"They're not actually going to the wedding, are they?" Frankie took care to keep her own car a respectable distance behind Grant and Marley as they all proceeded to circle the Cory Mansion for the second time.
"What? You think they were invited and we weren't?"
"Okay, Cass, you really need to let this go, and focus."
"I don't think they're going to the wedding."
"Then what are they doing?"
"Lurking. With just a touch of hovering, and a dash of skulking."
"What would I do without you?" Frankie wondered.
"Invest in a thesaurus."
"I could have sworn Morgan said that Marley had voluntarily committed herself."
"Can you just tell me when you and my prodigal brother are finding all this time to chat?"
"Mostly while you're off sulking in a corner, busy feeling sorry for yourself."
"Ah," Cass said. "Point taken. And applied. So then, if Marley is on her way to Clareview..."
"Since when is the Cory house on the way to Clareview?"
"You don't think they're planning to do something to sabotage Jamie and Lorna's wedding, do you?"
"Considering the parties involved... In all their past and present combinations... And past and present personalities."
"Oh-oh," Cass said.
Lori Ann was the first one down the aisle, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, the way she'd been instructed to by Charlie, and clutching her basket of flowers so tightly that she forgot to scatter them, merely squeezing the rose petals in one fist and barely allowing any to drop and hit the stone walkway beneath her feet.
The wind tousled her raven hair, even in spite of the headband, and she impatiently swiped at it with her fingers, tucking the loose strand behind one ear in a gesture so reminiscent of Jenna that both Felicia and Dean gulped at the same time, exchanging looks, then just as quickly glancing away, unable to hold it for long without crying.
Carl proved the one who couldn't take his eyes off the child. Sympathetic, Rachel reached over to squeeze his hand reassuringly. He dutifully echoed the gesture, but his heart rather obviously wasn't in it.
Carl peered at Lori Ann as if deconstructing her, as if his gaze could bore inside and somehow identify, then extract that strain of her that was Hutchins... the part of her that was him. He looked desperately for a resemblance, perhaps in the point of the chin, the slope of her forehead, the bridge of her nose, or in the way her curls bounced up and down her back with each toddling step.
He saw nothing, except for the way that she narrowed her eyes whilst concentrating. Which, much as Carl hated to admit it, was familiar because it was nothing short of pure... Donna.
Mission accomplished, Lori Ann grinned with relief and, bypassing Dean and Felicia, flounced over to plop into Charlie's lap, hugging her big sister around the neck and receiving a congratulatory kiss on the cheek and a hushed, "Great job!" in return.
Jasmine came next, also taking slow, measured, somber steps, also having been tutored by Charlie, who claimed nuptial expertise based on having been in several of her father's weddings. Jasmine's hair had been swept up and back to match Lorna's and, added to the unprecedented high-heeled pumps, made her look older. Or, rather, Lila sighed, it made her Jasmine look like the teen-ager she was scheduled to become in October.
Lila snuck a peek at Matt, sitting next to Jeanne across the aisle. He just shook his head, and made a motion like he was slitting his throat.
"Looks like somebody is planning to be Daddy on the porch with a shotgun," Chase leaned over to whisper.
"He'd best take a number," Lila promised.
"I wager Jasmine will be able to take care of herself just fine. Not unlike her mama," Chase winked, squeezing Lila's bare knee in a gesture she comprehended was supposed to be friendly and collegial. And yet, strangely, for just a second there, seemed like... something more.
In any case, there was no time to plumb the issue. The Wedding March began, and all the guests obediently rose, Chase's hand sliding off Lila's leg as if it had never been there. Except for the warmth it left in its wake.
Lorna, on Lucas' arm, appeared at the head of the aisle. At his first sight of her, Jamie, standing next to Steven and Kirkland at the altar, Jasmine across from them, jumped to attention as if he'd been electro-shocked from behind.
Lorna saw his reaction and couldn't help grinning. Jamie grinned back. So much for the somber mood Lori Ann and Jasmine (and Charlie) had taken such pains to establish.
