Episode 140

“So where shall we start,” Shannon questioned taking a seat across from Kyle in one of the empty lounges.  While she wasn’t quite sure how she was going to run this interrogation, she was certain that she would find a way to get the answers out of him that she hadn’t been getting last time.
“What do you want to know,” Kyle replied an air of sarcasm in his tone while his thoughts were lingering to Sarah.
“How about we start with how you knew the bomb was in there?” Shannon suggested taking a seat on the edge of the desk in front of them, “That’s really what’s on the top of my list.”
“Yeah, well I hate to disappoint you considering that I only discovered the bomb shortly before it went off,” Kyle informed her with a slight frown, “I spotted it and then I called for security.  I urged them to clear the airport out, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
“Unfortunate for whom?  For you?” Shannon arched a curious brow, “Did your conscience step in and make you realize that blowing up an airport was wrong?  Is that why you called for help?”
“First of all I had absolutely nothing to do with that bomb,” Kyle snapped up in his own defense, “Yes, I found it, but that’s where it ends.”
“Somehow that doesn’t fill in all the blanks we have here Kyle,” Shannon paused offering up a firm look, “and we do have many here.”
“Fine, then I’ll start by saying that this wasn’t my fault,” he huffed suddenly realizing where this conversation was headed.
“Famous last words,” she quipped back at him.
“It’s the truth,” he stated plainly, “Not that those in your field have any real grasp of that concept considering that you weren’t up on top of the bomb, nor did you do your job in keeping a serial killer behind bars.”
“I’ll have you know that the FBI is doing all that it can to…” Shannon stopped herself, “This isn’t about Bruce Mathis.  This is about you and that bomb.”
“Well in that case, maybe we should get back to Bruce Mathis because that seems to be where it starts and ends, now doesn’t it,” Kyle tossed back at her before elaborating, “I told you before that I was helping Russell Denton with a problem he was having.”
“So you say, but at the moment Russell Denton isn’t exactly able to collaborate your story there seeing as he was one of the casualties of the explosion,” Shannon huffed, her eyes narrowing with anger.
“What,” Kyle’s jaw practically dropped, “What did you just say?”
“He’s dead Kyle, so as it stands you don’t have anyone to back up your story,” Shannon stood up, moving in towards him when she noticed his clearly shaken composure, “I guess you weren’t banking on that when you set off the bomb, were you?”
“I didn’t set off the bomb,” he insisted louder than before, “And Russell can’t be dead.”
“Well it’s a little late for didn’ts and cant’s so how about we get to the truth?” she urged him on watching him rise from his seat.
“Look, I told you what I was doing.  Russ was being harassed by Bruce Mathis.  The man invaded his home--did all sorts of terrible things in the name of terrorizing Russ and Avery.  Russ called me in to help him find out who was financing Bruce and his evasion from the law.  I checked around and when I came to town, that’s when I ran into Randy Harvey.  The guy was snooping around for Mathis and he had information--or so he said…”
“Yeah, I recall you mentioning him before.  He was the shooting victim, which by the way I might add that you were the only one around at his untimely demise,” Shannon added to the suspicions swirling around him.
“Yeah well you can think what you will about that, but I didn’t kill him.  Oh I would’ve liked to, but some son of a bitch drove by like a coward and took out Randy.  They also shot up my car, which is something I didn’t take too lightly,” Kyle sneered thinking back to that moment in time.  Shaking his head he tried to focus, “but that’s irrelevant at the moment.  What’s important is what happened when Randy died.  He handed me a key…”
“A key,” she repeated doubtful.
“That’s right a key.  I didn’t know what it was until a friend helped me figure it out.  I found out that it was an airport key, but I didn’t think anything of it until I was at the airport…” he continued.
“And why was that again,” she asked eyeing him with heavy scrutiny.
“Because Russ and Avery were leaving town.  They were going on a trip with Jade and well,” he stopped himself thinking about the warnings he’d issued his friend, “Russ was meeting with someone.”
“Someone who?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged his shoulders thinking about what she’d told him about his friend’s death.  Finding himself torn up by the thought of it, he shook his head, frustrations mounting, “but I wish like hell I did.”
“There has to be more than that Kyle,” she added eyeing him intently.
“Some woman called him up.  She asked for him to meet with her--to speak with her because she was afraid.  She said that she knew who was helping Mathis and she waned to talk to Russ.  I strongly urged him not to go and speak with her, but he had his mind set.  I was to go with him to the airport and then if push came to shove, then I’d have his back.”
“It looks like you didn’t hold up to your end of the deal, now did it,” she remarked smugly.
“You can just go to hell,” he shouted at her, “because you don’t know a damn thing about my friendship with Russ.  He’s a good man and he has a family on the way.  His wife…” he paused struck with another emotion, “Oh God…Avery.  Does she know…has she heard that he…”
Shannon nodded, “The police chief went to see her earlier.”
“This can’t be happening.  Oh God, this can’t be happening,” Kyle brought his hands up through his hair, “I have to speak with her.  I have to go talk to her and make sure that she’s okay that…”
“You’re not going anywhere until you give me answers as to how it was that you were there when that bomb went off,” she insisted not allowing him to leave the room.
“Look, when Randy died I told you he gave me the key.  We were at the airport and Russell was gone.  He was meeting with his mystery woman and he was gone a long time.  Avery started asking about it and I couldn’t lie to her.  She found out what Russell was doing and she ran off after him.  I went after her.  I wanted to find her and make sure that she and Russ were safe but…”
“But what?”
“But then when I didn’t find her, I saw the locker.  Having had the key, I decided to take a look,” he sighed heavily, “I didn’t know there would be a bomb in there, but considering that Randy Harvey had the key, I’m convinced that he put that bomb there.”
“And for what purpose?” she questioned harshly, “what would a dead man have to gain by blowing up an airport?”
“I don’t know, but maybe that wasn’t the plan,” he dropped down into the chair before him, his body sinking with the guilt that weighed down upon him for having failed his friends.
“Then what was Kyle?  What was so horrible that this had to happen,” she continued watching him closely.
“I didn’t put that bomb there.  I had nothing to do with it because God knows I wouldn’t put my friends in jeopardy,” Kyle snapped back at her, the obvious anguish of the moment overtaking him.
“Yet you let Russell Denton walk off to meet with a potentially dangerous caller,” she goaded at him.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he stared off in front of him blankly, “I never should’ve let him go.  I tried to tell him not to chance it--that I would go in his place.  I should’ve gone in his place because then he would still be here and I would be the one that was dead.  Avery would have her husband and that little baby would have a father…Russell’s son or daughter wouldn’t have to grow up without ever knowing…” he trailed off, his tears overtaking him.
“Kyle, I need you to be straight with me.  If there’s anything at all--anything that might have slipped your mind--anything that you haven’t told me…” she knelt down before him, “now would be the time to do it.”
“I don’t have the first clue who did this, but I swear to you when I find out, that person won’t have to worry about the law taking care of this one,” Kyle lifted his head to reveal his eyes full of anger and rage at the thought of what had happened, “As far as I’m concerned when I find that son of a bitch--and I will, that person is a dead man.  You have my word on that.”


