Dean told Jenna, "You aren't being fair."
He leaned over his wife's hospital bed and, despite knowing how selfish it sounded, especially under the circumstances, offered the one argument he felt had any chance at all of convincing Jenna to save her own life.
Dean said, "My dad tried to be a good dad after my mom died. Well, he said he was trying. I didn't really see it, myself. Unless he thought teaching me to duck motel room bills was a form of home schooling. Social Services certainly didn't think so. He dragged me around from place to place, and when he got tired of that, he dumped me on whichever relative wasn't quick enough to shut the front door first. I was eleven years old and it was a sucky way to grow up. No way am I doing that to any kid of mine. I'm scared, Jenna. I am so damn scared that if something happens to you and I'm left to raise Lori Ann on my own, I'll screw it up. I'll turn into Henry Frame. If you don't have the surgery... If you... I won't be able to handle it. I'm telling you that right now, I won't. If you die, I die, okay? You're not just playing with your life here; you're playing with all three of ours. You aren't being fair, Jenna."
Rachel climbed into the driver's seat of her car and told Spencer Harrison, "Go away."
Grant's father smiled, not at all offended. "Are you certain you wouldn't like to hear what I have to say?"
"What could you possibly have to tell me about my husband that I don't already know?"
Spencer sighed, as if deeply, personally grieved by Rachel's lack of inquisitiveness. He began, in the manner of a kindly grandfather reciting a well-loved bedtime story, "There is a compound in the wilds of Canada. All sorts of people use it for all sorts of nefarious purposes. But only one person knows exactly who, when, how long for... and why."
She didn't want to respond to him. She wanted to stare straight ahead, hands on the wheel, foot on the pedal. But Rachel couldn't help it. She turned to look at Spencer. "You?"
He shrugged innocently.
"What do you want from me?"
"A fair exchange, no more, no less. I give you all the information there is to know about Felicia, Jenna and Dean's unfortunate incarceration - "
"Why should I believe you? It's not like you don't have an axe to grind with Carl."
"Ah, yes, dear Justine... Who knew two men as different as Carl and I would both have such atrocious taste in women?"
"I was thinking about Ryan," Rachel said. She was also thinking that Carl and his longtime rival weren't really all that different.
Spencer's face darkened at the memory of the son Carl had fathered and Spencer raised - albeit not very well.
Rachel had to admit, it pleased her to finally see him rattled.
Alas, the discomfiture only lasted a minute. Spencer regained control of himself in the blink of an eye and reassured Rachel, "I give you all the information there is to know about Felicia, Jenna and Dean's unfortunate incarceration... backed up by video surveillance footage, photos, any sort of tactile proof your heart desires."
"And in exchange?"
"You get Jamie to sign custody of Kirkland over to my son."
Rachel couldn't help chuckling. "I see that Grant still runs to Daddy when the chips are down. And here I'd hoped death might have made a man of him at last."
That remark, Spencer allowed to pass without comment. He reiterated, "Quid pro quo, Rachel. Just say the word and I'll have Kevin Fowler - "
"Who?" Rachel interrupted.
"Kevin Fowler. Grant's attorney," unsure of what'd triggered the perplexed expression on Rachel's face this time, Spencer chose to continue as though she hadn't spoken, "I'll have Fowler draw up the necessary papers. Once Jamie has signed Kirkland over to Grant, you will finally have your answers about Carl."
"Hello, Frankie," Lila's greeting doubled as a sigh. She walked out of the greenhouse, closing the door behind her, and headed back to the house, not caring if Frankie decided to follow or not. "If you're looking for Cass and Charlie, they've already left."
"I know." Frankie had apparently decided to follow. Oh, lucky, lucky Lila. "I waited for them to go. I was watching."
"Yes, you are good at that, aren't you?"
"Years of practice," Frankie admitted ruefully.
"What do you want?" Lila, who'd been keeping her temper in check for much longer than she thought could fairly be asked of her, spun around, forcing Frankie to stop short. "Haven't I done enough? I withdrew gracefully from the Cass' Real Wife Sweepstakes, 2009 Edition. I told Charlie what a loving Mama you are, though, to be honest, jury is still out on that one, far as I'm concerned. I moved out of my - not to mention my little girl's - home. What in blazes could you possibly still want from me?"
Frankie grabbed Lila's arm, squeezing it tightly. "I want you to take Cass back."
"You aren't still bummed about Gregory, are you?" Sarah asked Steven when she found him in the kitchen, stabbing a plate of sunny-side up eggs as if trying to poke someone's eyes out, ala Oedipus.
Steven shook his head, then grunted something that may or may not have been, "Kirkland."
