"Why all the cloak and dagger, Sugar?" Lila asked Charlie once her former stepdaughter had slipped into the passenger seat of Lila's car, looking nervously over her shoulder as if she expected to be watched.
"I wanted to talk to you."
"Anytime, you know that."
"And I didn't want Mom and Dad to know."
"Alright-y, listen here, Charlotte, I am happy to be your friend, always have been, always will be. But, if you're up to something dangerous or "
"I'm not, I swear. I just needed advice, that's all. And before you say anything, I already went to Mom and Dad, okay? They were no help."
"What makes you think I'll do any better?"
"Because. You know about stuff like this."
"Stuff like what?"
"Stuff like..." Charlie sighed, blushing, and not only because it was getting uncomfortably hot in the car with the windows rolled up. "Like if a guy really likes you or not."
"Charlie, honey," Lila couldn't suppress her giggle, patting the girl's shoulder so that Charlie understood she wasn't the one being laughed at. "If I was that good, you think I'd have three divorces under my belt by now?"
"Please, Lila. I think I really screwed up. Dad said... Dad said that when you really care about somebody, you want to show them. You want to, you know, have sex and... stuff."
"I see," Lila nodded thoughtfully, no more giggles, taking matters completely seriously. "I can't say I disagree with that."
"So it's true?"
"Well... yes. Though, I'm not going to lie to you, there's lots of sex and... stuff going on every day without benefit of caring, or even liking very much. Your Daddy told you the best case scenario, not the only one."
"Oh, I know that. And it's not... this isn't about that. I like Kirkland, I do. I thought he liked me, too."
"Kirkland is a nice boy. You're lucky."
"He didn't want me, Lila."
"Kirkland didn't want to... I offered. We were home by ourselves, there wasn't going to be a better time, and I was totally ready. But he... didn't want me."
"Kirkland said no to... sex?"
"Huh," Lila said.
"That doesn't sound good. I was right, wasn't I? It means he doesn't really like me. Not as much as he said, anyway."
"No, no," Lila rushed to cut her off. "Don't go jumping to conclusions now."
"But you said huh. When is huh ever a good a thing?"
"That wasn't a bad huh. That was a huh, I never heard of a seventeen year old boy turning down sex before, huh."
"You see," Charlie flopped in her seat, blinking back tears.
"What did Kirkland say, exactly?"
"He said he wasn't into it. That he was upset about Grant and... who cares? What does it matter what his reasons were, end result is the same. I practically threw myself at him, and he just kicked me to the curb."
"Reasons matter, Charlie. Reasons matter a lot. Just like there are plenty of reasons for making love, many of them bad "
"I know. Dad gave me the rundown."
"There are plenty of reasons for not making love, many of them good."
"Not my place," Lila said softly. "Kirkland's the one you should be asking."
"Yeah, well, I've humiliated myself enough for one time, thank you very much. Not in the mood for more punishment."
"Okay," Lila shrugged.
"That's it?" Charlie blinked in surprise. "That's all you've got to say?"
"You're not in the mood for more punishment, I'm not in the mood to beat my head against a wall. You asked my advice, I gave my opinion. Can't make you take it if you don't want to."
"You really think there's a good reason for Kirkland turning me down?" She scrunched up her face pleadingly.
"You said you cared about the boy. Makes me think he's worth caring about. And if he's worth caring about, ain't he worth hearing out, too?
"See," Amanda whispered into Kevin's ear as they lay intertwined in bed, sunshine streaming in through the windows of his hotel suite. "I promised I'd show you the upside to temporary unemployment."
He smiled faintly, not utterly convinced, but politely willing to let Amanda give it her best shot. He rolled away for a moment, opening his bedside drawer and reaching inside for the packet of condoms he kept there.
Amanda rested her hand on his wrist. "You don't have to do that."
He cocked his head at her in surprise. "Amanda..."
"We're married now, aren't we?"
"You mean, you've... you've changed your mind about "
"What?" She bolted up, startled, drawing in the blankets like an extra layer of protection. "No!"
"Then why..." he gestured towards the still packaged prophylactics.
"I meant... All I meant was... We had blood tests done, we know we're both healthy, no transmittable diseases or anything. No need for the condoms."
"I know you're technically a grandmother, Amanda, but you're not too old to have a baby, are you?"
"Well, no, not technically."
"If we're not using condoms.... You know I'd like to have a family. I've been completely open about that."
"And you know that I don't. Allie is plenty. And you have Jen."
"I didn't meet Jen until she was seven years old. I'd like to raise a child from the start. I'd like to do it with you."
"No, Kevin," Amanda reiterated firmly. "No. I told you already. And, anyway, I I had my tubes tied. After Cameron and I broke up."
