EXT. SALEM PLACE - DAY (TWO DAYS AFTER EPISODE 4)
JACK is standing outside of Ballistix, calling someone on his cell phone and looking very impatient as he waits for someone to answer.
JACK: (mumbling to himself) Come on Vern... Where are you?
Several people walk past JACK and give him strange looks, and JACK responds with a mind your own business grin.
The phone continues to ring. JACK waits for VERN'S voicemail to pick up, but finally he hears a voice on the other end.
VERN: Spectator, Vern Scofield speaking.
JACK: (overjoyed) Vern! You are there!
JACK: Of course it's me! Who else would be calling you? Listen, I have a job for you...
VERN doesn't say anything. JACK wonders if the battery on his phone went dead. He pulls the phone away from his ear and looks at it, then puts it back on his ear.
JACK: Uh, Vern? Hello? Are you there?
VERN: (grunting) Yeah, I'm here.
JACK: Oh good. For a minute there I thought my phone had gone dead. (laughs) You weren't saying anything.
VERN: Oh well, I'm sorry, it's just that I thought I heard you say that you had a job for me-
JACK: I did say that.
VERN: Goodbye, Jack-
JACK: (panicked) Wait, wait, wait! Don't hang up... Please?
VERN reluctantly stays on the line.
JACK has just brought up a mysterious "job" for VERN, and VERN is dreading hearing what this could possibly be.
JACK: Vern? You, uh, you didn't hang up, did you?
VERN: (to himself) I should... (to JACK) No, I'm still here. (he sighs)
JACK: Good, good...
VERN: But you've got one minute to convince me not to hang up on you again, Jack. You're not my boss anymore and there is no reason for me to ever get involved with another one of your crazy schemes-
JACK: I swear, this one does not involve any fire trucks, or drivers named Rodney, or-
VERN: I thought his name was Bradley?
JACK: -or any Dalmatians. (beat) Although it does involve a certain four-legged creature-
VERN: (doesn't want to hear any more) That's it, Jack, goodbye--leave me out of this one!
JACK: Wait, won't you even hear me out?
VERN: All right, thirty seconds, Jack-
JACK: Thirty seconds? You gave me a full minute before-
VERN: Jack, I mean it! I've got a budget meeting with Kate in fifteen minutes, and-
JACK: All right, all right, I'll cut to the chase... (clears his throat) Well as you know, Vern, my child's eighth birthday party is coming up...
VERN: Yeah, I think you told me about that. It's this Saturday, isn't it?
JACK: Yes, this Saturday. It's quite a fete, in fact. But you see, her mother has already made most of the arrangements and left me with very little to do, so I decided that with the very little I have, I would make the most out of it.
VERN: (cautiously) So where exactly do I fit into this? And don't even bother to say anything if the next words out of your mouth involve me dressing up as some sort of cartoon-
JACK: No, no, no! Would I ever make you do such a thing?
VERN: Is that a rhetorical question?
JACK: (not amused) Vern, will you please stick with me here? (beat) You see, when Abigail turned three, it was her first birthday in Africa, and all she wanted me and Jennifer to give her was a pony. The entire week leading up to her birthday all we would hear day and night was how she wanted a pony for her birthday. It was all she would talk about. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of ponies in the particular village we were staying at the time, and well, let's just say I've never been able to forget the disappointment on my daughter's face when we couldn't produce the much requested pony...
VERN: (relieved now that he's figured out what Jack is doing) I think I know where you're going with this, Jack.
JACK: I thought you might, Vern... So, you'll help me?
VERN: Um... well if you're asking what I think you're asking, which is to get a pony for Abby's birthday party, then sure...
JACK: (annoyed) Well, what else would I be asking?
VERN: (thoroughly exasperated) Jack, has anyone ever told you that you have the lousiest ways of saying thank you?
JACK: (laughs in embarrassment) I--I meant... Thank you for helping me with this, Vern. It would mean the world to Abigail, and... it would mean a lot to me...
VERN laughs at JACK'S attempts to thank him.
JACK: (wondering why he's laughing) What?
VERN: (amused) Nothing, Jack. You're welcome, really. Abby sure is one lucky little girl to have you for a dad.
JACK: (smiling to himself) You mean that, Vern?
VERN: Forget it, Jack--that's all you're getting out of me!
JACK: (rolls his eyes) So you'll call me when it's all set?
VERN: Will do. I can't wait to see Abby's face when she sees the pony.
JACK: (quietly) Neither can I, Vern...
JACK and VERN hang up. JACK thinks back on his what JENNIFER said to him the other day, and feels guilty for having hurt her and ABBY.
JACK: (to himself) God knows I've let you down enough times, Abigail. But I won't disappoint you this time. I promise.
INT. HORTON HOUSE - LATER
JENNIFER has asked JACK over so they can talk. As she opens the door, she is surprised at how run-down he looks and can't help but worry. Her first instinct is to reach out to him and ask him if he is all right, but she does not know if she can with things the way they are between them.
JENNIFER: Thanks for coming, Jack.
JACK: Well, thank you for having me... (realizes how that sounded, nervously tries to correct himself) I--I mean, thank you for, um... asking me to come over...
JENNIFER, having noticed the slip, and smiles to herself.
JENNIFER: We've got a lot to talk about-
JACK: Yes, yes, we do... (looks around, then upstairs--he thinks he is here to talk about ABBY'S party, so he doesn't want her to hear) Is the child out of earshot?
JENNIFER: (confused as to why he's acting so strangely) Yeah, she's... she's upstairs playing...
JACK: Good... I wanted to make sure she wouldn't hear us...
JENNIFER: (wonders if this discussion will get heated again) No, I wouldn't want that either...
