Stand By Me

Chapter Fifteen

Amy had gone to quite a few nightclubs with Micaela for a few girls' nights out and she had gone out a few times with a few of her attempts at romance, and, of course, that week long relationship that had ended so abruptly. However, she found to her own surprise that she had never gone out to a casino, at least not that could remember at the moment and she cocked her head thoughtfully.

She was aware of Maggie and Jonathon at her back and she worked to give them a few minutes alone, eyes focused on the people moving around, the crowds that were gathering, growing larger with every person that sauntered in, slipping past her and going on with their own night of fun with girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands and wives, away from the kids and other people who made you want to bang your head against a wall when all you wanted was a few minutes of necking in an elevator or sex in a stairwell.

Not that Amy had ever had sex in a stairwell…

Clearing her throat and hoping nobody noticed her blush in the not-too bright light, Amy jerked when a hand settled on her shoulder blade, turning to regard a grinning Maggie and immediately beaming back in response, worries about her stairwell sex forgotten in the giddiness of seeing that kind of grin on Maggie's face.

Dropping the hand from Amy's shoulder only long enough to give a full response to Jonathon's nuzzle of her neck, Maggie let him drag his hand out of hers, nodding once to Amy before melting away into the crowds, disappearing into the throngs of people milling around at the main entrance.

"Where's he going?"

Maggie simply shrugged, rolling shoulders around as she wrinkled her nose and grinned even more broadly, eyes bright and excited as she grabbed onto her friend's hand, lacing fingers with Amy's and shook it while the brunette burst out laughing at the sight of Mags going full-blown wild girl.

"Come on!" Without waiting for Amy's acquiesce, Maggie took off, almost yanking the taller girl off her feet. Stumbling the first few feet, Amy finally got herself balanced again and simply went with the flow, following Maggie as the shorter girl threaded their way through the crowds.

Okay, who said Maggie Stone was never up for a night of fun?

Maggie yanking Amy Cohen around like a rag doll would remain one of the most memorable things he'd ever seen. He watched for a moment or two until they disappeared before continuing his journey, working between people and digging his cell phone out as he did, checking the display and sighing quietly at Erin's number flashing angrily, probably matching her mood.

Finding himself something that remotely resembled a dark niche, Jonathon finally answered the call that had first been signaled to him by the vibration against his hip. Immediately, Erin's voice was there, stringing along as panicked words and babbling and he sought to make out her words.

And, after a few moments, he managed to calm her down enough to have her explain in a shaky but clear voice that she had done that very stupid thing that he had made her promise not to do… that was Erin Lavery for you, always doing the stupid thing because, hey, nobody told her what to do, right?

Still, if she had indeed found what she said she was holding in her hands, than he couldn't blame her panic at all, even if she had been the one stupid enough to go out there and do the stupid thing.

He did what he was supposed to do, soothing her and grateful for the fact that he could with her like this. As it was, he was only barely able to ease her panic, calm her enough to convince her to go to the Valley Inn and go to sleep, to rest and stop thinking about everything that was going wrong.

He considered her as he stared silently at the phone, knowing that she was going to do what he said and that she would call him if she needed him. Still… Jonathon swallowed, considering her nasty little find in the old place and knowing full well who had left it there.

It would be a good half-hour before he finally headed back to Maggie and Amy and found himself watching Amy with her jaw tight, considering what she meant and what all she could do… it was all up to Erin and he would do whatever she asked of him because she always knew best, no matter what.

By the time Erin trudged tiredly back to the Valley Inn, she was beyond wrecked, drained mentally and physically and she slipped into the room with a grimace, locking it and checking the lock before clicking on the lights and studying the room thoughtfully, noting with amusement the bathroom that Jonathon had picked out for her.

He was the only person in the world to know her obsession with bath salt and she noted with a bit of a grin that he had indeed stocked her up with quite a few packs. Leaving the bathroom, she shrugged out of her coat and then slipped the sweater off her head, tossing them both to the bed and observing herself in mirror, noting with a sigh the heavy bags beneath her eyes, dark shadows.

The jeans came off next, kicked away from her feet as she headed to the closet and got out the biggest shirt she could find, something with some cartoon character and yanked it on, not even changing or showering like she usually did, every night, at this time. Turning, shaking herself, Erin climbed into bed, yanking the covers up and burrowing into the bed, swallowing and leaving the light on as she fell asleep, ignoring the notes and pictures that he had left for her, black and white images of Amy without her even knowing that she was being watched.

And, if Erin had her way, Amy would never know how close he had gotten to her.

Bianca rarely drank but, standing and watching JR and Kendall bond like that was disturbing to say the least and she was now nursing a Cosmo, eying the Chandler with dark eyes and pursed lips, biting her tongue every time she caught the two leaning closer together to exchange more words.

