If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com



Kim Pritekel



Part 18- Conclusion


Groggy green eyes opened, squinting at the moonlight that came in full force. Feeling a warm body curled up within her own, Willow looked, seeing Emma sleeping peacefully, cute little baby breaths steady and even.

Looking around, she realized they were the only two in the large bed, and felt panicked for a moment. Then she remembered.

"Oh, Christine," she whispered, flopping her head back on the pillow and squeezing her eyes shut for a moment.

Creeping down the hall, Willow gently laid the still sleeping baby in her crib, tucking the blanket around Emma, and kissing her lightly on the forehead.

"Sleep well, my little one," she whispered, caressing the thickening brown hair. Pulling the door closed to an inch, Willow made her way further down the hall, the guest room's door closed.

A scene was brought back to her of the night she stood in this very spot, wondering, as she was now, if she should go inside. Knowing she had to, she quietly pushed the door open, clicking it shut behind her.

Christine lay on her stomach, facing away from the door, her breathing even, obviously asleep. The blonde wondered how long she'd been there. Padding silently over to the bed, she pushed the covers aside just enough to allow her body to slide under them. She scooted over to the sleeping brunette, the welcome body heat surrounding Willow.

She lay on her side, looking at the mass of dark hair splayed out over the pillow. Within moments, Christine took a deep breath, releasing it noisily as she turned over, facing Willow. As if in instinct, she scooted closer to the blonde, taking her smaller body into warm arms.

Willow closed her eyes, allowing Christine's nearness to envelope her. She snuggled in, head tucked under the singer's chin.

"How's Emma?" Christine asked quietly, startling Willow, who hadn't realized she was awake.

"She's fine." Willow snuggled in closer, her hand caressing Christine's t-shirt-clad back. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "It's not an excuse, but I'm so afraid, and I lashed out at you. I hope so badly that you can forgive me for what I said, what I implied."

Christine was quiet for long moments, making the blonde think she'd fallen asleep again.

"You really hurt me," she finally said, fingers playing in thick, blonde hair.

"I know. God, I know, and I hate myself for it." She pulled back, just enough to be able to look into Christine's face, brows drawn. "I was so worried when you weren't here after Jennifer dropped me off. I even ran up here to see if your clothes were still here."

Christine smiled softly, shaking her head. "No. Still here. I thought about going, to be honest," she brought a hand up to still Willow's words, seeing tears begin to fill her green eyes, turned gray in the darkness. "not because I want to. I thought that maybe all this would be easier if I weren't here, and, well," she sighed. "it is because of me that he's doing this. Maybe I'm bad for you and Emma." It broke the singer's heart to say all that, but deep down she knew it was true.

"Don't you ever say that again," Willow said, her voice growing in strength, her heart beginning to beat again, after stopping cold at what she thought Christine was going to say. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, and don't you ever forget that. Okay? Okay?" she said again, louder, when the singer didn't respond.


Willow brought a hand up, gently tracing Christine's features. "You truly are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." She leaned in, placing a soft kiss on those full lips she loved so much. "I love you, and I really am sorry," she said against them, feeling Christine's nod.

"Okay. And thank you," She rolled to her back, pulling the blonde with her. She looked up into the face of the woman who'd saved her life and then her heart. "You know," she said, seriousness creeping into her tone. "we need to work together on this, Willow. We have to stay strong to get through this."

Willow snorted ruefully. "Jennifer said the same thing."

"She's just trying to help, babe. She's not the enemy-"

"I know," Willow cut her off, running a finger lazily down Christine's jaw. "She and I had a talk today, in the car. We came to an understanding of sorts. No matter what I may think of her, ultimately she and I are after the same goal, so I won't stand in the way again."

"Good. I'm glad to hear it."

"So was she," they both grinned, sharing another small kiss. Willow pulled away slowly, only to lean back in for another. Christine met her, bringing a hand up to the back of the blonde's head, holding her in place as the kiss deepened.

"Willow?" Christine whispered into the blonde's mouth.


"Make me forget this ever happened today. I need to know we're really okay,"

The pleading in the singer's voice broke Willow's heart, knowing that she had put that doubt there. They had only been together for a few short weeks, certainly not long enough to cement the kind of bond that could easily withstand such an argument. Willow's actions had scared them both to the quick, and the blonde was eager to feel that security again.

