Disclaimer: Characters belong to Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin, NBC, et al and are used here strictly for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Genre: Drama / Romance (with a sprinkle of Angst)
Spoilers: Everything up to and including the elevator scene.
Summary: And, they lived. Happily. (Part IV of the "Undisclosed Desires" series.)
A/N: This is the last installment of a very (very) unexpected series that began way back in 2008 with "The Beauty of Chaos" and continued through "Thine for Evermore" and "Until it Fades Away". I hope you enjoyed the surprise journey as much as I did. As always, thank you for reading and reviewing!
From across the living room, Gregory heard her sigh. He glanced up, watching Olivia discreetly as she anxiously rubbed her palms against her thighs. Her lips were set in a grim line, streaks of worry wrinkling her face. He tossed the deposition aside, fed up with the pretense of reading it. The words had blurred together from the moment he picked it up. "Liv?"
She flinched, her name cutting through the tense silence like a knife. Her blue eyes clouded with guilt as a bashful smile graced her lips for a brief moment. "Sorry," she whispered, folding her trembling hands together.
He reached over, taking her hand and squeezing it gently as he shook his head. "It's fine. You're fine," he stressed as their fingers threaded together.
"Of course. I've never been surer of anything in my life."
She shook her head, leaning heavily against the arm of the sofa. "I wish I felt as sure as you sound. My head…" she trailed off, her arm stretched across to where he sat. She shrugged, laying out to rest her head on her arm as she closed her eyes. "I don't know. I feel like Alice down the rabbit hole. Everything's the same, but…"
"But what?" he asked, leaning forward to crouch before her.
Her eyes opened slowly, locking with his as she whispered, "But different." She turned onto her back as he sat next to her, draping her legs in his lap. "Everything's different."
"We're not," he said softly, tracing a circle around her kneecap with his finger. He turned to her, his brow arched. "Or are we?"
She chuckled softly as a knowing smirk lit up her face. "Darling, nothing is more different than us."
- Six days ago -
"I don't understand! Nothing's changed with them! They are the same as they ever were!"
"Mrs. Deschanel," Judge Raymond Franklin said sternly, "if I hear one more outburst from you, I will hold you in contempt."
Gregory felt Olivia take his hand as Caitlin glowered at them from across the wide conference table. She leaned against him, seemingly permanent worry etched into her face. With a comforting squeeze, he turned to his left as their lawyer cleared his throat.
"Your Honor, I'd like to point out that the psychologist retained by the Deschanels reached the same conclusion: there is no fault found in the home of Gregory and Olivia Richards. Therefore," Philip Westbrook concluded, "there is no lawful reason why the minor child should not be returned to their custody."
"No!" Caitlin fumed, jumping out of her seat, even as Cole struggled to stop her. "You can't give Trey to them! He's my son, not their's!"
Olivia's hand twitched within his as Judge Franklin banged his gavel. "Mrs. Deschanel! Mrs. Deschanel, you are in contempt!"
The young woman whirled on him, her blue eyes wild. "I'm in contempt? You are in contempt! How can you even consider giving my child to them?" She turned back to her parents, glaring harshly. "You two may have fooled everyone into thinking that everything's fine, but it's not! You are both sick and you will destroy my son's life!"
"Caitlin, sit down," Gregory hissed as he watched Olivia's shoulders collapse.
"You are both monsters! Nothing's changed!" Cole tugged hard on his wife's arm, jerking her down into her seat. Her chest heaved as Judge Franklin's gavel echoed in the conference room.
"Let the record show that Mrs. Deschanel is fined $500 for being in contempt of my court," Judge Franklin said, turning to his court reporter.
"I don't care," she snapped, ignoring the furious words Cole whispered into her ear. "Fine me $5,000! Look at me, Mom." Her glare intensified as Olivia looked up slowly, meeting her daughter's eyes. "After everything you've already done, how can you do this to me?"
The judge frowned as Cole leaned next to his wife, whispering furiously into her ear. "I've heard enough. It's the order of this court that the child and both sets of parents are to make themselves available for D.N.A testing tomorrow evening."
"No!" Caitlin shrieked, her eyes darkening. "I won't bring him!"
Gregory flinched, the memory of Caitlin's cold eyes flickering through his mind. His cherished daughter had, seemingly overnight, turned into a person he couldn't recognize. "Nothing is more different, hmm?"
