"The girls were on their best behavior, " Felicia reported to Frankie and Cass as soon as they arrived home. "Charlie must have watched the Ladykiller video ten times before she went to bed. She plopped Lori Ann in front of the screen and told her, "That's your other Mommy and Daddy." I know it's silly, but I think Lori Ann understood. Or maybe she was just entranced by the colors. I'd forgotten how... colorful it was."
"Are you alright?" Frankie asked cautiously. "Seeing Jenna..."
"I thought it would upset me," Felicia confessed. "But she was beautiful, and young and full of life. And so obviously in love with Dean."
"Even if she didn't know it yet," Cass joked.
"It actually made me happy to see it." She told Frankie, "I know that video shoot didn't end too well for you...."
Frankie just smiled, noncommittal, and dismissed, "Water under the bridge. The present is what's important. We have to look forward, not behind."
"It is nice to reminisce, though, isn't it?" Felicia sighed. "Once in a while."
"As long as you don't get trapped in the past," Frankie agreed.
"That's what I did. When I thought Lucas was dead. Alcohol helped me stay in the past. Or, at the very least, it helped me to avoid the present."
"This isn't over yet," Cass swore. "The situation with Lucas, it isn't over."
"I'm trying to remain optimistic. It isn't easy." Felicia forced herself to buck up. "But, at least I have one bright future to look forward to. Lori Ann growing up in this family. She's a very lucky girl. If Jenna and Dean can't.... I am so glad she has the two of you."
They were in the kitchen, Jamie the one making French Toast this time, Lorna at the table, watching him with a thoughtful look on her face.
Finally, she announced, "By my calculations, you are about 20,000 orgasms behind."
He nearly dropped the bowl he was mixing the eggs and milk in. "I beg your pardon?"
"An average of four orgasms a week, fifty-two weeks a year, ten years, that's 20,000, give or take a dozen either way."
"You actually did the math?"
"I wanted to know what we were up against."
"Okay, I'll bite: Why?"
"So we can start making up for lost time, of course."
"20,000 orgasms?" Jamie double-checked. "In one weekend?"
She grabbed the sash of Jamie's bathrobe, yanking him closer, smiling. "If we do it right..."
"You know," Marley rolled off Grant, flopping back on the bed and addressing the ether rather than the man actually lying next to her. "You might be worth putting up with for a while, if only for the mind-boggling sex."
"You are not the first woman to come to that conclusion," he deadpanned, prompting Marley to guffaw. "But, if I may be so bold: I believe you and I have a great deal more going for us than that. We could be quite good together out of bed, as well as in."
"Give me a break. We can barely exchange the minimum pleasantries without it turning into an all-out brawl."
"You say that as if it were a bad thing." He observed, "Passion is passion, Marley, no matter how it might choose to express itself."
"You mean you actually enjoy fighting with me?"
"I enjoy everything about you. In my opinion, you are the perfect co-pilot with whom to navigate the harrowing adventures of life."
"I see myself more as the kamikaze wing woman happy to steer you into a mountain."
"Que sera, sera. I still bet it will be a hell of a ride."
Marley rolled over, propping her head up with one arm. "I never pegged you as a Doris Day fan."
"Sly and the Family Stone covered it, too."
"So did Alvin and the Chipmunks. What's your point?"
Grant considered, "I didn't really have one beyond... But, if you insist... Oh, I know! How about that seemingly disparate entities can turn out to have the most surprising things in common?"
She raised an eyebrow. "So, in your scenario, I'm Doris Day and you're... Alvin?"
"I prefer Sly. And you're straining the metaphor a bit, but, yes."
"You're sly, alright, Grant. Which is why it absolutely blows my mind that you think I'd even consider anything beyond a regular romp in the hay with you, after everything you did to Vicky."
"Victoria is irrelevant when it comes to you and I."
