So, this story is not dead - however, this show, AMC?

Yeah, it's fucking broken me, and I'm completely done with it.

However, I'm writing again - so, yeah, enjoy!

-

One child grows up to be
Somebody that just loves to learn
And another child grows up to be
Somebody you'd just love to burn

'Blood's thicker than mud'
It's a family affair, it's a family affair
Nobody wants to be left out
You can't leave, 'cause your heart is there
But you can't stay, 'cause you been somewhere else!

It's a family affair
It's a family affair

- Sly and the Family Stone, 'Family Affair'

-

Chapter Thirty-Seven

-

Settling as lightly as he could on the hospital bed, he let fingers brush very slightly across dark locks, freshly washed by the nurses since she was still too drugged out to walk or even wake up. He'd heard her as he followed John on his rounds, listening to her proudly explain to the nurses and faculty that she was going to be a star, whether people liked it or not.

She was beautiful enough.

Thoughtfully, taking in the signs of the last days of exhaustion, from her strangely small frame to the nearly black shadows under closed eyes, Greg drummed his fingers against her bed, drinking in the sight of her, absently deciding that he would take care of whoever had done this to her in the first place.

Everybody needed a doctor sooner or later.

Erica Kane was going to be a star, and he saw it easily, the same something present now that had been present when she had come into the hospital some weeks before, seemingly unaware of the swollen belly she was carrying around. She was a special case, as John told the young man every few days, a worried frown on his face as he perhaps picked up on the disturbing new trend of Greg, finishing his work to go talk to the damaged girl, stars in her eyes and a forced ignorance of whatever had driven her here.

Erica Kane would be an even more beautiful woman.

"Greg."

He turned slowly, so as not to wake her, eyes settling on John, seeing that now familiar look of disturbance on his weathered face as he stood in the doorway. "What are you doing?" Greg smiled slightly, standing carefully, glad when she didn't respond, and moved closer. "Checking her numbers."

John walked past him to the bed, staring down at the small shape, seemingly searching her for something before looking back at his protégé, disturbance changed to irritation. "I don't want you in this room again, Greg." When the young man went to speak, he shook his head, leveling a look of stony force at him. "You do it again, and you'll regret it."

"Never."

It was a word, two syllables, but it did what it was supposed to, startling the doctor into silence and casting them both into their selective corners, obsession and confusion. "Greg—" The only response he got was a smile before the young man promptly turned and left, leaving John to fumble in confusion, wondering at the sudden sickening tightness in his middle.

-

Josh Madden had two ways of dealing with stress.

The first was to simply deal with it. After years dealing with his father's twitchy form of obsessive parenting and his mother's rapid decline into a state that wasn't quite lucid, he'd learned to work with stress with the best of them. His other way, that of a complete and total breakdown of his own, was one he rarely fell victim to.

To his great and utter frustration, he could feel shades of complete and utter breakdown approaching his sanity.

"Why is Bianca at the hospital?" Slater demanded and Josh scowled, wishing the idiot had started caring a bit earlier, before shit had gotten this worse. "I don't know, but she says she's fine, and she says Miranda is fine, so let's get back to business." Hastily, he flipped the lid off the box, shuffled through the letters absently, scowling. "You have no idea how much of a mess things are right now—"

"What are those—"

"Letters," he snapped, not caring when all he got in response was an almost comically blank stare. He grabbed the few he had tied together, stuffed them into the inside of his jacket and glanced back at Zach. "These are yours, almost all of them, and I'm taking the ones that aren't for you with me."

"This is Kendall's handwriting," the casino owner muttered, one envelope held in his fingers as he stared down at it uneasily. "Yeah," Josh sighed, shrugging as he went through the box of them one more time, finding all of them decorated with Zach's name. "They're for you, all the rest of these, do with them what you want."

"But what are they?" Josh flicked a glance at him and snorted, finding the other man sliding a thumb across the scrawled words, tracing them in a way that was almost disturbing. "They're not nice," Josh said bluntly, and moved past Slater, heading for the door. "But they're yours, and if she was herself, she'd have given them to you a long time ago."

"Where are you—"

"I have more important things to do."

-

Once upon a time, Trey had been good with stress.

