"I need your help," Felicia said to Cass, looping her arm through his and taking him for a turn around the Cory pool.
"Done," Cass answered, skipping the boring part where he'd actually need to discern who, what, where, when or how. They both knew he'd do whatever she asked. Why bother going through the motions?
"I need your help in finding good old Felicia from way back when. The one everyone looked to for a sparkling, gay ol' time, instead of respectfully giving a wide berth to in social settings for fear of me exploding like a temperamental volcano."
"How far back would you like to go? The fun, adventurous, scheming Felicia Gallant that first hit town way back when was not exactly welcomed into Bay City with open arms."
"She was... eventually," Felicia defended. "After she won them over with her charms."
"Won over...bullied... Tomato, to-mah "
"Who are you calling a bully?" Felicia turned sharply to Cass, hand on hip. "Or a tomato, for that matter?"
"If the caftan fits..."
"You're right" Felicia sighed in realization. "Now you see what I mean when I say I need help. I'm snapping at you, at Lucas, at Lorna... Look, obviously, it's no secret I haven't been myself since Jenna died."
"Which you had every right not to be. She was your child. Losing a child... I can't even imagine."
"Enough is enough," Felicia insisted, resisting all attempts at sympathy. "I've been given a second chance. I don't deserve it, but, for whatever reason, I have been. Lucas and I had a long, long, long talk, and we're going to start afresh. If not exactly forgetting all the pain I've caused and he's caused, and all the secrets we've kept from each other going on forty years now, then at least moving past them. And Lorna... We're going to try once again to make our relationship work. For that beautiful little girl of hers. My granddaughter, Devon Ada Frame. For her, we're going to suck it up and behave, for a change."
"I'm happy for you. I really, really am. But, I'm sorry, Felicia, I still don't see where I fit in."
"I've lost count, over the past two years, of how many times I've said I was ready to move on from my grief over Jenna. I thought I meant it before, but I guess I was wrong. Maybe it's like with my drinking. I thought I had it under control but.... This time, I'm not going to try to pull myself together alone. You know me better than anyone else in the world, Cass. If anybody can help get me back on track, to find the Felicia Gallant who's been lost for so, so long, it's you."
"You shouldn't be. I think it's going to be a hell of a job."
He nodded thoughtfully. "In that case, I think I have just the thing. Tell me, how'd you like to get up close and personal with our current mayor?"
"Will it involve a wacky disguise?"
"It very well might."
"I've been waiting to introduce you to someone," Jamie rested a hand on Alice's shoulder and, smiling, guided her to a shady area of the grounds, where he'd ensconced Devon's car-seat beneath a canopy of trees to protect her from the midday sun. "Alice Matthews Frame " he cleared his throat. " Harrison, may I present... Devon Ada Frame."
"Oh," Alice sunk to her knees in front of the baby, bending down and glancing over her shoulder at Jamie. "Oh, honey... Look at her."
"That's pretty much all Lorna and I have been doing for the past few days. Well, that and getting up every hour to make sure she's still breathing. It really does take a while to sink in, doesn't it?"
"And how's Lorna feeling?"
"Fine. I mean, overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. But, fine. No medical complications, anyway. I actually just told her to take a few minutes for herself. I don't think she's stepped more than three feet away from Devon since she was born."
"Well, that's understandable." Alice tenderly stroked the silky, tiny fingers with their even more impossibly small fingernails. "She really is a miracle, isn't she? When I think about where you and Lorna were this winter... and, oh my God, where you were when I first came back to town..."
"I never expected this," Jamie stated the obvious to the one person who'd know exactly how true it was. "Never, ever in a million years, did I think I'd be here right now."
"You deserve it," Alice said firmly, just in case he insisted on harboring any doubts. "You deserve this: Devon, Lorna, all of it."
"I think, maybe, just maybe, I'm beginning to believe that."
"I'm sorry I didn't stop by to see you while Lorna was in the hospital. But, I was afraid... It wasn't my place. I didn't want to impose."
"You're wrong, of course," Jamie said lightly. "But, I respect your position. On the other hand, I'm wondering if maybe you'd consider accepting a more formal place in Devon's life? Lorna and I, we'd really like for you to be her godmother."
"Oh," Alice said again, then, shaking her head softly, insisted, "No, honey, no, it's too much. You've been so kind about including me in your lives, but, this... considering everything.... I don't know if it would be appropriate."
"I can't think of anything more appropriate," Jamie mocked her ever so slightly. "Then the woman my father loved being the godmother to his first granddaughter. Can you?"
