"Did you know that Donna has proclaimed herself your Guardian Angel?" Sharlene inquired of John when her showing up on his doorstep bright and early the next morning hoping to catch him before John left for work otherwise provoked no reaction.
"Donna has a lot of interesting ideas these days," he replied tonelessly.
"Such as the mistaken belief that she has somehow paid for her too many to count crimes by means of a few months batting her eyelashes and wrapping shrinks not to mention a couple other doctors I could name around her finger?"
"No, Sharlene," John attempted to push his way past her and escape into his car, parked in the driveway. "Just no."
"She said you blame yourself for Gregory's death," Sharlene called after him, knowing it was the one thing capable of stopping a determined-to-avoid-her John in his tracks. Garnering no satisfaction from the fact that, indeed, it did.
Without turning to look at her, John observed, "Anyone who was paying attention at Gregory's funeral could have drawn the same conclusion."
"We didn't take you seriously. We all assumed it was just the grief talking."
"There you go then. Crisis resolved."
"Donna is the only one who realized you meant it."
"It's not your problem." He resumed moving towards the car.
Only to be stopped once again by Sharlene's desperate, warning shout of, "Don't you dare do this to my son, John."
He froze, fingers slipping off the car door handle, hand swinging listlessly to his side. John didn't turn around, making it almost impossible for Sharlene to make out his terse whisper, "What did you say?"
"I said," she smacked a palm onto his shoulder and forcefully rotated John, compelling him to face her. "I will not let you do this to my son."
"What are you talking about, Sharlene? There is nothing either of us can do to hurt Gregory. Not anymore."
"You're wrong. Did we not learn anything, either of us, from him? All Gregory wanted in the end no matter how much it confounded us was to die peacefully and on his own terms. You think it's an accident that he specifically sent Allie to explain that he didn't blame you for anything that happened?"
"It doesn't matter who Gregory blamed. I blame myself."
"It mattered to Gregory! He may have only lived nineteen years, but he went out of his way to ensure he left a legacy. For better or for worse, Allie Fowler is part of that legacy. So is Hudson, no matter who his biological father is. And us, John. We are Gregory's legacy. This is so not what he wanted from you and I."
"Where was all this insight," John challenged. "When you were attempting to railroad the girl he loved into jail?"
"I'm trying to do better," Sharlene defended stiffly.
"You mean you're trying to make me do better."
"Well, yes. Much easier on me that way."
For a moment, the two of them just stared at each other. And then, the tiniest shadow of a grin flickered across Sharlene's lips, John straight away helpless to avoid mirroring it.
"It's good to see you smile again," she said softly.
Another pause. Longer than the first. "He's gone, John..."
"I know. I do. I know it. Except I can't seem to let him go."
"Then don't. Hold on to him. But, not like this."
"I don't know any other way."
"Neither do I," she confessed. "But, maybe, do you think we could stumble through and try to figure it out... together?"
"Jamie?" Spencer stood at the door to Lorna's hospital room, respectfully refraining from entering until he'd been invited.
Jamie, who'd spent most of the night drifting in and out of fitful sleep, now startled awake in much the same manner he had every fifteen to twenty minutes previously, needing a moment to press his thumb and forefinger into his eyes, shake his head and blink before he could focus on the man addressing him.
"Spencer?" Jamie rose painfully from his chair, indicating the otherwise silent room with his hand. "Are you looking for Alice? She's not here."
"I'm looking for you," Spencer ventured inside cautiously.
"Oh. Well, in that case, good call, this is pretty much where you'll find me."
"Are you headed back to court today?" Realizing he wasn't going to get an invitation, but that a rebuttal probably wasn't forthcoming either, Spencer tentatively stepped inside.
"I don't know. Closing arguments were yesterday, right after I finished testifying. Next time the judge calls us in, we'll have our verdict. No clue how long that'll take, though."
"How was it? Yesterday. For you, I mean?"
Jamie shrugged. "No more or less excruciating than anything else. Maybe even a little bit better. I finally got to say my piece, instead of sitting there, helpless, listening to other people make their case. Listening to them lie."
"I know lawyers. They have a way of making you say things you had no intention of saying, much less meaning."
"Stacey tried. I guess it gives the proceedings an extra kick when the person cross-examining you is someone you once... Didn't matter in the end. I got out everything I meant to. Lorna would want us to give the baby every chance. I already said as much to Felicia and Morgan when Abel first proposed the abortion. I knew what they were going to say, they knew what I was going to say. Whole thing was a farce. Just going through the motions... and now some complete stranger gets to decide what's best for Lorna. Or, rather, who's best."
