"It's a committee!" Gregory exclaimed, not sure whether to be touched or horrified when Allie lead the entire group into his hospital room and calmly explained that not just Sarah and Steven, but GQ and Jen, too, would be helping her with his escape plans. "I... uh... I kind of wanted to keep this small and simple."
"Small and simple is an arts and crafts project," Steven announced. Now that he'd gotten over his initial apprehension and committed to this insanity, he felt rightfully deserving of the leadership position, which included any and all grandiose pronouncements. "What you've got in mind requires a crack team of brilliant individuals. And Allie," he teased his cousin who, giddy with relief that she wouldn't have to go at it alone, only shoved his shoulder playfully in return.
"A team," Gregory pointed out, "Isn't the greatest means for guarding a secret."
"This team knows how to keep our mouths shut," Sarah reassured, exchanging a quick glance with Allie as all the rest of them pondered the confidences they'd been forced to swallow over just the last year alone.
"Point taken," Gregory conceded.
"Good. 'Cause here's the plan," Steven outlined. "Jen and GQ are going to go this afternoon and rent a vacation cabin a couple of hours outside of Bay City. Even if the cops do figure out to search that far "
"Cops?" Gregory stopped him. "Why do you think "
"There'll be cops," Jen sighed. "Your parents are going to treat this like a kidnapping."
"I'm not a kid!" In his indignation, Gregory, unfortunately, sounded like nothing so much as precisely that.
"Do you doubt," Jen asked gently. "That your parents will tell the police how, in your state, you're incapable of making decisions for yourself?"
Gregory deflated. "No...."
"Okay," Steven went on. "So Jen and GQ will rent the cabin. Even if the cops do make it that far, they'll be looking for one white kid, maybe one white kid and his equally melanin-challenged girlfriend. Not a Black couple."
"What about all the medical equipment?" Allie asked, remembering the other issues Sarah had raised. "Won't they know at the nurse's desk as soon as Gregory takes it off?"
GQ said, "We can back-door our way into the main computer system, create a loop that makes it look like you're still hooked up."
"Or," Gregory indicated a switch on the far wall. "You could, you know, just turn off my particular alarm system."
Steven groaned. "You're no fun, man, you know that?"
"Can we at least tap into the security cameras?" GQ cajoled. "Just long enough for you to get off the floor?"
Gregory couldn't help observing, "You guys are actually enjoying this."
"We're geeks," Steven shrugged.
GQ agreed. "We live for this stuff. Please don't ruin it for us."
"You have no idea," Jamie gasped in between playful nips at Lorna's bare breasts as they swayed tantalizingly just out of reach above his head. "What it does to me, watching you enjoy yourself."
"Oh, I think I have some inkling," Lorna laughed, reaching for Jamie's hands and settling them firmly on her hips, the better for him to shift her precisely where and when he needed her. "And how did it become all about me again? This round was supposed to be for you, remember?"
"Trust me," he stroked her thighs, arching his back and driving up against her until Lorna shuddered in spite of herself. "I'm a very happy man right now."
"I can tell," the teasing trailed out of her voice as Lorna's fingers dug into his chest and she urged, "Don't stop, Jamie. Please don't stop."
"Never," he swore, clutching Lorna's wrists as she momentarily faltered and reassuring, "I've got you."
"You've got me." She opened her eyes to smile down at him. "And I've got you."
"Lucky us," were the last words Jamie managed to choke out before devolving into a series of rasping cries to blissfully counterpoint hers.
It wasn't until later, as she sprawled, uninhibited, beside Jamie, one of her hands still tucked harmoniously into his, that Lorna thoughtfully took stock, "So, that's one more down and.... How many orgasms left to go?"
"You know, that plan of yours, it's going to take us," Jamie discovered, once again, that he was apparently incapable of doing math in the presence of a naked woman. A good thing to know about oneself, he guessed if not particularly constructive, and settled for, "A...uhm... long time to reach that number."
