"What?" Felicia gasped, eyes blinking rapidly up at Morgan. "You and Lorna? When? Where? Why didn't either of you tell me?"
"Years ago. Chicago. And we didn't want to get your hopes up in case it didn't work out. Which, I repeat, it did not."
"Well, if you two had been sensible enough to fill me in on what was going on "
"It's okay. Everything turned out for the best. Lorna and I are really good friends now."
"You could have been a great deal more."
"We are what we are," Morgan reiterated firmly. "I know what a catch I am, but Lorna nevertheless threw me back to keep on fishing."
"And reeled in Jamie!"
"I know!" Morgan laughed at her visible mystification. "You're not the only one who doesn't quite get the appeal."
"Then why haven't you said something to her? Tried to talk some sense into your really good friend and convince her that when it comes to you, third time would be the charm!"
"I did," Morgan confessed. "But, Lorna insists Jamie is who she wants, that he makes her happy. And isn't that the most important thing? That Lorna be happy? Regardless of how you or I or anyone with eyes and ears and a modicum of common sense feels about the situation?"
"I just don't know if this thing with Jamie..."
"This thing now includes a baby," Morgan felt compelled to remind.
Felicia sighed and shook her head. "What am I talking about? Before we can think about whether Lorna is happy or sad or howling angrily at the moon, she needs to be awake. Awake and healthy "
"And making snide remarks and rolling her eyes "
"And driving me crazy," Felicia finished. "That needs to happen first. Everything else? Everything else can wait."
"How awkward," Chase chirped cheerfully, looking from a stunned GQ to a mortified Allie. "A real-life prisoner's dilemma. Didn't know those actually happened outside of late-night college bull sessions. And, well, prisons."
"You're going to testify against me?" GQ had to say the words before he could start believing them, even as Allie silently squirmed beneath his gaze.
"Looks like you two need to talk," Chase pertinently diagnosed. "Now, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't let either witness leave the room until I had a signed, sealed confession. But, seeing as how you're here without your lawyers, and how, despite the fact that, in the eyes of the law, you are both far past the age of consent in the eyes of your parents, you're precious, vulnerable, innocent babies and anything I get out of you is the result of coercion and cruel and unusual lollipop larceny.... In a nutshell, you're useless to me like this. Come back with counsel, and I'll be all ears and arrest warrants. Otherwise, kindly take your melodrama out of my office."
He shooed Allie and GQ into the hallway with both hands.
"What is wrong with you?" GQ demanded despite Allie's attempt to take off. "I have a moment of utter stupidity and help you and the guy who backed up your lie commit a felony, and now you want to pin the whole thing on me?"
"You were about to do the same to me!"
"You're actually guilty!" GQ reminded. "And it's because of you that I can't fight for custody of Hudson. Remember Hudson? Our son? The crux of your lies?"
"I'm here because of Hudson, too," Allie countered. "Because, no matter what you or anybody else thinks, I know I did what was best for him. And I'm going to keep doing it. He belongs with Mindy and Rick. If the only way I can make that happen is by going to jail, then "
"What are you talking about? You were trying to get me sent the jail!"
She crossed her arms protectively and, looking down, mumbled, "It was going to be both of us. I was going to confess to everything I did, but then I was going to name you, too; leave the others out of it, though."
"Are you mental, woman?" GQ's yelp echoed off the courthouse halls.
"It was the only thing I could think of to keep you away from Hudson."
"You... are something else," GQ steamed, utterly unable to come up with a more fitting phrase. "Do you ever think before you do anything?"
"I thought about the mess I made. About how many people I've hurt."
"And decided it wasn't enough?"
"I was trying to fix things, make them right."
"By railroading me into jail?"
"I was going to take most of the blame," she insisted. "You'd only be an accessory. I'd get the worst of it."
"Have you looked in a mirror lately, Princess? Seriously? You're telling me with a straight face that, up in front of a judge, you'd get the shorter end of the stick? Now, that would be something to stop your family's presses."
"It's my fault you're doing this to Hudson and the Bauers. That makes it my responsibility to stop it."
"Your responsibility to Hudson included not lying about his parentage. It included not giving him away to a perfectly nice couple that I get it; I get that he loves them, and they love him, too he's going to have to leave. Every tear he and his current mom and dad drop in the future, that's all on your head. Don't you dare trying putting it on mine."
"Mom, what are you doing here?" Jamie peered up at Rachel from his camped out space in the waiting area. " I told you yesterday "
"I know what you told me, and I dutifully stayed away as long as I could. But, I couldn't bear to spend another minute pretending to be otherwise occupied, when I was actually doing nothing but obsessing over you in here, trying to get through this tragedy on your own. I had to see you, honey. I had to make sure you were okay." Rachel looked around. "Where are Felicia and Lucas?"