"I'm sorry what?" As it frequently happened with Jeanne, Matt found himself thinking that they were having two separate conversations.
"You're going to marry me," she repeated, using that same reasonable, logical tone she always used whenever it seemed like Matt wasn't getting with the program.
"You're out of your mind," he went with the obvious. "You're nuts."
"Why don't you wait and hear what I have to say, first, then make your decision?"
"Don't tell me you're playing the pregnancy card?" Matt shook his head in disbelief. "Because, trust me, I've been there, done that. Lila tried the same scheme; she even got me to marry her so I wouldn't forfeit my rights to Jasmine. But, I'm a lot savvier now. I know I don't have to "
"What are you talking about?" Jeanne stared at Matt as if he was the one who, in point of fact, fit the descriptors Matt had lobbed her way a moment earlier.
"And, besides, no way can it be mine. We always used protection. Always."
"Of course we did. I don't want to have kids. When did I ever say I wanted to have kids? I've got more important things to do."
"So, you're not..."
"Then... what do you think you could possibly say to..."
"You used me, Matt," Jeanne said calmly. "You and Donna both. You two colluded to trick me into providing positive media coverage of Donna after her file was allegedly released to the press, resulting in Donna's life being placed in danger."
"What? We did no such "
"You did," Jeanne insisted. "You're my boss. You and Donna own KBAY-TV. I was your employee, and you seduced me. You gave me the recording of Donna pleading her innocence, and you got me to play it on the air. You two were in on it together the entire time. That's extremely unethical."
"It's how I remember it," she said.
"It's also illegal, Matt. It's coercion, and extortion, and sexual harassment."
"Seriously?" He stared at her, dumbfounded. "You're serious about this?"
"Fine." He raised both his arms in the air. "Fine. In that case, go ahead, file charges, do whatever you want, knock yourself out. Good luck getting anyone to believe this crap."
"First Lorna, now me. How do you think it will look to the public?"
"Lorna will explain what really happened. If you're counting on her to back up your claims..."
"Lorna is your sister-in-law now. She's your niece's mother. Obviously, she doesn't want to rock the family boat. Not to mention, you probably paid her off."
Matt felt himself getting redder, and it wasn't from the midday sun, either. "Did I say you were out of your mind earlier? I was being kind. You're living in a fantasy world."
"I can cause a lot of problems for you and Donna, Matt."
"Bring it on," he challenged.
"Especially when I reveal that she knew Marley was Lorna's hit and run driver all along."
"I'd like to make a toast," Rachel raised her voice and a plastic cup of punch as she called for the scattered guests to gather around her. "To my daughter. And to her new husband."
Amanda and Kevin exchanged awkward glances, unsure of what was coming next, but willing to play along and hope for the best.
Jamie picked up Devon and, along with Alice, returned to the pool area, slipping his free arm around an anxiously waiting Lorna. Spencer smiled at his wife and did the same, reveling in how happy she seemed to be now that she'd formally met Jamie's little girl.
The kids climbed out of the pool, Steven sternly beckoning for Kirkland to stop pouting and come over whether he felt like it or not. His brother grudgingly complied. Jasmine, Bridget, Michele, and Cory stood in a separate, dripping group, Elizabeth keeping her distance, despite Cory's trying, like Steven, and with lots of emphatic hand gestures, to convince her to join them. It was Carl who, noticing his daughter seemingly being ostracized from the rest, stepped over and stroked her hair. She beamed at him in return.
Frankie and Cass stood with Lucas and Felicia, Dean and Lori Ann, and also Lila, who'd progressed to a point where she didn't itch to shove her ex and his universe-hugging soul-mate into the pool... not right away, in any case. As for Kevin and Amanda, Lila figured she'd leave them to Rachel.
Jen winked reassuringly at her dad, noting his discomfort at being here in the first place, while she wished she could think of an equally simple way to put GQ ease. He rather obviously hadn't felt comfortable since they'd crossed the Cory threshold. Jen wondered how Allie was dealing with them being there. She'd have been happy to ask and keep her promise to Amanda, except for the fact that GQ's former girlfriend had made it a point to avoid them. And Jen felt obliged to respect her wishes.
Matt was just happy for the excuse to cut his bizarre conversation with Jeanne short.
"Ever since Amanda told me about her marriage," Rachel began, successfully hiding her ongoing displeasure regarding the haphazard manner in which she'd been filled in. "I've been thinking about what I could say to congratulate them, and to welcome Kevin into our family."