Without a word, she moved the hand that had been on Christine's face, burrowing it into the dark hair, deepening the kiss all the more. Christine whimpered softly into the kiss, her body beginning to ignite.

"We're very much okay," Willow whispered, mouth moving down Christine's jaw, finding her neck. "Very, very okay."

"I love you,"

"I love you, too." Willow gently nudged the singer's shirt collar aside, kissing and licking the skin she found there. "I'm going to show you how much,"

Christine's eyes fell closed as she felt her shirt being lifted, hands running over the heated skin of her stomach, then her breasts, making her hiss. She helped by lifting her upper body, the shirt flying off into the darkness. Immediately a hot mouth was on her breast, her hands finding Willow's head, holding it to her, needing to feel the connection between the two of them.

It had been utter torture, feeling so alone and lonely. Most of her life had been spent alone, though she had constantly been surrounded by people.

Christine helped again, lifting her hips as her panties were pushed down her legs, then joined her shirt. She raised her legs, feeling Willow nestle herself there.

Christine's heart had been so heavy, her mood dark. It was the worst kind of torture to have been given such happiness, then suddenly it had been taken away with a few cruel words.

"Baby," she breathed as she felt herself being opened up by seeking fingers and tongue. "Yes,"

She knew it would not be easy for Willow to love her. Trust was such a huge issue in relationships, and Christine had very little of that to go around, and she bulked and ran at the slightest tarnishing of that, though somewhere deep inside she knew it would happen again, as it was human nature.

Christine moaned, feeling Willow move inside her, a slow, steady rhythm that made her boil.

Sometimes she couldn't help but wonder if maybe she was indeed bad for Willow. How fair was it to expect the blonde to walk on egg shells so often, Christine not trusting her, and waiting to be hurt.

"Did I hurt you?" Willow asked, concern lacing her words as she made her way up the singer's body. "Baby, what's wrong?" She petted Christine's hair, looking into her face, seeing the wet trails that were slowly sliding down into the dark hair, and Christine's ears, making her shiver.

Christine was shocked, having no idea what was making her emotions rise to the surface, seeping from her eyes.

"I'm so sorry," Willow wasn't sure what she'd done, but having a bad feeling that Christine's emotions stemmed from what had happened earlier in the day. She cradled her head, kissing her face, and trying to figure out some way to make it all better.

Christine allowed herself to be held, feeling the dam of her emotions break, and she began to cry, really cry.

Yes, part of it was her hurt showing itself, the hurt she hadn't dealt with, and hadn't realized, but part of it was also her own fears she hadn't let herself entertain. She was offering herself to be a partner and co-parent, and she was terrified! Yes, she loved Willow and Emma more than anything she'd ever loved before, but it was such a huge responsibility. What if she failed? What, and this is what tore her up, if she failed either of them? Let Emma down, or hurt Willow.

The tears continued to come with a vengeance, concerning Willow more and more with each passing minute. She had no idea what to do, or what she had done. She didn't know what was happening.

Feeling like an idiot, Christine finally got herself under control, sniffing like a child, and smiling shyly, embarrassed to all heck.

"Sorry," she said, wiping her eyes with the sheet.

"What happened? What's wrong, baby?" Willow asked, so afraid of the answer.

"I don't know. Guess I just got overwhelmed with things in my mind." She tried to pull away a bit, but Willow wouldn't let her.

"Uh uh. You're not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on." Willow looked into her eyes, beseeching. "Please talk to me, Christine."

The singer took several deep breaths, then nodded. Both woman moved to their sides, facing each other. "What if I'm no good at any of this, Willow? I'm so afraid. I'm so afraid that I won't be good for you and Emma. What if I'm no better than my own mother was, and no better than my father was to his wife?"

Willow could hear the fear in the brunette's voice, and it made her so sad. How could she take that kind of fear away?

"Oh, baby," she said, caressing Christine's cheek. She was relieved when the brunette leaned into the touch. "You're nothing like them. You're so loving toward us both, and you're parents were the way they were because they were selfish and weak. You're nothing like that. I've never seen someone so strong, making it through all that you have with flying colors." She smiled with wonder. "You amaze me." She chuckled. "I see the doubt in your eyes, and you can doubt all you want, but when it comes down to it, you're the most amazing person I've ever known. I've learned so much from you."

"From me?"