Even when he was drowning in it, he'd be able to keep his head above it enough to actually think, to keep himself going enough to figure a way out of it, one way or another. He didn't have David or Kendall's scheming ability, to his own irritation, but he could survive when he really needed to, even if it required some things that were none too pretty.

This wasn't a natural kind of stress, though.

Jack had headed out already, making a beeline for the airport when they'd realized she was nowhere to be found in the massive penthouse Jack had rented out so many months before. Reggie had run off to check her stores, the few places she went by herself these days when she was having a good day. This left Trey to handle his older half-brother.

His evil genius older brother, the older brother with a big brain that could do bad things easily.

Staring down at the phone in his hands, he gnawed his bottom lip, trying to summon courage as he sat there, uneasily aware of how horribly this had gone wrong in the last few hours. Finally, bracing himself with whatever courage he could dig up, he dialed David's number and leaned back on the couch, pressing the heel of his free hand into his eyes absently.

"What's the matter?" his brother demanded, and Trey took another breath, held it as he prepared himself for David's protective fierceness. "It's Greenlee," he blurted out hastily, deciding to dive right in, and swallowed when he heard the sudden tight silence on the other side of the connection, a tense stillness abruptly broken by, "What happened?"

"I—We don't know," he admitted, digging his heel in until he could see little stars exploding in his vision. "I watched some old movie with her last night and when I woke up this morning, she had stolen my keys and run off, we don't know where she went," he added, admittedly needlessly, somehow aware of David's growing fury on the line. "David—"

"You lost a grown woman?"

"We didn't lose her, and Jack's out looking, and Reggie's out—"

"Montgomery couldn't find his ass if it wasn't attached," David snapped harshly, and if there wasn't the panicked something beneath his voice, Trey would have been a lot more frightened. More than that, David had shown in the last year that he could better with others than most people thought, although he and Jack tended to dissolve into outright swear matches if Reggie and Trey weren't around to keep them under control. "Is there any chance she hopped a flight?"

"We don't know, but that's where Jack's going—"

"Where's her cell phone?"

"She left it—"

"So she could be in Timbuktu for all we know, huh?"

"I'm sorry—" His words died in his throat, and he exhaled when David hung up on him, leaving him holding a dead phone and filled with guilt, aching with it. Dropping his hands, he sat there for a long few moments, trying to get a hold on himself, enough that he could be useful.

"Sorry," he added more softly, and headed out of the penthouse to look for Leo's broken shell of a wife.

-

Zach thought the words 'courage' and 'cowardly' had too much power contributed to them.

Both had their uses; people tended to flip between one and the other, he had found. A survivor, he had found, did more running in his or her lifetime. Fleeing was vastly underrated, and far too misunderstood by the world at large. People relied too much on one or the other, bound themselves to one form or another, and were confused when they drowned in the meaning of the words themselves.

There was nothing wrong with being a coward, not really.

But the guilt was there, and it had never been there before Kendall had entangled him.

Other guilt had been there, but he had never hated himself for fleeing a painful position.

Zach fiddled with the envelope with his hands for a long time, fingers itching with a mix of terror and excitement, his heart twisting harshly in his chest. The writing burned his fingers, scalded his skin, but he finally gave in, leaning against his desk as he opened the envelope and tugged out the paper, unfolding it quickly and skimming the words.

It took a long time for the words to sink in, settle into his heart and his mind, and he finally dropped the paper to the desk, shaken, trembling. He knew those words, had said them himself a thousand times over, spoken them to his father in moments when his control had broken and he had lashed out, helpless not to.

The same hate, not spoken but written… but it was the same hate.

-

Miranda looked bored, sitting in the hospital chair under Julia Santos-Keefer's watchful eye.

Bianca was grateful for it, especially since Maggie seemed to be in the throes of a complete mental breakdown.

The petite woman had been coming undone when Bianca had arrived at the park just a few minutes ahead of Jamie and Joanna, the older woman looking extraordinarily calm with her frazzled graying hair and hospital coat, having rushed out mindless of Anita's attempts to take it first. To his credit, Jon hadn't bolted when he noticed the small horde of people coming for him, although he had blanched and started babbling things that made no sense to Bianca. And then the police had arrived, wanting to see why he had run off in the first place.