A broadly smiling bride and groom made it rather difficult for the assembled guests to keep straight faces so that, by the time Lorna, at long last in every sense of the word made it to Jamie's side, the mood had noticeably shifted from grave to nearly giddy.
The only exceptions were Elizabeth who really felt above this sort of juvenile mirth, and Amanda and Morgan, who chose to survey the proceedings with a detached sense of superiority. Or, at least, that's what Morgan hoped his poker face would come off as.
Lucas kissed Lorna on the cheek, taking her by the hand and tucking it into Jamie's.
"Who gives this woman away?" the minister asked.
"Her mother and I do," he glanced over his shoulder at Felicia. "Of our own free will, this time," and sat down beside her, grateful to let his shaking legs take a rest.
Lorna and Jamie faced each other beneath the same gazebo where Rachel and Mac had been married. The day was windier. Her veil and the hem of Lorna's dress billowed in the breeze, and the minister had to speak up to be heard.
He began by reverentially evoking all the loved ones who were there in spirit: Jenna, Helen, Ada, Mac, Steve...
At the mention of his name, Rachel and Alice couldn't help it. They locked eyes. And they smiled. Because Steve's only son was getting married. Because Steve's only son was healthy and happy and very obviously very much in love. And they were both here to see it. Just the way Steve would have wanted it.
Spencer slipped his arm around his wife, and Carl did the same with Rachel. From various corners of the room, Amanda, Matt, Cory, Kevin, Jen, Sarah, Steven, Russ, Pat, and Mike let out sighs of relief.
"Do you, James Frame, take this woman..."
"Do you, Lorna Devon..."
They were tripping over themselves to answer before the minister even finished posing his questions.
"With this ring..."
"I thee wed..."
The remainder left unsaid, but clearly remembered by both.
"And now, by the power invested in me by the State of Illinois, I pronounce you man and wife."
"Oh, no," Lorna whispered, leaning in to kiss Jamie even prior to their being given the go-ahead, reminding him of what he'd once told her. "We're a hell of a lot more than that...."
"Hit it, Jazz," Lorna commanded her bridesmaid turned DJ as, post-photographs, the wedding party moved inside the mansion for the reception, the string quartet that Rachel had recommended and Lorna didn't feel like fighting over for the outdoor ceremony replaced by the one and only Jasmine Cory and her painstakingly selected play-list.
David Bowie's "Heroes" blasted out through the speakers as Lorna and Jamie took to the floor for their first dance.
"Oh, we can beat them/ For ever and ever/ Then we can be heroes/ Just for one day..."
And Amanda decided now would be an excellent time to get a drink. Maybe several.
Without telling Morgan where she was going what, after all, was the point of having a no strings relationship if you couldn't just wander off without warning? she pushed her way through the crowd of well-wishers to the bar, only to find that Kevin had not merely beaten her to it, but he was, apparently, also already on his second or was that third? vodka tonic. He must have made a beeline over immediately following the vows.
"I see you managed to make it," Amanda reached for her own martini, explaining, "Allie told me you had a disciplinary hearing with the Bar Association."
"Thrill a minute," Kevin confirmed, swiveling around on his bar stool so he could watch the dancing.
"Well?" She twirled him back. "How did it go?"
"Great. Terrific. Couldn't have been better. Jenny surprised me, dragged GQ over, got him to testify on my behalf."
"GQ testified on your behalf?" Amanda didn't know which word to emphasize the most in her sentence. They were all equally unlikely.
"Men will do crazy things for love," Kevin reminded.
"And?" she prompted.
"And... uhm... he did?"
Amanda rolled her eyes. "I meant: And... what happened after GQ testified?"
"Oh. Well, Mike Bauer showed why he's still the greatest lawyer East of the Rockies. And West of them, too. He pled my case, and I got off with a slap on the wrist."
"Which means what?"
"My license has been suspended for six months."
"Oh, Kevin," she put a hand on his arm. "I'm so sorry."
