"Hey," Morgan said softly, pulling a chair up to the side of Lorna's bed and straddling it backwards, resting his chin on his wrists. "Sorry I haven't been by to see you for a couple of days. It's been... intense. I think Jamie and Lucas would strangle me on sight right about now. Felicia understands, though. She's the only one I could really tell everything to. About how this is all my fault. If you hadn't been with me in the car.... And you wouldn't have been, if I'd just done what you wanted in the first place."
Morgan reached out, gently stroking the inside of Lorna's forearm with his fingers. "I got to give Jamie credit. He's fighting for you. Even my saying... what I said... about the baby, that's barely slowing him down. He loves you. You know, if this is your way of meeting the terms of our original agreement and proving he's worth me giving you a divorce for... Jesus, Lorna, do you always have to make your points so spectacularly?"
Morgan smiled, the expression dying painfully when the laugh he instinctively expected in return failed to materialize.
"Jamie thinks he knows you, Lorna. You've done a good job of convincing him of that, I guess. But, all the while he insists you'd do anything to protect this baby, even sacrifice your own life, I can't help thinking..." Morgan shifted uncomfortably, lowering his voice despite their being alone. "I lied when I told you I couldn't remember us trying to have a baby. I did. So I do know how much you thought you wanted one once. But, I can also remember why we eventually stopped trying. Because you got cold feet. After nothing happened for what, about six months or so? You took it as a sign that you weren't meant to be a mom. That you'd probably screw it up anyway; that you had no idea what it took to be a good one, and it wouldn't be fair to make some poor little kid suffer through your attempts to get it right. You were damn scared. Scared enough to push the whole idea aside. And me right along with it. Was I supposed to think it was just a coincidence that, pretty soon after, that's when you decided we were better off being just friends, that any kind of long-term thing would never work? If that was your plan, then I'm afraid you're not quite the Public Relations whiz you think you are."
Morgan looked at his watch, realizing it was almost time to get back to court. He stood up stiffly, telling Lorna right before he took off, "I'll make this up to you, I promise. I will make sure you get better, no matter what I have to do, or who I have to butt heads with, or where that leaves me in the end. So that you can decide for yourself, later, down the line, if you actually want to be a mom or not. I owe you that much. That, and a hell of a lot more."
"Happy New Year, darling," Alice kissed Amanda on both cheeks, then surveyed her at arm's length to praise, "You look good. It's nice to see some sparkle in your eyes again, after everything you've been through."
"You mean with Allie?"
Alice nodded. "How is she?"
Amanda shrugged. "Beats me. Apparently, my so much as asking constitutes a federal offense. Ever since Sharlene dropped the charges, Allie's taken that as permission to stop speaking to me altogether. She heads to school, and who knows where else, and then she comes home, eats in her room and goes to bed. It's like we're running a boarding house."
"That's rather worrisome. Could be the beginning of a clinical depression. Think of all the things that have happened to her back-to-back. First the pregnancy, then Hudson's difficult birth, giving him up for adoption, Gregory's death, being arrested for it, and now GQ's custody suit. That's a great deal for someone her age or any age, really to process."
"I'd like to help her, I would. She won't let me."
"She'll come around. Eventually. Or you might want to consider getting her some professional help. Maybe Allie would prefer someone impartial to talk to. These aren't easy years for parents. I know."
Amanda recalled, "Sally had Kevin when she was even younger than Allie is now, didn't she?"
"She did. And I didn't know about it until he was five years old."
"What did we do wrong?" Amanda wondered. "There's got to be a right way to react to something like this. Only I'll be damned if I know what it is."
"I asked myself the same question. Over and over again. I tried to pinpoint where it was exactly that I'd made my mistake. Should I have listened to what people told me and not adopted her after Steve was gone? Maybe Sally deserved a stable home with two parents. Not a single mother still grieving her own loss. Should I have been more strict with her? Less? After she died, I couldn't stop thinking: What was the point of all those battles we had when she was a teen-ager? Does it really matter in the long run how short her skirt was, or the amount of make-up she put on, or when precisely she came home at night? She was young. She wanted to be out, having fun with her friends. If I had known how little time she had left..."
"What? What would you have done differently?"
"I don't know," Alice confessed. "The only thing I do truly regret is the petty, trivial little squabbles. I feel like I should have just let them all go. Enjoyed my daughter while she was here with me. Focused less on worrying about the future, and more on relishing the present. But, then again, maybe that would have only made things worse...."
"Well, if you haven't got it figured out by now," Amanda scoffed. "What hope is there for the rest of us?"
"Perhaps you and Allie will finally be the ones to get it right and enlighten us all."
"Highly unlikely," Amanda snorted.
"At least you still have the chance to try," Alice reminded.