His palm warmed her thigh and she stretched her legs across his lap. "Well, this is different," she allowed, gesturing to the room around them. "All of this."
A tender warmth cocooned his chest as he watched her. She looked up at him with smiling eyes, her dark hair pooling around her shoulders. The years fell to the wayside, the fine lines around her eyes diminishing as she forcefully reminded him of the young girl who intrigued him and eventually captured his heart all those years ago. He glanced around the new living room, seemingly unimpressed as their voices stirred the space up to the high ceiling. "It'll do," he said simply, causing her to smile.
"It'll do?" She sat up and crossed one leg over the other. With a gentle hand, she cupped his face and whispered, "You were the one who picked the penthouse, Darling."
"It's four walls and a roof." He twirled a lock of her hair around his finger as she clicked her tongue. "The only thing I need my home to have is you. Everything else is just…extra."
"Extra, hmm?" She leaned her head against his as his arm wrapped around her. Her hand found its way to his chest and she rested it over his heart. With a tired sigh, she closed her eyes, the strain of the last two weeks crashing down on her. If it hadn't been her own life, she wouldn't have believed any out it was possible.
But impossible was not a word in the vocabulary of the esteemed Gregory Richards.
- Nine days ago -
She sat down heavily, watching him with wide eyes. "Marry me?"
"Of course." Gregory sat next to her and reached for her hand, bringing it immediately to his mouth. As his lips danced over the empty spot on her ring finger, he turned his eyes up to her and whispered, "If you'll have me, that is."
"If I'll have you?" she sighed even as a bashful smile came to her lips. "Always." She shrugged nervously as he lowered her hand, concern darkening his eyes as he watched her. "But so much has happened-"
"What's happened is we love each other." Olivia tilted her head, a reproach on her lips as he forged ahead, "We never stopped loving each other. We couldn't pretend that we had. Annie can't contest the divorce, so at 12:01 tonight, I'm legally free. I can have a judge here-
"Liv, there's no 'but'." His eyes softened and he cupped her cheek, explaining gently, "We already know I'm no good without you." She lowered her eyes as she turned her face into his touch. "You've been the queen of my heart for years. I- I need to make our lives right again."
"I'm afraid," she whispered, a breathy admission she didn't even realize she uttered aloud until his hand fell away from her face. Her eyes flew up to his, instantly reaching for his now empty hand. "Not of you. Never you," she reassured him, her voice quivering. He watched her carefully, his face a mask of confusion to cover the hurt. "Of myself. Of my…faults," she admitted shamefully.
Of how I betrayed you and our daughter, she added silently. Of how my fear of the truth is allowing you to think my son is yours. Of how all you feel for me will change if you knew the truth.
He cleared his throat as he felt her hand tremble. "Your faults," he began carefully, "make you who you are."
"I don't know who that is sometimes," she lamented bitterly.
"I do," he replied solemnly. "It's the woman I love. It's the mother of my children." A silent tear rolled down her face and he reached out, brushing it away. "It's the woman who knows all of my faults and still loves me." She sighed, leaning against him as his arms went around her. "I want nothing more than to call you my wife again."
"I want that too," she murmured, looking up at him.
"A fresh start then," he promised as he kissed her forehead. Her arm went across his chest, curling around his waist. With a weak nod and an even weaker smile, she rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. It was history repeating itself. She was marrying Gregory again and already there was a huge lie between them. The first time it was the truth about Elaine's son; this time, it was the truth about her own. They could never have a fresh start, not with her colossal lies standing in the way.
She would never be pure enough for that.
Gregory heard her sniffle and rubbed her shoulder. The past few days have been a roller coaster, he thought to himself, glancing at the pyramid of moving boxes in the empty corner of the living room. A new marriage, a new home, a new life…all to share with their son. He hugged her a bit closer, the subject of the their bid to retain custody still a delicate subject. Caitlin's absolute refusal to accept the truth and to make the baby available for the D.N.A. test all but ensured they were dragged through the hell that was Family Court before they could get their son back.
"What time is it?" she asked softly.
He made a point of glancing down at his watch, even though barely five minutes had passed since she last asked. "Ten minutes to seven."
"They're not coming," she sighed, twisting her hands.