"And if the verdict doesn't go your way, Jamie? What then?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "Every time I try to think about it, my mind shuts down."
"If Morgan continues to be a problem," Spencer ventured gingerly, looking everywhere but at Jamie as he offered, "There are ways to... take care of tiresome matters. Without resorting to the courts."
Spencer had Jamie's complete attention. Even if everything from his indifferent tone to his casual body language was doing its best to convey that their exchange was nothing at all out of the ordinary.
Realizing that 'How?' was out of the question and, unless he was really misjudging the implication, self-evident, to boot Jamie went with an issue equally as pressing, yet, less incendiary. "Why?"
"For Alice," Spencer said. "Sally was what? ten when she adopted her. And Kevin was five by the time Alice met him. She's looking forward to watching your daughter grow up from infancy. And also for Kirkland, too. You're his other father. When you suffer, he suffers. But, mostly, it's because I've spent the bulk of my life accruing influence. I figured I'd best start cashing in on favors owed me before..."
"Before?" Jamie prompted when the older man inexplicably trailed off.
"Before they and I reach our expiration date," Spencer concluded firmly.
"Hutchins steps up to the ball... Shifts his feet...... Does some kind of weird dance..."
"We agreed no heckling," Cory reminded his niece patiently, no doubt channeling the Zen teachings of his father.
"This isn't heckling," Jasmine grinned, twirling her golf club in one hand. "It's color commentary."
"Not while I'm putting," he scolded, trying to relax, Cory's eyes shifting from the ball in front of him to the cup at the end of the long hallway serving as their makeshift green.
"You picked the wrong spot for putting," Kirkland approached them from the other end of the hall, shaking his head with the wisdom of experience. "East wing is much better. Brighter lighting. Fewer dead spots."
"Kirkland!" Jasmine beamed. "What are you doing here?"
"Picking up some stuff I left behind during one of my moves. Don't ask me which one." He indicated the careless way in which Jasmine was holding her own club and wondered, "Didn't Grant teach you better than that?"
"No," she sniffled, portending the advent of waterworks. "And with the way things are going, he probably never will."
"You know. Because of your daddy and my mama's fight."
"What are you talking about, Jazz? What fight?"
"A big one. Mama said after what Mr. Harrison did that she was never talking, looking, or listening to him ever again."
Kirkland winced, and reluctantly dove in. "What did he do?"
"I don't know," Jasmine admitted. "I tried to find out when I..."
"When she snuck over to your dad's house to give him his Christmas present," Cory helpfully supplied, drawing a surprised gasp from Jasmine.
"Who told you?"
"Didn't have to tell me. I'm quiet. Nobody notices me or pays attention. I'm like a lawn chair. Which means I see and hear everything."
"So what did Grant say when you asked him about it?" Kirkland demanded.
"He said it was grown folks' business, and between him and Mama to work things out."
"So what do you think he did?" Cory jumped in. "If we go by what Father believes "
"I know what your father believes," Kirkland cut Cory off brusquely, then back-pedaled guiltily. "Sorry. It's just "
"No sweat. I'm used to it," Cory shrugged.
"Used to what?" Jasmine looked from one to the other.
"Cory is used to people saying mean things about his dad," Kirkland explained, adding, "So am I."
"But both your daddies are better now. They don't do those things people say they did anymore."
"You really like Grant, don't you, Jazz?" Kirkland smiled down at her.
"If he and Mama aren't friends anymore, then he and I can't be friends either," she managed to get the words out before tears began sliding down her cheeks.
"That's not true," Kirkland reassured quickly, as much of a sucker for a crying woman as the next guy. "I'll tell you what, you may have struck out with my dad trying to get to the bottom of things, but, how about I take a crack at charming your mom?"
"That would be awesome!" Suddenly, the tears were gone. How did girls do that?
"I feel like I'm watching The Parent Trap," Cory marveled, turning back to his putter.
"I'm sorry," like her husband earlier in the day, Alice stopped at the door to Lorna's room when she realized that she might be intruding. "I was hoping to catch Jamie."
"I ordered him to get something to eat, and wouldn't take no for an answer," the older man standing by Lorna's bedside explained, then took a step forward, stretching out his hand. "I was at your wedding, but I'm afraid we haven't been formally introduced. I'm Lucas. I'm Lorna's father."
