You walk the streets at night still looking for your reason
But you don’t wanna try
You swear the world has got you backed into a corner
But no one holds your hand to walk into a fight
You swear the light is gonna find you
But it can’t find you when you’re waiting all the time
– Something to Believe in, Parachute
Crichton-Clark Institute: Lab
He had heard the rumors and the whispers but it wasn’t until Helena Cassadine swept into his office that morning that Andre fully believed that the Cassadine matriarch had returned from the dead.
“My dear Dr. Maddox,” she purred, “you look as though you’ve seen a ghost. Did my brother-in-law not keep you apprisd of my recovery?”
“Hearing that Dr. Scorpio was able to achieve the impossible is one thing,” Andre said, rising to his feet. “Seeing you in person is quite another.”
“Fair enough. It’s wonderful to be up and about again. I had hoped to check in with you on our work before I leave for Greece,” Helena told him. “How are my twins?”
“Unchanged,” Andre said, a bit uneasily. “Still in a coma. I’m still not able to achieve the implantation of Patient Five’s memories into Six—”
“But you still have them,” Helen said. “Victor assured me that you’d put the project on ice.”
“Yes,” Andre said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to finish—”
“I told you a long time ago, Dr. Maddox. I merely wanted Jason Morgan removed from the field for as long as possible. I’m putting the final touches on my plans. Victor told Dr. Scorpio she could help Mr. Morgan return to his family. I’m ready to let her do that.”
“I—” Andre hesitated. “But what about Patient Five?”
Helena shrugged. “He was part of Victor’s plan—”
“But the memory adjustments you asked for—” he protested. “What was the point?”
“To see if we could, my darling Dr. Maddox! And if we’d completed the experiment on the original schedule, it would have been helpful. Alas, you were unable to come through.” She shrugged elegantly. “Now, Victor has told me I can deal with the twins as I see fit. You can do what you like with Five, but I’ll be needing Jason Morgan.”
“I—” Andre nodded. “All right, Mrs. Cassadine. I’ll have Jason Morgan ready to turn over to Dr. Scorpio.” He watched her leave, then exhaled slowly, hoping that this Dr. Scorpio wouldn’t be able tell the difference between the brothers. There was a chance this insane plan might actually work.
And that Drew Cain would be going to Port Charles with Jason Morgan’s memories.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
General Hospital: Hallway
If they weren’t in a public place, if Elizabeth wasn’t standing right behind him as a witness that could be dragged into court, Jason might enjoy squeezing the life out of this piece of trash. This time, he’d cut the psycho into pieces that couldn’t come back from the dead, then maybe he’d set them on fire.
He was done letting Franco come back to taunt and torment the people that mattered to Jason. Why the hell was he allowed to breathe and take up space? How the hell had Carly and Elizabeth let him into their lives, into their homes—Carly had almost married him, and Elizabeth had let him live with her sons.
He would never understand how Franco was still alive.
“Can’t breathe,” Franco choked.
“That doesn’t sound like a problem to me,” Jason growled.
“Let him go,” Elizabeth said, with an air of exhausted resignation that sounded eerily familiar to him. Like the way she’d sounded when talking about Lucky Spencer—another rat bastard Jason should have shoved off a pier a long time ago. “There are too many witnesses,” she continued, restoring some of his faith in her.
“You know, three days ago, you gave a damn about me,” Franco snarled at Elizabeth as Jason slowly let the asshole down and stepped back.
“The funny thing about love,” Elizabeth said, “is that it can be turned into hate with just one flick of the match.” Her lips pressed together in a mutinous line. “You put your hands on my son. That’s the end of it. Whoever I thought you were—I was lying to myself. No one touches my kids.”
Franco hissed, but then he was distracted when someone sauntered around the corner—Cameron—who stopped dead when he saw the three of them. The plastic circular shield he’d slung over his shoulder slid out of his hands, hitting the linoleum hospital floor with a dull clatter.
“Cameron—” Elizabeth began, moving towards him.
“Felix said you were—” Cameron swallowed and tore his eyes away from Franco, turning towards his mother. “We got done early, and Michael was waiting—”
“Go back to the nurse’s station; we’ll be right there—”
“You know, if you’d taught your brats some manners,” Franco began, “and how to show some damn respect—”
This time, it wasn’t Jason that had to be held back. Elizabeth started forward, the clipboard raised in her hand as if she was getting ready to wield it like a club, but Jason grabbed the back of her scrubs and pulled her back, then stretched his arm in front of her to block another advance.
