For a long, charged moment, Rachel and Jamie did nothing more than eye each other warily, both braced for a fight, neither one wanting it.
Finally, Jamie broke the stand off, raising both arms in surrender and turning his back on Rachel. “Fine, Mom. Have it your way.”
If that was the best Rachel could get, she was content to take it for the time being. She asked, “What’s the latest word on Kirk?”
When Jamie declined to respond, choosing instead to wordlessly sit back down on the couch next to Lorna, pointedly ignoring both the question and the person who’d asked it, Steven awkwardly stepped in to explain, eyes darting from his father to his grandmother, then back again. “He’s out of surgery. Russ said Dad should be able to see him soon. Morgan had to remove Kirk’s spleen. There was a lot of internal hemorrhaging. Grant went to give blood. I figure I’ll go in next.”
“But, he’s going to be alright?” Rachel double-checked. “He’ll pull through?”
“We hope so. I mean, yeah, sure, of course, he will.”
Rachel looked to Jamie for confirmation. The most he allowed himself was a brief nod in return.
Rachel was content to accept that for the time being, as well.
The four of them sat silently, Jamie and Lorna on the couch, his arm around her shoulders, Steven on a chair to the right of them, Rachel on the one across, leaning forward anxiously, each watching the doors, waiting, willing for Russ to reappear with an update.
But, it was Grant to who arrived first, sitting slumped over in a wheelchair pushed by an attendant, Sarah fretfully trailing along next to him. Grant’s face had paled so ashen that he appeared almost green, and he seemed barely capable of holding his head up. He was shaking as if freezing, teeth chattering, lips colorless, and taking deep, gulping breaths that seemed to require massive effort.
The attendant explained to Jamie, “He insisted on giving two pints. Wouldn’t even let us pump the platelets back in.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Jamie rose to demand. “Two pints might have been a fifth of your entire blood volume!”
“Kirkland… needed,” Grant managed to grit out, clutching the wheelchair’s armrests with both hands in an attempt to keep the room from spinning completely out of control and risking his blacking out. “How… How is…”
“He’s doing great,” Russ finally made his entrance while all attention had been focused on Grant. “Textbook vital signs, no apparent complications. You can go in and see him now, Jamie.” Russ caught his former stepson’s eye questioningly. Understanding what Russ was asking, Jamie offered yet another miniscule nod. “And you too, Grant,” Russ added.
Grant’s head bobbed up in surprise, despite the almost paralyzing dizziness. He turned it slowly from Russ to Jamie, not yet ready to believe the invitation hadn’t been a feverish hallucination on his part.
“Come on,” Jamie said, reaching to take the wheelchair handles from the attendant.
“No!” Grant insisted. “No. I’m not going in to see my son… not like this. I’ll walk.”
“Don’t be a hero, Grant,” Jamie warned.
“Screw you,” he snapped.
Jamie explained calmly, “The amount of blood you just donated would have a guy twice your size on his knees.”
“Not… like… this,” Grant repeated, rolling groaningly to one side, holding on tightly with both hands and attempting to push himself up out of the chair. Realizing he didn’t have the strength.
Sarah rushed to help him, but Jamie got there first, offering one arm for Grant to hold onto, using the other to pull him gently upright, supporting the bulk of the other man’s weight as Grant struggled to feel his legs steady under him again.
Trying to leave Grant as much of his dignity as possible under the circumstances, Jamie didn’t even look his way as he helped Grant shuffle towards the ICU, instead telling Lorna, over his shoulder, “I may be a while. Please go home and check on Devon. Text me how she’s doing, so I won’t worry.”
Lorna shook her head from side to side, “You’re not fooling me, Frame.”
He winked in her direction. “Wouldn’t dream of trying.”
“Give Kirkland my best,” she called.
“Mine, as well,” Rachel added.
“Tell him he ever does this again,” Steven said. “I’ll shove that missing spleen down his throat.”
“Will do,” Jamie smiled at them all. Even Rachel.
“You, my wife… and last night?” Matt repeated, scratching the back of his head quizzically as he let Dean into their apartment. “Say what?”
Dean nodded, even as Jeanne stepped up and told Dean. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I do,” Dean corrected. “I don’t deal in lies.”
“Neither do I.”
“That’s true,” Matt confirmed, still befuddled and thus happy to be able to identify at least a single fact through his confusion. “One thing my wife doesn’t do, it’s lie.”
“Which is why I’m not going ask her to. Again. Especially not for my sake.”
“Okay,” Matt looked from one to the other. “Somebody needs to clue me in. What are we talking about, here?”
“Dean…” Jeanne beseeched. “It’s not… it’s not important.”
“No?” he asked, voice utterly neutral.
