Author's Note: This chapter's theme never fails to send a chill up my spine whenever I hear it. It always goes straight to my heart, making it my absolute favorite Kelly Clarkson song. It's a simple song, but its emotional power is colossal. I've kept it in my mind for Mikayla this entire story, because it so poignantly captures what it means to struggle with addiction. It's not sugarcoated or simplified. It's bleak, heartfelt and honest, and it's exactly what Mikayla has become throughout this story.

Thank you for making through the odyssey this story became. It's hard to believe that I started the first chapter over two years ago, and it's even harder to believe that people have stuck with it this long. That means a lot to me. I hope that I've been able to provide a light of positivity for people who need it, because I always want these stories to lift the reader's spirit when she or he needs it most. Thank you for all the encouragement and support you've given me over the years, because those kind words have lifted my spirits when I needed it. Thank you as well for the prayers and positive energy you've sent to my family, because I know it helped when we needed it most. You're the best!

Here are my standard disclaimers: I make no claims on any of Disney's, Miley Cyrus', Emily Osment's or Hannah Montana's trademarks or copyrights, and no infringement is intended on them or those of any other artist or publication mentioned. Be forewarned that this story most certainly will contain femslash. If love and affection between two consenting young adults of the same sex bothers you, I suggest you turn right around and find something else to read. Keep any flames to yourself and remember that what our world needs now is more love and acceptance, not more hate. Reviews are always welcomed and appreciated!

We Got Nerve

by Jo K.

Chapter 32: Closure

I don't know, I could crash and burn but maybe

At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me

So I won't worry about my timing, I want to get it right

No comparing, second-guessing, no, not this time

Three months and I'm still breathing

Been a long road since those hands I left my tears in

But I know it's never really over

-Kelly Clarkson, "Sober"

As she stood on the narrow sidewalk, Mikayla felt her heart pounding uncontrollably. She had left her suitcase back at the hotel, and she briefly considered running back to the cab and leaving before anyone knew she was here. But she knew she couldn't do that. This was something she had put off for far too long.

After a few deep breaths and a hastily whispered prayer, Mikayla focused her gaze ahead and strode to the house's front door. She rang the doorbell, trying not to curse at herself for being this frightened.

The door opened, revealing Mona, Mikayla's sister-in-law. "Mickey!" she said happily. "Wow, you just sent us the text message that you were coming by a few minutes ago! We thought you'd be flying down from L.A. and wouldn't be here until tonight."

Mikayla decided that she needed to be honest. Mona deserved that much. "I... waited to text you because I was afraid I'd back out. That I'd turn around and not go through with this."

"Mickey..." said Mona softly, patting her young sister-in-law's cheek. "It's alright to be afraid. This is going to change some lives."

Mikayla nodded, glancing over Mona's shoulder but not seeing anyone. "Yeah, I just hope it's going to be a change for the better."

"Petey took her down to the store. She wanted to get you a little present of some kind. She has such a kind heart, Mickey."

"Are we really sure she's mine?" Mikayla said, allowing a smile to creep across her lips.

"Yes!" laughed Mona. "Yes, I'm very sure, since I was there when she was born. Nice try."

Just a few minutes after they had gone inside, the slamming of the front door heralded the thunder of a child running through the house. "Aunt Mickey! Aunt Mickey!" Esmerelda squealed as she burst into the living room, not even slowing down as she leaped onto the couch and into Mikayla's arms.

"Oof! You practicing for football or something, Esme?" Mikayla asked as she hugged the now six-year-old tightly.

"Nah!" laughed Esme, wriggling from Mikayla's tickling fingers. "Just happy to see you!"

"Well, I'm sure happy to see you, little kangaroo."

"I'm not a kangaroo! I'm a girl!"

Mikayla looked over Esme's shoulder and caught her brother's eye. Peter nodded to her and gave her a smile that was most likely meant to reassure her she was doing the right thing, then he and Mona stepped out of the room.