"Yep. And I think you'll have some pretty profound lessons for Emma, too. You've been there, done that, and you're so wise for it." She cupped Christine's face. "I'm in this for the long haul, baby, but if you're not sure," Willow had to swallow several times in order to keep her own emotions down, "you're not a prisoner here. You can, well, you can go at any time. I won't stop you."

"You'd let me go? Just like that?" Christine was amazed, and part of her wanted to pout like a child.

"I'd have to, Christine. If you were going to be happier away from us, then I'd have to say goodbye."

"Wow," the singer said quietly, stunned. "I think you have us mixed up, because I gotta tell you, I don't know if I could be that generous."

"Well, you know that old, cheesy saying? If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, it was meant to be, or something like that. You're the rhymie one, not me."

"I love you," Christine said, leaning in, "and I'm in this for the long haul, too. I just get scared sometimes."

"So do I. Just please talk to me, baby. Don't let it build, please." Willow felt the singer's head nod, their foreheads touching.

"Can we try again?" Christine whispered.

"Try what again?"


Willow felt her world settle in its axis at the extremely passionate kiss that she found herself caught up in. It didn't take long for her to find where she'd left off.


Willow tapped the steering wheel impatiently as she glanced at the dash clock again.

"Crap," she murmured, having three minutes to complete a twelve minute drive. For the first time in six years, she was going to be late for work. The smile swept across her features, mischievous as she remembered the cause for it.

How on earth was she supposed to resist Christine's gorgeous body, laying there on the bed, spread out like an offering. The blonde had gotten out of the shower, towel wrapped around her body, and couldn't resist. The towel had hit the floor with a flop, and she basically attacked the singer.

Sighing with happiness, Willow flicked her turn signal, passing the slow dump truck, and then speeding past him. She glanced over at the passenger seat of her truck, her cell phone sitting with a stack of CDs. She contemplated calling ahead, but decided against it.

Glad she'd followed Christine's advice and dressed in her scrubs before she left, she was able to pull into the staff parking, and run toward the building, straight up to her ward.

Willow breezed into the nurse's lounge, jug of water in her hand.

"Linda! Vicki, morning, ladies," she gushed, bending over to shove some things aside, making room for the gallon jug. When she heard no response, she glanced over her shoulder, see her fellow nurses looking anywhere but at her. Standing with drawn brows, she looked around the small room. Two of the four round tables for four were being used. Orderlies Richard and Terrance sat in the back corner, both glancing at her, a grin on Richard's face. Terrance leaned over, saying something, his voice very quiet, Richard's grin growing. His eyes never left the blonde.

Green eyes scanned over to the two women, noting that Linda was looking at her, but Vicki seemed engrossed in the news program that murmured on the ceiling-anchored television.

Something was wrong here. Glancing back at the boys again, she saw both their heads dropping, quiet laughter filling the small space.

"Okay," she breathed, a feeling of dread swirling in her gut. She turned back to the counter mounted next to the fridge, grabbing her backpack that she'd set there.

Willow walked down the hall in a daze. She'd been working at Mercy for six years. She'd been awarded for excellence every year but one, and was a highly respected colleague. Never had she had any trouble making friends, or getting along with her co-workers.

The blonde was taken back to her childhood, her parents moving around every six months to a year, tearing her out of one school to the next. It had been difficult, even painful at times, never able to make good friends before they were a thing of the past. Willow had often felt the outcast, always the 'new girl'. That was a feeling she hated, and was loathe to relive as she had in the break room.

If only she'd realized then that her day was going to get worse, whispered words, left him for a woman … they're living in sin! … that poor baby …


Willow was hurt more than she could say. She had worked with all those people for so long, and they knew her, and she thought they were all friends.

Wanting to cry, the blonde hid in the bathroom for a few moments before lunch. She looked at her reflection and saw the stress on her face. Her mind raced, trying to figure out where the information had come from, and why were they being so vicious.

"Maureen," she said to her reflection, disappointment gripping her insides. "No,"


"I'm sorry," Christine murmured, holding the blonde tighter. "God, I'm sorry." She felt like she was to blame for this. If she hadn't been there, Willow wouldn't have to face the ostracism and whispers.

"I thought they were my friends," Willow cried, feeling like a child as she clung to the singer, being rocked gently in Christine's lap.

"One thing I've learned, baby is that you can't rely on people. They're cruel and petty. And," she continued, kissing the top of Willow's head, "they'll do anything for a good story."

