Loop Knot

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It was exactly what Ophelia had dreaded, the aura of desperation in the room. Her family now knew of how critical her condition was. The disbelief and anger in Westley's eyes was smoldering and held in check by some form of restraint that Ophelia never really credited her older brother with. Maddison was shaking her head slowly, as if she too were still firmly in the disbelief category and Grace James was staring at her in shock. Ophelia's niece was shameless in the tears that dripped down her face and it only added to Ophelia's lingering guilt over how close she came to donig something inappropriate with Nathaniel.

"That can't be right. There is some mistake." Westley finally announced, his rich, accented voice breaking the emotional silence in the room.

"There's got to be some sort of treatment options that will help you get better." Maddison added on the heels of her husband's declaration. The hesitation of a moment ago abandoned as the tiny red head jumped to the 'there is still hope' bandwagon. And Grace just sat there, silent for a change.

"Not likely." Ophelia said firmly. It felt a little strange, her confidence and calmness. She had the strength right now to lend them, because she knew that there was only so long she had to endure. It would be over with soon, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was guiding her steps.

"No." Westley growled out, rational calm gone and Ophelia was presented with the more familiar countenance of her once gangster brother. He was never a calm man for long, and in fact she was hoping that his volatile emoitons would keep anyone else from guessing at her almost serene attitude. Bad enoguh that Nathaniel had to be burdened with the depressing truth. At least he had the respect enough to not interfere with her choice. The others would and she knew it.

"Yes. It's happening Westley. I suspected for a while but even I was surprised by how bleak the news ended up being. But now that I know for sure... I can handle it. We can handle it. I will need to lean on you all for the next while and I know that there are no better people I could depend on to help me." Ophelia felt guilty for playing on their emotions like this. It wasn't right of her but what else could she do?

Before she could continue the charade of emotional manipulation, her niece Grace stood up and limped over to hug her tightly. Ophelia had no words against that simple demonstration and did the only thing she could. She hugged her niece tightly back. Maddison followed a moment after her daughter, hugged Ophelia around Grace, the small redhead not at all blood related to Opi but family just the same. Westley looked angry but Ophelia could see the tears in his eyes as he hugged her around his women as well. Honey was out in the big city, a couple of hours away and the eldest James sister, Candace was travelling with their father, on a whole different continent. In their place were Alice and Malcolm, friends that were closer than blood. Everyone was huddled around Ophelia, crying and murmuring love and support. And yet Ophelia could still see the one person in the room not buying into it right now.

Nathaniel stood back, not able to join in because he was the bearer of the burden of truth. And the look in his eyes made Ophelia's heart break a little. He looked faintly disgusted and Ophelia knew it wasn't directed at her. But at himself for keeping her secret. And she had no way of making it up to him. They both knew it. Seeing that look on his face made her suddenly feel like her supportive group hug was claustrophobic.

Thank god for Alice. That woman seemed to have a knack for picking up on subtle cues, no doubt a hold over from her tragic youth. "Alright, I think we should let the woman breathe. Westley, you and Malcolm go out to get food. Lots of it, nothing healthy. Maddison, we will get the sitting room set up to hold the lot of us and pick movies. I think a Disney marathon would be suitable right about now." Alice started to command.

Westley opened his mouth to argue but Malcolm just put a hand on his shoulder and Ophelia watched the two men walk out without a word. It always surprised her to remember that Malcolm had been the one to get Westley into the gang life. West looked like a gangster, Malcolm never really did. He didn't look soft so much as he seemed easier to be around. He had less inherent violence. Of course, that belied the fact that he had killed to protect Alice so looks certainly were deceiving in his case.

"Grace... come on graceless, I need to talk to you for a moment." Nathaniel finally moved as the group hug dispersed. He put an arm over Grace's shoulders and walked her out of the room, leaving Ophelia alone with the mothers.

Maddison was starting to shift the couch and plush chairs around the family room. Ophelia knew that Maddison had come from a rather money tight family, and had always been the one to push family together time over spending money doing things. This had resulted in a family room that converted easily into a movie lounge, a fort for pillow wars, a discussion zone and a games room. It had always been one of Ophelia's favourite places in the James household and she knew it would be different now.

Alice was watching her, the older woman's regard making Ophelia want to freeze in place like an animal spotted by a predator. Ace's past had given her a heaviness that carried through in everything she did, although the woman had a wonderful sense of humour and a rather entertaining habit of cursing. And somehow Ophelia wondered that Ace knew there was something that she was holding back. Nathaniel had gotten a lot more from his parents than just good looks, Opi just hoped that Alice hadn't guessed at Ophelia's end game plan.

It was hard not to breath out in relief when Alice finally spoke. "Ophelia, I've watched you grow up. And there is something you need to do for me now that there's not time to take it slow."

Ophelia frowned, not able to predict this woman's thought process. "If I'm able to do it Alice. I will certainly try my hardest." She promised, figuring that Ace wouldn't ask anything too esoteric.

"You need to get laid." Alice said bluntly. Her words made Maddison bark out a laugh and Ophelia sputtered for a moment.

"What is it with the Vegas and sex?" Ophelia retorted. Both women gave her a strange look and she realized what they might be thinking, she had just come home from her apartment with the notoriously amorous Nathaniel. And their guess wouldn't be all that far off! "Nathaniel suggested pretty much the same thing. I suspect that he'll be parading young men for me to pick amongst like some kind of animal breeder." Ophelia covered quickly, knowing that even without warning Nate that she had said this, he would back her up on it if anyone asked.

Maddison smiled and gave Alice a look and suddenly Ophelia felt the age difference between her and these women. There was only eight years between her and Alice, but those eight years covered a lifetime of different experiences. "Oh, I suspect we all know what man hunk you'd take to bed. Except he's a little oblivious at the moment." Maddison had a smug look on her face.

"Excuse me?" Ophelia replied, hoping that she didn't hear a certain name mentioned.

"Oh sweetie, I hate to break it to you, but the martyr look doesn't work." Alice came over and hugged Ophelia in a friendly manner. "I've seen you look at Colby when he's around with Grace. And it makes me want to shake him for going after the wrong James woman. Especially since if they get together I lose the bet."

"Bet?" Ophelia's voice sounded offended even to her ears. They were betting on whether or not she'd get with Colby?

"Oh yeah. Since they were about fourteen or so there's been a pool on between the parents. On when Nate and Grace would finally give in to the inevitable. Maddison lost when Grace turned eighteen and they didn't immediate get together. I have money that it'll happen at the Fall Ball this year. West says that it won't happen at all because he'll kill Nathaniel for touching his little girl and Malcolm has said that they'll hold out until after Nate graduates." Alice explained simply.

Ophelia looked back and forth between the two women and started to laugh. The entire idea of a betting pool wasn't strange with this group. They had some strange ways of looking at the world. And tears snuck out of Ophelia's eyes she could pretend that they were humour over the concept. Nate was right, every one DID know of his interest in Grace. Except for Grace. And yet Ophelia knew that the tears were due to the fact that she might have irreparably damaged Nate's ability to go for Grace. He was too focused on her right now and not on the tall red head whom should be the center of his attention.

"Well can I get in on this action?" Ophelia asked, trying to keep her emotions at bay, by any means necessary.

"Oh, you have some insight into the potential love lives of our offspring?" Maddison finally composed herself enough to speak.

Ophelia forced herself to smile. "Oh yes. I suspect that they'll get together by the end of the week." she tried to squash the guilt in her gut. She would do anything she could to make sure that at least Nathaniel and Grace found something happy out of this whole ordeal. She wasn't sure how she could do it, but she would help them find love in each other. She owed both families that much at least.

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