"You were right," Grant told his father. "Carl wants this war. He's just using Lorna's accident as an excuse."
"You talked to Carl? Why?" Spencer wondered.
"Because my son is at the very epicenter of this travesty. He's the common denominator between you, Donna, and Carl. If there was anything I could do to stop him, I owed it to Kirkland to try."
"What could you possibly offer Hutchins that might call him off the scent?"
"I begged him," Grant said simply, meeting Spencer's eyes, expecting to see scorn and condemnation, but surprisingly finding only understanding.
"It must have been very difficult for you," Spencer sympathized. "Humiliating yourself like that."
"It wasn't. I was doing it for Kirkland. When I love somebody, I will do anything and everything to protect them."
"I bet Carl enjoyed it. Your coming on bended knee."
"Not enough to admit that the only interests he was concerned with were his own. Sure, that includes Rachel and their children. The rest of us can go to Hell, for all he cares."
"That settles it then," Spencer said. "I was fighting it before, but if, as you say, Carl is determined to do this no matter what, it's in all our best interests for me to join him. I wouldn't fool myself believing that I can keep Carl under any sort of control. But, at least, from the inside, maybe I can blunt the worst of the blows from landing on you."
"This is all his fault," Grant repeated feverishly, needing to convince himself. "There was nothing I could have said, nothing I could have done... Even if I'd given him a valid excuse... Hell, if I'd done as you wanted originally and taken the blame for Lorna "
"Carl is no fool. He must know that you were on-camera all that day. There's no way you could be the one responsible. No point in you lying and claiming otherwise."
"It doesn't matter. Carl doesn't want to find the real culprit. I'm certain I could have handed him one on a silver platter, and he would have just gone ahead and conjured up another excuse to have his way."
"I suspect you're right. That's the impression I got, too."
"I am right. He's like a rabid dog on a rampage. The only thing left for any of us to do is just duck and cover, and hope the storm blows over our heads and straight into him."
"No," Spencer said. "There is one more thing. We could take Carl out first."
"First of all, for the record: Ew," Charlie announced as she stepped into the living room to find her parents on the couch doing what could only be described as... necking.
"Duly noted," Cass bobbed his head gravely Charlie's way, though at least he and Frankie did take a break... for now.
"I leave the house for one night, and suddenly you can't keep your hands off each other?"
"That would appear to be the case," Frankie confirmed.
"Is there any reason I can't have normal parents?" Charlie wondered.
"Who do you know that's normal?" Cass countered. "Parents or otherwise?"
"Touche," Charlie grumbled, plopping down in a chair and peering forebodingly from one to the other. "So? What? From now on do I have to clear my throat really loudly before entering a room?"
"How old are you, Charlotte?" Cass asked.
"Turning seventeen, hey, what do you know? Today, as a matter of fact."
"That was subtle," Frankie noted.
"Thank you. I tried."
"In that case," Cass vowed. "I promise no R-rated action for at least another year."
"Gee, thanks. That's so generous of you."
"PG-13, on the other hand...."
"It's one thing when it's a movie. Totally different when it's your own parents."
"How exactly do you think you got here?"
"Again, for the record, and louder in case you missed it the first time: Ew."
"What do you want to do for your birthday?" Frankie decided to give her grossed out daughter a break and change the subject. They would have many more opportunities to mortify her down the line.
"Well, we're going out for dinner later, right?"
"Right. But you still haven't told us where, or who you want to invite along."
"Yeah, well, here's the thing. I was thinking and... Would it be okay with you guys if I asked... Jasmine?"
"Of course," both Frankie and Cass blurted out instinctively, exchanging guilty glances. Frankie followed up with, "Why would you think it might not be alright with us?"
"Well, you know..."
"I don't," Cass said. "I mean, I do know. I know what you think. But, you're wrong. I love Jasmine."
"You do," Charlie said. "How about Mom?"
"Did you think I'd have a problem with it? Charlie, I'm the one who's been urging you to be nicer to Jasmine all along."
"Doesn't seeing her, Jasmine, I mean, doesn't it remind you of Dad and Lila and... stuff?"
"Do you think I want to pretend like your father's marriage to Lila never existed?"