Zack sits in the hall staring into space looking at nothing in particular. There is a frenzy of activity around him as people rush everywhere and loud urgent voices meld together with cries of pain, fear and sorrow. Zack can feel his own emotions rumbling around inside of him like a violent storm picking of speed. He rubs his tired tear-stained face and moans softly as he tries to make sense of it all. A kind nurse stops and places a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Nurse: Sir are you all right? Can I help you?

Zack sighs and flops back in his chair.

Zack: I don't know.

He half laughs and cries.

Zack: I got on that plane perfectly content with the world. My sister and I were closer then ever, the woman I love was by my side, our first child soon to be born, great friends... Not a care in the world. I land and suddenly I'm thrown into this horrid nightmare. Suddenly all I am is terrified. I'm racing around the closest thing to hell I hope I ever see and I don't know if anyone I love is alive! Then I get here and I am greeted with the wonderful and exciting news that not only are my wife and baby fine but she's given birth and I have a son! So then I'm filled with the greatest joy I've ever felt. Only to turn around and be slapped with the news that my sister has died and now I have to deal with the worst loss I've ever faced.

He takes a deep breath and swallows the huge lump in his throat.

Zack: I never knew it was humanly possible to feel so many emotions in one day!

The nurse looks at him compassionately.

Nurse: Yes, it's a very difficult day. But you do have people to help you through this.

Zack considers this then nods.

Zack: Yeah, yeah you're right.

He gets up and quickly makes his way back to Joanna's room. He looks in at her singing to their son and his heart is filled with peace and yet pain knowing what he has to tell her. He walks in and clears his throat. Joanna looks up at him with a smile.

Joanna: Hi, honey.

Her smile quickly fades when she sees the torment in his face.

Joanna: Zack...?

Joanna gently lays the baby in the small bassinet next to the bed. Zack walks over and sits on the bed trying desperately to remain in control of his grief. He takes her hand gently in his and rubs it as he looks down tears beginning to slide down his cheeks. Joanna reaches out and with her other hand tilts his chin up to meet her gaze. The pain she sees in his eyes nearly takes her breath away.

Joanna: Zack, what is it? What's wrong?

He swallows hard unsure.

Zack: Caitlin. Caitlin she...

Joanna looks at him worriedly.

Joanna: What about Caitlin? She made it out didn't she? I mean, she's all right, right?

He can only shake his head grief etched in his features. A look of horror spreads over Joanna's face.

Joanna: Zack no! No, no she isn't... I mean, she can't...

Zack: She's gone Joanna, Caitlin died.

A sob catches in Zack's throat as he says the words.

Joanna: No!

Momentarily unable to speak due to his great emotion Zack just nods. Joanna shakes her head in disbelief.

Joanna: Zack, she can't be dead, she can't be! She was so happy, her and Ken were supposed to have the rest of their lives together. She finally was getting her happily ever after! What the hell happened to her happily ever after?!

Zack: God I wish I knew.

Tears start to flow down Joanna's cheeks.

Joanna: This can't be happening!

She reaches out to her husband who unable to hold back his own pain any longer grabs onto her. They grip each other tightly as if their very lives depend on it and both sob uncontrollably as they grieve for their sister and friend.


Ken slammed the door in front of him, finding himself too wound up to calm down after his brother’s betrayal.  Of all the things to do, to bring Susan here at a time like this--to disregard everything that Caitlin ever meant to him--it made him sick.  Looking around the corridor that surrounded him, Ken found himself so very lost.  Nothing made sense--there was no reason, only the pain of knowing that the one thing in the world that ever meant anything to him had faded out of his life.  His Caitlin had left him and now he was still alive--still here to face the world without her.  It wasn’t fair--it wasn’t right and now, now he just didn’t know if he could find the will to make it.
“Ken,” Richard called out his name, attempting to draw him out from the darkness that surrounded him.  However, his efforts were clearly in vain now that Ken hadn’t responded, “Kenneth.”
Ken glanced up at him, his eyes a darkened emptiness that remained once he’d lost the great love of his life.  Here Caitlin hadn’t been gone a day and Brant and Susan were there to pervert the moment.  They came to destroy her memory and now…
“Kenneth,” Richard spoke out to him in a firm, yet fatherly tone, “we need to talk.”
“I have nothing to say.  That son of a bitch had no right bringing her here--not when Caitlin,” Ken began in a rant feeling as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest in that moment.
“I know son, I know,” Richard nodded thinking about what Ken must be experiencing in losing the love of his life.  While Richard had experienced a similar emotion in the past when he’d let go of the great love of his life when he and Judy had parted ways, he knew it wasn’t the same.  He couldn’t even begin to imagine what losing Caitlin so tragically could do to Ken at a time like this.  His heart ached for the man he’d considered his protégé over the years.  Now Ken stood a shell of his former self while every inch of him was overcome with grief.
“No you don’t know.  You don’t have the first idea.  None of you will ever know,” Ken’s tears filled his eyes, swallowing him up in a whirlwind of despair, “She’s everything to me.  We had our love and our future ahead of us.  I was going to marry her and be with her forever.  I swore to her a long time ago that I would protect her--that I would keep her safe, but how safe is she now?  She’s dead!  She died because she was with me--because I was foolish enough to bring her home into this.  I shouldn’t have left Seattle…I should’ve…”
“Son, it’s not your fault,” Richard watched Ken drop to the bench behind him burying his head in his hands, “You couldn’t have known.  None of us could’ve.”
“I should’ve felt it.  I should’ve followed my heart and stayed in Seattle,” Ken shook his head poignantly, “I never should’ve come back here knowing what could be waiting.  We endured so much because of my brother--because of my past and hers and now…she‘s gone and I have nothing…nothing…”
“Ken, this shouldn’t have happened, but we can’t change the past.  We can only cope with the future,” Richard informed him honestly, “I know how much Caitlin loved you.  I know how she would want you to keep pushing on.  She wouldn’t want you to give up like this.”
“There’s nothing to hold onto without her Rick,” Ken lifted his head up to reveal his bloodshot, tear-filled eyes, “She’s the one reason in this world that I started believing again.  She taught me how to love--how to really feel something real and now…”
“She wouldn’t want you to give up on that.  Son, she would want you to keep fighting for that love--to keep believing in all the things that she fought for in her life.  She loved you so very much and she wouldn’t be able to stand you falling apart at the seams blaming yourself for something that was beyond your control.”
“I just don’t understand,” Ken continued to sob, finding himself racked with emotions, “How could I be holding her one minute, thinking about how I was going to sweep her away to paradise to make her my wife and then the next I’m standing there watching her be ripped from this world?  I loved her so damn much and now…why?  Why did this happen?”
“I wish I had the answers you were seeking, but Ken you’re not alone,” Richard reached out to touch his shoulder, “You have people who love you and care for you very much…”
“You mean like my brother who is probably gloating now that she’s dead,” Ken spat back in response, “He’d kept trying to destroy her and now that she’s gone…”
“I don’t think Brant wanted this,” Richard offered up in Brant’s defense much to his own surprise, “Granted your brother is a big headstrong, but I don’t think he’d wish this upon anyone.”
“Then he’s obviously got you fooled as well,” Ken let out a harsh laugh, “because he’s waited a long time for Caitlin to be out of my life.  Maybe if I would’ve just listened to him and pushed her away, then she could be happy--she could still be alive and living her life somewhere instead of…”
“Ken stop.  You can’t think like that.  You can’t keep coming up with what might’ve been,” Richard insisted firmly hating to see Ken beating himself up, “You need to focus on the love that you and Caitlin shared with one another and you need to keep that in perspective.  You must honor her memory and keep that love alive by never forgetting…”
“I don’t want to forget.  I won’t ever forget,” he reached into his pocket pulling out the engagement ring he and Johanna had picked out for Caitlin, “She’s my everything and to be without her…”
“She’ll always be with you on some level Ken.  You have to believe that,” Richard offered up feeling Ken tears consumed him.  Unable to find the right word, Richard pulled him into a fatherly embrace wishing that there was some way to make this situation easier on Ken, but unfortunately he knew that nothing that could be said or done would ever erase the damage that had been done in Caitlin’s untimely demise.  Fate had delivered Ken a cruel, horrible blow in losing her and now Richard just wasn’t sure what would happen to Ken. 


