TITLE: MERRY CHRISTMAS, I COULD CARE LESS (A Kane Christmas Carol)
Author: Misty Flores
GENRE: All My Children
Pairing: Bianca/Maggie, Maggie/Lena
TEASER: Maggie, the former love-of-her-life, the one who Bianca had wanted to marry, the one that had cheated on her and ruined everything, the one Bianca was still desperately in love with (and becoming increasingly bitter about it), was currently in an expensive suite with her daughter and her live-in lover, Bianca's ex of all people, having a perfectly cozy romantic evening. Merry F-king Christmas.
Maggie Stone could recall the exact moment it sunk in that it was truly over between her and Bianca; that Bianca would never forgive her or take her back.
By no great coincidence, it was also that night she slept with Lena Kundera, Polish Fox, for the first time.
Not entirely on purpose. There had been a lot of alcohol involved, drunken dancing, low lights and sexy music. That night she had been broken hearted and hammered and would have probably gone home with anyone. Bumping into Lena had been an accident, the decision to stick her tongue down her throat three hours later, was not.
Lena had been convenient, and Lena understood. It was a one night stand, two former enemies coming together in their shared misery over one Bianca Montgomery, and the sex had been angry and rough and damned fantastic.
If Maggie took the time and thought about it, it was a little mind blowing. Maggie understood that life was made up of a series of choices, and with those choices, there were consequences.
She also knew, had that incident with Bianca not happened on that day, had she not gotten drunk and wound up at the gay bar, had she not chosen that exact time to get up and walk to the bathroom, she never would have run into Lena.
Life had dropped her fundamentally on her ass, and Maggie had a new set of choices to make. That night, she understood Bianca would never forgive her for her infidelity.
As devastating as that was, Maggie had chosen to live through it, and in the course of it, she learned to forgive herself.
PART I. THE STATE OF THINGS.
Maggie was one of those annoying women who got more and more stunning the more she aged.
Even now, at her most casual, with her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, feet bare and wearing green surgeon's bottoms and a white tank-top, she took Bianca's breath away.
"Hi," she said, palm resting against the side of the door, eyes connecting with hers only for a second before drifting lower, to smile at a much shorter person. "Hey, Munchie! Ready for some fun?!"
Hoisting her Juicy Couture bag over her shoulder, Miranda attempted a cool roll of her eyes. "Maggie, you promised you'd stop calling me that. I'm ten and a half. It's embarrassing."
"Old habits die hard," Maggie said, scruffing the top of Miranda's head good-naturedly as Miranda squirmed under her touch, attempting to look annoyed and failing miserably. "Come on in I've ordered pizza."
"Awesome," Miranda quipped, and then turned back and offered her mother a wave. "See ya, Mom."
"Be good," Bianca called out to her, as her child trudged through the apartment with a familiarity that always made her ache, leaving her alone with what was, for all intents and purposes, her ex-wife.
"Thanks for calling me," Maggie told her, quiet in the silence that followed. "I know you've had your doubts."
Sucking in her breath, Bianca kept her expression perfectly neutral. "Thanks for saying yes. Miranda deserves to be with family for Christmas. I didn't expect this last minute trip-"
"It's your family, Bianca. Unexpected comes with the package." Maggie had said that more times than she wanted to remember.
"I expect her to be well looked after."
"She always is."
She wanted to argue that, but she couldn't. Maggie was right.
Still, Bianca wasn't a saint.
And this was never easy.
"So…" she began, voice rough as she glanced away from gorgeous eyes and slender fingers as they smoothed along a door frame. "I'll pick her up in a week?"
"Okay. I've taken the week off, so barring any surgical accidents, she'll be in great hands."
"Well, they are surgeon hands," Bianca said, shifting on her heeled feet. "I wouldn't expect anything less."
"Naturally," Maggie quipped, and despite herself, Bianca’s heart thumped. They had these conversations more easily now. Sweetly complimentary, witty and fun, remnants of their relationship that made her ache for the rest of it.
The easy banter fell into stalled silence, and standing in the doorway, like a stranger, in front of the woman that should have been the love of her life, Bianca felt suddenly fragile.
