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Sometimes it seems to Marissa as if all her life, she's been searching for one person to understand. Someone who knows her, inside and out, all her faults and insecurities, and loves her anyway. Loves her despite it, loves her because of it. That was the sort of relationship her parents had and she had grown up with that and she wanted it for herself. Marissa was never one to believe in soulmates and overly romantic things like love at first sight, they just weren't logical, and she considered herself an innately logical person. Cynical almost. Maybe that's why she always wanted to be a lawyer. She read a study once that said lawyers and other legal professionals were among the few people who benefited from being a pessimist. That, somehow, the pessimism helped them succeed in their chosen career while for most everything else it boded far better if you were an optimist and saw the glass as eternally half full.

Although she thoroughly discounted the idea of soulmates Marissa knew her parents were partners in the truest sense of the word. The things her father had difficulty with, her mother excelled at, and vice versa. They did everything together and there was a perfect balance to their relationship. Everything was even and equal and when they were together it just fit. Seeing this throughout her life, Marissa wanted it for herself. She wanted someone who knew what she was thinking before she could say the words, who could read her mood simply by looking at her face or observing her body language.

In a lot of ways, her life fell apart when they died. There are days when Marissa is ashamed of it. Taking that job in the massage parlor. She had grown up in church with her parents and she knew they wouldn't have approved of her working in that sort of place, with all the illegal things that went on, but she needed money, and a lot of it to pay for law school. And back then, she wasn't really living anyway. She became a ghost in a lot of ways. Drifting through life almost aimlessly, only hanging onto her dream of becoming a lawyer to keep her going. Maybe that was why she had been content to reside in her sister's shadow. Marissa had always known that JR wouldn't completely love her because of how he felt for Babe.

Babe who was there first. Babe who created the family she wanted to be a part of. Babe who was her sister. Babe who gave birth to the boy Marissa now called her son. Yes, she was AJ's mother, but he was still Babe's son, he will always be more Babe's than Marissa's and it shouldn't matter but it does and Marissa knows that. Just like she knew, from the start, JR would never love her in the way she hoped. In the way her parents had loved each other.

That was more than evident thanks to Annie. She saw how JR was with Annie and it wasn't anything like how he treated her. There was a control about him when they were together that simply didn't exist when he was with Annie. If it did then he could have stayed away from her but with Annie he never could. No matter what it cost him, Annie drew JR in because with Annie nothing was rational. It was his heart over his mind and his heart won time and time again. JR was in love with Annie and while it was hardly the most healthy relationship it was genuine. Certainly, there was a truth to the passion they felt for one another while there was only comfort between herself and JR. They wanted the same things. Stability, family, a sense of home and belonging but that was hardly the connection her parents shared. JR loved her but he wasn't in love with her.

And Marissa often wondered if she had ever truly been in love with him.

During their time together, she didn't feel like herself, it was as if she was a washed out, faded version of who she once was. She'd been that way since her parents died and it was only after the divorce, when she was finally on her own, established in her career and somewhat settled in her personal life, determined to be AJ's mother, that she found herself again.

Of course, it didn't escape Marissa's notice that was precisely when she became close with Bianca. Handling her divorce was more than her first case, just like Bianca was more than her first client. They began something there. A friendship and a bond that Marissa had never felt before. In the beginning, they connected over their love lives, the disaster that romance had become for them both. Marissa speaking on JR's betrayal and Bianca about her slow disconnection from Reese and the more they spoke the more Marissa found the difficulties she faced were echoed by Bianca's own experiences.

Not only that, they wanted the same things. Over drinks they spoke of it many times, their fantasy of finding that elusive person who really knew you and loved you unconditionally. They both agreed there was no such thing as a perfect person but there could be a perfect partnership. And that's all they wanted. To be with someone who would work with them, listen to them, accept them, and love them no matter what.

Marissa considered herself an expert dater. That was probably why she was left scrambling for shaky evidence of her heterosexuality when Bianca confessed her attraction. She needed to have some real relationships to put up against the looming and very powerful realization that were her honest thoughts and feelings for Bianca and in the end, she could only produce JR and Scott's names. The reason, besides being her most recent romances, was that everyone else wasn't really a relationship. Then again, neither was Scott. He was more a friend than a lover and despite how jealous he made JR there was never any romantic love between them. Just friendship and comfort.

