"Check up done already?" Jamie looked up in surprise at the sight of Lorna standing in his office doorway, holding a sleeping Devon against her shoulder, a good hour earlier than Jamie might have expected them.
"We actually haven't exactly made it to the pediatrician's yet. They're running a little late and..." Lorna got to the point. "Is she going to get shots on this visit?"
"Just one today. Hepatitis B."
"Just one today? How many next time, then?"
"Well, there's the DTaP, the IPV, the PCV, the "
"I'm sorry I asked. Sometimes it's no fun being married to a doctor. On the other hand... Think you could take care of all that ABC, FBI, PG-13 stuff for us?"
"It'll just be a little pinch," he soothed.
"That's how you describe someone taking a stab at our kid?"
"A little pinch," he reiterated, amused and moved by Lorna's apparent terror. "Besides, it's a bad idea to treat your own family members."
"Better you than some gum-cracking nurse too busy counting down the clock till her next smoke break."
"Please don't impugn the nursing profession. I assure you, it will not end well for me or Devon. Besides, I know what you're really up to, here," Jamie attempted to joke Lorna out of her mood. "This is your underhanded bid to make sure you stay Devon's favorite, while I'm the bad parent who jabs her in the arm."
"Ha! I knew it was more than a pinch, you admitted it! And we're not in competition, in any case. Devon loves us both equally."
"You're a round-the-clock food source. You're way ahead of the pack at the moment."
"I'll explain to Devon that you're doing it for her own good," Lorna cajoled.
"No sale," Jamie laughed, kissing first the top of his daughter's head, then her anxious mother's lips. "The hospital has a manual full of reasons why it isn't allowed. With the most important one being I don't want to set up a lifelong association for Devon between me and pain. But, hey, here's an idea, let's ask Uncle Morgan to do it!"
"You prefer Devon hates him for life?"
"I'd explain that he was doing it for her own good," Jamie repeated Lorna's words back to her. "And frankly yes."
Lorna couldn't help smiling at his honesty.
"What do you think, Beautiful? Uncle Morgan for the win?" Jamie and Lorna waited for Devon's reaction, which, if you squinted, might have been a shrug of the shoulders followed by a neutral, "eh." Or it might have been gas.
"Do you really trust him with Devon?" Lorna pressed.
"Morgan is a good doctor. And if it will make you more comfortable..."
"No, I mean... I've been thinking... you already asked Alice to be Devon's godmother. Which is great, I love that idea. I I'd like to ask Morgan to be her godfather." When Jamie didn't immediately respond, merely donning his traditional Frame Face of I don't know what to say so I won't say anything at all until I do, Lorna rushed to fill the silence. "I get that this isn't exactly the same thing. Alice is your stepmother, and Morgan, he's my... my..."
"He's your best friend," Jamie cut her off, Frame Face morphing to Stoic Resignation. "He's important to you."
"Not more important than you are. Not more important than your feelings."
"You trust him. And I trust you. Makes it simple."
"You're a better man than I am, Frame."
"Thank goodness for that," he smiled, pulling her closer, a task made somewhat difficult by the squirming baby between them. "And you know what, if you're still antsy, how about I join you and Devon for your appointment? I can hold her while she gets the shot, you don't even have to be in the room if you don't want to be."
"No," Lorna shook her head, despite the temptation to agree instantly. "I'm a mom now. This is part of the job. Can't spend Devon's life dumping the grunt work on whomever's handy."
"Should I be warning nurses to be on the look-out for your fists of fury, then?"
She sighed, somewhat grumpily. "I'll be fine. And weren't you going to head home, see if you could pry the truth out of Kirk about what's been bothering him the past few days?"
"Kirkland hating me now, or Devon hating me down the line," Jamie mused, even as he headed for the door, having made his choice. "My life is a Father Knows Best episode of The Lady or the Tiger?"
"So you want us to look into Chase Hamilton's background for you," Frankie asked Lila after the three of them had gotten over the initial discomfort of Frankie inviting Cass's ex-wife into the home they'd once shared together. "Cass tried to explain, but I'm afraid I still don't understand exactly why, or what you're hoping to do with the information."
"It's kind of complicated," Lila admitted, realizing how coy she sounded, despite her best efforts.
"It would really help us narrow our search," Frankie prompted.
"I think he's hiding something."
"I... I think he's..." Lila took a deep breath, knowing full well how ridiculous and self-absorbed she was about to sound, and deciding to get the confession over with as soon as possible, blurting out, "I think Chase isn't really gay."