At that moment, she heard footsteps, heels coming up behind her, and the tenuously vulnerable expression froze up in the favor of a hard, steely expression, even as her heart dropped within her.
"'Alo, Bianca," came the accented Polish voice, and Bianca's eyes moved from Maggie to the woman now standing beside her, shrugging off her trenchcoat and moving around her, offering her a polite, distant smile. "Maggie."
The way she said Maggie always made her cringe.
"Hi…" she began, breathless. "Lena." Crossing her arms, she closed her mouth and stared at the carpet.
"I'm so glad you thought of us," Lena said, and from the lids of her eyes, Bianca didn't miss the way Lena's long fingers reached over to clutch Maggie's intimately, before letting go. "Miranda will be spoiled rotten, I can assure you."
"Honey, that's probably not the best way to swing her over to our side," Maggie said lightly, but was smiling as she said it, and Bianca hated this.
"Well, I should go," Bianca said, feeling outside of herself, as Lena offered her a parting kiss on her cheek and continued on inside.
When they were alone, Maggie stepped forward, with her dark puppy dog eyes. "Seriously, Bianca. Thank you. The fact that you're letting her stay with me. With us. That… that means a lot."
Withering under the gorgeous face, Bianca managed stiffly, "It was Miranda's idea. Not mine."
"I'm not okay with this."
Dark eyes glimmered at her, and without a word, Maggie nodded, and stepped back into her doorway.
Exhaling, Bianca turned to leave.
Bianca Montgomery was positive there was some sort of rule in the lesbian code of conduct that mandated that under no circumstances, were ex-girlfriends ever to move in together.
She was also reasonably sure that as the jilted lover, forced to confront the fact that the two women in her life who been her most intimate partners had somehow managed to become lovers and, even more horrifyingly, committed partners, she was allowed to have her own hissy fits and bad feelings about the entire situation.
She was absolutely sure that if she decided not to be the bigger person after all, and at the last minute, forbade Miranda from visiting Maggie and Lena for the holiday, no one could blame her.
Had Miranda, in all her 10 year old glory, not sneered to her that every day, she was becoming more and more like her mother, Erica Kane, Bianca was reasonably sure that was exactly what would have happened.
But her damned kid knew how to play for her strengths, and between that and a phone call from fucking Dr. Stone who was always so damned logical, Bianca had no real argument to fall back upon. Maggie knew her. She knew what her schedule was like, and she knew Bianca had thrown herself into her work because there wasn't much else in her life and managing both Cambias and her family was a full-time job.
On the private Cambias jet, talking in low-tones to her assistant while she sifted through newspaper headlines that detailed the latest Slater/Kane/Cambias PR nightmare, Bianca caught a glimpse of a shadow of herself in the mirror.
She was in her early-thirties, heading home to handle an insane family and their insane family crisis. Her love-life was a series of one-night stands and one nightmare relationship after another, because Bianca attracted the crazies and between managing Miranda, who had inherited her stubborn nature and her predisposition to hating her mother, and managing Cambias, there was little room to weed them out.
Meanwhile, Maggie, the former love-of-her-life, the one who Bianca had wanted to marry, the one that had cheated on her and ruined everything, the one Bianca was still desperately in love with (and becoming increasingly bitter about it), was currently in an expensive suite with her daughter and her live-in lover, Bianca's ex of all people, having a perfectly cozy romantic evening.
Tipping the glass of wine to her mouth, Bianca gulped down the bitter liquid.
"I'm signing off," she told her assistant crisply, and cut off the call, leaving herself alone in darkness.
Merry Fucking Christmas.
The last word trilled against her ear, forcing an unconscious shudder as she resisted the wake up call. Feeling a tickle against her cheek, she reached up instinctively, swatting at the feather light touch that landed there.
The familiar voice felt out of place, and it was enough to force a wrinkle in her brow, as she stirred in her seat, felt a squeeze on her shoulder.
“Come on, Princess. Wakey, wakey.”
Lids weighted with sleep, Bianca struggled to blink her eyes open, wincing in reaction to the shadowy ambiance provided by the dimly lit cabin, making out a hazy version of a person.
