?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

For some reason, Chapter 22 appears to have been deleted from the blog, so I've added it here with Chapter 23.

------------------------------

"So will you tell me what's going on?" Jeannie hissed at her brother.  "I've got a bottle of peroxide and I'm not afraid to use it."

"Okay, okay."  Andrew knew not to mess with his sister.  "We just had a little tiff, and I decided to be stupid and run off.  Literally."

"Literally?"

He shrugged.  "Well the horse did the running and I went off the side, so that seems pretty literal to me.  But everyone's okay, so it's really not that much of a deal, is it?"

"What am I going to do with you?"  Jeannie shook her head.  She finished with the cuts on his shoulder.  "Lean forward and let me check your back."  As Andrew complied, she spotted some small puckered scars just below his left his shoulder.  "What's this?" she asked, touching the spot.  Andrew immediately stiffened.

"Nothing."  His abrupt tone said otherwise.

"Andrew?"  Using his full name was a warning, and she positioned herself immediately in front of him and waved the bottle.  "Peroxide."

"It's nothing," he said again, but not as curt.  "Just a little something courtesy of 'Toby Taliban.'"  At her look, he added, "Sorry, that's not meant as a joke; it's just what we called them."

Jeannie's voice rose.  "Why didn't you tell me you got hurt?"

"Look, Sis, it's not a big deal, just a little shrapnel.  Over there, that's like spraining your ankle."

She looked dubious, but did not push.  She leaned back around and began dabbing peroxide on the remaining cuts and scrapes.  "You know, Andy," she said quietly, even as she felt her brother tense.  "I don't have a clue what happened over there, but if you ever want to talk, you know I'm here."  She waited, unsure if he was going to argue or open up.  Andy could easily do both.  But before he said anything, the tea kettle started whistling. 

"Saved by the bell," he muttered.  He leaned back into the pillows as Jeannie got up to fix the pot.  "Hey, why don't you take a cuppa up to Mum?  She could probably use one."

Jeannie had to agree.  Their mom had looked strained and exhausted when she returned.  Leave it to Andy to pick the wrong time for one of his little adventures.  She fixed the pot and let the tea steep for a few minutes before pouring a cup for Kim and climbing the stairs to the master bedroom.  Jeannie rapped lightly on the door, but there was no answer.  She poked her head inside to see her mom curled on her side on top of the bed covers.  Jeannie set the cup down and picked up a throw from a nearby chair.  No reason for mom to get cold.  As she spread the blanket over Kim, Jeannie spotted the picture frame next to her mom's hands.  She had probably been looking at it when she fell asleep.  Jeannie smiled and picked up the picture, but her smile faltered when she saw the image.  What was Mom doing with a picture of Dad?  She surely had other pictures of her and Andrew; she didn't need this one.  For a moment, Jeannie debated putting the photo on the end table, but she decided against that.  Carrying it with her, she went back downstairs.

"Hey, what's that you have?"  Andrew reached out a hand and Jeannie handed him the picture before going into the kitchen to fix two more cups of tea.  "Hey, where did you get this?  It's supposed to be in my old room."

Jeannie carried the cups to the living room, set them on the coffee table, and sat down in a chair opposite her brother.  "Figured as much.  I doubt Mom uses LA Dodgers picture frames."

"Give me a break.  I was five."  Andrew studied the photo for a moment.  "Hey, I remember when we took this.  It was right before Father left Salem and . . . oh, Lord."  He started to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"I think it was the day I first made those horrid green potatoes."  They both laughed, remembering how Andrew's green mashed potatoes had become a fixture at holiday dinners at Donovan Manor for several years.  They had become a family legend.  After they finished laughing, the room fell silent.

Jeannie took the photo back and glanced at it.  "Mum had it."

Andrew sighed.  "That's probably my fault.  I said some things earlier that probably made her think about Father."

"What did you say?"  Jeannie's tone turned slightly accusatory.