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
“I am,” he repeated slowly, part question, part answer.
“Yes,” Jeanne told him firmly.
“Hey, guys,” Matt pointed his way. “I’m still in the room.”
“It’s not big deal,” Jeanne turned to her husband, figuring that if Dean wouldn’t listen to her, maybe Matt would.
“So I hear,” Matt agreed.
“Your wife spent the night with me,” Dean blurted, prompting both Jeanne and Matt’s heads to whip around.
“My wife… what?” Matt sounded more perplexed than anything else.
“I…” Jeanne began helplessly, with no earthly idea of what she might say subsequently, but feeling that the next word absolutely had to be hers.
Only to have Dean interrupt, “I played a concert last night.”
“For real?” Despite what he’d just heard about Jeanne, Matt seemed much more inspired by Dean’s professional revelation.
“Yeah,” his friend nodded shyly, looking down, shuffling his feet, all but blushing.
“How’d it go?”
“Not bad. Wasn’t as rusty as I’d feared. Still a long way before I’m back at my fighting sound, but, you know, for the first time in over two years… “
“That’s awesome, man. Congrats!”
“So…” Matt turned back to the subject at hand, pointing to Jeanne this time as he prompted, “What was that about my wife?”
Dean said, “I invited Jeanne to come watch. And I asked her not to tell you.”
“Why?” Matt wondered, incredulous.
“You’re a big time record producer, dude. I didn’t need the extra pressure.”
“Oh, yeah, big time. That’s exactly what you and I were when we started D&M; big time record producers. The only thing big about us in those days was our hair.”
“You’ve moved up in the world,” Dean reminded. “And lay off dissing the hair, some of us made that mullet work.”
Matt turned to Jeanne. “You went to Dean’s concert? Without telling me?”
“I told you, that was my doing,” Dean interjected. “I – you want to blame anyone, you blame me, okay?”
He and Jeanne exchanged a charged look. Which she promptly broke before telling Matt, “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have lied.”
“So why did you?”
“I – “ She snuck another peek at Dean, who was still staring at her intensely, eager to hear the answer himself. “Dean…. really needed the moral support. I know how hard it’s been for him since Jenna died. He… he needed a… friend.”
“I thought you two didn’t even like each other.”
“Yeah, funny thing about that,” Dean said. “Turns out, we’re… okay.”
“Oh. Well. Then…” Now it was Matt’s turn to struggle for the right words. “That’s… okay, then. That’s… good. Hell, that’s great.” He picked up speed as he went along. “I got to admit, the constant back and forth between the two of you? Not my idea of a good time. And Jeanne, that was… that was really nice of you to do that for Dean.”
“You’re not mad?” Jeanne gulped.
“You were helping out a friend, nothing’s more important than that in my book,” Matt reassured, before turning to Dean to kid, “But, no more late nights with my wife, okay, friend? Or I might get the wrong idea!”
With Steven watching her every move, Sarah attempted to surreptitiously sneak out of the waiting area while Grant and Jamie were inside ICU with Kirkland. Unfortunately for her escape plan, Lorna caught Sarah by one arm and half-guided/half-shoved her through a door leading to the emergency staircase.
“Are you nuts?” Lorna asked politely.
Sarah opened her mouth to either deny or defend, but the look on Lorna’s face suggested it was much too late for both. So Sarah, instead, went with a challenging, “Were you when you took up with Grant?”
“Yes!” Lorna’s cry reverberated up and down the empty stairwell.
“Look,” Sarah tried to reason. “Just because things between you and Grant didn’t work out, that doesn’t mean he and I – “
“Things between me and Grant didn’t work out because while we were dating – “
“Is it actually called dating if the guy is married to someone else at the time? See, to me, that sounds more like…”
The frigid, deadly look on Lorna’s face stuffed the remainder of Sarah’s words back down her throat. Along with the tacit reminder than no matter how good Sarah thought she was, Lorna was equally as good. And she’d been slinging it for about twenty-five years longer, to boot.
Once Lorna was sure she had Sarah’s complete attention, she continued, “Things between me and Grant didn’t work out because, in addition to being married to Amanda, while we were together Grant also found time to shoot himself and frame Kirkland’s mother for the murder attempt, not to mention deliberately sabotage my relationship with Morgan. Grant Harrison is a manipulative, egotistical, criminal, selfish user who thinks of himself first and foremost, and other people solely in relation to what they can do for him.”
“Grant Harrison just saved your stepson’s life,” Sarah shot back. “I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but Grant loves Kirkland.”
