All These Things that I've Done

Title: "All These Things That I've Done"

| 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 |

Author: Carpesomediem


Fandom: All My Children

Pairings: Bianca x Maggie

Ratings: PG-17

Warnings: Graphic violence, swearing, sex, f/f, your standard soap opera drama.

Disclaimers: ABC Daytime.  At least my story is written better than McTarnish writes her stories.

Author's Notes: This is an extremely long serial story that I've been working on since 2005.  Yeah, 2005.  I don't know when it will be finished or if it'll be finished, but sometimes I update it, and I know where it's supposed to go, but at the same time, it just doesn't always want to be written.

Part XV

Bianca Montgomery stood outside the warden's office with Miranda cradled, sleeping, in her arms waiting for the green light. As much as she should be resting at home with her newborn, she was getting ready for an open visit with Maggie. Luckily, her mother still had some pull in Pine Valley, even if she couldn't get Maggie out of jail, at least Bianca could still see her and introduce her to Miranda in person.

"Ms. Montgomery," an officer peeked his head into the small waiting room, "It's time. If you'll just follow me." He motioned for her to follow him, and she rose, albeit it slowly. Bianca's nerves were aflutter. This was the moment she'd been waiting for. The moment Erica and Jack promised her. The moment when she'd finally get to spend some real time with Maggie. More real than the moments shared through Plexiglases, limited touches and longing in each other's eyes.

These last few weeks, while filled with absolute joy for Bianca, were filled with absolute terror for Maggie. Maggie Stone. Convict. Murderer. Sorta mother to Bianca Montgomery's child. Those connections didn't work out in her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she really wished this moment hadn't come. She stood on the other side of the steel door, still in handcuffs, guarded by two female officers awaiting for the go-ahead from the warden to enter the visitation room.

Maggie Stone and Bianca Montgomery would be meeting in the Warden's Office itself. That morning saw maintenance workers move furniture around as well as unhinge the secondary door to the office. The latter security concern was in case the prisoner tried to escape. While the detail wasn't known to Bianca, Maggie knew if she made any sort of attempt to leave that room while there, she would be shot on sight. As much as that would put a damper on the festivities, Maggie was looking forward to the visit too much to be disturbed by that simple fact.

"Ms. Stone, it's time," the warden said, "You know the terms and conditions of this visit. While I may not agree with the special privilege we're allowing you, just keep in mind that this isn't an everyday favor." Maggie just nodded, butterflies fluttering in her stomach even though a smile would be the most appropriate response, she willed herself against it.

"The Warden will be right in, Ms. Montgomery," the guard said before closing the door behind him and standing watch. Bianca was the first in the room. She looked around at the grey walls with a few modern expressionist paintings adorning them to add a splash of color to the room. She smiled half-heartedly as a guard stepped outside the main entrance.

"It's okay," Bianca rocked Miranda in her arms gently, as she stirred from her brief nap during the wait. "It's okay, baby girl, mommy Maggie will be here soon and we'll be a family for a little while." Bianca closed her eyes briefly; she was bound and determined that she would not cry for any of this. She didn't want to miss a single minute with Maggie. Most importantly, she didn't want to miss a single minute of Miranda's first hours with Maggie. She wanted to cherish these moments for as long as she could, because she didn't know when she would get the chance to visit with Maggie like this again.

"Ms. Montgomery," the warden walked into her office. Bianca rose from her seated position on the plush leather sofa. Miranda cooed as she smiled at the warden and extended her right hand.

"Thank-you so much for this," Bianca said, "I can't tell you how much this means to me."

"It's my pleasure," the warden grimaced through gritted teeth in the form of a smile. The only reason this visit was taking place is because of Erica Kane's large donation to the prison. Otherwise, something like this would never occur. "Ms. Stone will be right in." The warden left without another word to her. "Ms. Stone," she said as she passed the petite blonde in the hall, "Don't make me regret this."

Bianca stood, watching the door like a hawk while rocking Miranda gently left and right. Miranda just cooed, excited by the movements. Maggie, meanwhile, closed her eyes briefly as she began walking towards the open door that led to the warden's office. If nervousness was personified, it would be Mary Margaret Stone. Her stomach buckled, her feet lurched, it took everything in her power not to just run into the room and wrap her arms around Bianca and never let go. But she knew better. If they even knew she was thinking that, they'd probably shoot her without question.

So, as Maggie walked towards the room, she gained all the confidence she had left in the world to show Bianca the biggest smile she'd ever seen. She didn't think she'd be able to pull it off as she walked over the threshold and met Bianca's eyes. And she smiled. A real smile not even her confidence could've produced.

"Bianca." Maggie said through her grin. Maggie, though not wanting to break eye contact, turned around, lifting her handcuffed hands in the process. "Hey, guys, think we could take off the armor? It does nothing for my outfit." The younger of the officers chuckled and removed the handcuffs before both stepped right outside the door.

"Maggie, I can't believe my mother pulled this off," she stepped forward, almost forgetting Miranda was in her arms, "This is Miranda. Miranda Mona Montgomery."

"Can I hold her?" Maggie asked eagerly.

"Oh, of course!" Bianca handed her Miranda and watched with the biggest smile as Maggie began talking baby talk to her daughter. They walked over to the sofa and sat down, Maggie still talking animatedly to Miranda who seemed to enjoy it.

Bianca just watched over the next couple of hours, just enjoying Maggie's interaction with Miranda. They talked a bit, held hands and for a few hours, the world around them ceased to exist and they were able to just be a normal... whatever they were.

"Ladies, I'm afraid it's time," an officer interrupted a short time after Miranda had fallen asleep in Maggie's arms, "Ms. Stone." Maggie nodded, handing Bianca Miranda and rising, before half-hugging them both.

"I love you," Maggie whispered, her voice cracking a bit as she threatened to cry for what seemed like the millionth time that day.

"I love you, too," Bianca stepped back, still holding Maggie's hand tightly. "I'll see you soon, I promise."

"I'm going to hold you to that," Maggie smiled, "Boys." She rose her hands, "My wrists await." She was handcuffed, still staring back at Bianca as she was escorted back to the general population. And they parted, once again, Bianca still watching as they took her away. But neither girl was saddened by the other's departure, instead, the day had inspired both that even though ten years was a long time as long as they held onto the love they shared, they'd get through it just fine.

* * * * * *

Maggie settled comfortably in her cell, sitting on the bunk and leaning against the concrete wall. Pictures of Bianca and the ones of mother and daughter that Erica dropped off were now taped to the wall. She had made it past having to hold onto the pictures every second of the day or to fall asleep at night. In fact, Maggie realized that living in this hell hole shouldn't bring her down. It should bring her up, bring her back to the passionate little firecracker she used to be. She should be fighting for freedom, for Bianca and for Maggie. From that moment on, that's what she decided to do.

* * * * * *

Bianca entered her dark apartment carrying Miranda in her car seat. The little one kept teetering between crying, sleeping and wiggling around under her straps during the drive home. Bianca put her down, changed into her pajamas and then laid down in bed pulling the covers over her body. Despite all the fighting she wanted to do for Maggie, to get Maggie out, she realized there was absolutely nothing she could to free the woman she loved. It killed her inside. The thought ran through her mind that she should move on. And that's what cried her to sleep.

* * * * * *

The next morning

"Hey, Mr. Montgomery... I mean, Jack, it's Maggie."

"What can I do for you, Maggie?" he asked, smiling at his desk. 'Maybe she's finally come to her senses,' he hoped beyond hope.

"I want you to get me the hell out of here." She leaned back in the steel chair she sat in, notes scattered on a yellow pad before her.

"Well, it's about damn time!" he exclaimed, grinning. "Let's get you out of jail."

Part XVI

"Okay, look, I'm tired of being in here. I'm tired of being away from Bianca and Miranda and from real food..." Maggie trailed off as Jackson listened intently on the other line. "I know the last bit isn't that important, but trust me, if you were in here, you'd understand..."

"I do, Maggie," Jackson finally interrupted, "Now, let's take a deep breath and start from the beginning. Your appeal is coming up in less than six weeks. We petitioned for it as soon as the verdict came down, and I know you expressed... hesitation... in going forward with it."

"Hesitation be damned! I was out of my mind!" Maggie became excited, standing up from her seat by the phone. She began pacing, albeit it a short distance, as the excitement that she might get to hold become for real soon formulated in her mind. It was all she thought about since her visit with Bianca and Miranda. The mere sight of her love's little bundle of joy made her heart melt. She loved two girls with all her heart, and nothing, not even a jail cell would keep them apart any longer. "Get me out of here, Jack!"

"I'm going to do whatever I can to get you out of there, but we need to be realistic," he said cautiously, not wanting to get the young girl's hopes up, "We need to go into this with worst case scenario in mind. That your appeal will be denied." Maggie listened intently, coming down from her emotional high and leaning against the concrete wall the pay phone was affixed to. "In all probability, Judge McLaren will deny your appeal. She's proven to be a tough one to crack, if you haven't already figured that out."

"Yeah, go figure," Maggie rolled her eyes, leaning her head back and sighing softly. 'Of all the things to go down in Pine Valley, why did I have to get the righteous judge?' she thought. 'I must be the unluckiest person in the world...'

"Now, I don't want that to discourage you," he went on, "I do believe your time currently served as well as the fact that good behavior and community service will factor in and at least have some sort of sway with her."

"Sway is better than nothing, I guess," Maggie's voice was filled with sadness, and it broke Jackson's heart to hear it. It reminded him of a conversation he had with Bianca the previous night.

"Bianca, you have to have hope."

"But I have no more hope to hang onto, Uncle Jack," Bianca sulked. "To see her in there, away from me, from Miranda and me, I just don't know how much more I can take. I want to be strong for her, be strong for our family, but what if-"

"-No what ifs, Bianca," Jackson sat next to her, holding her hand to comfort his niece. "No matter what happens, you hold onto the hope and the love you share with Maggie. I know it hasn't been easy. Waiting all these years for her love, and then to have it taken away. It seems the world around us has a way to take away what we want most when we realize we can't live without it."

"That's the story of you and mom, too," Bianca broke into a small smile. "Isn't it?"

"I suppose it is," Jackson returned the smile and nodded. "But no matter how crazy she drives me - and boy, does your mother drive me crazy - I know that deep down inside there's not a single second I wouldn't want to spend loving her for the rest of my life. And that's enough for me, because she's worth it. And what we have is worth it. And our future together is worth it whether it's today, tomorrow or, even, ten years from now." Bianca nodded, closing her eyes momentarily and sighing.