Dating was like Marissa's personal sport and she was definitely a gold medalist. It had been that way since high school. She remembered her mother teasing her about it. How no one was good enough for her, how her relationships would fizzle and die off and she never fully understood Marissa's explanations. It wasn't that she was picky, it was more that her mother couldn't grasp Marissa's reasoning over what she saw as just minor quibbles.

Mike had been incredibly rude to a waitress because he hadn't liked the food, even though he ate almost all of it. When she apologized to him, he threatened to get her fired if he didn't get the meal for free. They never had a sixth date after that because Marissa didn't want to be with anyone who felt it was perfectly fine to be downright mean just because they were the customer and for whatever reason, they felt the customer was always right. He was also a condescending snob.

Stephen had a habit of constantly cutting off other drivers in traffic to the point they almost got into an accident over it and when another car honked at him, his response was to smirk and flip them off. She gave him another week but broke it off before the three month mark when he cursed out a little old lady for going the speed limit and tail gated her for five miles. After him, Marissa was a little wary of letting anyone else drive. She couldn't see herself with someone who didn't have the slightest bit of concern for other peoples safety and with how he drove, Stephen clearly didn't.

Rob had the talent of bringing every conversation right back around to himself. No matter what they would discuss it would end up being about Rob. Everything was about Rob in Rob's world and that's why Marissa ended it after two weeks. On their last date she counted how many times he redirected the conversation to himself and his almighty opinions and problems and it stopped at seventy nine which Marissa thought was a relatively low number for him.

On and on, there was always something. Sometimes it was little and sometimes it was big, but there it was and Marissa just knew, the person she would truly love and who would truly love her wouldn't be like that. She wasn't expecting perfection, if she was then she couldn't have married JR. Somehow, despite it all, he was the first person she could look past all the faults and for Marissa, that made him the one. Until he cheated, until he lied, until he manipulated. Then the cons far outweighed the pros on his list of good and bad traits so she ended things. Looking back on it though, Marissa wondered about their relationship. How she felt for him and how he felt for her. Even now, JR professed to love her.

Just today he spoke of having a dream of their second wedding. How beautiful she looked in her modern white wedding dress and his blue eyes were alight and he was like a little boy again. Utterly charming in that moment but all Marissa felt was a twisting in her stomach. A sort of dread filled her at the idea of marrying him, of settling for something she knew wasn't what she really wanted, and she knew she couldn't do this any longer. She didn't love him. What she loved was what she thought he represented. Acceptance, family, belonging, understanding, and love.

For awhile Marissa thought she found those things in JR. It was easy to believe that with all those subtle gestures that were signs that he really knew her, that he really cared, and he had moved past artificial displays of affection. The music box, comedy club date, and most of all the orange soda and donuts in the park. In that moment, it was as if she had found what she had searched for since she was a small child. The person who understood her, who loved her, the partner that would finish off where she began, and at last she had a relationship that could compare to her parents.

Only it had never been JR. It was Bianca. It had always been Bianca. Perhaps from the moment they first became close it had been her. Looking back on it, Marissa wondered how she didn't know. How she convinced herself the reason she felt an overwhelming need to always be near Bianca, to touch her, to confide in her, how just seeing her made her feel lighter and happier could be attributed to simply friendship. Honestly, it was ridiculous. Before Bianca, she never contemplated any of her female friends beauty, fixated on how their eyes sparkled when they laughed, how soft their skin felt, or how a shiver would run down her spine when their voice pitched into a lower octave but she did all those things with Bianca.

Even when she didn't know about Bianca's involvement, when she believed it was all JR, and she was starting to draw towards him again she thought more about Bianca than him. Recalling that time, Marissa would estimate that her ratio of Bianca to JR thoughts was probably 15 : 5, which really didn't bode well for JR considering he was the one getting credit for everything Marissa found so impossibly romantic. And now that she knew it was Bianca all along, thinking of her was all she could do. Especially since she couldn't talk to her. She tried calling but Bianca ignored her efforts and Marissa was starting to get desperate. Enough that she spoke to Scott about her problems and it left her with one clear conclusion.

Bianca was everything she wanted in a person and Marissa did want her. Physically and emotionally, and in the back of her mind she thought she should be nervous, being with another woman but she didn't feel that way. There had been times when her eyes lingered too long on an attractive woman and she felt a throb between her legs, a clench in her stomach and a hot surge of desire, but that was purely physical and Marissa needed more than that. With Bianca she had more, she had everything, she had an attraction to her body, her heart, and her mind. Although, since she discovered Bianca's part in helping JR she wondered about Bianca's intelligence and her apparent need to give up before she even really tried.