There was a smatter of laughter about that. Everyone for their own reasons.
"I started thinking about Amanda and what an amazing gift she was to her father and I. How long and how eagerly we'd waited for her, how thrilled we were when we finally had the daughter we'd both dreamed of."
The hint of a smirk Amanda had assumed in preemptive defense as soon as her mother began speaking slipped away, and she blinked, first in surprise, then to keep back the tears. Any mention or reminder of Mac always made her cry. She didn't even use an Apple computer, and had banned them from Brava, because it was too evocative.
Kevin took her hand and squeezed it comfortingly. She rested her head on his shoulder.
"And then," Rachel said. "I thought about Kevin. And everything his grandmother was forced to endure before he reappeared in her life." She smiled at Alice. "I suspect Alice would say he was worth it."
Alice looked at Kevin, who didn't appear so sure, and, without hesitation, nodded firmly.
"Amanda and Kevin are proof that good things come to those who wait. Not just for their families, but for each other. No one here this afternoon," Rachel swept her gaze from Cass and Frankie to Felicia and Lucas to Jamie and Lorna to Alice and Spencer before finally settling, with a warm, grateful look, on her own husband. "Has had an easy course to chart throughout their lives. But, I think they'll agree, we are all precisely where we should be now."
"Hear, hear," Carl was the first to raise his glass in confirmation.
"To Amanda and Kevin," Rachel toasted. "On, at long last, finding where they belong... Together."
As, over the rim of her plastic cup, Amanda silently mouthed, "Thanks, Mom."
"So, how's the parenting going?" Lorna asked Dean once the crowd had dispersed, and he'd brought Lori Ann over to say hello to her baby cousin.
"It's... going," he admitted. "Up to a point, anyway."
"What does that mean?" Lorna unobtrusively removed Lori Ann's fingers from where they were creeping towards' Devon's bright but unfocused eyes and refocused the toddler on playing with the baby's more durable, though equally adorable, feet.
"It means that she's always happy to see me when I come pick her up. And she doesn't put up a fuss when I take her to my place. She plays with the toys I got her, and she eats kind of what I cook; but who can blame the kid there? And then, after a couple of hours earlier, if I don't let her have her way in something, she starts to fuss and insist, "Home. Go home. Go home now." Dean sighed. "Frankie and Cass. They're Mom and Dad. They're home. I think they always will be."
"It's tough," Lorna commiserated, glancing briefly over at Felicia with Cass. "If you're not there from the start..."
"Every day is just a losing game of catch-up."
"You should talk to Kirkland," Steven advised his father as it was starting to get dark and everyone made symbolic moves towards packing up and heading home. "Something weird is going on with him."
"I know," Jamie nodded. "I've tried asking him about it. He claims everything's fine. You know he went to Grant on his own, made him sign the adoption papers?"
"Good. About time, too."
Jamie hesitated. "How about you? You okay with me legally adopting your brother?"
"Hell, yeah. Why shouldn't I be? Oh... you mean because of that stupid crack I made a million years ago? About how you cared more about Kirk than me, your real son?"
"You had every right to feel that way."
"I may have a right, but that doesn't make it right. I was a dick, Dad, okay? I had my own stuff going on, and I took it out on you and Kirk. Ironic part is, the person I was most mad at that time was Grant, and now he's out of our lives forever."
"Which might be a relief to you and me. Not sure of whether it's good for Kirkland in the long run."
"It's what he said he wanted. He could have changed his mind at any time. I don't think this is about Grant, I really don't."
"Lorna and me, then? The new baby? Poor kid is kind of getting hit from both sides."
"Definitely not that."
"Did he give you any clues whatsoever?
"Nope. Freezer burn all around. Time to put the screws to him, I guess."
"If it's okay with you, I think I'll start a few notches below medieval torture."
"Suit yourself. You're the dad."
"Yeah," Jamie sighed, with a combination of resignation, contentment, and ongoing disbelief. "I am the dad."
"Why aren't Bridget and Michele with you?" Marley demanded as soon as she realized that Sarah was waiting for her in the hospital visitors' lounge alone.
"It's the 4th of July," the younger woman reminded. "Steven took them to his grandmother's party."
"Oh. Yes. Right..." Marley's voice trailed off. "Of course. They do love it there. Not just the pool and the games, we have all that at our house, too, after all; but getting to see their brothers. Cory, Jasmine... I'm sure they'll have a wonderful time."
"I came because I wanted to speak with you. In private. Is that alright? I mean, the last time we talked, just the two of us...."
