"Victoria..." Donna exhaled in wonder. And a great deal of fear. "How..."
"Get a grip, Mother. You're not hallucinating. Or having another breakdown. We get a set number of ghostly visits a year and I've chosen to devote this one to you. So you'd better listen to what I have to say."
"Oh, darling, it's so good to see you again. I've missed you so much. You look "
"Peachy for a dead person, I know. The mist up here is great for the skin, not to mention the whole no-aging thing. Though the plastic surgeons feel distinctively unappreciated. I don't have a lot of time. I need to know "
"Of course. The children. You'll want to know how they are. We've had a little trouble with Steven recently, and Kirkland, he's now, please don't get upset, he's..."
"I know how my kids are doing, Mother. You think you're the only one I check up on?"
"You've visited them, too? They never said anything."
"Would you tell anyone about this conversation? Besides, this isn't about the kids, not directly anyway. This is about Marley. I've tried to reach out to her, guide her, give her a Whoopi Goldberg Ghost smack down. But whenever I get anywhere near her head.... it's not right in there. It feels like the last time. Maybe even worse."
"Oh, no, no. Marley may have had her problems, but that was a lifetime ago. I can't imagine what would need to happen in order for her to go off again."
"How about betrayal? Disappointment? A broken heart? How about a pair of master manipulators playing with her head? You know how Marley is. Yeah, in the past she's been strong. But, she's breaking down again. And for Marley's sake for my kids' sake you need to pull her out before it's too late."
"Even if you're right, I am the last person "
"You are the only person who can do this. Because you are the only one who gets what she's going through. What she's becoming." In response to the perplexed look on Donna's face, Vicky spelled it out. "You, Mother. Marley is becoming... you."
Donna scoffed, "Marley could never be like me. The things I've done..."
"She's well on her way. And you're the only one who can stop her."
"I What if I... What if I do something to make her worse?"
"Then you'll fix it. And if you mess that up, you'll fix that. And you'll keep on fixing until there is nothing left to fix. Because the alternative is to do nothing. And the only sure thing to come of that will be you losing the one daughter you have left. Whether it's to madness, to Grant, or to something even worse. You will lose the one daughter you can actually still be a mother to. Who you can love, protect, find some measure of redemption through... You will lose her. And you'll have no one to blame but yourself."
"It's been great to see you and everything," Jenna smiled at Lorna. "But you really should be getting back to the land of the living."
"I know. I am. I will. Soon."
"This isn't like you're off on vacation, Lorna. You're in a coma. People are worried. Mom is worried. You can't do this to her after what happened to me."
"Nice. You up and die on us, leave everyone a basket case, and set me up to take the heat."
"I couldn't help what happened to me, but you can. The longer you stay here, the harder it'll be to go back. And you can go back. You just have to work for it. I know it won't be easy, but, it's still possible."
"I know! I'm just..."
"What? Doing this for the attention? Want a little R&R? Enjoying making Mom and Dad freak out?"
"You really do always think the worst of me, don't you?"
"I'm just trying to figure out why you're not doing everything you can to get back to Jamie, ASAP. Is it the Morgan thing?"
"You know about that?"
"I've got friends in high places," Jenna said.
"Well, then, yeah, it's the Morgan thing. I can't stop wondering whether he kept his fat mouth shut, or if I'm going to wake up to Jamie dumping me because I lied about a little thing like being, oh, married."
"Morgan may not have told him anything."
"Which means I'll still have to."
"So your back-up plan is to lay low in a coma? For how long exactly?"
"I just need a little more time to figure out how to handle this!"
"And I've told you that the longer you stay, the harder it'll be for you and my niece to leave. Don't lose everything you have, Lorna, simply because you're afraid to face your mistakes. Would you just trust for once in your life, trust that the man you love will understand. Go live happily ever after with Jamie and little Jenna."
"I'm not naming my baby after you. She deserves to have her own identity."
"Whatever happened to respecting the dead?"
"I've got my own way of doing that."
"I know. Thanks for kicking Dean's butt into gear. I owe you one."
"Do I have your permission to make his life Hell if he doesn't get his act together?"
"Absolutely. But wake up and get your own mess straightened out first."
"You're Father's other son," Cory said, as if this were a conversation he had on a daily basis. "You're Ryan."
"I'm Ryan," he agreed.
"Father talks about you a lot."
"Well," Ryan pointed out. "Carl generally talks a lot."
"He says you made him a better person, so he could become someone worthy of Mom and have Elizabeth and me."
"I didn't make Carl anything. He picked all his own choices, both the good and the bad ones."
"I worry sometimes," Cory admitted. "Father is always saying how terrific and noble and brave and heroic you were."
"Never use one word when seven would do, that sounds like Carl."
"I don't think I'll ever be like you. Even though I know that's what Father would like."
"Your job is to be you, not me, don't you ever worry about that."
"You know what Father told me once? He said that when I was born, he had this feeling that I was you. Reincarnated, kind of. We study a lot of Eastern philosophy."