He frowned, reaching out to take her hand and hold it steady within his grasp. "They are. He is."
Olivia pushed herself up, her full eyes causing his heart to turn. "I- I can't believe it," she admitted, her stomach flipping anxiously. "Not until-"
He reached out, catching her hand in mid-gesture. "I know," he assured her. An ocean of tense worry rode across her face as he squeezed her hand and rested it between them. She collapsed back into the sofa, gazing up at the ceiling. The silk of her blouse rippled, a testament to the anxiety coursing through her. "There's still time."
She shook her head and turned slowly to him. "But the look on Caity's face…," she trailed off, pouting as she thought back.
- Five hours ago -
Gregory felt Olivia take his hand as the judge looked sternly around the table. Her fingers were icicles, chilling him to his core. She had tossed and turned all night as the dark smudges beneath her eyes attested. No amount of reassurance from him could set her mind at ease. He patted her hand gently, confidently patient their son would be returned to them by the end of the day.
"These types of cases are never easy," Judge Franklin began, toying with the envelope before him. "There is one child and two sets of parents that love him and want him." He sighed and glanced to his left, where Caitlin and Cole sat nervously with their lawyer. When he glanced to his right, he saw the same anxiety mirrored in the faces of Gregory and Olivia. "For all of his wisdom, I certainly do not envy King Solomon. The issue today is where does Armando Deschanel III lawfully belong?"
Olivia shifted in her chair, leaning into her husband until their shoulders brushed together. He glanced over and flashed her a small comforting smile. Her heart began to thunder as she watched Judge Franklin glance around the table. Gregory watched the color drain from her face and he squeezed her hand gently.
"While both sets of parents have shown they can provide a loving home for any child to thrive," the judge continued, "this child can only have one." He cleared his throat, getting to the heart of the matter. "This case comes down to science: who are the biological parents?" He removed his glasses and gazed around the table before continuing, "The D.N.A. tests unequivocally show that Armando Deschanel III can only be the son of Gregory and Olivia Richards."
Olivia inhaled sharply as her husband's grip increased on her hand. Her head spun as she turned to him, blindly looking for his face. She didn't hear the way Caitlin jumped up, shouting wildly at the judge. She didn't see Caitlin's lawyer force her back into her chair, whispering harshly in her ear. She only saw Gregory, the light that shone in his eyes as his lips mouthed her name. Trey was their son, just as she hoped and prayed since the moment she found out she was pregnant.
"Therefore," Judge Franklin continued, "it is the decision of this court that legal and physical custody of Armando Deschanel III be returned to his biological parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richards." He frowned at the young couple to his left, truly sorry for the pain they were already going through. Caitlin sobbed into her hands as Cole sat shell-shocked and silent next to her. "The child is to be returned to the home of his parents no later than seven p.m. tonight." He turned back to Westbrook, gently explaining, "Surely your clients will not object to allowing the Deschanels time to say goodbye to the boy."
Gregory sighed, leaning back until they were shoulder-to-shoulder. Their daughter's blue eyes blazed with an icy hatred when they left the courthouse, meeting his gaze only once. "Caitlin will…"
"Will what?" she asked sadly. "Forgive us? Stop hating us? Spend the holidays with us and her brothers?"
"One day," he replied.
Olivia sighed heavily, never able to feel as sure of the world as him. Her hand twitched and she stood abruptly, rubbing her arms warm. "Did you ever think we would end up like this?" She glanced over her shoulder and turned slowly, watching him sit casually on the sofa. "We had such beautiful dreams for our future…"
He shrugged as she sat in front of him on the coffee table, her hands tucked between her knees. "Dreams don't last forever."
"And some dreams turn out to be nightmares." She frowned, gazing down at her feet. Time ground to a screeching halt, the minutes turning into hours. And there sat Gregory, calmly watching her as if he hadn't a worry in the world. She always envied his confidence.
"We wake up though, don't we?" he asked softly, his foot curling around her ankle. She looked up slowly as he sat up, cupping her knee. He tilted his head, concerned with the way her throat worked and her pallor. "You know," he sighed, his hand snaking around her knee and down her calf, "I used to love watching you when we first started dating."
