DISCLAIMER: All My Children is the property of ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Rudeboy


Chapter One

March 26th

Bianca heard the elevator rumbling its way to the top of the building, which meant her girls were home. She set down the knife she had been chopping with, and walked out of the kitchen, through the dining room, and to the front door to help Maggie in.

She opened the door just as Maggie finished wrestling the stroller out of the lift. Miranda looked happy and pleasant as always. Maggie…well…the trademark loose hairs going every direction were a few less than usual.

"Have I mentioned lately how I can't wait for her to be able to walk everywhere?" asked Maggie

"Just about every time you two go out I think," said Bianca with a smile. "I could have taken her to the park you know. I am her Mother after all."

"No, you do enough at work all week, and being her nanny is the trade off for my room. So now, just let me do my job." When Maggie finally got the stroller through the front door, she noticed that the outer hall had filled with empty boxes and a wooden crate during her absence. "Get some unpacking done while we were out?"

"A few more things arrived today. I put yours in your room."

"Thanks." replied Maggie "I'll just get Munchkin here settled into the crib in the den, and then I'll help you with dinner."

"Um….ok." came Bianca's pausing reply. She didn't look forward to Maggie's reaction to the surprise waiting in the den, but she thought it better to discover it on her own. She stood in the entrance hall watching Maggie pass through the library into the far room, chattering away the whole time to Miranda.

She saw Maggie spot the surprise, watched as she froze in place and, finally, pivot on one foot to face her.

"What is SHE doing here?" Maggie hissed through clenched teeth.

February 25th

Maggie let out a long, low, wolf whistle as she walked into the living room of Bianca's new apartment. The room was two stories tall, and almost as wide as the building itself. The outer wall was comprised entirely of windows that, when you reached the 10 foot high mark, angled back 45 degrees. In the middle of the said wall were French doors that led to a patio that encircled the entire top of the building.

As she looked out the windows, it was impossible not to notice the Eiffel Tower looming as large as life itself off to the right. Straight ahead, the trees of Champ De Mars Park filled her view.

She walked to the doors, unlocked them, and exited onto the terrace. Yew plants were placed every 8 feet along the perimeter. She walked between the middle of the two plants directly across from the doors to lean against the railing, and take in her new surroundings.

Her head was swimming from all the input she was taking in. The flight…going through customs…the drive from the airport…and now, here she was staring up at the Eiffel Tower. "I was in Pine Valley less than 24 hours ago….how in the world did I end up here?" she thought. There would be time enough for being overwhelmed later though. For now, the cool February air was getting to her. She walked back into the living room to find Bianca standing next to the coffee table in the center of the room. Miranda was perched in her arms and was smiling as she looked around.

"Did you finish showing the Munchkin the rest of the downstairs rooms?" Maggie inquired reaching out with her left hand to stroke the back of the child's head.

"Yep" came Bianca's reply "From the den to the servants quarters off the kitchen" she added.

"Oh, I didn't catch that one." said Maggie

"It's like its own little apartment, and even has a door out to the outer hallway and everything." said Bianca "You can see it later though; let's go check out the bedrooms upstairs."

At either end of the enormous room were staircases to the upper floor. The girls took the full staircase to the left, as the one at the other end was spiraled, and more difficult to navigate with a baby. They were greeted at the top of the landing by the door to the master bedroom.

"Shall we?" asked Bianca

"But of course." was the blonde's reply.

The room was bathed in the very concept of Napoleonic French design from the sleigh bed to the fabric of the chairs. Bianca glanced over at Maggie and noticed her jaw gaping open as she looked around. "I think Mom combined every French bedroom she ever saw in Architectural Digest into this one room." she said.

Maggie looked at Bianca with a smile, and pointed at her left wrist "Told you the corsage didn't match the chicness of the country." Although she tried to hide the fact that it warmed her heart Bianca still had it on.

"Do you whine this much about gifts you give to other people?" asked Bianca with a hint of sarcasm

"Nope. Just the ones I travel to foreign countries with." was the patented, smartass, Stone reply.

Bianca just rolled her eyes and motioned with a nod of her head for Maggie to follow her. They passed through the master bath with its sunken tub, separate shower, marble counters and golden faucets, into the second bedroom that had been converted into a nursery for Miranda.

Famous children's cartoon characters adorned the walls, while the room itself was filled with every baby item one could imagine. As Maggie looked around, she glanced over at Bianca, who was laying Miranda down on the changing table. She caught her friend's attention and asked, "Let me guess…Erica again?" she said gesturing to the grandiose nature of the room.

Bianca smiled and returned her attention to Miranda "If you want, you can go to the next room and check it out. I'll be over in a minute, I just want to lay Miranda down for a nap."

Maggie replied in the affirmative and walked out to the landing that overlooked the Living room, and made her way down to the next room. It was done up far more simply than the master bedroom, but the fingers of Erica Kane's designers were still evident in every corner. It was a far much more normal room though, with its own private bath.

After exploring the room for a few moments, she turned to leave when Bianca strode in with a bag slung over her shoulder. "This is where you're staying tonight; the suite at the hotel won't be ready for you until tomorrow." she said as she set the shoulder bag on the bed "You can borrow some of my clothes for now and tomorrow we will head out and do some shopping." she added with a large smile.

"Thanks Bianca" said Maggie. "Joining you at the last second was a great idea except for the lack of clothes part."

"Don't worry about that, I called Mom while you were going though customs and she said she would ask Reggie if he would pack up your stuff for you. She didn't think it would be a problem."

"Oh." said Maggie "And…how did Erica take the idea of my being here?" she asked with an obvious sense of foreboding.

"She was rather non-comitial. But don't you worry about her, I'm happy you're here, and that's all that matters." she said with a grin. "Now, go take a shower. I'm going to take one too, and then we can figure out something for dinner."

"Thanks B…"said Maggie as she began unzipping the luggage, "for everything."

Bianca smiled, and leaned over and clasped the hand Maggie was unzipping the bag with "And you can stop saying that right now! There is nothing to thank me for! Now go wash up…you smell like a plane." she said with a wink and a scrunching of her nose, before she turned and walked out.

Maggie selected some jeans and a simple long sleeved, blue shirt from the bag and went to the bathroom. She opened the cabinets and discovered it was stocked with a large selection of shampoos and soaps. Another obvious sign Erica had been involved in the prepping of the apartment.

She peeled off her clothes and stepped into the shower. The instant the water made contact with her face, she felt like a new person. It was like the water wasn't washing away only the grime of the trip, but everything else she had been carrying around with her. The after effects of Jonathon…her decision to leave Pine Valley with Bianca…the impulsive act of throwing herself at her friend on the plane…."Man, what was I thinking when I pulled that maneuver?" she wondered. Everything seemed smoothed over now, but she still regretted making Bianca feel uncomfortable.

Her mind went blank for the rest of the shower, as she just let the water massage her skin and hair. Finally done, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in one of the large plush towels. As she used a second towel to dry her hair, she glanced in the mirror and paused. She leaned forward, and wiped the steam off the glass and studied herself for a moment in the reflection. "As soon as possible, that dye job has to go! Until I get rid of it, it's going to be a constant reminder of the stupid mistakes I've made lately." she thought to herself.

She finished drying off and put on the clothes Bianca had loaned her. She made a mental note that her first shopping excursion would have to be for shoes and underwear as she was sorely lacking both. She left her hair damp and went out to find her friend.

Even though the second spiraled staircase was just outside her room, she walked to the other end to check on Miranda and to see if Bianca was still in her bathroom. The littlest member of the trio was fast asleep and B was gone from the shower. She couldn't have left long ago because Maggie could still feel the steam hanging in the air. She passed through the bathroom and into the master bedroom to see if her friend was by chance, there.

A suitcase was laid out in the open position on the bed and her clothes from the flight rested next to that. Though Bianca wasn't in the room, Maggie took a moment to make a closer inspection of the décor than she had earlier. As she walked around the furnishings, she spotted the corsage sitting on the top of the dresser. She walked over, ran her finger tips over the wrist band and smiled a tiny, pleased grin.