"Yes, of course," Alice squeezed his palm in joint greeting and support. She indicated Lorna and apologized, "I wish there was something helpful I could say..."
"I wish there was something useful I could do," Lucas groaned in frustration, linking his fingers behind his neck and groaning up at the ceiling. "At least you and Jamie can look at her chart, adjust her medication, check her vital signs, feel like you're involved. And my wife and Morgan, they can... they've got a project to channel their frustrations into, for better or for worse. Me, I'm the odd man out. I can't help them, I can't help you, I can't help... her."
"Wait until the baby is born," Alice suggested lightly. "I'm sure once Jamie and Lorna find out you're available for babysitting, you'll be most highly in demand."
Lucas refused to share her optimism. "Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself?"
"I choose to believe everything will work out for the best. Isn't that why human beings were given the capacity to dream? So we can revel, even temporarily, in the happiest possible outcome? What good, after all, comes from spinning worst-case scenarios?"
"So you can prepare yourself."
"And what good does that do?"
Lucas smiled wryly. "You've got me there."
"Lorna still has a very good chance of a full recovery. That's not a dream, Lucas, that's a medical fact. Jamie knows it. It's why he's fighting so hard this very minute to make sure Lorna wakes up to everything she ever wanted."
"Her whole life, all she wanted was a family. Her adoptive parents died when she was just a kid, and Fanny and I... we really dropped the ball on that one."
"Though no fault of your own, I hear."
"Yeah. That's what we tell ourselves. But, you know, I've had a lot of time to think these past few years. A lot. Too much, frankly. And you know what I realized? No matter how badly I'd like to believe I was completely blameless... I wasn't. Why the hell did I accept it when Fanny's stepfather and that harridan aunt of hers told me she wanted nothing more to do with me? What kind of a man just takes something like that at face value and walks away, abandoning the woman he loves, abandoning his baby girl when she's just a few hours old?"
"Not a man," Alice reminded. "A boy."
"A punk," he corrected. "A coward. Aw, hell, who knows, maybe a part of me was happy for the excuse to ditch that kind of responsibility?"
"You're here now," was all Alice deigned to say to that.
"And doing a swell job of it, too."
"From where I'm standing, yes. You are."
"There's a lot you don't know."
"There's a lot that isn't any of my business. My primary concern throughout all of this, outside Lorna's immediate health and the future of your granddaughter, is Jamie. You have been there for him like no one else. He needed to know that somebody who loves Lorna as much as he does is on his side. That he isn't losing his mind, or misjudging the situation, or acting solely out of self-interest. You've been his anchor in a way the rest of us, no matter how well-meaning, simply could not match."
"Listen to her," Jamie appeared behind them, telling Lucas. "She's right. She usually is."
"I thought I sent you to get a decent meal for a change."
Jamie offered an itemized receipt from the cafeteria. "For your review."
"Still doesn't prove you actually ate any of it," Lucas grumbled.
"I'm fine," Jamie reassured. He looked from one to the other. "Please stop worrying about me."
"No dice," Alice crossed her arms.
Lucas copied her gesture. "What she said."
Jamie asked Lorna's father. "Any word from..."
"No." He sighed. "Nothing from the court or Kevin or Stacey. I promised Felicia I'd call her with an update on... things as soon as you came back. Would you excuse me?" Before he left, Lucas told Alice, "It was very nice to officially meet you, finally."
"Likewise," she agreed.
Social niceties out of the way, Jamie made a beeline for Lorna's bedside, asking, "Any change?" No longer really expecting an answer. He sighed and, figuring they could all use a little levity, informed Alice, "Your husband stopped by this morning."
"Really?" The revelation took Alice by surprise. "What did he want?"
"Well," Jamie began. "Unless I'm mistaken, I believe Spencer offered to have Morgan... taken care of for me."
Alice response was a half-gasp, half-laugh. "Oh, Jamie, oh, honey, I am so sorry."
"No... No. I It was kind of... sweet. If you can use that word under the circumstances. He... He had this expression on his face... I never realized how much Kirkland took after him; I always thought he looked mostly like Vicky with a little bit of Michael thrown in, and, obviously, he got his height from Grant. But, this look Spencer had... it was pure Kirk. I almost laughed, to be honest."
"It's genuinely the only way he knows how to reach out."
"And you don't mind?"
Alice hesitated. "Like your mother, I knew the sort of man I was getting when I married Spencer. Unlike your mother, I won't make excuses or grandiose claims; not for him, not to him, and most certainly not so that I might persuade others. Spencer Harrison is who he is. And when I said I do, I truly meant that I accepted him as precisely that. Maybe if I'd been wise enough to take such an approach with your father, things might have turned out very differently. For all of us."
