January 28, 2015

Hey — though shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. Updates for this week are cancelled. I’ve been fighting a pretty nasty cold all week and it’s taking longer than I like to bounce back.

January 20, 2015

Hey! Just a quick note that I’m looking for another beta reader. I still love Cora to pieces, but I know I’m definitely too prolific for just one person, ha, and if I could afford to pay her I would. That being said, you can tell from my story statuses that I often have several projects going on at a time. I’m usually writing two actively with about six or seven working through the development process.

While I am looking for someone to do a basic read through of chapters before I post looking for typos, I’m also looking for someone who’d be interested in story development. I often create really elaborate outlines to begin my stories and then break them down scene by scene to facilitate the writing. I’m looking for someone to read them with a critical eye — if a character is missing or maybe some subtext, or just an element that isn’t present, I want to hear that.

I like to think this isn’t a time consuming thing — particularly since you wouldn’t be responsible for anything I’m currently writing (The Best Thing and All We Are are in Cora’s hands at the moment), but I also try really hard not to bug anyone who’s doing me a favor.

If you’re interested, just reply to this and I’ll contact you by email 🙂

January 19, 2015

bestthingFirst things first: I know The Best Thing is a bit late. I’m waiting on Chapter 17 to come back from Cora, and it’s been a crazy couple of weeks for everyone involved. I like having a buffer zone between what I’m posting and what I’ve written — and I completely eliminated that in December, so I’m working hard to get ahead of myself again. At the moment, there are four chapters that I’ve written and haven’t posted. I hope to double that this week which puts us in a good position. I’ve mostly decided how to end the story — but I’m contemplating a sequel. I still have to do some thinking on that, so we’ll see.

On to the Fiction Graveyard updates 🙂 Next week, I’ll be posting the last chapters of True To Your Heart and Mad fictionWorld, so I’ll be posting a few shorter stories for a couple of weeks rather than the longer ones. I still have about nine stories to post, two of which are ten chapters or more, so Fiction Graveyard is still going to be with us into the spring.

Since I’ll be finishing the repost of the first version of Mad World, I’ll also post the outline for how I would have finished that version and talk a bit more about why I didn’t continue that version. I know plenty of you like that story, and that’s fine. I may try to finish it up one day, but I hates it a lot. True To Your Heart had no such planned outline, so I have no idea how I would have ended that, so once I post the twelfth chapter next week, that’s all she wrote on that.

As for housekeeping: I’m working on a system that would speed up the creation of ebooks for my backlist, as well as creating collections of my short story and novellas in ebook form. But in order to best serve you guys, I was hoping you might respond to this post with following information.

1. Have you downloaded any of the ebooks on the site? If not, why?

2. Which format do you find most useful? Is there another format I could utilize?

3. Would you be interested more specific instructions for using Calibre to put the ebooks on your ereader?

I’d appreciate any feedback 🙂

sitenewsThat being said, would you guys kill me if I thought about rewriting I Shall Believe? I know, I know, I swore I wouldn’t. But I was contemplating why I’m struggling with writing a sequel so much and I think it’s either two reasons: 1. I don’t think it actually needs a sequel and therefore, there’s no point, or 2. We’re dealing with a Burn in Heaven situation where I couldn’t write the sequel because I didn’t like the way I had written the first story. I don’t know. I might be overthinking it.

I have issues. This is not news.

And before I go and leave you alone, I’m working on a short story set in my All I Want for Christmas universe for Valentine’s Day, but I make no promises 🙂

Your Graveyard Additions
Mad World: Chapters 16-18
Shadows: Chapters 4-6
True To Your Heart: Chapters 8-10

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Fiction Graveyard: True To Your Heart

And it’s hard watching
‘Cause I’m part of you
And it’s hard not to
Not to know what I can do
I’m powerless to change your world
I’m powerless to stop the hurt
I’m trying hard to be your tower of strength
I’m trying hard to bring you back to joy

— Heart and Shoulder, Heather Nova

—-

Courtney watched her husband change his shirt for the tenth time and felt a rush of love for him. “Honey, Michael’s not going to care what you’re wearing.”

AJ buttoned the blue shirt and sighed. “I just…I want to be perfect. I’ve got a second chance with him…and I don’t want to lose it.”

Courtney slid off the edge of their bed and wound her arms around him, staring at his reflection in the mirror over his shoulder. “Do you know what I see when I look at you?” she asked.

“What?” AJ asked, covering his wife’s hands with his own.

“I see man who’s made mistakes in his life,” Courtney said. “Someone who’s done bad things, but never because he’s a bad person. Baby, I see someone whose taken his family’s expectations of him and shattered them.” She kissed the side of his neck. “Be honest with Michael, don’t hold anything back. He’ll respect that in the end.”

AJ turned so that he was facing her. “How did I ever manage to marry someone like you?” he asked, his voice full of the awe and love he felt whenever he saw her.

Courtney grinned and leaned up to brush a kiss against his lips. “You hated my brother,” she reminded him without a trace of anger or bitterness.

Somehow, they’d gotten past AJ’s confession of why he’d married her. She’d been hurt and she’d asked him to leave. He’d thought their marriage was over, but it didn’t stop him from trying. He loved her more than anything in the world and he refused to lose her.

Courtney had attempted to end the marriage several times, but always stopped before seeing the lawyers. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to end her marriage because of his mistake. He claimed to love her for real–and she wanted to believe him.

In the end, it hadn’t been AJ’s tireless efforts to win her back or Courtney’s seemingly bottomless faith in her husband.

It’d been the discovery of Courtney’s pregnancy. Knowing she could never keep the child from AJ, she’d told him.

“I’m pregnant,” Courtney confessed, her hands clasped in front of her as she and AJ were seated in the small apartment they’d once shared.

He didn’t ask how long. He didn’t ask if it was his.

Instead, he slid off the couch and kneeled in front of her, placing his hands on her knees. “I love you,” he told her, his voice quiet and calm. “I’ve made so many mistakes and I don’t blame you for wanting to walk away. Hell, I’ve done enough to make you do that without telling the truth about the reason I married you.”

“AJ–” Courtney began, unwilling to listen to more apologies.

“I will never stop trying to make up for the reason we began, for how unbelievably selfish I was, trapping you into marriage. I can’t ever ask you to forgive me for it. But, I love you. I know that like I know my last name. You are my everything. The first thing I think about when I wake up–the last face I see before I fall asleep. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you. Please, just give me one more chance to be with you–to be a family. Let’s give this child what any child deserves. Two parents who love each other, despite the odds.”

She raised her tear-filled blue eyes to her husband’s pleading brown ones. “I love you so much, AJ Quartermaine. I married you because I wanted to escape Sonny and his controlling nature. This is my confession. I didn’t marry you because I loved you, but I saw you as my escape.” She sucked in a deep breath and wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. “But somewhere along the line, AJ, I fell in love with you. With everything that you are. I’m not blind anymore–I’m not na�ve. You’re not the perfect person I thought you were in the beginning.”

AJ’s shoulders slumped and he sighed. “All right. I–I just want to be part of this child’s life. I understand if you–”

She pressed two fingers to his lips. “I’m not finished,” she told him. “You are my everything. The first thing I think about when I wake up–the last face I see before I fall asleep. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you. Please, just give me one more chance to be with–to be a family. Let’s give this child what any child deserves. Two parents who love each other, despite the odds.”

AJ blinked back the tears that threatened to spill over. He stood, pulling Courtney with him and wrapped his arms around her. “I love you,” he breathed, his breath warm on her neck.

“I love you, too,” Courtney said.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked, bringing AJ back to the present. He looked into his wife’s dancing blue eyes.

“Thinking about the day you told me about Jocelyn,” AJ told her. “I love you, Courtney. I love you and Jo and Steve so much it takes my breath away sometimes. Having Michael in my life–it won’t change that.”

Hearing the promise from her husband’s lips quelled the fear that she hadn’t even known she possessed.

“Go,” she told him. “Go have lunch with your son.”

AJ kissed her again before pulling out of her arms to finish buttoning his shirt. He tucked it into his khakis and left the room.

—-

Carly smoothed Michael’s black t-shirt for the hundredth time and Michael smacked her hands away. “Come on, Mom, I’m not six anymore.”

Carly smiled. “You may be sixteen–you may be a high school graduate, but you will always be Mr. Man to me.” She kissed him on the cheek. “You’ll never know how much it means to me to know that despite my best efforts to the contrary, you still managed grow up into this wonderful person.”

A little embarrassed by his mother’s words, Michael turned and shrugged. “Well, you’re not as bad you seem to think.” He turned back to her. “So, Jason went in today?”

“No. Johnny called–Sonny came to work,” Carly replied. She moved around the guest room she was using at the Morgan house. “I guess he’s feeling better.”

“You going to talk to him?” Michael asked, sticking his hands in his pockets.

Carly shrugged. “I don’t know. I need to figure what I’m gonna say to him.” She eyed him. “You gonna drop Drew off at camp on your way to meet AJ? I have to take Mandy to the hospital.”

“Yep. I’m taking Dee and Davie with me….Mom?”

“Yeah?” Carly asked, checking the battery on her cell phone before putting it into her purse.

“You okay with me going to see him?” Michael asked.

Carly stilled in her movements and looked up. “No,” she said honestly. “I have been so terrified of AJ being around you since the moment you were born. It doesn’t matter that he’s gotten his life under control, or that he’s happily married and I know he’s a wonderful father–but I guess…I guess I can’t forget the days when he threatened to take you away and never let you see me.” She took a deep breath. “But I understand that you need to do this.”

“Thanks,” Michael said. “Well, I’d better get going.”

—-

Emily rubbed her forehead wearily. She’d never dreamed all the work that would go into opening Wyndemere to prepare for Nikolas’s arrival in a week or two. She’d found on agency to clean it, and then she’d had to contract another agency to furnish it. She’d hired gardeners to take care of the gardens and she had to hire at least a minor staff once Nikolas and Gia arrived.

To top it off, Lucky was still calling and begging her for another chance. Emily might have been tempted to listen to him, but he was still insisting she was being ridiculous. There was no way he was still in love with Elizabeth.

Emily could hear the way he felt about her best friend in the very way he said her name, so she promptly hung up on him.

Perhaps she was just being paranoid.

Maybe it was her pregnancy and the hormones were affecting her.

But Emily couldn’t be imagining the way his voice changed when he talked about Elizabeth, or the way his eyes lit up when she was around. He might be consciously aware of it–but Emily was.

She still wanted Lucky to be part of the child’s life and she’d told him as much. She’d offered to let him come to the ultrasound next week, but Lucky wasn’t interested. If he wasn’t going to be with Emily and part of her life as well, he wasn’t interested in being part of the child’s either.

Emily thought that was a rather selfish way to look at it, and had decided that he was going through a bad time and that she wasn’t going to hold him to this decision. She’d invited Laura instead.

In the back of her mind, the image from her brother’s house still lingered. She’d cried herself to sleep, thinking about Elizabeth, the strain Emily had placed on their friendship, about the way she’d die if anything happened to own child and finally, she cried for her brother, who must be reeling. No father loved his children more than Jason–and she couldn’t imagine how he was faring, having to deal with Elizabeth’s depression as well as his own.

Emily had come to work late–around noon and had spent the morning decorating the nursery. She’d decorated in a multitude of colors, preparing for either a boy or a girl. She promised herself that even if Lucky wasn’t going to be part of this child’s life, he or she was never going to want for love and attention. She was going to spoil this child beyond recognition.

“Miss Quartermaine? Mr. Spencer is on the phone again,” said her secretary over the intercom.

“Tell him I’m in the meeting,” Emily replied. “And then cancel my appointments for the rest of the day. I’m going to visit my niece at the hospital.”

“All right.”

—-

Alexis, Carly and Ned were in the hospital cafeteria trying to pass the time until Christie and Mandy returned from testing. They’d scheduled the transplant for the next day and had told Mandy and Christie that they were related and it would be explained in further detail after the surgery.

There was a tense air among the trio. Ned still felt the lingering guilt that he’d been the reason Sonny found out. Alexis still felt guilty that while she would save her daughter, Carly would lose her marriage.

And Carly was contemplating the words she’d say to her husband the next time she saw him. Sonny had yet to acknowledge Christina and Carly knew there was a real possibility that he might never do so. Once Sonny had made his mind that you didn’t exist, you didn’t have much of a chance.

“I can’t thank you enough, Carly,” Alexis said, finally breaking the tenuous silence. Carly smiled weakly.

“Just knowing that Christina will be all right is good enough,” she replied. She sipped her coffee, ignoring the bitter taste.

“I still haven’t decided on a way to tell Christie,” Alexis murmured.

Carly sighed. “I don’t know that the truth would work. I’m not sure Sonny wants to be part of her life and if that’s true, it would only hurt Christina in the end to know that her biological father doesn’t want her.” Carly looked to Ned. “If that ends up being true, I’m glad she has you.”