"But, you know what that means, don't you?" she sidled up to him, reaching beneath the blanket.
"Yeah," Kevin said hoarsely, absently, looking down at Amanda as if seeing her for the first time.
"It means there doesn't have to be anything between us anymore. We can make love without using anything now. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah," he repeated, responding instinctively, seemingly from a loss as to what else to do.
Amanda lay back, pulling Kevin down on top and silently guiding him inside her.
As they both pretended this time was just as good as always.
"I want..." Donna began hesitantly. "I want you to... You need to let me go, Matthew."
"No," he said firmly.
"Yes," she took his hand. "You said if I told you to..."
"I'm not afraid," Matt insisted. "Not of Jeanne Ewing. We can fight this. Her."
"I'm not afraid of Jeanne, either."
"Then is it the police? You're afraid if she tells them you knew about Marley..."
"No. Not the police. To tell you the truth, a part of me would be relieved to finally pay publicly for my crimes. I would like to pay my debt to society, as they say."
"It's Jeanne's word against yours. A good lawyer "
"Still wouldn't be able to make things right with your family."
"What?" Matt's head shot up, as if whip-lashed.
"I'm not afraid of the police. But, what do you think it would do to your family if they found out that all those months Lorna was in a coma, I knew who was responsible?"
Matt opened his mouth even before she'd started speaking, certain that he had an answer to any question she might pose. Save that one.
Donna nodded, stroking his face understandingly. "It would have been bad enough, you and I being together when Carl blames me for Jenna's death. But, your relationship with Carl... Let's be frank, who truly cares about your relationship with Carl? It might have made things sticky with Rachel, but... Rachel would never pick her husband over one of her children. She would find some way to make it work. Jamie, on the other hand. How do you think Jamie would react if he knew I'd covered up Marley's involvement?"
"Lorna is fine," Matt insisted. "They have their baby, and they're so into each other right now they don't even realize there are other people sharing the planet. It's not like you hit Lorna. You were just protecting your daughter."
"You're rationalizing, Matthew."
"I am fighting for my life! You're my life, Donna."
"You promised you'd heed my wishes."
"You promised you wouldn't abandon me again."
"Who says I am?" Donna challenged, her entire countenance changing on a dime. "You didn't let me finish. You need to let me go, Matthew... publicly. Let Ms. Ewing believe she's gotten her way."
"You want me to agree to marry her?" Matt asked.
"After a properly long engagement, of course."
"How long is proper?" Matt couldn't be sure he completely understood what Donna was putting forward. But, what he'd heard so far, he certainly liked.
"Long enough for us to turn the tables on Jeanne Ewing. Once and for all."
Jamie's unexpected appearance in the kitchen caused Kirkland to jump, but not quick enough to cover up that he was holding his obviously swollen hand under the cold running water of the kitchen sink.
"Nothing. I was just... clumsy. I was setting up the weights to do some chest presses, the bar slipped and I didn't get out of the way fast enough."
Jamie cautiously prodded each knuckle as Kirkland winced, checking for broken bones. "I thought we agreed, no heavy exercise without a spotter. You're not experienced enough yet to "
"You're right. I messed up. I'm sorry."
"What's going on here, Kirkland? You haven't been yourself for days now."
"I'm fine," he insisted, yanking back his arm despite the consequent throbbing pain.
"Can't a kid do something stupid around here and it just be a kid doing something stupid?"
"You're never stupid, Kirkland."
"I was about Grant."
"That wasn't you being stupid. That was you giving Grant a chance and Grant being stupid. Now," Jamie busied himself making an ice pack. "You can either sit and talk to me here, or flee to your room, where I'll follow and still make you talk to me, or you can hit the street I see you eyeing the back door, pal where I will match you step for step until you finally give up the man of few words routine and tell me what's wrong."
"I don't know, Dad. You're pretty old."
"In which case, you'll juggle whatever is bothering you, plus the burden of having given your ancient father a heart-attack."
"Whatever happened to giving a kid space until they're ready to open up?"
"Not when you're hurting yourself, Kirkland."
"I told you, it was an accident."
"That happened because you weren't paying attention, doing something you know you shouldn't have been doing in the first place." Jamie pushed the boy to sit in a kitchen chair, handing him an ice pack. "Why are you so angry, son?"
"How about because my biological father sucks, and I suck because I can't deal with it? Can I go now?"
"Why not? I answered your stupid question."
"You're lying to me."
"So what if I am? Like father, like son, right? Like both fathers," Kirkland flared.