"I know you're right, I just wish I could believe in it. The last year has been so..."

"I know," he nodded, pulling her into a hug as she began to sob. "I'm going to do everything I can to bring her home to you. You have my word."

"Thank-you, Uncle Jack," Bianca said through stifled sobs, "For everything. I don't know what I would do without you." Then, Jack just held her while she cried.

"Look, Maggie, this is going to be hard, but if you love Bianca like I know you do, you will be strong and you will continue to fight. That's the only way we're going to win this appeal. It's the only way to bring you home," he reiterated. Maggie just nodded.

"So, what do I need to do?" Maggie asked.

"You need to walk into that courtroom and show them that what you did, you did for Bianca. Out of love for her and her family," Jack said, "That's the only way to show the judge that what you did you did because you love." Maggie nodded. She knew what she needed to do.

* * * * * *

Maggie Stone wasn't one to let the world get to her. When she was in elementary school, she was the first one up out of her seat for show and tell even if she didn't have anything to tell, let alone show. In middle school, she punched Jimmy Heath in the jaw when he wouldn't give back Frankie's juice box. In high school, that dumb blockhead of a jock tried to feel her up when she was in line at the concession stand during homecoming, she was pretty sure that was the last time he ever felt anything in his hand. Maggie Stone could do anything. She was tough as nails, inspired confidence in those around here and never let anyone or anything stand in her way: Until now.

The only thing standing between Maggie Stone and freedom was herself. She was staring herself down in the warped plastic mirror that was supposed to serve as some reminder of the life a criminal lived once. You were supposed to look into that mirror and look at the world around you in a different perspective; a perspective that had you locked in a cage that you may never get out of. But now that Maggie had the chance to reach free of that cage, climb out and breathe in the fresh air of a world that threw her into captivity, she knew she would never look at being imprisoned the same again.

"All right, Mary Margaret," she said aloud, "You can do this. What are you waiting for?"

* * * * * *

"How are you holding up?" Anna asked with a smile. Maggie just shrugged, her appeal in less than three days now. "I brought you a fresh change of clothes for court and some new shoes, I hope they're okay."

"I'm sure they'll be fine," Maggie replied, "I'm just... nervous. I've been practicing." She shifted uneasily in her seat. She hadn't slept well the previous night, and all she'd been able to think about all day was trying to speak in court and not being able to say a single word in her defense.

"Practicing?" Anna rose an eyebrow.

"Yeah. Practicing. Like a little kid rehearsing for their first recital in elementary school," Maggie said. "I think I figured out what to say. What my heart wants to say. And whether that courtroom wants to hear it or not, I can't by speaking from the heart."

"Well, it took you long enough to figure that out," Anna chuckled. Maggie smirked.

"Yeah, well, us Stone girls are a pretty stubborn bunch. Especially when it comes to feelings, but I expect you figured that one out already."

"I think everybody in Pine Valley has figure that one out, darling," Anna responded, shaking her head slightly and still smiling.

For the rest of the hour, Anna caught Maggie up on the goings on in town, and she only half-heartedly listened. Instead, focusing on images of Bianca, Miranda and her as a family, living in their house surrounding by a white picket fence with their 2.5 kids playing in the snow during winter. From there, she saw images of their wedding, surrounded by family and friends and pre-empted by a bachelorette party that ended up with both parties going skinny-dipping at Willow Lake. Other daydreams floated through her mind, but one in particular kept interrupting the other ones: Bianca, clad only in a satin sheet, after they've made love for the first time. It was something Maggie through of daily, but the only recurring image of Bianca with bed head, waking up after a short spell of sleep after a night of making love continued to flood into her mind no matter what she was doing during the day or night.

"You look like you're a million miles away," Anna smiled, guessing who Maggie was thinking about.

"You have no idea," Maggie smiled in reply, finally cheering up a bit. They made smalltalk for awhile longer before Anna said her goodbyes. Maggie headed back to her cell to read her mail for the day, among the letters, one stood out more than any other: A new letter from Bianca.

She read it with a real smile plastered on her lips knowing that more than anything, there love would get her through the coming days and her appeal. After all, it was the only thing she had left to hope for.

* * * * * *

Three days later

"Please rise for the Honorable Judge Caitlan McLaren," the bailiff announced unexpectedly. Maggie Stone stood up, slowly, as did Jackson Montgomery. Bianca watched from the sidelines as packed courthouse followed the simple command, her eyes trained on Maggie. The petite brunette turned around and smiled at Bianca, she returned the smile and then everyone set their eyes on the judge as the appeal hearing began.

"Well, this is it," Maggie whispered to Jackson. He smiled down at her, she back at him and then they both faced forward and put on their brave faces as the judge stood ready to seal Maggie Stone's fate.


Ethan Cambias wore a grim look on his face.  He sat at a large desk, overseeing Pine Valley's most prestigious buildings.  This would be the new American headquarters of Cambias Industries, parked next to Enchantment and in direct competition with just about everybody's patience in town.  He stood, rigidly, and turned to face the skyline.

"He ruined this town, my whole family did," he said quietly, talking to himself, "And I've been sent here to try and redeem our name somehow."  He shook his head.  "But how do I redeem our name when so much has happened?  How do I face the heir to Cambias Industries when today could very well make things even worse?"

He closed his eyes, shook his head again and sat back down to look over the contracts and legal paperwork faxed to him this morning.  His grandfather's will was very, very clear; Ryan Lavery was entrusted with overtaking the company after his passing, but after everything that had happened and come out over the last year, Ryan decided that what the company needed was to be in the hands of the good left in the Cambias name.  That meant him and Miranda Montgomery.  Since Miranda was just a child, Bianca Montgomery would take over until she was old enough to inherit.

That was Ryan Lavery's idea.  He thought it was only right that Miranda should get everything, since she was legally the heir to the empire, but more so because she deserved more than just carrying around the emotional baggage of being the product of rape.  She deserved the world, and Ryan thought that Cambias Industries would give her enough financial backing to do whatever she wanted when she grew up.  Convincing Bianca of that took little nudging, even though she seemed a bit hesitant, but who could blame her?

Ethan was keen to run the business himself, he'd been running enterprises for as long as he could remember, even though his lineage only came to light in recent months.  Though he hadn't met Bianca, yet, he knew enough from the media attention of her pregnancy and cause of it to know it wasn't going to be easy convincing her of his good intentions.

"I'll try," he told himself, "And hopefully, that'll be enough to save my name.  My family's name."

"Mr. Cambias," Ethan's assistant knocked as he let himself in, "The appeal's started, sir.  It's on KCRW, Channel 6."

"Very well," he turned, "Thank-you."  He nodded and picked up the small remote on his desk.  He turned on the projection TV on the wall and sat as the press stood outside the courthouse waiting like vultures for the next rapture.  He sat at his desk, looking over the contracts before him and hoping when Bianca Montgomery walked through his office door, that she'd come with a smile on her face instead of tears.  But if Pine Valley had taught him one thing in his short time there, it's that you can never expect for good when all the world around you is bad.


Maggie Stone stood still.  She faced the judge like the world depended on her to do so.  If she turned around, she would've found Bianca staring at the back of her held like a hawk.  She was a wreck, and her eyes were trained on Maggie since the officers brought her into the courtroom.  During the short walk in, Maggie wouldn't look at her or anything else but the ground before her.  When Jack walked by, behind her, he reached out and squeezed Bianca's hand gently before showing her an encouraging smile.  Despite the tears she held back, she smiled back, and no matter how hard she tried to be strong, her mother beside her knew she was breaking once more inside.

"Bianca, come and sit with me, we need to talk," Erica grabbed her daughter's hands and pulled her to the sofa.  She sat up straight, smiling.  Bianca knew something was up.

"I need to finish getting ready," she said.  "I... I need to be ready for today."

"I know, Bianca, but I wanted to talk to you about today," Erica replied, having gone over the scenario in her head since Jackson landed the appeal.  "I just want to make sure you're prepared, that's all.  Today is going to be hard.  For both of you."

"I'm not the one potentially going back to jail today, mother," she stood up, "I should've known you were going to do this.  Of all the things I needed today, this was not one of them.  I need to finish getting ready."

"Bianca, wait," Erica stood now, peeved.  "I can't just see you breaking like this.  All she's brought you is pain and suffering, I know you love her, but enough is enough."

"Enough is not enough!" Bianca turned, anger washing over her face masked by tears streaming down her cheeks, "I love her, mother, I love Maggie with every ounce of my being.  Every single ounce, and you may not understand that or even care to understand that, but it's the way things are.  I'm not going to stand by and let you or anyone else in this town tell me to back down or walk away or stop loving her.  Because it's not going to happen!  Not now, not ever!"  Erica stood, jaw agape as she watched Bianca storm into her room and with a slam of her door, the head of the Kane household knew there was no getting through to her youngest daughter.  Not now.  Not ever.  Just like she said.

"Why doesn't anybody get it?" Bianca sighed, splashing her face with water.  She locked the bedroom door before heading into the bathroom, hoping her mother wouldn't follow.  She was tired of constantly hearing how she needed to move on by all the people who said they cared about her.  The only people in her life at the moment that seemed to support her were her Uncle Jack and Myrtle.  Myrtle had been her rock through all of this, no matter what happened or how the situation tested her, Myrtle always believed in Bianca's heart.  And Bianca's heart wanted Maggie, even if irons bars stood in the way of their happiness.

Bianca, too, stood rigid.  Erica Kane had made her way into the courtroom shortly after she did, taking the time to give a few statements to the press.  If Bianca had seen then, she would've seen how fake her mother was being through it all, as usual.  Bianca said nothing to the press, as had been her tactics throughout the duration of this mess.  Of course, there would be the post-contract signing press conference for Cambias Industries she would need to attend and speak at, but that would hopefully be a time of joy and she held onto the hope that Maggie would be coming home to her arms tonight.  It's all the hope she had left.

Jackson, meanwhile, tried to relax.  He did everything he could to speed up the appeals process as well as prepare Maggie for this day.  The only thing he could do now is wait for it to be over and hope for the best.  It seemed that's all anybody could do now.