“Dottie,” Preston called out to the woman he loved watching her stomping down the hallway.  Her eyes were ablaze, her jaw tight with obvious tension leaving him to wonder what the doctor had said about Jenna.  Fearing the worst, he rushed over to her, “what is it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.  I just want to see my baby girl,” Dorothy informed him point blank not wanting to focus on anything, but knowing that her daughter was alright.  Right now all she wanted to do was with her Jenna and let her know that her mother was still there to support her--to take care of her and be all she needed at a time like this.
“Dottie,” Preston began reaching for her shoulders.  He stopped her mid-movement spinning her around to face him once again, “Talk to me.”
“There’s nothing to say other than…” she stopped as her eyes fell upon the new arrival at the hospital.  Immediately she was back on the defensive again ready to do whatever was necessary to spare her little girl anymore pain.  Preston noted her strange response and slowly, he turned to see what had happened.  Frowning at the sight of Douglas Mahoney before them, Preston stood taller reaching for Dorothy’s hand.
“I came as soon as I heard about Jenna,” Doug explained with worry evident in his brow, “How is she?”
“Why the hell does it matter to you,” Dorothy threw back at him harshly, “You made it apparently obvious where your children rate with you a long time ago Doug when you started sleeping with Cameron Stone‘s assistant.”
“That’s not fair and you know it,” he replied with a frown, “my social life has nothing to do with the way I feel about my daughter.”
“Your social life seems to destroy your children, or haven’t you noticed?” she accused her voice raising with the moment.  A few others around the hospital began to take notice watching the display before them.  “Have you been too caught up in living your life to the fullest not to see what you’ve done to your children?  How your actions have destroyed them?”
“Dottie,” Preston reached for her arm trying to calm her down, “I don’t think now is the time to…”
“Oh I think now is the perfect time,” she lashed out at Douglas, her dark eyes never straying from where he stood, “He’s here pretending to be the father of the year, when in reality all he does is suck his children down into the nightmare that has become his life.  First you ruined Kipp and then your other son, but by God as my witness I won’t allow you to hurt Jenna like that.  I know all about the man you are and the last thing I want is for you to sweep in and pretend to give a damn about my baby girl while she’s fighting for her life.”
“Dottie, that’s not what I came here.  I love Jenna,” Doug began to argue with her.
“The hell you do,” she glared up at him, “Tell me what’s in it for you this time?  A new media story for you?  A new image change or maybe it’s just to spite me.  Is that it?  Did you come here to take a look at Jenna or just because you know how much I hate you?  Were you just trying to make things worse?”
“Dottie, I just wanted…” he started to reach out to her, noticing the way she flinched away from him.
“I don’t give a damn about what you want and I sure as hell don’t want you anywhere near our daughter.  As far as I’m concerned, you’re nothing to Jenna,” she insisted lashing out at him with the fires of fury.
“That isn’t your decision to make Dottie,” Douglas reminded her point blank, “Regardless of how you feel about me, I’m here for Jenna and…”
“And she wants nothing to do with you.  She made that abundantly clear the night she wound up with that finger on her doorstep.  You’ve brought nothing but disaster to those around you and I won’t allow you to continue to take Jenna down into that,” she cried out, her voice cracking with each emotion that roared over her.
“We’ll just see what Jenna has to say about that,” Douglas replied stubbornly, “because I’m not going anywhere until I see my daughter.”
“You’ll leave when I tell you to leave,” she stood taller, ready to face down the man who had turned her world into an uproar all those years ago, “Doug, we both know this isn’t about Jenna.  If you really cared about her, you’d just go and never turn back…”
“If I did that, then I’d be no better than you were when you walked out of my life without even considering telling me that we going to have a daughter,” he spat back harshly having finally crossed the line with Dorothy. 
Before he knew it, she threw her fist out at him striking him right square across the jaw in one firm, resounding blow.  He toppled backward feeling the sting of blood from his now split lip while Preston held Dorothy back to keep her from further lashing out at him.
“You had no right to be a part of our daughter’s life to begin with.  You never loved me and you never cared about what happened when I was gone,” she accused making a scene while Preston tried to calm her down.
“I always loved you,” Douglas threw back at her with a pained expression while he brought his hand up to his lip in an attempt to wipe away at he crimson blood that now covered his jaw from her attack, “So damned much that it tore me up inside when you left.  You took away my right to choose--to be the father that I always wanted to be and now I won’t let you take that away from me.  I have just as much of a right to be here as you do.”
“You gave up your rights to Jenna when you gave up on us so long ago,” Dorothy shouted back, wiggling out of Preston’s reach.
“What the hell is going on here,” Hart questioned approaching the situation.  He could feel the sparks of rage arcing between Jenna’s parents and despite his own falling out with Dorothy, he hoped to try to maintain some air of normalcy.  “Stop it both of you.  Jenna wouldn’t want this happening right now!”
“Like you would know anything about what Jenna would want,” Dorothy glared at him with burning animosity, “You both are one in the same and as far as I’m concerned my baby girl is better off without you both.”
With that biting remark she stomped off towards the direction of Jenna’s hospital room determined to see her.  Preston watched her go before turning his attention to the two men before him.  He opened his mouth to speak, but then thought twice of it, opting to go after Dorothy.  Now alone with Douglas, Hart turned to him, helping him up from where he’d stumbled in the blow she’d delivered him.
“I take it you’re on her hit list now too,” Douglas half questioned watching Hart’s reaction to him.  He stood upright adjusting his jacket while a frown crossed over his bloody features.  “Dare I ask what you did to deserve the honors?”
“Unfortunately, I’m starting to think she’s right about us being more alike than I had hoped for,” Hart frowned thinking about the past he’d had kept from him.  Sure, he’d thought about Dorothy’s reasoning for keeping Jenna out of Doug’s life, but as he reflected upon his own situation, he started wondering if perhaps there was more to the story than Dorothy had said initially.  Yes, maybe he was feeling biased because Beth had kept the truth about Sam from him, but now, well now he found himself suddenly relating to Douglas in ways he never imagined possible before now.
“You look like you could talk,” Douglas noted adjusting his jacket once again while addressing Hart.
“Right now I don’t think that’s going to solve anything especially if Dorothy doesn’t want us anywhere near Jenna,” Hart sighed fearing the worst.
“You didn’t let a little opposition stop you before, so what’s changed,” Douglas questioned curiously sensing something was off with Hart and his attitude.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Hart admitted feeling a mixture of emotions raging down upon him.
“You might be surprised about that,” Douglas replied hoping to reach out to his daughter’s boyfriend in the hopes of finding a way to reconnect with Jenna.  “I think I’ve just about heard it all.”
“In this case, I highly doubt that,” Hart sighed wishing that he too didn’t have to face the truth of what his future held in store for him potentially.  Now knowing that he had a daughter with Elizabeth, he found himself not sure of anything.  It was as if the life he’d been living hadn’t really been his to begin with.  With the thought of Dorothy’s anger, he wondered if he’d be able to have the future with Jenna that he’d been dreaming about.   That in itself terrified the hell out of him.