It had taken a good amount of wrangling from Bianca to get them to back off enough to allow Jon to be taken back to the hospital. At that point, however, Jon had panicked and decided that he didn't want to head back to the hospital. Jamie had managed to cut him off before he could get away, and him and Jo had half-carried, half-led Jon to the waiting police car to take him back to the hospital.

And at that point, Maggie had burst into tears.

It was insane and too much to take on top of her frantic panic from Kendall's latest decision to run off.

And here she was, trying to keep a calming arm around Maggie— she didn't seem to remember their fight from the night before, a tiny blessing for Bianca—and also try to figure out why things had suddenly become such utter chaos. It had been bad enough to find out that he had been skipping sessions, but now this, and nobody was telling her what the Hell was going on.

Bianca didn't need this stress, not now.

"What's going on?"

Lips pursing, Bianca turned, finding JR Chandler just behind her, frown on his face and eyes dark with worry. "Did they find Lavery?" he asked quietly, and she gritted her teeth, irritation flaring in her middle. "You don't have any place in this," she started, but Maggie shook her head at JR, explaining in a thick voice, "They found him after he found me, and— I don't think he's sane."

"I'm gonna need to tell Erin," he muttered, frown getting darker as he shifted and then glanced back over one shoulder. "I don't think she's asleep, but—" He exhaled, and Bianca swallowed, feeling suddenly chilled as Maggie pulled away with a mumble about something as she slipped away, moving to exchange quiet words with Jamie, a nervous young man pacing furiously. "What do you want?" Bianca demanded, feeling suddenly panicked at how stressed he looked about Erin.

"I'm trying to make sure the abusive murderer isn't completely insane, Binks—"

"Haven't you done enough?"

"You're still pissed off because I told your girl about Babe?"

"It was none of your business—"

"But it was Stone's, I think." He looked angry suddenly, blue eyes going flinty as he stepped closer, eyes narrowed. "You went out of your way not to let Maggie know that you're bestest friends ever with that bitch, Bianca, so you must have some idea of how badly it would hurt her, and how much Maggie hates her."

"You had no right—"

"You're going to lead a charge against me now?" he asked incredulously, looking completely dazed, and she stuck her chin out, grateful suddenly that she had someone to attack. "Jonathon Lavery's going psycho again, and you're going to try to kick my ass because I told your girlfriend that you're cuddling up to the woman that stole your child?"

"I knew you were cruel, JR, how you treated Babe was proof enough that—"

"I'm not listening to this shit," he snapped, and just like that she was ignored when he turned and heading back where he had come from, leaving her shaking with her quiet rage, wishing he'd come back so she could hate him, give her something to focus on— "I guess you don't give a damn about Kendall, either, huh?"

Harsh, and she knew it; his connection with her sister was at times frightening in its persistence in strength, and its refusal to be destroyed. If you wanted to get him where you could hurt him, you went through Kendall, something she knew she had used before, a handful of times since they had parted ways as good friends. Kendall hated it, went chilly for days, but it worked, and always did.

It worked now as well, his head snapping around and eyes gone colder than before. "I've been trying to call her… do you know where she is?" he asked more heatedly, and she licked her lips, swallowing, shaken by the force in his stare. "Bianca?" he demanded more hotly, and she gave in, temper escaping, "She ran off with my mother and Ryan, they went to where he and Greenlee got hitched a few years ago."

"And you didn't stop her?!"

"What do you want me to do, tie her up? What, put her on a leash?!"

"She'd do it for you, although God knows why anyone would bother," he snapped, and she flinched, falling back as he turned and strode away, vanishing around a corner even as he was digging around for his phone. She stood awkwardly for a minute, regretting it but grateful or the anger at the same time, something to focus on. "Bianca?"

Taking a breath, she glanced at Maggie, found her tiny lover staring at her with a fragile kind of hurt, arms wrapped around herself and looking utterly drained of life. "Is something the matter with Kendall?" she asked softly, and Bianca swallowed again, closing her eyes for a heartbeat, torn between anger and weak desperation.

"It's nothing," she finally managed with a tiny smile, and pushed past Maggie, spotting Jo coming out of the double doors some feet away and feeling a rush of relief at the newest thing to focus on. She wasn't sure what was worse at the moment, Maggie's care or Maggie's anger, but they were both wearing at her, exhausting in their intensity.

Maggie was as exhausting as Kendall, and she couldn't handle both at once.