Anna, David, the rest of Pine Valley's regulars stood, too, facing the judge as she took her place behind the bench.  She peered out into the crowd, shook her head ever so slightly and smirked.  This trial had turned into a spectacle, and this didn't bode well with her as she took her position to hear today's testimony.

"You may be seated," she said, waiting for the crowd to settle before she, too, sat overlooking the overflowing case file before her.  "Today, we're here for the appeal of Mary Margaret Stone vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Most of you, I'm well aware, are familiar with this case.  So, let's get this underway.  Mr. Montgomery, please begin."

"Thank-you, Your Honor," he nodded, putting a hand on Maggie's arm in reassurance before standing.  "Your Honors, members of the court, family and friends, we're hear today to..."  Maggie drifted off in thought as Jackson gave his opening statement.  She should've been paying attention, but a lingering dream she'd been having overcame her as she sat there, bored out of her mind and nerves driving her up a wall.

"Bianca..." Maggie breathed out ruggedly.  "Thats' so... That feels so good."  Bianca slid up Maggie's body, taking a nipple into her mouth and tugging gently, looking into the smaller girl's eyes.  Maggie gripped the sheets below her, digits wrapping tightly around them as Bianca continued her ministrations between her thighs.  There was silence, and there was writhing and there was Maggie feeling complete for the first time in her life as passion rippled through her body sending tremors through Bianca as well.

They laid side-by-side, Bianca covering Maggie with a sheet as she faced her wife.

"How are you feeling?" Bianca asked, smiling.

"Good," Maggie replied, closing her eyes momentarily as Bianca took her hand in her own.  "Real good."

"I'm glad," Bianca's smile broadened as one crossed Maggie's face.  Maggie brought Bianca's hand to her lips, kissed it gently and then rolled herself on top with a mischievous grin.

"My turn," she smiled, swooping down to kiss Bianca and tug at her bottom lip.

About fifteen minutes later, just as the daydream heated up, Maggie was jarred back to reality when a firm hand grasped her shoulder.  She looked up to see the shock washed across Jackson Montgomery's face and all she could do was stand, turn and face Bianca who wore the same shade of shock.  The judge's denial of her appeal rocked the courtroom.

"That's outrageous!" David Hayward yelled, jarring the crowd into a frenzy as Bianca and Maggie shared one last moment before she was taken from the courtroom and led out of the building.  Maggie mouthed: "I love you," just quiet enough for her to hear.

"I can't believe this," Opal drawled out, Myrtle just shook her head.  Similar reactions rippled through the crowd as Bianca made a quick exit of the courtroom just minutes behind Maggie.  There was no need to catch up, there eyes said it all.


The press yelled and catcalled from all around the steps to the courthouse as the police brought her out to a squad car, hands cuffed behind her and head bowed to keep herself from crying for the world to see.  Bianca was left behind in a chaos that swarmed the courtroom after the judge's denial.

"Ms. Stone!  This is the New York Times, please!  A few words!"

"Ms. Stone over here, please!  CNN!  CNN would like a few words!"

"Maggie!  A statement!  For the Inquirer!"

"Ms. Stone, please, it's the Pine Valley Press!  Just a moment of your time!"

"Ladies and gentlemen, please!" Jackson threw his hands in the air to try and divert the media's attention to him.  "Please, if you will!  Damn it!"  He watched as Maggie was led away, and his pride was broken.  'Today wasn't supposed to be like this,' he thought, 'This was supposed to end.'  "I have a statement to make!"

"Mr. Montgomery!"

"Please, Mr. Montgomery, MSNBC!"

They all clamored around him as the squad car sped away.

"Please, everyone, if you'll quiet down, I'm prepared to make a statement on the unfair verdict today in a never-ending cycle of injustice Maggie Stone has faced in this court," he replied, as calmly as he could, "Now, please, settle down."  A few moments later, he began, "This is not the end of this appeal.  If we have to, we will take this all the way to the top.  Maggie Stone did this community a right, however wrong it may have been, and she's since paid the consequences of her actions more than tenfold.  I, along with my offices, will be doing everything in our powers to see that her incarceration is overturned.  That's all."

"But, Mr. Montgomery, is it true that another appeal might not take place until late next year?"

"Mr. Montgomery: If Ms. Stone's appeal was denied in Pine Valley, is it safe to assume that even the district or state courts will lay down the same mandate?  After all, this is the first time in decades that law has been upheld in the city..."

"Enough!" Jackson Montgomery turned, angrily at the crowd, "I will not dignify this group with another response.  You want answers, talk to my office's press liaison.  In the meantime, I have more pressing matters..."  He turned to see Bianca hiding in the shadows with Erica and Kendall at her side.  'At least she's not crying this time,' he sighed.  "How are you holding up?" he asked, ushering her back inside away from the press.

"I honestly don't know," she responded, calmly.  "I don't know anymore."  In truth, she didn't feel much of anything right now.  The look shared between them said it all.  There were no room for tears, fears or hopes and dreams anymore; there was just the simple acceptance, that once again, Bianca and Maggie would have to wait to resolve their feelings.


"Here we go," Ethan Cambias composed himself, standing.  He was alerted the moment Bianca Montgomery stepped foot into the building and prepared himself as best he could.  He turned off the TV and waited, nervously, as he could only imagine this was one more nail in a coffin bed that was already long since shut tight.

Moments later, Bianca Montgomery strolled in, dispensed the pleasantries, signed the contracts and walked out all in under 20 minutes.  Ethan Cambias never saw such a more stone cold business moment than what just transpired; he held the contract in his hand and hoped he'd see more of Bianca in a few minutes at their first joint press conference.


Bianca Montgomery stood, rigid in front of the silver-lined mirror.

In a matter of ten minutes, she managed to compose herself after barricading the door in the public restroom of Cambias Industries lobby.  Somebody tried to come in, and after struggling with the knob for a few seconds, gave up in defeat giving Bianca a change to further bury the gut-wrenching feeling that what she was doing at that single moment was fundamentally wrong.

"I should be storming the prison," she said aloud, looking at herself in the mirror, knowing the circles hiding under her eyes would still be there tomorrow.  'Another sleepless night,' she throughout morosely, 'Another sleepless night without... her.'  She smoothed down the front of her shirt and adjusted her collar, frowning at the pools of tears welling up in her eyes.  'I can't even say her name.  Or even think it.'  "I should be breaking her out."

She sighed.

"But, I'm not," she turned away, tucked her locks behind her ear and tipped her head back slightly to take a deep breath.  "I'm here.  About to make a public appearance as the face of a Fortune 500 company."

She still wasn't sure why she agreed to any of this.  When Ryan confronted her about taking over as co-head of Cambias alongside Ethan, she didn't even think it was a possibility.  How could he ask her something like that?

"It's simple, Bianca, I need you to run Cambias here in Pine Valley," Ryan explained, "Miranda is the rightful heir, as is Ethan, it's only fair that you take care of Miranda's obligation until she's old enough to run the company herself."

"Miranda's obligation?" Bianca replied incredulously.  "She has no obligation to Cambias.  And neither do I."

"That's not what I meant," Ryan replied, putting his hands on his hips.  "I just meant that she's due her share of that company, it's money, it's... everything.  It's part of her future whether she wants it or not.  Whether you want it or not, Bianca, she's part of the Cambias line and it's fortune.  It's only right she has her share, after everything you've been through..."

"This isn't about me," Bianca argued, seething.  "This is about a little girl who hasn't even seen her first birthday, yet, and corporate America trying to paint a bullseye on her back.  I will not subject my daughter to that, not from Cambias, not from you."

"Bianca," Ryan reached out and grabbed her arm as she turned to walk away, "Bianca, please, just hear me out... I'm only looking out for Miranda's best interest.  For your best interest."

"Ryan, I do not want Miranda to have anything to do with Cambias Industries.  I want nothing to do with Cambias Industries."  Bianca sighed, loudly and sat down on the sofa.  The emotional breakdown she was long delaying threatened to spill over at any minute, but she was stronger than that now, and she closed her eyes to keep the tears at bay before continuing.  "Miranda will go through enough in her life because of the Cambias name.  The last thing I want to do is seal her into running a company she won't even understand until she's older.  I will not force my daughter into a future she has no say in.  My mother did enough of that to me growing up, she tried to force Kendall into the same mold, and look what happened?  Our family was torn apart by it, and we're still trying to pick up the pieces.  I will not force Miranda to be something she's not."

"I'm not asking you to, Bianca," Ryan sat next to her, "I'm asking you to let me do right by her.  Let me set-up a trust fund, let me give her the option - when she's old enough - run the company that rightfully belongs to her.  Otherwise, Ethan will get it all.  He's a good guy, headstrong, but he's nothing like... the others... he's a good man, Bianca, and he, too, will want Miranda to have a share."

"But what does this all have to do with me?" Bianca asked.

"I want you to run Cambias until Miranda makes her decision.  If you're willing, that way you can teach her everything she'll need to know to make the right choice.  There's no better candidate for the job than her own mother."  Bianca nodded, understanding to an extent, but she was still hesitant to attach her name to anything stained by Cambias blood.  She was still hesitant to attach her daughter's name to anything stained by Cambias, but sooner or later, her daughter would ask questions.  She could only run so long from her family tree, and Bianca knew as a Kane woman that there's no running from what's in your blood.  Even if your forgot, there was always someone around to remind you of who you were inside.

Now, Bianca Montgomery stood ready to announce to the world that she was embracing her daughter's namesake on her behalf.  To give Miranda Mona Montgomery a chance for a future of her own forging.  It should be a day of celebration, of happiness, of achievement, but instead, it was a day of mourning... she shouldn't be here, not now, but where else would she go?  She had a future to look towards, even if it wasn't the one she envisioned.

Bianca smoothed her shirt once more, closed her eyes to relax, and then headed out into the madness that was sure to follow whether it was today, tomorrow or sooner rather than later.


A short memo was released before the press conference.  It's contents where short, precise and filled with thick legalese.  Even the most ignorant of the law could figure out without reading the document what it said: Anybody who attempts to ask Bianca Montgomery about anything related to Maggie Stone was going to have a rude awakening.  There wasn't a journalist in the tri-state area that would dare violate the contents of that memo.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank-you for coming out on such short notice," Ethan Cambias announced, "If you'll all take a seat, we'll get underway.  We have a lot of ground to cover during this conference, and I'd like to get started."  A few minutes later, after everyone had taken their seat, Ethan began by showing a video presentation on the new direction of Cambias Industries.