"No. It's great. It's fantastic. I told you, I was expecting to get disbarred. Mike's a miracle worker."
"Then why the drinks?" She figured he was on his fifth in about as many minutes.
"I'm celebrating." Kevin toasted broadly in the direction of the dance floor. "To Jamie and Lorna!"
"You're full of it, is what you are."
"You do know me well," he conceded, standing up, albeit somewhat shakily, to leave.
"I know how much your practice means to you," Amanda reminded softly.
He shrugged, taking off his dinner jacket, suddenly way too warm. "Easy come, easy go."
"Neither," she corrected. "Your job is everything. It's who you are. It's all you have."
"It's all I had," he noted. "Give the bride and groom my best, and tell Jenny she can take the car home. I'm going to call a cab."
"Did you ever imagine?" Spencer asked Alice once the music had calmed down a bit Jasmine put on "Blood of Eden" by Peter Gabriel and the rest of the guests were invited to join in. "That you would be dancing at Jamie's wedding, in Rachel's house?"
"With the man that I love immensely?" Alice added the final detail, one hand on his shoulder, the other caressing the back of his neck. "No. Never."
"Once upon a time," he said. "I would have been self-interestedly pleased that no one came along to sweep you off your feet before I'd gotten my chance. However now, all I can feel is sad, that it took so long for your worth to be properly recognized."
"Maybe my standards were unreasonably high," Alice teased.
"Not if you ultimately ended up with me," he leaned in to kiss her.
"Or maybe," she kissed him back. "I was waiting for the man who'd finally appreciate the right things about me."
Standing awkwardly to the side, not sure what they should be doing next, Kirkland and Charlie simply surveyed the swaying crowd, their eyes drifting from Jamie and Lorna to Jen and GQ, to Felicia and Lucas, until they settled on Spencer and Alice.
"Do you think old people still have sex?" Charlie blurted out, indicating the Harrisons.
"Well," Kirkland wrinkled his nose and pointed to his father and an undeniably pregnant Lorna. "They certainly are."
"No duh. My mom and dad, too. Constantly. And when they're not actually having sex, they're looking at each other like they want to have sex. Soon. And like they think I'm too stupid to notice. I don't mean old people like them. I mean really, really old people."
Kirkland turned his head to look at Carl and Rachel. "I think they do. Though, I can't imagine how they ever get to each other, with all that hair flying around. Not that," he suddenly blushed. "I sit around, imagining my grandparents having sex or anything."
"Who do you imagine having sex then?" Charlie challenged, grinning, realizing that she was making him uncomfortable, but having too much fun to stop.
"Because, you know, it's not just guys." She let him off the hook. Or maybe snagged him on an even sharper one. "Girls think about sex, too."
"Oh," Kirkland said. Not that he didn't know that. He just didn't know how to respond to that.
"Yeah," Charlie said. And then she held out her hand. "Come on. Let's dance."
"Mr. Todd." Rachel turned around, startled, from the conversation she'd been having with Russ, to find GQ standing there. She thought she'd dodged a bullet in the receiving line, and yet here he was, seemingly determined to speak to her, no matter what. "I'm sorry for interrupting. I just I wanted to explain to you why I came today."
"My understanding is you're Jennifer's date." Rachel said stiffly.
"Yes. I am. But, she didn't invite me. I actually asked her if I could come along."
"Really? May I inquire as to why?"
"I'm Hudson's biological father. Even if the Bauers are raising him, that won't change."
"I see. So you're here for Allie, then."
"No. As a matter of fact, I'm here in spite of her."
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Mindy and Rick Bauer promised me an open adoption. I'll be able to visit Hudson. He'll know who I am. Allie could do it, too. But, she doesn't want to."
"That's her prerogative, then. I'd ask that you not try to change her mind. My granddaughter has been through enough."
"Allie may not want to see Hudson. But, I know Ms. Cory does. And I'm pretty sure you do, too. I remember how you looked at him at Gregory's funeral. You said you thought he looked like your late husband."