That looked just like Maggie.
Jerking up, Bianca inhaled sharply, heart rising into her throat as the cloud of sleepiness dissolved.
Her heart racing, it was impossible to contain her emotion as she wildly eyed the cabin, empty save for the very real woman sitting across from her.
“Maggie,” she breathed, choking out the name, and the other woman only smiled, and shook her head.
“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me already.”
This incarnation wore her hair tied back, leather bangles on her wrists. She looked younger, carried herself differently than Maggie ever did, shoulders slouchy, a twinkle of mischief in those brown eyes.
“Frankie,” she managed, the realization causing a sudden choke in her throat.
The smile grew wider, and sixteen year old Frankie Stone only smiled wider, pleased. “Took you long enough. I thought you got over the whole confusing us thing a while ago.”
But it couldn’t be Frankie, because Frankie was dead. She’d been dead for years.
“Okay, you’re close to freaking, I can tell.” Leaning forward, Frankie paused when Bianca frantically scrambled in her seat, doing her best to avoid her touch.
“Uhuh. No shit, Sherlock.” There was a charming, wicked smile, flashed on perfect lips, before Frankie twiddled her thumbs, looking around the darkened cabin. “You’d think for a corporate jet there’d be more things to do. Where’s the XBOX?”
It had to be a dream. Bianca retained a certain amount of pride in the fact that she had lost some of her naivety as she’d grown older. Frankie was dead, she had been dead for a long time, and the time when Bianca would have believed Frankie would return to her by some sort of Christmas miracle had long since passed.
Staring at the other woman, still young, still gorgeous, Bianca was surprised to find a sliver of actual anger simmer into her stomach, bubble up.
“What are you doing here?” she asked Frankie the dream ghost.
Her tone was harder, like flint, and Frankie must have noticed the change. The head tilted, and the casual, jovial expression dimmed slightly.
“What, not even a ‘glad to see you’?”
She was older than this situation merited, wiser. How her memories could betray her, conjur up someone like Frankie as a reminder of everything she lost, it was unfathomably cruel.
“I’m not glad to see you,” she answered honestly, and decided that, even if this was a dream, she could use a stiff drink. “I can honestly say that you’re the last person I’d want to see right now.” Settling at the minibar, Bianca pulled out a glass, popping the top off the top-of-the-line brandy kept there for her convenience.
“If this is a dream, I need you to get to the point.” Bianca liked to think she was reasonable. Her memories of Frankie hadn’t faded. She kept her old lover in a place that few could touch. Only Maggie ever really understood how the loss of Frankie really affected Bianca. It was for that reason that she found herself suddenly furious.
“Wow.” The sound of Frankie’s gravely voice was almost too much, and shutting her eyes against it, Bianca fought her shudder, gulping down a burning shot of liquid. “You know, I’d heard you’d become a bitch, but I didn’t actually believe it.”
“Believe it,” she growled, staring into her glass.
“I mean, I know it’s been a few years, but…”
“A few years?” she repeated, whirling, sloshing liquid onto her fingers and suddenly not caring. “Try thirteen! Thirteen years, Frankie!”
Settled on a cushioned seat, Frankie looked determinedly blasé. “But whose counting, right?”
“Fuck off, Frankie.”
“If you don’t play nice, I just might.”
Maggie’s twin sister had always been so frustratingly blunt.
“You can’t just suddenly show up, even in my dreams, and make me happy to see you. It doesn’t work that way.”
“How does it work?” Maggie’s twin, with her heart shaped face and flawless skin, young and in her prime, was difficult to stare at. Bianca found herself looking away, breathing hard as she reached again for the bottle. “Careful, Bianca. Alcholics run in your family.”
“I thought I told you to fuck off.”
“Since when have I actually listened to anything you’ve told me?”
“What do you want from me, Frankie?” Bianca’s face flushed with her unshed emotion, and she considered flinging her glass at the apparition, a misguided attempt to make it go away.
The look on Frankie’s face, a soft sadness and vulnerability that she had only seen once before Frankie’s untimely death all those years ago, caused an unintentional falter.