While the company had a foothold in every major market in the world and was considered one of the foremost leaders in economic pursuits.  However, recently, the scandals that rocked the company from left to right is what caused a downfall in stock prices and caused most of the board to run to smaller companies with a better name.  In all honest, Ethan and Ryan weren't even sure they could turn Cambias around.

And that's where Bianca Montgomery came in.

Of course, neither would tell her that, at least not to her face, and it would be only a matter of time before she figured it out herself.  But nonetheless, having someone so hurt by the Cambias name heading up the same company would boost stock confidence as well as bolster economic growth.  If only Bianca realized at the moment just what running Cambias Industries would mean to the world around her, but she was blinded by her own world around her and thinking about the one person she swore she wouldn't.

"Miss Montgomery?" Ethan tapped her on the shoulder.  "Care to say a few words?"

"Oh," she stood, blushing, as she took the podium.  "Thank-you all for coming..."


Maggie only caught the end of the press conference, but she heard just about all she wanted to hear when the CNN anchor said Bianca Montgomery was now co-CEO of Cambias Industries.  It was the only time she cried that day despite everything that happened.  She cried most of the day and eventually to sleep only to wake and realize she was still trapped by concrete, steel and the impending doom that being trapped in prison continued to strangle her with day in and day out.

Part XIX

Jackson Montgomery once again found himself hunched over his desk in his cluttered office.  Despite his general tidiness, his office was in complete disarray.  He'd practically lived there since Maggie's appeal was denied, only going home for a shower and a change of clothes.  Erica had tried to get him to rest or to eat a hot meal, but he'd have known of that.  All he wanted to do was find a get out of jail free card for his daughter's love.

He watched Bianca's reaction in the courtroom and the press conference.  Since then, she'd isolated herself with becoming familiar with every single function Cambias Industries oversaw.  Trying to get a hold of her was a nightmare, she wasn't returning calls, and she was rarely out her own penthouse nowadays.  Miranda constantly shuffled between Kendall, Erica and the nursery Bianca had built-in next to her office.  Miranda was the only constant Bianca allowed in her life, barely uttering words to her mom and sister when they came to pick up or drop her off during the day.

Erica Kane tried everything in her power to pull Bianca out of her well of depression, but it wasn't working. She enlisted Kendall's help, and Greenlee offered to kidnap Miranda yet somehow that seemed so out of place in that particular discussion at Fusion that Kendall never asked her for help again.  Erica and Kendall teamed up, using Miranda as fodder in some cases, but to no avail.  Bianca was trapped by her routine, and nothing short of a miracle was going to bring her out of it.

“Why is this not working?” Jack asked aloud, stood and stretched his legs.  He was beginning to develop the early symptoms of cabin fever.  He opened up the blinds in his corner office and the bright afternoon's sunlight drape over him, he squinted, looking out into the goings-on in one of the busiest sections of Pine Valley.  That's when his eyes fell upon the one woman taking a walk in front of his office building, he knew what he had to do.

"Judge McLaren!" he shouted, briskly walking to her, "Miss McLaren!"  She turned, sighed and waited for him to catch up.  When he did, he put his hands on his hips, caught his breath slightly, "Judge McLaren..."

"Mr. Montgomery, what a pleasure."  The disdain in Elizabeth McLaren's voice was apparent, she didn't want to deal with anyone let alone Jackson Montgomery right now.  "Is there something I can do for you?"

"As a matter of fact there is," he smiled.  "I'd like to talk to you.  Mind if I join you?"

"I do mind, I was trying to enjoy my day."  He knew this would be harder than it should be.  McLaren was known to be a stickler for the law along with a low tolerance for appeals.  A criminal is a criminal despite circumstance was her motto.  She'd seen Pine Valley degrade into a place where money bought judges, rulings were overturned and people who should be behind bars hanging out around town with the best and brightest of them.

"I just want to figure out what I have to do to get Maggie Stone out of prison," he said flatly, knowing he'd get nowhere today.  'This was a bad idea,' he thought, 'She'll think I'm desperate.'  He was desperate, but so was everyone else in the town.  What more could this do to make matters worse?

"There's nothing you can do, Mr. Montgomery," she replied, "It's what Maggie Stone has to do that matters."  She smiled, bid him a good day and continued on her walk back to the courthouse.  Jack stood there, watched her walk away after exchanging similar platitudes, and then it hit him.  He knew what she meant: The only way Maggie was getting out of jail was if Maggie wanted to get out of jail and meant it.

Jackson Montgomery hurried back to his office, made a few phone calls and arranged a visit.


"It sounds simple enough," Maggie sat back and thought about what Jackson had planned out.  It all sounded good in theory, but she knew what good theory did in this town.  It amounted to a big fat nothing.  So far, all she wanted to do was go back to her cell and finish reading the latest romance novel she snagged from the library.  It was some preposterous story of a young maiden her fell in love with some well-muscled and well-oiled guy who looked like Fabio on the cover.  She tossed it aside at lights out and laughed before thinking about Bianca tucking Miranda in for the night.

"It is simple," Jack said, "No wonder I hadn't thought of it before."

"But what if the judge doesn't think I'm being sincere?  I mean, she did suggest this... she knows what's coming next..."

"That's all up to you, Maggie, I can't lie and say this is going to be easy.  Or that it'll even work.  All I know is that it may just be the only way to get out of here," he sat back, too, and tried to relax.  Everything made him uneasy about this, it was out of his realm.  He was used to argument, point, counterpoint in the courtroom not just letting his client go at it alone.  This was out of his league, but he was willing to give it a chance.

"I'll think about it, Jack," she leaned forward and smiled, "I'll let you know."  He nodded, smiled and stood, extending his hand for a shake.

"I think we've long since passed the handshake phase," she joked, standing.

"I guess we have."  She hugged him, said goodbye and was escorted back to her cell to think.

"What am I going to do?" she asked herself, staring out into the corridor obstructed by the bars in her way.  She leaned against the concrete and just let her mind wander for a bit over what she would say in court to get out.  She just didn't know, she just didn't know what she could say to convey how sorry she was for hurting Bianca.  That's what this all came down to in the end.  She didn't want to hurt Bianca any more than she already had and to put her through another trial would be icing on the last appeal cake if it went horribly.  And so far, it had all gone horribly.  How much more did Bianca deserve?

Maggie sighed, sat on the edge of her bed and just sat their lost in thought until dinner time.


"Bianca," her name caught in Maggie's throat.  A guard had fetched her, saying she had a phone call, and the warden allowed it.  She figured it was from Jack or maybe Anna, who always managed to pull strings with extra calls and care packages here and there.

"Maggie, it's so good to hear your voice," she smiled.  She was sitting on the sofa in her living room, Miranda was down for a nap.  "Uncle Jack pulled some strings."

Maggie was beaming.

"Miranda would say hello, too, but she's sleeping," Bianca added.

"It's okay," Maggie leaned against the wall, one hand on the phone holding onto it for dear life.  She was afraid it was all a dream, and that if she sat down, she might just wake up and forget what transpired.  "It's good to hear your voice, too."

"I love you," Bianca said, holding back tears.

"I love you, too, Bianca," Maggie said through a smile.  If she wasn't so surprised, she'd be holding back tears, too.  Maggie could tell by the few words Bianca said that she was ready to cry, but she was trying to be strong.  They both where.  "How's work?"

"It's... work."  Bianca went on for awhile about the ins and outs at Cambius and how she had a nursery put in next to her office.  She went on about how Erica and Kendall would fight over who spent the most time for Miranda, she also noted how she was pretty sure Erica had already taught Miranda how to get what she wanted by causing a scene.  So far all Miranda could do was cry her way to whatever she wanted, before she knew it, she'd be old enough to just whine her way to whatever she wanted just like Erica did now.  Miranda sure was her granddaughter's girl.

Maggie shared some of the goings on in the prison, but there wasn't much to tell.  She wasn't about to divulge the meeting between her and Jack earlier that day.  She wasn't even sure if anything would come of it just yet.  After another fifteen minutes of exchanging stories, they said their goodbyes and parted ways once more.

That night, Bianca and Maggie both cried themselves to sleep.

Part XX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," Maggie replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"What is it, Jimmy?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part XXI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I agree," Bianca nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She's my daughter," Erica countered.

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

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

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

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

"Your sister was a-"

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

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

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

"Maggie…" Erica shook her head dismissively.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's always Simone!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"I was just wondering how we got here."

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

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

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

"-I know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Maggie Stone stood before the full-length mirror.  It was a courtesy, of course.  Regular prisoners didn't have access to such luxuries, but Erica Kane donated a rather large sum of money to make sure the young girl looked her best for court the next day.  The warden was only happy to oblige.

Anna had dropped off the dress earlier in the day.  Erica secured the make-up, hair supplies and other necessities needed for Maggie to look fresh.  The only thing the warden wouldn't go for included a full body massage, manicure and pedicure.  Maggie wasn't complaining, the dress alone was enough to make her feel like a million dollars.  Right about now, she thought that was one of the many confidence boosters she needed to nail her testimony.

She wasn't nervous, per se, but seeds of doubt continued to flitter in and out of her mind.  She couldn't help but think of everything that could and would go wrong tomorrow.  It was in her nature.  Despite her upbringing, despite her general attitude on life, her sister's influence on whether the glass was half-empty or half-full shined on.


"Look, Maggie," Frankie crossed her arms, standing on the bridge railing.  "It's simple."

"Frankie, get down from there!" Maggie flailed.  "You could fall into the river."

"And your point is?" Frankie smirked.  "What if I do?  What would you do then?"

"I'd jump in and save you," Maggie replied instantly, calming down for a second when she realized the flash in Frankie's eyes wasn't fear or insecurity.  It was something else, it was resolve.

"Exactly," Frankie nodded, "I have nothing to worry about as long as we're together."

"And what about when we're not?"

"I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Frankie shrugged, losing balance for just an instant before Maggie surged forward and grabbed her by the wrist.  She tugged hard enough to force Frankie forward instead of backward, causing her sister to land with a thud on top of her.  "See?  Nothing to worry about…"


Maggie recalled the day on the bridge when Frankie seemed to have a death wish.  They were about 12 and after witnessing a nasty fight between their mother and their soon-to-be stepfather, they both took off towards the river for a quick swim.  However, Frankie had other ideas.  She wanted to walk the bridge, dodge the cars and just enjoy the beautiful day for once without worrying about what might happen when they made it home and their mother realized they were missing.