No reason to put this off. "Esme," Mikayla said slowly, "we need to talk about something really important."

At that statement, Esme stopped writhing around and looked up at Mikayla, her pale green eyes abruptly shining in the afternoon light. "Okay," she said, sitting up and turning to face Mikayla.

Mikayla hesitated just seconds before she spoke. "Esme, I'm about to tell you something that you might not believe right away, but it's true, I promise you. After I tell you, I'll explain all about it, okay?"

Esme simply nodded, her eyes fixed on Mikayla's face.

"Esme... I'm your mother."

The pause was no more than two seconds, had there been some way to time it, but for Mikayla those two seconds could have been an eternity. Then Esme smiled and shot forward, wrapping Mikayla in her embrace as she shrieked, "Mommy mommy mommy! Mommy!"

Mikayla hugged her daughter tightly, and as she did she felt years of regret, years of recriminations and second-guessing, years of fear boil away in the pure flame of a child's love. She felt tears pouring from her eyes, but she never wanted to let Esme go, not ever again, even to wipe her eyes. "I love you, Esmerelda," she choked out. "I always loved you, but I knew I wasn't a good mother for you back then. That was I why I asked Peter and Mona to take care of you."

"I'm glad you finally told me," whispered Esmerelda, squeezing so tightly that Mikayla wondered just how much force it took to dislocate a shoulder.

"I'm glad I did too, kangaroo."

"I've been waiting so long for you to tell me!"

Mikayla froze momentarily. She shifted so she could see Esme's face. "What... What did you just say?" she asked, not quite believing what she had just heard.

Esme grinned, the grin of a child who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. "Well, I said... that I had been waiting so long for you to tell me."

"That's what I thought you said," Mikayla said softly. "How— How long... have you known?"

"Um, I don't know. For a year or two."

Mikayla was incredulous. "They told you?" she asked, white with shock.

Esme shook her head. "Uh uh. And I never told them I knew who my mommy was, either. We were keeping a secret, after all."

Mikayla's head was whirling as she tried to make sense of the situation. "So..." She looked at the empty doorway, then back at Esme. "How did you know?"

"My imaginary friend told me," she whispered. "She told me that I couldn't tell anyone but you, and only after you told me first. She had me promise. She said that when you were ready to be a mommy, you would tell me yourself, and she was right!"

"She sounds very smart," Mikayla said. "But she must be smart, to be your friend."

"Uh huh!" She hugged Mikayla again. "So are you going to move back here, Mommy?"

Hearing that for the very first time sent cold chills sliding down Mikayla's back. "That sounds funny, doesn't it?" she asked Esme.

"Nope," replied the little girl. "I think it sounds just right." Her face became apprehensive suddenly. "Are you wanting me to stay here with Uncle Petey and Aunt Mona a little longer?"

"I—"

"I will if you want me to, Mommy. I'll be okay."

"Oh, baby, no, I didn't mean that at all!" Mikayla felt herself start to tear up again at the disappointment in Esme's glimmering eyes. "I just wasn't expecting that question just yet, that's all." I've sure as hell thought about it, though. All the way out here.

"Are you thinking about it now?"

Mikayla smiled. "Yes, I am. I don't think I want to move back here, Esme. I really didn't have many good memories in this town. How about you? Would you like to move to Beverly Hills with me?"

The piercing shriek was nearly enough to deafen Mikayla. "Whoa whoa whoa!" she stammered out, clapping her hands over her ears in a belated attempt to spare them from the acoustic trauma. "So I guess that's a yes?"

"Yes yes YES YES YES YES!"

"Okay," Mikayla said happily. "Then you need to get your suitcase and pack some clothes and the toys you want to take with you. We can't take everything today, so just get what you've got to have. I'll take you shopping tomorrow and get some new clothes for California."

Esme grabbed Mikayla again and hugged her tightly. "I love you, Mommy," she said, whispering the words as solemnly as if they were a prayer. And maybe they were.

