I own nothing you recognize. All original characters are my own, with the exception of Gillian who belongs to the wonderful, amazing Superdani. Thank you so much for everything sweetheart!
Warning: Slight spoilers for season 4.
"I'll be back in six hours. You be good for Gramma." I said as I kissed my baby girl's cheek while Mom smiled.
"She's always good. Don't know how she came from you and the posterchild for ADD." I rolled my eyes but couldn't help but laugh. She did have a point.
"I have to go, take care Ma." I kissed my mom's cheek then went out the door. I had to pick up Chantal at Phil's then we were heading in. Elliot had told us to arrive early and I was curious as to why he wanted us so early.
I drove to Phil's and found Chantal sitting on the stoop of the building in her nice slacks and button-down blouse and had to smile. If given the chance she doesn't dress like the porn star she used to be. Except for her shoes, the girl stumbles in anything other than heels.
"Thank god you got the message. I've been locked outside for an hour." Chantal said as she got in the car and I looked her over, there was something off about her.
"You ok?" I asked and she nodded.
"I'm fine, just in love with a dumbass." She huffed then gave me a sly smile. "I guess you could give me pointers, huh?"
I reached over and smacked her arm as she laughed. After that the conversation stayed light and we continued to the offices of Survivors United.
"What the fuck?" She said quietly as we parked in our customary spot and saw Jacob Hale standing outside the back with his cell to his ear.
"I have no idea but this can't be good." She nodded and we got out of the car. As we approached the door he was standing near Hale looked over and said a quick goodbye before he hung up.
"Milla, Ms. Tau." He nodded and I resisted the urge to growl. Such a condescending, disrespectful asshole and after what he had done to Elliot last month he was definitely on my hit list.
"It's Mrs. Ortiz, unless I consider you a friend, or a fellow human...Jacob." I smiled tightly and he frowned. Good, he was quick on the uptake.
"Very well, Mrs. Ortiz." He said my name in the disgusted tone and I just smiled before his phone beeped and he turned. I took advantage of his distraction and went to the door. Chantal followed and soon we were through the door and down the hallway. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Elliot standing in the main room, but that relief turned to apprehension when he turned and I got a good look at his face.
"Elliot?" I asked and he came up and hugged me before he turned and hugged Chantal.
"I'm so glad you two are here, I wanted you to be the first to know." He ran a hand over his face and Chanty gave me a look.
"What's going on Mr. Oswald?" She asked and he led us to a set up with two chairs facing a third...shit...this didn't look good. Still, we sat down and waited for him to let us know what was up.
"You two know that I took a beating with the land deal right?" We both nodded and he continued. "Unfortunately that means that I had to cut a lot of things from Oswald, things that were costing me money, rather than bringing it in. I held onto Survivors United as long as I could, but with the economy, and this...I couldn't justify it anymore. There was no way that I could keep this up. Not even with donations or volunteer work. I'm sorry."
"That's it, you're not even going to try?" I asked and Elliot gave me a sad look.
"I did try, for a month but I can't keep this up. I'm so sorry Milla, Chantal. The reason I invited the two of you here so early is because I have job opportunities for the two of you that I won't be offering anyone else." He smiled his most professional smile and I felt my stomach lurch. "Oswald Construction has been offered the "Charming Heights" contract and we accepted. I'll need and on-site supervisor to handle paperwork and employee issues and an interoffice liaison to help with the flow this will create. I was thinking Chantal could work on-site and Milla, you could be my interoffice liaison. You know the way Oswald works and have a good rapport with all the supervisors. The jobs would pay slightly better than both of you are getting now and you'd have more responsibilities and access to healthcare. What do you say?"
Chantal looked at me and I sighed. The new job sounded good, sounded great but I just couldn't do it.
"Do what you need to do Chanty." I said quietly and she nodded.
"This is a great opportunity for both of you." He was trying to sell it, but I sighed before Chantal grabbed my hand and squeezed to give me strength. This was going to be hard.
"I appreciate this opportunity Elliot, I truly do but I have to respectfully decline your offer. I cannot justify working for Jacob Hale. The man has tried to oust my family and destroy everything we've worked for. He's responsible for so much shit that I can't even look at him without my stomach turning. I respect you and understand that you had no choice in this but I do and I can't work for you if you work with him. I'm sorry Elliot." I looked at him and he nodded.
"I was expecting this reaction. What if I offered you a job in another part of Oswald?" I shook my head and he nodded again before he turned to Chantal. "Chantal?"