"I'm sorry, Mom, it's not personal. I just get the feeling sometimes that you'd like to pretend everything during those years you were gone never existed. It's like you stepped out for a second to pick up some milk, and now you're back, and nothing should have changed."
"That's not true."
"You're always talking about all those years we missed together."
"Of course, I am. I missed your entire childhood, Charlie. I missed a decade with your father when we could have been happy. Am I not allowed to regret that?"
"You know what?" Cass interrupted, sensing that this was about to take a turn neither of them was particularly interested in pursuing, especially not today. "Why don't we table this discussion? Charlie, it's your day. We can do anything you like, with anyone you like, no further discussion necessary. Deal?"
"Deal," she nodded, and Frankie fervently backed up.
"Good. So how about you give Jazz a call "
"Call?" Charlie raised her eyebrows. "What is this? 2005?"
"Excuse me while I get my shawl," Cass huffed. "How about you give Jazz a... text. Or a Poke, or throw a sheep at her on Facebook, or whatever the newest technology might be. While I " his own phone rang, and he happily added, "Crank up this ancient means of communication and see what my fellow dinosaurs might have to convey."
"He's very sensitive, isn't he?" Charlie asked Frankie with a laugh.
"Comes from being so very, very old," she explained.
"Felicia?" Cass answered the phone, turning his back on Charlie and Frankie, figuring the last thing his friend needed now was to hear the laughter and, albeit temporary, harmony echoing from his home. Not when her daughter was in such desperate straits. "What is it? Has the judge come back with a verdict?"
"He has," Felicia said slowly.
"Bad news?" Cass cringed.
"The judge ruled in favor of Jamie."
"I'm sorry," Cass said softly. "But, I'm sure Stacey told you, there's still room for an appeal. If you'd like, I could "
"No. That's not what I called about."
"What's wrong?" Cass asked, nervous, unable to think of what might possibly be worse, yet getting the feeling from Felicia's tone that something most certainly was.
"I need to see you, Cass. We need to talk. It's about Lucas. And when you first found out that he was still alive."
"So that's how it is?" Morgan called after Lila, who took one look at him approaching her on the street as she was walking to pick up Jasmine from school, and promptly turned in the opposite direction. "No love for the ex-brother-in-law?"
"Not after what you just tried to do to Lorna, no," she tossed over her shoulder.
"What I tried to do?" He caught up and circled around, forcing Lila to face him. "What I tried to do? You're the one they questioned about Lorna and I getting hurt in the first place!"
"The police didn't find a single thing to connect me to Lorna's accident," Lila reminded stiffly.
"Only because you ordered Grant's campaign car practically rebuilt from scratch. Yeah, I know all about how you tried to cover for your buddy boy. Now that Lorna's hearing is over, I figured I'd dig a little into what really happened that night."
"So that's why you've come sniffing around me again. And here I thought you might be wanting to apologize for basically cutting off both me and Jasmine the second St. Frankie came back to Bay City."
"I didn't cut... I asked Cass about you," Morgan's earlier bravado faltered. "But, he said you were so upset, and Jasmine was so upset. I didn't want to make things worse."
"Yeah. Plus, I figure that supposed marriage of yours must've kept you plenty busy. Though it does make me wonder, where were you all this last year while your wife was swapping spit with another man, and pretty publicly too."
"I'm here now. And I'm trying to get some kind of justice for both Lorna and her baby."
"That would be the same baby you were angling to rip from her womb just, what? yesterday? That baby?"
"I was trying to save Lorna's life," Morgan felt like a broken record, if there were still any records around to break.
"You were doing what you always do, inserting yourself into a situation you had no right being in, and fighting everyone else for control of the reigns."
"I have every right to know who almost killed me. Which is why you, sweetheart, are going to tell me every detail about that banged up car, and who may have taken it for a joyride prior to you dropping it off at your friendly neighborhood body-shop."
"Go to Hell. You think any Cory will be willing to give you the time of day after what you put Jamie through?"
"Like you care about Jamie!"
"I care about his mother, who cares about Jamie. And I care about my daughter, who, at the moment, happens to believe Lorna hung the moon. Most of all, though, I sympathize with a parent fighting like a starving bear to save his child. Or did it slip your mind that you almost had a nephew once upon a time?"
Morgan hesitated. "I remember."