Amanda winced, duly chastised, and changed the subject to inform Alice, "Speaking of getting another chance to try... Kevin and Lila have broken up. Again."
"Really?" Alice cocked her head, intrigued. "That's... unexpected. When they were here over Christmas, things seemed to be going well."
"That was before Kevin found out Lila was the anonymous tipster who turned you into the police."
"What?" Alice gasped.
Amanda bobbed her head fervently. "It's true. She copped to it. She was mad at Kevin for... for... me, and she decided to get back at him by "
"That doesn't sound like Lila."
"Are you kidding? Alice, the woman is treacherous. You weren't here to see what she put Matt through when it came to Jasmine, not to mention the stunts she pulled trying to win her first husband back."
"I believe you," Alice reassured. "But, women like that aren't stupid. It's a mistake to ever think that they are. Calling the police on me, that's just... stupid. She had to know how Kevin would react."
"Maybe she didn't care? Maybe she was so mad at Kevin in the moment that she just wanted to hit him where it hurt. Then, once she'd calmed down and realized what a good deal she'd given up, she went crawling back to "
"Actually, Kevin apologized to her. He told me."
"Whatever," Amanda was quick to dismiss anything that didn't mesh with her theory. "Besides, she didn't expect to ever be found out."
"How did Kevin find out?"
"I I told him."
"And how did you find out?"
"I run a magazine. My reporters have sources. That includes inside the BCPD."
"I see," Alice said, in a way that Amanda didn't see at all. "Still. That's just... odd. Lila was here. In my house. On Christmas. She raised a glass to my being vindicated. She looked me right in the eye. She certainly didn't act like a woman with anything to hide."
"I beg your pardon. Who might you be?" Donna asked suspiciously upon arriving, still in her kimono, for breakfast in the Love nook off the kitchen and discovering a stranger sitting there, giggling with Bridget and Michele over their syrup drenched waffles.
"I'm Sarah," she replied politely, taking a sip of orange juice, seeming perfectly at home.
"Sarah?" Donna's mind was not put at ease once she connected name to face. "You're Iris' granddaughter. Olivia's..."
"What are you doing here?"
"Sarah's moved in!" Bridget piped up happily.
"But, not because she and Steven broke up," Michele clarified.
"You and Steven... Ah, yes, I believe, I did hear... My grandson broke up with you? What a shame." Donna did not appear in the least bit crestfallen by that spot of news.
Sarah merely smiled politely.
"So why are you here, then, my dear?"
"Marley invited me."
"To help out with the Midget bunch," she winked and bit into a slice of toast.
"Did their professional," Donna emphasized the word. "Governess quit?"
"I'm not the hired help," Sarah clarified. "I'm Marley's friend."
"Since when?" Donna bristled.
"Since I went up to her on the 4th of July," Sarah said honestly. "And asked if it was true that she was almost my mother?"
"You know about that?"
"Matt Cory filled me in. Much to his brother's displeasure. Steven didn't know either. It was kind of... icky. You know, the whole I could have been his sister bit? For a guy who believes in alternate universes, it was borderline incestuous for a while there."
"Matthew..." Donna said faintly, momentarily distracted by the name. And the memory of the man who went with it. She shook her head, purposely snapping out of the reverie to remind Sarah, "None of that is relevant now."
"I didn't say it was. I was just answering your question. Marley and I are friends, she knew I wasn't comfortable anymore living in the BCU dorms, practically next door to Steven, she needed a hand with the girls, so she invited me to move in."
"I can help Marley with the girls."
Sarah shrugged. "Guess she didn't want to impose."
Donna sniffed distastefully, but her tone remained sickeningly sweet as she inquired, "Speaking of imposing. Just how long do you plan on squatting in my home, taking advantage of my daughter's hospitality?"
"Am I in your way, Ms. Love?"
"I'll let you know the minute you are," Donna promised.
"Two hours," Rick Bauer tapped his watch the second he and Mindy stepped into GQ's apartment, ignoring Jen more or less altogether. "That's how long this visit is scheduled to last, not a second more."
Mindy set Hudson, dressed in a navy, head to toe snowsuit, down on the ground, and proceeded to peel it off, only to reveal an orange Care Bear outfit, complete with rounded ears on the hat, underneath. Below that was a knit sweater and blue jeans, with a short-sleeved bodysuit making up the final layer over Hudson's diaper.
"It's cold," Mindy defended. "I wanted to make sure you had everything you needed in case you decide to take him outside."
"I got him some stuff to wear, too." GQ pointed to a selection of neatly folded outfits. He handed Mindy one for inspection.
She shook her head. "It's too small. They're all too small."
GQ frowned, studying the tag. "It says nine to twelve months. He's ten months old...."
"He's got broad shoulders. He needs to wear 1T sizes."
"Okay," GQ nodded. "I'll I'll take them back. Exchange them."