"So if you're me, then who am I?"
"I said that we study Eastern philosophy, I didn't say I understood most of it."
Ryan laughed. "You've got quite a mouth on you."
"Runs in the family, I guess."
"Carl doesn't expect you to be me," Ryan reassured. "And, for the record, I was a lot more than terrific and noble and brave and heroic. I was loud. I was judgmental. I could be very unforgiving. And pig-headed? I kind of cornered the market on that one."
"Not to Father. To him, you were perfect."
"You're perfect to him, too. Trust me."
"But, what if I'm not enough?"
"Not enough for what?"
"To keep Father good," Cory said simply.
"That's not your job."
"Then whose job is it?"
"Elizabeth and I did our research. Well, Elizabeth only did her research as far as it told her what she wanted to hear. Anything that didn't fit with her view of Father, she chose to forget and told me to forget it, too. But, I didn't. I know what he's done. Sometimes, I pass people on the street, and I wonder how they can just walk by Father without wanting to at least punch him in the face, maybe even take his whole head off."
"Bay City can be a very forgiving town. Look at my other brother."
"Mom forgave Father. But, she also has to remind him of that once in a while, you know, nudge him back on track when she thinks he's about to go off. Tells me she doesn't think he can stay good without her, either."
"Again, that's your parents' responsibility, not yours."
"If I'm not the son Father is hoping for, if I'm not like you, the one who made him want to be good, then what happens?"
"If Carl ever reverts to form, everyone had better duck and cover. But, it won't be because of you."
"What do you know?" Cory scoffed. "You're dead."
"You think that's why I came all this way? So I could be insulted by a curly-haired, pip-squeak?"
"Why did you come?"
"To wish my little brother a Merry Christmas. And to tell you to take it easy on yourself. It's no picnic being Carl Hutchins' son."
"More like a Dance Macabre."
"Okay, enough with the showing off, I get it, you're a Hutchins. But, that still doesn't make you your father's keeper. You know, maybe you are like me. In one way, at least. I used to think it was my job to keep the people I cared about Vicky, Grant, Spencer, my mother even on the straight and narrow. They didn't exactly appreciate my interference. Or my good intentions. People are going to do what they want to do. You can love them or not. You can be around them or not. But, you can't change them. They have to want that for themselves. It means you can't make somebody be better, Cory. It also means you cannot turn them for the worse."
"Rise and shine, sweetie," Cecile cooed to Charlie.
"How about you go back to Hell, bitch?"
"I know you are, but what am I?" When dealing with petulant adolescents, Cecile figured it best to employ lingua franca. "And you'd do well not to mock me."
"Why? I'm not afraid of you."
"That, my fair Chuckles, would be a mistake."
"You're dead. My dad killed you. You can't hurt us anymore. That was the point."
"Your precious daddy is paying for what he did. And I don't just mean that pathetic slap on the wrist of a jail sentence. He's paying in ways he never imagined when he did his selfless dive atop his sword. Your mother knows what I'm talking about... Oh, wait. Maybe she doesn't. They're not speaking, are they? Ever since Cass sided with Dean on this Lori Ann issue..."
"You shut up about Lori Ann."
"It's for the best, really. Cass realized he shouldn't be her father anymore. I'm sure the same thought has crossed his mind numerous times about you, as well."
"My father loves me."
"Hmmm, yes, he made me believe that, too, once upon a time. Cass swore that he'd love me forever and that he'd never leave me, either. We all know how that turned out."
"You were just some crazy bimbo who lied and kidnapped him. I'm his daughter."
"But Lori Ann was his daughter, too, and he's letting her go. Confusing, isn't it? Not knowing what to believe? He loves me, he loves me not...."
"My father never loved you! And even if he did once, a billion year ago, that's over now. You're dead."
"Strange. It doesn't feel over. I'm still here. Spending my nights cuddled up inside his subconscious. Your daddy thought he was getting rid of me. Instead, he made certain our souls would remain intertwined for eternity. Now all Casanova and I need to do is get rid of the other distractions in his life, and it can be just him and me again, the way it was always meant to be. Lori Ann is already halfway out the door. And Frankie, too, by the looks of it. That just leaves his precious Charlotte..."
"If you love my dad like you say, how can you want to hurt him?"
"I just don't like to share, Good Charlotte. I didn't enjoy sharing with your mother and I certainly don't like sharing with you. Which means, out you go. It's a warped kind of love, I concede, but, c'est la vie, it's what Cass and I do. He kills me, I return the favor by taking some time to loosen the screws in your pretty little head."
"I won't let you," Charlie swore. "I won't let you mess up my family even more."
"We'll see about that, little girl. We'll see...."
"Should I be honored by your visit?" Carl inquired of his onetime nemesis.
"You should be worried," Mac explained politely.
"That I'm losing my mind?"
"Your mind and your soul are of no concern to me."
