"How could you?" Felicia tried to keep it together following Lucas' confession of having inadvertently isolated Lorna from her mother and sister by forcing Lorna to keep the secret of his being alive. "How could you do that to her? To us?"
"I was selfish. Thinking only of myself, of what I needed."
"That sounds familiar," Felicia snorted, unable to hold back the pointed bitterness, which Lucas accepted with a wince as no more than his due. "So to what do I owe you two finally deciding to fill me in?"
"Several things," Lucas began slowly.
"Oh, I can't wait to hear this!"
"First of all, it was Donna. Once she'd infiltrated the compound, I knew there would be bigger fish to fry than me. As she was the one who'd had me imprisoned initially, I was able to make certain trade-offs with her and with my captors to keep quiet in exchange for a bit more freedom. Second, it was Jenna. I'd heard what'd happened... it killed me to think of you suffering through her death alone. Not even Dean there... I know you had Lorna and Cass and.... "
"I was alone," Felicia confirmed. "Lorna and Cass were there, but I was alone."
"And then Lori Ann, the surgery, the breathing issues... I had to be with you. Nothing else mattered."
"You lied to me. The first time I saw you again, when we stayed up all night because we couldn't stop talking, when I was too scared to believe you were real, and you convinced me that you were, a miracle really had happened, you were alive.... you were already lying to me."
"Yes," he agreed, seeing no point in denying the obvious.
"Damn you. Damn you, Luke. Is there one single memory of mine that you've refrained from annihilating?"
"There's more," he warned.
"Oh, good," she observed. "Maybe this'll kill me."
"Rachel and Carl. They went to the compound, looking for you and Jenna and Dean. You'd already been moved by then. They found me, instead."
"Rachel and Carl knew you were alive, too?" Felicia repeated the words, nonetheless unable to fully comprehend their implication.
"Yes. I convinced them to keep quiet by pointing out you were in no shape to accept a blow like this while Jenna and Lori Ann's health was so tenuous."
"Rachel knew," Felicia murmured, forcing herself to absorb what he'd told her. "One of my dearest friends... And she never said a word."
"I begged her not to. Lorna begged her not to."
"So, let me get this straight: Rachel knew that Lorna knew before I knew? How the hell did you manage to keep all this straight?"
"It wasn't easy," Lucas admitted. "Especially once Cass found out."
Felicia blinked. There was comprehending, there was absorbing, there was accepting, and there was, "Cass....?"
"Do you want me to pick Michele and Bridget up from school?" Sarah asked Marley, doing her best to ignore Grant hovering on the periphery and watching them both with an enigmatic expression.
"Would you, please? That would be a great help."
"No problem," Sarah said, heading for the door, eager to get away from Grant's all-encompassing gaze. Before she did, however, Sarah turned to face him head-on, figuring they might as well get this over-with before the already awkward situation got anymore uncomfortable. "Sorry again, Senator, for "
"It's okay," Marley cut her off soothingly, shooting Grant a reproachful look for not doing so himself. "Mr. Harrison should know better than to enter a woman's bedroom unannounced."
"I was entering your bedroom," Grant reminded. "How was I supposed to know "
"Well, in any case, I'm sorry I startled you," Sarah said, briskly taking her leave with a final, apologetic peek at Marley, who dismissed the entire incident with a quick wave.
"It wasn't Sarah's fault," she told Grant firmly. "And if you'd called ahead to let me know you were coming, I'd have told you that I have a guest staying with me "
"In your shower?"
" And that, at the moment, she was using my bathroom, since there's a problem with a clogged drain in hers. I have a plumber in right now, taking a look at it. Fair warning, in case you feel like barging in again."
"Why..." Grant began, then changed his mind with a shake of the head. "You know what? I don't want to know why. All I know is that girl can't stay here. Not now."
"Seriously, Grant," Marley walked away, forcing him to follow her into the living room. "Can you not go one, single day without giving in to your unhealthy hatred of all things directly and indirectly connected to Jamie?"
"I was doing no such thing!" Grant bristled. "Although, now that you mention it..."
"Of course." Marley crossed her arms.
"It's even more unfathomable to me why you'd see fit to install the girl you and Jamie nearly adopted into your home, when the last thing we need is another pair of eyes and ears around the place."
"I needed someone to watch the girls when Donna was around and I wasn't."
"But there's a much simpler solution to that! You and the girls could move in with me!"
"No," she said. Allowing the ensuing silence to speak for itself.
"You don't think I'd be able to protect you?" Grant asked, wounded, Spencer's earlier words echoing in his ears. "After everything I've done for you already, Marley..."