"Not up for it?" Lorna asked innocently, double-entendres be damned. "Your lack of enthusiasm is disturbing."
"Okay, you quoting Star Wars? A real turn on. But "
"Oh, what now?" Lorna frowned crossly.
"I can't help but feel your own enthusiasm isn't so much about me as it is about "
"This better be good," she warned.
" Your mother."
"My mother," Lorna repeated, unsure whether to be shocked or offended. "I'm sorry, am I missing something? Do you never want to get laid again?"
"Believe me, I'm already kicking myself for even bringing her up."
"Then why did you?"
"Because, you know how you said I have The Face that I get when I'm trying to avoid dealing with something unpleasant or painful? You have a habit of throwing yourself into a new project with overwhelming gusto to accomplish the same thing."
To Jamie's credit he held Lorna's incredulous, withering stare like a champ. "You really don't want to get laid. Like, ever again."
"I very much would like to get laid by you, Lorna. Many, many, many times. We do have a quota to meet. Whatsmore, I'd like to make love to you. Again and again and again. But, semantics aside, I'd prefer it happening because you wanted me as ridiculously as I want you. And not because you were trying to run away from something." Jamie continued gently, "I realize that what Felicia said, or rather, what she implied, hurt you. But, you had no reason to take it to heart. We both know it simply isn't true."
"You just accused me of having sex with you as a distraction. If that isn't evidence of what a hardhearted, self-centered bitch I am "
"You nearly burned down Donna's house in order to avenge your sister. You faced down Carl, a man I know you're terrified of, on my behalf. Does that sound like somebody who thinks only of herself? Somebody incapable of friendship, or love?"
"I She.... She's my mother, Jamie."
"I'm familiar with the species. And the way they have of getting inside your head. The trick, I think, is to repress it. So it can come back and undermine you later on in life."
Lorna snorted. "I have enough repressed issues as it is, but thanks anyway, Dr. Frame."
"Listen to me, Lorna. I would never tell you what to do."
"Because you're a smart guy. It's one of the many reasons I love you."
"But, on this, I do think that you should forgive your mother."
"And just forget what she said to me?"
"Yes. Because she was upset. And because she didn't mean it. And because she was wrong."
"So I'm supposed to be the bigger person here?" Lorna clarified with a hint of disgust.
"It's just a suggestion. You can always revert to totally embracing your bitterness, hurt, and resentment. I'll even let you continue using me as a distraction, if that's what you want. I just don't think it'll make you happy in the long run." He clarified, "Wallowing in the pain that is, not using me as a distraction. That part is cool."
She wished she could laugh along with him. But..."This wasn't some overwhelmed slip of the tongue, Jamie. She had to have known how much it would hurt me. How do you forgive for something like that? And why should you?"
"I don't know," he told her honestly. "All I know is that my boys just forgave me for something so much more horrible, that all I can do is be grateful. And try to pay some of that thankfulness forward."
"So, you two... you two guys, you're... together now?" Kirkland fumbled, still unable to look either his father or his aunt in the eye.
"No," Marley shook her head.
"Yes," Grant nodded at the same time.
"Well, that certainly clears things up," Amanda helpfully chirped from her corner of the room, drawing resultant, scathing looks from both.
"You know, you don't need to stay," Grant, equally helpful, notified his ex-wife. "I can drive Kirkland home when he's ready."
At the sound of Grant's offer, Kirkland jumped from the sofa like a rocket. "Actually, I gotta get going. I just wanted to drop by and give you this." He passed a wrapped gift to his dad. "Father's Day and... stuff."
"Thank you," Grant only had a moment to savor the tenderness triggered by Kirkland's remembering him like this, before his son bolted for the door.
