Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, because I sure as Hell wish I did to fix everything.
Pairing: Kendall/Ryan, Ryan/Greenlee, Greenlee/David; other assorted couples
Teaser: Change one thing, and you change everything... in the aftermath of the Greenlee and Ryan nuptuals, Kendall instead finds herself nursing a scary new friendship with David Hayward and later landing in the middle of a tangled web of lies revolving around two babies, and Babe Carey's lies...
AN: This is going to be big, and emotional, and will start off in the future, as it were... next chapter will be when the fic 'officially' starts...


Well, your photo stills
In your wallet with your unpaid bills
And you show it like it means something
You could never know the pain it brings

Now you come around
Now you come around
Your familiar sounds
We are your beautiful,
We are your beautiful mistake.

Waiting for this day
Well I memorized the things I'd say

It echoes through the years
As if I could forget all a mother's tears

Now you come around
Now you come around
Your familiar sounds
We are your beautiful mistake

- Better Than Ezra, 'Beautiful Mistake'

-

Prologue:

December, 2004

-

Coffee always tasted the worst in hospitals.

Even when you brought the coffee from somewhere else, it still tasted horrible when you got it into the hospital.

Kendall blamed it on the hospital itself, and was happy in her blaming of the hospital, a place she had long since grown sick of.

Still, at least a Florida hospital was a nice change of scenery, right?

Grimacing, resisting the urge to spit the stuff out, Kendall set the Styrofoam cup on the table and smoothed a hand down the fabric of her dress, glancing nervously at the older man before her, watching with shuttered eyes as he licked the tip of his pen and scratched down something on his notepad, nodding to himself.

By the time he finally looked up at her, her fingers were knotting in her lap and she was trying to stare past him and get Zach's attention in a pathetic hope that, just maybe, he'd be able to handle this for her. He was on his cell, though, and also carrying a conversation with one of his little helpers so she gave up and looked back at Mr. 'Just-call-me-Bill' police officer man.

She was in Florida, talking to a Bill—that had been her father's name.

"Ms. Hart, I just have a few questions—"

"Of course," she babbled, hating how odd her voice sounded with unshed emotion and forcing her hands to still in her lap, forcing herself to meet his eyes without wavering. "Anything you need to know," she added more nervously, and he gave her a small grin, probably an attempt to calm her down that failed miserably.

"You and Mr. Hayward—"

"Dr. Hayward—"

"I apologize; you and Dr. Hayward set up this entire thing, at the hotel?"

"No, my sister did—" She stopped, hesitated, and then exhaled, pressing fingertips against her forehead to try to alleviate the pressure building there. "What I mean is, my sister came up with this, because she was trying to help that—Babe Carey," snapped, catching herself a second before saying something a bit less graceful about that baby-stealing bitch. "But David and I— well, we needed to get everybody in a place where we could handle things, where we could give Bianca the proof and force her to listen— and make that— make Babe admit to everything she did."

"So this was some kind of trap?"

The term was the worst he could have used, and she closed her eyes, fighting back the crushing weight of her guilt, that it all ended like this, even with all they had done to fix this, what Babe Carey and her white-trash mother had done the last nine months. "Yeah, it was a trap," she finally whispered raggedly, and he seemed to jot it down, pen flying across paper as she took the moment she had to lick her emotional wound, hating that it had ended like this.

That, even if the worst happened, it would always be worth it because Bianca was holding Miranda, and that made everything worth it.

"Ms. Hart?"

She jerked her head back, tearing her eyes from the sight some feet away to meet the pleasant-faced man in front of her, blinking her way past her confusion and finding his stare harder than before. "I'm sorry?" she finally managed and he shrugged slightly, exhaling. "According to the doctors, he's still in surgery, Ms. Hart."

She knew that, of course she knew that. She swallowed, pressing her palms against her face and feeling heated, scowling as she realized that David had been right in his suggestion to go to the hotel, and get some sleep. God knows her sleeping habits had been less than healthy the last nine months—

"—and I'm just wondering when all this started, Ms. Hart."

Kendall stared at him, really stared at him, and then closed her eyes, exhaustion wearing at her edges until she was jolted back into awareness with her own thoughts, and she looked back at him, managing a weak but sincere smile, edged in heartache but still there, somehow. "Nine months ago, but I didn't realize it until a few weeks ago, and then—"

and then David and I did what we had to do.

"And then you set this up? Did it ever occur to you to just tell you sister?"

"We told her, I told her, okay? I held her hands and I told her Miranda was alive and she wouldn't believe me, she refused to think Babe could do something that horrible to her," she added more quietly, heart aching at the remembrance at that anger, Bianca's furious tirade against all who stood against Babe. "And she didn't believe you?"

He sounded doubtful, and she couldn't blame him, grinning tiredly at him as she shook wayward curls over her shoulder. "She told me, in no uncertain terms, who she trusted, and it wasn't her big sister, Bill." She plucked the coffee up from the table, swallowed a big mouthful to beat back down the sudden taste of hurt in her throat, a bitter something that made the coffee seem sweet by comparison. "David and I… we all ended up here."

Here, in a hospital, drinking bitter coffee to beat back emotional hurt, counting down the minutes until she let herself head back to the hotel to hold Miranda, who made everything worth it, in the end, no matter how it all ended. Miranda, who she had back now, back in Bianca's arms, waiting for it to fix everything that had so horrifically gone wrong in the last nine months.

"David and I— we did what we had to do."

"Yeah… but how did it get this bad? I mean, one man's in surgery, and how was that in any way part of your plan with Dr. Hayward?" He licked the pen again, staring at her intently, not hatefully, but sharply, as if he was waiting for the punch line, and again, she couldn't blame him, with everything going on around them.

"Bill, I wish this made sense."

"Do you?"

"You have no idea, Bill."