Deciding she was getting hungry, she left the bedroom and used the full staircase to get down to the bottom floor. She paused only slightly to marvel at how much of the window wall was filled by the famous Paris landmark of the tower.

She found Bianca in the kitchen wrapped in a robe, her hair also still damp from her shower. She was sitting upon a stool next to the butcher's block in the center of the room. She looked up from the pile of restaurant menus that someone had left for them and smiled at her freshly washed friend. "Feel better?" she inquired.

"Like a whole new woman." came Maggie's reply, as she leaned forward to rest her forearms on the block, across from her friend "But a starving whole new woman! What are our choices?"

"Well, apparently this area isn't too big on the whole concept of delivery….so….Pizza Hut?" she said holding up a menu with the familiar logo.

Maggie threw her head back in a laugh "I can see the new travel ads now 'Move to a whole new country, dine at the same old places!'" both girls continued to laugh in the way only best friends can, when Maggie finally added, "Just no anchovies please."

Bianca nodded in agreement and went to pick up the phone to call in their order. As she began talking with the restaurant, Maggie finally noticed the door in the far right corner of the room that led to the servants' apartment. She walked over, pushed the door open and flipped on the lights. To her surprise, she found it fully furnished, and as Bianca had said, it was an apartment into itself. She walked around to find a full bathroom and the door at the far end that led to the outer hallway, so the servant could come and go without disturbing their employer.

As she turned to walk back to the door to the kitchen, Bianca entered the room "There you are. So…what do you think?"

"Not bad at all, reminds me a little bit of the studio we shared."

Bianca glanced around "A little….all it needs to really get there would be Portia hanging on the wall." Bianca said with a mischievous smile.

Maggie shuddered at the thought of that painting, which made Bianca laugh. "So, are you actually going to hire someone that will be living here?" inquired Maggie

"I don't know yet. I'm going to need some help with Miranda, but that will only be during the daytime. At night I will want to take care of her, so….hiring someone to move in seems a bit silly." replied Bianca "Plus, I have to find the time to even interview people, and who knows when I will be able to fit that into my schedule."

"Well….I can take care of her until you do." said Maggie in a somewhat sheepish voice.

"Oh Maggie! That would be fantastic, but I don't want to inconvenience you."

"Inconvenience me? From what? My hectic schedule of not being in school? Having no job? And heaven forbid you would pull me away from my busy social schedule! Wow…not sure how I would fit taking care of a kid in there!" said Maggie

Bianca had learned long ago that when Maggie got on a roll like this, it was best to just agree with her. "Ok, you made your point. You'll watch Miranda for now, but I am going to be looking for a nanny as soon as possible."

"Good….now let's go see if we have things like plates… silverware… glasses… drinks…you know the essentials to actually being able to actually eat." Maggie said as she shoed her friend out of the servants' quarters.

Though it shouldn't have shocked them, it did when they discovered the kitchen was fully stocked with all forms of pans and utensils "I really want to meet whoever got this place ready and kiss them." said Bianca

"You'll have to get behind me in that line." added Maggie.

As the girls set the two middle, opposing spots of the dining room table for dinner, they chatted about their plans for the next day. "So are you free tomorrow?" asked Maggie

"I don't officially start work until Monday, but I do have a few phone calls to make to let everyone know I am here. Otherwise, I am free and we can start shopping to get you some clothes!" Bianca said with an enthusiastic grin.

"I'm not going to go hog wild tomorrow or anything B." Maggie said as she brought the drinks from the kitchen "I have no income right now, so I am going to stick only with the essentials. That will hold me over until my clothes get here from Pine Valley."

"Well….we'll see about that." said Bianca

Maggie was too tired, and too hungry to argue with Bianca at the moment. She did have a feeling there would have to be some discussion the next day about what was being purchased, and by whom. "By the way, are we going to be able to hear Miranda if she wakes up?" she asked. Bianca reached into the pocket of her robe and fished out a baby monitor that she set on the table. Maggie shook her head and chuckled, "but of course."

The girls made idle chatter about the décor of the apartment, and how they loved it, until the pizza finally arrived. It was then that the girls sat down in the dining room to enjoy their first meal in Paris together.

As Bianca grabbed her first piece of pizza and set it on her plate, she took a moment to look across the table at Maggie and ponder their situation. Maggie was talking, Bianca could see the lips moving, but she couldn't hear her. It was just finally starting to fall into place for her. "She's here…she's really here" she thought. "After all the struggles, the hurdles and roadblocks, no matter what happens with our relationship from this point on, at least we are here… together….at long last, together."

It might not be the way Bianca had hoped for, but that might come with time, as the plane ride had certainly given her hope. For now, she was just thrilled to have the two most important women in her life with her, and all to herself.

She thought how all the interruptions were gone for now, there was no one plotting schemes any longer to keep them apart. But Bianca also knew that she and Maggie could be their own worst enemies when it came to their relationship. They had proved time and time again that it was not always the outside forces that kept them from being together. All that stood between her and the woman she loved now was their own fears and anxieties.

"….and that's why I've decided to become a rodeo clown." said Maggie

Bianca tilted her head and realized she had obviously not heard one word of anything Maggie had said "Wh-what?" she asked, as her face scrunched up in confusion.

"Well I needed to say something that would get your attention as it looked like you had left our solar system." said Maggie "You grabbed that piece of pizza, set it down, and then never took your hand off of it. You just sat there staring into space this whole time."

"I'm sorry" Bianca said with a sigh "I guess the jet lag is catching up with me. I didn't sleep that much on the plane."

Maggie shifted uncomfortably in her chair thinking back to being caught with the shirt on her nose. "Well, get a slice or two of pizza in you, I haven't seen you eat anything since the hors d'oeuvres at Erica's party!"

Bianca caught the uncomfortable shift Maggie had made in her chair. She smiled and took a bite of the pizza. "Well, as soon as I am done here, I think I am going straight to bed. They say the best cure for jet lag is to go to bed at a normal time, but I just don't think I can make it!"

"I think I will take that advice and stay up for awhile, see what Paris TV is like ….wait…we do have a TV don't we?" Maggie said, a tinge of panic to her voice

Bianca laughed "Yes, it's in the den. It was the large thing hanging on the wall."

"Whew…ok. Just wanted to make sure."

The girls continued to chat through out the dinner, Bianca getting down two slices of pizza to Maggie's three. They cleared the table and put the leftovers in the fridge.

"Mmmmmm Cold pizza for breakfast." Maggie said licking her lips and doing a poor impersonation of Homer Simpson.

Bianca rolled her eyes and put the dishes in the washer.

The girls finished up in the kitchen and walked through the dining room to the entrance hall. Here is where they would part ways for the evening as the den and stairs were in different directions.

"Well….good night." said Bianca with a hint of sadness in her voice.

Maggie looked at her a bit perplexed "Everything ok B?"

"Yeah, I….well…." she said hesitantly

"Spit it out B."

"I …..wanted to give you a hug, but I wasn't sure how you would feel about it with everything that went on and…"

Maggie reached out, and grabbed Bianca by the right arm and forcibly pulled her towards her, making the taller girl trip over her own feet. Maggie quickly wrapped her arms around Bianca and pulled her tight, her head going to her own left, to rest on Bianca's right shoulder. Slowly Bianca relaxed and returned the hug. They stood like this for what seemed like an eternity to them, but what was in reality probably a mere minute.

As they pulled back from each other, Maggie looked Bianca squarely in the eyes "You and I are best friends Bianca. And one of the perks of being best female friends is that we get to hug each other." she said smiling.

"I know." came Bianca's timid response "I just…"

""Didn't want to pressure me"…I know…I'm getting really tired of that line."

Bianca laughed. She reached up with both hands and tucked her hair behind her ears as she took a step back from Maggie "Well, it's true. I don't want you to ever feel pressured."