He shrugged indifferently, even as her face turned with interest. "When we'd go out…from across the room. You and Bette would egg each other on and sooner or later, you'd both end up dancing on a table." She smiled bashfully, leaning forward as he took her hand. "You were glorious to watch. Alive and burning with a passion that I had never known until I met you."
She leaned in, a mysterious glimmer in her eyes. "Can I tell you something? A secret?" He nodded, his brow furrowed as she chuckled under her breath. "I never danced on a table until I met you."
He chuckled as their fingers threaded together. "No?"
"It's true," she insisted. "I was always afraid of falling off."
He frowned. "You never fell off a table."
"That's because you were there. I knew you would never let me fall." Her eyes softened as he squeezed her hand. "I knew you'd always be there to catch me."
He tugged on her arm gently and she leaned against him, his arms going around her. She draped her arms around his neck, their eyes meeting as he whispered, "Fearless Olivia."
She glanced away, suddenly afraid of the unabashed love shining from his eyes. If he ever found out Cole…, she thought. But how would he? Annie was in jail, silenced by impenetrable gray bars. And Cole… She shivered, the memory of the pain etched on his face as they left the courthouse. No good would come from him confessing his - their - sins. She hoped he knew that.
"But, I'm not fearless," she sighed, gently cupping his face. "I ran away, remember? From our children-"
Her mouth set as his fingers lazily danced up her back. "From everything."
Gregory sighed, her silk blouse rippling beneath his hands. "We were furious at each other. We threw it all away…turned our backs on each other." He closed his eyes, relishing the weight of her body against his, the scent of her almond shampoo.
"That was our way," she mused, regret choking her words. "We did everything furiously. Fight furiously. Love furiously. Leave each other furiously."
"Come back to each other furiously," he concluded after a long moment. He clasped her hands, holding them against his chest. Her fingers ran over his watch, the glass face cool to her touch. He moved his hand, squeezing hers gently to turn her attention from the distracting time piece. "So, did I ever think our lives would turn out this way?" He shook his head, never tired of the sparkle in her eyes when she looked back at him. "Not in a million years."
She bit her lip, a nervous tremble becoming her hand. He could never know about Cole. Ever. "But, I would do it all again in a heartbeat," she heard him say and she looked up, tears burning her eyes.
"It was our life. The good and the bad, for better or for worse. It was ours."
"But the bad times," she argued, "were very, very bad."
He looked down, watching their hands rise and fall with his breath. "Yes, but…I never would've made it without you," he admitted after a long moment.
"Oh, Darling," she whispered, turning his chin up and gazing deep into his eyes, "you were destined for brilliant things before I came along."
He shook his head, leaning back. "You gave me a family, a home. Reasons. You and our children," he sighed, fingering a lock of her hair, "are the most precious gifts in my life. If that's the only lesson I've learned from our twenty-five years together, it's reason enough to do it all over again."
She threw herself into his arms, pressing her face into his neck as he hugged her tightly. "I love you, Olivia," she heard him say, his lips dancing near her ear.
Olivia cupped his face and looked up slowly, tears glittering in her blue eyes. He always thought he didn't deserve her, but really, it was the other way around. Her lies had the power to damn her to Hell and rip his heart out. But, when he looked at her like that, with love reigning down on her, she almost felt worthy of it. "Until it fades away," she whispered before their lips met.
The only thing that could've disrupted the quiet moment was the doorbell. She jumped away from him as pealing chimes echoed in the vast emptiness of the penthouse. "Darling," she managed to whisper as a broad grin stretched across his face.
He took her hands, taking her with him as he stood fluidly. The little color in her face had drained from it as she watched him with wide nervous eyes. He leaned forward, kissing her lips softly before he whispered, "He's here."
But she only trembled in reply, her chin quivering. Gregory's hand tightened around hers as he led her through the living room and into the foyer. Nothing stood between them and their future now. Just a solid door, itching to be opened. As he let go of her hand and moved to open the door, she grabbed him back and whispered, "What if it isn't-"
"It's him," he replied softly, squeezing her hand gently before he turned and opened the door, stealing himself for their daughter's loathing gaze.
But it wasn't Caitlin they found.
Cole Deschanel stood in the doorway, gently holding the tow-headed infant in his arms. A sea of brokenhearted pain churned in his face and Olivia felt her blood run cold, looking at the devastated young man. She inched closer to her husband, letting his body stand between her and Cole's pain.