"She's the reason you're here! Fine, I'll grant you, it didn't start out that way. It started out with you simply trying to use me to get to Kirkland. And then I became a way for you to stick it to Jamie. Now, I figure I'm your chance to relive the past with Vicky. I know I don't look that much like her anymore. Except in the eyes. And the voice. In the dark, I bet you can't tell the difference."
"You're wrong," Grant said, eyes boring into Marley. "In the dark, you two sound and feel completely different. Trust me."
"You still love her," she challenged, refusing to acknowledge what Grant was telling her.
"I'll always love her. She gave me Kirkland. But beyond that, my time with Vicky is over. I don't cling to ghosts. I watched my father do that with my mother my entire life. I don't see Vicky when I look at you. And not just because of the superficial differences. When I look at you, all I see is a beautiful, kind, vulnerable, unpredictable woman who makes my life infinitely more interesting than it ever was without her."
"Nice speech," she dismissed.
"And totally off the cuff, too. No teleprompter in sight. Which means it was sincere."
"As all politicians' speeches are, I'm sure," Marley scoffed.
"I haven't been a politician for a very long time."
"You mean you haven't run for office for a very long time. There's a difference."
"You know, Marley, we can banter on like this indefinitely. We both seem to enjoy the sound of our own cleverness. But, the fact is, if you're searching for an excuse not to be with me, Victoria just doesn't cut it. On the other hand, if Jamie is the reason "
"You're the one who keeps bringing up Jamie, not me. Like you and Vicky, I know that our time is over, as well."
"So does this mean you're considering "
"Marley? Darling, are you in there?" A knock on the door was followed by a familiar, albeit totally unexpected voice.
"Is that..." Grant began.
Marley clamped a hand over Grant's mouth to quiet him, whispering, "My mother..."
Lorna waited until she and Jamie were completely spent and about to fall asleep wrapped up in each other before, without looking at him, she asked, "Does it bother you, even a little, that I've been with Matt? And Grant? And Carl?"
"Nope," Jamie replied easily, the speed of his answer suggesting that he'd been waiting for her to eventually bring up the subject. He opened his eyes and turned to face her. "The only thing that bothers me about your relationships with them is that they hurt you, each in his own way. I can't stand the thought of you being in pain. I am so sorry that you had to go through that."
"I'm not," Lorna told him honestly. "I used to be sorry, but I'm not anymore. Because everything that's happened, every crappy relationship I've ever had, every bad decision I've ever made, they've all brought me here, to you...."
"I wasn't sure if you'd ever want to see me again," Alice admitted to Spencer.
"I don't, particularly. And yet, here you are. Congratulations, by the way," he said. "I heard about Jamie."
"You tried to help him. I'll never forget that."
"I went against the interests of my own son in order to help him," he exacted. "For you."
"Yes. You did." She could hardly argue with him on that point.
"May I ask you a question?"
"Why? What was the point of all... this? Don't get me wrong, I've been betrayed before. The first, the worst time was by a woman I adored beyond all reason."
"Your wife," Alice guessed. "Ryan's mother?"
"But at least she had a point to make. She wanted to get back at me for what she'd decided was my indifference, my obsession with my work, my growing distance. Would you be so kind as to enlighten me as to what precisely I ever did to you?"
"Well, to start with," Alice said lightly, happy to be facing a question she could easily answer, if only to prick his self-righteous balloon a bit. "You only ended up on my doorstep because you intended to use me against Jamie in Grant's custody battle."
"True, yes," Spencer fumbled, unaccustomed to being challenged, especially, when just a minute earlier, he'd felt certain of having the upper hand. "But you saw through me within minutes, so I can hardly be accused of subterfuge in that regard."
She laughed, "Oh, is that how you've decided to play it?"
"Have you a better idea?" he couldn't help smiling in return. Damn, but she had that effect on him. Even when he wanted to stay angry, even when he was genuinely angry, she somehow had a way of darting right around it. Right around him.
"I confess, in the beginning, my only interest was in seeing just how far you planned to go in wooing me over to your side. You fascinated me. And you charmed me. It had been a very long time since a man had set out to deliberately charm me even if it was merely to forward his own agenda."