"I would be more upset if you didn't hug me B…..Ok? And I mean that…I want at least one a day, via future Dr. Stone's orders!" she said pointing her finger in Bianca's face

"Ok, I promise. I now know hugging is inbounds!" Bianca said between laughs

"Good…now go check on Miranda and go to bed…I'll see you in the morning." And with that, Maggie turned to walk through the library and into the den.

Bianca turned and walked towards the living room to head for the stairs. For some reason her heart felt lighter, as did her feet, and a huge smile had crept across her face. "At least I can get my daily hug fix." she thought.

Maggie plopped down on the couch and spotted the remote controls on the coffee table in front of her. She scooped them up and turned on the giant wall mounted television across the room. She flipped channels until she came across a news channel in English. She wasn't a huge news hound, but at least she could understand them. "I have so got to learn French." she thought.

As she sat there only half listening to the stock report, she tilted her head back until it rested upon the wall. She reached her arms above her head and stretched them in a big sweeping motion, until she brought them to a rest on either side of her, along the back of the couch.

She sat there all relaxed staring at the ceiling, knowing that directly above her was Bianca. That gave her a warm feeling knowing she was so close. She smiled at the thought that they now had all the time in the world to focus on each other and Miranda.

Something had tickled her nose and she went to scratch it by rubbing it against the sleeve of her shirt. She stopped mere centimeters from her nose and let out a small laugh "No thanks" she thought "Bianca's shirts have gotten me in enough trouble lately." and switched to just using her fingertips to scratch her nose.

Chapter Two

March 26th

"I asked you a question Bianca!" Maggie barked as she made her way back through the library to the entrance hall. Once she was face-to-face with her friend, she asked again. "Spit it out B! What is she doing here?"

Bianca wrung her hands "I…I know you don't like her…"

"Ya think?" Maggie asked, her eyebrows shooting upwards.

"But the first day we were here, you said the small apartment reminded you of our studio, and it made me think of her….."

"Oh yeah, that's it! Make me feel responsible for bringing over freaky eyes!"

"But I like her, and she makes me happy, and I wanted to see her again, so I sent for her." finished Bianca solemnly.

"So let me get this straight now. Starving children in China on the one hand….paying to bring Portia, "The Destroyer of Worlds", over to France on the other." Maggie said as she made the gesture of weighing two options.

"It didn't cost that much to bring her over." Bianca mumbled

"Not the point B!" Maggie said as she stomped back to Miranda's stroller

"In fact, it cost more to have her cleaned after the fire!" Bianca knew that was the wrong thing to say the second she blurted it out. Maggie froze in place, stood for a moment without turning around, just to finish with a head shake as she continued on to Miranda.

Bianca finally walked through the library to join her friend in the den. "What if I move her to another room?" Bianca asked sheepishly.

"It's your apartment, as long as She doesn't come in to my room, you can do what you want." Maggie stated as she placed the toddler in her crib.

"Maggie, don't be like that. This place is as much yours as it is mine." Bianca pleaded as Maggie turned to face her, arms folded across her chest, jaw locked in a look of defiance "If it bugs you that much, I'll move her."

"She just creeps me out B." Maggie said, her voice calming down and her hands dropping to her sides. "I mean, she has 3 eyes for crying out loud!" She looked up at the painting again, closed her eyes, and shuddered. "And poor Miranda….think what looking at that every day will do to her self body image!" Maggie paused, and then continued in a high squeaky voice "Why don't I have 3 eyes and 4 breasts Mommy?"

Bianca laughed. "Fine…who knew a painting could cause so much disharmony…you win…I will move her somewhere else." Bianca turned to face the painting, "Portia, my love, it appears no one understands you except me."

Maggie stepped up beside Bianca and placed an arm around her shoulders. "Not true Binks….I think there is a religious cult out there somewhere that worships her as their Goddess of Death and Destruction."

The taller girl closed her eyes and shook her head, "Come on, lets finish getting dinner ready….just for this, you're clearing the table on your own tonight."

February 26th

Maggie wasn't sure which event woke her first. She suspected it was the tiny hand that had grabbed a clump of her hair and was yanking on it. Although, it might have been the high squeaky voice coming from the side the bed that kept saying, "Auntie Maggie…Auntie Maggie…it's time to wake up Auntie Maggie!"

"You know Munchkin…you may be without a Mother in a minute." Maggie mumbled

"Oh Auntie Maggie, you don't mean that," continued the squeaky voice, "you love me tooooooooo much to make me an orphan!"

"True….but I could sell you on the black market and make a tidy profit with her out of the way."

"HEY!" came Bianca's voice as she sat up from her hidden, laying position at the side of the bed "There will be no selling of my daughter….unless we split the profit!", she said with a giggle.

Maggie grinned, eyes still closed in her vein attempt at remaining asleep. "Ok…60/40….you can have the 60, but only because you did all the original work."

"How about we just keep her instead?" Bianca said in a way that implied no further discussion was needed "Anyway, you need to get up, its almost 8:00."

"And why exactly do I need to get up?" Maggie mumbled as she turned her head from the side to face-first into her pillow.

"Because, luggage-less wonder, the shops start opening at 9:30 and we have a lot to do today! So get up!" as she shoved her hand into Maggie's hip, rocking her.

"Fine, fine." Maggie said putting her hands underneath her body to push herself up, as she did so, she paused "Um….B? I hate to ask you this, but…well…could you turn around for a minute?"

Bianca looked at Maggie with a puzzled expression for a moment, and then recognition passed over her face. "Oh! Sure…no problem." Bianca picked up Miranda and turned to face the wall across from the foot of the bed. As she heard Maggie pulling the sheet around herself she said, "I am so sorry, I didn't even think to bring you a nightgown last night! You should have come and asked me for one."

"I didn't want to wake you. I stayed up later than you, and I figured it wouldn't kill me to sleep in the nude for one night." she said as she finished wrapping herself. She swung her legs around so she was sitting with her feet on the floor. "All clear."

Bianca turned back around in her sitting position on the floor with a cooing Miranda in her lap and smiled, "Ok, well, why don't you go get washed up and dressed, and we can grab some breakfast at the little café I spotted down the street on our way in yesterday." She paused for a moment and added, "What do you want to do for clothes for now? Do I need to bring you something?"

"Nah…I can just wear what I had on last night." she said as she stood up, "Although…I could use some shoes. I'm going to look pretty funny with my heels from your going away party otherwise."

Bianca replied with a simple "no problem."

Maggie started towards the bathroom, sheet held tight around her front, but in the back, it was falling down to just above her hips, creating a backless dress effect. Bianca tried not to stare, but seeing Maggie like that just made her heart flutter. The mussed hair…the sheet concealing only part of her naked form…the acres of bare skin from her flawless back….

The clicking sound of the bathroom door snapped Bianca out of her Maggie Stone induced haze. She shook her head, trying to regain her bearings. She lifted Miranda up and turned her so they were face to face and she mouthed a silent "Wow!" to her daughter. Miranda smiled and let out a giggle that almost sounded as if she agreed with her mother.

An hour later, the girls had finished their breakfast and were ready to start their day of shopping. "So, I hope you know where in the world we are going, and how we can get there." Maggie said.

"Got it covered." replied Bianca. "I called for my driver to come get us while you were showering. He should be waiting for us in front of the apartment by now."

Maggie stared at Bianca agape. "You have a driver? Like…in the little suit and hat and everything?"

"Yes, I have a driver." Bianca replied with a smile. "But I have no idea if he has a hat. We shall soon see."

The girls walked back towards the apartment building front door with Bianca pushing Miranda in a stroller. Parked in front was a black limousine with a middle aged gentleman in a black suit leaning against it reading a paper.

"Bon Jour." Said Bianca

The man lowered his paper, and said, "Ah, Ms. Montgomery!"

Bianca replied with "Oui." for yes and turned to introduce Maggie when the man interrupted. "You must be Ms. Stone." he said with a smile and a nod. He then squatted down and looked at Miranda with an enormous grin. "And this must be the real crown bearer."