"I feel so stupid." The blonde pulled away, sniffling as she swiped her hand across her nose. She laughed bitterly. "I was so excited to tell someone about us, about how happy I am, and I really thought I could count on Maureen to be happy for me. So stupid," she shook her head in utter dismay.

"I know. There are some people in the world who will judge you no matter what, Willow," Christine gently brushed some hair away from the blonde's tear-streaked face before caressing her cheek. She knew how sensitive Willow was, and knew it had to be eating the smaller woman alive. All she wanted to do was march down to that hospital and beat the shit out of the children's ward. Bastards. How could they be so cruel to one of the kindest souls in the world? They weren't deserving of the nurse.

"It was so awful, Christine. I felt like wherever I went I was being watched, laughed at. I mean, granted not everyone was involved. But enough were." She felt the tears sting again, laying her head against the singer's shoulder. "I feel betrayed. I know it's stupid, but I really do."

"It's not stupid, baby. It's not. But you have to know that this will make you stronger. You can't let them win. I know you," she smiled, "you're stronger than that." Christine watched as Willow pulled away again, looking into her eyes. "When it comes to stuff like this, it may be crude and pessimistic, but you just gotta say fuck 'em."

"Fuck 'em," Willow repeated, nodding. "You're right." She swiped at her eyes, then took the Kleenex that was offered and blew her nose. Tossing the balled up tissue to the coffee table to join all the others, she nodded again, feeling her resolve strengthen. "Fuck 'em."

"It won't be easy, but in the end, it's worth it. If you let these kind of people get to you, it'll drive you insane."

Willow studied the singer, looking into her eyes and seeing truth there, as well as deep understanding.

"You're so strong," she whispered, cupping Christine's face. The singer smiled ruefully.

"Nah. Just a survivor."

"Same difference," Willow kissed her lightly. "I love you for it."

Christine grinned, holding Willow tighter to her, grateful to have her. The bliss was interrupted by the chirping of her cell phone. One last kiss and Willow pushed off the singer's lap, heading into the kitchen.

"Hello?" she asked, flipping the phone open.

"So, the domestic diva answers her own phone now, I see," a deep baritone said dryly.

"Who is this?" she sat up from her place on the couch, brows drawn in alarm.

"Come on, Gray, tell me you haven't forgotten me already!"

Blue eyes widened in pleasurable surprise. "Larry?"

"How you doing, kid?" he said, smile shining through in his voice.

"I'm great! My god, it's been forever." She stood, a flood of memories boosting her energy.

"Try twelve years."

"Wow. Has it been that long?" She paced around the room, glancing out of a random window before turning and walking the circuit all over again.

"Ain't seen hide nor hair from you since you worked for me. So what's all this I hear about you playing daddy with a cute little blonde in hick country?" the producer asked. Christine smiled, almost able to see Larry Tippen lounging back in his oversized leather office chair. His feet would be propped up on the massive desk, silver tips catching the Tiffany lamp light. Thought it was after eight o'clock his time, his dark glasses would be on, and a turtleneck, gray or black, would be tucked into his Levis.

"I'm happy, Larry," she said simply.

"Glad to hear it, Gray. That's not so easy to do in this business. Speaking, what's this bs I hear about you retiring?" Anger laced his words now.

"I had enough, man. I couldn't do it anymore. I gave all I had to give, did my time, finished." Christine said, waiting for the tirade that would surely follow her simple explanation.

"Hmm. Well, I have to admit I'm glad to see you get away from that rock and roll shit you used to do. It wasn't you, never was. Why, after what you composed for me and my short, I never understood why you didn't go where it was obvious your heart was. Hell, you helped me win at Sundance, for Christ's sake."

"I know, Larry. I know." She smiled at the memory, seeing her friend's face as he took home the prestigious honor.

"Listen, kid, I'm calling because I want you for a project I'm working on."

"Oh, Larry, I don't know," Christine shook her head, running a hand through her hair.

"Sure you do. You can work from your little love nest there, and actually create something with some meaning."

"Larry, I'm retire-"

"Bullshit, Christine!"

The signer was taken aback by the vehemence in his voice. She stood there, stunned.