Ned shifted, unaccustomed to being on normal and nearly friendly terms with Carly. “Thank you. How are Mandy and Drew doing with the fall out?”

Carly sighed heavily. “They’re…adjusting. Jason offered the guest room and the kids room to us. Dee and Mandy are bunking, I’m in the guest room, Davie and Drew in the other room, and Michael’s on the couch. They don’t understand why yet and to be honest, I don’t know how to explain why we haven’t gone home.”

“You haven’t spoken to Sonny at all?” Alexis asked, concerned.

“No one has,” Carly remarked. “Not since the night I left. Jason stopped by that night, but he made it clear to Sonny that while he was there if Sonny needed him, his first priority was Elizabeth. He didn’t return to the warehouse until today.”

“How is Elizabeth?” Ned asked. “I meant to stop in while she was here, but I didn’t have the chance.”

“She’s doing a little better,” Carly replied. “She saw Emily yesterday for the first time since the miscarriage and it was bit of a nasty shock, and she locked herself in the bedroom.” A small humorless smile spread on Carly’s lips. “Jason put his lock picks to good use. But she was up this morning, and I even passed her in the hall–the first time I’ve seen her since I got there.”

“I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” Alexis murmured. “My pregnancy with Christina was very difficult–there were a few times I nearly lost her. And then with the premature birth…but in the end, she survived.”

“Elizabeth is strong,” Carly said. “I will never be her biggest fan nor will we ever be friends, but I will say that for her. She’s a survivor and I think it’s just a matter of time.”

“Tell her I’m thinking of her,” Alexis said. “That we both are, and we hope she’ll be all right.”

Grudgingly, Ned asked, “How is Jason?”

“He’s holding up,” Carly said. “You know Jason–he’ll take the weight of the world on his shoulders and never let anyone know. He’s being strong for Elizabeth, but eventually it’s going to come crashing down. It always does. And that’s when I’ll be there. Or Emily will. Jason’s got any number of people there to support him.”

It suddenly struck Ned that he was sitting here with his wife and Carly, discussing the people they had in common and those they cared about and not a single nasty word had been passed since Carly arrived.

Perhaps they’d finally grown up–seen past the mistakes of yesterday and were genuinely concerned for the decision of the future.

Or maybe it was time for a change.

“Monica wanted me to send hers and Alan’s prayers,” Ned said. “They didn’t see Elizabeth either while she was here…they didn’t want to upset Jason.”

“I think that Jason might be a little more receptive these days than he was ten years ago,” Carly said. “Marriage and parenthood has definitely mellowed him out.”

“AJ was visiting yesterday,” Ned said. “He, apparently, has lunch plans with Michael today.”

“Yep,” Carly confirmed. She traced the edge of her Styrofoam coffee cup. “Michael’s made the decision to get to know AJ and I’ve made the decision to support him in that endeavor.”

“I’m so sorry Michael found out,” Alexis said.

“It’s not your fault,” Carly remarked. “It’s mine. I never told him and I badmouthed AJ every time I turned around. You know, with Sonny and myself as role models, it’s amazing that my son grew up to be the well-rounded individual that he is.” Carly smirked. “Jason keeps telling me to stop giving him credit for his temperament.”

“He really did love that child,” Alexis said. “Getting visitation rights is still one of the best highlights of my career. I’m only sorry it didn’t work out better.”

“That’s my fault,” Carly replied. “I got scared and talked myself into trying to fix a situation that Jason already had under control. I screwed it up and I’m the reason Michael lost the best father he could have had. But Jason has always been a constant in his life and I’d be denying him the credit he’s due when it comes to Michael.”

—-

Jason pushed open the bedroom door, holding a plate with some lunch for Elizabeth. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Elizabeth sitting up in bed, showered and wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She was sketching something in one the plain sketchpads she left in the nightstand.

At his entrance, she looked up. “Hey.”

“Hey, I brought up something to eat,” Jason said, indicating the plate.

“I’m not really hungry,” Elizabeth replied. She set the sketchpad and the charcoal she’d been using aside. “Where are Dee and Davie?”

“They’re at the day camp that Mandy and Drew go to,” Jason replied. He sat down and handed her the plate. “Eat. You’ve barely eaten anything since you’ve been home.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Jason–”

“How many times have you shoved soup down my throat?” Jason asked. “Humor me.”

She sighed and took the plate. She looked at the burger and fries and then looked back up at him, “Wow. This looks so…professional.”

Jason smirked. “Yeah, smartass. It’s from Kelly’s. I haven’t had much of a chance to get something to eat in the house.”

“I hope you haven’t been feeding the kids a lot of junk,” Elizabeth said, setting the plate on her lap. She lifted the burger and took a small bite. She chewed carefully and set it back down.

Jason shrugged. “Just some Kelly’s take out.” He shifted on the bed, leaning his back against the headboard and stretching his legs out. “Carly and the kids are staying here for a while.”

“Yeah…I saw her this morning when I took a shower,” Elizabeth replied, nibbling on a fry. “How is she doing?”

“She’s doing better,” Jason answered. “Still isn’t sure what she’s going to do, but she’s got my support no matter what.”

Elizabeth reached and touched his arm. “I know that must mean a lot to her. How are the kids?”

“Mandy and Drew are a little confused–I think they think they’re on vacation or something. By the way, Mandy’s a match for Christina Ashton,” Jason told her.

“Oh, I’m so glad,” Elizabeth said, taking another bite. As she continued to eat, she felt her appetite return. She hadn’t realized how hungry she really was. “I know Alexis and Ned must have been worried.”

“Yeah, so Carly’s going to spending some time at the hospital while Mandy’s undergoing some tests and then the actual surgery. Michael…he went to see AJ.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Really. How did Carly take that?”

“Surprisingly, Carly’s…being really…” Jason searched for the right word before finally setting on, “mature is the best way to put it. She told Michael that he’s going to do what he needs to do and that she supports him no matter what.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad all these secrets are out,” Elizabeth replied. “They had to come out sometime, y’know?”

“Yeah, I know. I just wish Sonny could have handled it better.”

Elizabeth finished her burger and set out to eat the rest of her fries. “Have you seen him?”

Jason shook his head. “He came back to the warehouse today, but I’m going to finish the original week of vacation I had and stay with you. I told him if he needs anything to let me know.”

“I’m okay, you know,” she told him. “I don’t need constant supervision, so it’s not like I’m going to collapse if you’re not here.”

“I know…” Jason watched her for a few minutes. “But I feel better being here.”

“Not that I’m arguing,” Elizabeth said. She finished the last fry and set the plate on the nightstand. “I think I’ve seen you more the last few days than in the entire six years we’ve been married.”

He frowned. “You’re joking right?”

She laughed and straddled his waist, planting one knee on either side of his waist. “Of course,” she replied. “Like I said, I’m not arguing. I like having you here.”

“I like being here,” Jason replied, resting his hands on her hips.

“So, what are you doing today besides baby-sitting duty?” she asked.

Letting the baby-sitting comment go, he told her, “Nothing. Why?”

Her eyes lit up and she grinned. “Can we go for a ride?”

“Sure,” he replied. “Right now?”

“Yeah, I could use it.” She looked at him, her eyes imploring. “Can I drive?”

“No.”

“Aww, come on. Please?”

“You’re not driving.”

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Well, in that case…”

—-
AJ was sitting in the Port Charles Grille, nervously shifting in his seat. He couldn’t believe he was about to come face to face with his son after so many years of being strangers. And to have Michael initiating the contact–well, that was just the icing on the cake.

He looked up when he saw a figure walking towards the table. Michael stopped in front of him.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hi, Michael,” AJ said. He indicated the seat across from him. “Sit down.”

Michael sat and AJ watched Michael shift a little. It was an uncomfortable and slightly bizarre situation.

What do you say to your sixteen-year-old son the first time you’re together as father and son?

I’m sorry for being a rotten father? For being a drunk? For signing away the rights to you? Badgering your mother every time she turned around?

Where could AJ possibly start?

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Fiction Graveyard: True To Your Heart

There was a time you’d let me know
What’s real and going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
Remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

— Hallelujah, Rufus Wainwright

——–

“Jocelyn Marie Quartermaine!”

Eight-year-old Jocelyn looked up at the sound of her mother’s angry voice, guilt written all over her face. “What, Mom? I didn’t do anything.”

Courtney Quartermaine folded her arms and waited, with an eyebrow raised expectantly. Finally Jocelyn cracked.

“All right. I won’t try and shove Steven out the window anymore,” Jocelyn grumbled, pushing her blonde bangs out of her brown eyes.

“That’s not what I was talking about,” Courtney said. “Mrs. Miller called. You were kicked out of day camp.”

“Oh. That.” Jocelyn frowned. “Well, it was mainly Mandy Corinthos’ fault. She said something about my father being a drunk, so naturally, I had to say something about her father being a mobster. And then Drew called Daddy a…” Jocelyn stopped and thought for a moment. “Well, it was a very bad word.”

“And you had to give him a black eye?” Courtney asked. “Jo, he’s your cousin. They’re both your cousins.”

“They suck,” Jocelyn replied plainly. “They’re stuck-up. They think they’re all that just ’cause they live in fancy penthouse and we live in a cottage.” She snorted. “Joke’s on them.” She grinned. “Besides, Eddie told me that they don’t even live there anymore.”

Courtney let her arms fall to her side. “What?” she asked, her voice concerned. “What do you mean?”

“Eddie says that Mandy and Drew have been staying with the Spencers,” Jocelyn confided. “And-”

“Jo, how many times have I told you–don’t spread gossip,” Courtney chastised.

“Fine,” Jocelyn shrugged. “Am I done being yelled at?”

“Don’t let it happen again,” Courtney warned. The doorbell rang, distracting her. “Go to your room the rest of the night and that’s your punishment.”

Jocelyn climbed the stairs to her room and Courtney went to answer the door. She pulled it open and frowned. “Michael.”

“Um, hi, Court,” Michael said, slightly uncomfortable around the woman who was supposed to be his aunt. He’d left Jason and Elizabeth’s after a disastrous dinner and had ended up at cottage where Courtney and AJ lived.

“Hey…” Courtney trailed off. “Not to be rude, but…what are you doing here?” she asked.

“Is AJ here?” Michael asked, gesturing towards the inside of the house.

“Um, no, he’s not, actually. He’s at the hospital.” Courtney tilted her head a little. “Can I tell him anything?”

“Um…” Michael shrugged a little. “Can you tell him that I found out the truth and I’d like to talk to him?”

“The truth?” Courtney nodded, understanding. “Oh. You know…”

“That AJ’s my dad….yeah…I found that out,” Michael replied.

“Oh…wow…” Courtney leaned against the doorframe. “I didn’t think you’d ever find out.”

“Yeah, well,” Michael looked away. “If my parents had had anything to say about it, I wouldn’t have. I overheard Sonny throwing it in Mom’s face…right before he threw her out.”

“I’m sorry,” Courtney said. “That must have been difficult.”

“Yeah, well, I’m dealing with it.” Michael shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Well, just tell AJ that I stopped by.”

“I’ll do that,” Courtney replied. She watched Michael walk away and sighed.

She’d never thought this day would come.

She shut the door and leaned against it for a minute before pushing away and heading for the phone.

—-

Carly sighed. “It’s not your fault, Jase.”

“I shouldn’t have left,” Jason murmured, his clasped hands against mouth, muffling the sounds. “I should have stayed here.”

“Lu thought Liz was asleep. Emily was only stopping by to see the kids,” Carly tried to assure her.

“She’s crying again and she locked the door.” Jason just shook his head. “She was doing so much better.”

“I wish there something I could do,” Carly murmured, rubbing Jason’s back.

Jason sighed and took a deep breath. “The kids are asleep right?”

“Yeah. I put Drew and Davie together and the girls in the other room.” Carly frowned. “Drew got a black eye at camp today.”

Jason’s jaw clenched. “Who punched him?”

“Jocelyn, Courtney and AJ’s kid,” Carly said. “I know Jo–she’s not a violent kid, so I’m sure the twins aren’t completely innocent.”

“Probably not,” Jason agreed. “Where’s Michael?”

Carly shrugged. “He took a walk after dinner. I guess he’s not back yet.” She rubbed her eyes wearily. “I really appreciate you letting me and kids crash here.”

“It’s not a problem,” Jason said. “I think having the house full will help Elizabeth from withdrawing.”

“It’s only temporary,” Carly promised. “Luke is looking into a few things for more–believe it or not, Brenda’s old cottage is available. I might arrange to buy it.”

“You and Sonny might work this out,” Jason said.

“It’s impossible,” Carly said, quietly. “He’s convinced he’s right and I’m of being ashamed of who I am. I scheme, I lie, and I do stupid things. But that’s who I am. Why should I change and still have him not accept me?”

“So, you’re saying that you don’t want to work it out?” Jason asked incredulously.