Dean stood in the middle of the on call room knowing that there was so much more to be done around the hospital.  There were so many others that needed him, yet he couldn’t help but think back to what had taken place in the O.R. tonight.  He’d tried his hardest to save Caitlin Vaughn, but it wasn’t enough.  It would never be enough and that was the part that hit him the hardest.  He’d gotten into medicine because he’d wanted to be able to save the world, yet he’d learned the hard way early on in medical school that it was just an impossible feat.  However, that didn’t change the way he’d felt tonight in losing a patient.
Pacing around the room, Dean ran his fingers through his dark hair.  Sure, he should’ve been ready to move on to the next patient, but he’d been too shaken up--he’d been too unsteady and it had urged Dr. Reynolds to insist he take a few minutes to himself.  Those few minutes felt like an eternity however now that he’d been lost inside himself.  He could remember the way Caitlin had looked when they’d realized there was no more hope in saving her.  It had been so very tragic and…
“There you are,” Deidra spoke out to him, catching him off guard as he turned around to face her.  “I was hoping I would find you.”
“I’m in the penalty box for not being able to cut it right now,” Dean tried to make light of the emotions weighing down upon him, “How did things go with Ken?”
“As to be expected,” she admitted unable to cover the sadness that had consumed her, “I knew it was going to be hard, but…”
“I should’ve been able to save her,” Dean sighed heavily, “I should’ve found a way…”
“It wasn’t in your hands.  It was up to God and there are times that,” Deidra started watching him groan inwardly before shaking his head at her.
“I should’ve tried harder--I should’ve…” he stopped himself, “Deidra, this isn’t the first time I’ve lost someone.  Back when I was doing my residency, there was a woman--a social worker.  She’d been in a car wreck and she was pregnant.  She was a mess when she came in here, but I was young and stupid.  I thought that I could save her.  While I wasn’t the primary on her, when we lost her…you have no idea what that did to me.  What it got me thinking…”
“Losing a patient is never easy especially when the emotions are running high,” Deidra offered up thinking about how their line of work never provided an easy outlet.  There was so much room to take things to heart--to lose control when things didn’t work out, yet anyone in the field fought like hell to keep from having these kind of days.
“When the patient died, the baby survived,” Dean confessed dropping down onto the sofa before him, “the little boy fought for his life for the few hours he was a part of this world.  I really thought that when he’d survived that he’d make it, but then when he didn’t…”
“I know,” Deidra took a seat beside him, reaching out to lace their fingers within each other, “I’ve been there myself.  There are times when you’re doing the best that you can, but then you hit a wall.  There’s nothing more that you can do, but pray and even then, God has other plans.”
He nodded, unable to mask the tears that had overtaken him, “You know I tried to tell myself that before.  I thought that I’d been able to get over it--that I’d moved on, but tonight when I realized that there was nothing more I could do for Caitlin…”
“I know,” Deidra nodded understanding what something like this could to a person, “It’s one of the hardest things we have to do as doctors when we lose a patient.”   
“I just don’t understand why it had to be her--why someone so young would have to lose everything…why each day we try and we fight like hell to save them, but it’s not enough,” Dean sighed dropping his head down.
“I’ll tell you why we do it,” Deidra squeezed his hand, “We do it because of the accomplishments we do make…for the lives we save…”
“I know but every time we lose one…” Dean began his soulful eyes caught in another place and time.
“Dean, do you trust me,” Deidra questioned watching the solemn state that had overtaken him.
“Of course.  Why would you even ask something like that,” he asked clearly confused by her words.
“Because I’m about to ask you to take a leap of faith with me,” she reached for his hand, “Please…”
He silently nodded taking her hand as she lead him along through the busy halls of the hospital.  While he wasn’t quite sure what she had in mind, he allowed her to guide him down to another floor.  Once they’d stepped off of the elevators, she guided him to the place that she’d been thinking about long before she’d encountered him.
“Tonight there has been a great deal of tragedy around us, but in the thick of things, this happened,” she explained motioning to the incubator where Heather’s son lay fighting for his life.  “This little boy braved the bombing and came into this world long before his time, yet here he is fighting for each breath--making his mark in the world here all because he has faith in what he must do.  He’s not giving up even if his lungs weren’t exactly ready to be working completely on their own.  He’s holding onto the hope that this world has more to offer him and when I brought him into this world tonight, I could see that it was people like him who made this world worth living in.”
Dean couldn’t help but smile despite the baby’s small size.  Deidra was right.  Here was a child with the world stacked against him and yet he was still doing all he could to make it in the world.  Turning to watch Deidra, he felt his heart melt as he squeezed her hand gently, “How in the hell did your husband not want to spend forever with you?”
Her eyes widened in surprise and her jaw dropped completely not expecting his words.  However, before she could say anything, he reached out to her touching her cheek gently, his eyes reaching into her, seeing her for the beautiful woman she truly was.
“The man was a fool,” he mouthed tipping down to brush his lips against hers in a barely there kiss while the two of them stood in the nursery feeling the hope and new lives surrounding them.  Maybe just maybe there was a purpose and a meaning to things after all.