"And you should wash everything first," Rick advised. "Before you put them on him. You don't want to irritate his skin."
"No," Jen agreed, despite not being the one spoken to. "We wouldn't want to be irritating now, would we?"
Finally free from his myriad of outfits, Hudson dropped to all fours and proceeded to scurry out of Mindy's grasp, heading straight for underneath GQ's dining room table. Once there, he grabbed a leg and attempted to pull himself up.
"Be careful," Mindy warned, diving underneath to stick her hand between Hudson's head and the table's underside.
Rick said, "I thought you promised to baby-proof the place."
"Under the table?" GQ asked in disbelief.
"He could have hit his head."
"Or," Mindy coaxed Hudson out by offering him a ball to chase. "Pulled it down on top of himself."
"It weighs three times more than he does," Jen pointed out.
"All the more reason to keep him from getting crushed by it," Rick snapped.
"We'll be careful," GQ reassured. "I promise. He'll be okay."
Mindy handed GQ a diaper bag. "I packed a bottle in case he gets hungry. Also some applesauce and a bowl of rice cereal. There's a little spoon, but he prefers to eat with his hands. You might want to feed him yourself. And wear old clothes."
GQ smiled. "I appreciate the tip."
"He slept on the way down in the car, so I don't think he should get tired too soon."
"Thank you for bringing him," Jen said, figuring she could join in and be gracious when the occasion called for it.
"It's not like we had a choice," Rick reminded.
Or when it didn't. Jen indicated the door. "We'll see you in two hours, then."
Neither one budged.
"Maybe I should stay," Mindy began. "Just for a little bit. I won't be in the way. I'll sit in the corner. He'll be more comfortable that way. You won't have to worry about "
"We've got to start getting to know each other sometimes," GQ pleaded gently. "Please, Mrs. Bauer. He's almost a year old, and he has no idea who I am."
Rick looked like he was about to say something, but Mindy cut him off. "We'll see you in two hours," she promised.
Rick tapped his watch again. They both knelt down to say good-by several times to Hudson, promising that Mommy and Daddy would be right back, this was just like when he stayed for a little while with his Grandpa Billy or Grandpa Ed, or Uncle Bill and Aunt Lizzie, or Aunt Michele and Uncle Danny GQ recalled the family picture he'd spied on their mantle the first time he visited and wondered if they were going to go through the entire clan and then they were both gone; leaving just the three of them.
"Wow," Jen said. "That was condescending."
"Haven't we got our scripts confused?" GQ joked, scooping up Hudson from attempting to crawl furiously towards the door after Rick and Mindy, trying to distract him with a newly bought Jack-In-The-Box. Over the sound of the crank turning and music jingling, GQ noted, "Shouldn't I be the one cursing in their wake, and you offering sympathy?"
"I am sympathetic to their position. Not their well, actually, just his, Dr. Bauer's attitude. Besides, I promised I was going to be more supportive of you from now on. How am I doing?"
GQ grinned. "Do you need to be graded for everything?"
"Stop making fun of me and enjoy your son," Jen directed. As they both turned to look in sync at Hudson, and Jen asked, "So. What are we supposed to do with him now?"
Felicia and Lucas got dressed to face yet another arduous day in court without saying a single word to each other. Frankly, they'd barely spoken since the previous afternoon, following Felicia's testimony.
"Luke..." Felicia finally decided to bite the bullet and be the one to break their silence, unable to take his frosty disapproval for another moment.
Only to have Lucas raise his hand and shake his head. "Don't, Fanny. Please. I'm done arguing with you. I'm done trying to understand you, of being supportive "
"Supportive?" She'd been fine up to that point. But, supportive was one charge Felicia refused to accept without challenge. "You? With me? About this? Anything but, is more like it. From the moment this nightmare began, you have been firmly on Jamie's side. How do you think that makes me feel?"
"I see," Lucas said. "I understand now. Your feelings are the most important issue at hand. Your feelings, your pain, how much you've suffered. I guess because we don't agree with Morgan's tactics, Jamie's feelings, my feelings are somehow inferior? Or maybe they're just irrelevant?"
"I never said that."
"You sure as hell have been acting like it. You asked me to think about how it makes you feel when I refuse to support your lies. Ever consider how it makes me feel when you listen to yet another Winthrop over your own husband? If I'm required to support you no matter what, shouldn't I expect you to do the same for me?"
"You weren't there, Luke!" Felicia broke. "When Jenna died, when she was suffering, when we were locked up in that damned convent and all I could do was hold her hand and promise her everything was going to be okay; which turned out to be a lie in the end you weren't there! I had to witness that, survive it alone. You don't know what I went through, so no, you don't know my pain. You haven't lived it."