Marley shook her head, dismissing. "I wasn't... I wasn't thinking clearly. My reaction my overreaction to you taking the girls to visit Lorna with Jasmine, it obviously wasn't about you, or anything you did. It was my paranoia and guilt talking. I was seeing enemies where there weren't any. You've been nothing but a friend to me since we first talked..."
"Last year," Sarah said. "At Mrs. Hutchins'."
"Yes," Marley said softly, that earlier party, like most of the past, horrible year, feeling like something from a dream. She'd left the girls with Steven then. And gone to see Grant.
Marley quickly forced herself off that particular train of thought, telling Sarah, "Michele said you're the one who talked Steven into letting them come see me."
"She did? She wasn't supposed to know that."
"Children hear a lot more than we think they do."
"Thank you for looking out for them."
Sarah shrugged. "It's for Midget's own good. You're their mom."
"Donna's my mother. And we both know how I feel about her. And then there's you and Olivia. Sometimes, I think the mothers many of us get are not the ones we were really meant to have. There are all these stories of changelings. Faeries taking babies from their real families and dropping them with ones who don't fit at all. In our cases, though, it's almost the opposite, isn't it? A little bit of supernatural swapping at birth might have done us both a world of good."
Reluctant to head down that road for either of their sakes, Sarah changed the subject. "Speaking of babies, I have some good news. I think. It should put your mind at ease, at least. Dr. and Mrs. Frame, they've had their baby."
"And..." was about the only sound Marley managed to squeak out.
"Everything went great. She's fine. Both of them, Mrs. Frame and the baby, they both came though just fine, no complications for either of them."
"Thank God," Marley all but sobbed.
"I guess this must be pretty hard for you, hearing about Dr. Frame having a little girl with somebody else."
"As long as she's fine. I could have never lived with myself if the baby... Jamie's baby... if there was anything wrong with her because of what I did to them."
"There isn't. Which means you can stop worrying, you can move on, get better and come home to your own girls."
"I'm afraid it's not that simple," Marley looked at Sarah sympathetically, realizing that everything she'd learned through agonizing experience, Sarah had yet to encounter. It was both a blessing and a curse. "I'm so happy that Jamie and Lorna's daughter is healthy. But, moving on means accepting that there is absolutely no chance of Jamie and I ever having any kind of relationship again, ever. I have to do it in order to make sure I don't repeat my mistakes. I can't risk hurting the people who love me anymore. I don't have too many of those left."
"Is there no other way?" Rachel asked Carl once their guests had gone home, Cory and Elizabeth been sent to bed, and they were heading there themselves, both beat from the heat and the hosting and the mostly sincere pleasantries. "Is incriminating Spencer truly the only possible solution to our problems?"
Carl's expression darkened. "Despite our multitude of past altercations, Spencer was not my first choice, you know that. My intent was always to see Donna pay for her crimes in the most fitting and just manner. Alas, Ms. Ewing... Listen to me, Rachel," he paused, turning on the stairs, standing one below her so he might look his wife directly in the eye. "Our sole option for permanently taking you and the children out of harm's way was to see to it that the compound was obliterated, while making it seem as if we were in no way responsible for its downfall. On that, we have previously agreed, have we not?"
"Yes," Rachel said. "But, I was looking at Spencer today... Kevin isn't just a part of his family now, he's ours, too. As long as he's married to Amanda, anything that affects him, affects her. And Alice Jamie asked Alice to be Devon's godmother. I may have spent the bulk of my adult life trying to keep that woman as far away from me as possible but, clearly, it hasn't worked. Whether it's God's idea of a cosmic joke or some kind of lesson I'm just now starting to absorb, she and I are clearly destined to be intertwined for the foreseeable future. In which case I would rather, if it's at all possible, not be responsible for putting her husband at the mercy an international, criminal cartel."
"If it's at all possible," Carl repeated slowly. "Unfortunately, there needs to be someone to take the fall in our stead. The key damage has been done, there is no turning back. Every good comes with a price. Someone must pay that price. If not I, if not Spencer, if not, to my eternal regret, Donna, then who? Lucas? Would you prefer Lucas? The husband of a woman you actually like? The father of your daughter-in-law? Devon's one remaining grandfather?"
"Of course not!"
"Then who? Believe me, my love, I have looked at this from every possible angle and come up with a solution destined to hurt the least number of people close to us. If you have alternative options to contribute, kindly step forward now. It's them or us, Rachel. Them or us. What would you have me do?"
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