"Have a nice bachelor party," Lorna wished Jamie as she sat on their bed, watching through the mirror while he slipped on a sports jacket and headed for the door.
"It's not a bachelor party," he corrected. "It's just Matt and some guys from the hospital "
"Helping you bid farewell to your last night of freedom."
He turned around, reminding her, "The only freedom I've ever had in my life, was being with you. Everything that came before that was the prison."
"Aren't you poetic, all of a sudden?"
"You know I mean it."
No matter how many times he looked at her like that so sincere and appreciative and adoring it was almost painful Lorna didn't think she'd ever get used to it. Or learn to accept the accolade with anything resembling grace. "We had a deal. No putting me on a pedestal, and definitely no hero worship."
"I'll worship you any way I like, thank you," Jamie informed Lorna, sitting down on the bed beside her, lowering his face until it was a breath away from hers. "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. You know that used to be part of the traditional service. I'm thinking of asking to have it put back in, just for us."
"Terrific. Make sure you say that middle vow loud and clear, so that our mothers can hear."
"If both our mothers haven't figured it out by now...."
"I'm going to be standing at the altar, eight months pregnant. I'd say the entire guest list has a pretty good inkling of who's been worshipping what."
"They still won't have the slightest idea exactly how much I love you."
"And guess what, Jamie? I don't care. I told you, if it were up to me, we could have done this in fifteen minutes in front of a judge down at City Hall. Any vows I have to make, I'm making only to you. I don't need an audience."
"I know. But you deserve one. You deserve to be the center of attention, and to have everyone tell you how absolutely gorgeous you look."
"Again, let me remind you: Eight months pregnant."
"And I deserve to show you off so that everyone can see you the way I see you."
"Yeah, good luck with that. Looking over the guest list, I'd venture to say a good half the crowd still sees me as the grasping, ice cold bitch who bankrupted Matt, played Dean, humiliated Jenna, broke up Amanda's marriage, and... Carl. There's always Carl." She sighed, "To be honest, I never actually believed I'd get to have a real wedding. I certainly never dreamed Carl would be at it."
"Everything else was booked," Jamie shrugged apologetically. "It was either have the wedding at my mother's house, or wait until after the baby was born."
"No," Lorna said. "You know I didn't want that."
"Actually, the Eastern Rose Garden is where my mother and Mac were remarried in 1983. Where I made my grand entrance climbing out of a van that'd seen better days, smelling like... well, nothing like the rose garden. That was the marriage of Mom's and Mac's that actually took, though. I like to think it's a good omen for us."
"It's beautiful, Jamie, I told you, I have no problem with the location."
"Just with my mother's date."
"No. No. I've been thinking about this a lot and... Carl did some horrible things where I was concerned, no question. He used me, he exploited me, he threatened me, and yes, he man-handled me on occasion." She watched Jamie's face darken and quickly grabbed his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "But, the fact is, as far as I can tell, the only reason I'm not dead from a drug overdose or turning tricks on a street-corner somewhere is because of... Carl."
"There's a happy thought to send me out into the night with," Jamie grit his teeth.
"It is a happy thought," Lorna insisted. "It's like I told you the first time we made love. How can I regret any mistake, any bad decision, any misstep I ever made when, in the end, it led me to you?"
"And I told you that we should have just hooked up twenty years ago and saved a lot of very nice people including ourselves a hell of a lot of heartache. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I'd just walked up and planted a kiss on Matt's girlfriend the first time I laid eyes on you?"
"I probably would have let you," Lorna supposed. "And then I would've wondered who the hell Matt's big brother thought he was?" She laughed. "Now stop playing 'What If?' and go have the best night of your life, already. Promise you won't waste a minute of it thinking about me."
"Alright, then, at least promise that you won't waste a minute thinking about Marley."
He hesitated, then sadly confessed, "Sorry. Can't."
"I know," she told him, understanding.
"Let me guess." Marley hissed even before Donna had finished entering her daughter's hospital room. "You've come to gloat."
"Darling, whatever are you talking about? You were in a horrible accident. I came to see how you were faring in your recovery."
"Which recovery would that be? My recuperation from the attempt on my life made to look like a suicide attempt, or me trying to wrap my head around how my own mother could betray me? Again."
Donna didn't flinch. "Betray you?"
"Are you really going to stand there and bat those fake eyelashes ad nauseam? I know it was you! I know you're the one who put it in Lorna's mind that I was the driver who hit her."