It took Frankie and Cass a moment to process that one. Despite close to fifty years of combined investigative experience, both could freely say they'd never heard that one before.
"Why?" Cass asked, flabbergasted. "Why would anyone... I mean, the reverse, yes, sure, of course, especially a politician. But, why would "
"I don't know."
"What even put the possibility into your head?" Frankie wondered.
"Some things he said..."
"You mean like being against gay marriage?" Cass thought back to their conversation on the 4th. "That's a pretty common libertarian stance. I told you, libertarians want to get the government out of the marriage business all together, gay, straight, doesn't matter."
"Well, okay, I didn't know that, I just thought it was weird with him calling Doug his husband at the same time and all. But, anyway, that's not what I meant. I meant... some things he said and some things he did where I was concerned."
"He came on to you?" Frankie guessed.
"I'm not sure," Lila repeated for what felt like the umpteenth time. "I thought he did. But, maybe I'm just misreading the signals. Maybe I've been out of the game too long and any time a man is nice to me I jump to the conclusion that... "
"You're one of the savviest women I know," Cass said. "If you think a man is flirting with you, odds are that man is flirting with you, no question."
"But, why?" Frankie returned to the original question, quickly clarifying, "I don't mean, why would a man flirt with Lila "
"It's okay," Lila reassured. Seriously, all this polite pussy-footing was getting exhausting.
"What Frankie meant," Cass picked up the baton, lest there be any misunderstanding. "Is why would anyone, especially a politician, pretend to be gay when he actually wasn't?"
"Why do you assume he's pretending?" Frankie challenged, not thrilled about having Cass speak for her, especially when he'd missed the target, to boot.
"What do you mean?"
"Why couldn't Chase simply be bi-sexual, at which point this entire conversation is moot?"
"He told me," Lila interrupted. "That Doug is the only person he's ever been with his entire life."
"Well, then, that's an even easier question to answer. He fell in love with Doug as a human being, regardless of gender, and now he's attracted to Lila, also regardless."
Cass shook his head. "Unlikely."
"Why would you say that?"
"I just... I find it hard to imagine, that's all, being so... fluid."
"Just because you've always been attracted to women and only women "
"All women," Lila interjected.
"Any woman," Frankie confirmed, the two of them exchanging a conspiratorial, almost downright friendly, smile. "Doesn't mean someone else is incapable of looking past the superficial and down to the true essence of a person."
"I think what we need to do," Cass cleared his throat, ignoring the observations and the implied mocking that came with it. "Is go back to the beginning with Chase. See what else doesn't add up. I thought maybe Fowler would be a good place to start. He handled Chase and Doug's adoption of their little girl. He's got to have a ton of files on them."
"You figure he'll talk to you?" Lila cocked her head. "From what I recall, Kevin's pretty tight in his work dealings. He and Amanda even broke up over it. The first time. And maybe the second. Not sure about the third or..."
"We'll put Frankie on that part," Cass teased. "Maybe she'll get Kevin to glean her true essence as a person... and not figure out she's just pumping him for details."
On that note, Lila excused herself. She figured Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop were either about to get into a fight, or overly cutesy and she had no interest in being a part of either.
Lila was already at her car, unlocking the driver's side door, when she heard her cell-phone go off and was surprised to see the call came from Charlie. Lila looked up towards her former stepdaughter's window, where Charlie now sat, gesturing for Lila to pick up.
"I need to talk you," Charlie said.
"I was just in the house, Sugar," Lila observed, deeply confused.
"I know. But, I wanted to do it in private. Can you drive around the corner and wait for me? I'll be right down."
"Marley is doing okay," Sarah reassured Grant, stopping by the house after dropping the girls off at camp.
"You told her about Jamie and Lorna's baby?"
"Yeah. And you were right, she was really happy to hear it. It put her mind at ease, she even said so."
"Good." Grant nodded. "Good, good. Did she... did she say anything about... me?"
"Well, not directly," Sarah hedged, loath to extinguish the light of hope in his eyes.
"What does that mean?" he barked, sharper than he'd intended.
Sarah didn't appear to take offense. "It means, she did say that she needs to hold on to the people who still love her, because she doesn't have that many of them left. I'm sure she meant you."
Grant snorted bitterly. "You're very kind."
"I'm not," Sarah confessed. "I'm actually sort of a Class-A bitch, if you want to know the truth. That's why I got where Marley was coming from. If somebody loves you for real, you don't give that up easily. 'Cause you know it's not going to come around again for a good, long time. If I were her, Senator, I'd hold on to you with everything I had."
"She doesn't want to see me," Grant reminded.