Sarah took the seat next to him. She'd found in the past that waiting to be invited only wasted valuable time. Once seated, she didn't say anything. She simply looked at Steven expectantly.
At first, he tried to ignore her. He stabbed some more eggs instead. Only when Steven realized that she had no intention of budging, and that the uncomfortable silence was just going to keep expanding unless he broke and said something, did he reluctantly explain to Sarah, "I was kind of tough on the kid last night. He just got me so mad, talking about Dad and our Mom and his real dad. Kirkland doesn't remember what it was like when Mom was married to Grant. He was just a baby. I do. I remember how crazy everybody got fighting over him. I don't want to see that again. Not just for our sakes, for his sake, too."
Sarah said, "I always wished I had a big brother growing up. Kirkland is lucky."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly how he feels this morning. Lucky."
Sarah asked, "I know computers and dirt-bikes are your thing, but what does Kirkland really like to do?"
Steven stared at her strangely, confused by the non sequitur. Heck, to be honest, confused by the girl, period.
"Well... He plays almost all the sports at school. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer. He really likes swimming, too. The only team he didn't make last year was golf, and that's because he says he never gets enough practice time. Bay City Country Club is clear across town and he can't drive yet. Everyone around here is usually too busy."
"That's a great idea!" Sarah leapt up. "I knew you were a terrific big brother." She flounced out of the room before Steven had a chance to ask her where she was going or what exactly was this great idea he'd supposedly had?
He sat there, honestly dumbfounded, wondering what he was supposed to do next. Did Sarah expect him to follow her? Follow her where? What for? What exactly were they talking about? Why did he feel like he'd just agreed to something? And how come he had no idea what that something was?
This mystified state was a very unusual one for Steven. He was accustomed to being the resident wunderkind dispensing answers. It was the only thing he was good at, the only thing he felt he could always count on. How was he supposed to come up with an answer now, if he didn't understand what the question was?
Steven's head was still spinning when Sarah blew back in, this time with Kirkland in tow. Kirk glared at his older brother from beneath bangs that could've used a trim three weeks ago and, as if doing Steven a great favor, sighed, "Okay, fine."
Steven was about to open his mouth to ask what was it that Kirk had now agreed to, when Sarah interrupted to explain, "I told Kirk about your idea to make it up to him for last night by taking all of us miniature golfing at the country club."
"I still hate you," Kirkland clarified. "But I'm going to let you give me a ride."
"Thanks," Steven snapped back instinctively, then shot Sarah a quizzical look behind Kirk's back.
She merely smiled innocently and told Kirk, "You have the best big brother. You're so lucky."
Felicia, with Lorna standing behind her, meekly knocked on the door to Jenna's room. She didn't want to intrude, and yet she just as badly wanted to be there. Besides, Jenna hadn't seen her sister yet. That was as good of a reason as any to interrupt, wasn't it? Felicia decided to pretend that it was.
Dean opened the door. He looked, if that was even possible, worse now than he had during their captivity and in the immediate aftermath. He smiled weakly at Lorna, mumbled a greeting, and stepped aside so she could come in.
Jenna welcomed her sister warmly, attempting a hug around the IVs still burrowing into the backs of both her hands like parasites. After assuring Lorna that she was all right, she was hanging in there, Jenna told them both, "Dean wants me to have the C-section right away. I'm going to go along with him."
Jenna attempted to sound upbeat, but Felicia noticed she didn't say that she agreed with getting the surgery, just that she would be acquiescing to Dean's wishes. Despite her own desire to see Jenna healthy and safe as soon as possible, Felicia couldn't imagine such a coerced compromise was a good thing in the long run. What if something happened to Lori Ann? Would Jenna end up blaming Dean?
Naturally, Felicia also realized that vocalizing her concerns would be exactly the wrong thing to do at the moment, if ever. So she kept mum and reassured Jenna, "I'm certain it's for the best. It's what the doctors recommended, after all."
And then, for a split second, Felicia wondered whether, after she seemed to be giving her blessing to the decision, might Jenna end up blaming Felicia too, if Lori Ann didn't make it?
So be it, Felicia decided. She'd deal with the consequences, if it meant getting Jenna out of danger sooner rather than later.
Dean cleared his throat. "I... uhm... I'm going to go now and tell Jamie what we decided." He emphasized the pronoun, as if daring Jenna to disagree. Or begging her to confirm.
She merely nodded weakly, and waited before Dean was out the door before confiding to Felicia and Lorna, "I'm doing this for him. Having the surgery right away. Dean is so afraid of something happening to me... more afraid than of the baby... of her not... "
"You made the right choice," Lorna said firmly, apparently not sharing Felicia's fear of being blamed in the event of a less than happy ending.
"But she's still so small." Jenna's eyes filled with tears. "So many things could go wrong."