"Wow. That's... wow. What you just described is something most of us spend our whole lives looking for. Being wholly understood and accepted without judgment..."
"Are you trying to tell me you haven't found specifically that? And a whole lot more?"
Jamie was spared having to answer though the look on his own face pretty much told a majority of the story by his beeper going off.
He checked the number and the numerical code they'd worked out in advance, telling Alice, "It's Kevin. Judge is ready to render his verdict."
"I am under no obligation to justify any of my actions to you," Carl sneered, pivoting in his chair and turning his back on Grant, attempting to dismiss him with one hand, despite the latter having gained access to his home by claiming to have come for Kirkland.
"The hell you aren't." Grant spun the chair back around, looming over Carl, who quickly sprung to his feet, negating the younger man's spatial advantage.
"You fool. I am endeavoring to protect your family. To clean up the mess Donna and Spencer created."
"You have no proof that any of us are in danger. If you'd done your due diligence, you'd have learned that the police investigated several drivers who were involved in unreported accidents around the time of Lorna's hit-and-run. Any one of them could be the culprit."
"Including yourself?" Carl taunted as Grant blanched, noting, "Investigated. And let go."
"Absence of evidence is never evidence of absence," Grant reminded.
"How delightful. You're using your Cracker Jack box law degree. Spencer must finally feel his money well-spent."
"Just because the police haven't managed to build a case yet against anyone else doesn't mean your enemies are necessarily the ones to blame."
"You are familiar with others capable of committing an untraceable crime?"
"You're coming at this backwards. First you settled on a conclusion, and then you went looking for facts to fit it. Admit it, Carl. You want this war. You are itching to take on your enemies for one final, glorious battle. Winner takes all."
"Have you lost what minuscule sense you were born with? Why would I choose to risk "
"Because you're a sadistic, arrogant, power-hungry old goat who realized that his best years are behind him, and that the serenity of a redeemed existence doesn't hold a candle to the satisfaction once derived from dining on newborn infants."
"Be careful, Grant, a more Freudian-inclined man might accuse you of projecting."
Grant ignored Carl's implication to continue, "You've been content to watch and wait, surreptitiously daring someone from the old gang to make a move for going on fifteen years now. Unluckily for you, no one's bit. So Lorna gets hurt and you leap on the opportunity to present yourself as the family savior. How else could you possible convince Rachel to unhitch the chain and let you have your fun?"
"Jealous?" Carl wondered, idly.
"You've got Rachel terrified for her children and grandchildren, and Spencer willing to do anything to prolong his happiness with Alice. They've got too much to lose to realize that the only person putting us all in danger, is you."
"You're starting to repeat yourself. And thus becoming even more tedious than usual."
"Don't do this," Grant somehow managed to both command and plead at the same time. "You are making a mistake."
"How can you be so certain?" For the first time since he'd interrupted his solitude, Grant held Carl's complete attention.
"It's obvious," Grant bluffed. "You have no confirmation that Lorna's accident is in any way connected to you and Lucas. You're just taking advantage of a tragedy. How do you think Rachel will feel once she finds out? Have you considered that?"
"How is she to find out something that is blatantly untrue?"
"I'll tell her," Grant threatened smugly. "Give her something to think about."
"And your word, of course, holds colossal sway with my wife."
"It will when what I have to say corresponds with suspicions she's held all along."
"What is your interest in this, Harrison?" Even a broken clock, as some were wont to observe, was right twice a day. And Grant had swiped much too close to the truth for Carl's comfort. "Though please don't insult my intelligence by cloaking it in concern for your decrepit, morally bankrupt father or his newlywed bliss."
"Kirkland," Grant gratefully told the truth. "Anyone who comes after Spencer, Donna and you is naturally going to look to Kirkland first. He's the common denominator."
"I have every intention of watching out for Kirkland, along with everyone else. The boy is Rachel's grandson!"
"Even you aren't infallible. And if it comes down to a choice; say, your son or mine, I think I have a pretty good idea of where the chips will fall. Damn it, Carl, reconsider. Please. Before it's too late."
"Are you begging me?" Carl didn't dare gloat until his suspicions were confirmed.
"Yes," Grant hissed.
"Why? Truth now. It's your only hope. Tell me why I should abstain. And, this being your one amenable audience, I strongly suggest you make a most compelling argument."
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