-

To Whom It May Concern—

I can't sleep at night, and it's your fault.

You promised me a life together, and it was a lie, it all was, and you always knew. Did you find it funny, me acting like a love sick idiot? Find it funny when I hoped and dreamed and though, hey, just maybe this time will be different, this time when he says 'forever,' he actually means it? To think that maybe it'll be more than me in the end, alone, the butt of the big joke?

He won't stop kicking me, all night long, over and over again, bruising up my insides. He's not supposed to be mine, he doesn't feel like mine, because he was supposed to be Greenlee's, I created him for Greenlee, because she was broken and she needed a baby to fix it and because I couldn't lose her too. Even if she didn't love me, I didn't want to lose her too, didn't you realize that?

You're just like Michael and the result's the same, this kid nobody really wants in the end.

Ryan says he loves me, and I think he's telling the truth, so what business is it of yours?

What are you going to do, take me away from him, tell me he's a liar, and a cheat?

I wouldn't believe you anyway, so don't even try it.

-

"Erin—" He stopped suddenly, half in and half out of the small room where the nurse had left the redhead to sleep off her emotional hitch some hours before. "What are you demanded?" When she didn't answer, he shifted his look to his mother, standing with her hands on her hips and a downright infuriated look on her face. "What is she doing?!"

"She says she's leaving," his mother snapped in a tone that indicated her opinion of said plan.

"Put that down," he ordered, Kendall forgotten for a heartbeat as he darted to the bed and snatched her bag from her hand, holding it out behind him when she grabbed for it. "You fainted, passed out, and would have hit the ground like a bag of bricks if I hadn't caught you."

"I'm fine."

"I've had enough people lie to me in my life, don't add yourself to that list."

She grabbed her bag, and gave a sharp yank, almost succeeding before her twisted his wrist and tightened his hold on the strap, rocking back on his heels. "You need to stay for a few more hours, at least," he insisted, and she made a face that left him confused as to whether he wanted to shake her or hold her. "Red—"

"I was just hungry—"

"Well, that, too—"

"JR!"

"You should stay for a little while longer, sweetie—"

"I'm fine," the redhead insisted, and if he hadn't seen her panic attack earlier, he almost would have believed her. "I'm a big girl! I handled my dad every day and I'm not bothered by some little fainting spell." She gave the bag another yank and he switched tactics, letting his Chandler half flex his claws, snapping. "I need your help with something."

She stilled in her yanking, and he took a moment to think it through before plunging forward, twisting to glance at his mother. "We need to talk," he ordered, and felt a naked relief when she nodded and quickly fled the room, closing the door behind her with a not-quite ominous click. "Jonathon's back in the hospital—" he started, and nearly fell on his ass when she dropped her end of the bag and practically flew at the door. "Wait!" he yelped, and exhaled in relief when she hesitated for a heartbeat, long enough for him to catch her arm and very carefully steer her around. "He's in the mental ward, under Jo's supervision."

"Oh, God—"

"Stop," he squawked when she made to run off again, pulling her back from the door enough that he could move in front of her, blocking her off from it. "Apparently Stone found him in the park or something, and he's completely out of it— I grabbed Anita on the way back and she said no one is allowed in there yet—"

"But I'm his sister—"

"Erin, he's not in good shape," and he watched as her heart literally came apart, watched it in her eyes, felt it somehow even though he wasn't touching her. Her body seemed to wilt, sag on the inside and then collapse on the outside, as if someone had flipped a switch deep inside. "Do they… do they think he'll hurt himself?" she finally asked in a small voice and he sighed, shrugging weakly. "I don't know, that's everything Anita told me."

"Oh, God, this is all my fault—"

"No, it's not—"

"You said you needed my help?"

JR stopped, staring at her, completely blindsided by the question, by the sudden shift in the way she stared at him, eyes wide with a friendly kind of worry. "What?" he asked dumbly, and she jerked her head in a vague kind of way, smiling slightly. "You said you needed my help, a few seconds ago—"

"Red—"

"I can help, with whatever it is," she interrupted, and he finally stopped babbling, going still as he looked close and saw how tight she looked, face too empty and voice too steady. "I mean, I can't go see Jon now, but I can help you, right?" she asked, and he swallowed, unnerved and suddenly wanting to touch her, smooth a palm across her skin in a hope she would find some way to anchor herself with it.