"I love you too, Esmerelda." Mikayla felt a warmth flood her body from the contact, and she knew that this was a feeling more amazing than anything drugs or alcohol had ever given her. She would never be free of her memories of what she had done, and she could live with that. She needed to remember, if only to ensure that she never fell into a trap like that ever again. But the hold that alcohol and drugs had possessed on her was infinitesimal compared to this love, and she knew that this love gave her a strength that she had foolishly belittled and made fun of for years. Now she knew better.

As Mikayla brought her thoughts back to the real world, she heard Esme mumbled something over her shoulder. "What was that, Esme?" she asked happily.

"Oh, I was telling Kasey that she was right, and telling her thanks."

Mikayla felt time stop, or at least the flow of blood to her brain. It took her precious seconds to pull enough air into her lungs to speak. "Wha... What did you say, Esme?"

Esme sat up, lifting her chin off its resting place on Mikayla's shoulder. "I said I was telling Kasey she was right. She's my imaginary friend."

Oh God. Oh my sweet God. There's no way. No fucking way. It's just a coincidence, it has to be.

"She told me that she would look out for me until you were ready to be my mommy." Esme smiled and blushed slightly before she added, "She's sitting right behind you, Mommy."

Mikayla whirled around, but there was nothing to be seen. No one was there, no matter how badly she wished it.

"You're looking right at her, Mommy. She's smiling at you."

Mikayla's body shook with a sob that seemed to bubble up out of nowhere. She reached out, feeling more than a bit silly at trying to touch something that wasn't there, but she couldn't help herself. "I miss you, Kasey," Mikayla whispered, so softly that she herself could barely hear it.

"She says that she loves you, Mommy."

Mikayla smiled, not caring if her tears ran into her the corners of her mouth. "I love you too, Kase. I know now that I always did." She closed her eyes. "Thank you for being in my life, and for not giving up on me."

Esme hugged Mikayla from behind. "She says that she's proud of you," Esme said as she kissed the back of Mikayla's head. "And I'm proud of you too, Mommy."

Mikayla reached over her shoulder and hugged Esme's head to her as she lowered her head and wept quietly, the tears falling drop after drop onto the old green couch.

Halfway across the country, Margot Walters put her car into reverse and backed out of her garage. She'd be upgrading cars very soon, and she wasn't really sure what she'd do with this old BMW. Her mind was considering the possibilities as she eased down her driveway; she didn't even register the truck parked across the mouth of her driveway, blocking her in, until she was nearly upon it.

"What the hell?" she said out loud as she threw her car in Park. She climbed out, slamming the car door behind her. "Move your fucking car!" she yelled at the black Silverado truck as she marched toward it. The windows were tinted just enough to hide the details of the occupants, but the driver's door opened as Margot approached.

"Hello, Margot," said a familiar voice, cold and dangerous. "So nice to see you again."

"What the fuck are you doing, Kittrell?" Margot spat angrily.

"I'm parking my truck here in the public road," Jen Kittrell replied, leaning against the side of her vehicle. "You going somewhere?"

"None of your business, bitch. I'm done with you."

"Yeah, well, I'm not done with you," Jen replied as she pushed off the truck and stood up. "You see, when we checked that hard drive you sold us, we found lots of stuff on it, just like you promised."

"And you're mad that it actually had what I told you it done? Are you retarded or just stupid? Oh, maybe that's a question I need to ask your little teeny-bopper bosses."

Jen walked forward a few steps. Margot did the same, until the two of them were just feet apart.

"No, that's not the problem," Jen said, showing no obvious response to Margot's smart mouth. "The problem is, there was some more stuff on there that we weren't expecting. Stuff that we sure as hell didn't want to see."

Margot felt a rivulet of sweat slither down the small of her back. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said, trying to suppress the urge to shiver.

"Sure you do," said Jen calmly, her face devoid of any expression other than irritation. "Because you were in most of the videos we found."