"I did no such thing."
"And as if that betrayal weren't enough," Marley stalked up to Donna, looking her right in the eye. "You convinced both her and Jamie to make me commit myself or face prison. Me! Your own daughter."
"However Jamie and Lorna saw fit to deal with the situation, I had nothing to do with it."
"Bull. There isn't enough carbon monoxide on Earth to poison me into forgetting how you operate."
"Jamie came to me, Marley. He told me Lorna had recovered her memory and that, instead of going to the police, they had come up with a solution they felt would work best for the family. For you and the children. He asked for my advice and support."
"Every damned word you breathe is a lie," Marley marveled.
"Like me, Jamie and Lorna concluded that you are not in your right mind. That you don't belong in prison, but in a place that can help you get healthy again."
"As long as I do what they say," Marley seethed. "Do you not realize what you've done? How you've put my family, my life at risk?"
"I've done no such thing," Donna answered calmly. "The situation you now find yourself in is due to Grant and his corrupting influence."
"Grant is the only one who has ever loved me for who I am! Who supported me and believed in me when no one else would! It just galls you, doesn't it? That I have someone in my corner in a way you never did? "
"That's not true. You're too confused to see it now, but things will become clearer once you begin treatment."
Marley laughed scornfully. "And what makes you think I caved to Lorna's blackmail?"
"The fact that you're so angry with me now," Donna answered knowingly. "You're scared and frustrated so you're lashing out."
"Stop psychoanalyzing me."
"I'm not, I'm merely seeing the same defense tactics I've used time and again being exhibited by you."
"I am not you," Marley stubbornly gritted.
"A fate I'm determined to help you avoid. Do you think I want to see you alone, isolated, your children despising you..."
"If you're waiting for me to disagree on that last point, you're going to be waiting a damn long time."
"I can accept that you hate me, as long as you get the help you need. As long as I save you from my fate, and save our Bridget and Michele from suffering in the same way as you did from having me for a mother."
"Well, they started out ahead of the game. They didn't spend half their lives believing I was their sister."
"Why are you still here?" she roared at Donna, eyes wet as her resolve began to falter. "I don't want you here, I don't need you here. The sight of you makes me physically ill!"
"Marley, I'm sorry..." Donna felt her own steadfastness slacken as she guiltily stared at her daughter, angry, hurt, shattered , spinning. "I am so, so sorry."
"You know, I just realized something. A silver lining to all of this. I won't ever have to see you again. I won't have to look at your face. I won't have to hear your voice. I will never again hear you lie to me, saying that you're sorry or, better yet, that you love me."
"We're not sending you away forever," Donna tried to talk Marley down, disturbed by the apparent finality of her statements. "It's just until you get well."
"As if anyone could get well around you. Thank you, Donna. Thank you for stopping by. I was actually feeling unsure of some things. I was second-guessing my decision. Thank you for helping me realize that, it may not be what I thought I wanted, but it still might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to me."
"I tried, Marley," Donna said sadly. "You have no idea how hard I tried."
Marley shrugged, pausing to give Donna one, long, searching, almost sympathetic look before noting, "The sad part is, I honestly believe you did the best you could. Not just under the circumstances, but due to who you are. Unfortunately... it wasn't hard enough. And now it's my turn to say I'm sorry; because that's just about as much absolution as I can spare at the moment for the Hell you've managed to make of my life."
"You could have prevented all of this," Spencer raged at his son, grabbing Grant by the lapels and slamming him against the wall, then letting go just as abruptly, as if the mere proximity disgusted him. "The minute I told you Lucas suspected of Lorna having been targeted, when I told you Carl was plotting to strike back before there could be anymore unsolved accidents in our families, you could have spoken up, confessed about Marley being the one responsible. I could have stopped Carl. You could have stopped Carl."
"I tried," Grant insisted, smoothing out his suit as if the futile gesture might wipe away the anger and disappointment that came with it. "I begged him, Dad. I begged him. I could have told him about Marley and Carl still would have done whatever the hell he wanted. Lorna was always just an excuse for him."
"It was worth a try, all the same," Spencer huffed.
"You would have me sacrifice the woman I loved on the off chance that Carl might be experiencing a bout of self-restraint?"
"So instead you threw us all to the wolves, Marley included." Spencer was glaring at Grant as if it pained him to look at the man, much less acknowledge a blood relation.
"If I told Carl about Marley, he would have used that information in the battle against Donna, there's no question about that."