Maggie looked at Bianca with an expression of surprise, but something told her Bianca wasn't as shocked as she was.

Patrick caught the look Maggie had shot at Bianca. "You weren't expecting me to speak English, I am sure." He said, "It is required of all Cambias company drivers to be bilingual.", he informed the ladies.

"All of them?" asked Maggie. "How many of you are there?"

"Of me? There is just the one." He replied with a wink.

Maggie nudged Bianca. "Oh, I like him already!"

"My name is Patrick." He said with a little bow. "If you would both care to get in the car", he said as he opened the door, "I have already installed a car seat in the back, and I will secure little Ms. Montgomery."

The girls both giggled and said, "Thank you." as they got in the back of the limo. They watched as he put Miranda in facing the back of the back seat, both girls had taken seats on the long bench that ran down the side, with Maggie being the furthest forward.

As Patrick went to put the stroller in the trunk, Maggie asked, "Patrick? The name seems a little Irish sounding for a French guy, if you ask me."

Bianca smiled. "It's not that unusual."

"Well all I know is, I don't believe he's a real driver until I see the chauffeur's cap!"

Bianca rolled her eyes at Maggie as Patrick got into the drivers seat.

"Now…where would you ladies like to go first today?" asked Patrick through the opening for the privacy glass.

Bianca and Maggie looked at each other, smiled, and shrugged. Bianca piped up, "Well, one of us traveled to Paris with no luggage at all!" Maggie rolled her eyes heavenwards. "So we need to take her for all the essentials."

Patrick thought for a moment. "Marks & Spencer should do. If that is ok Ma'am?"

"Perfect! Head there." Bianca replied as she turned to Maggie. "It's an English department store, and happens to be one of the places Mom has an account with, so we're set!"

Maggie shifted in her seat until she faced Bianca. "B, we need to discuss this before we get in there and make some big scene."

Bianca furrowed her brow. "What do you mean? What scene?"

"You are not putting my stuff on yours or your Mom's accounts. I don't have a job right now, but I do have some money saved, and I did not come to France with you so you could pay my way on things." Maggie stated firmly.

"Ah", replied Bianca. "Well, considering the amount of items you need, would you be willing to consider it a loan?"

Maggie pondered it for a moment. "We'll see how it goes today, but if I get stuck, yeah, I supposed I could borrow it, but I will pay you back!" she stressed with a wagging finger.

Bianca smiled and said, "Fine…a loan it is then."

After a moment or two of silent staring out at the scenery, Patrick finally piped up "Ms. Montgomery…the office sent your new cell phone with me. Would you like to have it now?" he asked as he held it up.

"Oh yes, please." She took the phone from the driver and pushed the ON button. The phone sprang to life and located a signal. Bianca's jaw immediately sagged. "What the…." She looked at Maggie who wore a quizzical expression. "I already have 13 messages waiting."

"Welcome to being the person in charge!" Maggie said, patting her friend on the shoulder.

The next few minutes of the drive were spent in silence as Bianca made her way through the voice mails. Maggie noticed a couple of eye rolls, and a few mumbled curses from Bianca. The one that caught her attention was a rather loud, "Oh wonderful!" As soon as Bianca went to push the button for the next message, Maggie put her hand over Bianca's to stop her. "What's wrong?" she asked.

Bianca took a deep breath. "Not so much wrong as a pain. It seems the board of directors would like me to bring Miranda on Monday so they can all meet the true heir to the Cambias fortune. I wouldn't mind normally, but it's my first day at work and I will be swamped with things to do and then to have Miranda in tow? Yikes."

Maggie smiled and waved her hands around in an attention getting manner. "Hello! Earth to Bianca! Remember me? Temporary nanny type person? I'll just go with you and watch over her, and when the board has all gotten their 'Hellos' out, I'll just grab her and take her home."

"Are you sure it's not too much trouble?" Bianca asked.

Maggie grabbed her by both shoulders and shook her. "Stop asking silly questions!"

Bianca noticed Patrick laughing at that one. "Don't laugh! It just encourages her!" Which just made all three of them laugh harder. Maggie finally finished throttling her friend and sat back for a moment as Bianca finished listening to her voicemails.

Out of the corner of her eye, Bianca saw the tell-tale smirk crossing Maggie's face telegraphing that she was about to pipe up with something that would make at least one person cringe. Her gut told her what it was before the words. "So, Patrick…where's your hat?" had even left Maggie's lips.

Bianca hid her face in her hands and groaned in disbelief as Patrick put on his cap.

Bianca had found a secluded corner near a window in Marks & Spencer where she could return her phone calls. Patrick had come in with them to help with the bags, and was sitting on a bench holding onto to Miranda's stroller. Maggie was trying, but not succeeding, to shop on a conservative budget.

"Cute…nice…adorable…want it so bad", she mumbled to herself as she flipped through the tops on the rack.

Bianca finally walked over and joined her in her browsing. Maggie looked her up and down. "Where's the Munchkin?" she asked.

"Sitting in her stroller. Patrick is watching her." she said as she continued to flip through the blouses, occasionally pausing to study one.

"Bianca!" Maggie hissed. "We just met the man, and you're leaving Miranda alone with him?" Maggie turned to start towards the toddler.

Bianca caught her by the arm and turned her so they were looking into each others eyes. "Don't worry about it. Do you really think I would even have gotten into the limo with him if I hadn't already had him checked out from head-to-toe?" Bianca looked deeper into Maggie's eyes to see if what she was saying was registering, Maggie still looked worried. "Seriously Maggie…I had him completely checked out. Would you like to know the name of his first grade teacher?"

Maggie let out one little laugh at that. "Ok, ok. No wonder you didn't look surprised when he spoke English."

"Nope, not surprised at all. I chose him from the driver pool and had a full background check done on him, we can trust him." Bianca said as she returned to her browsing. She pulled out a blouse and held up in front of Maggie. "Yeah…go try that one on." she said, thrusting the garment at Maggie.

"B….about that loan you mentioned, I…"

"I already added you to Mom's and my account and we'll figure it out later", Bianca interrupted her.

Maggie's jaw dropped, but a smile was still evident. "How is it you always get things done before I even ask? Have you been holding out on me and you have some sort of telepathic powers?"

Bianca smiled and whistled innocently as she continued browsing through the blouses. Maggie just laughed and walked off to the dressing room with some selections to try on.

After a few hours of shopping the girls had purchased about two weeks worth of casual clothes for Maggie, two purses and a couple of assorted accessories. Now came the part Bianca hadn't been sure how to bring up, but knew she had to. She sat down with Maggie, while Patrick was running some of the packages to the car.

"I need to talk to you about Monday for a minute." Bianca started. "I know you don't want me buying you anything, but you really need some form of office attire for going to the Cambias' offices, and since it's probably going to be a tad pricey, and not something you would normally buy, I was hoping you would let me buy that for you."

Maggie looked at the floor for a minute and finally looked up at Bianca. "I don't want you to take this wrong ok?" she waited for Bianca to nod in acknowledgement. Once she had, Maggie continued, "I just don't…jeez, how to say this.….I just don't want to feel like you're "keeping me"…do you get what I'm saying?"

Bianca smiled a consoling smile and took one of Maggie's hands in her own. "I understand, I really do. We don't have any clue where this is going yet, and you still need to have your freedom."

Maggie blushed slightly. "You really can read my mind can't you?" she said with a smile.

"If only I could…" Bianca said wistfully. "But, it's called being best friends that have been through Hell together a couple of times."

"I think I could draw the map for Hell from memory by now." said Maggie in a grumble.

At that moment, Patrick returned and resumed his post watching over Miranda as the girls got up and continued their shopping. They went directly for the women's suits department. Just as they arrived, Bianca's phone began vibrating in her hand to let her know she had a call. She excused herself to answer it, leaving Maggie to choose her own outfit.

Bianca's phone call had dragged out for nearly 45 minutes due to yet another board member wanting to be "the first to welcome her to Paris". By the time she found Maggie she had already picked out her clothes and had them wrapped up.