"I would love the opportunity Elliot and am very pleased and flattered that you think of me so highly, but I can't do it. This is my family now and Hale has hurt them too much to let it stand. Thank you so much for all that you've done for me but now I have to say goodbye and good luck." She leaned over and kissed his cheek and I saw tears in her eyes. I hated that she felt she had to do this, but at the same time I was proud she was showing her loyalty.
"I understand. Thank you both so much for everything you've done and, Milla, please don't let this sour your relationship with Tris. She still needs you." I smiled before I stood. He and Chantal did the same.
"I'll still be there for Tris, you can count on that." I edged past Chantal and gave Elliot a hug. "Thank you for everything."
Once I let go I took Chantal's hand and we walked out, not the least surprised to see Hale leaning against the wall by the door. Chantal and I looked anywhere but at him and got in the car. We had a lot that we needed to think about.
I walked into the studio and felt an odd sense of homecoming. The naked women, the cameras, all it was missing was Auntie Lu. As I thought about Lu my throat closed up but I willed the sensation away and followed Chantal. We were at Dondo's studio to give Lyla her bag, and so Chantal could see about getting a job. She didn't handle being unemployed well.
"You miss Cara Cara don't you?" Chantal asked and I nodded. I missed being behind that camera, I even missed working on the scripts with Luann and running lines with the stars. I was about to speak when the bossman himself walked up to us. I'd worked with Dondo before when I was Luann's assistant so there was no hesitation as he gave me a hug.
"Milla Mia, my darling." He smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder. "How are you? The last time I saw you, you were in a hospital bed."
I smiled, Dondo may have been arrogant and annoying at times but if he was your friend it was for life and I considered him a friend.
"I'm good, I have a beautiful little girl and I'm recovering nicely. We're here to give Lyla her bag." Dondo nodded before he looked over at Chantal and smiled wider.
"Chantal Tau, the brains and the beauty. Please tell me you're looking for a job.I would love to have you on my payroll." He took her hand in his and she gave him a small smile.
"Actually, I did want to talk to you about a job. Is it possible to arrange a meeting?" She smiled more brightly at him and he nodded.
"No need to arrange one. You two go to my office after you see Lyla." We nodded and he leaned down to kiss my cheek before we went to Lyla's dressing room. In Cara Cara she was one of the lower-rung girls but here she was his star and I was happy she'd finally made it big. I just wished she'd actually listen to her old man every once in a while and at least try to find work with Dondo that didn't involve her getting naked in front of the camera. I knocked on the door and heard her shout for us to come in. When we walked in she was sitting around dressed in a nurse's uniform and talking into her phone.
"I'll be home later Ope. I know, Milla and Chanty are here. I'll ask them." She gave an exasperated sigh and looked at us. "Did you two get an escort here? Ope wants to be sure you're not alone."
"Ratboy came with us since Phil was doing some updates on the Club comp." Chantal answered and Lyla nodded.
"Ratboy's their escort. Ok, I'll call when I'm on my way." Lyla hung up before she stood and hugged us both. "Sorry about that, Ope's been up my ass lately. Thanks for bringing my bag."
"No problem, everything ok with you two?" I asked and Lyla threw up her hands.
"Who knows? One minute he's letting me do my thing, the next he's on me about my job. Just relationship bullshit. I'm good and really, thank you for my bag." She hugged me again before she stuffed her bag under her seat.
"No problem. What's the employment situation like around here?" I asked as I looked around and Lyla smiled.
"He's always on the lookout for new talent and I know for a fact that he needs a new PA, preferably someone who knows the business." She gave me a look and I felt a smile stretch my face. I'd have to talk to Juice about it, but I definitely wouldn't mind coming back.
"Thanks Lyla, we have to meet with Dondo but if you need anything let us know." I hugged her again and she nodded.
"Thank you, and if you need me to put in a word with Dondo text me." Chantal and I nodded before we left her dressing room and found a PA who led us to Dondo's office without a complaint.
"I can't believe we're doing this." Chantal said with a trace of disappointment in her voice, as we waited for Dondo to return, and I reached over to grab her hand.
"We can walk out right now." I offered her the out and she shook her head.
"I need this too much and I'm not cut out for waitressing." I nodded and gave her hand a quick squeeze.
"Hello ladies, sorry to keep you waiting." I looked back and saw Dondo walk in and shut the door behind him before he walked to his desk and sat down. "When do you want to start?"
He looked at Chantal and she was speechless at his abruptness. He saw this and continued.