"So what if he would have? So what if Carl had used his knowledge to torture Donna? We all know she deserves it. It still beats Marley becoming collateral damage in a war none of us know how to control. And it certainly beats the same fate befalling your son."
"I can look out for Kirkland. And Marley."
"Frankly, she'd have been safer in jail, and out of the line of fire."
"Now who's being self-serving, Dad?"
"I don't want to see my grandson hurt. I don't want to see you hurt, or Alice and her family, or, yes, damn it, me. And it could all happen now. Because you made a judgment call. And sold out us all."
"It looks lovely, my dear," Carl took a twilight walk-through the Eastern Rose Garden with Rachel as she made sure that everything save those details that absolutely had to be set up the day of were assembled and ready for Jamie and Lorna's outdoor ceremony.
"I've planned a wedding before," Rachel didn't turn to look at Carl as she counted chairs by rows. "Usually, my biggest concerns are the flower arrangements being delivered on time and our food remaining at perfect temperature until the reception. Worrying that we all might be gunned down like what happened over in Moldavia, was it twenty-five years ago? That's new. I'd prefer not to have my entire family massacred."
"Actually," Carl mumbled. "We'd be lucky to get that crack assassination team. Dozens of machine gun clips emptied and ultimately only three fatalities?" But, what he actually said, loud enough for Rachel to hear was, "Rest assured, I have everything well in hand. My men at the gates know to check everyone prior to entry. No invitation, no admission, no exceptions. The perimeter is secured by a second armed team, and I will have snipers on the roof Israelis, I'm not taking any chances."
"Wonderful," Rachel said. "My son is getting married in a prison camp."
"My people know how to be inconspicuous."
"Let's hope they also know how to do their jobs. And that having you, Lucas, and Spencer all in one place at one time doesn't prove too strong of a temptation for even the most cautious thugs."
"Harrison is on the guest list?"
"Alice," Rachel reminded. "Jamie invited her. And considering I'm bringing you, I could hardly put my foot down over her choice of escort."
"Sounds as if the odds of a massacre ring higher from the inside, rather than the outside."
Despite being generally pissed off at him, Rachel couldn't help appreciatively smirking at Carl's observation. "I intend to be on my best behavior. This is Jamie and Lorna's day. I know when to blend into the background."
"You did cause quite a stir at Alice's wedding."
Now Carl was the one to smile appreciatively. "If this most recent outing was only a fraction of what you're capable of, I deeply regret I was not about to witness you in your prime."
"I'm not proud of my actions. And I don't intend to give Alice or Jamie any more ammunition for bringing up my less than stellar past."
"Well, if I may say so, you have truly outdone yourself putting this festivity together at the last moment. Jamie should be truly pleased and grateful. I daresay even Lorna might be hard-pressed to come up with a cutting remark once she takes it all in."
"I'm sure she'll think of something. Especially if Elizabeth decides to provoke her again."
"Ah, yes," Carl turned toward the house. "My last and most difficult security detail. I'll speak to her. You have my word, Rachel, nothing shall ruin your family's happiness tomorrow"
"So you finally ready to unpause the more extraneous aspects of your life and get back to work?" was all Steven wanted to know after GQ finished summarizing the conclusion of the drama starring Allie, Hudson, and Jen which had been dominating his life for the past few months. Not that Steven hadn't had box seats for the whole thing.
"If that's okay with you," GQ smiled at his friend with a touch of apprehension.
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"I was afraid, after everything that happened with Allie..."
Steven shrugged. "Your business, not mine."
"She's your cousin."
"Who has no compunction about screwing me over when she feels the urge. It's not like you tried to kill her or anything. She gave as good as she got."
"Okay," GQ said slowly. "But there's also Hudson. I know you didn't agree with my... with me wanting to take him from the Bauers."
"Again, not my business."
"He's your " GQ paused to do the calculation. "Second cousin."
"Whom you did right by in the end. You put him first. Now, any other excuses you want to try out for bailing on me and the impending years of blurry eyes, late nights, and bouts of carpel tunnel syndrome?"
"I'm not looking to bail, I just... I wanted to make sure that it's all cool." GQ couldn't exactly put into words the inexplicable hostility he'd felt from Steven when GQ first came in, all he knew was that he wasn't imaging things. "Make sure that we're cool."
"We are. Unless you're dying to start work all over again solo, and not get our PhD's until long after Obama has left the White House." Steven pulled out his laptop and, all while managing not to look GQ in the eye a single time, triggered it to wake up. "So, are you in or out?"