Carly shifted on the couch and tucked her legs underneath her. “It’s not that. I mean, Sonny and I…Jase, I love him. And I always will. But it’s not always enough. He doesn’t respect me–and he doesn’t trust me. I don’t understand why I should have to put up with it.”

“You shouldn’t make a decision so quickly.” Jason leaned back and put his arm on the back of the couch. “Ending a marriage is such a large decision–especially one that has children and that’s lasted as long as yours.”

“Entering a marriage is just as big a deal,” Carly pointed out. “And the only reason Sonny and I are even together is that night of…” she wrinkled her nose. “I guess you could call it anger sex.” She twisted the hem of her shirt in her hand. “I don’t know if a marriage that began like that should last.”

“Look, I’m not going to argue–the way the two of you started out–it was unconventional,” Jason said. “But you love each other.”

“Right,” Carly agreed. She rubbed her forehead. “Okay, you and Elizabeth, you’re in love right?”

“Of course,” Jason replied.

“You’d lay down your life for each other,” Carly continued. “Sonny and I…we have that.”

“Which is why you can work this out,” Jason said.

“But you trust Elizabeth, don’t you?” Carly asked. “When she walks in the door, you’re not automatically wondering what she was doing and where she was and if she’s going to lie to you about it. No, if you wanted to know, you’d ask and you’d get the honest answer.”

“Right,” Jason said, slowly, understanding where Carly was going.

“Is it so bad to want someone to trust me like that?” Carly asked quietly.

“No,” Jason replied. “It’s not.” He reached out and grasped her fingers. “If you need me, I’m here for you.”

“Thanks,” Carly said. The door opened then and Michael entered. Carly sat up. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Michael eyed his mother. “I went to AJ’s.”

Jason could feel Carly tense beside him and raised himself off the couch. “I’m going to get my lock picks and open the door so I can go to sleep. Night, Carly. Night, Michael.”

Michael frowned as Jason passed him and went upstairs. “Lock picks?”

“Don’t ask.” Carly patted the seat Jason had just vacated. “So, how did it go?”

Michael sat down and studied his mother. “You’re okay with the fact that I might want to talk to him?”

“Actually, no.” Carly gave her son a weak smile. “I’d rather you stay as far away from him as possible. But you’re a young man and I trust you to make your own decisions.”

“Thanks,” Michael said gratefully. He took a deep breath. “He wasn’t there, so I told Court to let him know I stopped by and that I knew.”

“I’ll give AJ credit–he has stayed sober for ten years,” Carly said, grudgingly. “And he has made Courtney happy.”

Michael smirked. “That looked painful.”

“It was.” Carly sighed. “So…are you going to try and get to know him?”

Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. I want to at least connect, you know? To keep my options open.” He leaned back against the couch, his head tilted up. “You make any decisions yet?”

“Not really,” Carly admitted. “I’m toying with buying this old cottage–it’s actually out in the neighborhood where AJ and Courtney live. But I think I have to discuss this with Sonny first. We haven’t even talked about Mandy and Drew.” She eyed Michael. “I guess it’s safe to say you don’t want to be part of any custody arrangements?”

Michael frowned and turned his head to the side. “I don’t know how I feel about him. I mean…he raised me–he loved me. But he threw you out in a second and even threw my adoption in your face. How can I reconcile the man I knew as my dad to the one I met the night the truth came out?”

“No one can figure that out except for you,” Carly said softly.

“Same goes for you, Mom,” Michael replied.

“Thanks, kid.” Carly stood up and stretched. “Well, I’d better get some sleep. I think I might have to go into the warehouse.”

“Why?” Michael asked, pushing himself off the couch.

“Well, if Sonny doesn’t come in, someone needs to look after things.” Carly headed towards the stairs. “And Jason needs to be here. Francis will call if he needs someone.”

“I’ll make sure Mandy and Drew get to camp tomorrow,” Michael said. “Lu and I are going to enroll Dee and Davie, we think that might help.”

“Oh, Alexis called,” Carly said, suddenly remembering. “Mandy’s a match, so I have to take her to the hospital tomorrow.” She sighed. “She called on the way here, but with everything that happened with Liz, I guess it slipped my mind.”

“Does Mandy know?” Michael asked.

“She knows she’s helping a friend of mine, but no, she doesn’t know about Christie being family and I don’t think Christie knows either.”

“It’ll come out,” Michael warned.

“Yeah. Well, everything does eventually,” Carly replied.

—-

Emily laid in her bed, listening to the sounds of her mother and father moving around downstairs. Since it was the only sounds in the house, it was pretty easy to discern where they were.

She should be asleep–but she couldn’t get the image of her best friend out of her mind. She’d only wanted to see Delilah and David; she hadn’t meant to run into Elizabeth.

“I only want to stay a few minutes,” Emily said. “She’s asleep right?”

“Yeah,” Lu said. “Come on in. The kids will be glad to see you.”

Emily entered and was immediately confronted with a squealing Dee and an excitedly jabbering Davie.

“Hey guys,” Emily said, tousling their hair affectionately. “How are you?”

“We’re fine,” Dee chirped. She frowned. “You’re still fat.”

Emily laughed. “That’s because I’m pregnant.”

“Oh…I thought that because Mama wasn’t gonna have a baby, you weren’t neither,” Dee said innocently.

Davie looked at Emily there, his blue eyes somber. “Mama said she lost the baby. Do you know where she put it?”

Before Emily could say anything, she heard a horrified gasp and she turned suddenly. Elizabeth stood at the top of the stairs, her brown hair disheveled, her arms wrapped around her abdomen and tears shining in her dark blue eyes.

“Uh…Liz…” Emily said, smiling shakily. “Hi.”

She could see Elizabeth’s body trembling from down here and within seconds she’d whirled around and disappeared upstairs.

She hadn’t stayed after that–had gone straight home. She’d ignored the dozens of phone messages and hadn’t answered the phone when the agency she’d contracted to open Wyndemere had called.

Lucky was still calling–thinking she’d change her mind. But Emily had made up her mind–she was done with being a second choice and no one could convince her to be anything else.

She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for her best friend. No matter what Emily felt Elizabeth had done in the past, she didn’t deserve the type of pain she was going through. No woman did.

And she could only hope she and her brother would get through this.

—-

AJ rubbed his forehead and shifted on the couch. “You’re saying that Michael knows the truth.”

Courtney nodded somberly. “Yeah. He found out when Sonny and Carly were fighting about something.”

“Did he….did he seem upset or anything?” AJ asked.

Courtney shook her head. “No. He seemed calm. He wanted you to know he knew the truth and that he stopped by.”

“I just can’t believe…after all this time…that he knows the truth.” AJ stared ahead. “I always just thought that…he’d never know. That we’d go through life being strangers.”

“Does that bother you?” Courtney asked, leaning her head against the back of the couch. “That your son might not have known?”

“Of course,” AJ replied. “But I knew I’d made mistakes–that I was partly to blame for the whole situation–and I know how badly I handled the entire situation.”

“You’re not that person anymore,” Courtney argued. “You’re so much better than that–and Michael’s going to find that out.”

“Do you think he wants to be part of my life….of our life?” AJ asked, a little eagerly.

Courtney smiled and reached out to touch his face. “I hope so. Because you deserve a chance to finally be a father to your son.”

“Thank you,” AJ said, his brown eyes locked on her blue ones. “You have no idea how much your love, faith and trust has done for me.”

“It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done for me,” Courtney replied. She leaned forward to pull him into a soft kiss.

—–

Alexis stared through the window at Christie who was being prepped for one of tomorrow’s many tests. She felt Ned’s hand on her shoulder and she grasped it eagerly. “I just can’t believe it.”

“Carly just called,” Ned replied, pulling Alexis towards him and wrapping his arms around her waist. “She’s talked to Mandy and they’ll be here in the morning.”

“Any idea how she is?” Alexis asked, peering up at him.

“No…” Ned sighed. “But she’s staying with Jason and Elizabeth–I could tell from the Caller ID.”

“I wonder what she told Mandy,” Alexis said. “And how are we supposed to explain this to our baby?”

“We’ll think of something,” Ned replied, tightening his hold. “I was thinking of bringing Eddie by before the surgery. He’s so worried about everyone–Alan and Monica are trying, but I guess not seeing his parents or sister for so long…”

Alexis smiled a little. “We’ll bring him in tomorrow when she gets back. I know I haven’t been home with him–but I just felt like Christie needed me more.”

“It’s all right to feel that way,” Ned replied. He pressed a kiss to her temple. “We’re going to come through this, Alexis, I know it.”

“You know,” she said, closing her eyes and leaning against him. “I think I finally believe that.”

—-

Jason finally slipped into bed and laid on his back, staring at the ceiling. He was beginning to miss the way he and Elizabeth used to sleep–neither one of them ever stayed on their own sides, they’d always ended up in the center of the bed.

He turned his head on the pillow and looked at her, curled up tightly on her side. He wished he’d been here earlier when Emily had been by. He didn’t blame his little sister–the kids were attached to their aunt and had been asking about her.

He only wished Elizabeth hadn’t seen Emily or heard what Dee and Davie had said. They were only children and had no idea how cutting their words could be.

Without thinking, his arm drifted across the gap and stroked her shoulder lightly. At the touch, she rolled over and peered at him. “Hi.”

Surprised, he replied, “Hey.” He shifted closer. “You all right?”

She gave a little shrug and turned her face away. “I’ll be fine,” she whispered, her voice broken.

Unwilling to let her turn away completely and sleep in a tight little ball, he tugged on her arm and she shifted closer to her. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she hugged his side.

“I know I’m not being fair,” she whispered, resting her head against his chest. “I know that they don’t really mean it–that Emily still being pregnant isn’t anyone’s fault–but I just…” she sucked in a deep breath, “I can’t help it.”

He felt her warm tears on her chest and hugged more tightly. “I know. It’s okay. Emily understands.”

“Why does it hurt so much?” Elizabeth sobbed. “Why can’t I just let it go?”

He sighed and rested his head against the top of hers. “Because it was our child and we loved him or her. We made plans–and now we have to get used to the child being gone. It’s only been a few days, Elizabeth. No one expects you to bounce right back.”

“I love you so much,” she whispered brokenly.

“I love you, too,” Jason replied. He listened to her tears and didn’t succumb to slumber until long after she’d fallen asleep and her tears had dried from his chest.

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Fiction Graveyard: True To Your Heart

If you could give me one good reason
Why I should believe you
Believe in all the things that you tell
I would sure like to believe you

— Toni Braxton, You Mean The World To Me

——

Lesley Lu Spencer did not surprise easily. After the life she’d led, it was nearly impossible to stun her.

Until her cousin sat across from her at Kelly’s and told her that his mother had had no idea who his father was when she’d gotten pregnant.

“Wow.”

“You don’t have to keep saying that,” Michael said.

Lu blinked. “Sorry. So, do you know what you’re going to do?”

Michael shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to disown my parents, confront my birth father, what?”

Lu shrugged. “It’s really up to you.” She glanced around. “Hey, daughter of the owner here–do I get served or what?” she called to no one in particular. She turned back to her cousin. “Do you know what you want to do?”

“I want to smack my father,” Michael muttered. “Sonny, that is.” He frowned. “How am I supposed to walk up to AJ Quartermaine and say, remember me? I’m the son my mother kept from you and the one you signed away to avoid jail.”

“Wait, wait. What’s the last part?” Lu asked, leaning forward.

Michael smirked. “My mom told me the rest of it this morning. How AJ set the warehouse on fire and in order to stay out of jail, he signed away all rights to me. Lovely, huh? With parents like these, it’s amazing I’m not a serial killer.”

“Mikey, listen,” Lu began. Before she could continue, her cell rang. “‘Ello? Hey, Jase. How’s Liz? Oh…oh…uh huh…yeah…sure. I’ll be right there.” She clicked it off and shoved it into her purse. “Let’s take this conversation to the Morgan abode, shall we?”

Michael frowned even as he stood and followed Lu to the door. “What’s wrong?”

Lu pushed the door open and headed into the courtyard. “Liz is still sleeping and Jase had planned on staying home with her today, but someone from the warehouse called.” She turned around and eyed Michael. “Sonny never showed this morning and Jason feels like he’s got to at least check in. But he didn’t want to take the kids, so he wants me to stay with them.”

“Sonny probably had a breakdown,” Michael said.

“Do you feel bad?” Lu asked.

“No,” Michael replied. “Not really. He’s the one that lied to me and kicked Mom out. I really don’t see how it’s my fault.”

Lu shrugged. “Just checking.”

—-

Jason sat on the edge of their bed on Elizabeth’s side. She wasn’t asleep, but she was doing her best to pretend otherwise. As soon as he sank onto the mattress, she rolled away from him. He put a hand on her hip and rolled her back.

“I know you’re awake,” he said softly. “Come on, Elizabeth.”

Her eyelids fluttered a little before opening up. They weren’t sleepy or unfocused but very alert and clear–she’d been pretending for a while. “Hey,” she said softly.