"I did lie to you. And afterwards I promised that I would never keep secrets from either you or Steven ever again. You promised to do the same. I know what it's like to live with something eating away at you and I can see...I can see that's what's happening with you now. I don't want you to live like that. I won't stand by and allow you to live like that."
Kirkland shook his head, working to keep from giving in. "There's nothing you can do."
"I can listen. Give it a shot, son. Bottling whatever it is up hasn't helped you so far. And you know you can tell me anything. Anything. No matter what."
"Charlie and I..." Kirkland began after a silence so protracted Jamie had begun second-guessing his entire approach. "We were hanging out in my room the other day, when you were still at the hospital with Lorna. We weren't doing anything... Mostly because, I I didn't want to."
"Didn't want to what?" Jamie asked, not because he couldn't guess, but needing to make sure he and Kirkland were on the same page.
"You know... fool around. Charlie wanted to and I didn't and... it... got... weird."
"She got weird. Charlie. She was mad that I didn't want to. I told her I'd just seen Grant and made him sign the adoption papers that morning, you know? My head was in a million different places. But, Charlie, she didn't believe me."
Jamie tried to keep his face neutral despite the uneasy feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. "Kirkland, what happened?"
"She got mad. She started yelling, she shoved me, she said I'd led her on just to mess with her, but I didn't!" Kirkland paused to take an unsteady breath. "Then she called me a fag. What... what do you think of that?" He asked, suddenly casual, while desperation beamed from his eyes.
"What do I think?" Jamie repeated slowly. "I think that I'm not a fan of name calling under any circumstances. I think that it's a deliberately hurtful word; a smart girl like Charlie should know better. On the other hand, if you're asking me what would I think if you told me you actually were gay, then the answer is, honestly, I wouldn't feel... anything. Except happy that you were comfortable enough to confide in me. You're my son, I love you, I will always love you. There is nothing nothing you could tell me about yourself that could ever change that. I may not always agree with the things you do for instance, hurting your hand the way you did? Very, very stupid. And bad for your golf game. But, accord isn't love, Kirkland. Please don't ever confuse the two."
"Charlie said if I didn't want her then I must be a fa gay or messed up, something had to be wrong with me. That's why Grant...why he was in such a hurry to dump me."
"No, Kirk. No. Everything I said before, about loving you no matter what, trust me, despite the multitude of ways he's let you down in other respects, it's the same for Grant. I'm certain of it. We'd be in total agreement."
"Why would she say that?" The reassurances seemed to fall on deaf ears. "I mean she and I.... I like her.... She knows I like her. And I've wanted to be with her before... I've certainly thought about it enough, and we've, you know, come pretty close. But, that time, I just... Maybe she's right, maybe it was all my fault. Maybe I should have... "
"No! What happened between you and Charlie was most definitely not your fault."
"Then whose fault was it? She was just... She knew how rotten I felt. She wanted to make me feel better. She said so. And we'd talked about it before. We were planning to... She was acting normally. I'm the one who "
"Kirkland, listen to me. Only one person gets to decide when you're ready to have sex. And that's you. Not Charlie, not your friends at school, not Steven, not MTV, and not the Moral Majority. You. If Charlie really cared about your feelings, she would have respected your wishes, she wouldn't have pushed the issue, and she most certainly wouldn't have hit you and called you names when you refused to go along with her personal time-table. She...." Jamie cut himself off, swallowing the torrent of emotions running through him in response to Kirkland's confession. "You did nothing wrong," Calming down before his son realized what was happening, Jamie reiterated. "Please know that. You, Kirkland, did nothing wrong..."
"Aaaaand we're done," Morgan skillfully applied a band-aid to a screaming Devon's upper thigh and handed the infant back to her mother, who looked just about ready to burst into tears herself.
"It's okay," Lorna cooed. "It's over. It's all over. Uncle Morgan just wants to make sure you stay healthy and keep your visits here to an absolute minimum."
At the sound of Lorna's voice, Devon's cries shriveled into indignant sniffles, as Morgan did his best to remember that the baby was responding to the shot he'd just given her, and not due to some mystical knowledge of Morgan's actions the previous winter.
Not that Morgan blamed her. Furious howling was an appropriate response in the presence of the jerk who'd tried to kill you.
"You okay?" Lorna repeated, this time addressing a shaky Morgan. "Did I go too far, asking you to do this? I know pediatrics isn't your regular beat."
"It's different when the patient is someone you know," Morgan offered lamely.
"In that case, both Devon and I thank you for manning up and taking care of her, anyway."
Morgan had to swallow the lump in his throat. "You don't have to thank me. I owe you... I owe you both."
"You mean for the months you spent playing games with me about our divorce? Chill. I'm over it. Papers got signed, wedding went off without a single objection from the peanut gallery, and my perfectly healthy baby girl is perfectly legitimate."