Rachel forcefully dismissed the memory of the little boy she'd only seen once. The little boy with the thick eyelashes and bushy brows that peaked straight up just like Mac's. "I'm sure I was imagining it. Babies can resemble anyone, if we look hard enough."
"He's not a baby anymore."
"Yes," Rachel said. "He turned one in late April. I remember."
"I know you'd like to keep in touch with him. And that's why I came today. To tell you that I realize how important it is for a kid to understand where he comes from. Allie may not want anything to do with Hudson. But, I intend to fill him in about his birth family. His whole birth family. That includes you."
"Would you put down your stupid phone, already?" Bridget nagged Michele. Her sister had this fear of being unplugged, like the silver Nokia was a lifeline or something.
"Look," Michele showed Bridget the text that had just come in. "It's from Grant. He says we need to come out right away and see him. He says Aunt Marley is there, too."
"Are those Bridget and Michele?" Frankie peered over the steering wheel when she caught sight of Vicky and Jake's daughters crossing the Cory grounds, and promptly disappearing into Grant's car.
After several hours of idling, the Mercedes suddenly revved up and, without warning, did a quick U-Turn. Grant, Marley, Bridget and Michele promptly sped off, leaving Frankie scrambling to keep up with them.
She nearly ran two red lights which, considering it was a hit and run that first triggered this unexpected chase, was probably ill-advised before catching up to Grant at the on-ramp for Bay City's main highway. The one headed for the airport.
"She's making a run for it," Cass guessed.
"With Bridget and Michele," Frankie agreed, flicking on her high-beams as the sunny, though windy, afternoon settled into a foggy early evening.
"Damn it," Cass said. "I knew we should have done something back at the house."
"Like what? A citizen's arrest for loitering?"
"We should have warned someone."
"We didn't know what was going to happen. And who should we have warned? Donna? Are you telling me you think Donna is a better guardian for those kids than Marley?"
"The lady or the tiger," Cass mumbled.
"The lady or the tiger or Grant," Frankie sighed, squinting to keep track of her fugitives.
"How about John? We could call John. He's family."
"With absolutely no legal rights to the twins whatsoever, same as the McKinnons."
"Well, we can't just let the four of them disappear. Call Jamie," Cass suggested. "The girls were snatched from his wedding. He can at least notify the police, tell them they're missing, we'll take it from there."
"You think Jamie is answering his phone right about now?"
"It's worth a try," Cass insisted, punching in the numbers only to, a few seconds later, concede, "It appears to be off."
"You have a better idea? At least I'm trying something."
"I'm the one driving and Steven!" Frankie suddenly shouted. "Call Steven. He's over twenty-one, and he's their brother. He's got the best legal standing of anyone!"
"You're brilliant!" Cass scrolled through his phone-book. "And beautiful."
"Not now, Cass."
"Whoa! Where's the fire?" Jen asked Steven after literally bumping into him racing out of the reception area. It was the first time they'd been face to face since their fight that wasn't really a fight about GQ and his motives for surrendering Hudson. "You okay?"
"No," he shook his head, brushing by her, surprised but also somehow not when Jen followed him down the empty hallway. "My aunt Marley is trying to kidnap my sisters."
"She's supposed to be committing herself to a mental hospital, instead, she snatched Bridget and Michele and is headed for the airport with Grant." Steven burst into the room he'd gotten dressed in, grabbing his jacket and fumbling in several pockets before digging up his car keys and groaning. "Oh, shit. I can't drive. I had that wine with "
"I'll drive you," Jen decided on the spot. "My car is probably parked closer to the street than yours anyway."
He hesitated for just a moment, then realized that the urgency of the situation logically overruled any personal nonsense. Steven nodded briskly, grabbed Jen by the hand and led her down the back-stairs, the fastest way to get outside and the best way to avoid questioning.
"What about GQ?" Steven asked as he was buckling his seatbelt within Jen's car.
