"Senator Harrison!" A surprised Sarah exclaimed as she approached Clareview Sanitarium's main entrance with Michele and Bridget in tow, both girls studying Grant warily, unsure of where precisely he fit in among the adults who'd recently been whipping in and out of their lives at disturbing speed. "What are you doing here?"
"Just because I backed off on taking Bridget and Michele to see Marley myself doesn't mean I can't pop up here independently, does it?" Grant offered Sarah his most beguiling smile.
The one she gave him in return indicated Sarah wasn't bamboozled in the slightest. Merely duly impressed with his ability to exploit a loop-hole. "Not at all," Sarah agreed.
The four of them walked up to the front desk, checking in, offering their names and stating whom they'd come to see. The duty nurse nodded at Bridget and Michele, beckoning them forward, but frowned at Sarah, officiously explaining that only those listed on her clip-board could be given access to the patient.
Sarah insisted that she was the girls' babysitter, and that she'd promised their guardian, their brother, Steven, she'd be with them at all times. Sarah suggested they call Steven and get his consent for her to go in too, but, unfortunately, he'd chosen that moment to send everything directly to voice-mail.
"We'll be okay by ourselves," Michele insisted. "It's just Aunt Marley."
"You're sure?" Sarah pressed.
"We're sure. And, don't worry, we won't tell Steven you didn't come in with us. Promise." Clearly, Bridget had gotten the message that secrecy was mandatory if you wanted to get anything done to your satisfaction in the Love family.
"It's not an issue in any case," Grant swept in at the last moment, always happy to play hero for a trio of damsels in distress. "I can keep an eye on the girls for you."
"Oh, no," the nurse checked her all-powerful clipboard again. "Not you, either."
"I'm sorry? I'm the one who called to ask if Marley was up to seeing visitors."
"And I told you she was."
"Then I don't understand."
"Ms. Hudson made it clear that the one visitor she absolutely does not wish to see, now and in the near future, is you."
"Well, you're definitely in labor," Dr. Raya Ng helped Lorna sit back up on the white-paper covered table after completing her examination. She peeled off her gloves and tossed them in the trash. "You're about three centimeters already. Congratulations."
Indicating Jamie standing behind her, Lorna, without turning, pointed and asked, "Is he looking smug? I bet he's looking real smug about now."
Dr. Ng cocked her head around the patient and offered a professional opinion. "He looks distinctively smug."
Lorna pivoted awkwardly to ask Jamie, "You just love being right, don't you?"
"As Mac used to say: It doesn't depress me."
Dr. Ng advised, "I'd guess we have several more hours to go here, hard to pinpoint exactly, first babies tend to take their time. But just say the word and I'll get an anesthesiologist down here as soon as you're ready for your epidural."
"Anesthes..." Jamie's voice trailed off and he frowned at Dr. Ng. "You're not going to do a C-section immediately? I asked Lorna's neurologist to send you her records weeks ago. You're aware of her circumstances?"
"I am," Dr. Ng nodded slowly, choosing her words with impeccable care. She snuck a peek at Lorna, who was, quite conscientiously, managing to avoid everyone's eyes at the same time. "You haven't filled Jamie in on your decision?"
"We've been busy..." Lorna hedged. "And I thought I had more time."
"I see." Dr. Ng offered, "I am going to step out into the hall for a few minutes so that the two of you can talk privately. Come and get me if you need anything."
"Thanks," Lorna said weakly, even as Jamie's mouth was already opening to demand, "What decision? What do I need to be filled in on, Lorna?"
She held up a hand, waiting for another contraction to pass, hoping to work the sympathy vote as she pleaded, "Just hear me out, okay?"
"I'm listening." He crossed his arms, body language not exactly radiating acceptance.
"Okay. So. First of all, you know how much I love you, right?"
"And you know that I would never, ever, ever do anything to put our baby in danger."
"I notice you didn't exclude putting yourself in danger."
"Raya thinks I should be able to get by without a C-section, or any kind of narcotic. Just an epidural."
"Raya Ng is not a neurologist."
"No. But, she's consulted with one. Several, actually. We both have. Their consensus was I'm not at that much of a risk."