Gregory felt her press against his back and he sighed, meeting the sorrow in Cole's eyes. He couldn't help but note the irony of it all. After years of fighting each other, Cole was losing his family at the same moment Gregory's came back together. Three years ago, he would have relished the victory and the expulsion of Cole Deschanel from their lives. Now, he was surprised at the pity he felt for the young man, holding onto the baby as if his life depended on it.
Cole finally cleared his throat as Trey gurgled and flailed his tiny arms. "I waited until he woke up from his nap. He's getting over a cold," he explained in soft monotone, looking down into the boy's chubby face, "and his sleep schedule is all over the place." He sighed, letting the strap of the diaper bag fall from his shoulder. "I put his medicine in here. He gets a dose every four hours." Reluctantly, he held out the bag to Gregory and waited until he took it. "I packed some of his clothes and I'll send over the rest tomorrow with some of his toys and things."
Silence stretched between them, the only sound coming from the baby's slightly congested breathing. He looked down at Trey and held him tight as he swallowed hard. "I'm sorry," he finally replied, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against Trey's. "About everything."
Gregory felt Olivia's hand slip into his and he tightened his grip around her fingers. "We know," he heard Olivia whisper, her words breaking.
He watched Cole open his eyes, gazing deep into the baby's dark blue ones. "I love him more than I ever thought possible," Cole said, finally looking away from the baby's face.
Behind him, Olivia gasped as the younger man stepped closer and held the baby out to them. She reached out, wrapping her arms around the child and drawing him to her chest. Her hand brushed against Cole's and she met his eyes for a moment. "Please tell him that one day…if he ever asks," he said softly and she nodded, unable to stomach the grief welling in his eyes.
They watched the young man's shoulders slump as he stole a glance at them. Olivia's pale face was a counterpoint to the rosy complexion of the child in her arms. Gregory stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders. They made eye contact for a moment and the ire that Cole normally felt for his father-in-law was gone. Instead, he felt nothing but the emptiness of his arms and an insatiable longing for his old life. Ten days ago, he was a jubilant father and relishing the life he shared with his family. Now, it had all gone up in a puff of smoke, the black ashes scattering in the ocean breeze. "Goodbye," he sighed, reaching out to cup the baby's head one last time before he pulled his hand back abruptly.
Olivia bit the corner of her lip fretfully, watching as Cole turned and fled, dashing around the corner to the private elevator that would take him back to the lobby. She stood frozen, watching as Gregory stepped around her to close the door, turning the locks softly. But, the baby in her arms had other plans. He reached out with his chubby hands, fascinated by the string of pearls around her neck and promptly stuck them in his mouth.
She looked down, watching as Trey gnawed on her necklace. Tears burned at her eyes and she crumbled, turning her face into the child's head and sobbing. She cried for the pain and frustration of the last eight and a half months, precious time they should've had with their son that was now lost forever. She cried for Caitlin, who had now suffered the devastating losses of two children. She cried for Cole, who was just as much a victim as the child in her arms. She cried for Gregory, who didn't know, and would never know, just how close she came to destroying him.
"It's alright, Liv," he said, taking on her weight as she leaned against him, their son cooing between them. He cupped his son's head, fine blond hair rippling beneath his palm. "He's home."
And, she cried for herself. She had been blessed with so many second chances that she'd lost count. Deep down, she knew that she didn't deserve them. Like a shadow, her sins would always be with her and they would never let her be. She sniffed, blinking her teary eyes at her husband as she looked up at him. A smile tinged with concern danced on his face and she shook her head, swallowing the self-loathing that rose in her throat.
"I- I know," she whispered, his arms around her as they both looked down at the baby in her arms. "Oh, Gregory…look at him."
"Another blond baby," he murmured, causing her to chuckle. He smiled, kissing her head as he watched her free the pearls from the infant's grasp. The child latched onto his mother's finger, gripping it tightly. His toothless gums bared as his little face scrunched up in a grin.
"He's perfect," she sighed, her heart light as she looked up at him, meeting his eyes. He smiled in reply, cupping the back of the baby's head. How far they had come from that dark and lonely night on the pier all those months ago.
"And, he's home."
She smiled up at him, tears blurring her eyes as she whispered, "Home for good."
"We all are," he sighed, hugging his wife and child to him.