Marley, seeing Grant's face fall, called out, "Wait, Kirkland, please. Look, your father and I..." she grimaced and rephrased, "Grant and I, we have been seeing each other. It's all still so new and very, very unexpected, believe me.... I we both are so sorry that you had to find out the way you did. We never meant to hide or... We just wanted to wait to tell you until we had a better idea of where things were going."
"So where are things going?" Kirkland asked reasonably. "Are you guys just doing the friends with benefits thing? Although, it's not like you're really friends, so..."
"I don't know," Marley confessed, taking refuge in the truth because she quite simply couldn't conceive of a better alternative.
"Nothing will go on," Grant swore desperately. "Unless it's alright with you, son."
"Why wouldn't it be?" Kirkland blurted a bit too quickly, then added, "It's none of my business, anyway. If you two are happy..."
"We aim to be," Grant smoothly reassured Kirkland, even as he, once again, felt Marley stiffen at his side.
"I was surprised you agreed to help Gregory and Allie," Jen told GQ as they were driving to check out the rental cabin Sarah found on line.
"I owe them," he shrugged. "I was a son-of-a-bitch while she was pregnant."
"You had every right to know whose baby Hudson was."
"And they kept telling me. Only I refused to believe it. This is the least I can do."
"Yeah," Jen shrugged. "I felt the same way. After seeing what Allie went through, and how unbelievable Gregory was while the rest of us basically stood around and wrung our hands.... Guilt's an amazing motivator, isn't it?"
GQ noted conversationally, "You know, if we all go down for this, you and I are getting the short end of the stick. Well, maybe not you. You do have your daddy the big-shot lawyer. And Steven, Allie and Sarah, they're each Corys... one way or another. Which, by the way, can I say is both confusing and a little sick? Anyway, that just leaves me."
"It won't be like that," Jen insisted.
"It's always like that," he assured her.
Standing in front of the bedroom mirror, Lorna allowed Jamie one last kiss to her bare shoulder well, maybe just one more after that... a quick one... for the road before pulling on her blouse and buttoning it neatly in preparation for heading out to face the day. "So what's on your agenda this afternoon?"
Behind her, threading a previously discarded belt through the loops of his slacks, Jamie disclosed, "Thought I'd stop by the hospital; see about getting reinstated. If they still want me, that is."
"Oh, please." Lorna popped in first one tasteful, pearl drop earring, then another before turning around. "A smart, dedicated, caring, stud of a doctor like you "
"Yes, that last one is of particular importance to Russ Matthews."
"They should be thanking their lucky stars you're willing to even consider coming back."
Jamie shrugged on his sports-jacket and grinned. "Who knew sleeping with a PR whiz offered so many ego-boosting benefits?"
"Although..." she hesitated thoughtfully. "With you back punching a time-clock, I guess there go our free hours for whiling away the afternoon making love."
"Well, maybe not hours," Jamie conceded. "But I do have an office at the hospital. With a lock on the door. And the place does have an awful lot of supply closets...."
"Not to mention private stairwells...."
"True. Is it too much to hope for an end to my days of running up and down stairs before surgery in order to blow off excess steam?"
"I can definitely think of more pleasant ways to help you get rid of any tension."
Jamie took Lorna in his arms, careful not to wrinkle her perfectly coiffed professional veneer, casually adding, almost as an afterthought, "And, of course, once I buy the house and we're living together full time, that should make our schedules easier to coordinate."
"Excuse me?" She pulled back. "You're buying a house? That we're both living in?"
"It's about time I got a place of my own, don't you think? I only moved in with my family after coming back from San Francisco because I knew I'd need help with the boys. Well, the boys are almost grown. And so, hopefully, am I."
"Aren't you going to miss all those servants taking precious care of your pampered, silver-spoon brat butt?"
"Not particularly. I always found it kind of intrusive, myself. Maybe if I'd been born right to it like Amanda and Matt.... But, in any case, if you'd like to give that sort of lifestyle a whirl, I guess you could always move into the mansion with me."