"Everyone is at some risk during even the most conventional deliveries. Your blood pressure could spike without warning. I've seen it happen in women with no history of a brain injury. In your case, you could have a massive stroke. You could die, Lorna."
"Jenna died. She had a C-section because everyone including you recommended it as the safest option. And she died anyway."
"I know," Jamie said gently.
"And Felicia, she was drugged to the gills when I was born, and when she woke up, they told her I was dead."
"I know," he repeated.
"I'm scared, Jamie. No, scratch that, I am terrified. I know how ridiculous I sound and how unreasonable, and the last thing I want to do is upset you or cause you any kind of pain or worry, but... I I need to be awake, and I need to have this baby naturally. If it looks like she's in any kind of distress then yes, sure, do whatever you have to, cut me open, knock me out, I don't care, just make sure the baby is okay. Otherwise, at least let me try. Raya and I have talked about this. We're not going to rush. She's going to let me take my time, monitor how I'm doing every second. And I'm going to stay calm, I promise. If I feel like something isn't right, I'll let you both know right away."
"How would you know what's right and what isn't, Lorna? An hour ago, you didn't believe me when I said you were in labor."
"So score one for you. The next point is bound to be mine, right?"
"Please don't treat this like a joke. I honestly will not be able to take it, if you treat this like a joke."
She grabbed Jamie's hand, bringing it to her mouth, kissing the back of his palm, swearing, "I know how serious it all is, really I do. Raya and I have gone back and forth, we've weighed all the possibilities, and she thinks I can do this. I think I can do it, too. And I need to do it. I swear, Jamie, I'm not trying to manipulate you, but, at this point, a C-section will only make me more anxious. Just thinking about it, I can feel my blood pressure going up."
He didn't say anything. He didn't say yes, but he didn't say no.
He knew, ultimately, that he had no say in the matter. This was Lorna's delivery, not his, and her wishes would be the ones carried out by her medical team. But, Jamie also knew that if he put up enough of a fight, if he let Lorna see precisely what her hazardous stance was costing him, if he allowed her a glimpse of how horror-stricken he actually was, she would back down. Jamie had no doubt about that. Lorna would suppress her own fears in order to spare him. She'd done it before taking him to confront Carl at his place "on the coast" being merely one example.
But, Jamie couldn't ask Lorna to do that again. So he didn't say anything. Instead, he smiled down at her, watching Lorna visibly relax with relief for a moment, just before she was hit by another contraction.
Jamie offered her his forearm to brace herself against as he rubbed her back with his free hand and placidly urged her to breathe in, then out, relaxing as much as she could and riding the pain out like a wave.
"Jamie," she said once the spasm had passed.
She couldn't keep the awe out of her voice. "We're really having a baby."
"Yeah," he kissed the top of her head, forcefully pushing down every concern and trepidation so there could be no trace of it in his voice. "We really are."
"You recorded my conversation with Lorna and Jamie?" Matt felt stupid actually saying the words, since it was obviously what'd happened. But, still, some small part of him held out hope that this wasn't what it seemed like.
"Yes," Jeanne said.
So much for hope.
Maybe at least she had a good reason.... "That's it? That's all you've got to say on the subject?"
"You asked me a question. I gave you an answer."
"Why, Jeanne? What was the point? I told you what happened as soon as I got back!"
"You did. But, I couldn't be sure that you would, not in advance."
"You didn't trust me, so you taped a private conversation without my knowledge?" Matt grasped at the first straw that came to mind. "Was it because you thought I really had sexually harassed Lorna, and you were afraid "
"I thought it might make a good story for KBAY."
And there went the good reason.
"So you spied on me?"
"You didn't mind when we did the same thing to Donna."
"I was in on it then! And, besides, that was for Donna's own good."
"This was for your own good. I thought it would be best to have Lorna's words on the record, in case she tried to pull something down the line."
"You couldn't have told me that upfront? I probably would have agreed with you."
"You might have. But, I couldn't be sure."
"Is that your defense for everything?"
"I'm not defending, Matt. I'm explaining."
"Does that mean you don't think you've done anything wrong?"
She hesitated. "You said it was okay, Matt. The things that I did. You said you didn't mind."
"I wasn't talking about... I didn't mean... not to me."