"And if they do, you'll be right there to help her through them. You and Dean both. Come on, Jenna, we both know what it's like not to have a mom or a dad around when you're growing up. You're not taking something away from Lori Ann, you're giving her something. You're giving her two living parents who love her. There's nothing more important than that."
Now it was Felicia's turn to tear up. Sometimes, entire days could go by when she didn't find herself dwelling on Lorna's loveless childhood. But whenever she remembered, it was like being stabbed in the heart all over again.
Felicia told Jenna, "Lorna is right. You are going to be such an amazing mother. You wouldn't want to deprive Lori Ann of that."
"But what if she ends up having problems for the rest of her life? The papers they gave us to sign, they list all these potential complications and... It will all be my fault."
"She'll understand." Felicia had no idea where Lorna's certainty was coming from, but she listened in awe as one of her daughters lectured the other, "You'll make her understand that what you and Dean did, you did for the good of your entire family. That's what family is, sucking it up and doing things in someone else's best interests, not just yours."
"But what if we made the wrong decision?"
"Then she'll forgive you. Because that's what family is, too."
Felicia started. "Oh my. Lorna, when you said that right now, you sounded... you sounded just like our Luke. The tone, the inflection, the words. It's as if he was right here in the room with us. Goodness, you gave me goose bumps. Look at this, I'm shaking."
Lorna ducked her eyes from the arm her mother stretched forward to demonstrate and deflected, "Guess there's something to the ol' nature versus nurture argument."
Felicia reassured Jenna, "It's a sign. A sign if I've ever seen one. Luke is watching over us. He'll make sure everything is okay. With you and with Lori Ann. He'll be your guardian angel."
"I'm so scared," Jenna admitted. "Right now, I can feel her. She's moving and she's... happy. Does that sound stupid? Me thinking I can feel that an unborn baby is happy."
"Not at all," Felicia reassured. "She knows she's loved. Why shouldn't she be happy?"
"She trusts me. She trusts that I'm going to take care of her."
"You are taking care of her," Lorna reiterated. "You're making a tough choice, because you know it'll be for the best down the line. You're proving how much you love her. Even if it doesn't feel that way right now."
"Now Spencer is involved?" Jamie flopped back in his office chair, staring up at Rachel, the bearer of his latest bad news, and wondering if this day and its revelations would ever end. "He's using Kirkland as a bargaining chip?"
"Technically," Rachel took a seat across from Jamie. "I believe Carl is the bargaining chip. Kirkland is the ultimate prize."
"Poor kid," Jamie mused, feeling sorry for his son because it sure beat feeling sorry for himself. He asked his mother, "Do you believe that Spencer actually has any useful information on Carl?"
Rachel hesitated. "He mentioned... something... that, yes, did convince me he's privy to at least one missing piece of the puzzle."
"You're asking me to give up my son to save your marriage?"
"Absolutely not," Rachel swore. "I'm simply telling you what's going on. I didn't see any benefit in keeping Spencer's offer - "
"Blackmail, is more like it."
"Keeping it a secret. Primarily because I can't recall one single secret that anyone in this family has ever held that didn't come back to bite us in the end."
"Like lying about Russ Matthews being my father?"
That certainly got Rachel's attention. "My God, Jamie, where did that come from?"
"I've been thinking about it," he admitted. "Parenthood is such an ephemeral thing, isn't it? Contingent on a word here, a lab test there... "
"I'm not proud of my actions where Russ was concerned. But that was a lifetime ago. I like to think I've learned something since then."
"Russ was a good father to me, wasn't he?"
"He was. He loved you. Matthews men take their responsibilities very seriously."
"And Steve, he had Alice and a whole other life..." Jamie wondered, "Back when you spilled the beans about Steve and me, you didn't do it for my sake - I already had a perfectly good father. And you certainly didn't do it for his. You did it for your sake. Because it was the only way you could think of to keep Steve tied to you."
"Yes." While Rachel didn't understand where Jamie was going with this trail of thought, she had gone through too much soul-searching about that period in her life to deny its blanket ugliness to anyone.
"Is that what I'm doing with Kirkland? Am I holding on to him because I want to be the only one he calls Dad? Is it an ego thing? Am I doing it just so I can stick it to Grant? Am I fighting for Kirkland because it's what's best for him, or for me?"
Jamie didn't come to Rachel for advice often. She didn't blame him. Too much of his childhood had been spent watching her make mistake after mistake, bad decision after bad decision. Even as a young adult, he'd railed about her leaving Mac for Mitch, for Steve, only to return to Mac, then do something else to screw everything up. She hadn't been there for Jamie like she should have been, hadn't been the role model he so obviously craved. The fact that he was coming to her now had to mean that Jamie was desperate. And Rachel was determined not to let him down.