"You are too goddamn talented to let it die. You got tired of what you were doing, who wouldn't? Now let your real creative genius come out. I wanted you to work for me for years, but that prick Knowles never would allow it. He's dead, so now I'm asking. Compose for me, Christine. Please. I've got a large budget to work with here, and some major players in this project. I want you, and only you, and I won't take no for an answer," he paused, allowing his anger, which surprised him as well, subside. Finally Christine spoke.

"Can I think about it?"

"Don't take too long. I've got the green light on this, and I need to move. Call me and we'll discuss contracts."

Christine pulled the phone away from her ear, flipping it closed. She'd always hated that Larry never said goodbye. When he was finished talking, the conversation was over.

Tossing the tiny phone to the couch, she sighed, staring out into the night. She had a big decision to make, and already knew what her heart wanted the answer to be. She would think about it, give herself a few days to think. This would be good for her, she knew, but also it meant putting herself out there in a new way. She felt vulnerable just thinking about it.

"Damn, it, Larry," she whispered. "Do you have any idea what you're asking?"


Willow almost felt sick as she sat at the long, polished table. Nicole sat to her right, acting attorney, and Jennifer to her left, assistant. She could feel her palms sweating, rubbing them against her skirt-clad thighs. The blonde absently brushed a shaggy strand aside, the clasped her hands on the table before her.

"Are you ready?" Jennifer whispered, leaning into her. Willow nodded, swallowing nervously. "Good. Kevin and his attorney is coming in now."

Willow fought the urge to shoot visual daggers at her ex husband as he made his way down the aisle of the near-empty courtroom. Christine sat in the gallery, one row behind the wooden partition, next to Myra. She glanced at him, finding that she was being stared down by very angry blue eyes. Christine didn't flinch, giving as well as she gave.

Knowing Willow would be a mess, the singer leaned forward, placing a hand on the blonde's shoulder. Her hand was covered by a smaller, sweaty one, and squeezed in acknowledgement. Sitting back, Christine crossed one leg over the other and settled in.

Glancing quickly over to the other table, identical to that the blonde sat at, Willow saw Kevin sit, smoothing his tie as he did so. He looked across his own attorney, meeting her gaze. She was surprised by the raw hatred she saw burning in eyes that once looked at her in nothing but love.

She was, however, proud of herself as she held his gaze, Kevin looking away first. Everything in life is a small victory.

"All rise, the honorable Judge Malcolm Howard presiding," the bailiff said dryly. The seven people in the court room stood as a heavy-set man, robed in black, stepped up behind his desk, motioning for everyone to sit as he, himself did just that.

Willow swallowed again as she sat, wincing as her chair scraped noisily against the polished wood flooring beneath her feet. She felt a hand on her arm. Glancing over, she met brown eyes, silently communicating that everything would be okay. She nodded, wishing she could have Jennifer's confidence.

"Alright, let's see what we've got here," the judge said, using one hand to tug half-shelled glasses onto his bulbous nose, while the other flipped open the case file before him. "Kevin Bowman versus Willow Bowman for the custody of Emma Christine Bowman, aged four and a half months." He glanced up. "Are both parties currently in attendance?"

"Yes, your honor," Nicole said, rising just long enough o speak.

"We are, your honor," Kevin's attorney echoed, smoothing her skirt before she sat, clearing her throat, which sounded like a firecracker in the quiet room.

"Good, good. Lets proceed," the judge said, removing the glasses. "Mrs. Jamison, why don't you start," he said, indicating Kevin's attorney with a flick of his wrist.

"Yes, your honor." The older woman with the gray-streaked hair stood, glancing down at the laptop that was open on the table before her. "Your honor, my client is asking for full custody of his daughter, Emma Bowman. He feels he is a much more stable parent, and can provide a nurturing, loving, moral, environment for the child."

Willow again felt the hand on her arm as she felt her blood begin to boil. How could he?

"Continue," the judge encouraged. There was a dramatic pause, the only sound the court reporter finishing her last few clicks before hands rested mere millimeters above her keyboard.

"It has come to my client's attention that his ex-wife, Willow Bowman, has been sharing her residence with a woman who has had a drug habit, lived on the streets, and prostituted her own body when she was barely out of childhood, herself." Carol Jamison waited for this information to sink in before continuing. "Kevin Bowman feels it is in the best interest of his child to remove her from such an environment."

"Thank you, Mrs. Jamison. Miss, Martinez?" The judge's eyes moved to Willow's table, looking expectantly at her 'lead counsel'.