"In with Lorna," Jamie indicated the area past the doors. "The doctors are letting us take turns sitting with her, in between their tests and procedures and scans." He ducked his head, confiding, "Every time I see her, I'm shocked all over again at how still she is. Have you ever seen Lorna be still? Ever? It's unnatural."
"So there's no change in her condition?"
"Very little. But, her vitals are good, and there's been no more bleeding at the trauma site, or any further seizures. I think her brain just needs more time to heal, that's all. There's no reason to presume this is permanent or..." Jamie drifted off, taking a deep breath. "Lorna's pregnant, Mom. About ten weeks, according to the sonogram."
"Pregnant?" Rachel repeated, smiling in disbelief and pulling her son into a hug. "Jamie, that's wonderful news."
"Is it? I seem to remember your divergent opinion on the matter when the possibility was floated at our pool party last July."
"That was last July, this is..." Rachel looked at him, dumbfounded, as questions flooded her brain. "And the baby's okay? The accident and the surgery didn't "
"So far, so good," was all Jamie was willing to say, all he was willing to dare hope for.
Rachel watched the play of emotions flicker across her son's face, her heart aching for him. But, rather than express anything so affecting, she hid behind a more practical matter. "When was the last time you ate? The last time you slept?"
"Don't know. Don't really care."
"Well, I care. You won't be any good to Lorna or your baby if you don't take care of yourself first. Come home with me, get some rest for a few hours."
"I'm not leaving her, Mom. I won't. I can sleep and eat here just fine."
"Okay, then I'll stay with you. Bring you some decent food, at least."
"No. You have a full house and plenty of people to take care of tonight. Just because time has pretty much stopped in here, doesn't mean I don't realize it's Thanksgiving Day. You're probably expecting a crowd, like always."
"None of them need me like you do."
"What I need you to do for me is take care of Kirkland and Steven. I'm afraid I won't be much use to them for the foreseeable future. Parenting by cell phone and texting "
"Consider it done. Anything I can do to help, anything at all..." Rachel studied her son. "Sweetheart, are you sure "
"I'm sure. It's difficult enough for me to keep it together while Felicia and Lucas are, understandably, poised to blow apart at any moment. I couldn't handle interacting with anybody else. The mere platitudes would kill me. I just need to be left alone."
"Then maybe I could "
"There is nothing for anyone to do. Except wait, hope, and pray."
"In that case, you, Lorna and my newest grandchild will be in my prayers," Rachel hugged Jamie tightly. "But please, call me if you need anything. Even if it's just to talk... or yell. If it makes you feel better, I can take pretty much anything. I love you, Jamie."
He smiled, momentarily flashing back to a parallel exchange just a few days earlier, one that was presently never too far away from his guilt-ravaged thoughts and weakly responded, "I love you, too, Mom."
"I don't need a babysitter," Donna informed John upon catching him sitting at the kitchen table, making no move to leave the house despite the late hour. "You don't need to stay home to keep an eye on me. I know you have plenty of dinner invitations for tonight: Marley and Grant, Nick and Remy, Frankie, even Josie invited you over, didn't she?"
"I'm not in the mood to be pitied."
"What are you in the mood for then?" Donna took the seat across from him.
"Not counting my blessings, that's for sure."
"Well, would you mind then if I took a moment to tally mine?"
"This ought to be good," John offered her his full attention.
"You," she told him simply. "You are right at the top of the list."
He snorted, but the follow up sarcastic remark proved strangely lacking.
"I don't know what I would have done this past year if it weren't for you. You stuck by me when no one else would."
"Matt," John reminded, refusing to let Donna wallow in revisionist history.
"Matt didn't know what he was doing. Or whom he was doing it for. You did. And yet you stuck around anyway."
"You do have a way about you, Donna..."
She laughed mirthlessly. "Sharlene can't understand why you're doing this. Felicia most certainly doesn't. I must confess, I'm a tad confused myself."
"That makes two of us."
"What?" Donna started. She'd been expecting an explanation, a justification, at the very least a rationalization. "You don't..."
"Know myself," John confirmed. "It just felt like the right thing to do. So I did it. Without thinking through the implications or the consequences or what I stood to lose as a result." He asked Donna, "Do you think that's how Allie and the rest felt when it came to helping Gregory? They didn't draw up a list of pros and cons, or consider the penalties. They just did it. They helped my son. Because it felt like the right thing to do?"
Donna tread carefully while telling him in all honesty, "I've done a great many things in my life that felt right at the time... which turned out to be awful, horrible mistakes."