"Good for you. And do you also happen to remember the state I was in after I lost him? I felt gutted. I didn't care that the doctors and Cass said we could try again. I didn't want to try again. I didn't want some other baby. I wanted the one I'd already felt kicking and moving around and keeping me up at night by hooking his feet into my rib cage. Every year, when his original due date comes around, I think about him. And on the anniversary of the day he died. And when I see a little boy about the age he would have been. Especially a little boy with dark curly hair like Cass. Or when I dream about him, and wake up actually looking around, thinking that this time this time! I'll find where he's been hiding all along. I'll show those doctors they made a mistake. It's been like this for years. It's going to be like this forever. And that's what you wanted to do to Jamie. And to Lorna. Your wife."
"What happened to you and Cass... you can't compare it...."
"No. Because there was nothing I could have done. Nothing anybody could have done. I accept that. Lorna, though... Do you honestly think she would have ever forgiven you for doing this to her? Even now, soon as she finds out what you tried to do...."
"Why do you think I'm doing all this now?" Morgan blurted out. "Why do you think... Finding who hit her.... it's the only thing I've been left to do for her. The only way I can even begin to try and make up for... a lot of different things."
"Knock yourself out. I, personally, doubt it'll do you any good. And I know that I've got nothing to offer up on that account."
"Then don't help me on my account," Morgan agreed.
"No danger of that."
"Or even Lorna's. Do it for yourself."
"Now how do you figure?"
"You have as much to gain from the real hit-and-run driver being smoked out as the rest of us. More even. Finding the SOB who did this to Lorna won't magically make her come out of her coma. But, it will clear your name once and for all."
"My name is fine, thank you," she told him, turning back in the direction of Jasmine's school, hearing the dismissal bell in the distance. "Now that Winthrop is no longer any part of it."
"Your conscience, then," Morgan shot in her wake. "How are you planning to sleep at night, Lila, knowing that, thanks to your actions, you may have let a killer go free? And how are you going to feel if he ends up hurting somebody else?"
"I heard the good news about Jamie," Carl tread carefully when he came upon Rachel in her studio, kneading a ball of clay as if she were trying obliterate it.
"It's news," Rachel sighed. "I'm not so certain it's good. The situation it puts him in..."
"He wanted it this way," Carl reminded.
"Yes, well, my son wouldn't be the first person to learn that what we think we want and what is actually good for us aren't always the same thing."
"May I ask what brought about this dark mood of yours, my dear? Certainly, it can't all be stemming from Jamie's dilemma."
"No," she conceded, shoving the clay away and grabbing a rag to wipe off her fingers. "I've got a dilemma of my own that I honestly have no idea how to tackle."
"Might I be of assistance?"
Rachel told him, "Lila took the blame for making the call that got Alice arrested."
"Hmmm. What an intriguing development. Any conjecture as to what prompted our Lila to fall upon her sword in such a self-sacrificing manner?"
"She did it to protect me. So it wouldn't ruin my relationship with Amanda or Jamie."
"Most kind of her. And rather insightful."
"I hate it. I love Lila for doing it, but I hate the idea of someone else suffering because of what I've done. Especially when I know I didn't do anything wrong. I protected Allie and Steven; I am not ashamed of that. Amanda, however, is having a field day gloating."
"It was Lila's choice," Carl noted. "You didn't ask her for this favor. It flowered from the bottom of her heart. Frankly, I daresay it would be a touch insulting for you to nullify Lila's heroic actions by stepping forth to challenge her assertion."
Rachel cocked her head. "That's an interesting way of looking at the situation. Tell me, how often have you used it yourself to help get through those dark nights of the soul?"
"You maintain that it's merely a justification for deliberate inaction on my part?" Carl asked sharply.
"That's not what I meant, but, okay, sure, let's go with that." When her husband's face only darkened in response to her attempt at levity, Rachel wondered, "What's going on, Carl? What kind of nerve did I hit now?"
"The issue of when and if to self-sacrifice is not a trivial one."
"Neither is it one of life and death. No matter how upset Amanda and Jamie might be, we'll get through it eventually. We've survived far worse." Rachel reached out to turn Carl's chin so that he was forced to look her in the eye. "But, we're not talking about me and my actions anymore, are we?"
"I warned you, Rachel," he reminded. "I warned you that we were entering a particularly delicate period of negotiations, wherein "
"The choices you're facing truly are a matter of life and death," she guessed.