"Thank you, your honor." Nicole stood, looking sophisticated and confident in a charcoal gray pant-suit, with an open collard silk blouse. "Your honor, my client, Willow Bowman, has been a loving mother to little Emma since the day of conception. The baby weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, fourteen ounces, proving that Willow was diligent during her pregnancy, eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, leading to the uneventful birth of her first child. I might add, your honor, that the pregnancy was a solo event, since Kevin Bowman refused to be present, or even lay claim to, his unborn child."

Willow felt herself trembling, fear, anger and hurt coursing through her veins, turning her blood cold. She reached up, clutching the gold, heart-shaped locket Christine had given her the night before, Emma's picture tucked inside.

"Yes, your honor, it is public record for this court that Christine Gray, loving and contributing member of the Bowman household, has had problems in her past. It should also be public knowledge that Miss Gray brought herself from a destructive life on the streets to become a world renowned recording artist, who is not only emotionally capable and willing to help parent baby Emma, but is also financially available, also."

"It's wrong!" Kevin exclaimed, trying to stand, but his attorney stopped him with a warning hand on his hand.

"You've had your chance to speak, Mr. Bowman," Judge Howard warned, his voice booming in the large space.

"As I was saying your honor," Nicole said dryly, sparing a fleeting glance over at Kevin's attorney. "Even without the emotional or financial support of Miss Gray, Willow is capable and responsible in her duties as Emma's mother. She holds a career in the medical field, as well as owns her own home." Nicole paused, looking the judge in the eyes. "She kept this child, despite Mr. Bowman's encouragement for abortion. She has raised Emma to the best of her ability, and will continue to do so. Willow has always wanted this child, your honor, and chose to walk away from her marriage rather than forfeit the life of her child."

As Nicole sat down, Willow breathed a small sigh of relief, feeling for perhaps the first time that maybe she had a chance. Heck, Nicole had convinced her.


Judge Malcolm Howard looked to Kevin. "Mr. Bowman, would you like to add anything on your behalf, sir?"

"Yes, your honor, I would." Kevin buttoned the bottom two buttons of his suit jacket as he stood, clearing his throat. "I made mistakes in the past, your honor, acting childish when I found out about Willow's pregnancy. I admit that, and I can never take it back, no matter what I might say. I know that. But your honor," his voice softened, filled with wistful words. "Since that March morning when my daughter was born," he took a deep breath, shaking his head. "I've thought of nothing since, but holding her in my arms and being the father that I was too stupid to realize I wanted to be." He looked at the judge with big, puppy-dog eyes. "Please, your honor. I want my daughter raised right, with a father, a mother, as I'm getting married in a couple months, and a good, Christian home. Thank you, sir."

Willow just about flew out of her seat at the pitiful excuse of a plea from Kevin. It took both Jennifer and Nicole's hands on her thighs to keep her in her seat.

"Miss Bowman? You may speak, now."

"Thank you, your honor." Willow took several deep breaths, trying to keep her calm. "It's pretty simple what I have to say, sir. I love my daughter more than I can tell you. I'm sure you're a father, sir, so you know what it's like, waking up each day to see the miracle." She smiled, lost in thoughts of Emma, her smile, the cute little noises she made as she tried to stick her toes in her mouth. "I even gave up coffee for my daughter, you honor. Trust me," she grinned, "that's quite a sacrifice. All kidding aside, sir, I wanted Emma from the very beginning, and yes, Miss Gray may have had some problems in her past, sir, but she has been there for me every step of the way. She helped me to save my house when I was about to lose everything after the divorce. She has been a constant in both my, and Emma's lives."

Willow swallowed, feeling the weight of the situation on her shoulders. It was hard to stand up straight, let alone hold her head high as she pleaded for the court to not take her daughter away from her.

"Your honor," she continued, voice soft. "I've been there since the moment that beautiful little girl was born. I was there for her first cry, her first breath, her first smile. I've stayed up with her when she was sick, and changed every single poopy diaper. Please don't take her from me for no good reason, sir. That would be a crime. Thank you."

As the blonde sat, Jennifer stood. "Your honor, if I may add, Emma was born on the afternoon of February 22."

It was the longest waiting time of her life, each second that ticked away on the clock was another lost day of her time on earth.

Willow paced, heels clicking on the highly polished linoleum of the outer chamber. The large, double doors opened, and the bailiff appeared.

