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Thanks to Nikki's video message, the telephone calls and the visits from the social workers had somewhat stanched. It was quite refreshing for Michael and his children (adopted and biological), as well as Mariann to not have to worry about those attention-seekers breathing down their necks practically every day. But they were still being on their guard just in case more people looking for media attention decided to pull something like that again. Also, to take extra precautions, Michael tightened security by hiring more security guards. The people were waiting for another opportunity to start investigating again.

However, the tabloid media still wouldn't leave Michael alone. They were still bashing him for fighting back and they were even attacking Nikki for her defense in the video message. And when the Arvisos came out of seclusion and returned to California, the Santa Barbara DA Tom Sneddon as well as the other people on his prosecuting team had decided to investigate and tried to get them to cooperate so they could make a case. The Arvisos refused, saying that Michael was a family man and that he was the nicest, kindest, most giving person they had ever met.


As expected, the news of the media's attacks on Nikki reached the pop king and he was very outraged, to say the least. Nikki admitted to making the video in order to defend him and dispel all of the lies about what type of parent he was. His feelings about that were mixed. He appreciated her standing up for him, but he didn't want her to suffer negativity in the press on his account. When he voiced his feelings about her doing that, she had said she was glad to. He wasn't expecting to hear her say that.


"I do not regret it at all. I would do it again if I had to. If speaking up for you means I get attacked, so be it. Remember that we are in this battle together, and I won't stand by and allow anyone to disrespect my family," she had told him.  Kerri agreed with her. That made Michael very happy. Not only that, but the girls were as resilient as he was. He was so proud of the way they were turning out, under his guidance.


As for the relationship between Michael and Mariann, there was already something special between them even though it had only been three weeks since they had met in person. They were practically inseparable when Mariann wasn't working. She couldn't stand being away from him for too long and when she was at work, she constantly thought about him. She could barely stop thinking of him. Somehow, it did not affect her work. She noticed that when she was around Michael, she would feel extremely lightheaded and her heart beat would be rapid. She wondered what this meant. Was her crush turning into love? No, it just couldn't be. She had just met him a few weeks ago. She was going to have to try to control her feelings for him somehow, because she didn't want to scare him away.  Especially if he wasn't feeling the same way about her. She actually wasn't sure how he felt because he never told her if he had feelings for her; he treated her with the same level of kindness as he treated the other people whose wellbeing he was concerned for.


It would be a trying and busy day for Michael. His court hearing for the civil case was on that day and while he felt prepared, he was slightly nervous. He firmly believed that the truth would prevail in the end, but he also knew that the justice system could be corrupt at times and so it meant they would believe Bashir if he decided to lie through his teeth or something. Or even worse, the journalist could refuse to testify, depending on his attorney, and the case would end up being dismissed.  He was so busy making preparations for it that he didn't get much sleep, and on Blanket's 1st birthday, he settled on making it a quiet one, even quieter than Prince's birthday. He didn't want to have to do that for Paris when it was time for her birthday. Everything was so frustrating, he was anxious to get this over and done with so he could move on. He had just finished having breakfast with his children and was now getting ready while he waited for his makeup artist Karen Faye to come by and do his makeup and fix his hair for him. Since he still couldn't get around as much, Kerri and Nikki gave him a bit of assistance.


"Oh, Dad, I wish we could be there with you. Understand that we'll be there with you in spirit," Kerri told him as she got his loafers for him. He still would not be wearing any on the foot that had been bitten by the brown recluse because although the swelling had gone down some, it was still pretty painful.


"Good luck. I hope your day in court goes well. I will be praying so hard for you," said Nikki, handing Michael his tailored suit. She really wished she and her sister could attend this court hearing, but they had two important tests that day, and they knew missing school would be out of the question.  But at least after the exams there would be spring break, and there would be a family vacation to Miami, Florida, so there was something to look forward to.


"Thank you very much." He hoped the court hearing would go well, too. He did not know what was going to happen, or if there would be any other court dates, but if the case did not go to trial, he wouldn't mind. This whole ordeal was so stressful and he didn't need any more stress than he already had. These obstacles were beginning to take a toll on his health. And he didn't want to be away from his children more than he absolutely had to. They were extremely intuitive, so they would eventually realize something was amiss sooner or later. This was why he wanted the nightmare to be over.



(at Wine County Luxury Hotel)


It was ten minutes till eight, but no customers had showed up yet, and quite a number of people usually showed up by then. But that day, it was so boring. Mariann wondered how Michael was doing. She wished she could go to his court hearing that day. She had been tempted to call in sick so that she could go, but she wasn't sure that Michael would approve of her going through such lengths to support him. Also, it was not in her nature to be dishonest. If she had known that business would be as slow as it was, she would have asked if she could take the day off.


Oh, did she long to hear Michael's voice. She wished that she had called him to wish him luck and let him know how much he was loved and supported by her. Now it was too late.  If he intended to make it to court at promptly eight o'clock, that would mean he already left. Bummer.