“I have to go to the warehouse for a few hours,” Jason said apologetically. “I called Lu to look after Dee and Davie–unless you’re feeling up to it.”

“I thought you were off,” Elizabeth replied, stretching a little.

“I was,” Jason replied. “But Sonny never showed for work.” His eyes strayed to her abdomen which was almost as flat as it had been before the pregnancy. Her gaze followed his and she sighed.

“It takes a little getting used to,” she admitted. He looked up to meet her eyes. “I can see my feet again.” She bit her lip and turned her face away. “I wish I didn’t.”

His large hand splayed across her tummy, covering it. “I know, honey.”

Her hands came up and covered his hand. “I can see your face when you felt Dee kick for the first time.” A small smile crossed her face. “And how you looked the first time you held her.”

“I love you,” he said softly. “I hope you know that.”

“I know,” Elizabeth replied. “I know I haven’t been all that easy to deal with these last few days.” She frowned and looked up at him. “Why didn’t Sonny go to work?”

He sighed, not wanting to dump Sonny’s problems on her shoulders. “Elizabeth–”

She pulled herself into a sitting position and leaned towards him. “Did something happen with Carly?” she asked, searching his eyes.

Jason frowned. “How…how did you know?”

“Carly came to see me while I was in the hospital,” Elizabeth explained. “She…was struggling with something and she wanted to tell someone–even if was me–but she couldn’t. What happened, Jason? Is she okay? Is Sonny okay?”

“Carly moved out,” Jason told her. “Sonny found out she’d kept another secret.”

“What secret?” Elizabeth asked softly.

“Christina Ashton is Sonny’s daughter,” Jason replied. “And Carly knew.”

“She didn’t move out did she?” Elizabeth asked. “Sonny kicked her out, didn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Jason admitted. “And Michael overheard the fight and found out that AJ is his father.”

“He didn’t…he didn’t know?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes wide. “I always assumed that he did.”

Jason shook his head. “No. And he walked out after that. Sonny was upset last night, which is why he didn’t go to work.” And now Jason was reluctant to leave–was worried Elizabeth would withdraw again and they’d lose this tenuous connection. “Hey…why don’t you get dressed?” he suggested. “I’ll check in at the warehouse and maybe we can go for a ride?”

She shook her head. “I’m so tired. I just wanna go back to sleep.”

Disappointed but trying not to show it, he nodded. “You sure?”

Instead of answering him, she leaned forward and kissed him. He returned the pressure but did nothing to deepen it. She pulled away after a few moments and smiled. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’m going to be okay,” she assured him. She leaned her forehead against his. “I just…I want to sleep for a while.”

He pulled away to kiss her forehead. “All right.” He heard the downstairs door open. “It sounds like Lu is here. Get some sleep. I’ll bring home dinner.”

“No pizza,” Elizabeth admonished. “Get something from Kelly’s if you have to.”

“All right,” Jason agreed. He kissed her again quickly and stood up. “I’ll see you later tonight.”

—-

Michael was with Lu when Jason came down the steps. David was sitting on Lu’s lap while Delilah was sitting in between Lu and Michael, chattering incessantly to the older boy.

“Hey,” Jason said.

“Hey,” Lu greeted. “How’s Liz?”

“She’s good,” Jason said. “Much better.” He stood at the bottom of the stairs. “I’ll only be gone a few hours–just to make sure everything’s under control.” He reached into his wallet.

“Don’t you dare try to pay me, Morgan,” Lu warned. She stood up and shifted Davie to her hip. “You know I love you like part of the family and Liz is like a sister to me–I’m more than happy to donate my time.”

“Still,” Jason pressed. “I wish you’d let me give you something.”

“Let’s make a deal,” Lu said. “If you name–” she stopped and bit her lip before beginning again. “If you stop trying to pay me, I’ll stop letting Dee watch MTV.”

Jason’s eyes went immediately to his daughter who was glaring her baby-sitter.

“Lu!” Dee cried.

“All right,” Jason agreed. “I’d better get going.”

After Jason had kissed the kids goodbye and was gone, Lu turned to Michael with a stricken expression. “I am such an idiot.”

He frowned and switched the television to Disney so Dee and Davie’s attention would be take care of. He then turned back to his cousin. “What are you talking about?”

“I almost told him that if they named their next kid after me, I’d let him pay me.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe myself.”

“Lu, don’t beat yourself up over this.” Michael shrugged. “I bet Jason didn’t even notice.”

Lu looked up towards the ceiling. “You think she’s really doing better?”

“If Jason says so, then she is,” Michael said.

“Yeah…you’re right.” Lu turned to face him and tucked her leg up underneath her body. “So. Do you know what you’re going to do yet?”

Michael frowned. “Not a damn clue.”

Dee twisted and gave him a dark look–well as dark as a four-year-old could handle. “You’re not supposed t’curse!”

“Sorry,” Michael apologized. He turned back to Lu. “I think I want to talk to AJ. I think.” He drove his fingers through his hair. “But that makes me feel like I’m betraying Sonny and it shouldn’t–because AJ is my natural father.”

“Sonny raised you,” Lu reminded him. “Of course you feel loyal to him.”

“But he’s not my father and he knew it.” Michael shook his head. “He adopted me and I heard him throw it in my mother’s face. And it makes me wonder…was that the first time he’s done it…or has he always brought it up when she does something he doesn’t approve of?”

“Sonny’s…he’s a difficult man to live with,” Lu tried to explain. “I know how he feels about honesty and all that–and no offense, but your mother lies like some people breathe.”

“Yeah,” Michael admitted. “She does. But it’s a defense mechanism. And Sonny knows it.”

“You’ve stopped calling him Dad,” Lu noticed. “Why?”

Michael looked away. “Because I want to remember that he’s not my father and that no matter how much he might love me or how much I love him, he threw that fact in Mom’s face. He didn’t hesitate and I can’t…I can’t handle that. After ten years of marriage, he threw her out for a lie when I know for a fact he’s lied to her countless times.” He chuckled. “I’m actually glad he’s not my father. Isn’t that horrible?”

“Aww….Mikey,” Lu sighed. “I can’t say I blame you. I mean, from what you’ve told me about the fight…it was cold. Your mom…Sonny should know how Carly is by now and she shouldn’t have change who she is to make him happy.”

“They’ve had their problems in the past,” Michael said, carefully. “I don’t remember a lot of it, but I know they were divorced for like a year. But they’ve always come back to each other.” He looked at his cousin. “I don’t know if that’s possible this time.”

—-

“I’m fine. Really.”

Jason peered at his best friend and finally nodded. “All right. But if you need anything–”

Carly waved him away. “You have enough to worry about without getting involved in another one of my messes.”

“Carly, you’re my best friend–”

“And Elizabeth is your wife. She’s going through a difficult time, not to mention with Sonny out of commission, you have both businesses to run. The last thing you need is to worry about me.”

“That’s an awfully mature stance to take,” Jason decided.

Carly shrugged. “When you live in a hotel, and your oldest child has just learned what slut you were once, it’s a lot easier to be mature.”

“Michael’s at the house with Lu watching Dee and Davie,” Jason said. “He seems okay.”

“I think it’s your influence,” Carly said. “Because he’s taking this entirely too well.”

“Carly, I think you give me too much credit where Michael is due,” Jason protested. “I only had him for a year.”

“You’re absolutely the only constant he’s ever had,” Carly argued. “You were his entire world for a year and I know Michael adores you. He doesn’t look up to Sonny, he looks up to you.”

“He shouldn’t.”

Carly rolled her eyes. “God. How does Elizabeth put up with this? Doesn’t she tell you what a great guy you are?”

“She does,” Jason said. “I just don’t listen.”

“You’re absolutely infuriating,” Carly said. She sighed. “Actually, the reason I’m here is to ask you if you’ve seen Sonny.”

“I saw him last night,” Jason told her. “Lu came over and told me what happened.”

“Is he okay?” Carly asked. “Because I know Michael found out right after I left.”

“You mean after he kicked you out,” Jason corrected.

Carly frowned. “Don’t tell me you’re taking my side.”

“I’m not taking sides,” Jason insisted. “I don’t agree with what you did and I don’t agree with what he did. And he seemd pretty out of it last night. I asked Johnny to look in on him, but I don’t know if I can handle taking care of Sonny the rest of my life.”

“And you shouldn’t have to,” Carly said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Everything in me tells me that I shouldn’t go back to him–that I deserve so much better. But I love him. We’ve been good these ten years. That has to count.”

“Everyone has their limits,” Jason replied. “Even you, Carly.”

“So, I wouldn’t be like a horrible shrew if I decided this was the last straw?” Carly asked.

“If you want a divorce,” Jason said, “I’ll support you. You know that.”

“No. I didn’t know that, but thank you,” Carly replied. “How is Elizabeth? Is she better?”

“Yeah. She’s doing a lot better. All she wants to do is sleep, but she was awake before I left and we talked about you and Sonny. She was worried about you.”

“Me?” Carly was surprised. “Why?”

“Because of the visit you paid her in the hospital,” Jason told her. “You should stop by and see her.”

“Would she want to see me?” Carly asked. “You know, we’ve gotten along better these last few years, but that’s because I finally decided she was good enough for you.”

“Which wasn’t your decision to begin with.”

Carly shrugged. “Details. Anyway, she makes you happy and that’s what matters. But we’re never going to be best friends.”

“I know,” Jason saod. “But I know you’re concerned about one another, so you should satisfy your curiosity.”

“How much longer are you going to be here?” Carly asked, looking around the warehouse office.

“Another hour or so,” Jason replied. “Why?”

“You’re going to pick up the slack, aren’t you?” Carly said. “Because Sonny’s not coming in and he probably won’t be, you’re going to leave Elizabeth with Lu and the kids, and come in when you’re supposed to be at home with Elizabeth.”

Jason shrugged. “Someone has to do it.”

Carly leaned forward. “Let me do it.”

“Carly–”

“I can handle it. I ran Deception.”

“With Laura.”

Carly frowned. “I ran the place like a well oiled machine. Laura’s the one who wanted to Elizabeth to be the Face of Deception when everyone and their mother could tell the girl was rotten at modeling.” She smirked. “Come to think of it, knowing what I know now, she probably tried to tank a lot of those test shoots.”

“She didn’t want to be a model,” Jason murmured. “She was only trying to please Lucky.”

“Well, I know that,” Carly replied, exasperated. “But she knew she had no business being a model.” She waved that away. “That’s not the point. I can look after things here–at least until Elizabeth is feeling better.”

“I don’t know,” Jason hedged.

“It’ll give me something to concentrate on,” Carly said.

“I hate shoving this off onto you,” Jason said–but the temptation to take her up on the offer was incredibly strong. He would rather be at home with Elizabeth.

“Besides, like I said, you already have enough to worry about between Elizabeth and the territory and we both don’t want me trying to help there.”

“That’s for sure,” Jason agreed. “Speaking of which, I do have a meeting tonight. I forgot to tell Lu about it earlier.”

“Have you ever thought about going legit?” Carly questioned curiously. “I know Sonny has ruled it out. But what about you?”

“Sometimes,” Jason admitted. “Especially now…with Elizabeth and the kids. I was out of town when she found out she was pregnant all three times. I missed so much of this pregnancy because of Tagliatti and then there was the honeymoon thing.”

Carly frowned. “What honeymoon thing?” she asked, leaning forward. “You and Elizabeth spent a month in Italy, I thought.”

“Elizabeth spent a month in Italy,” Jason corrected. “I spent the first and last week there. The other two weeks, I was here in Port Charles, trailing someone.”

“You’re telling me Sonny called you away when you were supposed to be on your honeymoon?” Carly questioned. “Is he nuts?”

“Elizabeth was pretty pissed at him,” Jason said. “I think that’s when she argued with him for the vacation time.”

“Oh…the one where you get a weekend off every month and three weeks in the summer, right?” Carly said, smiling as she thought of that particular argument six years ago. “Truly inspiring of her.”

“I was mad at her when she did it,” Jason confessed.

“Because she was interfering in business, I remember. See, when it comes to venting about the job, I’m the one she comes to,” Carly explained. “We’re the only two people who understand, y’know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Jason leaned back in his chair. “But I know I’m in this for life and for some reason, Elizabeth chooses to be okay with that.”

“If she asked, would you give it up?” Carly asked, curiously.

“In a heartbeat,” Jason told her. “But she’d never ask.”

“Must be nice to have that assurance,” Carly said. “See, she understands that this is part of who you are. It’s not all of it, but it’s part of it, y’know? Asking you to give it up would be asking her to stop…I don’t know…breathing. That’s how I feel when Sonny demands complete and utter honesty.”

“It’s not the same thing,” Jason argued.

“Yes it is,” Carly insisted. “I lie like people breathe. It’s a defense that Sonny used to understand. And I’m sick of having to always be the honest one in this relationship while he can lie any time he pleases. Do you know that this Alexis paternity thing was the last lie I ever told Sonny? That this was my last secret?” She shook her head. “Not once in ten years have I lied or kept a secret. Does that matter to him? Nope.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason said.