"Look . . ."  Andrew tried to figure out what to say.  Sometimes he could read Jeannie like a book, and knew how to play her perfectly.  But when it came to discussing Father, he never knew what would set her off.  "Okay, please just listen and hear me out before you say anything."  He ignored the way her eyes narrowed and continued before she could protest.  "Mum still has a lot of issues when it comes to Father, and, sometimes, I think she takes that out on me."

"Now you're being silly, Andy."

"No, I don't think I am," Andrew said, evenly, before leaning back and looking at the ceiling.  "I wish I was, but I'm not.  She thinks every decision I've made in my whole blasted life is because of Father, like I don't have a single independent thought."  He let go a curt laugh.  "Look at us.  You hate Father, and I've got all these issues with Mum.  We're quite a pair, aren't we?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Jeannie said.  "But I still don't like this."  She pointed at the photo.  "There's no point rehashing old history, and the last thing she needs to be thinking about right now are bad times."

There it was again, that same bitterness.  Andrew groaned.  "Why do you hate him so much?"

"Why?"  Jeannie's voice rose again.  "Because he hurt Mom, okay?  You don't think I know about him shacking up with Aunt Kayla?  Or how he didn't even want me when I was born?"

"How?"  Andrew was confused. 

"How do I know?  Phillip.  He used to throw that at Mom when they argued.  He used to accuse her of not being over Dad."

"Figures.  Phillip could be one hell of a tosser sometimes, and a jealous git when it came to Father."

This time it was Jeannie's turn to be confused.  "Why would Phillip be jealous?  He had nothing to be jealous about?  Certainly not Dad."

Andrew sat up a little.  He sometimes forgot that Jeannie wasn't even born when their parents split up.  And he also suspected that Cal was not a name that Philip Collier threw in their Mum's face during arguments.  "I'm really sorry, sometimes," Andrew said.  "You never got to see Mum and Father together when they were ever really, truly happy.  I may have been little, but got to see that, and they loved each other, a hell of a lot more than Mum ever loved Phillip."

"So you're saying Dad screwed it up," Jeannie said.  "Not a shock."

"That's not true."  Andrew came to his father's defense.  "A lot happened, and it wasn't all his fault."

"Like what?  Tell me, Andy.  Sleeping with Mom's sister strikes me as a hell of a screw-up."

That tore it.  If Jeannie wanted to know ancient history, so be it.  He looked at her and raised his voice. "You want me to tell you?" Andrew shot back.  "Fine.  I'll tell you.  It's about time someone told you about 'Uncle Cal.'  Then maybe you'll understand that Father is not the only one who screwed up."

---------------------

Marlena lost track of how long she held her daughter.  Sami was clinging tightly, as if she would never let go, sobbing uncontrollably.  "It's okay," Marlena whispered.  "Let it out."  She looked across the living room to Roman and Bo, who were shuffling uncomfortably.  She understood.  Ever since she first knew them, going back 30 years, they had always been men who needed to do something, not stand helpless.

"Your father's here," Marlena said. 

Sami nodded, but did not pull away.  "Thank you for coming," she said in a small voice.

"Oh, honey, I could never stay away, not when you're hurting."  She smoothed Sami's hair.

Across the room, Bo had started pacing.  "When I find who did this, I'm going to kill them," he growled.

"Stand in line," Roman muttered.  One thing he could never stand was seeing a member of his family in pain.  His fists clenched unconsciously.  Next to him, Bo was beginning to pace, a product of the same restless energy.  Roman turned to his brother.  "Look, why don't you go deal with Carly?  I'll stay here."  He motioned in the direction of the closed kitchen door.  "If Rafe has anything to report from the FBI, I'll let you know."

"You sure, Bro?"  Bo sounded almost grateful for something to do.

"Yeah, go ahead." 

Bo needed no further encouragement.  He crossed the room to Marlena and Sami, and put his hand on his niece's shoulder.  "Sami . . . let me know if you need anything."  She glanced up at him and nodded through her tears.  Bo looked at her mother.  "Marlena, I'll see you soon."

As Bo made his exit, Rafe entered the living room from the kitchen.  Sami looked up at him expectantly.  "Did they say anything?"