"I'm in," GQ nodded, mirroring Steven and pulling out his own laptop. "Would it be unmanly to say that I've missed hanging out with you?"
"No. It's understandable. I'm more fun than infinite open source code."
"So you're sure we're "
"Fine," Steven stressed, the edge in his voice unmistakable at the same time as it went once again unremarked on. "We're fine. Let's just get back to work."
In response to the knock on their bedroom door, Lorna rubbed her eyes, checked the time, and stumbled out of bed, only to find Jamie standing on the other side, smiling at her.
She stifled a yawn with one hand and reminded, "Don't you know it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride on their wedding day? Seriously, dude, haven't you and I tempted fate enough already?"
"Don't worry, I got that covered. It's 11:59."
Lorna indicated the clock. "It's three AM."
"Oh." Jamie tapped his wrist innocently. "Guess my watch stopped."
"I thought I sent you out to gallivant and carouse and celebrate your last night of freedom?"
"You ordered me to have the best night of my life. So I came to spend it with you."
"You know, you don't have to work the romantic so hard." She indicated the necessarily loose drape of her nightgown. "You've already had your way with me."
"No guarantee I'll ever get so lucky again."
"Odds are good," Lorna predicted and, too tired to continue this conversation upright, padded back towards the bed, crawling in under the blanket. "I thought you were going to stay at your mother's tonight?"
"If I wanted to sleep alone..." Jamie teased Lorna with her own words, then tossed off his clothes and curled up next to her, linking his fingers through hers and bringing their hands up between them. "You nervous about tomorrow?"
"You mean today?"
"It's 11:59. That's my story and I'm sticking with it."
"Not even a little bit nervous. You?"
"Nope. Nerves are for when you have doubts. I've never been more sure in my life. The only thing I'm afraid of is waking up and finding out this has all been one very long, very detailed, very erotic... dream. I mean, how can it be real? Not only am I with the most beautiful, savviest, bravest, hottest woman on Earth, but she knows everything about me everything and she loves me anyway."
"It's real." Their hands still intertwined, Lorna tucked them both beneath her chin, gazing at Jamie over their fingers and reassuring, "We're real."
"We better be," he leaned over to kiss her. "Or I'm taking the blue pill and going back into the Matrix. And for someone with my addiction history...."
"You know what I can't believe?" she said, both to get him off that trail of thought and because it happened to be true. "That you and I can make love, that I can feel closer to you than I have ever felt to any other person in my life, and, out of that, out of us, we created a whole new human being? I mean, obviously I'm romanticizing. I know babies are conceived every minute of the day in some pretty awful circumstances. But..."
"It's still tough to wrap your brain around."
"Yeah..." Lorna appeared in the process of trying to do just that. Wistfully, she added, "I only wish..."
"My grandmother," Lorna admitted. "This is everything she ever wanted for me. A good man who loves me.... A baby. She could only dream I'd be this happy someday.... And she isn't here to see it."
"She may not be here, but what makes you think she can't see it? All those weeks you were in the hospital, Lorna, I did a lot of praying. A hell of a lot excuse the expression. But, even with all the prayers I sent up, you think we could have gotten our happy ending without an intermediary to make sure my pleas made it to the front of the line? That was your grandmother. And my grandmother. And my dad, and Mac, and Jenna. They were pulling for us. And they're going to be there tomorrow. I don't have any doubts about that, either."
"In that case," Lorna snuggled up again him, closing her eyes. "I'd better get back to sleep. Got to look good for the heavenly contingent, especially. I mean, if I'm competing against angels..."
Jamie pulled Lorna into his arms, kissing the top of her head. "I love you."
"You are a very wise man...."
They stayed that way until sun-up, only being awoken by Jamie's cell-phone buzzing insistently on the nightstand.
They disentangled, Jamie lunging for the phone and Lorna rolling over on her back, asking, "Hospital?"
"No. I'm off duty, I made that very clear." He checked the display. "It's Steven."
"Your best man getting cold feet?"
"Not if he knows what's good for him." Jamie flicked open the phone, listened for a few moments then, without hanging up, clicked over to the Internet, punching several keys in a row and taking a beat to frown at what he saw there before, at her prodding, reluctantly passing the screen over to Lorna.
So that they could both read the news article, posted only a few minutes earlier, about Lorna Devon suing her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Matthew Cory, for sexual harassment.
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