Choosing her words carefully, Rachel said, "You have been a wonderful father to Kirkland. And you didn't have to be. You could have handed him over to Marley and Donna along with the twins. Heck, you could have handed Steven over too, and just gone on living your carefree, single life in San Francisco. You didn't do that. You came home, and you assumed the care of two grieving little boys. You didn't do that because it was the easy thing to do. You did it because it was the right thing to do."
"We thought Grant was dead, then. And it's what Vicky wanted."
"Do you think Vicky would have wanted Grant to have anything, anything at all, to do with Kirkland?"
"No. But," Jamie reminded, "Vicky also had a tendency to make self-centered choices."
"They do say men are attracted to women like their mothers," Rachel tweaked him lightly. Then, more seriously, she insisted, "I don't think you're being selfish in wanting to keep Kirkland. I think you're looking out for his welfare. Grant is toxic. He may want love, but not only is he incapable of giving it, he's incapable of receiving it, as well. Maybe that's not his fault. Spencer certainly bears his share of the blame. Grant was nothing more than a tool for Spencer. A means to an end. Spencer manipulated and bullied and coerced Grant all of his life, until Grant couldn't tell if he was coming or going. He didn't know whether he wanted something, or whether his father had simply told him he wanted it for so long that it drove any genuine impulse Grant might have had straight out of his head."
"You sound almost sorry for him," Jamie noted.
"I am. Up to a point. Everyone has something they can wag a finger at Mommy and Daddy for. You understand that better than anybody. At a certain point though, adults have to take responsibility for their own actions. That's something Grant never learned to do. Look at what brought me here in the first place. Spencer is still trying to pull everyone's strings. Forget Grant for a moment. Do you want Spencer in your son's life? Would that be in Kirkland's best interests?"
A knock on the door kept Jamie from answering her. Dean poked his head in. He told Jamie, "Jenna and I, we decided... we want the C-section done as soon as possible."
After Frankie left, Lila took a moment to consider everything she'd said. Frankie's request had certainly been unexpected, but the logic in her argument was unquestionably sound. Too much water had passed under the bridge for Frankie and Cass to ever be together again. His responsibility - both legal and emotional - was to Lila and the family they'd created. After all, his latest marriage had thrived for over a decade. Their own union had only lasted three years (six if you counted the first, invalid vow-taking, but then there was all that Kathleen back and forth in the middle).
The redheaded zombie, Lila mused thoughtfully, had a valid point. And who was Lila to argue with a chick that claimed she chatted over organic tea and naturally-sweetened cookies with the universe? If the universe insisted Cass and Lila belonged together, maybe the universe was on to something.
Making her decision, Lila reached for the phone, dialing her husband's work number from memory.
"Cass, darling," she purred.
At the offices of Winthrop and Montgomery, Cass listened closely, his jaw dropping with Lila's every word. At the end of their call, he hung up and instantly dialed Frankie's cell phone, the number for which he'd pried out of Charlie.
"Frankie," Cass said. "I need to see you right away. Can you come by the house in about an hour? Things have changed."
"You're holding that all wrong," Steven said with a stern shake of his head, stepping behind Sarah and reaching around to guide her hands into proper position on the golf club. "Here, let me show you."
Sarah giggled, throwing a coy look over her shoulder at Steven, which caused his grin to broaden.... And Kirkland's breakfast to rise in his throat.
"Best big brother, my ass," he muttered as he left the pair behind and moved on to the next hole of the miniature golf course.
He should've known better. Steven's invite via Sarah for some 'bro time' had been nothing more than his 'bro's' Type A multi-tasking attempt to kill two birds with one stone. Impress a girl and 'apologize' to Kirkland for Steven's little hissy fit last night.
"Typical Steven," Kirkland sighed as he lined up his golf ball and tried to get into rhythm for his next shot, a tease right between the chomping teeth of a giant Gorilla's head. He brought his golf club back, counting in time to the rise and fall of the gorilla's teeth -
"There you are!"
And stuttered his swing.
Kirkland's golf ball popped forward, ricocheting off the Gorilla's eye.
"Thank you so, so much," he gritted at a blushing Sarah and sheepish Steven.
"Sorry," Sarah held both palms helplessly up in the air. "It's just that you were there, and then you weren't."
"Yeah, well I have better things to do than watch my brother give you a hands-on golf lesson."
"Kirk," Steven snapped, before suddenly cutting himself off. Kirkland noticed Sarah pulling on Steven's arm in warning. Steven said, "Look, I'm sorry, okay? From now on, you have my complete attention."
"Whatever," Kirkland huffed, trying for the Gorilla's head a second time, only to be foiled by the lowering of its upper jaw.