"I talked to Lyla, she says you're both interested. I need a new Personal Assistant, not just a Production Assistant and I know you're good at that shit Milla. I could also offer you script work and some scene direction. You'd be doing what you did for Luann, only you'd be doing it for me. Chantal...I know you're hot, really fucking hot but I had different plans for you. I need a new distribution manager and the shit that you did for Imagica was fantastic. You took a rinky dink company and put it on the map before they shut you down. I know you could do that for us. What do you ladies say? Both jobs are on the table." He leaned back and rested his hands on his stomach before he looked at us.
"I'll take it!" Chantal blurted and I took a deep breath. I wanted this job, really wanted it.
"I have to talk to my husband first, let him know what went down." I also had to tell him about my unemployment, the last time I visited we were so caught up in each other that I barely told him anything.
"I get it. Let me know soon, ok?" He asked and I nodded. "Good, Chantal I'll have some papers drawn up and bring you in later this week."
He reached across the desk and shook her hand before he reached across and did the same to me.
"Milla, don't be a stranger." I nodded as Chantal and I both stood, said our goodbyes then left. As we got to the car Chantal was walking on air while I had thoughts weighing down on me. I really needed to talk to Juice and I had a week before I could visit him. It would be a long week.
I sat at the picnic table and waited for Juice to come through the doors. I had to psych myself up to tell him what was going down. When I worked at Cara Cara he never had a problem but things could be different now. Now I was his wife, I had his baby and we there were other things to consider. Then again I'd be bringing in a nice paycheck and have a stable work environment with someone who understood how important the club was to me. I sighed but felt a smile stretch my face as the lock disengaged warning went off and I saw Juice escorted through the door. He grinned and walked up to me as I stood.
"Hey baby." He said quietly before he brought his mouth to mine. I simply kissed him back before we sat and he laced his fingers with mine. "How's Espy doing? She still got that cold?'
I nodded, the cold had been making its way through all of the kids so we had to be careful who we exposed them to and who they were exposed to. We didn't want an epidemic on our hands, especially while the guys were busy with their runs.
"Espy's doing fine, she just has the sniffles and is really tired a lot of the time. She misses her Daddy though. She says "dada" all the time." It made him smile before he leaned in and kissed me again.
"How are you?" He unlaced his fingers and ran them through my hair before he settled his hand on my neck and rubbed. I missed his magic fingers.
"I have something to tell you baby, please don't be mad." I moved away and his brow furrowed. "I'm not exactly employed right now."
"What do you mean baby?" He asked as he kept our fingers laced.
"Elliot had to close down Survivors United and had to let us go. I should've told you earlier." I hung my head before he used his crooked finger to lift my chin so he could look at me.
"Are you ok? How does this affect you baby?" He forced me to look at him and I sighed.
"I still have assistance if I need it and the other money's good but this sucks. I like working for Elliot." I chuckled when I thought of how petulant I sounded but Juice chuckled with me.
"I liked you working for him to. At least I could count on him not to hit on you." I held in a laugh at that. What Juice didn't know couldn't hurt Elliot. "You goin' for another job or you gonna stay home?"
"I was offered a job baby. I just don't know what to do about it." Juice moved his hand and sat back a bit as he unlaced our fingers, he was obviously waiting for me to continue. "Dondo, Lyla's boss, offered me a job as his personal assistant. I'd be doing what I did for Luann, no more or less and the pay's good. What should I do baby?"
He took a breath then blew it out his mouth as he looked at me. I could see the wheels turning in his head and he seemed to come to a decision before he leaned in and kissed me.
"I'll support whatever decision you make babe. Just make the one that's best for you and Espy." He kissed me again before he settled back and took my hand again. Just like that all the anxiety was washed away and I lost myself in my husband again.
"What about these?" Lyla asked as she held up these tacky looking champagne flutes encrusted with what could only be described as bling. Gillian and I shared a look before I reached over and guided Lyla's hand back to the shelf.
"Honey, I think simple's the best route to go now. What about those?" I pointed to these beautiful blue tinted glasses and she grinned.
"Perfect! Now, what about gifts for the wedding party. What should I get Jax and Tara?" She looked anxious at the thought of getting them something.
"Let Ope worry about Jax's gift. I say get Tara something nice that she'd never get herself, maybe a bracelet or something?" I suggested and she just nodded.
"I have the perfect thing! Come on, we can get the other stuff later." She took my hand and started to drag me while Gillian followed behind and laughed at Lyla's excitement. She could since she wasn't being dragged behind a manic woman on a mission.