Pushing to her feet, the Ghost of Frankie crossed her arms, looking sullen and pouty and a little disappointed. “I guess… I just wanted to see for myself. Believe it or not, I felt sorry for you.”
“Sorry for me?”
“Yes, Skeptic, sorry for you,” Frankie repeated, eyes squinting angrily. “It’s been 13 years and your life has gone to shit.”
Bianca couldn’t help but utter a low, angry laugh. “Is that your professional opinion?”
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. It’s Christmas Eve and the only person you’ve got talking to you is me. And I’ve been dead for 13 years.” Frankie crossed her arms, came forward. “Truthfully, I thought when you and my sister managed to hook up, it would have stuck.”
Her insides wrenched at the statement. “Well, we didn’t.”
“Your sister decided I wasn’t enough,” Bianca snorted, and picked up her drink again, moving around Frankie to settle back in her chair. “What, you didn’t see that from your little cloud up in heaven?”
“So it’s Maggie’s fault.”
Placing the cool glass against her heated forehead, Bianca didn’t respond.
“I suppose it’s just as well. The Stone sisters always were screw ups. I mean… hell if she couldn’t make it work with you I guess she couldn’t make it work with anyone.” A light pause, a knowing smirk, “Right?”
Not in the mood for pointed conversation, Bianca closed her eyes. “Shut up.”
“Come to think of it, where’s Miranda, anyhoo? Shouldn’t she be with you on this pilgrimage to the most fucked up city on the planet?”
“She’s fine where she is.”
“You mean with my twin sis and the Polish fox?” Bianca looked up sharply, but Frankie only grinned. “Man. I did NOT see that one coming. Did you?”
The alcohol had started to take affect, and determined not to be baited, Bianca offered only a challenging smirk. “Not exactly.”
“You’ve got to be the most giving person on the planet to let Miranda stay with both your exes. Props. Biancala.”
The old nickname caused a small pang. “It wasn’t exactly my idea." Swirling the liquid in her cup, Bianca raised it to her lips. “Miranda ran away one day, a few months ago. I didn’t know where she went. Turns out she had tracked Maggie down.”
“She inherited your stubborn streak.”
“Paris isn’t a big city,” Bianca admitted. “And Maggie sent her a gift every Christmas, every birthday. Miranda never forgot.”
“That’s kind of amazing, considering she was what… two when you two broke up?”
A morose grin flitted over her features. “Miranda’s just starting to understand what it means, how she came into this world. It’s impossible to hide the truth from her. There were some kids at school… they started calling her … names.”
There was a hiss of sympathy. “Kids suck.”
“How do you explain to your kid that she’s the product of a rape? That her mother killed her father? How do you…” The emotion ate at her, and swallowing down another drink, Bianca fought the sudden urge to cry. “How would you even begin to explain that? She found out the hard way. I didn’t tell her. And she blamed me for it. Running to Maggie … it was a desperate attempt to find something normal.”
“You’re not going to lose your kid over that, Bianca.”
“I remember how much I hated my mother. I wanted to be nothing like her. That look… in her eyes… I recognized it. I told myself that I would never see that expression in her eyes.”
Frankie was quiet, uncharacteristically silent.
Tears stung in her eyes, and suddenly feeling foolish, Bianca wiped at them quickly, searching for the blurry target in the room.
“Is that why you’re here? To tell me my life has gone to shit and make me revel in it? Because I don’t need you for that, Frankie. I know it already.”
“You’re right. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to help you fix it.”
“I called in a favor.” Frankie clapped her hands together, shrugging her shoulders in a dismissive shrug. “For old time’s sake. You needed a Christmas miracle, and I’m giving it to you.”
“I don’t believe in Christmas miracles,” Bianca muttered, and downed the last of her alcohol. “Not anymore.”
“I know. But your ex is with your other ex, your kid hates you, you’re turning more and more like your mother every day… I think it warrants an intervention. That ‘Touched by An Angel’ bull shit.”
Her lips slip up into a bitter sort of smile. “Oh really. You’re my Christmas Miracle?”
“Life is shit, Bianca. Everyone knows that. But you deserve better than what you’ve become, what you’ve allowed to happen.”