"I have nothing to fear as long as we're together," Maggie said aloud, still looking in the mirror.  She closed her eyes momentarily and felt as if Frankie heard her, recalling the same memories, and knew even if her sister wasn't physically there with her in the courtroom tomorrow, she'd be there in spirit.  That'd be enough to get her through anything the judge threw her way.


"Jack," Maggie said, positively radiant.

"Wow, Maggie," he said, practically speechless.  "Just wow."

"I'll take that as a compliment," she beamed.  "Anna got it for me, dropped it off this morning.  She thought I could use something a little nicer than normal for this appearance."  She shrugged, adding, "Besides, if the appeal's denied, I want to look my best for the paparazzi that will no doubt be storming the gates."

"Now, now, Maggie," he shook his head, "Let's not get our hopes down.  This is the best chance we've had, yet."

"I know," Maggie sighed, "But I just can't help but have some sense of doubt.  After everything that's happened and just thinking about the possibilities of what could happen…"

"Well, let's focus on what's going on right now," he countered, putting a hand on her shoulder in some way to comfort her.  He knew internally she must be more anxious than she was letting on, even if her words betrayed her.  "Let's go over what will happen tomorrow."

"All right," Maggie nodded, pulling away to take a seat.  She crossed her legs, sat up straight and put her game face on.  She only had one chance to get this right, and she knew she'd do whatever it would take to go home with Bianca tomorrow night.  "Let's do this."

"Well, you already know how you want to approach this," Jackson began, "So, it's only a matter of how you do this.  I can't tell you exactly what to do, because frankly, I think this strategy is a bit crazy.  But it's worked so far, so I'm willing to go along with it as long as it doesn't cause more harm than good."

"How do you think it might go wrong?" Maggie asked, genuinely curious.  She really hadn't thought about how it might go wrong.  She was just elated it'd been enough so far to warrant another appeal.

"It could go wrong in a lot of ways, often times people who are emotional on the stand tend to break down," he explained, "They tend to say things, not necessarily the things they mean but it's the way they come out that cause tension in the courtroom.  We want to avoid those types of outbursts, if at all possible."

"I understand," Maggie nodded.  Basically, she shouldn't admit she thought about killing Michael Cambias on the plane ride back to the Pine Valley.  In fact, she probably should avoid all thoughts on the plane ride over during her recollection of events leading up to showing up at the Valley Inn and doing the deed.  "I really do, Jack.  I think I can handle this, all of this."

"I have no doubt you can handle it, Maggie," he sat back in the chair briefly before straightening up again, "But sometimes being on the stand, being under that scrutiny changes how you'd normally react under the circumstances."

"Yeah, I get that," Maggie nodded, biting her bottom lip anxiously.  "But I still think I have this under control."  If only she really believed that.

"Now, you do know that Bianca will be there tomorrow," Jack added, waiting to gauge her reaction.

"Um, yeah, I do," Maggie's head practically snapped to attention.  Jack knew then that Maggie wasn't certain if Bianca would be there or not.

"It's important not to focus on her being there so much," Jack said, "She's there to support you, as everybody else in the courtroom will be doing."

"I know," Maggie snapped out of it, nodding and leaned forward slightly to rest her elbows on the edge of the table before her.  "I'll be fine, Jack, really."

"I know, sweetheart," he reached out and put a hand over hers.  "I'll be there every step of the way."  Maggie nodded again, believing his platitudes.  Jackson Montgomery was a good lawyer, a good uncle to Bianca and a good man.  If anybody could help her through this, it was him and for the first time that day, she truly believed she could do this with him by her side and Frankie's spirit inside.


"Bianca, it's your uncle Jack," he said, his smile shining through the other end of the telephone.  "How are you holding up, sweetheart?"

Bianca braced herself for bad news, despite herself.  She'd been bracing herself for it since news of Maggie's appeal spread through town.  After all, why should she start being optimistic now?  It hadn't served either of them over the years they'd known each other.  She might as well keep the glass half-empty, at least that way it may not hurt as much if the appeal went south.

"I'm all right," she finally let out a breath.  Even though he wasn’t in the same room, he knew Bianca must be slowly coming apart on the inside.  "What's going on?"

"I just wanted to go over some details for tomorrow's hearing, if you're up for it."

"Why would you need to go over details with me?" Bianca asked, confused.  'Shouldn't he be prepping Maggie for the appeal,' she thought.  "I mean, doesn't Maggie need to be ready?"

"She is ready, Bianca," Jack said confidently.  It was true.  He was more than confident Maggie was ready for tomorrow, as ready as she could be.  There meeting earlier that day had provided him with all the confidence he needed.  He'd need to do little tomorrow to prove Maggie's honesty during the appeal.  "She's more ready than anybody I've ever worked with for an appeal, to be frank.  I don't think there's anything more I can do to prepare her."

"Then, why prepare me?" Bianca asked with a little more uncertainty.  She was sitting down on the sofa in her living room, Miranda having been put down a little bit prior to her uncle's call.

"Well, you see," Jack took a small breath before continuing.  Bianca sensed the hesitation in the action.  "Maggie's a very stubborn, very direct individual.  She believes the only way to win her appeal is to be completely honest with the judge-"

"-Completely honest?  Does that mean she's been hiding something?" Bianca interrupted.

"Let me finish, Bianca," Jack scolded her interruption but smiled.  It was moments like this that reminded him just how much Erica Kane was in here genes.  "As I was saying, Maggie believes the only way to truly get out of jail free, so to say, is to be brutally honest with the judge.  This is going to include how she feels for you."

"How she feels for me?  How does that have to do with… With what she did?" Bianca asked uneasily, already knowing the answer but not wanting to admit it.

"Bianca," Jack rubbed his temple with his free hand, "I know you're a highly intelligent young woman.  I have no doubt you understand where this is going…"

"I do, uncle Jack," Bianca sighed, "I do.  I just wish I didn't-"

"-We all do, Bianca," he interjected quickly, "I just want you to be prepared.  I know you and Maggie haven't exactly had the time to sit down and hash things out.  I know you haven't really talked it out how you feel for each other.  I just want to make sure you are ready for that."

"It doesn't matter if I'm ready for it or not," Bianca admitted sadly.  She desperately wanted to hear Maggie say it to her and only her, but if getting her out of jail meant declaring their love for the entire world to see, then so be it.  It's a sacrifice she was more than willing to make for things to work out right just once in her life.

"Okay, Bianca," Jack said as steadily as he could.  He could hear the timber in her voice change and knew she was as far from okay as one could be.  He wished he could each through the phone and wrap his arms around her to make sure she would be okay.  "If you're sure…"

"I am, uncle Jack," Bianca lied, "Once we get through tomorrow, hopefully, we'll all be okay."

"Hopefully," Jack agreed, "Listen, Bianca, if you need anything.  Absolutely anything at all.  You call me, I don't care how late it is."

"I'll be fine, uncle Jack," Bianca stood up now, pacing a bit in place to make sure she could continue to convince him of that.  But she was more sure she was trying to convince herself she was really okay.  "I will be, I'm going to check on Miranda, then head to bed before tomorrow."

"All right, Bianca," Jack said, "I'll see you tomorrow.  I love you."

"I love you, too, uncle Jack.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight."  Jack hung up first, Bianca hanging on the line desperate to say something other than goodbye.  She'd said so many goodbyes in the last few years, she was hoping she wouldn't have to say it once more.  If tomorrow went right, she was sure she wouldn't have to say goodbye to the one she loved ever again.

Part XXV

Erica Kane accompanied Jackson Montgomery to the courthouse.  They arrived about two hours before the appeal was set to happen, mostly due to Jackson's nervousness about the proceedings.  It was so out of his real, so out of his range of logical client defense, but somehow deep down he knew this was the only way Maggie could appeal her sentence.

Erica wanted to meet up with Bianca and Kendall before the proceeding began, before Maggie arrived.  She wanted to be there to support her daughter no matter what the verdict.  She couldn't help but feel the nerves in her stomach tighten when they parked in the courthouse lot and headed towards the entrance.  The press descended upon them before they even make it to the first steps.

"Miss Kane!"


"Mr. Montgomery!"

They cat-called at the two, Jackson shielding her from their onslaught as they climbed the stairs.  Derek Frye was at the top, waiting for them and instructed officers to clear the way so they could make it inside safely.  It was like a three ring circus, and once they made it to the top, the young reporter from the Inquisitor's question rang out loud and clear.

"Ms. Kane, what will you tell your younger daughter when the love of her life's appeal is denied again?"

Erica snapped around, tearing away from Jackson Montgomery and glared at the crowd as only the Erica Kane could do.  The press became eerily silent, a wave of confusion waving over them as they waited for some sort of statement from the woman.  She stood there, solid as a rock as Jackson looked on.  Officers were still pushing them back, and they all waited for the snippet they so desperately craved for their outlets, publications and web sites.

"Now, let me tell you something," Erica began, holding her head high, "You may think that this is just another story to put your name on the front page, but there's a lot at stake.  Not just for me, my family, my daughter, but for a young woman who did what she thought was right.  When everyone else failed my daughter, Maggie Stone did the only thing she could to save her from Michael Cambias.  It may have been wrong, it may have been downright murder, but at the end of the day, it was an act of love done in the heat of the motive to protect my daughter.  And for that," she tossed her hair and smirked, "I will be forever grateful."

"Erica, that's enough," Jackson grabbed her by the arm, smiled weakly at the press who were furiously scribbling notes while others pulled out cell phones no doubt calling their editors with the statement.  "Let's go."  Erica merely nodded, letting him lead her into the courtroom with Derek Frye in tow.

"That was a… Colorful statement, Ms. Kane," Derek said following them into a quiet corridor.

"Colorful doesn't even begin to describe it," Jackson said, furiously, "What were you thinking-"

"-Only what everyone else is thinking and not saying!" Erica responded curtly, "We're all standing here like this is going to work out like some fairytale, and chances are it's not, if Maggie's defense is to be honest then I'm not going to lie to the press when they ask me what I think anymore.  It hasn't helped so far, it can't hurt now."