"Ah. How about my wife then? If you're here to warn me off, I'm afraid you've arrived over a decade too late. I realize time is more fluid in the hereafter, but, nonetheless "
"Shut up, Carl," Mac said pleasantly. "Your baroque rhetoric does nothing for me. I'll take a man who means what he says over one who couches his true motives in flourishes worthy of James Joyce at his most overindulgent. What?" he smiled in response to Carl's befuddlement. "Did you think you were the only one who'd ever cracked a book?"
"Alright. In plain language: What is it you want of me then?"
Mac sighed. "From the beginning, I've tried to look at the big picture where you were concerned. Personal injury to the heart of a dead man is nothing compared to the infinite potential of a redeemed living one. A kindler, gentler Carl Hutchins was the gift Rachel gave our world. And as long as you continued to walk that path, I could rest in peace. Both for Rachel's sake and my own."
"But now something's stirred you from your eternal slumber?"
"I am to Rachel, what she is to you," Mac explained patiently, drawing no pleasure from the exchange. "And soon, much sooner than you think, certainly sooner than you hope, she will run out of excuses and understanding and compassion for the actions you have recently chosen to undertake against Donna. Recruiting Felicia into your revenge plans, manipulating Marley in the name of that same revenge."
"Rachel agrees with me that Donna deserves to be punished."
"But, not at the expense of others. Unleashing your planned swath of destruction will ricochet in unexpected ways, trust me. Jenna has already suffered the indirect repercussions of your past actions. As has Marley. Jamie and Matt, also, in terms that you don't even realize yet. Do you want Rachel to be next in line? "
"No harm will come to Rachel from anything I do. On that, you may trust me."
"Your luck will run out one day. And it won't be Rachel's 'dispensable' children paying the price that time. It will be Cory and it will be Elizabeth. The children you both look to as the best of yourselves, a symbol of your pure, sincere love..."
"Are you threatening me, you impotent, powerless, doddering..."
"I didn't come to threaten you, Carl. As I stated earlier, you personally don't concern me in the slightest. I came to warn you that unless you alter your current trajectory, the scales will have no choice but to fall from Rachel's eyes and she will look upon you with a hate and loathing unmatched even by what you spot whenever you dare look in a mirror."
"Which will come as a great sorrow to you, I am certain."
"Rachel's sorrow is my sorrow. I am attempting to spare her. And if that means sparing you, so be it. Continue plotting your revenge, and you will end up alone in a Hell of your own making. If you think that even death will be the end of your suffering, you'd best think again. Because I'll be there waiting for you, old friend. Happy to settle our business once and for all..."
"Where's that canter of holy water when I need it?" Grant glowered at Jake.
"Enough is enough," Jake matched him glower for glower, getting straight to the point without the small talk his contemporaries chose to engage in. "This thing with you and Marley needs to end now."
"You know, I'd almost forgotten how buggy your eyes got when you went into full boil. Next, if I recall, will be the ceremonial flaring of the nostrils followed by a smug sneer."
Jake mused, "Why couldn't Tito have pressed that pillow down just a little harder?"
"Why couldn't Paulina have had better aim?" Grant countered. "Then again, if that were the case, Michele and Bridget would have never been born. So some good did come from your pulling through, after all."
"Don't talk to me about my girls. I may be transparent, but that fireplace poker over there could still get the job done on your skull."
"They're Vicky's girls, too. And if she objected to my presence in their lives, wouldn't she be the one here delivering the tongue-lashing?"
"She didn't want you getting off on it."
"True. I did enjoy watching Vicky get riled up. She was so beautiful, so... alive. Sorry. Bad choice of words."
"Listen to me, you arrogant prick. This game you're playing with Marley is going to lead to some very, very bad things. Can't you see what's happening to her already? You were there the first time she fell apart. You know the signs."
"Marley is fine. I'm taking care of her."
"You're busy cleaning a stain on the rug while ignoring the flames licking at your heels! Marley is losing control, exactly like before. Only this time, instead of going after Vicky, she went after Lorna."
"That was an accident," Grant insisted, as much for himself as for Jake.
"Think about the kids. Vicky's kids. Don't put them through this!"
"Marley adores those children like they were her own. She would never hurt them."
"Like she'd never hurt Vicky? Or me?"
"You raped her, Jake. Let's not beat around the bush. After throwing her away, then changing your mind and wanting her back, you punished Marley for refusing to put up with anymore of your crap. How dare you rise up with your fire and brimstone to point an accusing finger at me, when you're the one who shattered her in the first place? I'm the one trying to save her, you son of a bitch. I'm trying to convince her that there are men who won't lie or abuse or betray her. I'm going to love her, respect her, support her. I'm going to put her first, no matter what."
"And while you play white knight, she becomes sicker and sicker, not to mention more dangerous to herself. Remember what happened before? The rooftop? The pier?"
"I will never let it come to that."
"You won't be able to stop it. Not if you refuse to see it coming."
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