"That's exactly it. You've done enough. I can't go running to you every time I break a fingernail."
"Why not? Isn't that the point of a relationship? To be there for each other? I want to be there for you to confide in. Me, not some random kid you pulled in off the street."
"Is that what you're afraid of? You think one night, without you to pull back my reins, I'll feel overcome with remorse over what I did, break down and tell Sarah everything?"
"Of course not," Grant hoped his forceful choice of words might make up for the lack of conviction in his tone. "But, if Sarah is constantly around, she might overhear us when we think we're alone, or pick up a phone extension at the wrong time."
"So we won't talk about it. Frankly, what else is there left to say, really? We did it. It's done. Wishing and praying won't make it undone. God knows, I've tried."
"I know you, Marley. You put on a brave face, but you're not the sort of person who can easily put something like this behind you. You're going to need to talk to someone about it. And that person should be me. Only me. You shouldn't even be facing the temptation of "
"You and only you?" Marley repeated Grant's words sarcastically. "So because we're bound together with this horrific secret, that means I'm not allowed to live my own life or have my own friends ever again?"
"You know that's not what I meant."
"Did I ever tell you that my mother is back prowling this house because wait for it Vicky popped up in her dreams Christmas Eve and instructed her to?"
"Christmas Eve?" Grant double-checked, a faint memory of his own fitful night's sleep stirring his subconscious, but not enough to make a firm connection.
"I tell you that my mother is channeling messages from my dead twin and all you have to quibble with is the date of the transmission?" Marley asked, incredulous.
"No I Of course not. I guess I'm just confused why you're telling me this at all?"
"Because. It seems Vicky is worried about me. About us."
"Donna told you this?"
"She was just playing Heavenly Messenger. Apparently, Vicky thinks I'm in over my head with you. And, you know what? When you start pulling that same pathologically obsessed possessive crap with me as you did with her, I see her point."
"Marley, listen to me. Please. Things are happening, things you have no idea about."
"Enlighten me, then. On top of Donna and Carl's threats, the police sniffing around, Lila knowing more than she thinks she does, Jamie hating me and Lorna still being in a coma what other wolves should I look forward to come howling at my door?"
He'd been ready to tell her. It was the least Grant owed Marley. Her life might be on the line, too. But, listening to her litany, Grant realized he couldn't. She had so much on her plate already. She wouldn't be able to handle anymore. If Grant wanted to protect her and he did, more than anything, he did it unfortunately also meant protecting her from the truth.
"Bless you," Steven riffled around in his coat pocket and pulled out a tissue, handing it to Jen, who stood just outside her classroom door, wrestling with a sneezing fit.
"Thanks," she took it from him gratefully, blowing her nose, then dabbing her eyes. "I thought I had enough when I left the house this morning. Ran out halfway through my second lecture. My students finally convinced me to give it up and go home. I suspect they had ulterior motives."
"I doubt it. You sound awful."
"That's what I get for frolicking in the snow with GQ and Hudson, instead of staying inside, monitoring their brain-waves via wi-fi like God intended."
"GQ got his visitation? How did it go?"
"Fine. I guess. I mean, the Bauers stayed out in their car, watching us the entire time. And they didn't look happy to be there not that I blame them. But, other than that, it went fine. GQ was really happy."
She shrugged and ruefully indicated her currently ailing status.
"Was it tough for you? Seeing GQ with Allie's kid?"
"Nah. I promised him I'd be more supportive from now on. Come hell or high fever. The only thing is...." Jen trailed off, then shook her head. "Never mind. It's stupid."
"From you? I'd love to hear what you consider stupid? Spill it," Steven ordered.
Obviously in a weakened state due to her spiking temperature, Jen actually did. "It's not because Hudson is Allie's. I don't have anything against him, I really don't. I just... I don't like any kids. I didn't even like kids when I was a kid. It's not only sledding in the freezing cold. I've got no interest in mindlessly pushing a plastic truck around, or rolling a ball, or reading about cats and their hats, or learning the lyrics to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
"That's pretty much most of them right there," Steven advised. Then, apropos to nothing added, "I hate that song. It poses the question: What's a star? And then doesn't answer it. Like a diamond in the sky is hardly a scientific elucidation. When my sisters were little, I added an extra verse." Without warning, and in surprisingly perfect pitch, too, he sang, "I asked Steven with confusion/ He said stars are made through fusion/ Twinkle, twinkle, little star/Now I know just what you are. First day of school, they both started crying and asked to go home when the teacher insisted those weren't the right words, no matter what their big brother said. Well, technically, Bridget started crying. Michele threatened to punch someone. After that, Marley asked me not to teach them anymore songs, please."
