When Marissa tries unsuccessfully for the third time to zip A.J.'s coat before they leave the house, Bianca's hands gently push hers out of the way and do it for her. Then those same hands reach out and pull Marissa close. Bianca's arms fold around her and Marissa gratefully allows herself to collapse into Bianca.
They're all gathering at the restaurant, which Krystal has closed to the public, for a Thanksgiving meal - Marissa, Bianca, the kids, Bianca's family, Marissa, Krystal, Tad, Dixie, Kathy, Jenny, and J.R. Marissa has already grown to love her son's grandmother, both for Dixie's grounding effect on J.R. and the limitless love she's show to A.J. J.R. did his own work to get sober but Marissa knows it's Dixie and Tad who have pushed him to make amends.
As thankful as Marissa is for J.R.'s good behavior and renewed presence in their son's life, this morning her nerves feel frayed. This is the first time Marissa and J.R. will spend longer than five minutes together since J.R. has been sober. The scars his drinking caused her and especially their son are still fresh in Marissa's mind. Maybe it's silly, this panic she feels rising in her chest, but J.R. is still J.R. after all and Marissa no longer doubts his ability to be cruel, sober or not.
"Breathe," Bianca says softly against Marissa's ear as her fingers reach down and curl around Marissa's. "It's going to be fine."
"What if it's not?" Marissa asks, her voice wavering despite her best efforts.
"I'm a Kane." Bianca says, pulling back just slightly and allowing her forehead to rest against Marissa's. "I have years of experience dealing with disastrous family get-togethers. Remind me to tell you some of my war stories later. But what's important for you to know right now is I'm an expert and, whatever happens, I've got your back."
"I never doubted it." The tension doesn't leave Marissa but she feels it dissipate. She takes a calming breath and looks into Bianca's eyes which are warm with understanding and reassurance. "Okay. We can do this. And, tonight you're going to tell me those stories."
"Seriously," Bianca says as she slings an arm around Marissa's shoulder and guides her to the door, the kids who are all bundled in their winter gear following their mothers out into the chilly afternoon air. "We're together. It's going to be fine."
"No," says Marissa, leaning her head against Bianca's shoulder. "It'll be great."
Bianca gives A.J. a toy train for Christmas. Marissa watches as Bianca sits down next to him and explains that the train belonged to his Great Uncle Stuart and Marissa falls in love - with Bianca, with this family of theirs - all over again.
Marissa takes another sip of her coffee as she watches her son push his train through the chaos of wrapping paper and presents scattered on the floor. Miranda is thoughtfully arranging houses and storefronts around the track while Gabby makes the questionable addition of a large stuffed puppy who sits on the track and derails the train each time it comes around to the puppy's position.
Bianca settles on the far side of the couch.
"The train is perfect," Marissa tells her.
"I'm just so happy he likes it." Bianca follows her response by sliding her feet under Marissa's thigh and wiggling her toes just slightly. At Marissa's look she offers, "My feet are cold."
"I should have gotten you slippers," Marissa says, nodding in the direction of Bianca's pile of Christmas gifts.
"I have slippers," Bianca says, a bright smile playing on the edge of her lips. "I like you better."
Marissa sighs contentedly and leans back into the couch. She knows this afternoon will be a crazy rush, trying to make every branch of each family's Christmas celebration including getting A.J. to J.R.'s place by dinnertime. But, right now, she feels completely at peace.
Bianca's next words are almost whispered, so low that Marissa questions at first if she's heard them correctly.
Marissa turns her full attention to Bianca while the kids continue to play oblivious to the suddenly serious conversation their parents are having.
"I want all of our Christmases to be like this," Bianca continues. "Actually, I don't care what our Christmases are like. I just know I want to spend them with you and A.J. and the girls." Bianca's looking at her hopefully now.
"That is remarkably close to what I was thinking," Marissa says.
"Is that a yes, counselor?"
"That is absolutely a yes."
New Year's Eve
Bianca doesn't argue when Marissa announces reluctantly that she has to work on New Year's Eve, though the disappointment Bianca doesn't quite hide matches Marissa’s own. Marissa is scheduled to go to court in a custody battle first thing in the new year. At 9 o'clock on New Year's Eve her client calls her in tears. Marissa knows the fear of losing your child all too well and so does Bianca. So Bianca pushes her out the door and tells her not to worry, that Bianca and the kids will be fine and she'll absolutely save Marissa some champagne.
"I promise not to kiss anyone else at midnight," Bianca says jokingly as she walks Marissa to the door.
"But, Mom..." Gabby yells from her spot on the couch.
"I promise not to kiss anyone but Gabby, Miranda, and A.J.," Bianca amends, running toward Gabby and playfully tackling her, making a show of planting several kisses on her daughter's face as Gabby giggles excitedly. The sound of their laughter follows Marissa out to her car, reminding her just what she's missing.
It's 11:30 when she and her client have gone through the game plan for court and had several cups of tea. Marissa leaves satisfied that her client is as calm and prepared as she can be. The roads are slick with new fallen snow but Marissa drives as quickly as is safely possible.
She can hear the sounds of Times Square blaring on the TV as soon as she opens the door. The lively sounds could not be more of a contrast to what she sees when she walks into the living room. Miranda and A.J. are sprawled on a pile of pillows on the floor, a half eaten bowl of popcorn next to them. Miranda has a noisemaker still clutched tightly in her fist though she and A.J. are both clearly fast asleep. Bianca is stretched out on the couch, eyes closed with her arms around Gabby who sleeps soundly on her lap.
Marissa pauses for a moment to take in her family, feels a warm certainty in her chest. This is where she's meant to be.
She tiptoes around Miranda and A.J. to tap Bianca lightly on the shoulder. When Bianca opens her eyes, Marissa gestures at the countdown on the screen, just seconds away from midnight.
"You made it," Bianca whispers sleepily, doesn't wait for the countdown to end before reaching out for Marissa and pulling her in for a kiss.