"You're too tense," called a familiar voice. Kirkland turned his glare in its direction and found Grant watching him with narrowed eyes, a cigar in one hand, a golf club in the other, decked out in yet another outrageous ensemble that Kirkland somehow recognized as being pure Grant.
"Shake it out and try again," Grant puffed his cigar. "Go on," he nodded when Kirk hesitated. Kirkland threw a quick glance at Steven and Sarah, frowning as they whispered back and forth to each other, then turned back defiantly toward his last golf ball and rolled his neck. Let 'em whisper.
A tap later, Kirk's golf ball sailed through the gap in the Gorilla's teeth, sputtering into the hole with a solid thud.
"Hole in one!" Sarah cheered, Steven joining her with a slow golf clap.
"Nice swing," Grant nodded proudly as Kirkland approached him, noting Sarah and Steven once again whispering.
"Could be better," Kirkland muttered.
"Could be," Grant conceded. "But you only need a few minor adjustments. Which I'm sure you'll pick up in no time."
"Hello, Mr. Harrison," Steven butted in and offered his hand to Grant. "It's nice to see you again."
Both Grant and Kirkland turned to Steven, wearing matching incredulous looks, momentarily shocked speechless by the lack of sarcasm in Vicky's oldest son's voice.
"Nice to see you as well, Steven," Grant replied slowly. "And it's Grant. I was your step-father, after all."
"Right," Steven smiled tightly. "Okay, Grant." He quickly turned to Sarah. "This is - "
"Sarah Matthews-Wheeler," Grant finished with a winning smile and nod. "Allie's friend. I remember when Amanda would take Allie to visit you in California. We even flew out together once. Charmed."
"As am I, Senator Harrison," Sarah bubbled brightly. "Or is that Mayor Harrison?"
"Just Private Citizen these days." Grant couldn't help glowing back. The girl certainly had that effect on people. "I'm impressed, Ms. Wheeler. And flattered. You know your Bay City history."
"It's kind of a hobby of mine. I've always thought of Bay City as home, even though this is my first time here. History, I'm good at. Sports is another thing altogether. I'm afraid I've been monopolizing Steven's time today when he really should be helping Kirkland."
"I don't need his kind of help," Kirkland muttered, drawing a silent, inquisitive gaze from Grant.
"Well, not when you have a great golfer like Senator - sorry, Mr. - Harrison at your disposal!" Sarah buttered up Grant, "You did wonders with Kirkland in a few short minutes, just imagine what you could accomplish in a morning."
Kirkland shook his head. "Grant's got his own stuff to do. He doesn't need me -"
"I'd love to," Grant cut his son off firmly.
"Really? We don't want to impose," Sarah added innocently.
"It's no problem at all," Grant smiled knowingly at Sarah before turning to Kirkland. " I would relish the opportunity."
"See?" She turned to Steven. " I told you, you didn't have to whisper. Your idea was a good one."
"Your idea?" Kirkland turned to Steven suspiciously. "Yeah, sure. Right."
Steven mused, "I thought you might want to spend some time with your dad."
Kirkland blinked, caught between skepticism and surprise at the sincerity and, dare he say it, apology he saw in Steven's eyes.
Sure, this could just be Steven's way of dumping his little bro so Steven could spend some uninterrupted time with Sarah. But Kirkland knew his brother. And he knew that expression on his face. It was a patented Steven Frame 'I'm serious!' look. He really was trying to do something nice by sending Kirk off with Grant.
Beside, Kirkland was sick of being suspicious and second-guessing everything and of being angry. It was too damned taxing. And bad for his golf game.
"Okay," he finally relented. "If you're sure."
"Go have a good time," Steven was really working the 'I'm serious!' face. Kirkland felt himself smile, relieved to have his brother's approval.
And just like that, the previous night's rift was over.
While Jamie walked back to Jenna's room with Dean so they could work out the final details of the procedure, Rachel went looking for Felicia to offer her support.
Rachel's friend wasn't in the waiting area. However, Rachel's daughter was.
"Mom!" Amanda looked up in surprise from the magazine she was reading. "What are you doing back? I told you I'd keep an eye on things here. Did you find Carl?"
"In a manner of speaking," Rachel figured that story could wait for another time. "I'm actually glad I ran into you, darling."
"What's going on?"
"That's what I'd be interested to know." Rachel said, "Question is, would you be interested in telling me why your new middle-of-the-night chauffeur friend also happens to be Grant Harrison's attorney?"
"What's going on?" Frankie unknowingly echoed Amanda's query as she stepped through Cass' doorway.
He was standing in front of her, wearing a beige, three piece suit, and holding a black garment bag over one shoulder.
Cass said, "I packed my summer suit."