Jade entered Avery’s hospital room, thinking about her brother.  While Seth had seemed reluctant to be alone with Blake at first, Jade had a feeling that maybe just maybe things were going to get better.  Perhaps this was a turning point in their relationship and Blake’s arrival had been a good thing.  Smiling to herself, she said a silent prayer for the miracles that had been brought into her life.
However, before she could truly appreciate the moment in all it’s splendor, she heard the sounds of sobbing coming from inside the room Avery was in.  Her eyes widened in surprise when she found Avery in Brant’s arms, falling to pieces while he held her.  She tried to make out what Brant was saying to Avery, but from the looks of things, something was off.  No, worse than that something was really wrong.
“Avery,” Jade spoke Avery’s name watching as Avery’s head popped up from behind Brant’s shoulder.  Jade could now clearly see the tears that had consumed Avery--the redness behind her dark eyes when they’d made eye contact.  Something was certainly wrong and in that moment Jade felt as if she’d been hit in the stomach.  Taking a step forward, she watched Brant move aside before she addressed Avery again, “Avery, what is it?”
“It’s Russ…” Avery began choked up on emotion before her eyes turned to Brant again.  She inhaled a long, heaving breath before speaking to Jade again, “Jade he’s…”
Unable to say the words, Avery’s head dropped down, her hands covering her face as if she was unable to say the words that had haunted her.  Jade looked to Brant sensing his concern before she pieced things together.
“No,” Jade blurted out in confusion, “Avery, that can’t be.”
“I wish that were true, but the police they told me…the said,” Avery held out her hand showing Jade the wedding ring Dave had presented her with, “They found this near his remains.”
“Oh God,” Jade dropped down beside Avery wrapping her arms around her as if she’d never let go, “I can’t believe that this could happen.  Russ wasn’t even in the airport at the time.  He…”
“He must’ve been caught in the blast and now…” Avery sniffled overcome with her grief, “Jade, how can he be gone?  How can I not have him?  How could he…”
“It’s okay,” Jade hugged her arms around Avery wishing that there was some way to remedy this situation, but if what the police said was true, then not only had Avery lost her husband, but Grady’s brother was gone and she herself had lost a good friend.
“No, Jade it’s not,” Avery shook her head in refusal to accept that answer, “It’s not okay at all.  Jade, we had so much we planned--so many things that we…”
“Avery, maybe they were wrong.  Maybe he’s still out there.  They just don’t know it yet,” Jade suggested hoping that there had been some kind of mistake, “Maybe Russ took his ring off in the heat of the moment and…”
“Dave asked me to go down and identify the body, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that he wouldn’t ever take this off,” Avery insisted squeezing Russell’s ring in her palm, “He swore to me that once we had this, that it was forever that he--”
“Oh Avery,” Jade replied reaching out to embrace her again hating to think what could’ve happened.  While she could remember Avery chasing off after Russell, it was before the bomb went off.  Surely Russell should’ve been clear of the damage, shouldn’t he?
“It’s just that he said…” Avery continued to cry finding the only thing she could do was shed the tears for the love she’d lost.  While she wanted more than anything in her heart to believe, the reality of the situation was setting in and her heart was breaking with each passing moment.
Watching the exchange between the two women, Brant felt suddenly out of place.  He hated to see Avery’s heart breaking and yet as the tears fell from Jade’s eyes he found himself taken back in time to another place--to another moment when misery surrounded him.
“Please help me,” he heard the girl’s voice cry out after she’d been battered by his father’s idea of a good time.  He could still hear her sobs after he’d taken her to the hospital--after she’d been brutalized and when he’d dropped her off, he’d hated not sticking around to find out what came next. 
Sure, Brant had paid the hospital bills up front offering whatever was necessary, but that night was the moment when Brant had realized what his father truly was.  Never before had Brant had to face it that up close and personal.  Never had Brant encountered a child who’d had to endure such horrors.  The things that Brant had imagined had happened to her in that hotel room were enough to give him nightmares until this day and not until now did he fully remember the expression on her face when he’d covered her up.  Her dark eyes--her bloodied lip--her whimpering, it was all so horrifying he vowed to never forget, yet he had erased that part of it all.  He’d spent years trying to keep from letting that haunt him, but now as he watched Jade trying to comfort Avery, her tears brought back to him the clarity in her face when she too had been a victim of his father’s insanity.
Nearly stumbling backward, Brant nearly knocked over the food tray that stood beside the bed.  He felt his heart racing in his chest, his mind remembering the horrors that he’d witnessed that night after his father and his buddies had left a fourteen year old Jade alone in that hotel room to die.  Shaking as her face became clearer to him, Brant felt as if the air had been ripped from his lungs.
“Brant, are you okay,” Jade questioned glancing up from where she sat with Avery.
“I…I need to get some air.  I‘ll be back,” Brant stammered suddenly unsure of everything while he made a quick exit needing to get away from the past he’d fought so very hard to forget.  He’d spent all these years thinking of the girl as a faceless, nameless woman, but now that he’d witnessed Jade and Avery with one another in a poignant moment, he found that his mind and his heart hadn’t been able to forget.