Protection was what it all came down to. Bianca felt she had to protect herself from her, to keep herself safe, and it hurt Marissa to think of it and she knew that's why Bianca suggested they have some time apart. It was why she couldn't get Bianca to answer her phone and it was killing her, she needed to see her, she needed to speak to her, she needed Bianca to know Marissa had finally found the perfect person and it was her, it was them, and she wanted them to be together. No, she needed it. Marissa knew that without a doubt, this was what she had always been looking for and now that she had found it she wasn't sure she could live without it. Live without Bianca and god, it was so overdramatic and unlike her, but maybe that's what her mother had been talking about when she said Marissa would just know when she met the person for her.

The mansion was stifling, even with AJ's presence, and perhaps a little because of it because Marissa knew if everything worked out the way she wanted it she would hurt him terribly, and she needed an escape. Concentrating on work was next to impossible and she didn't want to deal with Caleb's questions on her distraction so she found herself in the park. Trying to admire the scenery and stopping to smell the flowers when she came face to face with the woman occupying all her thoughts.

There was a long moment of silence and to Marissa it seemed as if the world froze then Bianca blinked, offered a nervous smile and turned on her heel. She's running away, Marissa dimly realized. She's actually running from me. If it wasn't for her desperate need to speak to Bianca she would have found it almost funny but instead she gave chase, going after the other woman, grabbing onto her wrist and calling her name.

"Bianca!" Marissa shouted, wondering at her own reaction, there was no need to yell, not with Bianca centimeters away and Marissa firmly holding onto her to prevent further escape. But it seemed as if Bianca had been away from her for so long and she couldn't rid herself of this sort of panic at the idea of losing her again. "Bianca," Marissa said her name again, a plea in her voice when Bianca wouldn't turn around, and continued to stare into the distance. "Please, look at me."

"That was silly wasn't it?" Bianca's voice held a touch of wry humor and an underlining sadness as she turned to face Marissa, a small smile curving on her lips. "I don't know why I ran away. This is making me behave like a teenager again. I almost wonder why I haven't locked myself in my room and listened to Tori Amos all day long."

Snorting at this and feeling a measure of hope in the humor and affection in Bianca's gaze as she looked at her. Marissa's hand slipped down to hold Bianca's and she couldn't prevent the need to lightly stroke Bianca's skin. "I listen to Bad Religion and Sleater-Kinney in times of crisis," she remarked, laughing when she saw Bianca form an adorable frown. "I think listening to sad music only makes you sadder. It's good to have a change, don't you think?"

"I guess," said Bianca slowly and she tried to disentangle her hand from Marissa's but the redhead held tight and Bianca sighed, looking at Marissa with what seemed like a silent entreaty. "Marissa," she murmured. "I've missed you. I know you've been calling and you've tried to see me and I don't like ignoring you," Bianca sounded distressed as she said this, looking from the other woman as she spoke. "In fact, I feel like a selfish brat for doing it, and I almost hate myself for it, but I need this time apart to sort things out. I care so much for you and I don't want this to ruin things between us and it's going to unless you give me some space to put everything back where it belongs." Facing Marissa again, Bianca had a firm look on her features but it was understanding all the same as she said, "I think it would be good for you too. You can work things out with JR--"

"I don't want JR," interrupted Marissa and she swallowed hard, taking in the way Bianca's brown eyes widened, and unless she was completely losing it, she saw something there. A hopeful light maybe? A small bit of happiness perhaps? Whatever it was, it gave Marissa the courage to go on. "Bianca," she said her name strongly, reaching for Bianca's hands and squeezing them in a gentle hold. She was smiling, she knew that, and Bianca was looking at her and for the first time in what seemed like forever, Bianca appeared happy. Was it because she knew, she hoped, what Marissa was about to say? "I want this," Marissa continued, stepping closer as the said the words, her voice a declaration. "I want you."

The kiss wasn't anything much in the grand scheme of things. Just a simple press of their lips and as soon as it was over, Marissa wanted more. She wanted to kiss Bianca properly, in a way that would leave Bianca with no doubts as to how much she loved her, wanted her, but just as she moved in for another kiss Bianca was backing away from her. Hand over her mouth, touching her lips, and looking at Marissa with disbelieving eyes.

No, Marissa thought, this wasn't how it was supposed to go.