"I don't think—"

"Please tell me what I can do to help."

It was the plea under the words that got to him, and he exhaled noisily, aware of how horribly breakable she looked in front of him. But Erin liked Kendall, he knew that, and she loved Chris, and that he knew even more clearly, and just like that, he gave in the final bit. "It's Kendall, she ran off with Ryan and Erica this morning, off to that castle where your brother married Greenlee Smythe before."

"That's where Ryan is?"

"What?"

"He's with her, that's where he's been all day?" she asked, eyes suddenly impossibly wide as she strode up close to him, looking more alive than she had in what felt like months. "Yeah," he assured her and nodded, grinning bitterly. "Useful, isn't he, when he decides to care about someone?"

Erin's answer was only a fragile sort of stare before she turned away, smoothing her hands furiously down the denim of her jeans. "He wasn't taking my calls," she finally told him, looking back at him, arms wrapped around her middle in a childlike sort of helplessness. "I've been leaving him text messages, and voice mails and—"

"Erin—"

"We need to go," she announced, grabbing her bag from the bed, and smiling at him with a false brilliance, eyes over bright in the harsh hospital light. "My brother's getting his vows renewed, so I need to be there, and you should be there, too, you're Kendall's best friend." She moved past him, striding out of the room and taking off for the elevator, leaving him to feel the weight of his mother's worried gaze on him.

"JR, she shouldn't leave—"

"I'll take care of her," he muttered, and took off after her, already digging out his car keys.

JR doubted anyone could stop Erin with that horribly raw look of betrayal on her face.

-

Dear Zach—

I have stretch marks.

Greenlee should be here, should be counting them and naming them, and she isn't, because you had to get your way, because you had to win and take away her child. She should be here, holding him and loving him and loving me for giving him to her, that was how this was supposed to happen and she's not here, she doesn't love him and she doesn't care about him, and it's your fault.

As much a victim of your stellar parenting as Ethan was.

He won't stop crying.

All night long he cries, and all day long, and he won't shut up, Zach, he won't shut up and I don't want to do this, please don't make me. Erin keeps coming by and he doesn't cry when she's holding him or when Bianca's holding him or anyone else, just me. He won't shut up, he won't be quiet, and my breasts hurt and everybody keeps touching him, all day long.

JR says it'll be fine, he says it'll work itself out but I can't do this, Zach, he won't stop crying.

He won't shut up.

-

Insane.

Hayley loved her firstborn—but he was exhausting, no doubt about it.

Struggling with the carry-on and keeping his hand in hers, she swore violently, gripping her sunglasses in her teeth as she fought them out of the airport. "Stop fighting me, honey," she muttered out for the fifth time, and he gave her a look, trying once again to twist his hand out of hers.

The rest of her possessions, quite a bit of them, were now lost.

Hayley had an insane urge to sic her father on them, knowing that he could make them regret it.

"I'm bored, Mommy!"

"I know—"

"Can we get a milkshake?"

"Not right now, honey."

"Dad would get me one!" he muttered, glaring up at her, and she dropped her eyes, staring down at him with a narrowed gaze. "I'm not dad, baby, and you're not going to get anything by whining." It was said in a pleasant enough tone, but he gave a disgusted sigh, and tried to twist out of her grip again.

Insane, clearly, no doubt about it.

"Stop that!" she snapped, setting her bag by her feet and digging her cell phone out of her purse, passing it to him to hold as she snapped the phone open and furiously dialed her father's number. It rang, and rang, and rang— "I don't think grandpa wants to talk to you," Lorenzo chirped from his place around her waist and she closed her eyes, struggling for patience.

"Grandpa's just busy setting up his next wedding," she sighed brightly, ending that attempt and instead scrolling frantically through her list for JR's number, hoping he might be available. She had known better than to leave early, but she'd been driven by desperation, and here they were, the two of them, essentially stranded in Pine Valley.

"Or maybe grandpa just doesn't like you," Lorenzo muttered, and she glanced down at him, finding him kicking at the concrete under his shoes. "No milkshake," she managed, hating the tiny thrill of panic his verbal barb had ignited in her middle. "I didn't want it, anyway," he snapped back, throwing his head back to glare at her. "Good for you, cause you're not getting it!"