"Wow, that was fast." said Bianca. "Do I get to see what you picked out?"

"On Monday you can." Maggie said with a smile. "I think you will be very pleased though, it is very professional looking."

Bianca gave a halting "O-k" not being quite sure what Maggie's interpretation of professional would be. "So what's left on your list?"

"Just some sneakers, shoes for Monday and underwear I think."

"Ok, well underwear is right over and shoes are one floor up, so let's just get the underwear done."

The girls dropped Maggie's latest purchases with Patrick and walked over to the lingerie department. Bianca browsed for a moment as Maggie did some serious shopping.

Bianca walked over and joined her friend at the rack she was going through, and it didn't take her long to realize she needed to find an excuse to walk away. Maggie was pulling out a wide array of undergarments…fullbacks…low bikini cut….high bikini cut…thongs, and as she pulled each one out she would hold it up in front of her and study it. Tilting her head to the left and then to the right. Some pairs she flipped around to look at the back also.

It was a pair of dark blue thong underwear that made Bianca finally sputter out, "Oh…I…uh…my…my phone…I better go answer this."

Maggie looked at her. "It's on silent mode…and in your purse…."

"I can still feel it." Bianca said over her shoulder as she walked back to where Patrick was

Maggie watched Bianca walking away and after about 20 steps she saw her begin to fan herself with her hand. It was then that Maggie looked back down at the underwear she was holding…and back to Bianca who was still fanning herself…and back down to the underwear and she realized what had just happened. She felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment and a sense of ego-boost all at the same time. She cracked a shy, little smile and put the blue thong underwear on the "to buy" pile.

Chapter Three

March 26th

As Bianca and Maggie walked back through the various rooms of the penthouse to the kitchen, Maggie continued shaking her head at the arrival of their old roommate, Portia. Bianca smiled and looked at her shorter friend, "Shaking your head won't make her disappear."

"I can hope, can't I?"

"Yes, hope is always a good thing. Never lose hope." Bianca whispered more to herself than to her friend. As they entered the kitchen, she walked over to the butcher's block and picked up the knife she had set down when she first heard the elevator. As she began chopping carrots again, Maggie asked what she could do to help. "Well, you could peel the potatoes. I'm running a bit behind due to all the unpacking I did earlier."

Maggie retrieved a peeler from the drawer and took the pan of spuds over to the sink to wash them. She asked her friend with a chuckle, "I just realized something…why are you going all out for dinner tonight? Roast with carrots and potatoes, a salad….is today a holiday I don't know about?"

"There's ice cream in the freezer to boot."

Maggie put down the potato in her hand and ran to the freezer, flinging it open "Rocky Road? Alright…cough it up…is this an apology for bringing freaky eyes into the apartment?"

Bianca smiled, looking down at her chopping. "No…it's….oh you're going to call me a sap for this! I just know it!" she said in exasperation.

Maggie walked back to the sink and laughed as she shook the excess water off the last of the potatoes. She turned and walked back to the butcher block to peel them. "I won't call you a sap…I promise. Now tell me what this is all about!"

Bianca looked up and stared at her friend, trying to gauge if her promise was legit. "Well….it's our one month anniversary!" she finally said with glee. She saw a puzzled look cross her friend's face, so she quickly added, "Of moving here I mean! We have been living in Paris for a month now, and I thought we deserved a special meal for that!"

Maggie grinned and bit her lower lip as she looked back down at the potatoes.

The taller girl rolled her eyes to stare at the ceiling. "Go ahead, you know you want to say it."

The blonde girl smiled even broader, releasing her lower lip "No. No…I said I wouldn't call you anything, and I am a woman of my word…..plus…I would be a hypocrite if I made fun of the idea when I think it is really sweet you thought of it."

Both girls smiled and continued their food preparation in silence. Bianca walked over to the counter and opened a bottle of red wine and poured a glass for each of them. After handing a glass to Maggie they focused on their food prep amidst some idle chatting.

"At long last…" thought Bianca, "things almost feel normal…settled." She stared across the butcher's block at her friend, who was chattering away about Miranda in the park that day giggling and laughing. And she basked in the happiness her daughter brought Maggie. The simple fact that Miranda had such a healing, soothing effect on the petite girl brought her endless happiness.

"I think we're going to be alright." she thought "The bad times are behind us…we really are going to be alright….and of course, I probably just doomed us to some horrible event." She sighed and took a large gulp of her wine.

February 26th

With a full day of shopping under their belts, a light meal at a café, Bianca Montgomery and Maggie Stone plopped down on the two couches that faced each other in the living room of Bianca's penthouse apartment. They were surrounded by their piles of packages from the day, like a modern day version of a pirate's treasure. Miranda was sound asleep in her stroller, so they had decided it was best to leave her in it for the time being.

Just as Maggie was about to give up in the fight she was waging against her eyelids, Bianca spoke up. "We had better separate these out so you can head over to the suite." She leaned forward and started separating the packages into two piles.

Maggie groaned. "Ugh….I forgot all about that." She leaned over and joined in the splitting up of the purchases.

Bianca was bent over, but occasionally she would steal a look at Maggie to try to gauge her reaction to moving into the hotel….nothing…she couldn't read a thing. Her own feelings were mixed, but she felt it was the best for both of them. "No press…let's just say she'll have her freedom. "Bianca thought to herself, trying to cut out her use of the word "pressure".

After all the bags were split up the girls sat back in the couches again. "So….now what?" asked Maggie.

"Well, Patrick ran to get something for me from the office, as soon as he gets back we'll all head over and get you settled." Maggie was still expressionless, so Bianca continued "I think I'll go clean up Miranda while we wait for Patrick to get back." She silently rose, walked over to the very groggy child and removed her from the stroller to take her up to the nursery.

Maggie smiled a broad smile at Miranda when she caught the still half-asleep child looking in her direction. "Born of evil, but yet, so perfect" she thought to herself. She watched the Montgomery women ascend the stairs and disappear from sight.

She got up and walked out onto the terrace, giving the cool evening air a chance to reenergize her. Her eyes were riveted to the Eiffel Tower as the lights were starting to come on for the evening. She stood there, leaning against the railing pondering her current status in life. "I'm here…in Paris…with Bianca…is it really the smart move to stay at the suite? Sure, it will give me the freedom to do as I please, but is freedom what I really want?"

Maggie leaned further forward on the railing and placed her face in her hands. "Why can't I just tell Bianca I don't want to go? I came to Paris to be here with her and Miranda, not sitting in some hotel suite all by myself….but what if this is what she wants? Maybe she doesn't want me here after all…maybe…." Maggie stood back up to her full height and steeled her expression. "There you go again…every single time something good starts to happen with Bianca you start questioning it. This was the plan…stick with the plan for now….and hope Bianca really can read your mind."

She huffed in frustration and walked back into the apartment. "Face it Stone, you have no idea what you want. And even when you do think you know, you don't know what to do about it."

Just as she was about to fall back onto the couch, the buzzer rang, signaling Patrick was at the front door wanting to come up. Maggie walked over and pushed the button Bianca had shown her earlier to let him in. She propped the front door open and walked back into the living room to yell up to Bianca just as she saw her coming back down the stairs with Miranda in a fresh set of clothes.

"Patrick is back." She informed her.

"I heard the buzzer. Great timing." Bianca said as she placed Miranda back in her stroller.

Just then Patrick rapped lightly on the door to signal he was entering. He stepped into the living room and nodded to both ladies. "Ms. Montgomery, I apologize it took me so long. The item you requested is in the car, and I took the liberty of stopping by the hotel to make sure everything was ready for Ms. Stone's arrival."

"Thank you Patrick." Bianca said with a smile. "Could you help us down with Maggie's packages, and we will be on our way."

Patrick responded in the affirmative and began picking up the pile of Maggie's purchases.