“What I’ve allowed to happen?” she repeated. “Because I drove Maggie to cheat? Because I asked Michael Cambias to rape me? Those are my choices?”
“Like it or not, the way your life has turned out has been your choice. You could have forgiven Maggie. You could have spent more time with your kid than burying yourself in work and one night stands. You could have drawn a line with your family instead of letting them run over your life. Those are you choices, and you haven’t faced them.”
“Right,” she breathed.
“Don’t be such a fucking victim, Bianca! It’s pathetic.”
“You know what’s pathetic? A 16 year old ghost wearing out it’s welcome.”
Frankie actually looked stunned. Out of context, it was almost funny. Bianca never would have imagined being able to out talk her con-artist girlfriend.
And yet… there was still that ache inside of her that forced her to tear her eyes away from the hauntingly familiar face, stare into her empty glass, like a coward.
“Fine,” she heard, a rough, angry voice. “You want to be a bitch? Be a bitch. I should have expected it. But it doesn’t change what’s going to happen tonight.”
“Oh? There’s more of this?” Bianca snapped, unable to keep herself from her acidic replies. “Goodie.”
“Shut the fuck up and listen to me.” Frankie’s hazel eyes were darker than she remembered. “You’re going to get visited by three spirits tonight. You hear me? Three.” She held up the appropriate number of fingers.
Slightly drunk, Bianca could only manage a disinterested smile. “How Dickens.”
“You bet your ass, bitch.” Frankie offered her own version of a cruel grin. “You’re lucky there’s no refunds on these things, Bianca, because you’re sure as hell not the girl I fell in love with.”
“Isn’t that your point?”
Clucking her tongue, Frankie regarded her. “I guess so,” she managed. With a smack of her lips, Frankie straightened, came forward, and removed the glass from her hands. “Get ready for a hell of a Christmas, Princess. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Without warning, Bianca was suddenly engulfed in an angry kiss. Lips plundered hers furiously, and there was enough teeth in it to slice open her bottom lip. She tasted blood, before her eyes closed unconsciously, and she fell back, heading knocking against the cushioned pillow.
It was 3:00AM London time when she awoke with a start, buzzing plastic vibrating against her hip.
Her head ached, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, Bianca winced in the low light.
Her phone kept buzzing.
With a grimace, Bianca glanced oddly at the empty glass that was placed beside her on the empty chair.
Unable to really think thanks to the hammer currently pounding on her temples, she dismissed the glass in favor of checking her caller ID.
Flipping open the phone, she croaked, “Kendall.” Listening to her sister, Bianca rubbed her fingers to the bridge of her nose, trying to stay above the wave of pain that slammed against it. “No, I’m on the plane. I told you that.” She listened, and fought the groan. “Because it’s three in the fucking morning, that’s why.”
Years of swimming with corporate sharks hadn’t helped with the gradual appearance of her potty mouth.
“Kendall,” she interrupted and then winced, reaching up to touch a tender bottom lip. “I’ll deal with it when I get there. Mom didn’t have to have an affair. She can deal with the consequences on her own for another few hours.”
Without waiting for her sister to respond, she hung up the phone, and once again touched her finger to the cut on her lip, a bewildered frown on her face.
The sounds of silverware clinking startled her enough to push into the wound, forcing an unintentional hiss.
The hiss became caught in her throat, threatened to nearly choke her, when she glanced over to the minibar and discovered a man standing with his back to her, fiddling with the bottles.
Bathed in an almost ethereal glow, the man helped himself to a drink, seemingly oblivious to Bianca’s presence, until he turned, a glass of bourbon in his hands.
“That Frankie. She’s a pistol, isn’t she?” he asked, before taking a sip, grimacing in reaction. “This place always did have the good stuff.”
“Zach?” she finally managed, palm to her chest, trying to still her erratically beating heart.
Kendall’s soul mate, on-again, off-again rascal of a doting husband, paused, blinking once before grinning for her benefit.
“Not tonight,” he said, voice rough with the bourbon.
“Zach, what are you doing here?”
He waited, taking her in, before finishing his drink. “Didn’t Frankie tell you? I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
END CHAPTER ONE