Bastard… stole her daughter, stole her sister… destroyed Babe's life, destroyed her life… what, was Kendall the next one he was aiming the wrecking ball at?

With a grimace, she turned away forcefully, and then regretted it when she spotted Ryan regarding Kendall and JR with the same amount of fierce dislike that she felt. He had loosened his tie and was now draining a glass of something clearly strong, at least to judge by the wince when he tossed some of it back.

She felt for him, despite the fact that she didn't like him right now. She remembered how Kendall had responded to his marriage to Greenlee. She had watched her sister break, piece by piece and slowly crumble, give in to too much pain and too much betrayal. Yet, despite herself, here she was, feeling a little bit sympathetic for him.

His romance with Kendall had never been easy, never been simple and Bianca got that, on that some level. Every time she took a step towards Maggie, bam, Maggie ran the other way as quickly as her short legs could go until she decided to try something at which point it was Bianca's point to run the other way. It went like this and she sometimes thought that this would be their entire existence, until the day they died.

She could understand why he had decided to go the easy way out with Greenlee. It had never been love between them and they all knew that, even if it wasn't spoken out loud, because it was one of those things that you never said out loud, that was just how it was. Ryan loved Kendall, always had and always would and nothing would change that, not even Ryan deciding that he liked easy instead of better.

So, now, there was Ryan, watching Kendall and clearly wishing she'd get that divorce, get away from JR and hop on the back of his bike so they could go ride off into the sunset. She couldn't help it, she felt for him despite how much she hated him for what he had done to Kendall and used Greenlee to do it.

Hadn't she done the same thing… hadn't Maggie done the same thing…?

Was love supposed to be easy though? Wasn't it supposed to be hard, supposed to be something you fought for, something that you needed to earn on some level? Or, maybe she was wrong and love was evil, was something that ended in you always looking stupid and helpless and broken while she was over there, making out with some jerk and giggling about his hand on her thigh when that was where you wanted your hand… maybe love was a bitch…

Or, maybe, Bianca was just beginning to get hit with the alcohol.

Ryan got a refill, watching Kendall with pain that he was masking with anger, given away only by the slight crack in his gaze that showed just how hurt he was that she hadn't waited for him, that she had really thought that he didn't want her. But that was his fault; he'd told Kendall so long and so loudly that she meant nothing to him and she had finally given in to what she knew wasn't true, simply because it hurt too much to fight anymore.

Ryan was an idiot and Greenlee was finally realizing it too. It was why they were acting so flat around each other, why Greenlee was missing so much time at work to disappear and why Ryan was spending all his time staring at Kendall and glaring at Zach, Ethan, JR and every other man in Pine Valley that trailed after Kendall like she was the Pied Piper and they were the rats… especially JR… rat…

"Ms. Montgomery?"

Bianca jerked, jumping and then twisting to stare for a few minutes at the black woman who stood in front of her, who had blinked and then placed a hand on Bianca's bare arm, attempting to soothe the young woman who she had apparently just given a stroke to. "I'm sorry but I've been looking for you… I have some things to ask you about your sister."

She looked familiar and Bianca frowned, clearing her throat and rubbing her neck absently. Yes, she did look familiar and it was pissing Bianca off that she couldn't just figure it out. Thankfully, the older woman seemed to pick up the mix of irritation, curiosity and confusion on Bianca's young face. "I'm Edie, Mr. Slater's secretary?"

Oh, that explained why she looked familiar, huh?

Edie Harrison had proven to be the only person in Pine Valley that he truly trusted and seemed to do everything for him from ordering Thai food to organizing a planner to riding a unicycle while juggling razor-sharp cleavers… well, Bianca had yet to see the unicycle and cleavers but she had no doubt that Edie would go that far for her boss.

"What about Kendall?" Bianca murmured, taking another sip of her Cosmo and eying the strong-looking woman with a little bit of wariness, apparently fearing that Edie would be taking her blessed, sacred, much-needed alcohol… Edie resisted the urge to roll her eyes, glancing cautiously around to make sure that Zach wasn't around.

He was nowhere to be found and she had no doubt that he was hiding in his office, pouting over how Kendall didn't know about his feelings… yeah, jeez, why couldn't he act like grown man when it came to the whole heart area of human emotion? Still, Zach had been like that since before she had met him as "Alex, just Alex" in the streets of New Orleans. She'd been fifteen and she'd never left his side.

"Your sister, Mrs. Hart-Slater…?" When Bianca just stared, Edie bit the inside of her cheek, once again suffering through an insane urge to roll her eyes. Clearly, this poor girl, saint/heroine/innocent or not, was already being affected by the alcohol and Edie smoothed her hands down her thighs, contemplating the right words.