The drive was an incredibly short one, as the George V hotel was just across the Seine River from Bianca's apartment. The limo pulled up and bellmen appeared from all sides to open the doors for the ladies. Patrick looked none-to-pleased, but he just made sure it was he who removed Miranda from her car seat.

After all the packages were removed from the car, the party made their way to the 7th floor to enter the suite reserved for use by the Cambias Corporation. When Bianca, Maggie and Miranda entered the room, they were immediately greeted by the hotel manager who had come up to make sure the room was all in readiness. He had taken the initiative to have a fruit platter brought up to the room as a welcoming gesture, along with a bottle of Cristal champagne.

As Bianca conversed with the manager in French, Maggie wandered about her new "home". It was done up in the style of the English countryside, and while she loved the king sized canopied bed, everything else was far more than she felt she needed. Since she was living by herself, she didn't see a need for an 8 person dining room table. And the pink marble bathroom was just a bit too much for her tastes. How could she complain though? Not many people get to stay for free in a Four Seasons Hotel.

Bianca finally was thanking and discretely shooing everyone out of the suite, and stopped Patrick to tell him she would be down in a little while. Once they were all out, she closed the door, exhaled in exasperation and went to find Maggie. She was sitting down at the dining room table popping some of the melon balls that had been left in the welcome package into her mouth.

"Where's the Munchkin?" Maggie asked.

"Asleep in her stroller, she's had a full day." responded Bianca. "So what do you think of it?" she asked, gesturing around the room.

"It's bigger than my last two apartments combined."

"Well, they are expecting a business man to stay here and entertain. Not just you by your lonesome." Bianca said with a grin.

Maggie just continued staring at the fruit platter and chomping on melon balls, showing no real expression.

Bianca began to sense some tension and pulled out the chair next to Maggie and sat down "Ok…fess up. What's bugging you?"

"Nothing. Why does something have to be bugging me?" Maggie said leaning back in the chair with an annoyed look.

"Because you've gone all quiet on me, which, usually means something is eating at you. So cough it up Stone."

"Seriously, nothing is bugging me. I'm just tired." Maggie looked around the table. "Here….let's have some of this, I'll show you I'm not in a bad mood." She grabbed the bottle of Cristal that had been left and opened it, pouring a glass for each girl. She handed one to Bianca and said a simple, "Welcome to my new home." as they clinked their glasses.

Bianca took a sip, but stared over the top of the glass at her friend the whole time, trying to read her face. Something was not right, but she knew that if Maggie didn't want you to know, you wouldn't discover it no matter how hard you tried. She sighed and drank deeply of the bubbly beverage.

"Wow…someone seems to like this stuff!" Maggie said, moving to pour another glass for Bianca.

The taller girl gladly accepted the refill and began to only sip this time. "So different than the first time the two of us shared champagne." she thought to herself, but quickly vanquished that unpleasant memory with another sip of her drink.

She was still more concerned with the present. Maggie continued to stare straight ahead and wasn't even glancing at Bianca. She finally decided to break the tension "Oh…" she said grabbing her purse and digging through it. "I need to give you what Patrick went to get. Here you go…I went ahead and got you set up with a cell phone so you could get in touch with me easily. My cell is number one on your speed dial."

The corners of Maggie's mouth finally curled up in a hint of a smile. "Seems a little assuming of you…how do you know I don't have someone else I would want in my top spot?"

"There she is….my Maggie." thought Bianca. "Well, we can always change it if you want, but who would you put there?" she asked out loud.

"You never know." Was Maggie's reply in a mischievous voice while taking another sip of her drink.

"Well you think on it, while I on the other hand think I need to get a certain little girl home to her bed." Bianca said as she pushed back from the table.

A lump rose in Maggie's throat. "Read my mind Bianca…come on, read my mind." she thought. She watched as Bianca walked the short distance to the stroller and bent over to adjust the blanket around Miranda for retuning to the nippy February Paris air.

"Oh…hold on a minute!" she said, and she ran off to the bathroom and closed the door.

Bianca wasn't sure what she was up to, but she sat back down for a moment while she waited. "I don't want to leave her here blast it! But if I ask her to stay at the apartment full time I feel like I will be…..don't even think it….just let this flow naturally. She will say something when she is ready."

She looked up as she heard the bathroom door click open and saw Maggie walking out in a terry cloth robe provided by the hotel. Hugged to her chest were the clothes she had borrowed the previous evening. She emptied one of the shopping bags from the day and tossed the loaned clothes into the bag. "Here you go. Not sure when I will see you, so I thought I had better give these back."

"What do you mean, 'Not sure when you will see me'? Aren't you coming over tomorrow?"

"Well….I don't know if you have plans or something. I don't want to assume I can just come over."

"You really are thick sometimes, you know that? I have no clue where you would get the idea you aren't coming over." Bianca said with a laugh. "I guess you were wrong earlier about me being able to read your mind huh?"

Maggie looked down at the floor and shoved her hands in the pockets of the robe. "Yeah…I guess I was."

Bianca just shook her head in disbelief. "What time do you want Patrick to pick you up?"

"Oh….I have no idea really…I think I'll just take a cab tomorrow if that's ok. I don't want him waiting around on me."

"Why don't we aim for about 11 or so, and we can have a late breakfast together, ok? And that way Patrick will know a time. No need for you to take a cab." Bianca said as she rose from the chair again and strode over to Miranda.

Maggie walked towards the door to open it for the Mother and daughter. As they got to where they were face to face, Bianca turned and looked at Maggie. They stood there just staring at each other for a moment. "Well?" Bianca asked.

The petite girl stared back at her "'Well' what?"

"I thought I was under 'future Dr. Stone's orders' for a daily hug. And I do believe my prescription has not been filled today." She said with a smirk.

"Oh…yeah…I forgot." Maggie said as she leaned in for what was distinctly not nearly as an enthusiastic hug as the night before. She quickly pulled back and stared at Bianca again.

Bianca could tell that something was bugging Maggie still, but she felt it best to not push it anymore tonight. "Well..alright….I guess I'll see you in the morning….have a good nights sleep. And if you need anything, don't hesitate to call me." she said as she pushed the stroller into the hall.

Maggie was slowly closing the door behind her. "I will, I promise. And I'll see you around 11." With that, she closed the door. She leaned her head against the wood and closed her eyes. "I thought things would be so much easier here…away from all the distractions, all the problems….but it appears that I really am my own worst enemy." she mumbled to herself. She stood back up to the straight position, heaved a deep sigh and turned to go take a shower.

Out in the hall, Bianca pushed the button for the elevator and, mumbled to herself, "Doesn't seem to matter where we go….this is never going to be easy."

Chapter Four

February 27th

Patrick was well known for being prompt. Never once had he been late picking up a passenger, and was actually known for being early so he could ring your room at the precise moment he was supposed to retrieve you. On this morning though, he had to put his watch to his to ear to make sure it was still working.

It was 10:45 AM, and he was due to pick-up Ms. Stone at 11 to take her to the penthouse. However, upon pulling up he found his passenger standing in front of the hotel, looking anxious and ready to go. He barely had gotten out of the car before she had flung the back door open and shot into the limo.

He could tell she was anxious…tense…her jaw was locked, her hands resting on her knees. "I am sorry if I misunderstood the time I was to pick you up Ms. Stone." As he closed his door, "Ms. Montgomery had told me 11."

"Please call me Maggie, and no, you're fine. I just didn't want to waste any time. I'm sorry, I..I don't want to be rude, but could we just go…please?" she asked with a sense of urgency and a look of longing on her face.

Patrick nodded, and pulled the limo into the traffic of Avenue George V, heading across the Seine to Bianca Montgomery's penthouse.

Maggie lost herself in the images flying by the window of the car as they drove. She was tired as she had not slept much at all, if any, during the night. She had laid in that gorgeous canopied bed, staring at the bunched material that lined the underside of the top. She had tried counting the flowers…she tried counting the number of folds in the material…sheep were also a bust.

Finally, in a fit of exasperation, she had gotten up at 2 AM and gone to the 24 hour gym room to use the treadmill, making sure to take her new cell phone with her…just in case. She had set it in the cup holder on the control panel as she walked, staring at it…willing it to ring. Nothing.