"Oh... kay..." Frankie replied. "What for?"
"It's been very warm this week."
"You called me over for a weather report?"
"Lila phoned me."
"Oh," Frankie said. Then, guessing what he was about to tell her, hurried to say, "I see. And don't worry, I totally understand. She's reconsidered leaving you. I don't blame her. She probably just acted in the heat of the moment, but now that she's had some time to think about it, she's realized that you two belong together. Thanks for letting me know, Cass. I appreciate it, I really do."
"Actually," for some reason Cass had yet to let go of the garment bag. He kept walking around with it, resulting in a hushed swish to counterpoint his explanation. "Her exact words were: Tell Mary Frances and her chatterbox universe to quit it with the hard sell. I'm no Indian giver. Would both you knuckleheads just reunite already and save the rest of us from having to hear you go on and on and on about it?"
"She said that?"
"Now that I think about it, she may have said boneheads. But other than that, it's a direct quote."
"I went over to talk to her."
"So I gathered. Apparently I'm a bag of marbles that women can just trade back and forth amongst themselves."
"She didn't want what I was selling."
"I gathered that, too." Cass sighed. "What is going on here? I understand you not wanting to come back to me. Well, I don't technically understand it, what with me being the love of your life and all - "
"Watch it, Winthrop."
"But I understand that you have officially expressed such a sentiment and thus feel obligated to stick with it. What I don't understand is why drag Lila into it? It's one thing not to want me. It's another to try and talk Lila into taking me back."
"I owe it to her. I'm the reason she left in the first place."
"And you're the reason she's staying away. Do you believe me now? Did your conversation with Lila help convince you that she and I are over due to her own freely-made choice? You have nothing to feel guilty about."
"Fine. Consider me cured of any and all misconceptions."
"You already said that."
"You have a habit of not listening the first time."
Cass indicated the bag on his shoulder. "Does this remind you of anything?"
"You just picked up your dry-cleaning?"
"How about this?" Cass dropped the bag on the floor, crossed the distance between them in three brisk steps and swept Frankie into a kiss. This time, just like the last, she didn't resist. It was almost as if her body hadn't been briefed on the message her words were stubbornly and insistently dispensing.
Only after they'd separated, their lips still inches apart, did Cass ask, "Sure I haven't rung any bells?"
She pushed herself away and lied, "Positive."
"Did you think I meant metaphorically?" Cass inquired. "Because literally works too."
"Positive," she reiterated, practically biting the word in half.
"So you don't remember... eighteen years ago... my coming over to pick up my things? Us talking... me dropping the bag... kissing you... things heating up... us moving into the bedroom..."
"Eighteen years is a long time, Winthrop. It's too long."
"You're right." Cass nodded firmly. "I wholeheartedly agree. Which is why I have personally taken a vow to, if need be, recreate every memory we ever made until they're all fresh as daisies. Until you remember each moment we ever shared together. Until even you can't bring to mind why you ever considered closing the door on our making any more."
"Please don't," Frankie told him. Unlike last time, when his assault had caught her by surprise, she'd had time to prepare and, as a result, didn't need to beg, managing to remain firm and in control.
"I have a theory," Cass went on as if Frankie hadn't spoken. "You said it yourself, someone went to great lengths to destroy your memories. Way I see it, the only possible reason for you to be so resistant to the idea of us reuniting is because you simply do not remember how fantastic we were together."
"And yet, I remember your arrogance. That part no drug could wipe away."
"I'm not going to give up, Frankie. Today it's us making love after I thought I'd come over to pick up my things, tomorrow maybe our wedding in Venice - do you think the Parks and Rec Department would let me dig a canal?"
"The day after that - don't interrupt, divine inspiration mustn't be stymied - our first kiss in the park. I considered going chronologically, but that would remove the element of surprise. I've got to keep you on your toes. It's my gateway to your other body parts."
"It won't do any good, Cass."
"Because," she struggled to make herself understood. "I just don't... I don't feel the same way about you anymore. Our time has passed. There are no new memories to be made."
"Then you shouldn't have any objections to me recreating the old ones."
"I do object."
"Because you still have feelings for me!" Cass drove the point home in his best legal-eagle manner, complete with finger-pointing flourish.
"No!" Frankie could flourish, too. "Because it annoys me. You're like a... gnat."
"Odd." He considered the implication. "I've always seen myself more as a love-bug."
"Stop it," Frankie said. "You're making a fool of yourself."
"I know." His grin stretched ear to ear. "That's my intention. The Cass Winthrop you fell in love with made a fool of himself over you. And the Mary Frances Frame that I loved could never back down from a dare."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"I," Cass moved closer, smiling flirtatiously. "Dare you."
"To do what?"