“I am, too,” Carly replied. “Anyway, you go home to your wife. Let me look after things here.”

“You know what?” Jason said. “This can hold until tomorrow. Come with me to Kelly’s. We’ll grab dinner and swing by the Spencers and grab the twins. We’ll eat dinner at my house.”

Carly stood. “I do need to decide what to do,” she said. “It’s nice of Luke and Laura to keep Mandy and Drew until I figure it out, but it’s not fair to keep it open-ended like this.”

“You know, we’ve got the extra guest room,” Jason reminded her. “And there’s the sofa bed downstairs that Michael could use. You and the kids could stay with us. I can put Dee and Davie in the same room. You take the guest room, and the twins can stay in the extra room.”

Carly patted his arm. “Thanks, Jase, but I can’t depend on other people anymore. I think I need to stand on my own two feet again. Be independent. And then I can decide if my marriage is worth saving.”

“It’s always worth saving,” Jason told her as he steered her towards the door of his office. “It’s more of deciding whether you want to or not.”

—-

Alexis was reading quietly to Christina when Ned threw the door open. “We have a match!”

Alexis stood and stared him, her jaw open wide. “Are you serious?” she demanded.

“Amanda’s a match,” Ned said. He looked to Christina. “You’re going to be okay, baby.”

Christina frowned. “Why did Mandy get tested?”

Some of Ned’s euphoria evaporated and he remembered that Christina didn’t know the truth.

Had the time finally come?

This entry is part 7 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

Michael trailed after Jason as he followed Elizabeth’s doctor into the bedroom the rented ultrasound machine was set up in.
Dr. Luther Vincent was a somewhat young doctor and he kept smiling at Elizabeth in a way that made Jason’s jaw tense.

“I’m glad to finally meet you, Mr. Morgan,” Dr. Vincent remarked as he smoothed the cold gel over Elizabeth’s abdomen. “And who is this young man?”

“I’m Michael,” Michael said somewhat suspiciously. “What’re you doing to Liz?”

“We’re going to see your little sister on this screen right here,” Dr. Vincent said, gesturing towards the ultrasound machine.

“Sister?” Michael perked up.

“Michael…” Jason shook his head.

“Right, right,” Michael sighed. “Does that hurt, Liz?”

“No, it’s just really cold,” Elizabeth replied.

Dr. Vincent started the procedure and after a few moments, something appeared on the screen. “There she is.”

Elizabeth propped herself up on her elbows. “Oh…” she breathed. She looked at Jason. “Can you see her?”

Jason hesitated. “Not–not really.”

“Oh, it’s cool, Uncle Jason,” Michael piped up. He rounded the bed and stood by the screen. “These are Andi’s arms, right?”

“Right,” the doctor answered.

“And those are her legs and that’s her head,” Michael finished. He looked at Elizabeth. “I nicknamed her Andi cuz Alexandria is too long for a little baby. Is that okay?”

“That’s fine. I like it, I think it’s a great nickname,” Elizabeth touched his arm and smiled. “Does everything look okay, Dr. Vincent?”

“It all looks great, you’re about seven months along and everything looks nicely developed. In two months, you’ll be the proud parents of a very healthy little girl.” Dr. Vincent reached into his bag and took out a manila envelope. “I sent over to the American Embassy for the documents your daughter will need to be a US Citizen if you’re not back home when she’s born.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth accepted the envelope. “I appreciate all your help.”

Dr. Vincent nodded. He gathered his bag and stood. “Some men will be buy to pick up the machine,” he told Jason. “As long as she keeps up with her vitamins and her current routine, I see no reason why I would have to bring it out again.”

“Thank you,” Jason nodded. “I’ll walk you out. Michael, stay with Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth frowned as they left. “Why do they always give the instructions to the men?” she muttered.

“Because Uncle Jason will make sure you don’t sneak any junk food,” Michael said. “How come the doctor said you’d both be parents? Doesn’t he know about Ric?”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “Well, Jason helped me set up this vacation,” she said after a moment. “He arranged for the house, so it’s rented in his name and the doctor just assumed I was his wife.”

“You didn’t tell him the truth?” Michael frowned at her. “It’s wrong to lie.”

“Michael…”

The little boy sighed. “This is gonna be one of them grown up things, isn’t it?”

“Can you keep a really important secret?” Elizabeth asked after some deliberation. “I mean, really extremely important?”

Michael nodded. “Sure. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick in a needle in my eye,” he recited somberly.

“No one can know I’m here, which means my name isn’t on anything and if I were to tell the doctor that I had a husband back home and that Jason wasn’t it, he would start to ask questions and maybe he’d look into stuff back home. And then maybe people would come looking for me here.”

“Why can’t no one know?” Michael asked curiously.

Elizabeth bit her lip. “Because I did something bad,” she admitted in a small voice. “I was trying to protect me and my baby, but it was still bad and I’m here until they stop looking for the person who did the bad thing.”

Michael turned this over in his mind for a few moments. “So they don’t know it was you?”

She shook her head. “But I didn’t want to wait for them to find out so Jason agreed to help me. At least until Andi’s born.”

“Doing bad stuff isn’t right,” Michael said finally. “And you should always always tell the truth, Liz. But I think there’s…” he searched for the right word. “There’s times when it’s okay.”

“There are exceptions,” Elizabeth supplied softly.

“Yeah, exceptions,” Michael nodded. “There’s exceptions and if you was protecting you and the baby, then it’s not really okay but it’s not really bad either.” He leaned forward and wrapped his thin arms around her neck. “And I’m glad Uncle Jason is helping you and the baby.”

“Me too.” She hugged him back. “Can we keep this conversation between you and me? I don’t know if Jason would want you to know this stuff.”

Michael sighed. “I don’t wanna keep secrets,” he said. “But if you–”

“No, you know what? I’ll tell him I told you. You’re right, there’s no reason for secrets, especially between you and Jason.”

Michael nodded in relief. “Okay, I would have kept the secret but I’m sure glad I don’t have to.”

On the porch, Dr. Vincent turned to Jason. “I was a little surprised it took you a month to join your wife, Mr. Morgan. A woman in her condition really shouldn’t be isolated out here.”

“I’m not sure that’s any of your business,” Jason said stiffly.

“She’s my patient and her welfare is my business,” Dr. Vincent said stubbornly. “Now if you and your boy can’t be here all the time, I don’t know why she is. Is there some reason she can’t be where you spend the rest of your time?”

“She likes it here,” Jason said, a little irritated. “And it’s more peaceful than our hometown. Is the baby at risk if Elizabeth continues to stay here?”

“No,” Dr. Vincent admitted, “I just suppose I can’t understand why an expectant father would be so uninvolved in his own child’s birth.”

“I’m not uninvolved,” Jason snapped. “I’m here aren’t I?”

“Yes, but for how long?” Dr. Vincent shrugged and stepped off the porch.

Jason glared at the doctor’s back for a few moments before slamming back inside the house and moving back towards the bedroom. “Michael, go play somewhere,” he said shortly.

Michael blinked. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked softly.

Elizabeth shook her head and kissed his cheek. “No, I just think your uncle wants to yell at me.” She lowered her voice and smiled. “He probably found my stash of Oreos. Why don’t you go start on a sand castle and I’ll join you.”

“Michael, I didn’t mean to yell,” Jason said with obvious regret in his eyes.

“It’s okay, Elizabeth shouldn’t be eating Oreos,” Michael said gravely. “I won’t go into the water until you guys get there.”

He left the room and Jason sighed, some of the tension gone from his shoulders. He crossed to the window where he had a view of the beach. After a moment, he spoke. “We’re getting another doctor.”

Elizabeth frowned and stood with some obvious difficulty. “What’s wrong with Dr. Vincent?”

“He’s too nosy,” Jason muttered. “He asks too many questions.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “It’s my fault. He asked why my husband wasn’t here and I thought about telling him you weren’t but I didn’t want him to wonder or decide to ask questions. I should have told him you weren’t my husband.”

“No, no, it’s better that way. If they think your husband is here most of the time, they won’t start asking questions. But he’s asking too many questions, Elizabeth. We need to find another doctor.”

“Jason–”

“He wanted to know why an expectant father is so uninvolved,” he muttered. “I’m not uninvolved, damn it. I’m here as much as I can be and don’t we talk three or four times a week?”

Elizabeth thought about mentioning the fact that he wasn’t even the father but didn’t. “Yes, yes we do–”

“Michael’s in school, I can’t just drop it all and move over here,” Jason continued. “And Carly would miss him. I have a job to do, Elizabeth. I can’t be here all the time.”

“I never expected–”

“I made sure you had everything you need, everything I could provide. The only thing you don’t have is friends and family and with the exception of your grandmother, I can bring them any time they want,” Jason told her.

“That would be great–”

“I draw the line at Ric,” he cut in. “I don’t care if you love him, I don’t care if he walks on water, I don’t trust him and you can’t change my mind about that. He cannot know where you are–”

“I agree,” Elizabeth interrupted. She touched his arm. “Jason, do you hear me complaining?”

He hesitated. “Well, no.”

“Okay then.” She met his eyes. “Then, what does some doctor you don’t even know’s opinion matter to you?”

“I just–I’m not uninvolved,” he said stubbornly.

“No, no you’re not.” She kissed his cheek. “You’re really very sweet, Jason.”

His cheeks felt warm and if he didn’t know it was impossible, he might think he was blushing. “No I’m not,” he muttered.

“Sure you are,” Elizabeth said with a bright smile. “Come on. We’d better get to the beach before Michael fries in that sun out there. I bet he hasn’t put his lotion on.”

This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

— Beach —

“So then Michelle pushed me,” Michael reported. He held up his knee. “I got a scar!”

“Why’d she push you?” Elizabeth asked curiously as her pencil danced over the page of her sketchbook, the image of Michael playing near the surf slowly developing.

“Jonah says it’s ’cause she likes me but I think that’s nuts,” Michael dropped to his knees in the damp sand and started digging. “Why would she push me if she likes me?”

“Sometimes people are afraid of what others will say when they find out how you feel,” Elizabeth advised him. “Maybe Michelle thinks you won’t like her back and she doesn’t want you to know she likes you.”

“So she’s kinda trying to throw me off the scene,” Michael nodded. “Okay, yeah, women are sneaky.”

Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “You think they’re bad at age seven? Wait until you’re my age. Every word has another meaning–or at least you think so. Someone says something they don’t think is particularly bad but it devastates the other. Words are tricky, Michael. Be careful what you say and how you say it.”

Michael nodded sagely. “That makes sense. Jason says that actions are really powerful but sometimes words are more.”

“Jason’s a very smart guy,” Elizabeth remarked. She glanced up, trying to catch the right ruffle in his hair. “Do you like living with him?”

“I love it. He’s not a great cook like Sonny but he lets me eat chocolate and other kinds of junk food,” Michael told her gleefully. “And he’s gonna help me build shelves in my room for all my trucks.” He plopped on the sand in front of her. “I like living with Jason a lot but my mom cries a lot when she visits. She tries not to but…” he shrugged and drew circles in the sand with his index finger. “I don’t like hurting her.”

Not knowing what to say, Elizabeth remained silent. Michael sighed. “She comes by every night and always brings something she says I left at her house. I know it’s just a reason for her to come over because lots of it has price tags on it.” He looked at her. “Is it wrong to live with Jason if it hurts my mom?”

“It can be hard to choose between what you want and what you should want,” Elizabeth said carefully. “A long time ago, I thought I should love this man because we’d been in love most of our lives. I thought I should want to marry him and spend forever with him. I felt very loyal to him but I convinced myself that he was who I wanted.” She sighed heavily. “Michael, it’s all right to feel guilty but in the end, you have to do what’s right for you.”

“Was the man Ric?” Michael asked curiously.

“No, it wasn’t Ric.” Elizabeth flipped the page to begin a new sketch. “Ric is my husband now.”

“Do you love him?”

Elizabeth glanced up and studied the small boy with concerned eyes. “Your parents’ divorce has been really difficult for you, hasn’t it?”

Michael shrugged. “I guess. They used to love each other so much and now all they do is fight. I don’t get it. If you love someone, how can that just go away?”

“It doesn’t go away,” Elizabeth told him. “It changes. People change. I’m sure Sonny and Carly still love each other but sometimes people change in a way that they just can’t live together anymore.”

“I guess but why do they have to be so mean to each other and why do they gotta use me and Morgan to do hurt each other?” Michael wiped his hand across his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Michael. It’s so hard to watch the people you love do things you don’t understand.” Elizabeth rubbed his shoulder. “But you’ve got Jason and no kid could ask for someone better.”

Michael’s sad expression instantly lit up. “Dude, I know. He’s so cool and he always treats me like I’m an adult.” He hesitated. “If I tell you something, will you promise never ever to tell anyone else as long as you live?”