Hayley Vaughn Chandler-Santos, reduced to bickering with her firstborn.

Jesus, what a world!

JR's voicemail met her endeavor, and she exhaled raggedly as she ended that try as well, scanning furiously through her list of numbers for anyone that might be of any help at the moment— Dad, Brooke, JR, Colby couldn't drive yet so she was out of the running, uncle Stuart, aunt Marion, Amanda—

"Hah!" she cackled triumphantly, stabbing the send key, and waiting to hear the younger woman's voice. Her prayers were finally answered when Amanda's perky voice met hers, and she babbled, almost hysterically, "Amanda, Mandy, sweetie, help!" There was an odd silence before a rather wary sounding "hello?" came across the connection.

"Amanda!"

"Hayley?"

"Yes, its Hayley… Ow, Lorenzo, stop it, I need my hand! Look, I need you to pick me up—"

"But you're not supposed to be here yet—"

"I'm at the airport, just up front, come and get me before the wolves get here first!" she babbled on, ignoring Amanda's attempts to rationalize the insanity she was just now getting a taste of. "I mean, we're out here, freezing to death!" she added, hoping to guilt the other woman. "But, it's, like, ninety degrees out, Hayley."

"I'm sleeveless, come save us!"

And she hung up quickly, before Amanda could bug her about where the other two family members were.

-

Dear Zach—

Is that what you want, do you want me to beg?

Beg for you to love me, want me, never want to live without me.

Say those things and mean them, never regret them, never take them back, never hesitate to say them, never say them and not mean them. I could, I could go to the casino and get down my hands and knees and beg you to love me, to say the words and never take them back but they'd be a lie.

You don't love me.

You said in the hospital you would fight for me, but you only said it because Ryan was there, didn't you?

I'm just the toy you two fight over.

I went to you, and I thought you would say it, I thought you would want me, and you didn't.

You told me to get out.

You told me to go back home to Ryan.

You don't want me, did you ever, did you ever mean it?

Kane women don't beg, right?

I want to beg, I want you to love me, please love me, please, please till me you never want to live without me.

Please, please, please mean it.

-

"You look like you're about to have a coronary."

Dixie nearly had a stroke, whirling to find Ian behind her, hands out in a hasty gesture for her to calm down. "Sorry, sorry, didn't mean to give you one," he grimaced and she snapped, slapping him on the arm with a heated glare. "Don't do that," she hissed, grabbing his smacked arm and pulling him away from the corner where she was watching Jamie's nervous pacing. "I said I'm sorry."

"It's not too bright to come here in front of Tad's son," she muttered, casting a glance back at where Jamie's attention was taken up with Jonathon Lavery's state in his hospital room. Jamie was still following Tad's previous opinion, that she and Ian had been lovers in Europe. Tad's accusations had been harsh, but she'd kept her mouth shut— Ian had suffered enough and having Tad trying to help him would only do more damage.

"He looks pretty preoccupied."

"Yeah, well… yeah…" she agreed dully, threading fingers through her hair and trying to shrug off the adrenaline he had triggered by sneaking up on her. "He's worried about someone he cares about, that's all," she muttered, and he cocked one eyebrow, tilting his head. "That would be the murderer, right?"

"Yeah," she sighed, closing her eyes, aware of him nodding to himself thoughtfully. "I'll never tire of learning weird things about your family," he finally cracked dryly, and got a forced smile in return. "I don't know what they… are, or if they know, or… what, but, well…" She shook her head, snorting. "Tad would just die over this, really."

"Well, he'll die when he wakes up," he grinned, but he set a palm on her arm, a quiet touch that said more than words could. They were united in their grief, their losses, and they were worn with them, the weight of their sins on their backs. "You're in a good mood," she noted suspiciously, and he grinned again, a brittle but sincere thing with sharp edges. "Got a friend in town—Not that kind of a friend," he snapped, catching her look, adding more quietly, "We all have something in common."

"Something in—" Dixie stopped, going white to the lips as she stepped forward, "Madden?" she whispered, and drew in a hiss of a breath when Ian nodded, smile on his face but eyes cool and hard. He looked like who he was, a dangerous man that Madden had underestimated before his death, a man with motivation.

Ian wanted his daughter back.