"Have you ever heard of a man," Spencer countered, "Who set out to charm a woman without a personal agenda?"
"You know what I meant," Alice scolded. "And you were wrong. I did have a point to prove. Not to you, and not to Rachel. To myself. That I didn't have to be the same Alice I'd always been. That I didn't have to be the perennial doormat, everybody's favorite, long-suffering victim. That, for once, I could be the one doing the using, instead of the one being used. A belated self-esteem boost, that was honestly all I intended. The last thing I ever intended, though, Spencer, please believe me, was to hurt you."
"Oh, really?" He crossed his arms. "And how exactly did you intend to pull that off, pray tell?"
"Easy," she told him the truth, because he deserved nothing less. "It never crossed my mind that you might genuinely care about me."
Spencer's chin jerked the slightest bit. The rest of him remained deathly still. His breath caught, then restarted again, quicker than before. "Please leave now," he requested.
"I came to apologize."
"And now, having done so, you can depart with a light heart." Spencer opened the door, and gestured for her to walk through it. After a moment of hesitation, she finally did. "You wanted to know what it was like here, among those of us living on the wrong side of the Golden Rule? This, Alice, is what it's like." Spencer slammed the door in her face.
Cass and Frankie spent the night warily circling each other as if, like matter and anti-matter, them occupying the same space at the same time could lead to the destruction of all life as they knew it. Which, in point of fact, was exactly what they were both afraid might happen.
Finally, after a tense breakfast with Charlie during which Cass and Frankie practically tripped over themselves giving her permission to go to the Corys for the day so she, Kirkland and Jasmine could go riding again, Cass begged his wife, "Tell me what you're thinking. Please."
"I don't know what I'm thinking," Frankie confessed. "You killed a woman, Cass. What do you suggest I think about that?"
"It was an accident," he insisted.
"Was letting first Jamie, then Lucas take the fall for you an accident, too?"
"I tried to help Jamie. I intend to do everything in my power to defend Lucas. And, in my defense, Frankie, who asked either one of them to plead guilty? The evidence against them both was circumstantial. If he hadn't fired me, I could have gotten Jamie acquitted. Then none of this would have happened with Lucas."
"So now it's Jamie's fault?" Frankie asked, incredulous.
"It's Cecile's fault. It has always been Cecile's fault. We are all her victims."
"Felicia just got Lucas back."
"I just got you back." Cass pleaded, "Try to understand, Frankie. I was never, ever, ever going to live without you again. Charlie was never going to live without you again. That simply was no longer an option. I had to do whatever it took to protect you. To protect us. Cecile threatened our family. She threatened our children."
"Cecile had a child, too."
"A child she conned me into thinking was mine. She broke my heart and Maggie's without so much as a moment's hesitation. For what? For money. For kicks. To piss you off. The woman was pathological."
"And now she's made you the same."
"No!" Cass swore. "Cecile enjoyed making other people suffer. I merely took matters into my own hands in order to keep my family safe."
"Just because you're not drawing any joy from what Felicia, Lucas and Lorna are going through now, doesn't make this situation acceptable. You still caused it, whether you meant to or not."
"And I'll fix it," Cass said. "I have an idea. Please, Frankie, just hear me out."
It wasn't until later that Jamie thought to ask, "They weren't all crappy though, were they? I mean, you've been with some good guys in your past, you would have had to, law of averages and all that..."
Lorna laughed, "The fact that you believe that is the biggest indicator you haven't been out there dating for the last decade."
"Guilty," Jamie admitted.
"Sure," she admitted. "There were some nice guys. Victor. Kevin Anderson. He was a nice guy. Until he shot Carl, that is."
"Don't see why that should disqualify him."
"And there was Gabe...."
"You've mentioned him before. He died, didn't he?"
"Yeah. He was a good guy, and he died. Shot in the line of duty."
"Do you think you and he would have worked out long-term?"