"To prove that you really and truly and honestly and sincerely don't love me anymore."
"I just spent the morning convincing your wife to take you back. That wasn't an adequate clue the party's over?"
"Not even close." He teased, "If you really don't love me anymore, then you shouldn't be threatened in the slightest by my reliving all of our greatest moments together."
"I'm not. Not all. I'm not," Frankie insisted, even as she surreptitiously took steps away from Cass, seeking a quick escape.
He kept advancing, undeterred, still teasing, but also deadly serious. "Then prove it. Stroll down memory lane with me, and then tell me you still don't feel a thing. I dare you, Mary Frances. I double-dare you."
"He looked so... happy," Steven stared in the wake of Kirkland and Grant's disappearing backs across the miniature-golf green.
"He did," Sarah agreed. "And you know who made him so happy?"
Steven made a face. "Grant...."
"No, you big dope!" She swatted him with one hand, forcing Steven to turn around and look at her. "It was you. Sure, Kirk was happy to see his dad. But he was even happier to have you be on his side for once. All the kid wants is your approval. He's desperate for it, anyone can see. Having you support his hanging out with Grant made his day. Heck, it probably made his year."
"Yeah. Except who's he going to blame when everything goes sour with Grant and with Dad and... hell, what was I thinking? This is only going to make the situation worse."
"It won't," Sarah reassured. "Before, Kirk felt like he was all alone. He couldn't talk to Jamie about Grant and he couldn't talk to Grant about Jamie. He had to keep his feelings all bottled up inside. That's what was making him so grouchy."
"Well, that and being fifteen."
"Now he knows he's got an ally. He's got a big brother who'll back him up and not judge him. And if problems do come up, he'll come to you with them, instead of doing something stupid and fifteen-ish. Wouldn't you rather he come to you than act out?"
To be honest, given a choice, Steven would rather the whole situation just disappeared. Being supportive and reassuring was not what he did best, or even well, and, odds were good, if Kirkland really did come to him with something important, Steven would probably screw it up.
At least, that's how he usually felt.
Now, however, gazing at it from the perspective of Sarah's unfettered enthusiasm, Steven suddenly felt, damn right, he was a good big brother. He could help Kirkland through this. He did do the right thing this afternoon,
Steven told Sarah. "You really know how to look on the bright side of things, don't you?"
"Sunnyside Up Sarah, that's what they call me," she chirped.
"Thanks," Steven said and, spontaneously, leaned in to give her a quick kiss.
"You're welcome," Sarah said innocently. And responded with a kiss of her own. One that was only a split second longer than Steven's had been. Leaving him to wonder whether it meant anything.
Leaving Sarah confident that it most certainly did.
Matt offered to drive Donna home from the precinct. He had to admit, he felt most surprised when she agreed. Not that Matt didn't want to do it, but considering the manner in which she'd been pushing him away lately, he hadn't expected her to feel much like having him around, especially when she was obviously in such a vulnerable state.
Donna didn't say a word during their entire ride back to the Love mansion, and once they got inside, she began shaking uncontrollably. Matt suggested getting her some tea, but she shook her head and said a drink would be more appropriate under the circumstances.
"Brandy?" Matt asked.
"Scotch," Donna said.
He did as she asked, handing Donna a crystal tumbler and sitting silently beside her on the couch until she'd taken a few sips, struggling to regain control of herself. She downed the whole thing and asked Matt for another. When he handed her the second portion, Donna needed to swallow it all as well, before she could ask Matt, "Why are you so good to me?"
"Because," he said. "You've had a rough time. I just want to help."
"Not merely today, Matthew. Always. Why are you so damn good to me?"
He shrugged and, this time, took the seat opposite her, so he could look Donna in the eye. "I believe the word love may have been floated once or twice. And I don't mean your last name. Though that is kind of cute, I admit."
"Matthew, I told you... I can't... I won't... You and I... "
"I know what you told me," he said simply. "You don't feel the same way about me. I get that. But see, here's the thing. You only get to decide how you feel about me. You don't get to decide how I feel about you. So, you know, nyahh, nyahh."
Donna couldn't help cracking the weakest of smiles at that. "You are so young..."
"Yeah, yeah. Everybody knows that's your default insult where I'm concerned. Couldn't we mix it up a bit? Just once? How about you call me... short? Or... scruffy-looking?"
"You are not scruffy-looking."
"How about now?" Matt mussed his hair and turned this way and that, seeking Donna's approval.
Donna's smiled faded. She asked, "Do you think your mother will ever forgive me?"
Matt left his hair alone and shrugged. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Donna pondered his remark, then told Matt, "You are so... scruffy-looking."
He beamed at this albeit minor sign of her slowly coming back to life. "That's better."