Jen stared at Steven in stunned silence for a minute, and then she burst out laughing, followed by a hacking cough. "You're..." she grinned once ample air returned to her lungs. "An interesting guy."
"It's been noted on previous occasions."
"Anyone else would've called me a freak. Seriously, what kind of weirdo doesn't like cute and cuddly babies?"
"Anyone who knows how many germs a single kid carries. They're like teeming petri dishes of bacteria."
"Whose songs don't make any sense."
"Exactly. Though you could say the same about most rock bands, too. Just don't tell my cousin Jasmine I said so."
"I won't tell Jasmine," Jen swore. "If you won't tell GQ what I said about kids."
"My lips are sealed. GQ and I mostly talk in zeros and ones, anyway. But, how long do you think you'll be able to keep him from noticing how you feel? Especially if he wins custody of Hudson down the line?"
"This is your idea of a compromise?" Frankie did her best not to laugh as she faced Cass across their bed and asked, "Strip Truth or Dare?"
He nodded solemnly and reminded, "You wanted naked honesty, I wanted..."
"I love you, Mary Frances. And, yes, the physical aspect is a big part of it, I'm not going to lie."
"That's good. Because I wouldn't believe you."
"But, I also understand what you said, about needing to feel that we've reconnected in every way, on every level. I will do anything and everything I have to so we can get back to what and who we once were. We used to be fun, Frankie? Remember? We were the fun couple. The one that made people smile just saying our names in the same breath. Cass and Frankie, Frankie and Cass."
"Crankie?" she joked feebly, trying her best not to fall under his spell. Failing miserably. Just like she knew she would from the start.
"We can be that couple again."
"Do you honestly believe that's still possible?"
"I wouldn't be here, fighting, if I didn't." He took both her hands in his. "Think about it. Think about all that we've already surmounted and survived. You came back from the dead for me. Twice. How can that possibly compare to a few... differences of opinion?"
"We could be the poster children," she suggested. "For what happens to the fun couple when life stops being... fun?"
"It doesn't have to stop."
"You went to jail, Cass. We've lost our daughter. Kind of hard to spin the fun out of that."
"I'm home now. Dean is willing to let us continue being a part of Lori Ann's life. She's healthy. So is Charlie. We're very lucky people. We just forgot for a while, that's all."
"I want to believe you," Frankie swore. "Really, I do."
"Then believe me."
"Ask me anything. Tell me anything. Accuse me of anything. I can take it. We can take it. And we can get through it, too. Just let me prove it to you."
"Do you still love Lila?" Frankie blurted out.
"What?" he startled.
"Strip Truth or Dare," she prompted. "You made the rules. Take off an item of clothing and tell me the truth: Do you still love Lila?"
Cass willingly reached for the buttons of his shirt, even as he wondered, "May I inquire why you chose to open with that?"
"Because. You not being honest about your residual feelings for Cecile with either me or yourself led to a lot of our problems in the past. I wanted to make sure this wasn't festering to become a similar situation."
"Lila is no Cecile, trust me."
"I know that. And I wasn't accusing her of anything. But, the fact that you were able to break so easily from her... it made me wonder."
"Strip Truth or Dare," he prompted.
Frankie shrugged and pulled off her own top, even as she admitted, "Whether, when I was gone, you... you so easily got over... me?"
"That's two questions," Cass, the lawyer, pointed out. And removed his pants.
Frankie snapped loose the clasp of her bra and laid it aside, facing Cass, informing him, "So I expect two answers."
"You're not playing fair."
"Okay," Cass said, even as he stepped forward, burying his face in Frankie's neck, she doing nothing to stop him. "First of all, no. I did not easily get over you. I never got over you. Ask anyone. Ask Lila. I moved on with her because I thought you were gone, and because she was a terrific, lively, lovely, loving person." Cass pulled Frankie down onto the bed, laying beside her, looking into her eyes, stroking her hair, telling her, "To answer your second question, I do still love Lila. Just like I loved Kathleen. They are both amazing women and I wish them only the best in life. But, I never have and never will love anyone, ever, at anytime, the way that I love you. In fact, I take that back. I don't love you."
"Excuse me?" she raised her head, sweeping her arm up and down the length of their intertwined and nearly completely undressed bodies. "You're choosing now to tell me this? Interesting strategy. Rethinking your entire approach to life?"
"I don't love you," he confirmed. "That would be like saying I loved the air I breathe or my heart for beating. You are all those things to me and more."
"Things you take for granted until you're in danger of losing them?"