Lyla dragged me out of the store and didn't stop until we were in front of another store down the street. The title "Frills and Thrills" caught me off guard for a minute before I remembered I'd been there before. Juice was definitely a fan of their merchandise.
Lyla was going to pull me through the door when she saw Gillian standing away from the door just looking, making no movement to go in.
"You two have fun in there, I'll just go back and see about the-" She was trying to get out of it when Lyla let go of my hand and walked to her.
"Please come in Gillian. I never get to do girlie things with you and I want to do this. I also really respect your opinion. I just want to find a gift for Tara and maybe something for the wedding night. Please come in?" She widened her eyes and I had to resist a laugh as Gillian nodded.
"I'll come in, but don't expect me to be any help." Lyla just smiled and threw her arms around Gillian before she let her go and walked into the store while I followed behind.
I was looking through a rack of absolutely beautiful negligees, avoiding Lyla's insanity when Gillian came up beside me and looked down. She was avoiding Lyla too.
"Want to go back to the store?" She asked and I shook my head, now I had a mission. I wanted something special for after the wedding too. Juice deserved a treat.
"I'm looking for something that'll make my man's jaw hit the floor and the leather contraption Lyla picked for me isn't exactly my style." I let my gaze land on this black and white polka-dotted negligee and Gillian just reached over me and took out a red negligee dotted with black roses and lined with this beautiful red lace.
"That will go well with the dress you got for the wedding. Besides red's your color." I picked up the negligee and looked at it before I looked at Gillian and smiled. She knew me well.
Later that day we were sitting around our table in the restaurant discussing our shopping trip. Lyla had gotten this absolutely beautiful lingerie set that looked like something Emma Frost would wear to a business meeting but on Lyla it would work. She also got this gorgeous nightgown for Tara that my brother would certainly appreciate that was sexy, yet conservative enough that Tara would love it. Gillian had gotten nothing but uncomfortable in the store so she ducked out as soon as we were done and managed to get the stuff on Lyla's list. The wedding was two weeks away and things were falling into place.
"So, when's Koz moving into your place Gilly?" Lyla asked and Gillian looked up and quickly moved her eyes between us. It was almost comical, or it would've been if she didn't look scared. Then it came to me, she hadn't discussed his move with me yet.
"Don't worry Gillian, Koz told me all about it. Since Chantal's already gone he didn't want to leave me completely alone so we talked about it. I'm happy for you two." I reached over and patted her hand while she smiled weakly.
"Thank you for being understanding. He's moving in Saturday. He wants to be settled before they get out. I was trying to figure out the time to tell you. He was supposed to wait for me." She looked a bit angry so I decided to soften it.
"Don't be mad Gillian. Koz and I never lie to each other and we tend to tell each other everything important. He was just looking out for me." I gave her a smile and she just nodded. She'd probably be talking to him, but for the time being she wasn't that angry. She'd be even less angry once he found the right time to put the ring I'd helped him pick out on her finger.
"Daddy's comin' home tomorrow peanut." I whispered as I tucked a stray curl behind my baby's ear, before I laid back on the pillows and looked at the ceiling. For some reason I didn't want to sleep alone so having Espy share the bed with me seemed like the best option.
I looked back at her and smiled. Soon our family would be together, soon we'd be whole. The past fourteen months had been the hardest of my life and had proven to me that I needed Juice. I needed him to make me happy, I needed our daughter to give me purpose. I caressed her hair one last time before I turned over and looked at the clock. Eleven more hours and they'd be home. Eleven more hours and our lives could begin again.
With that thought I leaned over and kissed my daughter's head before I rested my head on my pillow and closed my eyes. The next time they opened I'd be greeting the day and I'd be getting ready to greet my man. After fourteen months without him I hoped he could handle what I had in mind, I just wasn't sure the bed could.
Author's Note: That's it, the end of Down the Road. I wanted to finish this story before the events of season 4 bled all over it and those of you who have seen know what I'm talking about. I hope you all enjoyed it because I enjoyed writing it. I really want to thank you all for reading and reviewing. With each story I feel more and more confident as a writer, so thank you for that. I have one request for you before we conclude things. Let me know if you think Milla should work for Dondo. If you remember she worked for Luann at Cara Cara for a while and this new job would be like that. I ask this of you because I'm not sure where to take it and I respect your opinions. Just remember that she'd be behind the camera, not in front of it. Thank you all again and having your input means the world to me.