Rafe just shook his head.  When Sami turned back to Marlena, he motioned to Roman to join him back in the kitchen. 

So maybe the FBI had said something, Roman thought, as he followed Rafe out of the room, closing the door behind them.  "What do you got?"

Rafe shuffled his feet.  "Nothing new from the lab.  I've just been thinking."

"Go on," Roman said.

"I know I can't say this around Sami, but don't you wonder about this?  I was getting close to nailing the kidnappers, and suddenly we find the dress?  But no body."

Roman raised an eyebrow.  "You're telling me you think Sydney's still alive?  With my daughter in the next room crying her eyes out over her dead baby girl? You've got a lot of nerve."

"Look, it's just some questions," Rafe said, raising his hands and stepping back.  The last thing he wanted to do was start a fight.  "I just wanted to raise it."

"Well, consider it raised."  Roman fumed.  "Just don't even let Sami hear you thinking that, okay?"  He didn't wait for a response before returning to the living room and taking a seat next to his ex-wife and daughter.  "Hey, sweatheart," he said to Sami.  "Maybe you should get a little rest.  Your mom could probably use some too."

Sami sniffled and looked at Marlena, who smiled softly and brushed her daughter's cheek.  "I'll be back first thing tomorrow.  Rafe's here."

They made their leave, with Roman giving Rafe one parting look of warning.  Instinctively, he put an arm around Marlena.  Old habits died hard, and she did not pull away.  They said nothing until they were in the car and headed toward her hotel.

"That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," Marlena said quietly.  "I feel so helpless."  She stared out the window into the darkness.  It had been more than a year since she had been in Salem, but she felt slight comfort from the familiar buildings and signs.

"I know, Doc.," Roman said.  He reached out to put a hand on her leg, but pulled back just in time.  Another old habit.  Out of the corner of his eye, however, he studied her.  She was just as beautiful as he remembered, and the temptation was still there, no matter how much he knew their relationship was over.  He said nothing further until they reached the hotel and pulled into the lot.  "Hey, let me help you with your suitcase."

Her room had been reserved in advance so the key was waiting for her.  That was good, because Marlena wanted to keep her time alone with Roman as short as possible, feeling the tension between them as they walked into the hotel.  It was always present when they were together, but she usually had John with her and most of Roman's unresolved issues took the form of passive aggressiveness directed at her husband.  Tonight, without a buffer, she felt it more palpably.  There was probably too much history for it to completely go away, and when she and Roman were together for one of their children, it was a constant reminder of their past.  They took the elevator to the second floor and started down the hall.

"Hold on."  Roman set down her case.  Marlena followed his eyes to the door of her room, which was slightly ajar.  "Wait here," he whispered, as he drew his gun.  He slid along the wall until he reached the door.  He shoved it open, hard.  "Don't move, mister!"

"Hey," came a response from inside, a voice she instantly recognized.

Marlena began to shake and raced into the room, right past Roman.  "John!" she cried as she threw herself into her husband's arms.

Behind her, Roman put his gun back in its holster as he asked, "What in the blazes were you thinking, sneaking in here?"

John shrugged, but Marlena answered for him.  "I think it's a wonderful surprise."  She looked at her husband, grateful to see his face.  "Thank you for coming."

"Yeah, well. . . ."  Roman's voice trailed off, as he obviously struggled to say anything until he managed, "I guess I'll be going then."

Marlena turned back and looked at him.  "Roman."  She paused and gave him an appreciative smile.  "Thank you for being there.  I don't know if I could've managed it without you."

Roman felt sheepish.  It was ridiculous that he was feeling jealous over his ex-wife when Sami was so much more important.  "It's family, Doc., and you know, family always comes first."  He backed out of the room and shut the door behind him.

Inside, Marlena looked back at her husband.  She reached up and touched his cheek.  "Do you have any idea how happy I am to see you."

"Shh, baby," John said.  "When I got your message, I had to come.  I had to be here for you."

Marlena smiled and felt a tear run down her cheek.  She pressed herself more tightly against her husband.  "Just hold me, John.  Please, just hold me."