"I don't know," she came clean. "Gabe had a wife and a son. Sarah, Sam. They died in a fire when Sam was a couple years old. They'd always have a hold on him. Sarah was the love of his life. Gabe made no secret about that. If he could snap his fingers if he could do anything to get them back again, he would. Maybe I could have learned to live with that. Maybe I couldn't have. It's not easy to share a man with ghosts."
"We've all got ghosts." Jamie reminded, "Or demons."
"Except that Gabe clung to his. That's why Cindy was able to worm so completely into his life. Even when he found out she was responsible for Sarah and Sam's deaths, he couldn't quite let her go. She was his last connection to them. You're different. You let me help you exorcise your demons. You allowed me to help you let go."
Gregory's father was waiting for them at the emergency room doors when the ambulance pulled in. As soon as the paramedics had arrived and taken over CPR from Steven and Sarah, Steven had thought to call John and let him know they were coming.
Allie hadn't thought to do anything. She'd barely been able to make the 911 call, temporarily forgetting the address of the university, needing Steven to shout it at her.
Gregory had started breathing again in the ambulance "Nice job, kids," the head medic complimented but he never regained consciousness. And he had another seizure.
A whole team of doctors swept him away as soon as they arrived at the hospital, leaving Allie just standing there, unsure of what to do. It was Sarah who suggested they go to the waiting area right outside of ICU. And it was Sarah and Steven who sat with Allie, even though she didn't ask them to.
Gregory's mom arrived about a half-hour later. Sweeping by the three of them with only a quick, furious look at Allie, Sharlene pushed her way into the treatment area.
Allie, Sarah and Steven sat there for hours, saying nothing. Nothing of consequence, anyway. Steven offered to call his dad and see if Jamie could get them some answers, but Allie just shook her head. Sarah took Allie's hand, patting it ineffectually. As soon as Allie realized what she was doing, she jerked it away.
Steven asked if Allie wanted him to call Amanda. She turned that proposal down, too.
It wasn't until the next morning that an exhausted looking Sharlene finally came out and, voice dull, told Allie, "Gregory is awake. And he's asking to see you."
Allie looked up, blinking. "No," she said slowly. "No... I I can't. No. Please, don't make me. I can't."
"That's it," Lorna sat up in bed to watch the sunrise. "Reprieve over. Time to get back to the real world. No more getting lost in you."
"It's funny you say that," Jamie observed, pulling her back down towards him. "I feel like I've just been found." He laughed at the sight of Lorna wrinkling her nose. "Too corny?"
"Way too corny," she agreed. "But vintage you."
"I'll confess to killing Cecile," Cass promised Frankie. "I'll lay it all out, make it clear that Lucas only came in after the fact. That will still make him an accessory, but it's not a murder charge, he should be able to get a deal, maybe even one with no jail time. I'll take responsibility for everything."
Frankie studied her husband for a long beat. And then she said softly, "I knew that I could count on you to do the right thing."
"Thank you," Cass whispered. "That means everything to me. You mean everything to me."
Decision made, Frankie launched into action mode, efficiently making a list. "I'll call a sitter for Lori Ann, and we can both go down to the station. I'll stick by you, Cass. I'll be with you every step of the way, you can count on me."
"I want that. I want that more than anything. I need you, Frankie."
"You've got me," she reassured.
"Cecile tried to steal our lives from us. We can't let her win."
Frankie hesitated, the efficient certainty of just a moment earlier gone. "I don't understand."
"Cecile wanted to drive us apart."
"She won't. You have my word."
As if Frankie hadn't spoken, Cass went on, "That's why we have to leave. Get as far away from here as possible. We'll take the girls, we'll empty out our bank accounts, and we'll just take off. There won't be any opportunity for good-bys. I am sorry about that, but it can't be helped. Once we're settled, I'll contact Hamilton, give him my confession, make sure that Lucas is cleared and he and Felicia can be together again. Just like us."
"It's the only way. Going on the run, Frankie, is the only way you and I can stay together."
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