Jackson just shook his head incredulously.  Sometimes Erica Kane just didn't get it, no matter how obvious it was.  His thoughts were interrupted as he opened his mouth to speak.  Kendall, Myrtle and Bianca had entered from the side entrance, away from the press and were now heading towards the courtroom where the appeal would take place.

Erica followed his line of sight, as did Derek and watched heavily as the young woman spoke a few words before heading into the room alone.  Erica began to take a few steps forward, but Jackson once again stopped her.  They met each other's eyes, and Erica knew she had to let Bianca do this alone for now, even though it tore her up inside not to be right there with her.


Bianca Montgomery had entered the courtroom alone, now she was surrounded by familiar faces of family, friends and Pine Valley acquaintances.  Kendall and Myrtle had brought her there, but they allowed her the time alone she needed to calm her nerves.  Kendall had given a rather nasty little statement to the reporter from the New York Times and was still smirking as Myrtle stopped her from saying much more.

She took a seat in the first row, directly behind where Maggie would be seated during the appeal.  She looked at the empty seat and wondered what the day would bring.  She'd tried to forget what could go wrong, what might go wrong and instead focused on keeping her spirits up.  Kendall took her to breakfast, Miranda coming along for the ride.  Then, they stopped by Opal's to drop Miranda off for the day before picking up Myrtle at the boarding house.

Myrtle told Bianca that she needed to be strong, not just for Maggie but for herself.  Bianca often lost sight of being strong for herself, because it was so much easier to be strong for everyone else.  She was the glue that held the Kane women together; she took that position very seriously.  But it was time she was strong for herself, and she understood that now.  So, as she sat and reflected on how the day would go, she knew that at the end of it all, Maggie Stone loved her.  And no matter what happened, that'd somehow be enough.


David Haywood and Anna Devane waited outside the Pine Valley courthouse's prisoner entrance for Maggie's arrival.  She was due to arrive at any minute, and Derek made sure they weren't bothered and that the press couldn't get to them.  Anna had recused herself from duty that day so as not to have any influence on the proceedings, leaving Derek in charge at the PD.

"Shouldn't she be here by now?" David asked, looking at his watch for what had to be the twentieth time in the same span of minutes.

"Calm down, honey," Anna rubbed the small of his back, "Derek assures me they're on time, en route.  It'll just be a few more minutes."  David merely nodded, lacing his hands behind his head and pacing.

He was at his breaking point.  David Haywood had a way of losing everything he cared the most about, he wasn't about to lose Maggie for this.  No way, no how.  If her appeal didn't go according to plan, he'd do anything in his power to break her out.  He hadn't admitted that to anyone, not even Anna, but it was becoming a more frequent plan in his mind.  Today would be the day he'd know for sure if he was about plan a prison break.


Maggie Stone sat rigid in the back of the police van.  It was procedure, despite the fact that her last trip to court was in the back of a Rolls Royce provided by Erica Kane.  Of course, Jack argued that she didn't need that type of detail but the court thought it was only prudent considering the special nature of the case.  After all, Maggie was a convicted killer, something they often forgot.  But it was something she never forgot herself.

"I think you're the first person we've transported that hasn't asked if we're there, yet," one of the guards said as they pulled into the back of the courthouse.  Maggie looked out the tiny back window, smiled sadly.

"I'm from Pine Valley, you know," she replied, "I probably could've told you how to get here quicker next time."  As soon as she said it, she regretted it; it created a sense of remorse and sadness in here she'd tried to stay away from the last few hours.

"Hopefully, there won't be a next time, Ms. Stone," the other guard interjected.  "We're here."  He parked the van, David and Anna staying their distant so as not to cause any problems.

"Hopefully," she said only to herself, "Let's hope."  She closed her eyes as the side door was opened, one guard climbing in to undo her from the constraints holding her down in the van.

"This way, Ms. Stone," he said, "Be careful."  He helped her out, and that's when Anna made her way to them with David in tow.

"Is that really necessary, officers?" she asked, pointing to the handcuffs.

"She's certainly not a flight risk," David interceded, rolling his eyes at the amount of security surrounding the petite girl.

"David," Anna scolded, "Gentlemen?"

"It's just procedure, ma'am," the driver said.

"Very well," she nodded.  "If you don't mind, however…"  She trailed off, taking off her pea coat and folding it over her handcuffed hands.

"Thank-you," Maggie said, meeting her eyes and smiling.

"You're more than welcome," Anna said, putting an arm on her shoulder.  "Let's get this over with."  Maggie merely nodded as David and Anna accompanied her inside, the guards on either side making sure she made it to the courtroom.

"Well, here we go," David said, "You ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," Maggie said confidently.  She was ready, she knew she was, she could do this, and she could be free.  There was no other way to put it.  Today would make or break her, but no matter what, she'd give it her all trying to explain why she wasn't a cold-blooded killer.

"No matter what happens in there, we love you, Maggie," Anna said, "We love you more than the world."

"I know," she replied, "I love you guys, too."

"We have to take it from here, Chief," the bailiff interrupted, having given them a few moments to exchange encouragement.  Anna merely nodded, pulling away and David patted her shoulder


Various other Pine Valley residents flitted in and out of the courtroom waiting for the appeal to begin.  While the room itself was closed to the press, they filtered around the courthouse waiting for a snippet or news bite from one of the city's residents or even a photo opportunity with a big name player.  They were like vultures, waiting to scavenge on the tragedy or elation the day would eventually bring.

Meanwhile, Opal Cortlandt watched the breaking news on her television set, watching little Miranda in her makeshift crib and talking about the events as if the little girl understood what she meant.

"You'll see, child," she drawled, "In just a few hours, you're going to have your whole family again.  You just wait and see!  I know these things, I can sense them, and I know you're going to have just the most wonderful life with those two girls!  Yes, you will!"

In the next few minutes, the reporter began detailing Maggie's arrival, and Opal sent up a silent prayer that this new little family would be reunited by day's end.

A hush fell over the crowd as Maggie Stone was led by the bailiff through the courtroom doors and to her place next to Jackson Montgomery.  She kept her eyes focused forward, on the bench, and even though she knew everybody was watching her.  She knew Bianca would be sitting behind her, as would Anna and David whom she'd already seen and almost broke her resolve, but she knew the second she'd look in their direction and see Bianca's eyes looking back at her she could lose the confidence she'd built for the day.  She couldn't afford to lose that now.  Not with what was at stake.

Her freedom wasn't something she could live without at this point.  So, for now, pretending the rest of the world didn't exist – including the woman she loved – was the only way she could make it through her appeal as a free woman.  Or so she hoped.


"It all started the first day I saw her," Maggie began, hesitating for just the briefest of seconds when she met Bianca's eyes.  Bianca looked hopeful, despite her upright, uptight position.  She had her hands laced in her lap, she looked like she could have her portrait painted and hung next to the Queen of England herself.  "She fainted, dead away… If I hadn't been there, she probably would've cracked her head on the floor of SOS-"

"-Miss Stone, I don't see how any of this is relevant," the Judge interrupted, as Maggie stalled once again.

"It is, your Honor," Maggie piped up again, meeting her eyes pleadingly, "If you'll just let me try to explain…"

"Very well, Miss Stone," she replied, eyeing the young girl.  She'd offered her this appeal as a way to test her character, to truly see if the act was selfless, passionate.  So many cases in the town had tested her belief in justice.  She'd seen too many billionaires walk off scot-free when they were truly guilty; she wasn't about to let this young girl off the hook for murder, even if it meant defending the sainthood of Pine Valleys' Bianca Montgomery.  "But do keep on track to your point."

"Yes, your Honor," she nodded, returning her attention to the courtroom.  She found her focus on the back of the courtroom, just to the right of the door.  A faded, silverish plaque was mounted on the wall.  She couldn't make out the words etched into it, but she felt if she focused her energy there, she might just be able to make it out.  "As I was saying, she fated, and I thought to myself, 'What a weirdo…'"

"What is she doing up there?" David whispered to Anna, leaning into her ear.  "She's just rambling like an idiot… What type of defense is this?  I knew it was a mistake letting Jackson Montgomery-"

"-Quiet," Anna berated, turning her head slightly, "She's doing what she does best."

"And what's that?" he snapped, louder than intended.  Those surrounding him looked in his direction, and he scowled in response.

"Going with her heart…"

"Then, there was this time at the boathouse, I said the stupidest thing in the world," Maggie drowned on, not weary in the least bit.  Every so often, a word or phrase would elicit her attention to a face, garment or place in the courthouse.  But she avoided Bianca as much as she could, she was afraid the second she made eye contact, even for the slightest second, she'd blow it all.  "And I told her I was into guys.  I mean, seriously?  How much dumber could I be?  They might as well put my picture next to the definition in the dictionary, because I truly am-"

"-Miss Stone," the Judge interrupted for what had to be the twentieth time.

"Yes, your Honor, I know," Maggie shrugged, not even bothering to meet her eyes again.  She felt a flush come over her cheeks, embarrassed that once again she'd let her mind wander.

Bianca's emotions were running wild, though she hardly showed it.  Every once in awhile tears threatened to spill, but she kept herself in check.  She watched Maggie eagerly, reliving the same memories she told the courtroom in her own unique way.  While they'd talked about many of these moments, long after they'd happened, it seemed as if they never really worked through so many of the bad moments that changed the dynamic of their relationship over the years.

Now, as Maggie told her side of the story, all of Pine Valley was reliving with her the relationship that was Bianca and Maggie.  Erica and Kendall kept watching Bianca, fluttering her eyelids to keep the tears from coming.  But they knew that Bianca was ready to spill over, and they did what they could here or there to keep it from happening.  The last thing they needed was for Bianca to lose it, because at that point, Maggie would be sure to follow.


As the judge retreated to her quarters to deliberate, Maggie was lead through the courtroom, cuffed, and out the doors to be turned over to Jackson Montgomery.  For the duration of the judge's deliberation, she'd be kept in a small waiting area.  Jackson would keep her company, along with the two armed guards outside the room.  She wasn't allowed any other company, even though she wished Bianca could stroll through the doors and sit with her.

"So, what did you think?" Maggie asked with a bit of fake confidence.  She was trying to keep her spirits up, although she met the judge's eyes a few times throughout her testimony, it was hard to read the woman who'd sentenced her in the first place.

"I think you did very, very well," Jackson said honestly.  It was rare to find someone willing to lay it all on the line on the stand, but Maggie had done just that.  "Hopefully, you'll be coming home for dinner with us all tonight."