Blake felt herself melting into the man whose arms remained around her.  Long after she’d thrown out the words that had come from her heart, she could feel the fire of their passion burning between them.  It was as if time hadn’t done a thing to erase what it was that they’d had with one another--as if they’d never parted in the first place--as if…
“Seth,” she spoke his name in a muted whisper, her eyelashes fluttering up at him, revealing the questioning blue eyes that remained.
“Yes Blake,” he questioned lazily feeling her steal another quick kiss from his lips, while his arm curled around her leisurely drawing her in closer to him on the hospital bed.   
“You still haven’t given me an answer,” she informed him, a sudden seriousness overtaking her.
“My, you are straight to the point today, aren’t you,” he noted trailing his fingertips up over her spine.
“I just watched my brother lose the love of his life today.  I lost my best friend, and I guess that’s lead me to believe that there’s no point in waiting.  There’s no use in trying to fight your heart when it knows the key to happiness,” she confessed with a soft sigh, bringing her fingers up over his cheek in a gentle, tentative movement, “Seth, you’re my happiness.  You’ve always been that for me.”
“Blake, I know that things weren’t so great before, but when I walked out on you,” he began thinking back to that moment when he’d fought everything inside of him that had urged him not to leave her--to push aside the way that she felt for Zack in the name of keeping her at his side.
“I deserved it,” Blake insisted shaking her head at her own foolishness, “I never should’ve brought my past into a moment like that--not after you and I shared something so very magical with one another…”
“Blake, I love you so very much,” Seth admitted thinking to the pain he’d been feeling in their separation, “but if you want to be with Zack…if your heart is telling you that…”
“Have you not heard a word I’ve said,” she questioned with a tiny frown creeping in over her features, “Seth, I love you.  Only you,” reaching for his hand, she placed it up over the center of her chest allowing him to feel the rapid beating of her heart, “Seth, do you feel that?  That’s for you--only you.  I knew from the moment I first saw you that I was born to love you, but I was afraid--I was so terrified of what love could do to me.  After losing so many people in my life, I just never believed that I deserved any kind of happily ever after.  Sure, I wanted it--I wanted it with all that I am, but I never imagined that you’d really be real--that my handsome hero would be someone that I could hold onto--someone that I could spend my life with.”
“Blake, I want to share my life with you--more than anything I want to be with you--to marry you, but I just don’t want you feeling that you have to settle because Zack is with Johanna…” he began his own doubts still lingering despite her words.  While he wanted nothing more than to take things at face value between them, he’d done it once before and he’d almost lost her.  They’d had a turning point that had driven them far away from one another.
“This isn’t about Zack.  This is about us,” she confessed solemnly, “Only us, but if you must know tonight I helped Johanna bring Zack’s baby into the world.  They had a son and while once upon a time I’d thought that I’d feel envious, jealous of what they had with one another, I had an altogether different reaction.  I was happy for them.  I saw that they had something really amazing with one another and in that moment when I watched Johanna hold her son in her arms, all I could think about was what it would be like when that day would come for us--when I would be the mother of your children and we could have a family together.  Zack was my safety net, but I‘m not afraid of falling any longer.  Seth, I‘m already in over my head and if you turn me away, I don‘t know how I‘ll be able to make it through this world knowing that I screwed up the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“You didn’t screw it up Blake,” Seth reached out to her sliding his thick fingers into her golden tresses, “If anything, you’ve found a way to make all of my dreams come true.  Time and time again I thought that I didn’t deserve happiness--that because of my father it was something that I’d never have within my grasp, yet here you are,” he brushed his thumb gently over the hollow of her cheekbone catching her tears with the moment, “Blake, I love you more than mere words can begin to say.  You are the one woman that I knew I would spend my whole life loving which is why I was leaving…  I was offered a job overseas and…”
“And you can’t take it,” she insisted emphatically her voice raising with a panic, “Seth, you can’t leave me…not now when we have so much ahead of us--not when we…”
“Do I ever get a moment to talk here,” he questioned shaking his head at her as he couldn’t help but reveal the beginnings of a smile that teased over the corners of his lips, “Blake, when I was about to leave, I realized that I took the coward’s way out.  I’d thought that in running away I could forget--that I could go on without ever having to really give myself into something.  I was wrong though.  No matter how far apart we’d be, I’d never be able to forget you--never be able to make it through a moment of the day without loving you.  The truth to the matter is that I’ve loved you since the first moment you walked into that auto shop telling me to go to hell.  You were abrasive, wicked and yet so very beautiful.  You had me completely mesmerized.”
“You were just too busy checking out my legs to think about how mesmerizing I could truly be,” she added light-heartedly attempting to bring some humor back to the moment despite the seriousness of the conversation they were having with one another.
“Okay, so maybe I thought to myself that there before me was the sexiest pair of bronzed thighs I’d ever laid my eyes upon, but it wasn’t until we were in the pit with one another trapped beneath the car that I realized that I’d give my last breath to see to it that you’d be safe--that you would be protected.  Keeping you out of harm’s way has always been what mattered to me…” he confessed reflecting on the rocky road between them since their first meeting.
“Seth, I know that and while I was stubborn and childish, I’m ready to take the next step forward.  I’m ready to commit my life to you as a woman in love--as a woman who isn’t afraid of the good things that could be before her.  I want it all Seth and I want it with you,” she admitted feeling her crystal blue eyes swell up with tears once again.
“Even if it means that we won’t be living in a mansion surrounded by the country club clan,” he half questioned thinking about what their future would have in store for them.
“Hey, I could take Sport’s night with the gang with beers and corndogs as long as we worked in a way to let me get a manicure every now and then,” she teased with a playful wink.
“Hmm, since you put it that way, I’m sure we could work out an arrangement with one another,” he smiled in response tugging her closer to him still, “Although I do have one question.”
“What might that be,” she asked in a dreamy state, her unwavering gaze upon him.
“How do you think your family will respond to you becoming Blake Alexander?” he questioned with a sexy smirk feeling her curl her palm over his shoulder in an attempt to get closer to him still.
“All that really matters is how I feel about it and truth be told, I absolutely love the sound of it,” Blake confessed capturing his lips in a daring display of passion.  She wrapped her arms around him unwilling to let another second pass her by now that she’d found herself lost in the arms of love that she’d so desperately longed for.
“I do have one more question,” Seth broke away from the kiss once again.
“Another one,” she curled her lip in a pout.
“Just one,” he nodded in confession catching the first hints of irritation behind her eyes.
“Yeah, what’s that,” she asked impatiently eager to return to the kisses she’d missed out on in their time apart.
“In this plan for the future, we’re not going to be having anymore tabloid photo shoots are we,” his eyes lit up with an air of mischief, “because you know I was thinking about that one we had with one another at the studio and…”
“Don’t you even go there,” Blake felt a color rise in her features at the memory of the hot night they’d shared at the studio with one another.  “In fact, now that I think about it as an engagement present, I’m thinking you should hand over those negatives so that I can keep them under lock and key.”
“What?  Don’t trust your future husband,” he arched a curious brow.
“Oh I trust you alright…” she snickered in response, “I trust that if I don’t get them out of your hands, then you’ll find you don’t have enough time to focus on the real thing.”
“Is that right,” he leaned forward dropping feathery light kisses over the side of her neck.
“That’s right,” she nodded in response, arching her head back ever so slightly to appreciate the warmth that spread over her with the softest caress of his ever so kissable lips upon her skin.  However, there was suddenly one big thing that hadn’t been spoken about between them.  Springing her head upright once again, her eyes snapped to his, “You still haven’t answered my question Seth.”
“And what question might that be,” he teased lightly catching the first flare of her nose with the air she exhaled.
“Don’t be cute Seth.  You know what I’m talking about,” she added impatiently.
“Hmm, well you know I haven’t had a good, long change to take a look at the ring.  I mean isn’t that what those who are being proposed to do?  They weigh their options a bit and then…” he said only to feel her jab him in the ribs.  Feeling a tiny ache rise up from within where he’d been injured in the bombing, he shifted beneath her wincing at her touch.
“Oh Seth, I’m sorry,” she started her eyes widened in surprise before she stopped herself, “well wait…I might not be if you don’t have the right answer.”
“In that case, how’s this for an answer,” he reached out to her, drawing her in to him for a deep, penetrating kiss leaving no doubt in Blake’s mind that he’d accepted her proposition for the future.  Despite the bleakness that had surrounded the day, Blake felt an incredible weight lifted off of her shoulders.  She’d lost her best friend and yet she’d found the power to reveal her heart.  It was all so very much happening so very fast.
“Hey, what’s wrong,” Seth questioned tasting her tears upon his lips before her pulled back, “Blake, the answer is yes in case you haven’t figured it out.”
“I know,” she nodded with a sniffle, “but I was just thinking about Caitlin--about what she’d say at a time like this knowing about us.”
“What would she say,” he cupped her face in his hands, doing his best to dry her tears.
“She’d tell me to hold on tight and never let go and that’s exactly what I intend to do,” she promised knowing in her heart that with Seth her dreams were only beginning.  Together the possibilities were endless and as far as Blake was concerned, she was never going to walk away from what they had ever again.  This time she was in it for keeps.


Sarah stood outside Heather’s hospital room wondering how in the world she’d be able to pull this off.  While she’d thought about all the things she’d say the next time she’d encountered Heather, she never imagined that it would be in a place like this--she never thought that this would be something that could potentially lead to the end of the road for Heather.  Yes Sarah had been angry the first time she’d approached her in Coral Valley, but now, things felt so very different.  Closing her eyes she thought back to that stormy night at the Stone Estate when she’d been bold enough to approach Heather.