The world had frozen again and Marissa could only stand and stare as Bianca turned and ran from her and Marissa knew she should give chase, just like she did before, but she didn't. Maybe because she knew the convincing she would have to do wasn't anything suited for their current locale. They were both private people. Although, she knew she would never have any problem displaying affection for Bianca. In fact, it was something Marissa had started to fantasize about. Going on all those romantic dates Marissa knew Bianca had it in her to plan, holding hands, wrapping an arm around Bianca's waist, hugging her, kissing her and she wanted all of that so badly she could practically taste it. Only those things were immensely different from confessing and convincing your love in a highly public place. Anyway, it was probably better to do this where Bianca had less of an opportunity to cut and run since the brunette was proving to have that obvious tendency.

Setting her shoulders and her mouth forming a determined line, Marissa walked out of the park. Resolved to locate Bianca, wherever she ran, and finish what she started. Refusing to leave until Bianca knew completely how she felt and she got some sort of reaction from the other woman. She knew what she wanted and she wouldn't rest until she got it, especially since she had no doubts it was what Bianca wanted too and fear was a poor excuse to deny their feelings.

---

Marissa almost felt like a stalker, driving all over Pine Valley, arriving at each of Bianca's favorite destinations, her eyes continuously searching for Bianca's blue Audi which really wasn't nearly distinctive enough to make this easy. In the end, she located it at the top of Kendall's driveway and feeling slightly controlling and creepy, Marissa purposely parked behind it, making it impossible for Bianca to use the car for yet another getaway. She was surprised when Bianca answered the door, she was sure she'd have to fight her way past Kendall and her mile long protective streak when it came to her sister, just to get the chance to speak to Bianca. Then again, Kendall could be out. Marissa didn't recall blocking her car in. Just Bianca's.

"Marissa," said Bianca faintly and Marissa gave Bianca no chance to close the door, shouldering her way past Bianca, a frown etched on her features. Bianca closed the door and looked at Marissa with an apologetic gaze. "I'm sorry," she began, turning to face Marissa. "I shouldn't have ran away like that. I know it wasn't right but I just don't think you've really thought this through. You might care about me and you might have liked those things I helped JR with but that's completely different from being with me. You're straight and--"

"I'm tired of you telling me what I think and feel," said Marissa a little harsher than she intended. Though, honestly, she was sick of it. Bianca had been doing this since the day she confessed her attraction. Deciding how Marissa felt, convincing herself that Marissa could never return her feelings, never truly giving Marissa a chance because Bianca had chosen to protect herself over taking a risk in believing Marissa could feel the same. "I'm not straight. I can't be straight and feel the way I do about you, Bianca." Shaking her head and taking a deep breath, she made herself lose the anger she felt, stepping towards Bianca and reaching for her hands. "I know you've been hurt before, that you've been burned by women who couldn't make up their minds about how they felt for you. I wish I could reassure you with some great history of falling for other women but I can't. It's only been you but it's only been you for everything. I've never felt this way about any of the men I've been with, even JR." Laughing caustically, Marissa added, "Especially JR."

"Bianca," Marissa was practically begging now, cupping Bianca's face in her hands. "I'm not confused and this isn't just because I found out you were behind all those romantic gestures. Since the moment we became close you've always been on my mind, more than anyone other than my son. At first, I thought it was because you were the first really good friend I've ever had and we were so close but I never felt for any of my other friends how I feel about you." A self-deprecating smile tugging at her lips, Marissa gave into her urges and curled a soft lock of brown hair around her fingers. "I always wanted to do this," she confessed with a sigh, now running her fingers through Bianca's hair. "I would stare at your hair and wonder how it would feel. Sometimes I had a strange impulse to braid it," she confessed with a sort of humorous embarrassment.

"Not in pigtails, I hope," said Bianca and her voice had an airy quality to it that made Marissa's heart race.

"I think that's more my scene, isn't it?" drawled Marissa, tilting her head to one side. "I've used Pippi Longstocking a couple of times as my default Halloween costume. Maybe I'll do it again next year and you could be Annika." Shaking her head, Bianca laughed and looked at Marissa with smiling eyes and before Marissa quite knew what she was doing, she was moving closer and capturing that smile with her lips. Wanting it, and Bianca, for her own.