"Oh," she nodded thoughtfully. "So that's how it is."
"No! Don't you dare! Don't you turn How is this suddenly my fault now?"
"I didn't say it was. I guess I just misunderstood you earlier."
"I didn't know about you spying on me earlier."
"But, you did know about Donna," her tone remained utterly sensible, as if she truly were having trouble following his logic.
"Are you telling me you honestly can't differentiate between the two situations?"
"You knew who I was, Matt, right from the start. I never, ever lied to you. And I never asked you for anything you didn't feel comfortable giving."
"You should have trusted me," he said.
"I did. Only at the wrong time. And about the wrong thing."
"What are you doing here?" Morgan blurted in surprise at the sight of Jamie, sans his regulation white-coat, clicking through patient charts on a computer at the nurse's station. "I thought you were on leave to take care of Lorna until the baby..."
"Answered your own question," Jamie studied the screen intently, Morgan shifting to sneak a peek over Jamie's shoulder and read what he realized was Lorna's file. Lorna Devon Frame's file, to be exact.
"Lorna's delivering naturally?!" Morgan exclaimed, prompting Jamie to immediately click the mouse in his hand and close the records before stalking away. Stunned, Morgan followed. "You're letting her "
"Stay out of it."
"But you have to know the risk."
Jamie wheeled on him. "Of course I know! But Lorna doesn't want a C-section. Not after what happened to Jenna."
"Right," Morgan nodded, remembering and regrouping. "Did you warn her about "
"No, Morgan. When my wife told me she was willing to risk a stroke, brain damage, even potential death during childbirth, instead of begging her to reconsider, I doled out a double thumbs-up and told her to go get 'em, Tiger."
"You can still change her mind. You have time. She'll listen to you."
"She's scared. Bullying her into doing something she doesn't feel confident about under these circumstances could be a recipe for major disaster."
"Maybe Felicia or Lucas could convince her."
"You think bringing in Felicia is the key to keeping Lorna calm? Are you new here?"
"Or maybe..." he offered tentatively.
Leaving Jamie to complete the thought. "You?"
Morgan met Jamie's direct gaze. "Only if you thought it would help."
To Morgan's surprise, Jamie appeared to actually think it over before shaking his head with a grunt and stalking away again.
"Raya is an expert at high-risk deliveries," Morgan reassured Jamie, having followed him again. "She practically has a sixth sense for when something's about to go wrong."
"I know. I've referred plenty of chancy cases to her myself."
"And if anyone can promise to stay calm throughout a natural delivery and actually keep their word, it's Lorna. Her self-control and composure is... above average."
Jamie skid to a stop. "What is this, Morgan?"
"You, of all people, trying to comfort me? We both know that, soon as you can, you'll run to Lorna's room and try to convince her to go through with the C-section. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you drugged her IV and wheeled her into the OR yourself, if you thought you could get away with it."
Morgan cocked his head. "Is that an accusation... or a suggestion?"
Jamie frowned slightly before understanding. "Neither."
"Because I'm totally game to take the heat. Do you and Lorna a solid."
"Stop mocking me."
"I'm not. I'm serious. If you think that's what it'll take to protect her from herself."
"I said no, okay? She's already had an epidural. She's asleep now. Even if you got the dosage right to knock her out for the long haul, by the time you unhooked the monitors and alarms, the nursing staff would be all over you."
"Put some thought into this, have we?"
"I've tried to look at every possible angle, tried to predict every way it could go wrong, to think of every means to help Lorna and the baby come out of this in one piece."
"Just do what you always do. Believe in her. We both know that medicine wasn't what pulled Lorna out of her coma with brain function and snark intact. It was her will to live not to mention her stubbornness. As well as your unwavering faith and complimentary stubbornness that time was what she needed most to heal."
"I know," Jamie nodded, his words loaded with equal parts fear and doubt.
"What does your gut tell you?" Morgan prompted. "Believe in Lorna now the same way you did while she was in a coma... or should I hit the ATM for bail money, then go get scrubbed in? Because, honestly, I know you'd love nothing more than to see me behind bars, my medical license revoked, and BCH tossing me out on my ass."