"I'm living it now. I'm watching our other daughter suffer "
"Which can be fixed, if we let Morgan "
"Which you hope can be fixed," Lucas corrected. "Lorna could just as easily slip away from us, too."
"And you're certain of this because?"
"Because Morgan "
"Morgan lies. Morgan has been lying to you for years, starting with keeping his marriage to Lorna a secret, right up through his claim that it was anything more than in name only. Morgan is a liar. So you need to give me some better reasons than to trust that everything is going to turn out fine if we just do what he says."
"Forget about trusting Morgan. How about trusting me? Your wife? Trust me and love me love Lorna enough to believe "
"I do love you," Lucas affirmed in a broken voice. "And I love Lorna. Enough to look past myself and think about what's best for her in the long run!"
"That's what I'm doing, too," Felicia cried in exasperation. "Why can't you see that? Morgan does. Even Carl "
"Carl?" Lucas stilled, his body rigid, working to hold in an utter and complete explosion of rage. "No, Fanny. You are not going to bring that vile piece of inhuman filth who sexually, emotionally, and psychologically exploited our daughter for a good portion of her adolescence, into this conversation."
"Carl understands!" Felicia deliberately completed her thought, needing to lash out, to hurt him for making her feel guilty and alone; immediately regretting her words and their impact as soon as she saw the look on Lucas' face, the disbelief, the disgust, the pained tears filling his eyes before he took a step back, away from her, the breach between them widening to a frosty gulf.
"Well, I guess with Carl in your corner, there is most definitely no place for me."
He ignored her and continued walking, storming out the front door, sliding into his car, gunning the engine and peeling away.
It took the bulk of Lucas' drive to the courthouse for him to calm down enough to start thinking logically again, instead of through a red film of fury.
But, it wasn't until he saw Kevin approaching him in the hallway, headed for the hearing room, that Lucas made up his mind about what he could do to aid the situation.
He told Jamie's attorney, "Put me on the stand. Today. Right now. I know how to fix the damage Morgan and Felicia did to Jamie's case."
"This has got to stop," Cass told Dean and Frankie once the three of them finally sat down for their long deferred talk about Lori Ann's future. "It's time you and Frankie stopped pussyfooting around each other and waiting and hoping for the other to relent and give in. We need to settle this, once and for all."
"I don't believe you!" Frankie gaped at her husband. "Pitting us against each other? Pushing for a confrontation? What do you expect to accomplish?"
"An end to this stalemate. And the start of Lori Ann's real future."
"I don't want to fight you, Frankie," Dean swore. "Not after everything you've done for me and Lori Ann, not after everything you've been through."
"What I've been through is raising your child, alone," she glared at Cass. "Learning how to take care of her multitude of medical needs, staying up night after night, listening for one of those damn monitors to go off so I can run into her room to check if she's still breathing, all while seeing to it that she has as normal of a life as possible. In spite of everything that's happened."
"I've been reading up on what Lori Ann needs," Dean nodded. "I've talked to her pediatrician. She gave me a whole stack of books."
"You talked to Dr. Suarez? When?"
"When I wasn't busy looking at apartments in your neighborhood, here. Or paying to get my head shrunk on some quack's leather couch."
Frankie blinked at him. "What? You've...Dean, you've been seeing a therapist?"
"It cleared out a lot of crap clogging up my head."
"Like me being scared that I don't have the first clue about what it takes to be a father. But deciding it was perfectly normal, and that I can and will learn."
"Okay," Frankie nodded so manically that both Cass and Dean knew it wasn't okay, not by a long shot. "That's all fine and good. But Lori Ann... she doesn't know you. Cass and I legally adopted her, we could go to court."
"You could," Dean nodded. "But, I'm hoping you won't. Please, Frankie, please believe me, I want you and Cass to be a huge part of Lori Ann's life. Not just as cousins who she sees every once in a while, but as her parents, her real parents. I don't want you to stop being her mother, and I don't want Cass to stop being her father. I don't want to break up this party, I want to join it."
"How?" Frankie asked, knowing that she was defeated. Knowing that she'd lost. Again. "How in the world are we supposed to make this work?"
"Slowly," Dean said. "Carefully. I could start by taking Lori Ann for the day, then for a night or two. We'll go as gradually as we need to, so she doesn't get scared or confused. Also, I was thinking. If it's okay with you, I want her to still keep calling you Mommy. I figure, by the time she's old enough to understand how... unusual her family is, we'll be able to explain it to her. Explain how everybody just loved her so much, we all wanted to be her parents. And you, Cass, I know she calls you Daddy. Maybe she can call me something else. You know, like Pop or something."
"Pop?" Frankie asked, smiling despite the tears filling her eyes.
"Well, maybe not Pop."
"Padre?" Cass suggested with a good-humored grin.
"We'll think of something," Dean promised, laughing. He swore to Frankie, "We'll think of something."
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