She suddenly got an idea. While it might be too late to call Michael, maybe it was not too late to ask if she could take the day off-if she hurried. Her boss wasn't in yet. She went into the office to make the phone call. She didn't want her co-worker Jamie to hear what she was going to ask.

‘Oh Tammy, please be home,' thought Mariann as she waited for her boss to pick up. She didn't want to be at the hotel if she wouldn't be having any customers.


Fortunately, Tammy was still in. "Hello, Tammy. I'm fine, how are you? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you feel better soon. Yes, Jamie is here, and so is Michelle. But business seems to be very slow today...not a single customer as of yet. "


Jamie's curiosity about what Mariann had called the boss about was getting the better of her. She stood outside the office so she could hear the end of the conversation.  


"I was calling to ask if it would be all right if I took the day off. Something important is happening today," Mariann was saying.


Jamie had a feeling that this had something to do with Michael. Her coworker talked about him anytime she didn't have work to do. It was always "Michael this" and "Michael that". She thought Mariann was in love with him. Which she didn't blame her for, because based on what she spoke of him, he didn't come close to the Michael the tabloids were trying to portray.


"Yes, it is about Michael. His court hearing is today."


‘I knew it,' thought Jamie. She gave Mariann credit for being honest, no matter how frivolous the reason sounded. And their boss must have given Mariann the okay, because the next thing she said was, "All right. Thank you very much. I will work overtime if I have to. "


"All right, then. I understand. Once again, feel better soon. Goodbye."  She hung up and exited the office. She was startled to see Jamie standing there.  She never knew that she was this sneaky even though she generally came across as very inquisitive.  "How much did you hear?"  she asked, trying to suppress her surprise.


"Well, I've heard you ask for the day off."


"Yes I have. And get this...she said you and Michelle can leave, too."


"Oh really? That's very nice of her."  In all honesty, Jamie felt like she could use some time off, too. On the other hand, this was pretty unusual. Something must be up. "Did she say why she was late or if she would be coming in at all?"


"She's not coming in today. She has to rest for awhile. She caught a touch of the flu."


Jamie couldn't help but cringe slightly. She had just had to nurse her husband back to health during the holidays when he got a nasty case of influenza.  Less than a week after he was on the mend, she caught it. She was so miserable during that time. It was an experience she never wanted to repeat ever again. "Oh dear. I hope she feels better soon."

Mariann looked at her watch. It was exactly eight o'clock. Time for Michael's court hearing. She knew that if she expected to be there at a reasonable time, she had better make haste. "Well, I'd better get going."


"All right. Tell me all about it. And wish him luck for me. He will need it."

"Will do. Ciao."  Mariann made a sign that said that the spa would be closed until further notice, got her purse, taped the sign on the door and left. She had a feeling that this would be a very long day. Not only for herself, but for Michael, too.



(at Beverly Hills Courthouse)


Michael and his entourage arrived to court on time, but just barely. There were a bunch of fans chanting Michael's name as they saw him being pushed in a wheelchair by two of his bodyguards. He looked calm, as if he could handle anything. Still, the fans could see in his eyes that he was nervous about how this case would go. They couldn't blame him. He smiled and waved at them. And of course, there were a bunch of paparazzi and reporters chasing after him, no doubt to get pictures of him as well as an interview, but the bodyguards were too fast for them. They wheeled him inside the courthouse. The gallery was pretty packed, with several of Michael's family members: his parents, four of his brothers, and Janet. There were also a few of his good friends, like Liz Taylor, Chris Tucker and Macaulay Culkin. He was happy to see all of them, and he knew that they were there to give him their moral support, just as they always did. However, there were also some people he was not too happy to see-some of the writers for the tabloid, National Enquirer. No doubt they were probably there to write a sensationalized story based on this event as well as turn it into a media circus.


There was a brown-haired middle-aged woman, sitting behind the bench in the courtroom and reading over some notes. Judge Marsha Revel. She wore such a serious expression that one could tell she meant business. And she had very little patience for tardiness. She gave Michael a reproachful look as he was wheeled in, but didn't say anything. He may have arrived at approximately eight o'clock but she didn't want him cutting it that close.


He seemed to take it in stride, though. He nodded good morning to her and made his way over to the plaintiff's table, using his cane. He was so tired of this; he was going to be so happy when the spider bites completely healed. He sat with his lawyer and proceeded to go over the defense that was prepared. At the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of him. Martin Bashir. The British journalist happened to be nearby, at the defense table. The sight of him produced a queasy feeling in his stomach. Not because he was afraid of him, but because what Bashir had done to him after he graciously opened up to him was sickening. And if he was capable of such betrayal, there was no telling what he would do at this court hearing.


 Martin could tell that Michael had seen him, but he was avoiding his eyes, and he had a confident expression on his face. He was so sure that the judge would believe him and not Michael and the case would be dismissed. He didn't believe that he could possibly succeed in his quest, and thought his attempts were futile.