He rolled his eyes while she laughed at his mock frustration. "Things I require to stay alive. Don't be a smart ass."
"We're going to make it, aren't we, Cass?" Frankie asked, somewhat desperately, resting her hand on the back of his head, pressing him to her until their mouths were barely a gasp apart, until they were breathing the same air.
"We're going to make it," he reassured her. "Because neither one of us would have it any other way."
"Don't hold back on my account." Standing outside the courtroom door, waiting to be let in so he could at long last offer his own testimony, Jamie watched warily as Rachel's eyes flitted from him, leaning against a pillar, to Felicia, flanked by Lucas and Morgan, pacing at the other end of the hall. "I know you want to talk to her."
"I came to see you," Rachel upbraided.
"And you've seen me. So now go see her." Rachel balked at the open venom of his final syllable. "She'd probably appreciate it. She is your friend."
"And you're my son. It's no contest."
"You shouldn't have come," Jamie looked away, finding it much harder to dismiss his mother's obvious pain when she was right here in front of him, instead of shoved to the background like he desperately needed her to be right now. "I asked you not to come. You were supposed to stay with Lorna."
"Alice is with Lorna," Rachel soothed, hoping to impose some calm over Jamie's chaotic, undeniably justified, mood swings. "I called, and Alice was happy to come look after her. We all just want to help you through this, Jamie." When he declined to comment one way or another, Rachel snuck one more look at Felicia and hesitantly ventured, "Is there any way, darling, is there any way for you and Felicia to talk, maybe come to some sort of "
"What if I were to act as an intermediary? Wouldn't reaching an amicable solution be best for everyone, especially Lorna?"
"Felicia and I passed amicable the moment she decided to back Morgan's lie that not only wasn't I the father of Lorna's baby, but that Lorna never wanted her to begin with. They are colluding to kill my daughter, and break the heart of a woman who means more to me than.... No, Mom. The only talking I intend to do today is in front of a judge."
"I understand," she surrendered gracefully. "And you have my full support."
"I wasn't asking your permission. Just giving you a head's up."
He hadn't sounded this petulant since he was a child. Rachel understood there could be only one reason for that. "I know you're scared, Jamie..."
"You're damned right I'm scared!" She watched, despairing, as the last vestige of her son's self-control broke, and he looked at her beseechingly, wordlessly begging Rachel for help they both knew she was incapable of providing. "Anything I say in there What if I say the wrong thing? What if I can't get through to the judge, make him understand how essential I could be the one that costs Lorna her baby. For all of my railing against Morgan and Felicia, I may end up the one who lets her down. She'll never forgive me."
"She would," Rachel swore. "She loves you, Jamie. She would."
"You're right," he whispered, nearly collapsing from the crushing weight of his own dread. "The real issue is, I'd never forgive myself."
The doors right behind them opened.
"Court's back in session," a bailiff announced to everyone in the hallway, prompting all those assembled to start filing in.
"Wish me luck?" Jamie looked to Rachel, seemingly holding himself together through... well, to be honest, Rachel had no idea what could possibly still be holding her oldest son together.
"You don't need luck," she told him, the insight coming in a flash. "You can do this. No matter what happens in there, you can handle it."
"How can you be so sure?" he demanded, still begging her, even more desperately now, for that mysterious rescue.
Which, at long last, Rachel finally understood how to supply. "The first afternoon I spent watching over Lorna for you, I pleaded with Alice to explain what drove you to your breakdown years ago."
"Mom!" Jamie hissed, horrified.
"Don't worry, she didn't divulge a word."
"I'm not worried about her. I would, however, like to know what the hell possessed you, in the middle of all this, to dredge up "
"You're not the only one living in terror of losing your baby right now, Jamie. I am watching my child die bit by bit every day right in front of my eyes, and, forgive me, I needed to know what I should be looking out for, so that, this time around, I can be there for you before things get completely and tragically and, God forbid, permanently, out of hand."
"That won't happen again," Jamie told her stiffly. "Never. Never again."
"I know it won't," she agreed. "Because Alice explained to me how strong you were, to pull yourself out of that horrible, dark place. If you could survive that and not just shuffle through the rest of your life anesthetized, but thrive and return to raise those incredible boys of yours; single-handedly, no less then, I guarantee you, there is nothing that could happen in a courtroom or anywhere else for that matter, that you won't be able to handle, endure, and go on to make the very best of for everyone concerned. That's just the kind of man you are. I'm only sorry it took me this long to realize it. I'm guessing Lorna already has. She and your daughter are very lucky to have you. There is absolutely no way in which you could let them down."
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