"The only thing I want right now is for Lorna to be holding her perfectly healthy daughter in her arms and telling me I told you so."
Morgan hesitated. "I get the worry about Lorna. But, is there something wrong with the baby? I thought all the sonograms indicated everything was copasetic?"
"Sonograms can never tell the whole story. You know what kind of drugs we flooded her with over the winter. Not to mention the initial trauma of the accident, how forcefully you two were hit. I have no intention of relaxing until I'm sure both Lorna and the baby are alright."
"She blames me for what happened," Grant mumbled, not so much to Sarah as in her general vicinity, while the two sat side by side in the reception area, waiting for Michele and Bridget to return from their visit with Marley.
"Why would she blame you?" Sarah asked, figuring if someone said something in your presence, it was only polite to respond.
"Because Donna was right. Ever since I came into Marley's life, I've made it worse for her."
"She made it worse for herself. Marley's the one who hit Lorna. You just tried to help her stay out of jail."
"I did," Grant swore, disproportionately thrilled that at least someone finally seemed to understand that. "All I wanted was to make her problems go away. No one had ever done that for her. Not really. Marley was always the one helping other people, always the one sacrificing herself. She deserves more than that."
"Sounds to me like you're the hero here, then, not the bad guy. At least as far as Marley should be concerned."
"I don't think she sees it that way," Grant confessed. "I tried to help her by getting Marley and the girls out of the country. It was a bad call in retrospect, I admit. But, from where Marley's sitting, I'm the one who got her locked up in here. She needed me to back her up in... something, it doesn't matter what. She turned to me at a critical moment, and I let her down. No wonder she wants nothing to do with me anymore."
"That sucks," Sarah took offense. "Nobody's perfect. So you made one mistake. Is it always going to be 'What have you done for me lately?' What about all the good stuff that came before? Does that just disappear the first time you screw up?"
The intensity of Sarah's tone pulled Grant out of his own self-pitying cocoon. He turned his head, surveying Sarah in a new light. "Sounds like you speak from experience."
"Steven," she shrugged. "I did everything I could to make him happy. And he was happy with me. If he says otherwise, he's full of it. But, then, I have one little slip-up, and it's like nothing else matters."
"I tried to make Marley happy, too. I became a different person for her."
"Oh, yeah, word of advice about that: Apparently, it's a big no-no."
"I beg your pardon?" The idea of a young woman her age offering relationship advice to a man of his... experience proved capable of bringing a smile to Grant's face, in spite of the otherwise rotten circumstances.
"It's what I did with Steven," she explained reasonably. "I became the girl he wanted me to be."
"Sounds like every man's dream."
"You'd think so, right? But, when he found out, somehow that turned into me lying and misleading and manipulating him."
"Steven broke up with you because...."
"I tried to be everything he needed."
"Tell him that!"
Grant rubbed his jaw. "Steven has indicated he isn't particularly keen on hearing my opinions at the present time."
"Yeah," Sarah nodded, also smiling just a little. "So I gathered. What the hell is wrong with people, Senator? You and I, we kill ourselves to show how much we love them, we do everything they say they want from us, and that's the thing that gets us bounced? I just don't get it."
"I don't think Marley ever believed in me. Not wholly. Not the way I wanted her to. She took what I had to give, all the while waiting for me to let her down. It's not all her fault. That's how everyone else in her life has treated her. Why shouldn't she be afraid of letting her guard down? Especially with someone like me?"
"You know, considering the things I hear Marley's done and I'm talking in the past, not even counting this most recent one. Maybe she shouldn't be throwing stones so hard. When Marley does something borderline unforgivable, she apologizes, and people take her at her word that she's sorry and she's better now. You'd think she would extend the same courtesy to you."
"Except that I did let her down. She didn't imagine that part. The thing she was waiting for, my betrayal, it did happen. When she needed me the most, when she was begging me to step up, I... didn't."
"I bet you had your reasons."
"What makes you say that?" Grant asked, unfamiliar with being offered the benefit of the doubt.
"Because I see how torn up you are about all of this. It's not like you were waiting for a chance to stick it to her. This wasn't some sadistic long con you were pulling for kicks. Anybody can see you did what you thought you had to."
"On that," he corrected her, pained. "I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong."
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