“So this is how the other half lives,” Sarah could hear her voice echo through the foyer, “This is what you worked so hard to replace the past with.”
“You have no business being here,” Heather had snapped at her, “I’m not about to let you ruin my life again.”
“Again,” Sarah practically laughed at the implication, “Heather, you’re one to talk.  If your husband or the rest of this town knew half of what you did, then you’d be outed for what you really are.  This place--these things--well as much as you want to think that they can change who you are Heather, they can’t.”
“What do you want Sarah,” Heather had snapped at her, “Money?  Is that why you came here?  To blackmail me so that I’d hand you over a fortune?”
Sarah shook her head disappointment lingering over her, “That’s always what it comes back to with you Heather, doesn’t it?  The almighty dollar.”
“I paid my dues and the fact to the matter is that it’ll be a cold day in hell before I let you or anyone take what I’ve worked so very hard for away from me.  I earned this and you’re not going to start screwing things up for me,” Heather waved her hand at her in a fury, “You did enough of that when we were kids.”
“I think you’re remembering someone else’s childhood there Heather, but then again you’ve sold the fictional version of your past for so very long that I’d imagine you’d probably started to believe it,” Sarah snapped back at her, her eyes filling with the feelings of betrayal that had taken over since Heather had started on the path to the rich and the famous, “You never once looked back, did you?”
“Not once,” Heather had smirked wickedly, “and I never indent to either, so why don’t you just get the hell out of town and go back to that trailer park that you’ve grown so very fond of?”
“You’re making a mistake Heather,” Sarah had warned her sharply watching as Heather had started to open the front door to the Stone estate once again.
“No, I’m not making one, but I will admit that I did make one in even opening the door to you in the first place.  Get the hell out of my home and don’t come back.  Not now, not ever,” Heather’s words still vibrated through her, “As far as I’m concerned you’re as dead to me as the papers say you are.”

Flashing back to the current moment in time, Sarah fought the tears of rage that had haunted her from the reunion she’d had with Heather.  Now she stepped into Heather’s hospital room hearing the various monitors Heather was hooked up to beeping and sounding as they did their best to keep her alive.  She inhaled slowly not sure what to expect as she rounded the corner to discover Diego at Heather’s side.  Silently she froze in position watching him holding Heather’s hand.  While she hadn’t kept up on all the details of Heather’s life, there was something about the man before her that had caught her off guard.  He wasn’t Cameron Stone--yet.
Diego must’ve heard her enter the room.  Immediately he rose from where he was seated.  His dark eyes fell upon her with obvious interest and curiosity, “Can I help you?”
“No I was just…” Sarah began to stammer ready to leave the room and forget what she’d came here for.  How easy it would be to walk away and not look back--that was until she’d caught her first glimpse of Heather laying in the hospital bed before her.  Seeing Heather in such a state of turmoil, she couldn’t help but gasp in horror.  Bringing her hand up over her jaw to silence her screams, she felt her knees grow weak.
“I’ve got you,” Diego promised reaching out to her.  He felt her shakiness as his own mind was reeling with various emotions, “Did you need something?  Perhaps directions to someone you were searching for?”
Sarah shook her head, unable to contain her tears.
“Okay, then can I ask what it is you’re doing here,” Diego questioned noting the way that her eyes remained upon Heather.  “Do you know Heather?”
She nodded still overcome with silence.
“Okay, well right now I don’t think she’s up for company,” Diego started to shuffle her out of the room knowing full well that Heather wasn’t up for company right about now.
“You don’t understand,” Sarah finally was able to get out, her eyes pleading with Diego, “I can’t leave her…I can’t go.”
“I can see that you care about her, but right now Heather isn’t…” Diego started again.
“You aren’t getting it.  I’m not leaving her.  I can’t,” Sarah’s tears continued to take control of her, but finally she was able to get out the thing that she’d been trying to say from the start, “She’s my sister.”


“So spill it,” Mindy tapped her foot impatiently wondering why the hell she was even giving Hunt the time of day after everything that had happened between them.  Okay, so maybe they really didn’t have much of a relationship given that they were practically strangers, but still she remembered full well the humiliation she’d felt when he’d cut out on their dinner date.  Now however as he glanced down at her with pleading eyes, she had a feeling she was in for a big story from his end.  Wondering just what lie he could concoct to try to weasel a second chance out of her, she huffed impatiently, “Well?”
“Mindy the truth to the matter is that night we were supposed to meet, well I wanted to be there with you but…” Hunt took in a slow breath preparing to explain himself.
“Oh no.  Don’t go there,” Mindy cried out, her eyes widening before he could finish what he was saying.
“Mindy, I’m just trying to say that…” Hunt started once again feeling her shove him out of the way.
“Not you,” Mindy squealed sprinting off across the hospital hallway fearing that the rouse would be over now that she’d witnessed Brooke walking into Gabe’s hospital room.  Rushing as fast as her feet could take her, she nearly leapt into the room squealing loudly, “wait!”
“Mindy,” Guy spoke her name in obvious confusion, spinning around to find not only his friend behind him, but his mother who now eyed him with obvious interest.
“Guy,” Brooke nodded studying the exchange between her son and Gabe, “I didn’t realize that you would be here.”
“Mum, I was…” Guy stammered wondering just how long his mother had been standing there.  Judging by the expression on Mindy’s face, Guy
“He was just checking in on Gabe to see…” Mindy began in a panic.
“If I was doing alright,” Gabe added smoothly giving Mindy a moment to breathe as she looked like she was about to fall to pieces.  Attempting to keep his poker face about him, Gabe threw out a smile in Brooke’s general direction, “I was supposed to be taking a flight overseas to go to my daughter’s equestrian championship finals, but unfortunately with the bombing…”
“Oh it is truly a disaster,” Brooke nodded empathically, “Why my daughter is here as well…”
“Avery’s here,” Guy’s jaw nearly dropped, “Mum, what’s wrong with Avery?  Was she hurt?”
“No, she wasn’t, but unfortunately the same can’t be said for her husband,” Brooke feigned heavy concern thinking about the well laid plans she’d had ahead of her.  While Avery might be ready to attack, she could do well to have Guy on her good side as usual, “He was caught up in the midst of things and he didn’t make it…”
“What…no,” Mindy shook her head in disbelief, “Russ can’t be dead.”
“I’m afraid so,” Brooke nodded putting on the works, “but we have to be strong for Avery…”   
“My God,” Guy sank down on the edge of Gabe’s bed unable to control the grief that rushed over him.
Gabe attempted to sit up straighter, finding himself thwarted by his broken leg.  Yet as he watched his lover lost in so much pain, he wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold him--to make it all go away.
“It’s truly a horrible tragedy, but in times like this we need to pull together as a family,” Brooke began thinking about all that she had been working towards.  She took a step towards Guy reaching out to embrace him.
“If you need anything, anything at all,” Gabe offered up despite his conflicting thoughts about Brooke having walked in on him and Guy in a tender moment.  He wasn’t sure what she’d heard, but given that she hadn’t gone on a rampage, he was guessing it wasn’t much, “I’ll be more than willing to do what I can.”
“Thank you Gabriel,” Brooke smiled at him with a sniffle before Guy withdrew from her arms.
“I have to see Avery.  If Russ is really gone, then this has to be killing her.  She has to be…” Guy began thinking about what his sister must be going through, but before he could respond an unfamiliar face came through the doorway.
“There you are,” Hunt replied clearly out of breath as he noticed Mindy in tears.  Immediately his previous thoughts faded from his memory and he rushed over to her, “What is it?”
“My friend he’s…” Mindy couldn’t help but lose control at the thought of Russell being gone.  She reached out to embrace only to feel him tense up before her.
“He’s in a better place Mindy.  We just have to believe that…” Brooke’s eyes widened in shock, “Hunt,” she blurted out before she could take a moment to think about what she’d said.  Immediately all eyes were upon her.  Even Mindy had stood upright spinning around to face Brooke with questioning eyes.
“You two know one another,” Mindy inquired as Brooke realized that somehow in a moment of carelessness she’d just managed to wedge her foot so far down her throat that she feared she may never be able to talk her way out of it.