After walking for an hour she went back to her room and showered again. Partially to clean herself, partially because she did her best thinking in the shower. It did her no good though. Due to the lack of sleep, she was barely even able to put two thoughts together, let alone come to any conclusions about them.

After the shower she had gone and sat at the dining room table. She laid her arms so her hands were on top of each other, and her chin rested atop them. Her phone lay in front of her and she stared at it. "Go ahead….call her…see how she is….she's probably asleep though…do you want her to think you are some big wuss who can't handle being on her own?" She had even picked up the phone and run her thumb over the buttons. "Speed dial 1, so easy, yet so hard."

She went back to bed and counted the flowers again….just in case any had grown while she was gone.

Bianca sat on one of the couches in her massive living room, with her body turned sideways to look out the window wall at the rain that softly pelted the glass surface. She had barely slept the night before, and her eyes showed it.

At first, she had tossed in bed due to her displeasure of Maggie not living with her. She had made the offer to her best friend to live at the Cambias suite as more of a gesture, not thinking she would actually take her up on it. Sure they had lived apart before, and she wasn't really that far away, but it seemed as far as Pine Valley to her last night.

At a little past 2 AM her phone had begun ringing. Her heart leapt, Maggie….it had to be Maggie. She let it ring twice so as not to seem anxious, and tried to make her voice sound as drowsy as possible like she had been woken by the call.

"Binks? It's Kendall." Bianca was thrilled to hear her sister's voice, but it also saddened her that it wasn't Maggie on the other end of the line. "I'm sorry for calling so late, but…..there are some things you should probably know that couldn't wait."

Bianca could feel her heart rising to her throat. No one in Pine Valley talked like that unless it was truly serious. Kendall went on to tell her that Edmund Gray was dead and Lily was…well no one could reach her for now. She had been caught in the stable fire after she had run there because of seeing Aidan kissing Anita, it was more than she could handle. No matter what anyone tried, they couldn't reach Lily. Everyone was just going to have to wait and let her come out of this on her own.

The younger sister didn't stay on the phone long as she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Kendall was concerned, and wanted to make sure Maggie was nearby to help her, but Bianca insisted she would be fine and just make sure to update her as soon as anything changed.

Bianca spent several hours sobbing on her bed. She had so many thoughts and emotions stirring in her. Her pain over the loss of a dear friend like Edmund…the sadness she felt for Lily who must have been traumatized on so many levels…and the desire to have Maggie there to talk to.

She had thought about calling Maggie, she knew Mags would have hopped in a cab and rushed over. The last thing Bianca wanted to do was wake her and make her think that she couldn't get through even one night on her own, even if it was due to painful news such as this.

Bianca snapped out of her thoughts as she heard the buzzer that someone was at the outer door. She looked at her watch and saw it was 11:00, it must be Maggie, even though she thought Patrick should just now be picking her up. She got up from her seat on the couch and walked to the front door to open it for her friend. As she heard the elevator rising to her floor, she made a mental note to get Maggie a key for the actual apartment door. The outer door was opened by a keypad, so she already had the code for that.

She stood there waiting for Maggie to exit the elevator, anxious to see her though it had only been half a day. The doors opened and she could immediately see the circles under Maggie's eyes like beacons in the night signaling she had also spent a sleepless evening.

It didn't take Maggie long to notice Bianca hadn't slept, but she could also see the red puffiness that indicated Bianca had been doing some serious crying. "What the…." she walked over swiftly to Bianca and grabbed her shoulders. "What is it? What's wrong?"

Bianca's tears started to flow again before even the first word left her lips, "Edmund…..Edmund Gray is dead…and Lily is…Lily is…"

"What? Lily is what?" Maggie asked, fearing the worst.

"She's gone somewhere and no one seems to be able to get to her."

Maggie turned and put her arm around Bianca's shoulders and motioned to go back into the apartment. She closed the door behind her and escorted Bianca to one of the couches in the living room and sat her down. Maggie sat down next to Bianca and pulled her to where she could rest her head on her shoulder. The shorter girl then rested her head on Bianca's and asked her softly, "When did all this happen?"

Bianca continued to sob. "I'm…I'm not sure…Kendall called me late last night and told me most of the details, but I was in no shape to get all the specifics."

Maggie's heart sank as she pondered why Bianca hadn't called her to come over, but she pushed that aside for now. "Do you need to go back?"

"I want to…I really want to…but how would that look if I missed my first day at Cambias?"

"There's no one that can fire you B, if you need to go, you go."

"I know, but…I'll think on it, but I just don't think I can."

Maggie dropped the subject and just sat there in silence holding on to her friend, damning herself for not having the guts to call Bianca during the night to check on her.

They sat like this for a half-hour, neither speaking, just quiet sniffles coming from Bianca and Maggie alternately stroking her friend's shoulder and hair. Finally stirring noises and little cries could be heard coming from the baby monitor sitting on the coffee table in front of them. Bianca made to get up, but Maggie just placed a hand on her shoulder that silently conveyed all would be taken care of.

Bianca gave a weak smile as Maggie rose to go and check on Miranda. As her friend walked away, Bianca leaned her head back on the couch, rested her eyes and thought of how lucky she was to have Maggie here with her. If she hadn't come with her, she would have been here all on her own for this news. She slowly realized closing her eyes hadn't been the wisest idea.

When Maggie came down the stairs with Miranda in her arms, she could tell by the position of Bianca's head that she had fallen asleep. Not wanting to wake her up, she sat on the opposing couch with Miranda in her lap.

The child hadn't been quite ready to fully wake up yet, but she thought that Bianca could use some of the special healing power Miranda had. Though Maggie hadn't gotten a wink of sleep herself, she was too wound up to sleep herself, so she sat there quietly rocking Miranda in her lap…and watching Bianca sleep.

The past few days had been such a rush with leaving for Paris…the flight…trying to settle in…and now the news of Edmund and Lily. It was a lot to digest in a short period of time. Somehow though, watching Bianca sleep, and holding Miranda in her lap, it made the world seem a little less horrible.

She owed Bianca so much, in so many ways. Through the whole Jonathon incident, Bianca had fought for her, even after all those ghastly things she had said. Even now, Maggie could feel tears welling up in her eyes when she thought of some of the things she had said to her, to hurt her and drive her away. In reality she realized only now, she was pushing her away not for Jonathon, but to protect herself from the feelings she still had for Bianca.

Sniffling she reached up and wiped her nose. Just like everything else in her life, it seemed since she moved to Pine Valley, it really was all about her feelings for Bianca. And now here they were, this penthouse, their own little island it felt like, separated off from the rest of the world for the most part, but she had been banished to a smaller island known as the Cambias suite….possibly for all the things she had said in the name of protecting herself.

"Are you ok?" came Bianca's voice timidly from across the coffee table.

"Huh? Oh…yeah…yeah…I'm fine…just thinking about Edmund and Lily." While in her head she was thinking, "Liar…just tell her you want to move in here."

Bianca sighed and threw her head back. "Sorry I drifted off, I am just drained."

"It's ok, I don't think either of us got much sleep last night….." Maggie's voice trailed off.

"I know why I didn't, why didn't you?"

"Oh…just overwhelmed by being in a country I don't speak the language I guess." she laughed nervously. "Hey I know….why don't we go for a walk! Maybe some fresh air will do us all good."

"That's not a bad idea actually. I've been here 48 hours and I have barely seen my own neighborhood."

Maggie laughed and nodded her head in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. "And what a neighborhood it is!"

The girls strapped Miranda in her stroller after wrapping her up for the chill February air. They decided a walk through Champ De Mars park sounded like a pleasant idea and strolled the two short blocks to get there.

It was long and tree lined, though the leaves were gone for the winter it was still a nice walk. Also, there weren't too many places where you would have this impressive of a straight on look at the Eiffel Tower.