"One can only hope," Maggie turned away briefly, internally cringing at the use of the word hope.  It's all she had left, and if things turned out poorly, it'd be the last time she'd ever hold onto it.

Meanwhile, while Jackson and Maggie made small talk, Bianca and Kendall paced outside the hallway much to the disapproval of the guards.  They didn't say anything to the two girls but their faces said it all.

"I don't think they're too happy about us walking around here, Binks," Kendall said quietly, pulling her sister to the side.  "Maybe we should hide around the corner, get a glimpse of Maggie as she comes out-"

"-We heard that," one of the guards said gruffly, rolling his eyes.

"So, what?" Kendall snapped, taking a step forward, "You have super hearing, good for you!"

"Kendall!" Bianca exclaimed, putting a hand over her mouth, "I'm so sorry, she doesn't think before she speaks…"

"I do think before I speak," Kendall batted the hand away, "And I did mean to say that!"

"Kendall," Bianca elbowed her this time, the two guards shaking their heads now at their antics, "Let's go around the corner, like you said-"

"-I know, that was my original idea," Kendall threw her hands in the air, nearly losing her purse while she was at it.  Bianca steered Kendall around the corner, taking a look behind her at the door that separated her from Maggie.  "Since when did you become the calm one?"

"About the same time you opened your mouth," Bianca countered, smirking.

"Haha," Kendall returned the smirk, "Very funny.  Glad to see the thought of losing the love of your life hasn't ruined your sense of humor."

Bianca's face went pale, she closed her eyes.

'Oh shit,' Kendall mentally smacked herself in the face, 'Why do I open your mouth?'


"If you would all rise," the bailiff announced, signaling the judge's return to the courtroom.  Maggie turned to smile at Jackson, who put a hand on her shoulder in reassurance.  He was still amazed she managed to get through her entire story without so much as breaking a sweat, at least on the outside.  He had no doubt she was being torn apart inside.  'If this doesn't work,' he thought, shaking his head slightly to displace the doubt.

"In all my time in Pine Valley, in all my time on this bench," the judge began, barely allowing the rest of the room to be seated as she continued, "I have never quite proceeded over an appeal like this.  To be honest, from the very beginning, this has been the most difficult decision to make as a member of the court."

'This doesn't sound good,' Maggie thought, bowing her head.  Bianca was thinking the same think, cementing her doubt when she saw Maggie bow her head.  Bianca shut her eyes; she didn't want to prepare herself for what was going to happen, how it was going to play out.


Maggie Stone was pretty sure the world had stopped. She was holding her breath, felt a strong hand on her shoulder and could feel the eyes of the entire courtroom on her back. She wanted to turn around, she wanted to meet Bianca's eyes and tell her she was sorry without uttering a word.

Her eyes were on the judge, a mix of sadness and realization overcoming her. 'This was it,' she thought, 'This is where the world comes to an end.' She'd done her best; she'd known that, even if some thought she was crazy for telling her story the way she did.

"Mary Margaret Stone," the judge cleared her throat, an eerie silence filling the courtroom as now all eyes were on her, "It is my decision that you are hereby granted parole immediately..."

The courtroom exploded into a fit of hoots, hollers and celebration. David was on his feet, cheering as Anna joined him and hugged him tightly.

"Oh my God! That son of a bitch did it!" David exclaimed, grinning. Anna merely nodded, sending a grateful smile Jackson Montgomery's way.

"I can't believe it, he really is that good," Tad shook his head, standing and clapping Aidan on the back.

"Bloody good job," Aidan agreed as Tad pulled him into a hug. All around them, people celebrated left and right, praising Jackson, congratulating Maggie and thanking whatever Gods were listening for granting this miracle.

Erica was on her feet as well, wanting to share in the good fortune with her daughter. Jackson turned back to smile her way while pulling Maggie into a small hug. Erica turned to Bianca and her smile dimmed at what she saw.

Bianca was still sitting in shock. Of all the things she expected to hear, of all the turn of events that could've played out, there was no way she truly believed that the judge would be granting Maggie's appeal. Kendall tried shaking her out of it, but it wasn't quite working.

"Bianca? Bianca, honey," Erica tried shaking her.

"Binks, this is where you get up and celebrate with the rest of us," Kendall prodded, literally poking her younger sister to no avail.

Maggie turned around, seeing Bianca's shock and Kendall's futile efforts, and against better judgment climbed over the divide between the audience and the bench. Jackson tried to grab her arm but was too slow. He watched, as did the crowd celebrating, as Maggie pulled Bianca to her feet.

"Maggie?" Bianca felt faint, holding hands with Maggie, and blocking out the rest of the world around them. In that moment, it was just the two of them and the judge's proclamation sunk in.

"Shut up and kiss me already," Maggie replied, quickly putting a hand behind Bianca's neck and leaning up to kiss her softly.

"Ms. Stone," the judge interrupted, over the crowd, drawing her attention. "I'm not done."

"I'm sorry, Your Honor," Maggie replied, pulling away from Bianca put keeping an arm firmly around her waist, holding her close. Bianca blushed slightly at the public display of affection, but Maggie's grin just widened. The judge cracked a smile; she was certainly learning this wasn't the average Pine Valley appeal.

Meanwhile, at Opal's, the press had just begun reporting Maggie's release. Opal swung Miranda in her arms, cradling her after a few twirls in celebration.

"Oh, Miranda!" Opal cheered, "Your other momma's coming home! She's coming home!" Miranda cooed, obviously uplifted by the celebration pouring from the older woman.

Back in the courtroom, the judge continued with, "As I was saying…" She was getting ready to bang her gavel to bring the courtroom to order, but it came to order on its own accord. "While I have granted your appeal, you will spend the next two years on probation which prohibits you from leaving the state without explicit permission from the court."

'There goes Paris,' Bianca thought sadly, looking at Maggie with a sad smile before returning her attention to the judge.

"In addition, you will be under the supervision of a probation officer who will oversee both community service and counseling for the duration of your probation-"

"-Thank-you, Your Honor," Maggie said, nodding her head, "Thank-you so very, very much-"

"-I'm not done, yet, Miss Stone," the judge shook her head at the excitement bubbling in the young woman, "I want you to spend the next few years thinking carefully about what you've done and what you're going to do. It's not very often that a person will do what you did for what some would consider the 'right reasons.' Especially in this town," she smirked, "I want you to remember how very lucky you are today, Miss Stone." She rose, as did those in the courtroom who hadn't, yet, "Case dismissed." She swung her gavel one more time and retired to her chambers.

"Wow," Maggie finally took a deep breath. "Did that really just happen?" Bianca smiled, tears in her eyes. "Hey now, no more crying." Maggie wiped a tear from her cheek. "Seriously, you're going to make me cry…"

"I can't help it," Bianca shrugged, pointing towards Kendall. "It's all her fault." Kendall was crying, Erica having an arm wrapped around the taller woman's shoulders trying to comfort her.

"I can't help it either!" Kendall practically wailed, "This is just too much!"

"Who knew your sister was such a softie?" Maggie teased.

"I heard that," Kendall responded, wiping her eyes and pulling away from Erica.

"Let's not start a fight on your first day out, Maggie," Erica joked.

"All right, ladies," Jackson interrupted, "We just have a few loose ends to tie up." He turned to meet Bianca's eyes. "I have to escort Maggie back to the courthouse for her discharge, it shouldn't take more than a few hours."

"I'm not letting her out of my sight," Bianca said suddenly, deadly serious.

"I'm not going back in jail, Bianca, relax," Maggie said, taken aback, "Just a few loose ends, I have no intention of staying there any longer than I have to."

"I don’t care," Bianca argued, "I'm going with you. No matter how long it takes, I'm not losing you now that I have you." Maggie smiled as Bianca brought her hand to her lips and placed a tender kiss on the back of it.

"Okay," Maggie smiled, "Have it your way. But I have to warn you, some of the inmates are fans of yours…"

"Oh?" Bianca rose an eyebrow.

"Some are fans of your mother, too," Maggie added, smirking.

"Oh," Bianca finally understood where Maggie was going. "Well, I suppose that happens in prison, now doesn't it?" She chuckled, a few tears falling.

"Stop it with the tears," Maggie finally lost it, tears spilling over herself at the elation she felt that she was finally free. She was free to start a family with the woman she loved, the woman she'd pined after and the woman that was finally hers. Everything she ever wanted, everything she ever dreamed of was finally hers for once. And, in that moment, she vowed she'd never, ever let Bianca go again.

"Hey there," David made his way to Maggie, pulling her into a hug before she had a chance to fully pull away from Bianca. They still held hands, afraid to let go, even though Bianca was now at a distance.

"Hey there yourself," she smiled. "Anna." The two women hugged, too, before pulling away and standing together. "I don't know what to say."

"Neither do we," Anna admitted, her eyes wet.

"Once you get things straightened out at the prison," David started, "Let us know. We're going to dinner and movies and a whole bunch of other stuff together. You're going to get sick of us-"

"-Oh, David," Anna patted his shoulder. "I'm sure she has more important things to do right now than mingle with us." She winked at Maggie, who blushed, turning to look at Bianca quickly.

Maggie gulped, not really having thought about what would happen after she was released. She didn't seriously consider it a possibility, so now what? If Anna's hint was any indication of what was to come, Maggie really needed to get a move on and start putting her future into action.

"All right, let's get this show on the road," Maggie clapped her hands together. Jackson, Bianca and those around her seemed startled by the outburst. "Jack, my man, lead the way!" Jackson merely nodded, pointing ahead of him as the girls led the way to the front of the courtroom to the claps and congratulations to those still celebrating Maggie's release.


Bianca didn't want to let go, she didn't want to let Maggie out of her sight.  But, alas, only Maggie and her lawyer were allowed to go through the process of discharge at the prison.  Bianca held onto Maggie's fingers, relishing the contact as they parted ways.  Now, she sat alone in the waiting area outside lock-up.

Some of the guards looked her way, smirking to themselves.  She paid no attention to it, even though she knew most of the prison must've been buzzing with news that Maggie Stone was now free.  That made her smirk, too, and she watched the steel door that separated her from the love of her life.

She still couldn't believe this was happening.  That for once, something went right in Pine Valley.  But it didn't matter if things went south from here, they were together now, and that's all that mattered.  Bianca's memories drifted, betrayed her really, as a bit of doubt crawled its way into her head.  They'd been together in the past, not quite like this, but they'd been inseparable once.