“When it’s convenient, sure. And when it’s not, he takes off for a decade-long tropical vacation. If Grant was willing to abandon Kirkland – who, you’re right; if Grant loves anyone on this Earth; Grant loves Kirk, I’ll give you that. If Grant was willing to abandon Kirkland the second times got rough, how do you think he’ll eventually end up treating someone less important to him – like you?"
“What does that say?” Grant demanded as Jamie picked up a chart hanging from the foot of a still unconscious Kirkland’s bed and proceeded to scrutinize every page, starting with the one on top. For his part, Grant could only remain upright by clinging to the metal bar at the side of the bed, where Jamie had planted him. He couldn’t very well storm over and grab the chart himself. Not that he’d be able to understand the medical mumbo-jumbo, in any case.
“It says…” Jamie shut the document slowly and looked Grant in the eye. “That we were damn, damn lucky.”
“It could have been worse?” Grant choked out.
“It could have been much, much worse.” Jamie speculated, “If the ambulance had taken a few minutes longer getting there… If the steering wheel had hit him an inch higher… If Morgan hadn’t been available to perform the surgery…”
“Morgan,” Grant couldn’t stop himself from smirking. “How do you like being beholden to that clown for your son’s life?”
“About as much as I like being beholden to you,” Jamie replied levelly. Grant proceeding to sneer in satisfaction. Only until Jamie added, “I am indebted to anyone and everyone who helped save Kirkland. Nothing else matters. You have my eternal gratitude.”
“I don’t need your Goddamn gratitude,” Grant snapped, embarrassed and wondering if he might have been so magnanimous were their situations reversed. Quite frankly, Grant was growing pretty tired of Jamie’s holier-than-thou magnanimousness. If he hadn’t been sick to his stomach before coming in here, Grant certainly would be battling nausea now.
“And I don’t need your perennial self-pity,” Jamie countered. “Kirkland certainly doesn’t need it. If you so much as try using your grand, heroic gesture today to manipulate or play him in any way…”
“What? You think you’re the only one capable of feeling grateful that Kirk’s alive, damn anything else?”
“No,” Jamie backed down, sensing the sincerity in Grant’s outburst. “I guess I’m not.”
“He’s all I have,” Grant looked down at the still, pale boy between them. “Even when I don’t have him… he’s all I have.”
Kirkland stirred. First his face twitched, then his eyes snapped open, before sleepily sinking shut against his will, and forcing Kirkland to struggle with his surprisingly heavy lids, only managing to pry them ajar halfway the second time.
“Hey, Kirk,” Jamie tapped the boy lightly on the cheek, knowing he was more likely to feel the blunt sensation over any subtler ones. “Welcome back, pal. You’ve had an accident, you’re in the hospital, but you’re going to be okay.”
Kirkland’s pupils lazily drifted Jamie’s way. His father told him, “Grant’s here, too.”
Slightly swifter this time, Kirkland looked from his adoptive father to his biological one, as surprised as anyone at the unexpected assembly.
Just before he drifted off to sleep again, Kirkland mumbled, “Awesome….”
“Steven?” The invocation proved so quiet, he wasn’t sure at first whether or not he’d really heard it. And, once he’d lifted his head, Steven couldn’t quite believe where – or rather who – it’d come from.
“Hey, Jen.” He rose awkwardly from his chair, glad that, unlike Grant and Sarah, they didn’t have an audience watching. His dad and Grant were still with Kirkland; Lorna and Sarah had seemingly disappeared, and Rachel had excused herself to make a phone call, promising to be back in a minute.
“Hi,” she looked as uncomfortable as he felt, shifting nervously from foot to foot, unsure of where to rest her eyes. “I – I heard about Kirk. How is he?”
“Better,” Steven said. “We think he’s going to be okay.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
“How… How are… you?”
“I’m fine. I wasn’t in the car with him. I didn’t get hurt.”
“You’re the one who had to authorize his surgery. You’re the one who had to hold down the fort until Jamie got back.”
“Yeah, well, not the first time, you know? I’ve got this drill down to a science by now.”
“You must have been so scared.”
Jen raised an eyebrow. “Don’t lie to a person with access to neuroimaging equipment.”
Steven had to smile at that. “You carry a pocket model in your purse?”
“I don’t need to,” she told him in all seriousness. “I can tell, just by looking at you.”
“Everything’s under control,” he dismissed, less cocksure than before.
“Not everything,” Jen corrected him gently, taking a step forward and wrapping Steven in her arms, allowing him to exhale and lean into her as if he’d unknowingly been waiting his entire life for the gesture. “Not yet.”
“Oh, good, Morgan.” Amanda double-timed her steps down the hospital hallway in order to catch up with Morgan just as he was exiting the doctors’ changing area, his hair still damp from the long, scorching shower he’d taken post-Kirkland’s surgery, trying to uncramp his muscles after hours of standing, wielding painfully precise instruments.