“Too many witnesses,” he said, repeating her earlier warning. He glared at Franco. “Go away. Now. Or I’ll let her go.”
Franco made a face, then slunk away, disappearing around a corner. Elizabeth’s shoulders heaved as the clipboard fell to the ground, and she put her head in her hands. “Oh my God. How could I let this happen—” She looked at Cameron, who hadn’t said a word but was just staring at her, his blue eyes wide and startled. “Cameron.”
“Mom.” He looked at Jason, then shook his head, his expression clearing. “I can take the guys home—we’re ordering pizza anyway, and they got a ton of candy already—”
“No—” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. “No. They trick or treat here every year. It’s tradition. He’s not taking that from me. I’m so sorry, Cameron.”
“Well, the clipboard—” Cameron said, grabbing it from the ground and scooping up his shield at the same time, “it’s not as cool as the gun, but it worked in a pinch.” With an easy grin that didn’t really reach his eyes, he handed it to her. “You’re a little scary, Mom. You get that from Jason?” He flicked his eyes to the other man, his expression urging Jason to go with it—to lighten the mood or something.
“No, she was like this when I met her,” Jason said, not at all surprised that Cameron had known exactly what to say to take that terrible look out of Elizabeth’s eyes. He’d always been the easy-going son, the one that would crawl into Elizabeth’s lap after they’d lost Jake and hug her, promising it would be okay.
“I’d better get back to the hub,” Cameron told them. “Or Joss is gonna come looking for me. I’ll keep the kids under control until you get to them.” He offered a salute, slung the shield over his shoulder, then sauntered away.
“He’s not okay, but he’s going to pretend for me. For his brothers,” Elizabeth murmured, watching him go. She sighed, then looked at Jason. “Normally, I wouldn’t say you should take Franco’s word for anything but Andre—that sounds like something to pay attention to. He showed up right around the time Helena died, and Drew got his memories back a few months later. Andre has also been Jake’s doctor for months, helping him deal with the Chimera and Helena’s control. He was really—” Her voice faltered slightly. “He was really good to Jake, but when we went to see him after the park that day—there was just something in the way he looked at Jake—” Elizabeth frowned. “He knew Jake had seen someone, and I think maybe he knew it was you.”
“But if he’s left town—”
“Anna,” Elizabeth cut in. “She went back to the WSB after she left the police department. She and Andre were friends, and you’ll want to talk to her anyway because Victor Cassadine spent years in the research department at the WSB before taking it over for a few years. She, Robert, and Frisco Jones have spent the last three years trying to clean the place up.”
“Anna,” Jason repeated. “Okay.” He glanced down the hall. “First, I want to see Jake.” He paused, meeting her eyes. “You said it was a tradition for him to trick or treat here.”
“Yeah, um, since Cam’s first Halloween, every year. My grandfather started it, and Steven brought it back.”
“I want to be part of his traditions,” Jason told her. “If that’s okay.”
She smiled, and he was relieved to see that terrible air of sadness had finally lifted. “Absolutely. Come on. They all look great, and Joss and Michael are here, too.”
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
When Cameron returned to the hub around ten minutes after he’d gone off in search of his mother, Trina knew something was wrong.
Just like she’d known the day before that something was off. He’d told her this morning that his mother had broken up with Franco, but Trina knew she wasn’t getting the whole story.
“Hey, where’s your mom?” Trina asked as Cameron rejoined the group by the sofas at the waiting area.
“She’ll be here in a minute. Uh—” Cameron looked at Oscar. “Jason is here. And by that, I mean—”
“The guy your mom says is Jason,” Oscar finished. “The one with my dad’s face, but who she says isn’t him.”
“Yeah, I just wanted to warn you,” Cameron said. “I think he’s here to see my mom, but he’ll probably hang out while we do the trick or treat thing.” He frowned. “Where’s Aiden and Jake?”
“They went with Michael to see if Felix has new batteries for Jake’s light saber,” Joss said, shoving a heavy piece of her white-blonde wig over her shoulder. Trina wrinkled her nose. Why the girl had to wear a damn wig when she was already blonde—drama queen. “But you look weird. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Cameron said, but looked away.