"She wants to get better first," Sarah said with such certainty, Grant almost had no choice but to believe her. Almost.
"In any case," he changed the subject to something a bit more pleasant. "Thank you for going to see her, for talking to her. And thank you for trying to cheer me up. Like you, I never take kindness for granted excuse the pun. And for pretty much the same reason, too."
"How are things panning out with Kirkland?"
Grant sighed. "Another one who's labeled me personal non-grata."
"He'll come around, too," again with that confidence of youth. Grant had to admit, it was kind of pleasant to have around. The constant pessimism of age had its drawbacks.
"I'm taking your advice. I'm giving him space."
"My advice?" Sarah giggled. "Boy, you must be really desperate."
"You made a lot of sense the other day. And, like you said, you probably get where he's coming from much better than I do."
"Was that a diss about me being your son's age? You see me as some dumb kid?"
"Quite the contrary, it was a reference to your wisdom despite; maybe even because of your youth."
"You, Senator, clearly didn't get the requisite Old Fogies Know Best memo."
"Thank you," Grant said archly. "Don't know how you meant that, but I'm choosing to take it as a compliment."
Sarah laughed then, almost shyly asked, "Listen, do you... would you... Do you think you'd mind if maybe I stopped by here every once in a while? To, you know, just kind of hang out or something?"
"Hang out?" Grant repeated, wondering if his hearing were choosing to go at a most inopportune time. "With me?"
"Yeah... Sure. Would that be... okay?"
"You want to hang out with... me?" Apparently Grant's hearing was just fine. Maybe it was his mind that was playing tricks on him?
"I'm staying at the Love house now, and it's not like I exactly have a lot of fans there. Or even people to talk to. Midget are great but, they're..."
"Swear to God, if you point out I'm closer in age to them than "
"God forbid!" Grant threw up his hands in surrender. "I know better now!"
"So would it be okay if I kind of stopped by once in a while? See how you're doing?"
"My door is always open," Grant told her sincerely. "You did me a favor. I'll never forget that. You have my word."
"Do you have a minute, Allie?" Jen cornered her coming out of class, the last Summer Course scheduled for the day.
"Not really," Allie tried to weave around, but Jen blocked the attempt at escape.
"I'm sorry," Jen said firmly. "I tried calling and texting, you wouldn't answer."
"I thought I was answering. I don't want to talk to you, okay?"
"I don't particularly want to talk to you, either."
"Good. Then we're all set. See you around."
"Look, Allie, I know you and your mom have... issues."
"You don't know anything."
"Fine. But, I actually happen to care about my dad."
"I like your dad," Allie said, the better to keep away from the real subject.
"Fabulous," Jen dismissed, undeterred. "Amanda is worried about what it might mean to her marriage to have you, me, and GQ all in the same family."
"GQ is family now? When did that happen?"
"He's Hudson's father."
"Do you always have an answer for everything?" Allie rolled her eyes. "What do you want from me, Jen?"
"What I don't want is for either of us to make problems for our parents."
"And since I'm such an overall screw-up, you decided to play the perfect big sister and give me a little talking to on the subject?"
"Oh, give it a rest, would you, Allie? You think this is fun for me? Having us all thrown together like this? I know that in your world perfect is an insult. But, yeah, you're right, I do try to be perfect. Especially where my dad is concerned. You know why? Because if it weren't for him, I'd be God knows where, living God knows what kind of life. I've spent years trying to make him proud of me and not cause any trouble, and I'm certainly not going to stop now, no matter who he's married to."
"Sounds like you're afraid your Daddy won't love you if you're not the daughter he wants you to be."
"Sounds like you're afraid that even if you are, your Mommy still won't."
"I'm going to say a name," Jeanne whispered to Carl over the phone. "I know you told me you couldn't be my direct source, but I've done some digging on my own, and all I need is for you to tell me if I'm on the right track. Would you be willing to do that?"
"Yes," Carl said smoothly, happy that Ms. Ewing couldn't see how pleased he was that she'd followed each of the bread-crumbs he'd laid out for her, perfectly. Nice to know young people today were still motivated by the same things that had allowed Carl to build his original empire on the backs of previous generations money may talk, but that was temporary; self-interest, however, that never went out of style.
"Thank you," Jeanne said. "Okay, so, after tracking down about a dozen leads and speaking to sources both on and off the record: Is the person who actually brought down the compound and tried to frame Donna Love for it... Spencer Harrison?"
Carl had spent weeks of careful preparation for this moment. He thought he'd be able to confirm Jeanne's guess without hesitation.