'Could it last this time?' she asked herself, hoping beyond hope that now that their love was out in the open, that they truly could be set free by it.  Maggie and Bianca had walked this path many times before, the lingering self-doubt still sat in Bianca's stomach.  Even though she tried to hide it, Maggie being away from her even though it wasn't forever, was enough to make her resolve break a little more.


"How long is this going to take?" Maggie complained, rolling her eyes and stretching in her seat.

"Now, now, Maggie," Jackson shook his head, "You've been out less than an hour, and you're already missing the outside world?"

"Something like that," she turned towards the door, wondering what Bianca must be thinking at that moment.  Just saying goodbye for a few minutes was enough to make her heart break.  Again.  "I just want to get out of here."

"That makes three of us."

"Three of us?" Maggie rose an eyebrow, "Oh, yeah, Bianca…"

"Who else did you think I was talking about-"

"-Probably me," the warden interrupted.  Maggie looked elated.  "I just want to get this over as quick as possible."

Jack stood up, extending his hand and meeting hers firmly.  He prompted Maggie to do the same with a nod of his head.  She was a little slow getting up, but she also shook the warden's hand and attempted to play nice.  It was no secret the warden was unhappy with the decision to let Maggie go free, but there was very little she could now except make the discharge process go by as slowly as possible.

About two and a half hours later, the steel door that separated Bianca and Maggie opened.  Bianca was on her feet in an instant, paced a bit nervously as Maggie made her way out behind her uncle.

"Maggie!" Bianca exclaimed, throwing her arms around the shorter woman and pulling her into a hug.

"I need some air here, Bianca," Maggie joked, returning the embrace.  "I'm not going to disappear on you."

"Promise?" Bianca asked without thinking.  Maggie pulled away slightly, not breaking most of their contact.  She put a hand on Bianca's chin and forced her to meet her eyes.

"Yes, I promise," Maggie said sincerely, inching up to capture Bianca's lips in a quick kiss.  "There's nothing in this world that could keep me away from you now."


On the car ride back to Bianca's penthouse apartment, Maggie stared out the window and watched the Pine Valley scenery pass her by.  It'd been months since she'd seen the outside, seen the trees and the wilderness that surrounded the outskirts of the town.  It'd be a good half an hour before they reached city limits, before they reached home.

'But what is home now?' Maggie thought to herself.  She held Bianca's hand, even though she wasn't looking at her.  Bianca kept stealing glances of Maggie's profile, realizing the other woman must be in deep contemplation.  She knew Maggie would need time to adjust, need time to get reacquainted with the outside world.

"I'm really not going anywhere, Bianca," Maggie broke the comfortable silence when Bianca began gripping her hand a little tighter than necessary.  "You want to stop death gripping me here?  I'm kinda attached to both hands."

"I'm so sorry!" Bianca exclaimed, practically ripping her hand away.  She held the steering wheel tightly, gripping it the same way.

"The steering wheel didn't do anything to you, and I'm sure that's not going anywhere either," Maggie pointed out, smiling.  She watched Bianca slink into her seat, relaxing slightly.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled, keeping her eyes front and center, "It's just…"

"I know," Maggie could see the self-doubt washing over Bianca.  It broke her heart that she still truly didn't believe that they were together forever, that Maggie might still not be truly with her.

"Do you?" Bianca looked at her briefly before returning her attention to the road ahead.

"Yeah, I do," Maggie reached for her right hand, edging it away from the steering wheel and taking it in her own.  "Grip as tightly as you want, Bianca."

"Are you sure?" Bianca gulped.

"If it makes you feel better, yeah," Maggie puffed up her chest, "I can take it."  That caused Bianca to break out in laughter, shaking her head and released her grip to a normal hand hold.

"You make me feel better," she said softly.

"I love you," Maggie replied.

"I love you, too," Bianca beamed as she drove into Pine Valley city limits.


"Oh, no," Maggie gasped.  This caused Bianca to swerve a bit, and if it was not for the well-lit entrance before her, she might have hit the curb and ruin what might go down as the best day ever.  Standing in the driveway, one hand on a hip and clearly annoyed at having to wait was Erica Kane.

"You can say that again," Bianca rolled her eyes.  She parked the car, took a deep breath and looked in Maggie's direction.  "Can I take you back to prison?"

"At this point," Maggie giggled, "That might be better in the long run.  It'll keep me from committing another murder-"

"-Maggie!" Bianca exclaimed, slapping the other girl's shoulder playfully.  "That's not really funny."

"No, I guess, it's not," Maggie shrugged, putting a hand on the handle as Erica bee lined for the car.  "Incoming!"

"Well, it's about time you got here!" Erica shouted through the driver's side window.  Bianca's hand was on the switch to put it down, but she just didn't have the heart to yet.

"I love you, Maggie," Bianca said quietly, ignoring her mother who was now tapping on the window trying to get her daughter's attention.


"I love you, too, Bianca," Maggie smiled, trying to avoid Erica's gaze as the tapping increased.


"Do we really have to do this?" she asked suddenly, closing her eyes momentarily.

"Yeah, we do," Maggie nodded, finally meeting Erica's eyes before waving like a little child in her direction.

"Bianca Christine!"  Erica was livid at this point, Maggie only fueling the fire.

"Why did you do that?" Bianca chided.

"Why not?" Maggie shrugged.  "You better roll down the window before she breaks something trying to pry it open-"

"-That's not funny, Maggie!" Bianca turned around suddenly to face her mother, smiling weakly before rolling down the window.  "Hi, mom, sorry about that…"

"Well, it's about time!" Erica exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips and waiting for something a bit more apologetic.  "I've been waiting here for an hour!"

"We took the scenic route," Maggie chimed in, giggling as Erica's face flushed.  She wasn't helping the situation at all.

"You are really not helping," Bianca elbowed Maggie, not even looking in her direction.  "I'm sorry we kept you waiting, mom."

"I bet you are," Erica rolled her eyes.  Bianca quickly opened the door, forcing Erica back before stepping out and hugging her mother tightly.  Maggie followed Bianca's lead, albeit it a bit slowly to avoid Erica's wrath.  "Well, don’t just stand there."

"Who?"  Maggie looked around before realizing who Erica was talking about.  "Me?"

"Yes, you, Maggie," Erica shook her head.  "Come here."  Maggie stepped forward and hugged Erica, too.  The group hug was cut short by a small cry coming from up the driveway.

"Miranda!" Bianca broke away first, grinning as her daughter teetered on the edge of the small steps leading to the walkway.

"Miranda…" Maggie's breath hitched as Kendall began leading the little girl down the steps carefully.  Sure, Maggie had seen Miranda before, she'd seen her live and in the flesh, but she'd never been this close to actually belonging with Miranda.

"Come here, Miranda!" Bianca encouraged her daughter.  "I have someone I really want you to meet."

"Nice to see you out of that tacky orange," Kendall threw Maggie's way, smiling as she brought Miranda to them.

"Nice to see your sense of humor has stayed the same," Maggie responded.  She looked down at the little girl, still holding Kendall's hand and now holding her mother's with her other one.  The little girl was looking up between the three women towering over her; Erica was watching from a few steps away.

"I think I'm going to leave you three alone for now," Kendall said softly.  "Come on, mother.  Let's go pour the wine."  Erica merely nodded, letting Kendall lead the way inside.

"So, Miranda," Bianca kneeled down, putting a hand on her daughter's cheek.  "I know you've already met Maggie here, but now, it's a little different."  Maggie just stared down in disbelief; she really had a family now, didn't she?

"Mom… ma," Miranda cooed, giggling.  She looked up at Maggie, pointing with her free hand.

"She's so beautiful, Bianca," Maggie said.  She didn't quite know what else to say, this little girl seemed to recognize her.  Even though they'd met before, Maggie didn't think Miranda would have the slightest clue who she was.  It seemed Bianca filled her in, at least as much as a toddler could understand.  "So very, very beautiful."

Maggie kneeled now, too.  Miranda pulled away from her mother's grip and wrapped her little arms around Maggie's neck, pulling her down slightly in the process.  Maggie fell onto her knees with a thud, digging into the pavement but taking the slight pain with a smile.

"Hey there, Miranda," Maggie whispered into the little girl's ear.  "You're just perfect.  Just like your mother." Bianca smiled, not hearing the words Maggie whispered but knowing they were filled with love.  "I love her very much, little one.  And I love you, too, just as much.  But I have a feeling you know that already."  Miranda cooed, pulling away and reaching for her mother's hand.

Maggie and Bianca walked Miranda up the walkway, each holding a little hand in their own and enjoying the silence as their new family entered the house.  Erica and Kendall smiled at the scene, poured them some wine and they all sat around talking as Miranda played in front of them.


"I never thought we'd ever find ourselves here," Bianca exhaled slowly, watching Maggie from the doorway.  She was leaned against the frame, arms crossed as Maggie traced the comforter of Bianca's bed with her fingertips.

Maggie was hesitant, and Bianca could see it in the other girl's movements.  They'd slept in the same bed, sure.  Maggie had held her countless times before.  They'd kissed, they shared a bed, and they'd been close and been on the verge.  But they'd never actually had the dream come true before.  And here it is, right in front of them.  A dream come true.

Erica had left a few hours ago, Miranda had been put to bed just a little bit ago.  Now, Maggie and Bianca teetered on what next.  Maggie wanted to get out of the clothes she'd been in all day, so Bianca let her head upstairs while she tidied up in the kitchen and put away the bottle of wine Kendall left them.

"I never did either," Maggie finally said, turning and facing Bianca.  "I don't know what to do."

"You're so silly, Maggie," Bianca giggled, stepping into the room and closing the door behind her softly.  "You get into bed, like you normally would.  Like any other night."  Bianca, too, was nervous.  She knew tonight was different as well.

"But it's not my bed…"  Maggie wanted to slap herself in the forehead.  Of all the things for her to say, that wasn't the right thing, but Bianca understood.

"It is now," Bianca nodded.  "It's our bed."  Before Maggie knew it, Bianca wrapped her arms around the shorter girl's waist and pulled her close.  Maggie closed her eyes, fell into Bianca and let herself feel free for the first time in years.  All the things she'd done, all the things that led her there no longer mattered.  Maggie was safe, she was home.


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