“Cross my heart.”

“Sometimes…when I get scared or–when Mom sees Sonny in the hall and they start yelling…I get really scared they’re going to hit each other,” Michael confessed. “But then Jason just…” his cheeks flushed bright red. “He fixes it. He fixes everything.”

“He’s good at fixing things,” Elizabeth remarked. “He has such a big heart and he loves you more than he’s loved anyone.”

“Really?” Michael asked brightly. “That’s pretty awesome. You know he raised me when I was a baby?”

“I sure did. I knew you when you were a baby because Lucky Spencer lived above his garage,” Elizabeth told him. “Jason had you at the garage all the time. Like he couldn’t bear to be away from you.”

“I know it’s wrong but I really wish he was my dad,” Michael sighed. “But it’s a good thing he agreed to be a godfather for your baby, you know, because if Ric turns out to be a bad guy then Jason’s right there to take over, you know?”

“Honey…that’s not the way it works. Jason will always be in my life but he won’t be taking anything over. I’m married to Ric and he’s going to be Alexandria’s father,” Elizabeth told him. “I know that you don’t like Ric–”

“He’s mean. He stole my mom,” Michael told her with a hard glare. “Right in front of me. Did you know?”

Elizabeth sighed shakily. “Yeah, I knew that.”

“Jason watches you,” Michael abruptly changed the subject.

Elizabeth frowned. “What’s that?”

“He watches you,” Michael repeated. “When you’re not looking. Like at breakfast earlier, when you were looking down at your plate. And then the last time we were here, when we were leaving and you looked so sad, he looked sad, too.”

“Jason’s a good friend to me,” Elizabeth said, unsure where the boy was going and not wanting to hurt his feelings. So much in Michael’s life was unsure and uncertain.

“How come people always fall in love with people who are gonna hurt them?” Michael asked. “I mean, Mom and Sonny loved each other and now they just fight all the time and I thought Aunt Courtney loved Jason but she divorced him and I just know Ric’s gonna hurt you,” he said earnestly. “So how come people can’t just find people who won’t stop loving them?”

“Oh…honey…” Elizabeth sighed. “Love is complicated and sometimes it’s not enough to keep two people together. It’s what brings them together, but you need trust, faith–devotion. Sonny and Carly don’t trust each other. Courtney doesn’t trust Jason and–” she stopped abruptly as she realized she’d been about to say she didn’t trust Ric.

“You don’t trust Ric,” Michael finished grimly. “He’ll hurt you, Eliz’beth. He’s a mean man and he only cares about himself. He’s Sonny’s brother, remember?”

“Ric–” she shook her head. “No, I don’t trust him,” she admitted softly. “But I love him, I’ll learn to trust him.”

“Did you trust him before he kidnapped my mother?” Michael asked. “Because then that means he broke your trust and why would you want to be with someone who does stuff like that?”

“I wish there was an easy answer I could give you because I can feel that you need it but it’s not always black and white.” Elizabeth set her sketch pad aside. “Trust can be broken very easily. When it’s fresh and its new, it’s so easy to just take a wrong step and break it. And when you’ve known a person for years, they can still hurt you. When you care about someone Michael, they can hurt you. But if they care about you, you can hurt them just as easily. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”

“I think so,” Michael said hesitantly. “Even though Ric broke your trust and he hurt you, you can do the same to him because he loves you, too and it kind of makes it okay.”

“Well–yes and no. Yes, he broke my trust but he knows that he did. He knows what he did was wrong,” Elizabeth told him. “He’s trying to change and I hope with this baby–that it will help him to realize that he’s more than just Sonny’s brother.”

“A baby shouldn’t have to make anyone do anything,” Michael said stubbornly. “That’s too much pressure to put on her. Ric should know he’s his own person and not depend on a kid to tell him that. It’s not fair.”

Elizabeth frowned and tilted her head to the side. “You know–Michael, I’m sorry that you’ve had to grow up so fast and mature. You’re so far beyond your ears, I can’t help feel a little sorry that you didn’t retain some of the innocence that all children deserve.”

Michael shrugged and dragged his fingers through the sand. “All I’m sayin’ is that a kid has enough problems in his or her life without worrying about their parents. If Ric doesn’t think he’s a good enough person now, all the kids in the world won’t change his mind.”

“Michael!” Jason called from the sun porch. “Carly’s on the phone!”

Michael got to his feet. “Walk to the house with me?”

“Mm…it’ll take too long to get up.” She smiled up at him. “Go ahead and make sure to tell her you love her.”

“Okay.”

Michael took the phone from Jason and gestured to Elizabeth. “You should go keep her company,” he told her seriously.

Though he’d been planning on talking with her anyway, Jason nodded solemnly. “Okay. Go inside with the phone and make sure to hang it back up.”

He joined Elizabeth on the sand. She’d resumed her sketching but had flipped to a fresh page. “Hey,” she greeted warmly.

“Hey.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Listen–I think I know what that was all about earlier today. With Michael suggesting Carly as the godmother and saying that thing about me being a father.”

“He’s trying to rebuild his family,” Elizabeth said simply. “I could tell and I really am flattered he considers me part of his family but he’s a very confused little boy, Jason. I’m worried about him.”

“He wants to keep everyone together,” Jason continued. “He’s been hinting about me and Carly getting a house together and then in the next breath, he tells me that the guest room would make a great art studio for you. He’s not sure what he wants but he knows that he doesn’t want anyone else to leave his life. So he’s kind of alternating between pushing me and Carly together and me and you together. I just
wanted to be sure that you were aware of it.”

“I am.” Elizabeth reached out and squeezed his hand. “It’s whole other thing–raising a little boy as opposed to raising an infant.”

“I thought nothing would be as hard as taking care of a baby,” Jason admitted. “Keeping him fed and safe and happy–but he’s–he’s so much older now. He’s so much more aware of everything. I could–I could really screw him up, Elizabeth.”

“You could,” Elizabeth said quietly. She met his eyes. “But you won’t. You told me on the plane here that I would be a good mother. You said it with conviction–with no doubt. And I’m really glad I can do the same for you. You’re a good father, Jason. You’re going to make mistakes but he knows you love him. That you put him first. He knows that you would never hurt him on purpose or use him to hurt anyone else. That’s the kind of faith he doesn’t have in Sonny anymore. But he has it in you and I think you know that.” She touched his face. “You love him too much to screw up, Jason.”

He exhaled slowly, not aware of how much he’d needed someone to say that to him–to have her say that to him. “Thank you,” he said, with a slight tremble in his voice.

This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Shadows #1

It was nearly a month before Jason could get away from Port Charles and get back to Spain. He’d wanted to wait until Michael was on spring vacation from school because nearly every third sentence out of the boy’s mouth was when could he see Liz again?

Truth was–Jason would be relieved to get time away from this city. Things had been tense between he and Sonny since Jason had been given custody of Michael. And those were on the good days.

Carly stopped by nearly every night with something she claimed Michael had left at her house. A lot of the clothing and toys still had price tags attached to it but she was almost in tears every time so Jason said nothing. It had never been his intention to separate Michael from Carly or Sonny.

Courtney had indeed filed for divorce and that would be final in a matter of weeks. He’d expected to feel something–sadness, anger, unhappiness—but all he felt was numb.

The investigation into Zander’s murder had become stalled. Elizabeth’s involvement hadn’t been discovered but the case hadn’t been closed so it wasn’t safe for her to return home. Jason could time Ric’s phone calls to the exact minute. He’d call at 9 AM every morning to tell Jason to bring Elizabeth home. Jason would refuse and hang up.

Lately Ric had taken to threatening Jason–demanding to know where Elizabeth was staying. Jason refused to tell him and the lawyer was beginning to get irate.

Getting away from all this would be a blessing. Even if he felt like he was walking into a trap regarding Elizabeth.

Michael spoke to her three or four times a week and he always asked his new guardian if he wanted to talk to her as well. Jason could never turn Michael down so he’d had more contact with Elizabeth in the past month than he’d had all year.

Elizabeth was entering her seventh month and the doctor Jason had arranged for had gone to see her twice. Everything was healthy and progressing nicely.

“Michael!” Jason called, setting his duffle bag next to his desk. “Are you almost ready?”

“I don’t know what to take!” Michael called. He appeared at the top of the steps, lugging two big duffle bags. “I want to show Liz all the stuff I did in school including the bookshelf I made her.”

“Well, take some of it now and some of it the next time.” Jason took one of the bags from him.

“But I’ll have more stuff next time,” Michael complained. “Ooh, I forgot my swimming goggles.” He ran back upstairs and Jason rubbed his forehead before checking the side of his duffle bag for the letters he was taking to her. There was at least ten from Emily, two from Audrey, one from Ric–which Jason was kind of surprised about–and then one from each Lucky and Nikolas.

“Okay, I got everything now.” Michael set his bag down and grinned widely. “She’s probably a lot fatter than she was last month, huh?”

“Probably,” Jason absently.

“Hey, maybe the next time we go, we could take Mommy and Morgan. I bet they’d like a vacation,” Michael suggested.

“I told you…Elizabeth’s vacation is a secret,” Jason reminded him, sliding their passports into his back pocket.

“Mommy wouldn’t say anything if I told her not to,” Michael boasted. “Could you ask Liz about it?”

“I’ll talk to her. Come on, if we go now, we can take off sooner than we’d planned.”

It was 10 PM that night when their flight arrived in Spain. With all of the time differences, it was eleven hours since they’d left Port Charles.

Michael was asleep by the time they pulled up to the house. Jason parked the car in the driveway and pulled Michael into his arms, intending to put him to bed before getting the bags from the car.

Elizabeth must have been waiting for them because she had the front door open for him. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

She followed him the room where Michael had stayed before and stopped him as he went to tuck him in. “Let me do it. You can get his bags from the car and put him in some pajamas.” Elizabeth touched his arm. “You look tired, too.”

He shrugged. “It was a long flight.” He exited the room and Elizabeth sighed. She gingerly sat down–it was getting harder and harder to move around these days. She tugged Michael’s sneakers off and then his socks.

By the time she had done that, Jason had returned and was digging his plaid pajamas from the duffle bag Michael had packed. “Here,” he said, handing her the shirt. “I’ll get the bottoms.”

Together, they changed him and then Elizabeth pulled the thin sheet over him. The nights were cool but not cold enough for anything heavier than that. She kissed his forehead and switched the night light off.

“Thanks–that’s the first time he hasn’t woken up when I changed him for bed,” Jason told her. “He’s always falling asleep downstairs.”

“I used to baby-sit back in Colorado,” Elizabeth replied as she shut the door. “It’s almost like second nature.”

Jason nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. “How have your doctor appointments been going?”

“I’ve only had the two but the doctor says everything’s good. Um–I wasn’t sure if I should mention this but–he calls me Mrs. Morgan,” Elizabeth informed him. “I didn’t correct him because I didn’t know what you’d told him or whatever.”

“Yeah–yeah, he probably does that because I’m the one who arranged the rental on the place and for him to come here. He probably assumed.” Jason cleared his throat. “Probably better that way.”

“Okay–well I didn’t want you to wonder when–well, I’ve got another appointment this week. Dr. Miller arranged to rent an ultrasound machine and transport it here. And if he called me that–I didn’t want you to think that I’d told him that was my name.”

“It’s fine,” Jason assured her. “It was a logical mistake for him to make.” He exhaled slowly. “I’m gonna go–go to sleep. Unless you want your letters now…?”

“No, it can wait.” Elizabeth hesitated. “Night.”

“Night,” Jason echoed.

They stood in the hallway for another awkward moment before he turned and headed into the next bedroom.

Michael was up before either of them the next morning and he jarred Elizabeth from her sleep by jumping on her bed. “Wake up!” he shouted.

Elizabeth struggled to sit up and blinked at him blearily. “Michael? Is something wrong?”

“Yes,” Michael said firmly. “I’m awake, it’s almost noon and you and Jase are still asleep. That is very wrong.”

“Well, Jason had a long flight and he didn’t sleep through part of it,” Elizabeth reminded him. “I’m sleeping for two, so I’m sorry I wasn’t up earlier.”

“It’s okay,” Michael shrugged. His eyes lit up. “I have to show you the stuff I brought.” He dashed out of the room and Elizabeth tossed the covers back and slid her feet to the wooden floor. She pulled one of her maternity robes from the chair next to her bed and was tying the sash around her waist when she heard someone clear their throat.

She turned and smiled at Jason. “Morning–or as Michael informed me, Afternoon,” she laughed. She moved towards the doorway.

“Sorry he woke you up,” Jason moved out of the doorway. “He’s just been looking forward to this for days.”

“I have, too,” Elizabeth admitted. “It’s–it’s been kind of lonely here.” She hesitated in the doorway and looked up at him. “You look like hell,” she said plainly.

He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s been a tough month,” Jason confessed. “You hungry? I could make some breakfast.”

“Famished,” Elizabeth told him. “That would be great.”