"Horrible because you did them, or because of what doing it cost you?"
"Is there a difference?"
"Yes," he told her thoughtfully, having gone back and forth about this for weeks now. "I really think there is."
"You look amazing," Grant beamed at Marley as she popped a diamond earring into place and studied her reflection in a full-length mirror. "Absolutely stunning."
"What's that old saying?" She smoothed a hand over her form fitting cranberry sheath, and gave one last critical eye to her flawless chignon and perfect mask of blush, lipstick, and mascara. "As bad as you feel on the inside, look even better on the outside?"
"There is no reason for you to feel "
"Don't tell me how I should feel!" Marley pivoted angrily. "I lied to Kirkland today. Looked him in the eye and lied. You didn't see him, Grant. He was petrified. He kept talking about Vicky dying and being kept in the dark..."
"Kirkland will be fine. I'll see to that. And you'll be fine, too. I know how hard this is for you, but, nothing has changed. We made a plan, and we'll stick to it."
"I'm glad Kirkland won't be here tonight."
"What do you mean?" Grant startled. "Where is he?"
"Steven stopped by to wish the girls a happy holiday, and Kirk left with him."
"Why didn't you tell me? I could have talked "
"Because I couldn't stomach the idea of spending Thanksgiving, of all holidays, sitting across the table from my nephew as he is positively decimated over what his father," Marley paid no mind maybe she even drew a smidge of joy from the way Grant flinched at her words. "His father is going through. And thinking about how, eventually, I'm going to have to face Jamie myself. And see the damage I've unleashed up close and personal. Tell me, Grant, how exactly am I supposed to do that? How can I move on, like you keep ordering me to, when I've only just begun seeing what I've done and how it's affecting the people around me? I thought I could do this. I thought I could pretend like it didn't happen, that I didn't do it, but ha! Joke's on me turns out, I can't."
"You can," he corrected steely. "If you can't do it for yourself, or for me I've put everything on the line for you; but, forget about that now at least do it for the girls. The sole thing that you giving in to guilt and confessing will accomplish is upending Bridget and Michele's lives. If you can't hide your emotions, then use them, let them out. Everyone knows that you still... that you and Jamie are... close. No one would be surprised to see you upset on his behalf. And Kirkland's. That's all true, isn't it?"
"Yes," Marley nodded hesitantly. "Of course, it is."
"So channel your remorse and guilt into being supportive of them. Into being positive for them. Into helping them through this difficult time. Mark my words, that'll be a hell of a lot more useful than you going to prison. Focus on your strengths, not your mistakes."
"What's that?" Marley asked. "Your next campaign slogan?"
"My life slogan. It's exactly what I'm trying to do with Kirkland. And with you."
"Focus on your strengths, not your mistakes," Marley repeated under her breath, testing the motto out, seeing how it felt.
"You can start by giving the girls a wonderful Thanksgiving. They're already confused about Donna not being here, and now Kirkland... let's not upset them further."
"You're right," Marley nodded, a bit too frenetically. "They need me to be strong, to guide them..." She smiled at Grant gratefully. "Thank you. Thank you for listening to me, for calming me down, helping me see things more clearly. I know that I'm a mess ... that I've made such a mess of "
"Which I have been all too happy to clean up."
"Why?" Marley paused to wonder. "I mean there are less... complicated women you could have... could be with. Women who "
"Wouldn't be you," Grant said simply even as they heard the ringing doorbell downstairs heralding Spencer and Alice's, or maybe Kevin's with Jen and GQ, arrival. "There is no other woman like you, Marley, no other woman I want but you. I'll do anything to keep you in my life, to make you happy, to protect you. Anything."
Jamie slowly raised his head, feeling as if he were struggling to paddle to the surface of a murky swamp, realizing that he must have drifted off. He jerked awake, startled, and instinctively turned his gaze towards the Intensive Care doors, making sure it wasn't Dr. Shapiro with news good or bad, before realizing that no, everything was still the same good and bad, and painfully rearranging his cramped body in the hard-back chair so he could face his apprehensive sons.
"Hey, guys," Jamie fought to keep his voice composed. "I'm sorry I've been out of touch. But, you know the rules, no cell-phones in the hospital, and I didn't want to wander off too far in case..."
"It's okay," Steven said. "We get it. No worries. How... how is she?"
"Not very good, I'm afraid."
"Grandma said," Kirkland spoke up. "She said you guys are having a baby?"
Despite everything, Jamie still couldn't contain the shadow of a hopeful smile that tugged at his features at the words. "Yeah. We are."
"Cool," Kirkland said. "Maybe I can finally get a kid brother, for a change."