"Yes," the response came out sounding like a sigh.
"How bad is it?" she struggled to keep the fear from her voice, to varying success.
He asked his wife, "If the price for your and the children's everlasting safety were my life, would you pay it?"
Rachel inhaled sharply. "Is that an option actually on the table?"
"It's always an option," Carl conceded. "The Alpha wolf surrendering and exposing his jugular vein to the enemy's teeth is a time-tested strategy for ceasing hostilities."
"Have we gotten to that point?" This time, the shaking in Rachel's inflection was audible.
"No," he reassured. "I have far too many tricks up my sleeve yet."
"Then why bring it up?"
"Because I wanted to know where you stood on the matter?"
"You mean, where do I weigh in on my husband volunteering to be murdered? All right, if you were wondering what my response might be: I'm against it. Any more questions?"
"Even if my doing so might protect you and Cory and Elizabeth?"
"You will protect Cory, Elizabeth and me. You are all we need. But we need you alive."
"In that case, the things that I will need to do..."
"Do them," Rachel cut Carl off, refusing to hear anymore. Admittedly, afraid to. It was one thing to condone his actions in the abstract. She didn't think she could bear to know the specifics. "And understand this. If I could love you, marry you, forgive you atrocities you'd committed for less noble reasons, how could I not forgive things done for the best reason of all? For family? For love?"
"Don't ever talk to Sharlene about me again. Do you hear me, Donna? I won't have it." John stormed into her KBAY-TV office, in no mood to hear any excuses.
Much to his surprise, Donna didn't offer any. All she said was, "No."
"No. You are my friend, and if I think you're doing something to hurt yourself, I will do anything and everything I have to in order to circumvent it. If that means going to your ex-wife and begging her to knock some sense into you, then so be it. No, John. You will not bully me off helping you."
"Just who do you think you are?"
"Your friend," she repeated firmly, as if that should explain everything.
"You've got some nerve."
"Thank you for noticing."
"You and Sharlene both."
"So she did speak to you."
"She told me that I was letting Gregory down by continuing to blame myself for his death."
"Good for her."
"This is none of your business."
"You're right. That's why I went to Sharlene. Gregory is your son. You two should be mourning him together."
"That's what Sharlene said."
"Then I have nothing to apologize for. Not that I ever thought I did before."
"Do you know what happened when she said that?"
"I'm sure I have no idea."
"I'll tell you, then." John took a step closer, towering menacingly over Donna while she did her best to appear unperturbed. "What happened when Sharlene said that we should be mourning our son together was that I looked down at this woman that I'd once loved, the mother of my only son, the person I once thought I was incapable of living without and, at her word, at her saying together, all I could think was: I didn't want to be with her. Not anymore. The only person I want to be with now, Donna, is... you."
"Oh." The unperturbed mask wavered dangerously. Donna brought a hand up to her throat. "Oh."
"Yes," John taunted. "Still think you did the right thing sticking your nose into my business?"
Donna stepped away, her back to him, attempting to joke and dismiss, "We've tried this before. Did it somehow slip your mind? Several times, as a matter of fact. Not a single incarnation managed to work, despite our best efforts."
"So was everything you told me in the hospital a lie, then?"
"What are you talking about?" Donna turned abruptly, confused by his non sequitur.
"You told me that you'd spent your life playacting, pretending to be someone you're not, pretending to feel things you didn't. And you told me that you were done with that."
"Well, yes, I did say that."
"Did you mean it?"
"In that case, how can you say that we've been down this road before? You've never let me anywhere near the real you. Not until now. Or so you'd led me to believe."
"What? What, John? John, what? For forty years, you only allowed me to skim the surface, to watch the show, just like everybody else. But, finally, I feel like I know the real you. Or, at least, that I might be on my way to knowing. The real you is the woman who found me the night Gregory died. Who talked to me about the man he would have been so that I didn't lose my mind right then and there. The real you helped me find the strength to go to his funeral, to speak at his funeral, and then went against my express wishes because she thought it was in my own best interests."
"Didn't you come storming in here upset about that only a few minutes ago?" Donna made her last-ditch attempt at deflection.
"The real you, Donna, is a woman I have no intention of giving up on ever again."
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