"Unfortunately, I do give a damn. I didn't want... It wasn't supposed to... I didn't intend for matters to get so far out of hand."
"My mother knew when she married Carl that there was a perennial risk of stuff like this popping out of his past. It's not your fault."
"I tried to keep myself out of it."
"The truth is the truth. It always comes out."
"Does it?" Donna suddenly demanded, as if Matt had introduced her to a new actuality, rather than an off-the-cuff cliché.
Surprised by her vehement reaction, he could only nod and observe, "I think so. And most of the time, it would have been better if it came out right away. Save the liars the trouble of just digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole. That's what trips people up. It's not the first lie. It's all the lies they have to tell afterwards to cover up."
Donna nodded silently, digesting his words.
"Look at Carl. He's still swearing he doesn't know anything about Jenna or Gloria. It's so stupid at this point. You are certain that he's Jenna's father, right?"
Again, Donna nodded.
But she did it so hesitantly that it prompted Matt to ask, "You are sure? That's what you said."
"That what I said... "
Something about Donna's demeanor wasn't adding up. Needing to confirm, if only so he could continue defending her in front of Rachel and Carl and anyone else who might choose to attack Donna's veracity, Matt double-checked, "How can you be so certain?"
"Because," Donna's voice trembled with exhaustion, surrender, and something else that Matt couldn't quite identify. "I'm her mother."
Grant never would have used the word giddy to describe himself. Except that today, that's what he was.
To be able to spend time with his son, openly with no sneaking around, without any wary, guarded looks from Kirkland, just the two of them enjoying each other's company, doing something they both got a kick out of together; the cumulative experience filled Grant with such a joyful feeling that he couldn't resist the urge to, God and Heaven help him... giggle.
"Are you okay?" Kirkland asked, club sandwich paused in front of his mouth, the two of them now digging into an early lunch after their morning of golfing.
"Perfect," Grant leaned back in his chair, savoring a sip of his mimosa.
"Do I need to take that away?" Kirkland eyed the glass. "It seems to have given you the, now don't take this personally... giggles."
"If I happen to be giggling, which I am not, because men do not giggle, it's because I'm enjoying a day with my son. You have no idea how - "
He stopped himself, remembering Kirkland's stern warning against any kind, or so much as the appearance of emotional manipulation.
"No idea, what?" Kirkland asked between bites.
"I'm just happy we were able to spend some time together. I hope we can do more outings like this in the future."
"Me too," Kirkland smiled at him. It was his mother's smile. Grant found himself giggling again, an unquestionable, true giggle, as his manly image took another hit.
But he didn't care.
"Are you always going to be like this when we hang out?" Kirkland asked with some amusement.
"Like what?" Grant smiled sunnily at his son, erupting in another round of giggles. Maybe the champagne was getting to him.
"Like that," Kirkland groaned, eyes darting around the dining room, making sure its few inhabitants hadn't noticed the breach of male etiquette.
"I hope so. I hope I never get over enjoying being with my son."
"Can you do it without acting like a girl?" Kirkland pleaded, ducking his head as Grant downgraded himself from giggle to low chuckle.
"A little. At least now people won't be booking you a room in the psych ward."
Grant shook his head in amusement. "Have I ruined any chance of us ever getting together again by acting like a girl?"
"Not as long as it's somewhere there aren't people around you can embarrass me in front of," Kirkland muttered.
Grant reached into his pocket and pulled out his key-chain, unclipping a key.
"Then you'll probably need this," he said, holding out the offering. "It's a key to my apartment."
Kirkland looked at it warily, making no move to accept.
"This is not a ploy," Grant began before Kirkland could. "This is not my attempt to manipulate you into anything."
"Well, what is it?" Kirkland asked with just the hint of a challenge.
"This is simply my giving you a key. To use or not to use."
"I can come and go as I please? There won't be any pleas to stay over and suddenly I'm presented with a room of my very own?"
"I've had a room ready for you the moment I moved back to Bay City, Kirkland," Grant admitted. "But it is there simply as an option for you to use or - "
"Not to use," Kirkland finished, eyeing the key. "I can come over anytime?"
"Anytime," Grant nodded.
"Will I find you hatching some evil plan with your dimwitted henchmen to take over Bay City and make everyone your minion?"
"You're more likely to find me reading a book and enjoying a nice glass of wine."
"But the minion thing is still a possibility?" Kirkland pressed.
Grant met Kirkland's eyes and shook his head. "Those days are gone, son. My one and only priority is you. Think it over," Grant continued smoothly, placing the key on the table between them and leaving the next step up to Kirkland.
Later, when they headed out of the dining room upon finishing their meal, Grant simply smiled when he noticed Kirkland picking up the key and slipping it into his pocket.
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