Michael was in the kitchen, struggling to remove the wooden bookshelf he’d made in class. Jason lifted it out of the duffle bag and set it on the table before moving to the fridge to remove some eggs and bacon.

“This is for you,” Michael told her. “I also got more.” He kneeled down and took out a picture frame. “We got to make this in Art, our very own picture frames. I asked to make three. I made one for Mommy, one for Jase and one for you.” He set it in front of her. “See, I put paintbrushes on the edge.”

“It’s beautiful,” Elizabeth declared, touching it gingerly. Every time the picture frame moved, a shower of glitter fell from it.

“And that’s a picture of me and Jason so’s you don’t get lonely.”

“You guys both have such big smiles on your face,” Elizabeth said, never having seen Jason smile quite like that. She glanced at the man in question who was busy cooking at the stove. “Where were you?”

“Um…” Michael studied the picture. “Okay, we was at the park and Aunt Em took that. There was a thing there…some kind of carnival and I had just shoved a big wad of cotton candy down Jase’s throat,” he informed her.”

“Hmm…he must have loved that.”

“Oh…and I made something for the baby.” Michael dug into the back again and took out a rolled up poster. “You never told me what her name was gonna be so I just had to say girl.” He yanked the rubber band off and unrolled it.

He’d drawn several stick figures sitting on the beach. Elizabeth knew she was in the picture because a stick figure with brown hair was holding a baby but she couldn’t tell much else. Across the top, in glittery letters, said: Welcome Baby Girl. In smaller letters underneath, it said, From Your Cousin Michael.

“Cousin?” Elizabeth echoed uncertainly, her blue eyes finding the little’s boys in confusion.

Jason turned at the word cousin and joined them. “What do you got there, Michael?”

“A poster I made for Liz’s baby. Which is gonna be my cousin since you is married to Sonny’s brother and Sonny’s kind of my dad only not anymore.” Michael frowned and looked at them, worried. “She is gonna be my cousin right?”

“Well…it’s all right with me if you want to call her that,” Elizabeth said hesitantly. She glanced at Jason.

“If that’s what you want and Elizabeth says it’s okay, it’s okay with me, too,” Jason finally agreed. He returned to the stove.

“So tell me about the rest of the picture,” Elizabeth said, changing the subject.

“Well, this is you and your baby,” Michael pointed. “And next to you is Jason and me. And then that’s Mommy and baby Morgan. Oh, and Aunt Em and Almost Uncle Nik.” He smiled brightly. “Do you like it?”

“I love it.”

“So what are you naming your baby?” Michael asked. He rolled the poster back up and climbed into one of the seats next to Elizabeth at the table.

“Alexandria Audrey,” Elizabeth replied. “Alexandria for my friend Zander Smith who died and Audrey for my grandmother.”

Michael nodded sagely. “Naming babies after people is a way of saying you love them. Who’s gonna be the godparents? Like Grandpa and Aunt Em are mine.”

Elizabeth frowned. “You know–I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“Jason, how did you choose my god parents?” Michael asked as Jason placed a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast in front of Elizabeth.

“Well, Emily told me that you needed them and I should choose people that I would trust with you. Mike and Emily seemed to make the most sense.”

“Okay, then you should choose people you would trust Alexandria with,” Michael told Elizabeth. “How about my mommy and Jason?”

Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, sweetheart…I don’t know your mom well enough for to be my baby’s godmother. I’ll probably choose Emily.”

“And what about Jason?” Michael hesitated. “Well…wait, that might not work.”

Elizabeth frowned. “Why not?”

Michael looked up at Jason who was putting down his breakfast. “Well, Aunt Em told me that he makes a good daddy so he couldn’t be the godfather, right?”

Elizabeth blanched. “Michael–”

Jason shook his head. “Michael–”

Michael pursed his lips. “Oh, I forgot about Ric. I guess Aunt Em was wrong, huh?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said immediately. “But–you were right about one thing.”

“He was?” Jason questioned curiously.

“I was?” Michael repeated, happily. “What?”

Elizabeth glanced at Jason hesitantly before looking back at Michael. “I think Jason would be a great godfather–if that’s okay with him.”

This entry is part 18 of 23 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Mad World #1

Monday, November 22, 2004

Port Charles County Jail: Visiting Room

Brianne folded her hands and leaned back in her chair. “No deal.”

Christopher Hartman dragged his hands through his dark hair and glared at the ADA. “Come on, Joyce. This is ridiculous. It’s a slam dunk–”

“Hey!” Diego snarled.

“–you’ve got DNA, his bail jumping, the harassment of Brooke Lynn Ashton. Why are you wasting everyone’s time with a trial?”

Brianne arched an eyebrow. “Because I don’t want him serving a day less in jail than he deserves. And Brooke Lynn deserves her day in court.” She examined her fingernails. “However, I could change my mind.”

Christopher perked up. “Yeah?”

“I want to know how Diego Sanchez knew about a ten year old rape,” Brianne said. She leaned forward. “How did he know just the right way to continue the harassment of a rape victim that began ten years ago and hasn’t happened in six years? The East Side rapist has been operating nearly as long as you’ve been alive, Sanchez. How’d you know the MO?”

Christopher shook his head. “I don’t understand. What does this have to do with anything?”

“Your client knows exactly what I’m talking about,” Brianne said. “Where did you get your information?” she demanded.

“You’re not giving me a deal,” Diego said. “Even if I told you, you wouldn’t give me a deal. You think I’m that stupid?”

“I had some hopes.” Brianne shifted her folder back into her bag. “I was just hoping he’d give us a lead on fifteen open rapes but no, I wasn’t going to come through on a deal. He doesn’t deserve mercy.” She leaned across the table, making sure to keep at least a foot distance between herself and Diego. “You’re just lucky they don’t let us put rapists to death, because you’d be the first to go.”

Diego smirked. “Do you think you scare me? Please.” He stood and leaned in, just an inch from Brianne’s face. “Did you know he took pictures?”

The color slowly drained from her face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Shaken, Brianne straightened and hung her bag over her shoulder.

“That’s a lovely birth mark you have just above your breast, Ms. Joyce,” Diego called as Brianne made a hasty exit.

Christopher glared at his client. “Are you determined to serve the rest of your life in prison?” he demanded. He shoved himself out of a chair. “If you have information on fifteen open rapes, I can take it the DA. He’d override Joyce in a second to close the East Side rapist case.”

“Give it your best shot,” Diego shrugged. “Tell him I’ll talk if I get probation.”

“Probation–” Christopher broke off. “You’re out of your mind. I’ll tell Lansing we can deal. But he’ll laugh in my face if I try to get probation.”

“I ain’t doing any time,” Diego shot back.

“Well, that’s just great. I’m not sure how you intend to avoid that seeing as how you’re guilty as sin,” Christopher retorted. He grabbed his briefcase. “I’ll talk to Lansing.”

Gardena Suites: Apartment 217

“Cameron down for his nap?” Emily asked as Jason left the bedroom and entered the living room.

Jason sighed and nodded. “Yeah.” He went to the kitchen and popped open the fridge to pull out a beer. “I know why you’re here, Em.”

“I’m sure you think you do but I really just wanted to let you know that Nikolas and I are staying at the Spencer house for a while,” she said. “Lesley’s going to be weak for a while and no one knows how long Luke is going to stay around for so we just want to be there for Lulu.”

“What about school?” Jason asked.

Emily shrugged. “I’m off this semester. And it should be worked out by January. But I’m going to graduate med school in two years and that’s when the fun will really begin. Internship, residency,” she grinned. “Poor Nikolas.”

“He loves you, he’ll deal with it,” Jason said. He sat on the couch and stared into space. “I start work tomorrow.”

“I know. Nikolas has been really excited about the new security program. He’s sure you’re going to love it and it’ll be really challenging, Jason, I promise. He’s got buildings all over the world. You’ll be able to travel like you used to…” Emily stopped. “Okay, I’ve really tried to butt out but I just can’t anymore. You look so miserable, why can’t you just tell Elizabeth that you love her?”

“Because it’s not that simple.” Jason set his beer on the coffee table and stood to look out the window. “I do love her. But it’s not always enough.”

“That’s true,” Emily admitted. “But…”

“I have loved Elizabeth for almost four years now,” Jason said quietly. “I never stopped. Not even when I was with Courtney. There are just some people that get inside you, that you can never really forget.”

“I know,” Emily murmured, thinking about Nikolas.

“But you can’t survive on love alone. And sometimes people change.” Jason exhaled slowly. “And sometimes they change too much.”

Emily stood slowly. “You think you and Elizabeth have grown apart?” she asked carefully.

“I think that we never had a chance to be together,” Jason said instead. “We went from not being together to being parents and I just…I know that I want to be with her but if I screw it up this time, I know it’s going to be the last chance we get. I want to do it right this time so no, I’m not going to jump into living together. She deserves better than that, Emily.”

“So…what?” Emily asked. “You’re going…to date?”

“I don’t know.” Jason shook his head. “But something has to come between being apart and being together. We spent two years apart, Emily. Three, really. I just….I think we owe it to each other to be sure that the people we fell in love are still there. There’s more at stake here than just us. Cameron…” He looked towards the bedroom. “He’s my first priority–he and Elizabeth. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we get it right this time.”

“Okay,” Emily said uncertainly. “But don’t be so absorbed in getting it right that you lose Elizabeth altogether, okay?”

PC High: Hallway

Brooke stepped up to her locker and ignored the stares of her fellow students. She could hear whispering and even with her eyes squeezed shut, she could picture the pitying look on their faces. Her arm still in a sling, her face still showing signs of bruising–there wasn’t a single person in this hallway that didn’t know about her rape.

She concentrated on spinning the dial of her combination lock but she kept forgetting the numbers. Her third try, she felt someone stand next to her. Maxie reached out and covered her hand. “Let me do it,” she murmured. Raising her voice just enough to reach the people next to her. “It can be such a bitch doing these with one hand. I use both mine and my lock still sticks.”

Brooke stood aside. “The combination is 8, 12, 24, 7,” she said, keeping her eyes on the ground. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Maxie unlocked the locker and stepped back. “So, I finally decided on a major for next year.”

“Oh?” Brooke asked, appreciating Maxie’s attempt at normal conversation. She glanced around as she pulled out her history and geometry books.

“Criminal Justice,” Maxie said. “I’m going to be a cop.”

Startled, Brooke’s notebook slid to the floor. She stared at the blonde as if she had grown an extra head in the last five seconds. “A cop?”

“Sure. My dad’s been kind of hinting that he wants one of us girls to follow in his footsteps and it’s not like it doesn’t run in the family. Frisco is off saving the world.”

“Frisco?” Brooke repeated.

“My sperm donor,” Maxie clarified. “He left my mom ages ago to work for the WSB or whatever. Mac’s been my dad for so long that I don’t even consider Frisco anything more than a sperm donor. Anyway, Georgie’s thinking about medicine, so it’s up to me. And besides, I like the idea.”

Brooke knelt and retrieved her notebook. “Yeah? What’s appealing about it? The long hours or the bad pay?”

“The helping people part. I’ve watched how Dad’s been handling your case and how Lucky is working with Brianne Joyce and I just…they make a difference.” Maxie shrugged. “I know it sounds stupid but…”

“No, it doesn’t sound stupid at all,” Brooke said. “And besides, it’s a good idea. We should be thinking about college majors and our future. It’s important. High school’s a flash in the pan; the rest of our lives are starting.”

“Exactly. Have you thought about your major or are you sticking with music?”

“I love music, but I don’t…” Brooke drew her book bag over her shoulder and shrugged. “I don’t think I want to be a performing artist. So I’ve been thinking about broadcast journalism. Being on the radio, you know?”

“That would be perfect,” Maxie declared. “You know more about music than anyone else I know and you have a great voice. It’s so much better and more realistic than Dillon’s plan to be the next Spielberg.”

“He could do it, he’s really talented,” Brooke said in his defense.

“I don’t doubt the talent, but he’s going to end up directing at the local cable station,” Maxie predicted. “Or at best, some cheesy soap opera in the city where he’s gonna have to commute because you know Georgie’s staying here to work at GH. And Dillon’s not leaving Georgie to go off to Hollywood.”

“Well, if that would be his reason for not being the director I know he can be, then it sucks,” Brooke murmured.

Sonny’s Penthouse: Living Room

“It seems so empty here without the boys,” Courtney remarked as she sat down on the couch and set her purse next to her.

Sonny poured himself a glass of water and sighed. “Yeah. Well, things change.”

Courtney eyed the lack of alcohol at the mini bar and nodded. “I guess they do. Did you run out of bourbon?”

Sonny shook his head. “I got the divorce papers the other day from Justus and immediately started to pour myself a glass. I stopped and realized how often I do that. When I couldn’t remember the last day I’d had without a drink, I tossed the bottles.” He sat in the arm chair adjacent to the couch. “I know you’ve been having some troubles, I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you.”