Judge Revel was about to begin the court hearing when all of a sudden, Mariann entered the courtroom and made her way over to the gallery. There was an empty chair next to Janet. She sat in that one."Greetings, Janet," she whispered.


"Good morning," Janet whispered back.


The judge, who was clearly annoyed that the court proceeding was held up, cleared her throat very loudly. Mariann nearly fell out of her chair. The court room became silent, and then the judge proceeded to make her opening statement.


"Sorry for the late start, everyone. We will begin this court hearing as scheduled."


Mariann was relieved that she didn't miss anything. She would be forever grateful to her boss for this.  


"Today we have a case involving pop singer Mr. Michael Joseph Jackson and Mr. Martin Bashir. Mr. Jackson has filed a law suit against Mr. Bashir, accusing him of slander, breach of contract and defamation of character. He is represented by his civil lawyer from the '93 child molestation case, Carl Douglas. Mr. Douglas, any opening remarks?"


"I intend to put Mr. Jackson on the stand and he will tell you his side of the story, about the agreement as he recalls it. Also, with your permission I will show the documentary, and you will see that there was deceit involved, your honor."


"And Mr. Bashir, you will have your chance to testify at the appropriate time. There will be order in this court at all times, is that understood?"


"Yes, your honor," answered the journalist.


"Good." The judge turned to Michael's lawyer. "You may proceed."



At this very minute, the media was giving their commentary on the case. They were reporters who consented to having the journalists who were attending the hearing fill them in on how it was going.


"Good morning, I'm AJ Hammer here with Brooke Anderson. Today is the court hearing for the law suit Michael Jackson filed against Martin Bashir. This edition of Showbiz Tonight will be covering it, at the beginning of the hour. We will also be joined by Jane Velez-Mitchell, live from the courthouse. "


There was a split screen, with Jane Velez-Mitchell standing in front of the courthouse, holding a microphone. "Good morning, AJ."


"Good morning, Jane. Tell us, what has happened so far?"


"Well, Michael Jackson had just barely made it on time, which didn't put him on the judge's good side. Also, several of his family members and celebrity friends are present. "


The bit about Michael barely making it to court on time didn't particularly surprise AJ because he saw him as somewhat eccentric. He didn't even expect him to make it to court as soon as he did. "What is going on now?"


"Jackson is giving his testimony as we speak. I can tell that he and his lawyer worked very hard on this defense. Surprisingly, he is composed, lucid and articulate before the judge."


That was very surprising to Brooke and AJ, considering that they always saw him as unstable. They thought maybe he had changed. Either that or it was a façade. "How did he appear, health wise?"


"He arrived at court in a wheelchair and is using a cane. It is obvious that these turn of events have taken a toll on his health, but whatever ailment he is suffering from has not been disclosed."


One could only speculate about the pop star's health issues since he rarely spoke of them openly. "Well, Jane, it is interesting to see how this will play out. Thank you for your time."


"The pleasure is mine. Thank you for inviting me."


(back at the court house)


It was a long, grueling, strenuous day at court, with testimonies and evidence examining, but it was finally coming to an end. Michael had told the story from the beginning, of how he ended up doing this documentary and related the journalist's injustices. Martin, in turn, had refused to give straight answers to the questions he was asked as a result of his attorney's objections. He was forced to answer them though, after the video tape was shown.


Michael knew that he had told the truth, but he was still unsure whether the judge would believe him or Martin. But the evidence lay in the video tapes that were shown, so it would be unfair of the judge to accuse him of lying, or dismiss the case altogether.


There was a long silence in the courtroom. Mariann looked nervous as she and everyone else waited for the judge's decision.


"After examining the evidence, I have found that there has indeed been a breach of contract and defamation. "

Mariann let out the deep breath she was holding in. She was so relieved, she thought she would have had to have been dragged out of that courtroom. She brushed a long strand of hair back from her face. She glanced at Janet, who also looked slightly less tense. Most of the journalists' jaws dropped. They had wanted to boost their ratings on this event, and now their chances of doing that were ruined.


Judge Revel continued, "However, this case is not worth going to trial, so there will be an out of court settlement of two hundred thousand dollars, which Mr. Bashir is to pay."


That sounded very good to Michael because he didn't want to go to trial in the first place. And he knew just what he would do with the money he won from this law suit. Martin was in shock. He was so sure that he would win this civil case. He could not believe that the singer had outsmarted him. His confident facial expression was replaced with one of fury. His face was as white as snow.


"If you do not pay the money, I will issue a bench warrant. Is that understood?"


"Yes, your honor."


"Good. Court dismissed."






Chapter End Notes:

I had placed this fic on permanent hiatus as I had lost the inspiration for it, but after more than 2 years, it is starting to come back. Not to worry, I will continue. Until then, I hope you guys enjoy what I put up so far. Please tell me what you think. ^^

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