Unfortunately, now that the moment of truth was at hand, Carl found himself... hesitating. Not for Harrison's sake, naturally. After the grievous sins the old bastard had committed against Carl where Ryan and Justine were concerned, not to mention siring and unleashing upon the Earth that plague known as Grant, Carl had no doubt Harrison Sr. deserved every last bit of karma coming to him.
But, Rachel... Rachel had expressed some misgiving about their plan. She'd asked Carl begged him if maybe there might be some other way. A way that didn't implicate Alice's husband, Kirkland's grandfather, Amanda's... well, that one was too complicated to count; step-something or other.
He'd turned the question back on her. And Rachel had failed to produce any feasible alternative.
Us or them, my love, Carl mused. Alice's husband... or yours? Kirkland's grandfather, or Rachel's own children?
The choice was simple. And cried out to be made. Best to take the onus off Rachel and place it exclusively on himself. It was the least Carl owed his wife. It was yet another way in which he could protect her. Another way in which he could prove himself worthy of her love and faith.
"Yes," Carl sighed into the phone with a much heavier heart than he'd expected to possess. "You are absolutely right, Ms. Ewing."
"What's wrong, Matthew?" Donna took one look at Matt's anguished face when he appeared at her door and her mind instantly leafed through the devastating possibilities. "Did something happen to Jasmine?"
"What?" he blinked, as if woken from a trance.
"Is Jasmine alright?"
"She's fine," Matt stared at Donna, confused and unable to follow her train of thought.
"Well, thank goodness for that, at least." Donna took his hand, leading Matt to the library where they might talk in private. You never knew when that twit charity case of Marley's might be lurking and eavesdropping. Donna had no intention of Sarah Wheeler becoming privy to her personal dealings. "So what's happened then, darling? Did you tell your family about... us? Did they..."
"I I never got around to it. 4th of July, Jeanne "
"Jeanne?" Donna trilled in disbelief. "What could that horrid little "
"She thinks... She asked me told me Jeanne wants me to marry her."
Donna couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. It wasn't a particularly Christian sentiment nor a generous one. But Donna only deigned to indulge both those traits once a year. And today just wasn't Jeanne Ewing's day, alas.
Donna regained her composure enough to sympathize, "Letting her down easily must have been so difficult for you, darling. I know how sensitive you are."
"Jeanne knows, Donna."
"She knows that you hid evidence linking Marley to Lorna and Morgan's hit and run." In response to the myriad of emotions simultaneously striking Donna's face prior to any sort of verbal confirmation, Matt pressed, "You did, didn't you? Tell me the truth, Donna, please, I couldn't take it if "
"She told you about the tape from Grant's campaign headquarters?"
"Yes. Though, to be honest, Donna, she told me months ago. It was... figuring out why you'd kept that reel back from the police was why Jeanne and I joined forces in the first place. She wanted to uncover what you "
"Though not knowing certainly didn't stop the bitch from blackmailing me, in any case."
"She thought I'd be able to get the whole truth out of you and help Jeanne put together a prize-winning piece of reporting."
"You didn't, though."
"No. I didn't."
"Jeanne thought tossing me repeatedly into your orbit would cause you to crack and confess all. Apparently, I'm supposed to be that irresistible."
"That goes without saying."
"The only thing it did, however, was remind me how much I love you. And how I'd do anything for you."
Donna cut to the bottom line. "Jeanne is blackmailing you into marriage by targeting me."
"Not just you," he confessed. "I've been... I've done some stupid things, lately you see what happens when you're not around to keep me in line? I'm hopeless some stupid things Jeanne knows about and can use to make life very, very unpleasant for me."
"I would never want you to suffer because of me, Matthew. I know you have in the past, but, at least, that was my doing." In spite of the seriousness of their situation, Donna couldn't help adding with a half-smile, "Let someone else threaten you, and I'm sorry, I must insist on asserting my exclusive rights."
"I don't give a damn about Jeanne's threats. I told her as much, and now I'm telling you. Anything she throws at me, I'm willing to take. I'm not giving you up again for any reason, Donna."
"Oh. And what, may I ask, might that be?"
"If you tell me to."
"I challenged Jeanne to do her worst, humiliate me in public, decimate C-Squared, empty out my bank accounts, press criminal charges "
"Oh, no. No, not over me."
"But, I can't make the same decision for you. Concealing evidence, obstruction of justice, those are serious crimes. And considering your..."
"Past," Matt refused to go into more detail. "You could be at some serious personal risk. I'm ready to take on Jeanne. But, that doesn't mean you need be. Tell me what you want to do about this, Donna. I swear I'll do whatever you say."
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