“It’s fine,” Courtney said. She folded her arms. “I know that I got myself into this. I just…” she exhaled slowly. “I thought I was ready for all of this, for moving on with my life and being a foster parent.”

“It’s not your fault they gave you Diego Sanchez,” Sonny pointed out.

“No, but it’s my fault for not realizing immediately that I couldn’t handle him,” Courtney replied. “And what I’ve done since his arrest, that’s my fault too.” She stood and crossed to the mantel, still decorated with photos of Sonny’s old life with Carly. “I should never have lied. And I shouldn’t have bailed him out. He just terrorized Brooke Lynn more.”

“There’s nothing wrong with believing in people, Courtney.”

“There is when you’re stupid about it,” Courtney replied. “And I am stupid, Sonny. I trust the wrong people, I do the wrong things. It’s just–I can’t do it anymore. I won’t do it. I have to make a break from this…this vicious cycle.”

“A break.” Sonny frowned. “Do you mean, leaving Port Charles?”

“Yes,” Courtney confirmed. “I’ve already looked into moving the foundation to New York City. Professionally, it would be a good choice. New York’s bigger; I can do more for more people. And personally…” she dragged her fingers through her hair. “My life has been a roller coaster since the day I moved to Port Charles. Sometimes I miss…” She closed her eyes. “Sometimes I miss the days when I was married to AJ and we lived in that tiny apartment and had to scrape to meet ends meet. He worked at the docks, I worked at Kelly’s. My life was simple back then.” She turned to face her brother. “Do you ever look at your life and wonder…how did I get to this place? How did I screw it all up so badly?”

“Some days,” Sonny nodded. “And others, I remember what I do have. I have my boys, my family. It makes it worth it.”

“I don’t feel like there’s anything tying me here,” Courtney sighed. “Jax has been distant since the Diego debacle and I can’t blame him. Carly’s–she’s being strong. Taking on a new life. And God knows, you have enough going on that you don’t need me–”

“You’re my sister,” Sonny cut in smoothly. “No matter what difficulties we’ve had in the past, that will never change. If you moved, I would miss you. But you’ve got to do what’s right for you.”

“And I think leaving Port Charles would be right for me,” Courtney replied softly.

Alexis’s Apartment: Living Room

“Okay, I think this is the last one,” Alexis said, passing a form to her husband. “You have to initial every page and then sign the last one.”

“I think I’m getting a hand cramp,” Ric murmured but he did as instructed. “How long did the realtor say the escrow was?”

“We can move in any time after the end of the year,” Alexis replied. “Which works out well. We won’t be scrambling to move and deal with Christmas at the same time. Kristina deserves that.”

“We will be moving in at the same time the Sanchez case goes to trial though,” Ric said, checking his court calendar.

“Yeah, but isn’t one of the ADAs first chairing?” Alexis did a second glance through the paperwork to make sure they hadn’t missed an initialing or signature.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Brianne Joyce,” Ric replied. “It’s a high profile case all the same and I’m going to keep my eye on it. I don’t need the Quartermaines on my bad side.”

“We’re going to have to talk about Sonny sometime,” Alexis asked after putting their forms into a manila envelope and setting it aside.

Ric sighed and opened his briefcase. “Has Sonny brought up custody yet?” he questioned.

“Well, no,” Alexis admitted. “But we only have a week before we bring Kristina home. And I’d like us to have a game plan.”

“I don’t think we can really discuss it until we know what he wants,” Ric stalled. He took out some folders and flipped them open. “If he’s going for full or joint.”

“I think it’ll be joint, honestly,” Alexis said. “But I’d rather know that you support me on this.”

“Alexis…” Ric met her eyes. “Kristina is your daughter. Her custody arrangements are up to you. You know me, I’m not sure I want her around Sonny’s world at all but…” he hesitated. “I don’t want her growing up and not knowing her own siblings. Michael and Morgan are her brothers, after all.”

“I know and that’s why I’ve been really considering this. I grew up and never knew about my own sister. I don’t want Kristina turning around in a couple of years and asking why. And I don’t want her to grow up hating them like you did with Sonny.” Alexis shoved her hair over behind her ear. “Sonny’s world scares me but Kristina could fall off the jungle gym or God forbid, get hit by a car. I can’t…” she paused and took a deep breath. “Her illness made me realize that I can’t protect her forever.”

“Then we’ll tell Sonny we’ll agree to joint custody.” Ric covered Alexis’s hand and smiled at her, hoping they weren’t making a mistake.

Elizabeth’s Cottage: Living Room

Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and descended the stairs, relieved that Cameron had finally gone down for his nap. He’d been cranky since she’d picked him up from his father’s earlier that afternoon and she knew why of course–Cameron was getting older and able to realize certain things about his world. And the fact that Jason was one of his favorite people was one of them.

The doorbell stopped her progress into the living room. She winced, wishing she could just collapse on the couch and take a long nap. She almost ignored the bell completely but in the end, went to answer it.

On the stoop, a suitcase at her feet, stood Andrea Webber.

“Mom,” Elizabeth said, startled. “I didn’t…I didn’t realize you were coming so soon.”

“Well…” Andrea hoisted her suitcase and stepped inside the foyer. She gently pushed her shell shocked daughter out of the way to close the door. “As soon as I told your father the good news, he all but ordered me on the plane to come see you.”

“I…he did?” Elizabeth asked, surprised.

“Darling…the reason we haven’t been able to be here on important occasions is that by the time the invitations reach us, it’s already too late,” Andrea told her daughter. “Lucky Spencer’s funeral, your high school and college graduations, and the times you’ve been in the hospital, we never even knew until Audrey told us. We’re not neglectful parents by choice, Elizabeth.”

“Right,” Elizabeth said, seeing the logic in that answer. “Well…Cam just went down for his nap but let me show you to the guest room–”

“Wait, wait…” Andrea took Elizabeth by the shoulders and stepped back. “Let me get a look at my little Lizzie all grown up.” Her eyes narrowed and a teasing glint entered her blue eyes. “Well, the hair’s a bit longer but you still weigh about ninety pounds and all of five foot two.”

“Yes, and you’re such a giant,” Elizabeth remarked with a smirk as she glanced at her mother’s five foot four inch frame. “How much do you weigh now? Ninety-one?”

“How I ever raised such a smartass, I’ll never know,” Andrea sighed dramatically. “You look lovely, dear. With a much better figure than I ever had so shortly after giving birth.”

“Well, with a little baby to raise by myself and having to work, I didn’t really have much of a choice,” Elizabeth murmured. She lifted her mother’s suitcase and started up the stairs. Andrea frowned and followed her.

“I thought you said the Quartermaine’s son was the father,” Andrea said.

“Jason is his father, but we don’t live together and he’s not…” Elizabeth pushed open the door to the bedroom between hers and Cameron’s. “He’s not always in the picture full-time.”

“Hmm,” Andrea murmured. “And how is work going, dear? I must confess, your father and I were quite surprised to hear that you had entered the nursing program. I know that you only majored in nursing at PCU to humor us–”

“I started nursing classes after my first miscarriage,” Elizabeth replied softly. “I wanted to be a mother and I knew that I had to be practical. I love my art and I’m still pursuing it, but I had to be realistic.”

“Being realistic is the worst thing about being an adult,” Andrea decided. She stepped over to the windows to peer out into the backyard of the cottage. “Nevertheless, I hope you’re enjoying your chosen career.”

“I am,” Elizabeth replied. “I know it’s not being a doctor like you guys hoped but I still feel like I’m making a difference–”

“Doctors are nothing without our nurses and just look at your grandmother.” Andrea sank onto the brass bed. “She’s an incredible nurse–she must be thrilled you’re walking in her footsteps.”

“She does have this fantasy about me one day running the program,” Elizabeth replied with a smile. “I told her we’ll take it one day at a time.” She slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “How long do you suppose you’ll stay?”

“Oh, at least until the beginning of the year,” Andrea told her. “I’ve cleared until January and your father’s going to fly in for Christmas. We’ll both return to Spain sometime after New Year’s, I imagine. We thought with Steven in town, we might try to do something together for the holidays.”

“That would be…” Elizabeth paused and finally admitted the honest truth, “weird.”

Andrea laughed. “Well, I suppose that’s a good way to put it. Now if we could get Sarah to fly in, it’d be downright bizarre.”

Spencer House: Front Porch

Brianne hesitated as they stepped up to the front door. “I don’t think I should be here,” she told Lucky uncertainly. “I’m certainly not family, I’m not a friend of the family and–”

“You’re a friend of mine,” Lucky interrupted. “And I don’t feel right about leaving you alone until we get a handle on Diego Sanchez’s connection with your case. I’m staying with you until we know the danger has passed, okay?”

“I suppose I don’t have any choice,” Brianne said. “With you being a cop and all. If I didn’t let you, you’d come up with something to tell Mac who would just tell Ric Lansing and it would end up being this whole huge thing and you’d still be staying with me so I imagine I’ll just skip to the end of that particular drama.”

“I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable, Bri,” Lucky said. “I just…” he shrugged. “I’d feel better if I knew for sure you were safe, okay?”

“And I appreciate that so that’s why I’m saving you the trouble of going over my head,” Brianne replied. “But we each have our own lives and our own jobs, you can’t possibly be with me all the time.”

“I can do my best. Come on,” Lucky gestured towards the front door. “Let’s go have some dinner.”

Spencer House: Dining Room

“Can you pass the chicken?” Nikolas asked, holding out a hand to Brianne, who handed the platter to him. “Lu, this is actually pretty good.”

“Oh, don’t say that like it’s such a surprise. Grandma loves to cook, so she’s been teaching me,” Lulu replied. She spooned some more potatoes onto her plate. “So, Brianne, Lucky says he works with you at the DA’s office.”

“Yes,” Brianne replied. “But only just recently.”

“DA Lansing has nothing but good things to say,” Nikolas said. “He’s on the board at GH with my aunt and with so many Quartermaines working there, we’ve talked about the Sanchez case a bit. He has all the confidence in the world in you.”

“Well my part is easy,” Brianne said. “The PCPD did an excellent job with evidence and witnesses. They basically handed me a conviction.”

“Well, Diego jumping bail didn’t help his , I imagine,” Emily remarked. “Can you introduce that at trial?”

“If I needed to, but I don’t really want to beat it into the jury’s head. People aren’t stupid. With the evidence we have, it won’t be a problem to convict,” Brianne said.

“I made brownies for dessert,” Lulu said, as she stood. Emily got up and pushed her back down.

“I’ll get it,” Emily said. “You’ve done enough. And Lucky can come help me.” She glared at Lucky until he stood and followed her.

Lulu smirked. “Yeah, ’cause that’s not totally obvious.”

Spencer House: Kitchen

Emily started cutting into the sheet of chocolate brownies cooling on the stove. “So, you brought the ADA to a family dinner,” she said, flashing her old friend a wicked grin.

“I’m just keeping her safe until certain aspects of this case are closed,” Lucky replied easily. “It’s in every one’s best interests.”

“Uh huh.” Emily broke a corner off one brownie and popped it into her mouth. “So you’re not attracted to her?”

Lucky leaned against the counter. “I’d have to be dead not to be attracted. She’s beautiful but our relationship is purely professional, Em. And besides, there are…circumstances that you don’t know right now.”

“Yeah, but you’re attracted to her,” Emily said. “That’s enough for me right now. I’ll handle the rest.”

“There isn’t going to be any rest,” Lucky said, grimacing. “Don’t help, Em.”

“I’m not going to do anything,” Emily said innocently. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Lucky.”

“Uh huh,” Lucky said, unconvinced. “Stay out of this, Em. If I want something to happen between Bri and I, I’ll handle it myself.”

“Sure,” Emily rolled her eyes. “You know, between you and Jason and Elizabeth, I am never going to get another niece or nephew. You’re all like molasses,” she complained.

Port Charles County Jail: Visiting Room

Maria Sanchez took a seat across from her twin brother and folded her hands on the table. “Why did you lie to me?” she asked quietly.

Diego rolled his eyes. “You’re such a little brat,” he said scornfully. “Why did you lie to me?” he repeated in a mocking high tone.

“You promised me if I got you out of there that we would fight the charges together,” Maria continued. Her eyes took on a glossy sheen. “But you disappeared and they said you sent the Ashton girl clothes from that night. I don’t understand, Diego–”

“Oh, you understand,” Diego replied. “You just don’t want to.” He smirked. “Poor little innocent Maria Cecilia, the only angel of the LA ghettos. You can’t really be that naïve.”

Her lower lip trembled. “You’re guilty, aren’t you? All those things you told me about Brooke Lynn being angry with you for not wanting her, wanting to get back at you–those were all lies.”

Diego sat back and continued to smirk. “Because I’m known for my honesty,” he remarked sarcastically. “Stupid little girl.”

Maria stood on shaky legs. “I hope you rot in prison,” she whispered hatefully. She turned on her heel and fled the room.