"Barely," Morgan teased.
"Close counts in horse-shoes and legitimacy," Lorna insisted. "Devon Ada Frame's mother and father were legally married at the time of her birth, end of story. Only thing your stalling stuck me with in the end was waddling down the aisle looking like a polar bear woken up from hibernation. If you'd gotten with the program earlier, I might have gone with something in a skin-tight cat-suit... for old time's sake.
"I'm sorry, Lorna," Morgan said abruptly. "For being a dick. Our accident would've never happened if "
"First of all, watch your language. I'm trying to not corrupt my kid... right away. Second, I already said I forgive you for being a... less than stellar gentleman last year. We both know whose fault my accident really was. And it wasn't yours."
"Cass told me about Marley. And Grant. Honestly, I'll never know how you were able to get past what she nearly did to you and Devon. The old Lorna would have "
"The old Lorna wasn't responsible for anyone other than herself. And she did a pretty lousy job at that. It was fine for me to go off half-cocked on anyone and everyone I even thought might be planning to screw me over. Because the consequences of my crazy would come back to bite just me. Now that I have Jamie and Devon..."
"I'd think getting married and having a baby would make you more homicidal about protecting your own."
"In some ways, yes. In others, it's helped crystallize which battles are actually worth fighting, and which deserve to be let go.
"Let go?" Morgan sputtered. "Are you telling me you actually forgive Marley for "
"Never," Lorna hissed. "But, that insane bitch already stole months from Jamie and me. I'm not about to let her intrude on a minute more." Hearing how intense she sounded and that perhaps it didn't exactly mesh with the live and let live policy Lorna had just been advocating, she forced herself to calm down and explain in a more reasonable tone. "I've got more important things to do. Like asking you to be Devon's godfather."
Morgan stilled. "Godfather? Me?"
"This cannot come as a surprise to you. Who else could I possibly pick?"
"Does Jamie know? I mean... does he know you asked me?"
"Did you think I was planning to hide you behind the baptismal font for the duration of the ceremony?"
"And he's... cool?"
"Jamie trusts me to do what's best for Devon. And yes, you should feel appropriately cowed by what an awesome man he is. The humility will do you good. Now, are you going to say yes, or are you afraid being a godfather might put a crimp in your fabulous bachelor lifestyle?"
"I would love to be Devon's godfather, Lorna. I... you have no idea what this means to me... how much... I promise I won't let you down." He looked at Devon, now curled up against Lorna's chest, hiccupping as she fumed, her cheeks still damp with leftover tears. "I promise I won't let her down."
"Good answer. And, don't worry, I'll give you plenty of notice about where and when, so you can dig up a date now that you're back on the Bay City market."
"You heard about Amanda and Kevin, huh?"
"We travel in the same social circles now. I am her sister-in-law."
"Wow, you said that with only a touch of sarcasm."
"Hey, better sarcasm than filling Devon's ears with what I really think of her Aunt Amanda."
"She's not that bad."
"You, my friend, dodged a self-absorbed, self-centered, bitchy bullet."
"Maybe? Maybe, Winthrop? Please do not tell me you're actually pining for that "
"No bashing Auntie Amanda," Morgan reminded with a wag of a finger.
"Let her go. Move on. With your dignity intact."
"That marriage isn't going to last. Amanda and Kevin won't work. Not in the long run."
"Why does that prediction sound so familiar? Oh! Because you said the same thing to me about Jamie. You're batting zero, here, pal."
"Jury's still out. You and Jamie split one second before Till death do us part, and I win."
"Wow. You are seriously making me rethink this whole godfather to my daughter thing."
"You and Jamie are nothing like Amanda and Kevin. Jamie's not a down on his luck, pompous, self-important tool latching onto the first woman willing to make him feel good about himself."
"I'm no fan of Fowler's either, but when did this guy spit in your Cheerios?"
"He wasn't exactly courteous to me in court."
"It's what Jamie hired him to. And don't expect me to feel sorry about it, either."
"He's a jerk," Morgan decided to get off that dangerous subject, and fast. "I intend to prove it to Amanda."
"It's none of your business."
"I'm trying to help."
"You're looking for a fight. And a lady you've decided is in distress that you can save in order to make you feel good about yourself, since the last candidate you rushed to rescue already has a white knight she's perfectly happy with."
"Jealous?" Morgan challenged shakily, both of them knowing that wasn't remotely it.
"No," she said simply. "Just concerned. I remember our old deal, Morgan. You know I'd support you tilting at windmills and all if we were talking about someone worthy. Amanda Cory sorry, Fowler just... isn't."
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