We just passed a one-year mark we won't soon forget. I've often wondered what came next and what could have come from some missed story opportunities over the years. This is my attempt to satisfy that curiosity and hopefully tell a compelling story in the process. I will try my best to tell everyone's story. No budgets, no contract negotiations, no hatchet-job execs to interfere, which is both inspiring and a little intimidating. That being said, I'm going to say 'Sorry' in advance. Every plot decision is for the sake of the story I wanted to tell.

And so it begins...

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It was a well-guarded secret, but black always suited her. The color demanded attention because the world bowed to its simple power. It absorbed all else, including the overcompensating, cowardly yellow and the dull, predictable Brooke English brown. Even red - her public fashion of choice - with its brazen boldness that always dripped, just a little, of desperation.

Cloaked in the black of nightfall, she was protected from the worst offender: a uniform litany of gray…an endless procession. She wrapped the designer scarf tighter around her neck, unsure of whether the slightly stifling pressure against her skin was truly a comfort. Then she lay her offering – a single light pink rose – on the chilled ground. The only complementary color in this dreadful spectrum. It was her companion's favorite. Instantly, a jolt of warmth coursed through her fingertips and she smiled.

"Some of those people…" She punctuated the introduction with a miffed hair toss, an emblem she had perfected since her first twirl in front of that small dusted mirror in her bedroom of lifetimes ago. "Some would say that feeling was just a change in the air pressure or a product of my overly emotional mind, but I think we know better. Oh, mother." She winked and the mischievous glint in her eye tempered into something the rest of the world scarcely saw amidst the whirl of the flashbulbs. "You always know exactly what I need. Always."

Those flashbulbs brought their own brand of warmth, and she would be lying if she did not admit how she relished that sensation on most occasions. Increasingly over the years, however, she found that they produced a sheen of oppressive heat that warmed her skin yet burned deeply and without mercy in other ways.

"I did it this time. I called them off; I called off the whole production. And I know what you're thinking. Yes, it was partly by necessity. Obviously, they cannot have a leading lady who-"

The words , even though they were first heard a little less than a year ago, still would not find concrete form. No, the only concrete on this landscape were those damnable gray slabs and their cruel, ever-multiplying indifference.

"I need to be here. I know I've spent most of my life claiming otherwise and running in a million ways, big and small. But who am I kidding? I never did anything small. You know that better than anyone. And maybe I finally realize something else you've known all along. I just, I need…" She captured the renegade drop of water with one skilled swipe. "Dominating the conversation with talk of my favorite subject, but you adapted to my unique – okay, maddening – sensibilities early on, didn't you? I don't know how you did it or why I wasn't in a home for wayward children by the time I turned sixteen, but I want you to know that I never took it for granted. Okay, a tiny white lie. I always did, but despite my bluster and my -" She gave an exaggerated shudder . "My 'hissy fits,' I always loved you. I think you knew that part. What you might not know is this." She leaned in closer to share her secret, until her cheek grazed the marble. "I always respected you." A hand tenderly traced the fain indentations in the stone. "You were, you are the strongest person I know. I will be strong for them and for myself, because that's what we do. That's what you taught us."

She gazed at her mother's neighbors, illuminated by the moonlight: the cool, neutral grays that were somehow supposed to symbolize once-full, vibrant lives. Perhaps they were truly symbol of quiet strength, just perhaps.

"Take care of them."

Erica raised up, but a pair of piercing eyes halted her ascent. The two shared a look. More a brief glance that nonetheless stretched seconds into minutes before the raven melted into the night. Fingers found her head again. This time, however, the patented hair toss was replaced with slower, more deliberate motions. When she was finished, Erica placed her state-of-the-art, custom-made wig beside the pink rose. A fine mist immediately staked its claim to smooth skin.

"I'm ready." She took a deep breath of the damp, freeing air. "I love you, Mom."

Erica turned and headed for the church.

####

The calm was supposed to come before the storm.

That was a damn lie. Enough corporate power plays and double dealings had acquainted him with the harsh fact – the one he once considered his secret weapon – that destruction itself was measured in quiet breaths and inaudible mutterings. Chaos bore the arms, the hands, the heart of a wild, calculating animal but wore the face of a sweet child.

He stood in the very spot with his one meager defense: his precious brandy. The first sip tasted of his brother's blood, now a faint stain underneath his feet one might dismiss as an impromptu cranberry juice accident. No, that particular mark was painted over by bigger, brighter, more ambitious stains….ones that would not and could not bear any false labels. It was, after all, the Chandler way.

Sipping, sipping until sipping no longer fit the action. In his ever-so-calm cocoon, he did not quite recall the visuals behind these new-old additions to his living room. They were merely blurs. What threaded through his every waking night was the silence, not punctuated by screams or shouts but by faint, faint gasps. And fainter still: cherished, stolen words...

The eye of the storm always took its deadly aim. His eyes warred, battled, and finally settled on a gold-rimmed, chipped picture frame. Out of view, but not quite forgotten.

When a soft hand touched his shoulder, he did not start at the whispered, "Are you ready?" He nodded and left the picture to its darkness.

####

She entered the packed church. Heads did not turn. Whisperings did not inform the solemn silence. For once, Erica Kane did not command a room. Eternal smiles housed in the five frames placed in front of the altar did.