"Hell, no," Lorna shot back immediately, her mind flooding with images of Carl and Rachel scowling at her across the breakfast table.
"My buying a house it is then," Jamie snickered.
"It doesn't have to be that convoluted. You could just move in here. It is kind of your house, too, after all."
Jamie indicated the single bedroom. "Tight fit with Kirkland."
"Kirkland," Lorna repeated. "Right. Your son. I swear I didn't forget him," Lorna defended weakly. "For too long."
"That's okay," Jamie rubbed both her arms reassuringly, wondering, "Is this all too much, too soon for you? A house? Me going back on the beeper? Having a teenager underfoot?" He smiled ironically, "Feels like it was just yesterday that Grant was trying to convince Marley and I that, as newlyweds, we didn't need a kid around, invading our privacy, and now I'm asking you to "
"It's fine. Really. No. Actually.... Actually, now you've got me thinking that maybe this is all too much, too soon for Kirkland. Think of the year he's had, Jamie. Grant coming back, you and Marley getting married, then splitting up, Donna trying to kill herself, you going to prison, finding out about your past with Cecile... And now you want to move him into a new house complete with a new, let's call me...roommate? He's never had to share you with a woman before. You can't just spring all this on him."
"You're right." Jamie nodded. "You are absolutely right. And I'm a crappy dad for not realizing it myself."
"You've been... distracted."
"I'll talk to him. Get his input on the whole thing, see what he wants to do."
"What about you? Are you certain you wouldn't rather take a little bachelor time in your new house on your own? You've been living under a microscope practically your entire life. You deserve a break."
"What would I want with bachelor time, when I've got a hot girlfriend determined to give me unlimited sex in a bid to make up for a decade's worth of lost orgasms? On the other hand, if you'd prefer keeping your own place to scurry off to after having your way with me, I'm completely cool about giving you your space."
"I don't have my own place. I'm living on Carl's property. Again." She sighed. "Alright, Frame. You asked for it. I'm moving in with you. But, you'd better brace yourself. Because you're going to have a hell of a time getting me out. I'm in this for the long haul."
Jamie grinned. "In that case, I should motor and line up a couple of properties for you to look over. Before you change your mind." He kissed Lorna good-bye and promised, "See you in a couple of hours. You going into C-Squared to bust Matt's chops today?"
"Later, maybe." Lorna rolled her eyes dramatically. "Right now, I'm going to take a smart man's advice, and go see my mother."
"What are you doing here?" Sharlene demanded. Then, without waiting for an answer, turned to John and, indicating Donna, rephrased, "What is she doing here?"
"Donna is staying with me for a bit," John beckoned his ex-wife in and closed the door behind her, declining to elaborate further.
"Are you out of your mind?" Again, a rephrasing. "Are you both out of your minds?"
"Donna is the least of our problems right now," John reminded.
"I realize that. It's what I came to talk to you about. This document of Gregory's, is he really going to be able to... No." Sharlene stopped. "I can't. Not with you..." She turned on Donna, eyes blazing. "You killed my nephew's wife. You practically killed your own granddaughter. How dare you show your face anywhere near "
"Leave her be, Sharlene," John warned. "Now isn't the time."
"My God, John, we're about to lose our son. Through no fault of our own, we're going to lose him. I came here so we could talk about taking drastic measures to keep him alive another month, another week, another Goddamn day, and she... she caused her child's death. To protect herself. Without giving it a second thought. Am I the only one who sees the joke in your defending her?"
"She's right," Donna said. "You two need to focus on Gregory right now. I'll go. I Sharlene, I am so, so sorry. You know I've always considered Gregory a part of my family. If there's anything I can do "
"I saw how you treated your family, Donna. You'll forgive me if I decline your offer." She hurled at John, "And you... You and Felicia... Jenna was Felicia's daughter..." In her fury, Sharlene proved unable to complete a sentence beyond, "Does Felicia know? Does Felicia know how you're betraying her?"
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