"Please come back inside," he said, disappearing back into the courtroom. It was almost a race between Kevin and Willow to get through those doors first. He had stayed near the elevators with his camp, avoiding any eye contact with the blonde at all.

Taking her seat again, hearing the others take theirs, Willow clutched her locket again, heart pounding in time with the throb in her head. Breathlessly, she waited for the judge to take his seat again.

"I have come to a decision involving the care and custody of Emma Christine Bowman," he said, voice somber as he looked over his glasses at both parties. "You both having given truly moving testimony today, and both have valid claims to this child. However," he tossed the glasses aside, bushy brows drawing in seriousness. "a decision has to be made, and someone will walk out of this courtroom today happy."

The court waited, holding its breath, as the judge paused, smacking his lips noisily as he brought the words to mind.

"Mr. Bowman," he turned his attention to Kevin. Willow felt Christine's presence behind her as she waited to hear what the judge had to say. "You bring up some valid points here today, however, this court has had an opportunity to look over the records and claims you have presented here. Though I personally may not agree with the lifestyle in which Miss Bowman and Miss Gray have chosen to pursue, it is not in the eyes of this court to judge on that. Therefore, this court finds no moral wrongdoing in the raising of Emma. In fact, upon inspecting records from Emma's physician, a doctor Brenda McHale, it's shown that Emma is in remarkable health, and has been very well taken care of. The child is happy and healthy."

Willow felt her breath stop with her heart, afraid to hope that the judge was saying what she thought he was saying.

"However, you are the legal father of this child, and as such have a legal right to spend time with your daughter." The judge picked up his gavel, Willow about to break into pieces. "This court awards full custody of Emma Christine Bowman, aged four and a half months, to Willow Bowman, the child's legal mother and guardian, whilst Kevin Bowman, said child's father, will have visiting rights every weekend. Willow Bowman is also entitled to child support payments, an amount of which is to be determined at a later date."

Willow cried out with the sound of the gavel cracking in finality. She was stunned, tears stinging behind her eyes in utter joy and gratitude.

"And just a word of advice, Mr. Bowman," the judge continued, "for God's sake, man, learn the birth date of your daughter. Court adjourned."

Willow was in a daze as she was gathered into a tight embrace, her head coming to rest against the shoulder she knew belonged to Christine.

"You did it, baby," was whispered into her ear, soft lips brushing against her forehead.

"Oh, god," Willow breathed, realizing dawning. Her arms wrapped around the singer's waist, pulling her tight against her. The stress and fear of the past month finally oozing out of Willow, to be replaced by hope and a sharp excitement for the future.

"Nice job, ladies," Jennifer said, pride evident in her voice. Willow pulled away from Christine, turning to the attorney.

"I can't thank you enough, Jennifer," she said, taking Jennifer's hands in her own. The attorney smirked.

"You don't have to. Just wait until you get my bill." She winked, squeezed Willow's hands, and pulled away, gathering her briefcase. "Back to civilization I go." She turned to Christine. "Tell Sandra hello for me, won't you?"

"You got it." Christine watched her go, then turned back to the blonde, who was hugging and thanking Nicole. For the first time in her life, Christine felt complete. All her fears and worries, and feelings of inadequacy just seemed to have flowed out with the stress and worry of what the judge would say. She felt, at that moment, that no matter what the world had to throw at her and Willow, they'd be able to handle it. She had a family, a real, honest to god family, and there was no way in hell she was going to let it go.

She had something to fight for again.


"Christine! Over here! Christine, who are you wearing? This way, please!"

Christine squinted slightly, the flashbulbs of so many cameras going off at once almost a welcome sight. At least this time they were supposed to be there, and it was nice to know she was still wanted.

"You okay?" she asked quietly, glancing down at her date.

"Oh, yeah," Willow breathed, "peachy,"

Christine smiled, again taking in the absolute beauty that was on her arm. The Vera Wang creation, created especially for Willow, hugged the blonde's incredible body perfectly, classic lines, and just the hint of cleavage to make it sexy. The green velvet brought out her eyes to perfection.

"Well, you said you wanted us to come out with a bang," Christine smirked.

"Yeah, but at the Oscars?!" Willow hissed in response. The singer chuckled, seeing the reporter from Entertainment Tonight in their path. They were led toward the woman, having to start the rounds of all the major networks and shows covering the event outside the Kodak.