This was different than their first kiss, the one that was cautious and ended far too soon for Marissa's liking. There was a purpose, a passion, behind this kiss, Marissa needed Bianca to know with it precisely how she felt. She needed Bianca to feel the truth of her love and her attraction and Marissa's hand dropped down to Bianca's waist, pulling her closer as she angled her head, kissing Bianca deeper, sighing when the other woman finally reciprocated. It wasn't like kissing JR or any of the men she had been with and it wasn't the physical differences so much as the mental and emotional. How this affected her far more than anything else she had ever experienced and Marissa felt herself become wet and flush with desire. Particularly when Bianca's hands moved up to tangle in her hair and their tongues reached out to meet one another.

She feels so good, was Marissa's only cognizant thought, she feels perfect.

And Bianca did, she did feel perfect in Marissa's arms, just like this kiss felt perfect and they only parted out of need for air and Marissa clung to Bianca, burying her face in her neck and feeling not a little bit grateful for Bianca's height. She liked how Bianca was taller than her, she enjoyed how they fit together perfectly, especially when Bianca's chin rested on the top of her head. "I'm sorry I ran," said Bianca quietly, pressing a kiss on Marissa's head after she spoke. "I was just afraid of losing you."

"How could you lose me?" Marissa's voice was muffled by Bianca's throat and she gave into her desire, kissing the elegant line, tasting Bianca's intake of breath at this gesture. "You're everything I want."

There was no warning, just the dip of Bianca's head, and her hands squeezing Marissa's ass and then they were kissing again. Bianca was kissing her hard and fast and it was passion and it was fire and it was all the romantic things Marissa had imagined when she was locked in her room, thinking about the sort of relationship she wanted. She would have found it almost overwhelming if it wasn't for who she was with. This was Bianca, she trusted her, loved her, more than anyone she had ever been with and it was safe to let go completely with her. Lose herself in the taste, the touch, and the feel of the other woman and Marissa surrendered, giving everything she was, because she couldn't do anything less. Not with Bianca.

"I'm sorry," said Bianca breathlessly when they pulled apart, her lips were bruised, and Marissa kissed her again. She couldn't help herself and she delighted in Bianca's laugh, enough that she kissed her again, quick and firm kisses, tasting her and smiling against Bianca's lips, loving the happiness she exuded. "I pounced on you just then, didn't I?"

"You can pounce on me anytime you want," Marissa practically purred and Bianca blushed in an enchanting manner, looking off to one side, and Marissa laughed joyfully, hugging Bianca close, sighing when Bianca held on tight. She loved this, finding out all these new things about Bianca, and being able to share new things with her, but Marissa realized she hadn't shared nearly everything yet. Especially the most important part of her confession. "Bianca," she said her name soft and solemn and brown eyes fixed on her, a worried light lurking in their depths. Sighing internally at this, hating Bianca still had a measure of fear about this, about her, Marissa knew she had to say it. She couldn't wait any longer. "I'm in love with you."

"Oh," Bianca said this in a bashful murmur. "Oh," she repeated again and Marissa blinked, wondering if anything else was coming when Bianca smiled slow and sweet, tugging Marissa close as she said, "Me too."

"You too?" echoed Marissa, frowning, and forming an exaggerated pout. She wanted to hear the words. Flicking her index finger against Bianca's nose, she laughed when Bianca wiggled it in response. "That's it?"

"What else should I say?" Bianca teased, wearing a mischievous grin when Marissa huffed at her.

"Some sort of lengthy soliloquy on my beauty and charm would be nice," Marissa offered, tapping her chin and looking contemplative. "Maybe something reminiscent of Shakespeare in the Twelfth Night."

"I'm so not Viola," said Bianca strongly and Marissa scoffed. Smiling and shaking her head, Bianca held Marissa's face in her hands, thumbs caressing her cheeks and she moved forward, resting their foreheads together. "I love you," she said and sure and strong, leaving Marissa with no questions about her feelings. "I'm in love with you."

"Yay," said Marissa in a mutter, grinning at Bianca's laugh, swallowing it up in another kiss they both smiled into. Would she ever stop smiling? It didn't feel like it, not right now anyway, she was too happy. After so many years, after countless dates and endless romantic disasters, she finally found her person, the one she could share everything with. Which is maybe why she felt compelled, when they finally stopped kissing, to blurt out, "Krystal found me working at an illegal massage parlor where some of the girls gave happy endings."

"Okay," said Bianca slowly, blinking and forming a frown. "Did you ever...?"

"No, no," Marissa shook her head emphatically and she scrunched her face up in disgust. "Ew! No!"