Margot turned to walk away, her heart racing, but Jen continued. "How old was she the first time you raped her, Margot? Fourteen? Fifteen? Had she passed out at a party and you brought her home, or had you planned drugging her from the beginning? Huh?" Jen quickly walked forward, her heels clicking smartly on the concrete driveway. "No wonder you were always there to clean up her mess when she got fucked up, right? So you could take her home and fucking molest her?"

Margot spun around and swung a punch at Jen's face, but it never came close to connecting. Jen slid to the side, dodging the awkward blow, then she drove a vicious punch into Margot's gut, doubling the much larger woman over. Margot gasped for breath but weakly swung her arm at Jen, glancing against her thigh. Jen simply ignored the weak blow and drove a hard right cross against the side of Margot's head, knocking her to the ground. "Did it feel good, Margot, having your way with her while she couldn't fight back? I bet you liked to watch your little movies over and over again, didn't you?" She stepped back to begin a kick, only to have someone firmly grip her shoulder.

"That's enough, Jen."

Jen whirled around, her arm already drawn back to deliver another punch. "Don't do that to me, Oken, not in the middle of a fight, unless you want your face caved in!" she said, her voice deep and harsh.

"She's down," Oliver said. "If she tries to get back up before I get her handcuffed, then feel free to put her down again."

Jen turned to look at Margot, sprawled clumsily on her knees. "I hope you try it, bitch," she hissed. "I've got lots more payback for you right here. I'm not some teenage kid you can drug and rape."

"Margot Walters," Oliver said as he moved behind the larger woman, "you're under arrest. Multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor, which might be upgraded to full-blown rape once the D.A. sees the videos, multiple counts of production of pornography involving a minor, plus anything else we can come up with."

"Can you charge her for being a fucking bitch?" asked Jen.

Oliver helped Margot to her feet; it seemed she was in a daze, as she meekly complied. He turned to look at Jen. "If I did, I'd have to charge you too," he said.

Jen glared at him for a few seconds, then she smiled and laughed. "You're so much more fun now that you're a cop," she said, walking over and ruffling his short hair. "And I really can't believe I just said that."

"Yeah, well, you're much more fun now that you're all respectable and everything."

"Watch your mouth, Oken."

"Okay, sorry."

Oliver reached beneath his suit jacket and pulled his radio out. "Okay, we're ready for a black and white. Suspect is in custody. Ready for transport back to central processing." He listened for the scratchy reply, then he replaced the radio on his belt.

Jen saw that Margot was staring at her, hatred in her eyes. "What's the matter? Sad you got caught?"

"No," Margot replied evenly. "Just thinking about how many lawyers I want to hire to go after you personally after this."

"Well, you won't be hiring any with that ten million dollars," Jen replied confidently.

"I've already deposited it, you moron."

Jen just grinned in reply. "Tell her, Oliver."

Oliver looked Margot in the face. "Have you ever heard of Masha's Law, Margot?" Not waiting for a reply and really not expecting one anyway, he continued. "It's named after a girl who had been molested by the family who adopted her from overseas, using her to make child pornography for several years. The law was put in place several years ago to keep predators like you from making any profit off their victims. It lets us seize any and all money made from selling media of any type involving underage minors."

"Including hard drives," Jen added helpfully. "So your ten million dollars is going bye-bye."

"You're full of shit!" Margot yelled, twisting so quickly that she nearly knocked Oliver over.

"Hey!" he yelled, grabbing her arm to stop her. "No, we're not full of shit. Money seized under Masha's Law is handed over to the victims who were exploited by those making it."

"So not only do you lose that ten million, it goes directly to the girl you raped for years without her ever knowing it. Mikayla gets it all. I wonder what she's going to do to you when she learns about all this?"

Margot spun to charge Jen, but Jen's fist connected with her left jaw before she had even turned around. The heavier woman crumpled to the concrete as if her legs had been cut out from under her, trapping Oliver's foot beneath her.