"I have some questions regarding your sister. Her likes, her dislikes… things that make her laugh and things that make her want to explode…" Edie paused, her lips twitching slightly and Bianca frowned again, lifting her eyebrows as she took another sip, swallowing it and thankful for the way everything was easing.

"Edie Harrison."

The whispered hiss made the secretary turn, jumping and then nodding respectfully when Myrtle sidled up besides her, eying Bianca for a moment or two like a mother cat before gazing at Edie with a slightly annoyed glint in her gaze. "What are you doing talking to Bianca, darling?"

A nervous glance at Bianca with shifty dark eyes before Edie leaned closer to the elderly woman. "I thought she might help us, Mrs. Fargate."

A very dainty, very elegant snort from Myrtle as she murmured absently, with a pat on Edie's hand, "Call me 'Myrtle', dear." The secretary sighed, but Myrtle silenced her with a snort hand movement, cutting off the woman and focusing Bianca with a shockingly intense look with narrowed eyes. "Have you seen Kendall tonight?"

Bianca just ogled them, realizing that this was how Greenlee and Kendall would look in sixty years… if Greenlee was a red-headed ex-carnie with a strong accent and if Kendall was a black woman who cowered at the look in the red-headed broad's eyes. She frowned and then looked down at the drink in her hand, realizing how many she had had and wondering if anyone had slipped anything in this one.

"Bianca!" The snappish order made her raise her gaze to regard Myrtle with an edge of real fear in her eyes. "Bianca, darling, have you seen Kendall tonight?" Bianca continued to stare and Edie leaned forward, whispering in Myrtle's ear. "I think she's a bit soft in the head, Mrs. Fargate."

The elderly woman sighed, raising her eyes to the ceiling of the casino in a silent prayer to find the strength to get through tonight with Edie at her side. "Bianca, darling, shake the booze out from between those pretty eyes of yours and tell me if you've seen Kendall yet—"

"Or the boss," Edie interjected, and was once again cut off by Myrtle, who swatted her back with her handbag.

Bianca, thankfully, realized that the sooner she ended this conversation, the sooner she could get a new Cosmo. "Kendall's over there with the rat," Bianca offered helpfully, gesturing to the Kane and Chandler talking together, quietly, bonding with him when she should be helping Bianca figure everything out because, damn it, that was a big sister's job.

Edie's eyebrows instantly rose in clear concern as she once again leaned closer to Myrtle. "They're close… do you think Junior over there's a danger to—" She stopped suddenly, casting the younger Kane daughter a side-ways glance of clear distrust. "Do you think we can trust 'Sex and the City' here?"

"Who?" Myrtle asked in confusion.

"Her!" Edie snapped, shaking a finger in Bianca's direction, who grimaced, looking around for a waiter to refill her glass or get her something stronger. "Do you think we can trust her with our… ahem, our plans?"

Bianca looked back, found both women staring at her intently, with identical looks of wariness and cautiousness before, with a sad sigh, Myrtle shook her head. "We can't… not yet… for all we know, she may just be on the weenie's side in all this…" Bianca looked around again, searching for any hot dogs and Edie smirked, wondering if Erica Kane was this funny when she had a couple of drinks.

"Come along," Myrtle ordered and they took off, arm in arm, with Bianca staring after them with wide eyes and deeply disturbed by what she thought she was seeing, Edie Harrison and Myrtle Fargate apparently planning something together that involved hot dogs, Zach and Kendall. Deeply, deeply disturbing.

She grabbed a waiter when he was passing, barked for another Cosmo and he went off to fetch it as she smoothed hands down her dress, picking at the fabric with her nails and then regretting having eyes when she caught sight of Maggie giggling excitedly as she and Amy went streaking past.

Snatching her drink as soon as it got close, she spun away from the sight and then yelped, her drink sloshing when she jumped in surprise; it splashed up onto her dress when her mother grabbed her by the arms, eyes wide and shaking Bianca like a rag doll. "You're supposed to be insane," Bianca managed to get out between shakes, absorbing her mother's clearly sane words.

Her mother didn't answer, simply grabbing her and taking off through the hotel, Bianca staggering and stumbling to keep up, long legs working overtime to keep up with her mother's full Kane-mode stride. "Why are we going?" she ground out, closing her eyes at the lurch of her stomach.

"To save your sister from Zach Slater by any means possible…" She stopped, not even moving when Bianca slammed into her. "…even if that means going through Myrtle and Zach's little cheerleader, that Edith woman!" This so stated with much dramatic flair, she took off again and Bianca rushed to keep up, simply because it was better than watching Maggie over there giggling with Amy like Bianca didn't matter at all.