"I'll explain it to him later," she reassured. "Just tell me where to go."
"Where are we going?" Michele had immediately set upon Marley once she'd recovered from being thrown back in her seat by Grant whipping around his Mercedes.
"On a little trip," Marley said brightly, beaming a confident smile back at the girls.
"Where?" Bridget asked, more suspicious than enthusiastic.
"It's a surprise," Grant supplied.
"But, I thought you were sick," Michele unbuckled her seatbelt to hoist herself forward between the front seats, peering intently at Marley.
"I'm all better now."
"And to celebrate, you, your sister, and Aunt Marley are going away for a bit," Grant explained, with a reassuring smile via the rear-view mirror.
Michele groaned, "But we don't have any clothes."
"I packed some for you," Marley soothed, shooing Michele back to her seat and indicating she should buckle up. "And we can buy anything else you need once we get there."
"Where is there? And why aren't Steven and Kirkland coming?" Bridget noted the frowns her aunt and Grant exchanged in response to her questions. "Wouldn't they want to celebrate you getting better, too?"
"Marley thought it would be more fun to have just the girls," Grant helpfully supplied. "A special treat."
"Besides, your brothers have their dad's Jamie's wedding...."
"So did we," Bridget shot back. "Why couldn't we wait until after "
"Because we couldn't," Marley cut her off harshly. "To do what we wanted, it had to happen now. Saying good-bye would've taken too long..." Marley closed her eyes, bringing a hand to her brow with a slight wince.
"You're upsetting her!" Michele accused her sister.
"I didn't mean to!"
"Why don't we all just sit back and quietly catch our breaths," Grant suggested, Michele and Bridget both abiding. Grant cast a quick look to Marley. "You okay?"
"Just get us to the airport," Marley whispered, Grant obliging in due haste.
"Hop on out, girls," Marley sang in a tight voice when they reached the curb. "Our flight will be leaving soon."
"I'll get your tickets," Grant dashed off to an automated kiosk while Marley distributed suitcases and duffle bags.
"I'm sorry," Bridget said to Marley. "I didn't mean to "
"It's okay, sweetheart," she soothed, deferring the sting of guilt at Bridget's repentant face. "You didn't do anything wrong. I know this was sudden and you have questions. I promise I'll explain everything once we've left Bay City. Right now we really have to "
Marley's next words devolved into a grunt as someone slammed into her, Marley's purse sliding off her shoulder, spilling its entire contents, passports included, onto the sidewalk. "Damn it!"
"Oh! Excuse me! I'm so sorry! Here let me help..."
"Frankie!" Marley gulped. "Cass! What are you doing here?"
"Business," Frankie smiled easily, managing to pocket at least one of the girl's passports under the pretense of helping Marley clean up. Let's see her and Grant manage to flee the country without it. "You?"
"We're going on a trip," Michele answered on Marley's behalf.
"Really?" Frankie was all ears. "Where?"
"Don't know. It's a surprise."
"A surprise, huh?" Cass quirked a brow, eyes going to Marley, who threw a desperate look over her shoulder, no doubt in search of Grant.
"Yes. And if we don't leave now, we're going to miss our plane," Marley stooped to join Frankie in collecting the rest of the spilled items. "Now if you'll excuse us."
"Let me help you with that," Cass offered to Michele as she struggled with her suitcase.
"No need," Grant swooped in, bumping Cass out of the way. "I've got it."
"How nice." Cass declined to let go of the suitcase. "Come to say Bon Voyage?"
"It's such a relief to see that you've recovered from your..." Frankie managed to block Marley's way to the gates. "Accident. Are you sure you're up for a long trip, though?"
"Yes," Marley replied tersely. "Now if you both don't mind...."
"I mind," her nephew's voice challenged, Marley paling as she turned to find Steven, face flushed, eyes dark, steady, and guarded, bearing down upon them, Kevin Fowler's daughter, of all people, bringing up the rear. "What are you doing, Aunt Marley? Where are you taking my sisters?"
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