"Oh, that's just great!" Oliver shouted as he jerked his foot, trying to free it from beneath Margot's frame. Jen started laughing wildly at the sight, clapping her hands in delight.

"Holy shit, I didn't even plan that!" Jen shouted happily. "That was fucking beautiful!"

With a final tug, Oliver finally pulled his foot out from under Margot. Thankfully his shoe came out with his foot, although it popped off as soon as they were free. He turned to look at Jen, who was holding her legs together as she laughed with her entire body. "Okay, not a word of this to the two of them," he said. Jen mimed pulling a zipper across her lips, but her eyes still shone with mirth.

Several minute later, after two other officers had arrived and held load Margot into their cruiser, Oliver and Jen stood between their cars. "Thanks again, Oken," Jen said. "You really came through for all of us."

Oliver smiled. "Hey, you were the one who found this stuff and brought it to our attention. And the district attorney knows that you weren't trying to buy anything like that, even if you won't tell us what you really were buying on that hard drive."

"Hey, you saw that contract. I'm not allowed to divulge any details about the transaction itself. I know, because I wrote it. I just appreciate her not trying to press any charges against me for having it at all."

"You're allowed to report a crime, Jen, and you're allowed to hand evidence over to us. But I'll tell her you said thanks."

Jen took a step forward and hugged Oliver, patting him on the back before letting him go.

"Wow, not used you... hugging people," Oliver said.

"Blame my bosses," Jen replied. "They get pretty damn affectionate, if you know what I mean."

Oliver laughed. "Yeah, I think I know what you mean. Hey, you and Lee coming over to watch some of the game tomorrow?" he asked as he walked to his car.

"I think I can get his lazy ass out of the house for a while," Jen said cheerily. "You think you can keep your pregnant wife from puking all over the place?"

Oliver smiled. "Yeah, I think she can mange that for a few hours."

"Thanks again, Oken. They said you were a good friend, and you've sure as hell proved it."

"You're welcome, Jen. Thanks for looking out for them. As far as I'm concerned, Miley and Lilly don't ever have to know about any of this."

"About any of what?"

Oliver shook his head, still smiling. "See you tomorrow Jen."

"...and that's how I found out that Miley was Hannah Montana," Lilly said, watching the rapt expression of interest on Sarah's face. "Now, it took a bit longer for me to figure out that I was in love with her."

"Yeah, you shoulda figured that one out sooner!"

Lilly turned to her wife and lightly smacked her on her back leg. "Hush, you,' she said teasingly. "My story."

Miley leaned in and kissed Lilly, much to the amusement of Cassie and Sarah, who immediately mimicked the affectionate gesture with each other. "Our story," Miley corrected her best friend.

Lilly smiled. "Miley, it's always been our story. And it always will be."

Miley sighed happily as she leaned against Lilly.

"So whatever happened with Mikayla?" asked Cassie. "You said that you had to drop Brooke off this morning to go deal with her, so what happened?"

Miley and Lilly looked at each other, teasing looks on their faces. "You tell them," said Miley.

"No, you!"

"Uh uh. It was your idea."

Lilly sighed. "Darn it. Can't argue with you when you're right."

"Doesn't stop you from tryin', sometimes."

Lilly narrowed her eyes at Miley. "We'll discuss that at another time, Mrs. Miley Truscott." She turned to look as Cassie and Sarah again. "Well, Mikayla had to sign some contract when she left Dyseni that prevents her from recording any new music or releasing any albums for five years. Or something like that."

"Wow, so is she going to leave Los Angeles?" asked Sarah.

Lilly shook her head. "No, she found another job. It seems that a certain extremely hot pop star was needing a new dance choreographer."

"And Mikayla's got some moves," Miley added happily. "So she gets a new job and gets to stay here. With her friends."

"All two of us," Lilly added. "But hey, it's a start."

Author's Afterword: Wow. Done.

I'm not really sure what to say here, other than thank you to all my readers for coming along on this journey with me. I love you all! I hope I'll see you before long. Be good to each other, okay?

Jo