Jamie told him, "Lorna thinks it's going to be a girl."
"Oh, well," the teen sighed. "Can't win them all. Another sister it is, I guess."
A bit dumbstruck by the sheer pointlessness of their conversation, Steven moved on to a topic he considered more pressing. "How are you, Dad? You look kinda awful."
"And here I thought I'd passed awful at least a day ago."
"Do you need anything? Can we get you something?" Steven indicated the plastic bag Kirkland was holding. "We stopped off and picked up a couple of turkey sandwiches."
"Because, when Grandma said you wanted to be left alone," Kirkland clarified. "You didn't mean us, right?"
Jamie feared that if he tried to stand up now, he'd collapse like so much deadwood. His eyes were barely focusing, and his throat felt as he'd swallowed a steel wool sponge that then proceeded to scour his intestines.
Looking at Kirkland, however, standing there so hopeful and determined to cheer Jamie up, all he could croak was, "No, son. Of course, I didn't mean you."
Kirkland grinned and plopped into the chair next to Jamie's, Steven doing the same thing on the other side. They divvied up the trio of foot-long subway sandwiches with all the holiday trimmings, Kirkland taking an immediate, eager bite in the hope that he could get the others to follow suit.
Jamie did. He even managed to swallow, despite the gagging dryness of his mouth, and the incipient ulcer just waiting to bleed out a few feet lower.
"You know what's weird?" Kirkland observed thoughtfully in between chewing.
Jamie could think of several things off the top of his head. But he merely asked, "What?"
"Last year, we were all at the hospital on Thanksgiving, too, remember? Only you and Marley were married, and Grant and Spencer and Alice came with me, and Cass wasn't in jail, and Felicia didn't know Lucas was alive, and Lorna..."
"Gave me a bracelet..."
"What?" Steven stared at him oddly. "What for?"
"It's... a long story."
Seeing that Jamie appeared close to tears all of a sudden, Kirkland quickly attempted to distract with, "And Matt started a toast. Like he said Amanda's dad always used to."
"Mac was a dad to all of us," Jamie corrected gently.
Steven picked up the baton of look-over-there! diversion. "So what was so great about these toasts of his? Everybody's always talking about them. You remember any?"
"There was one," Jamie began, struggling to recall exactly how it went, he'd heard so many others quote it over the years, he wanted to make sure he did it justice. "Mac said... I think... He said: I'm grateful for the awareness of the sheer... damn, what was that word? What was it?... " Jamie tapped his fingertips against his forehead until the 'aha' moment came. "Munificence! That's it! The munificence of life as it keeps rolling on despite our little problems. Sharing our lives with our friends and our family is far stronger than anything that world out there can do to us. And so I give you," Jamie cleared his throat, remembering all of it now, " I give you... life!"
"Happy Thanksgiving?" Dean turned the seasonal salutation into a question as he stood on Frankie's doorstep. Over his cousin's shoulder, he could see Lori Ann, dressed in a red velvet dress with white lace collar, matching tights and a padded headband over her ebony curls, pulling herself up to stand using the edge of the couch, with Charlie hovering solicitously nearby.
"You're just in time," Frankie smiled, welcoming. "We'll do dinner here, then I'll drive up to see Cass. You can stay and visit with the girls, if you like."
Judging by the glare Charlie sent Dean's way, he got the feeling that was something she wouldn't like at all.
Frankie said, "I'm afraid we're short about half a guest list. I never honestly expected John to come, and then Felicia, Lucas and Morgan..."
"Yeah," Dean winced, eyes locked onto Lori Ann, who, conversely, clearly couldn't care less about him. "I heard. From Matt. How is..."
"I don't know," Frankie admitted regretfully. "Felicia hasn't called yet today. I've been sending out healing vibes, but..."
"She must be going out of her mind." Dean rubbed his chin. "First Jenna, now Lorna..."
"We don't know anything about Lorna's condition for sure yet," Frankie lectured sternly. Particularly sternly because she'd been thinking the same thing all afternoon.
"So it's just us?" Dean deftly changed the subject, seeing that Frankie was in no mood to ponder the possibilities.
"Actually, I'm kind of glad." Dean shifted awkwardly foot to foot, tearing his gaze from Lori Ann to settle on Frankie. "I wanted the chance to talk to you anyway. In private. This is as good of a time as any, I guess."
"What's wrong, honey?" Frankie stroked Dean's cheek sympathetically. "You look scared."
"I I've been giving this a lot of thought... To be honest, I really haven't thought about much of anything else since I got back in town. And, I think I mean, I know... I know it. I do. I know that I'm finally I'm ready to be Lori Ann's father."
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