“That’s a switch,” Morgan had to smile, despite his exhaustion. “I haven’t heard, Oh, good, Morgan from you in quite a while. Wise up, finally, did you?”
She shook her head, stifling a grin. “You’re incorrigible.” Then shifted back into serious mode. “How’s Kirk? Where is he?”
“Recovery, I presume. When I left, he was doing great. Jamie’s probably in with him by now.”
“He’s a tough kid. Held his own. Things were a little dicey in the beginning…”
“You mean he could have…”
“Well, not with a surgeon like me on the case. But, you get the idea…” it was meant to be a joke. It was all still a little too fresh to be funny.
“Thank you, Morgan,” Amanda told him sincerely.
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” he doffed an imaginary cap.
“It couldn’t have been easy, after everything you and Jamie…”
“A patient’s a patient. If I let personal feelings get in the way, I’d never find the guts to make my first incision. Everybody is somebody’s kid, somebody’s husband, somebody’s dad… Everybody matters to somebody. Oh, wait! Except for me! Scratch that.”
“Sorry, sorry,” he shook his head and his hands in front of him dismissively. “Don’t listen to a word I say, please. I’m completely fried.”
“My whole family owes you one.”
“Do I get to pick who collect from?” he asked innocently.
“Did I say incorrigible?” Amanda challenged. “I meant hopeless.”
“Oh, no,” he corrected. “I am anything but that…”
He’d walked her to the ICU’s waiting area – it was on his way – but any particularly clever good-bye Morgan may have planned to send Amanda’s way prior to departure dissipated the moment he saw her eyes darken, and followed the escalating look of fury on her face towards its intended recipient – Rachel Hutchins.
At that, Morgan promptly excused himself and, with a polite nod to both women, ducked into the relative peace and tranquility of the hospital’s trauma unit. The potential blood and mayhem there, he could handle.
“What are you doing here?” Amanda hissed
“Visiting my grandson.”
Amanda gasped. “Mom, did Carl have anything to do with Kirkland being – “
“Amanda!” Rachel thought, at her age, she was well past being shocked by anything. Apparently, she’d been wrong. Remembering a metaphor Carl had thrown her way years ago, Rachel lectured, “Not every window broken by a baseball in Bay City is his fault!”
“Then if it’s not for Carl, why did you come?”
“For Jamie,” Rachel would have been angry at Amanda’s attitude, were she not simultaneously stymied by her implication. Surely, even Amanda couldn’t honestly believe that Rachel’s only interest in her family these days had dwindled to exclusively protecting Carl’s interests.
“Jamie wants you here?” Amanda asked suspiciously.
“Well… no. Not necessarily.”
“I knew it.”
“Tell me, Amanda, if Allie was in trouble, would you allow some petty, irrelevant argument to keep you from going to her, no matter what?”
“Actually, Mom, that’s exactly what happened when Allie was on trial for Gregory’s death. The night she was arrested, Kevin told me to stay away, that Allie was in no condition to deal with me. And I did.”
“The morning after which, you moved Heaven and Earth to try and help her, despite Allie’s rather vocal resistance. If you’re going to employ your story as an example, my darling, do use the entire story, it’s only fair.”
“This isn’t about me and Allie. Allie is a kid. Jamie’s an adult. And his son almost died today.”
“Precisely why I came. To support him in any way I could.”
“Except that your being here only makes the situation harder for him. Jamie told you to stay away from him. That, as long as you were with Carl, he didn’t want you anywhere near him or his family.”
“Water under the bridge,” Rachel dismissed. “Now is no time to hold grudges.”
“According to you. You decided it was time to call a truce, so you came waltzing in here, magnanimously letting bygones be bygones. Whether the rest of us agree or not.”
“This is none of your business, Amanda.”
“Can’t you see that you’re just making Jamie’s life infinitely harder, Mom? You’re asking him to deal with Kirk and with you at the same time. How does that help Jamie? How does it support him? How does it do anything but add to his burden?”
“Jamie needs to know that I’ll be there for him no matter what.”
“Jamie doesn’t want you there. Or here. Or anywhere. Not as long as you’re Mrs. Carl Hutchins. You won’t leave your husband. And you still won’t stay away from us. So when it comes down to it, even now, you’re putting Carl first.”
Rachel had taken just about enough. “Don’t think I can’t see what you’re doing, Amanda; using Jamie’s tragedy to try and manipulate me into giving you your own way.”
“If I didn’t think you’d understand what I was doing, why would I have bothered? Of course, you understand what I’m saying. The question is: What are you going to do about it?”
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