"Christine! You look absolutely gorgeous, tonight!" Melissa Haggerty gushed, holding her microphone up to the singer for comment.

"Thank you, Melissa. You look beautiful, yourself." Christine said, turning on the charm of her persona.

"Oh, thank you!" Getting down to business, "So this must be a bit surreal for you. From the Grammy's to being nominated for an Oscar for best score in a film. How do you feel about all this?" the reporter waved her arm toward the screaming fans, and other celebrities making their way down the red carpet.

"Well, you know, just another day in the office," Christine said with a grin. Melissa chuckled.

"Indeed. Good luck tonight."

"Thank you."

Willow watched in awe as Christine handled the press and fans with grace and aplomb. Not to mention, she was breathtaking in her black, halter dress, fitted floor-length. When the singer had stepped into that dress, asking the blonde to zip it for her in their hotel suite, Willow's mouth had gone dry. She had never been truly speechless before that moment.

Now, walking hand in hand with her, Willow was overcome with pride and love.

The inside of the theater was beautiful, and huge! Willow wanted so badly to look around, her mouth hanging open in awe, but decided that may not look so good, especially with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones sitting next to her.

Never in all her life had the phrase 'out of your league' hit home as it did that night for the blonde. She felt like a hick from the sticks, while Christine put on the charm, and talked to people, the likes of which Willow had seen on screen her entire life.

Swallowing hard, she sat still, watching Billy Crystal in his hilarious opening.

Not since her first win at the Grammy's, more than a decade ago, had Christine felt nervous at award ceremonies. For the most part, she thought they were pompous and ostentatious. But tonight, well, for some reason she was filled with a nervous energy and nausea. She wasn't sure why that was. It wasn't as though she so much wanted to win, as perhaps wanted Willow to be proud of her.

She glanced over at the blonde sitting next to her, looking beautiful, and utterly enthralled in the performance on stage. Christine smiled, feeling silly, but smiling all the same. Willow felt blue eyes on her, and turned to look into the singer's gaze. She smiled back, squeezing Christine's hand as the presenters began to read the nominees.

"Here we go," Willow whispered, feeling nervous enough for both of them. Christine nodded, turning back to the stage. She heard her name called, and a round of applause deafened the house, the cameras on her. She saw her own smiling face on the huge screen off to the side of the stage, her name and the name of the film under.

"And the winner is," the presenter said, his co-presenter fumbling with the envelope. They both looked at the results, and together read, "Christine Gray, 'Twilight'!"

The crowd was on its feet, Willow openly crying. Christine looked at the blonde, her world slowing down, noise muffled. She felt herself rising from the chair, those around her smiling and cheering their agreement and congratulations. She was sure she nodded, or smiled, or acknowledged them in some way.

She felt the pressure of Willow's hand in hers, squeezing, as she passed, headed to the aisle. Faces blurred, her heart pounding in her ears as she made her way up the aisle, a journey which seemed to take forever.

Time didn't fully return to normal until she felt the weight of the golden statue in her hand, and then all of her senses returned, full blast. The brilliance of colored lights gleaming in the golden surface, the roar of the applause, the softness of a congratulatory kiss on her cheek from the presenters, and then the sound of her own voice.

"Wow," she breathed quietly, though it erupted from the microphone before her, filling the theater. Polite chuckles followed. "Um, I know that everyone usually gets up here with a list as long as my arm of people to thank," this got more chuckles. "I don't have that, I'm afraid. The people I have to thank already know I'm grateful, because they're still alive during this whole process," she leaned in close to the microphone, "Larry."

Larry Tippen laughed loudly, his smile about to split his face wide open.

"It's been an interesting road, my life, and I'm grateful to have traveled it." She looked at the statue again, thinking how much she wanted to give it to Emma when the baby was a woman. "The music I made was out of a deep love for my art, and a deep belief in my passion- music. Even so, I dedicate this to Willow."

Willow watched through a warped picture, her tears impossible to see through. She felt Christine's eyes on her though, and she brought her fingers to her lips, kissing them, then throwing that kiss to the singer. Christine smiled at the gesture, nodding acceptance of the blonde's love and support.

"Willow Bowman and our daughter Emma, that's what life is all about. They've given me a reason to love music again." She lifted the Oscar in victory. "Thank you."

The End.

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