Once they had finished staring at the impressive structure, they began walking the length of the park heading away. Maggie desperately wanted to talk to Bianca about all the news that she had received, but she could tell from the sunken nature of her eyes that she was lost deep in thought, so they walked in silence. Maggie pushing Miranda's stroller, Bianca's arms folded in front of her at chest level.

It wasn't until they reached the very end of the park and were standing along Avenue de La Motte Picquet, that Bianca even seemed to take note of her surroundings, and only then because the trees had come to an end. She looked up and spotted a small café named Café Max and asked Maggie if she would mind if they just dined there since it was almost dinner time.

"Of course not, I don't think either of us are in any shape for cooking tonight." was Maggie's response.

After they had been seated and placed their orders, Bianca went back to staring off into space, not seeming to notice anything around her. Maggie thought to herself, "Alright, enough is enough." She finally spoke up, trying to bring Bianca back. "So, what time do we have to be at the Cambia offices tomorrow?"

"I'm sorry…what did you say?" Bianca asked as she came out of her fog.

"I asked what time do we have to be at the Cambias offices tomorrow? And how are we going to coordinate this since I will be over at the suite?" she said, hoping her disappointment at her location was not to evident.

"We have to be there by 9:30, so I guess Patrick can pick you up, and then come get Miranda and I since the offices are on my side of the river. So…plan on 8:15 to get you I would say."

"8:15…got it." Maggie said, making a mental note that she would actually have to find some way to get some sleep tonight.

Their food arrived and the silence descended over the table again. Maggie was lost, she had things she wanted to talk to Bianca about, but all of them seemed insignificant and petty compared to the tragedies that had transpired. It wasn't until after the meal, and the bill arrived did she have a pressing matter to discuss.

"Um…Binks, I just realized I don't have any Euros to my name yet. Do you?"

"Yeah, I got some before I left Pine Valley because I knew it would be difficult to get them until Monday." She reached into her purse, fetched her wallet and paid for the meal.

"Thanks Bianca…just keep a running tab of what I owe you ok?"

"I think I can afford to pay for a sandwich and a bowl of soup Maggie."

"Principle of the matter B…principle of the matter." Maggie noticed that she had finally gotten Bianca to crack a smile. "Aha! Success!" she thought to herself.

The girls gathered their belongings and started the walk back to the penthouse, this time Bianca pushing the stroller and actually seeming to be a little bit more aware. Maggie was amazed at how food and a simple smile could rejuvenate someone so much.

Maggie followed the girls back up the apartment to wait for Patrick, since Bianca had to call for him. They were chatting away happily until Bianca fished her keys of her purse, and then the silence returned suddenly. Maggie couldn't figure out why until she saw the keychain. It was the life jacket keychain Lily had given Bianca at her going away party. Bianca's eyes were transfixed on the replica of the life saving device, and again, she went into her own thoughts.

"Here….let me." said Maggie as she took the keys from Bianca and unlocked the door.

"What if they can't get through to her this time Maggie?" Bianca finally blurted out.

"Not get through to Lily? They will Bianca…I promise. Lily is a lot stronger than people give her credit for." Maggie said pushing the door open and guiding in the stroller that Bianca had let go of.

Bianca continued to just stand in the hallway. "I know she's strong….but to get your heart broken is bad enough for anyone, but for her it must have been devastating. Add on top of that being trapped in a fire…all those sounds, all that red…" her voice trailed off and tears began to roll down her cheeks.

"Hey, hey, hey….none of that." Maggie admonished wrapping her arms around Bianca and holding her to her chest. "You have to think positive thoughts! Lily will be fine, I know it doesn't make up for losing Edmund, but Lily will be fine…I promise you." Bianca's sobs kept coming. "Think of it this way, do you really think Reggie isn't going to do everything in his power to get Lily back? Heck, he's probably sitting there reading her Trigonometry book to her right now." That caused a snorting laugh to emit from Bianca's buried face

"See." Maggie continued, "With a support system like that, how can she not come back?"

The girls stood in the doorway in silence for several moments. Maggie's arms wrapped around Bianca, her head pressed against the taller girls' hair. She gently rocked back and forth trying to comfort her friend.

Finally, Bianca spoke. "Ma…Maggie…can I ask you for a favor?"

"I'm disappointed you think you have to ask permission."

Bianca chuckled. "I…I don't want you to think I am some big cry baby…"

Maggie smiled "That would be the pot calling the kettle black I believe."

"Could…could you stay here tonight? Please? I just don't want to be alone."

Maggie's heart skipped a beat and jumped to her throat in that millisecond. "Of….of course." She paused and then continued, "I tell you what…let's go ahead and call Patrick. I'll run back to the suite and grab my clothes for tomorrow, and that way we can even get a little bit more sleep and not drive ourselves crazy in the morning."

"That sounds like a really good idea…..thank you Maggie." Bianca said, pulling away from the hug and looking into her friends eyes.

Maggie smiled and put her right hand to Bianca's left cheek. "Anytime B."

The buzzer went off signaling that Patrick had arrived to chauffer Maggie to and from the suite to get her clothes. The girls had spent the time since calling for him, to get Miranda ready for bed.

"I'll be back in like 30 minutes ok?" Maggie said grabbing her purse and heading for the door.

"Take my key so you can let yourself back in….I will get you one made tomorrow!" Bianca called down the stairs after her.

Maggie grabbed the key from the table in the hallway, exited the apartment and pushed the button for the elevator. As she waited for it to come to her she took a deep breath and slumped her shoulders. "One night is better than nothing Stone." she thought to herself.

"Have I thanked you yet for driving my butt back and forth like this Patrick?" Maggie said as the driver handed her the items from the trunk.

"Yes Ms. Stone…I think about 20 times now." he said with a smile and a wink.

"Say it with me Patrick……Maaaaaag-gieeeeeeee…Maggie."

"Whatever you request Ms. Stone." he said with a chuckle.

"Men….you're all impossible." she said with an exasperated tone. "Did Bianca tell you a time to be here in the morning?"

"Yes, Ms. Montgomery said I should pick all of you up at 8:30." he said as he closed the trunk.

"Alrighty, good night Patrick….and in case I didn't say it…thanks!" she said with a little smile and nod of the head.

"Good night Ms……good night Maggie."

Maggie, her arms full, did a little victory dance and let out a whoop right there on the sidewalks of Paris.

Maggie used the key Bianca had loaned her to open the door and called out "B…I'm back…and I got Patrick to stop calling me 'Ms. Stone'!"

There was no reply, just silence. Maggie looked around and no lights were on in the lower half of the apartment. She went through and carried her clothes up the second floor and could see no light on there either. She cracked open the door to Bianca's room and peeked inside. The lump in the bed told her Bianca was asleep on top of the covers.

She walked over and quietly grabbed a comforter from the foot of the bed and pulled it up over Bianca. She stared down at her friend who was laying on her right side and smiled, she looked peaceful for the first time all day. Leaning over, she brushed the brunette's hair back and planted the lightest of kisses on her temple. Bianca stirred at the touch, but Maggie just placed her hand lightly on the brunette's shoulder and made a soft "shh" sound to indicate to her just to go back to sleep.

Maggie walked back out into the hall to fetch her robe and nightgown that she had hastily thrown into a bag at the suite. She left her other items sitting there and walked into Miranda's room to check on her. All was well. "Wow, not so hard being a nanny when you have an Angel to take care of." she thought as she looked down at the peaceful little girl.

She was too tired to even think of showering and just used the master bath to change. Once done, she walked back into Bianca's bedroom, and as quietly as possible moved a chair and ottoman next to the side of the bed. She then retrieved another comforter from the spare bedroom and made herself a make shift chair bed. She sat down and covered herself and turned somewhat to her left side so she could look at the sleeping Bianca.

Uncomfortable position or not, there was nowhere else in the world Maggie wanted to be at that moment, than to be watching over her best friend in a moment of need. She finally closed her eyes after several minutes of Bianca watching, and drifted off to some much needed sleep.

Part 5

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