They go into the living room. JENNIFER sits on the couch, and by force of habit, JACK sits down next to her. They look at each other awkwardly, and JACK laughs, embarrassed. He gets up and moves further down to the other end of the couch.
JENNIFER: I've... had some time to think about what you asked me the other day.
JACK: (confused) What I asked you?
JENNIFER: (confused now too) Yes... About you seeing Abby?
JACK: Wait a minute... that's why you asked me over here?
JENNIFER: Of course it is, Jack. What did you think I asked you to come over here for?
JACK: I thought... I thought we were going to talk about Abigail's birthday party.
JENNIFER: Her birthday party? Look, Jack, you don't have to worry about any of that, I've taken care of everything-
JACK: (smiling) Well... not everything...
JENNIFER: (with suspicion) What do you mean, not everything?
JACK: Well, there's one thing I thought of... the piece de resistance, if you will... It's going to be the show stopper of the event.
JENNIFER: Why do I get the feeling I won't like this very much?
JACK: Oh ye of little faith, Mrs. D- (he catches himself before he can finish the name, and smiles sheepishly)
JENNIFER smiles, having heard the slip too.
JACK: (trying to cover) Not only will you love it, but you will thank me from the bottom of your heart and congratulate me on my thoughtfulness at having had the foresight to plan this!
JENNIFER: Oh I can't wait to hear this...
JACK: (noting her sarcasm, smirks) I'm sure you can't.
JENNIFER: All right, Jack, let's hear it. What's the big surprise?
JACK: You mean you haven't guessed already? (sees he is getting under her skin and is enjoying teasing her) All right, I'll give you a hint. What did the child bother us incessantly about, day and night, for almost a week on her third birthday?
JENNIFER'S eyes widen as she realizes what he is talking about.
JENNIFER: Oh no, Jack... No, no, no... You are not going to bring a pony here, aren't you?
JACK pretends to look hurt.
JACK: Wait, are you saying you don't want one for the party? After all the trouble I've gone through to get one?
JENNIFER: Do you know how much trouble an animal like that can be? Grandma would freak-
JACK: What if I promised to clean up after it? (thinks about it further) Well, Vern will clean up after it-
JENNIFER: No, Jack, absolutely not-
JACK: So you're telling me you don't want to see the look on our daughter's face when we've made her fondest wish come true?
JENNIFER is annoyed that he's using this tactic on her.
JENNIFER: (voice cracking) Don't you dare try to make me feel guilty about this, Jack Deveraux-
ABBY has come down the stairs and hears JENNIFER mention JACK'S name.
ABBY: Daddy?? Is Daddy here?
JENNIFER stops cold and looks at JACK, and mouths the words, not now, to him. He agrees and nods, much to JENNIFER'S relief. ABBY comes into the living room and sees JACK. She is overjoyed at seeing him and runs up to him. They fall back onto the couch, laughing. JENNIFER notices how this seems to take the wind out of JACK.
JENNIFER: Abby, sweetie, maybe you should take it easy, ok? Daddy's-
JACK: (cutting her off sharply) Daddy is just fine. I'm used to rough-housing with my daughter. (to ABBY) Right, Abigail? (he begins to tickle ABBY, and she giggles and squirms in his arms) Right? Is that a yes? I believe that's a yes...
JENNIFER watches them and begins to feel guilty about what she's about to tell JACK.
JENNIFER: (she hates having to break this up, but needs to talk to JACK) Baby? Daddy and I need to have a grown-up talk right now... Can you-
ABBY: (gives her mother a knowing smile) You don't have to explain, Mommy. (turns to JACK and gives him a wink) I know you have to talk about my party...
JACK and JENNIFER exchange amused glances.
JACK: Our child is just too exceptional for us to pull the wool over her eyes.
ABBY: I'll be upstairs. (starts to go up the stairs) And I promise I won't listen!
JACK: What an insightful little girl we have...
JENNIFER: (smiling) She is pretty amazing, isn't she?
JACK: (nervous to bring up the subject) So, you, uh... you said you wanted to talk to me about something...
JENNIFER: (not really sure anymore if she's about to do the right thing) Jack, I've really agonized over this, and I want you to know I did not make this decision lightly... (she looks at his face intently to watch for his reaction) I think it's for the best... if I retain full custody of Abby. You'll have visitation, of course-
JACK: (visibly angry) That's not good enough, Jennifer.
JACK gets up from the couch and walks over to the fireplace. He sees ABBY'S baby picture on the mantle and takes it and looks at it.
JACK: No!! (spins around to face her) I am not going to let you keep me away from my daughter, do you understand?
JENNIFER: (angry now too) Our daughter. Our daughter, who you've barely seen in the last six months! So don't you dare start acting holier-than-thou on me, accusing me of trying to keep her away from you when you were the one who was gone all the time!
JACK: I am here now, Jennifer. I am right here and I'm not going anywhere-
JENNIFER: Yes, you're here now, Jack. But for how long? How long before you pick up and leave again, huh?
JACK decides he has to leave now before this argument gets any further because he knows they'll both say hurtful things to each other if they don't stop now.
JENNIFER: Where do you think you're going? (grabs his arm as he reaches for the door) Don't you walk out on me-
JACK: (snatching his arm away from her grasp) I want joint custody, Jennifer. Not paltry visitation rights, but joint custody. You may not respect me or think much of me as a father, but I love that child. I love her more than life... life itself, and... (looks upstairs) I will not settle for anything less than joint custody.
JACK storms out of the house, and JENNIFER watches him leave. After she is sure that he is far enough from the house, she slumps against the door and cries.
END EPISODE 5