"Okay," Bianca said again, laughing at Marissa's reaction, hugging her close. "Why did you tell me that then?"

"I don't know," said Marissa, suddenly feeling altogether ridiculous, wringing her hands together and moving away from Bianca to pace about the room. "It's just, ever since I can remember, I always wanted to have a relationship like my parents. They had their problems, I mean, everyone does, but they knew everything about each other and it was like one started where the other one finished off." Marissa turned to look at Bianca with wide eyes as she went on, "And I know we just got together but I think I can have that with you so I thought I should tell you stuff you didn't know about me."

"Like Krystal finding you at an illegal massage parlor where people gave happy endings," Bianca offered wryly.

"Yeah," said Marissa and now she really did feel foolish.

At least until Bianca stepped closer, her hands warm and supportive on her hips, leaning in close to whisper in her ear, "When I was a little girl, I set my mother's house on fire."

"What?" Marissa sputtered in disbelief and Bianca burst into laughter, tugging on Marissa's hands so she was sitting next to her on the couch. "You did not," said Marissa quickly, unable to comprehend this kind, sweet, and selfless woman doing such a thing, even as a child. Perhaps because she always thought Miranda and Gabrielle were wonderful reflections of Bianca in so many ways and both girls were exceedingly sweet and well behaved. "Was it an accident?"

"Not really, no," said Bianca in droll tones. "I caught my mother and Uncle Jack together. My parents were still married at the time and I got really angry at the two of them so I set the dolls Uncle Jack gave to me on fire and the rest is fire department history."

"Oh my god," said Marissa with a laugh. "I can't believe you did that." Frowning and considering what she should divulge that could compare, Marissa finally said, "I only slept with Scott to make JR jealous and it's been biting me in the ass ever since."

"I asked Zach to be Gabrielle's sperm donor while I was drunk and when he agreed, I never told Kendall even once I got pregnant," said Bianca and when Marissa looked at her with astonishment, she laughed, and shook her head sadly. "Yeah," she muttered. "I don't know what I was thinking of with that one. I guess I was desperate to cement the idea of having a family with Reese and maybe in the back of my mind I knew if I told Kendall about it she'd tell me it was crazy, moving so fast, and I'd listen to her. It was a lot easier, being in my own little fantasy world than dealing with the real world back then."

"The real world isn't much fun," remarked Marissa and Bianca smiled at her, reaching for her hand. "At least," Marissa continued, kissing the top of Bianca's hand and grinning. "Until now." Bianca blushed and wore a wonderfully shy expression, looking away for just a moment, and with the sun hitting her hair in just the right way, she took Marissa's breath away, she was just that beautiful. Perhaps that's why she found herself saying, "You look pretty in white."

Bianca slowly turned her focus back to Marissa who was now the one blushing and she smiled, her voice dropping an octave lower and sending a familiar shiver down Marissa's spine as she said, "You're gorgeous in red."

Then they were kissing again, slow and sweet, and it was perfect enough that Marissa wanted to be lost in it, and Bianca forever. She never wanted to part from her, to go back to reality, and deal with all the awkward and painful things that had to come next for her to truly be with Bianca in the way she wanted and needed. Bianca, always observant, stroked Marissa's cheek, her voice soft and concerned in her ear as she questioned, "What's wrong?"

"I need to tell JR," said Marissa quietly. "I don't want to lead him on. Not when I know what I want, who I want, and it's not him. It hasn't been him for a very long time," said Marissa with a sigh. "Also," she muttered, shaking her bangs out of her eyes. She really needed to get her hair trimmed, it was becoming annoying. "I have to move out. I'm pretty sure he won't like having me in the mansion once I tell him. No matter what AJ might want."

"It's selfish of me," Bianca admitted, holding Marissa's hand and tracing her palm with her index finger. "But I'm glad you're moving out. I never liked you living there with him. It was just another way for him to suck you back into his world."

"I shouldn't have let it get this far," said Marissa, feeling a little disgusted with herself. "Even when I was giving him another chance, when I thought all those things I loved were from him, not you, I wasn't thinking about him. I was always focused on you and it never felt right or comfortable being with him. This whole thing is going to hurt AJ and it's my fault for giving him that hope in the first place." Marissa shook her head and muttered, "When he came in and asked if we were back together, JR deflected the answer onto me, and I didn't want to say yes. Only there was my son looking at me with these big happy eyes and I didn't accept or understand it yet, how I really felt about you, and I told him what he wanted to hear."