Ken entered the chapel finding the solitude of the place to be just what he’d needed to clear the things pressing down upon his soul.  Sure, talking to Richard had given him some insight, but he still needed space--he needed time to be one with God and in this small chapel he hoped to find that.  Making his way to the front of the chapel, he stopped dead in his tracks upon discovering his brother there.  Immediately he felt as if he should turn back, that he should leave and get as far from this place as possible before Brant spotted him, but it was already too late.
Rising up from the pew up front, Brant cocked his head to the side noticing Ken’s arrival.  His eyes were clearly strained from the tears he’d fought to keep from showing that he shed.  Ken’s own eyes stung with the bitter sting of the moment--of knowing that he’d lost the one person in this world that meant the most to him.
“I was just on my way out,” Brant offered up breaking the uneasy silence between them.
“Don’t go on my account,” Ken replied coldly, finding himself devoid of any other emotion, but the emptiness that had filled him in losing Caitlin.
“I’m not…I mean…it’s just I think that you should be here more than I should,” Brant offered up with a weak smile, “These were your kind of places, not mine.”
“That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be here if you have something to get off your chest,” Ken replied in a raspy tone thinking about the love he’d lost.
“You need the time here, and I won’t intrude,” Brant offered up walking past his brother.  He made it a few steps to the back of the chapel, before he spun around to see Kenneth in the front row.  He watched his brother for a long moment seeing that Kenneth pulled out the engagement ring he’d bought for Caitlin.  Unable to let the moment go, Brant turned around approaching his brother once again, “I just need you to know one thing Ken.  I’m not like him.  I’d never be like him.  You can think what you want about me, but as for Caitlin I never, ever wanted this.  I didn’t ask for this to happen…”
Kenneth remained silent keeping his eyes on the altar before him while Brant stood surrounded by silence.  As he thought of the demons that had haunted him for so very long, the fears that he’d had about becoming the monster that Nicholas Ashford was, he needed Ken to know.  He needed the world to know that he wasn’t the same.  He wasn’t the kind of man to destroy everything good that came his way.  Still, his brother’s silence was suffocating.
“Ken, I would never wish this upon you or anyone…” Brant continued feeling a lump forming in his throat.  When his brother failed to respond he threw out one last statement, “I just needed you to know.”
Still nothing happened and Brant took it as a sign to leave.  Walking to the doors to exit the chapel, Brant reached for the door, ready to leave when something stopped him.
“I know,” Ken replied after a long silence.  Closing his eyes, Ken held Caitlin’s ring in his hand, squeezing it as if he’d never let go while memories of her haunted him, “I know that you didn’t cause this--that you weren’t responsible…”   
“But that doesn’t change the fact that I let you down, now does it,” Brant replied spinning around to face him, “That I failed each and every one of us in the family…”
“No Brant, that was our father,” Kenneth spoke up, the bitterness of the realization falling upon him, “He’s the one who put this curse upon us.  He’s the one who made sure that we’d never find happiness and look at us,” Kenneth rose to his feet again, “Here you are fearing that you’ll become him and I lost the woman I love because the cold, hard reality is that we Ashfords weren’t meant to be happy.  With all that Nicholas has done--all the lies and the horror, it was all bound to touch us.  We’re the ones paying for what our father has done…”
“It never ends,” Brant added thinking back to what he’d remembered in Avery’s hospital room, “Ken, when I think of the things that I did for that man--the things that we fought like hell to hide from the world…”
“They just refuse to let us live that down,” Ken nodded in response, hot tears burning at his eyes, “Tonight I lost the woman I loved all because she chose to be with me--because she chose to love me…”
“Caitlin was a good woman Ken,” Brant began making a step towards him, “I know that I gave you grief, but it was only because I was trying to protect you--because I was trying to keep you from…”
“From what,” Ken questioned with a frown, “From love?”
“From having that normal life that I knew would never be mine,” Brant blurted out shamefully, “I could see how the curse had passed over you--how things came easy for you and…”
“Easy,” Ken repeated his voice rising with emotion, “Do you think any of this is easy?  Do you think in losing Caitlin this has been that for me?”
“No, I don’t, but at the same time you’ve been everything that I’m not.  You had the strength to walk away from Nicholas and his company.  You made a life for yourself.  You have respect and people like you.  People would just as soon forget the day I ever stepped in their way.  I’m what Nicholas wanted me to be and look what it got me.  I spent my life fighting what he was--fighting everything he was about and yet here I am alone and miserable after I’d become his protégé.”
“See now, there’s where you’re wrong Brant.  You fought like mad to be better than him.  You did things your way and you weren’t afraid to take a risk.  You said to hell with the world and you played things how you wanted to.  You never worried about what your actions would mean down the road--never had to think about everything else but what you wanted and I always envied you that,” Ken confessed dropping down to the pew once again, “You lived a carefree life and you let Nicholas know that you would one day be better than he was.”
“You were the better one Ken.  You still are,” Brant took a seat beside him, “You’re the glue that holds the pieces of this family together.  Without you, things would’ve fallen apart a long time ago.”
“And look what it got me,” Ken sighed heavily, “I lost the love of my life and my world is over.  What more is left for me Brant?  What have I got to show for all the good I’ve done in the world?”
“You have respect and your integrity,” Brant offered up simply.
“And it doesn’t mean a damn to me without Caitlin in my life,” Ken confessed painfully, shaking his head at the thought, “Even now all I want to do is wake up from this nightmare and take her in my arms.  I want to see that this is all just a bad dream--that somehow she’s really still here and this is nothing but a cruel joke…”
“I wish that it were.  I wish to God that I could change things for you and for Avery and for everyone that our father wronged, but I can’t,” Brant answered, his eyes full of emotion.
“Avery,” Ken repeated her name giving him a strange look, “Brant don’t tell me that you’re taking this time to move in on Avery when…”
“No, not at all,” Brant shook his head adamantly, “I would never do that to her.  Not when she just lost Russell…”
“Russell,” Ken repeated taking a moment to let it sink in, “You mean he’s…”
“Dead,” Brant nodded in response, “and while I know what you’re thinking, the truth to the matter is that I would trade my life for his if it meant making her happy again.  I’d do the same for you if it meant that I could bring Caitlin back.”
“Brant…” Ken began too caught up in the moment to really say anything else.  He looked to the altar above, wondering where Caitlin was right now.  He pictured her in the heavens with his mother--another woman who was taken long before her time and in that moment he felt a moment of peace overtake him.  Misery took a backseat as he sat beside his brother, both of them saying a silent prayer for the sins of the past and the great many things they’d lost over the years.


...to be continued...