not really being able to stop Lily from reappearing when she heard Maggie and Kendall's return. "Simone's was about you having sex." She paused to search through her pants pockets then produced a tiny machine and beamed widely. "I recorded it. Want to hear?"

For once in her life, Kendall didn't have an answer. And neither did Maggie, in fact. The only one who did say or do anything was Ethan who released a very satisfied chuckle which made Greenlee whap him on the top of his somewhat poofy head of dark black hair.

And that reaction was to be expected.

"Bianca," began Erica slowly as she sat next to her daughter and Jackson at the large oak table in the kitchen. "Do you have any idea why Babe is on the cover of not one but five different magazines?" Instead of replying, Bianca took the magazines which featured Babe in a slew of parties in various sultry situations with a gorgeous redhead. "And Lena," Erica wore a wry expression on her face upon seeing the nervous look in dark eyes at her words. "Would you be kind enough to indulge my curiosity and tell me what they say? Though I loathe to confess it, a small part of me is enormously intrigued based solely on the pictures alone."

Looking entirely relieved at Erica's words, Lena smiled and leaned closer to Bianca in order to better read the magazines. "Let me see," murmured Lena rather thoughtfully. "Ah, here we are. 'Model Sexcapades'. Is sexcapades even a word? 'Acting Out', which I think is to imply being out as a lesbian... 'Blonde Bombshell Hits Kasper', that is the most normal I should think. 'Late Night Kisses', that's fairly tame don't you suppose? Not at all creative considering. 'Kasper's Kept Woman'," Lena didn't comment on this last headline. Instead, she chuckled.

"Lena," said Bianca in sharp and scolding tones. She shifted Miranda before tenderly placing her in Lena's arms. "I'm going to call Babe and find out what this is all about. I'm sure you won't mind if I leave out the fact you laughed at this obvious invasion of her privacy."

"Bianca," Lena called her name out sadly and started to rise to her feet when Jackson stood then clasped her arm.

"I'll talk to her," said Jackson with a soft reassurance.

His departure left the kitchen to only Lena, Miranda, and Erica. Reluctantly, Lena met Erica's eyes and in the place of an angry judgment there was a quiet understanding.

"I don't trust Babe," said Erica simply, not particularly wanting to mince words when it came to this topic. "There may be quite a few things we disagree on, Lena, but I am sure this we have in common. I don't have to tell you Kendall feels the same." A small smile quirked on her lips and she added, "Maggie as well. I think those most protective of Bianca agree on the subject of Babe. That despite what good she might have done in revealing the truth about Miranda it does not take away the fact she lied to Bianca for months. That she knowingly deprived Bianca and you, all of us, from that little girl you're holding now. One you should've been holding from the start."

"Keeping a mother from their child is a sin I cannot forgive," Lena answered darkly, her face shadowed. "I'm glad we are in agreement in this, Erica. I wish I could speak to Bianca on it but she will never see as we do. If I had my way Babe would never be allowed near my child again."

"Your way, my way, Kendall's way, Maggie's way, maybe even Myrtle's if she let herself admit it," said Erica, laughing now despite the horrible topic. Finding some odd joy in knowing that she and Lena discovered something they had in common.

A fierce desire to protect Bianca and Miranda.

"What of Alexander?" asked Lena. Now that she had found comfortable speaking terms with Erica she wanted to know it all. Including how Erica felt about the side of Miranda's family that involved the man who had raped her daughter.

"Zach is what he prefers to be called, my dear," replied Erica smoothly. Her eyes rested on Miranda who, amazingly, was up and running despite listening to Lena's soothing voice. Currently she was involved with tugging on the collar to the Polish woman's black shirt. "It took me some time and quite a bit of convincing but I now see he isn't Michael. Strange as it might seem, he and I agree about a good deal of things. I can say safely that he feels as we do about Babe. This includes Ethan as well." Smiling on thinking of the young man, Erica asked, "Have you seen pictures of Ethan?" On seeing Lena nod, she then continued, "He looks so much like Miranda. Both he and Bianca make me think she'll be just as beautiful as them once she's grown."

"And as tall?" asked Lena humorously, lifting an eyebrow.

"Oh heavens, I hope not!" Erica laughed with her. "If she is then I'm sure to get a crick in my neck from looking up at her. Honestly," she sighed, "it's bad enough with Kendall." Wearing her most well known imperious expression on her face, Erica demanded, "Why must the short be cursed with tall offspring, Lena? Can you tell me that? I think it's one of life's cruel jokes."

"Life is cruel," said Lena quiet and solemn, thinking of her mother's illness and only just now having Miranda returned to them. "I'm afraid I don't have the answers as to why though."

Studying Lena for a moment, Erica rose to her feet and sat next to the taller woman. In a hesitant movement, she slowly reached a hand out to gently cup delicate features. When Lena turned her head to meet their gazes, Erica released a soft breath on seeing dark eyes filled with unshed tears.

"Enjoy the time you have left, Lena," whispered Erica, hoping to offer some meager comfort. Wiping away the tears as they now began to fall, she murmured, "Life is cruel, yes. Cruel, evil, painful, and at times unbearably sad but it's still life and we all must live it. Just know you aren't alone. You have Bianca, you have your beautiful daughter," Erica smiled at Miranda who was squirming in Lena's arms and patting her face as if to help her grandmother wipe away the tears. When Lena sobbed at this, Erica continued kindly, "And you have me, along with the rest of my considerably large and overly obnoxious family. Whenever you feel like this... please remember that, Lena."

"Thank you, Erica," said Lena, trying to push away the shame she felt because she truly knew Erica did mean what she said. "I'll do my best but it is so difficult at times to remember the good when so much seems so terribly bad."

"Yes," Erica breathed sadly. "Well, then I advise something else," she began in more upbeat tones, a wide smile matching her voice as her dark eyes twinkled.

"What is that?" asked Lena almost nervously.

"Look ahead," said Erica earnestly, her voice not brooking any arguments, telling Lena quite clearly that she should follow orders.

So Lena did what Erica said and looked ahead and was met with Miranda's dancing eyes, dark and full of happiness, her toothless mouth spread in a ecstatic grin. Releasing a garbled cry of happiness on having Lena's attention finally, Miranda dove forward into Lena's arms, wrapping tiny arms around her neck and snuggling in as close as she could manage.

Gasping in surprise and joy at this gesture, Lena looked helplessly over to Erica who merely smiled and patted her arm. "That makes everything worthwhile, doesn't it?" she asked with a serene sense of knowledge.

The only thing Lena could do was nod in agreement as she reached up to hold her daughter close. This moment made it all worthwhile. Every single miserable moment in her life was worth it because it led her to this and she couldn't let herself forget that.


To Be Continued

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