"You wanted to make AJ happy and you knew being with JR would do that," said Bianca soft and understanding.

"I wanted to take it back the minute I said it," said Marissa almost bitter as she revealed this. She looked to Bianca and she saw the concern floating in her gaze and she frowned, reaching for Bianca, holding her face in her hands, strong in her resolve as she said, "Don't." Bianca blinked and started to protest but Marissa cut her off, continuing, "None of this is your fault. It's my doing. I knew deep down I didn't want JR and I still tried to make myself want him for AJ's sake, for the sake of this fictional perfect family JR and I created in our own minds, but it never would've worked. Because I never felt for JR the way I feel for you. I never loved him like I love you, wanted him, needed him, like I want and need you."

"You know this is going to hurt AJ," said Bianca in a murmur and though she didn't want to be self-centered, she wondered how it would effect AJ's relationship with Miranda. They were so close and she would hate for AJ to blame Miranda because he perceived Miranda's mother as having a role in tearing apart his newly reunited family. She knew the boy had done as much with Emma in giving her some of the blame for Annie's actions towards Marissa.

"I can't stay with JR and deny my feelings for you just to make things easier for AJ," said Marissa firmly. Sighing, she sank into the couch and rubbed at her forehead, trying to fight an oncoming migraine. She hated this. Why had she told him she was back with JR? If she hadn't it wouldn't be so bad. "If I did that, I would be miserable," said Marissa, looking to Bianca with a steady gaze and Marissa slid an arm behind Bianca's back, pulling her closer. Sighing when Bianca rested comfortably against her side. "Me being miserable won't do my son any good. I know things will be hard for awhile, it really can't be anything but when it comes to JR not getting what he wants, but this is for the best." She reached for Bianca's hand, lacing their fingers and smiling softly when Bianca tapped their fingertips together. Marissa looked at Bianca and murmured, "I loved the idea of JR but I never loved him and I think once he gets past his typical reaction of betrayal and anger and really thinks about our relationship, he'll realize the same thing."

They were silent for a long while, wrapped up in each other and their own thoughts, then Marissa released a breath of air, slapped her knees and rose to her feet. When Bianca looked at her with a questioning gaze, Marissa said, "No time like the present." Bianca stood up and Marissa automatically reached for her, wondering how many times she'd done this before, reached out for Bianca purely out of instinct and need. The brunette moved into her touch and Marissa sighed, burying her face in Bianca's neck and breathing in her scent, soft and delicate and intoxicating, and somehow it made her brave. "I need to tell him. Things can't really begin with you, with us, until I end everything with JR for good."

"I know," said Bianca reassuringly, her hands moving in soothing circles on Marissa's back.

Part of Marissa wanted to ask Bianca to come with her. For her to be there when she told JR. Just to have that support, to be able to turn and look into Bianca's eyes, and know when JR raged and denied and accused that what Bianca felt for her was real. That it wasn't all in Marissa's mind, that Bianca really loved Marissa the way Marissa loved her, and no matter what sort of cruel things JR might say, nothing could change the fact she had truly found her partner in this world. She wanted to ask but it was greedy, wasn't it? Asking when she knew how JR would attack Bianca and knowing full well if she asked, despite how Bianca might feel and how uncomfortable it would be, Bianca would say yes just because that's who she was.

Marissa was so lost in her thoughts she didn't notice Bianca had moved until she blinked and she was no longer in front of her. Turning around, she found Bianca by the door, removing her keys from her purse and facing Marissa with an expectant look on her features. She must have said her name because Bianca tilted her head to one side and responded, "You really didn't think I would let you go alone, did you?"

"No," said Marissa quietly, moving forward in a fast step, kissing Bianca and smiling at her confusion but to Marissa this was just another sign they were meant to be together. She hadn't said the words but Bianca had known she wouldn't want to do this alone, that she wanted her support, and of course she was there. That connection she had sought for so long, she had finally found it with Bianca Montgomery, and even if their lives were difficult because of JR's anger and AJ's hurt, it was worth it in the end because what they had was real and true. "Of course not."

Hand in hand, they walked out the door and into their future, unsure in this moment but certain of their path together. Even as Bianca frowned and asked why Marissa had parked in such a strange way, perpendicular to her own car, blocking her in.

Marissa decided she would save her answer for later. After all, there was no need to share everything all at once.

End