“Oh, nothing, huh? Like Friday night was nothing?” Joss demanded. “Did you tell Trina or Oscar?”
“Tell us what?” Trina demanded. She knew something was going on—and of course he’d told Joss first— “What does Joss know that I don’t?”
Cameron hissed, then glared at Joss who just returned his icy stare. “You see what you started? I didn’t even want to tell you.”
“He only told me because he knew I’d break Aiden in five seconds,” Joss told Trina, who was not wild about being reassured by her boyfriend’s best friend and her mortal enemy.
“Then I guess I should go ask the Webber boys who respect me what the hell is going on—” She turned away.
“It’s not—” Cameron growled and reached for her arm. “It’s not like that. I just don’t want this to be a big deal, okay? Seriously. The more people who know, the worse my mom is going to feel, and don’t start—” he shot at Joss who opened her mouth. “I already know how you feel.”
“I’m not people, Cameron—”
“No, I know that—” Cameron dragged a hand through his hair, then nodded. “Okay. Okay. I’m fine, but on Friday after you guys left, Franco came in and got all irritated because we were watching the videos. He and I got into it, and it was physical, okay? Franco shoved me—”
Trina’s eyes bulged. “He what—”
“Whoa—” Oscar said.
“It’s fine. Mom came home, and she got him to let me go. She pulled a gun on him and even shot at his feet. It was fine,” he repeated. “He left, and Mom called Joss’s stepdad and brother to change security.”
“Oh, a notorious serial killer attacked you, but, like it’s fine now,” Trina retorted. “Damn it, Cam—” She took a deep breath. “This is the kind of thing you tell your girlfriend!”
“I know—” He winced, and took her by the elbow towards the elevators, leaving Joss with Oscar and his brothers. “Look, my mom is feeling guilty enough—and before you say she should—”
“I wasn’t gonna,” she muttered.
“I don’t want my mom to worry about me, okay? Not with everything going on. She’s gotta focus on making sure Franco stays gone, and this whole Jason back from the dead thing—I think it’s got something to do with Jake, and she needs to focus on him—”
“She needs to focus on you—”
“Stop protecting her!” Trina said through clenched teeth. “She’s the one supposed to be protecting you! When has she ever done that—”
“Don’t—” Cameron narrowed his eyes to blue slits, his cheeks flushed. “Don’t talk about her. You don’t know anything about my mother or what she’s been through. What people in this damn town have done to her. Me and my brothers are all she has—”
“That doesn’t mean—”
“I mean it, Trina. My mom made mistakes, okay? I know that. And she’s not perfect. But she’s my mother. She gave up everything for me. She wanted to be an artist, you know that?”
“I—” Trina frowned. “No, I didn’t—”
“And she’s really good at it. I’ve seen her stuff with Jake, and she painted murals in our rooms at our old house. But she gave it up for me. She needed a job with health insurance—”
“You weren’t there when she was crying herself to sleep over losing Jake. Four years, Trina. My brother was dead for four years.”
“I know that. I’ve known you since kindergarten—”
“No, you’ve known me for five months.” Cameron glanced back over to the waiting area, seeing that Felix and Michael had returned with his brothers, and Jake was staring at him oddly. “I told you. My family comes first with me.”
“And it’s one of the reasons I like you,” Trina told him. “I like your family. I like your mother most of the time. It’s just—” She hesitated. “You deserve to come first with someone, too, you know? That’s all I’m saying.”
Cameron scowled at her, then immediately pasted a smile on his face when his mother emerged from the hallway followed by the guy Trina had seen on the news. She immediately turned to look at Oscar who was staring at the new guy with a frozen expression.
Joss put a hand on Oscar’s arm, and her boyfriend swallowed hard.
“I need to go over there,” Cameron told her, and then left to hurry over to Oscar and Joss. Trina watched him crack a joke as Elizabeth and Jake’s dad joined them. Taking care of someone else, just like he always did.
She just wished he’d let someone take care of him for once.
Devane House: Foyer
Following Jake and his brothers around the hospital as they went to a few rooms with willing patients and hospital staff, trick or treating, was the best thing that happened to Jason all day. He liked watching Jake interact not just with his brothers, but the easy way he talked to Michael and Joss, the way he fit with these other people in Jason’s life, the way Joss bantered with all three Webber boys like they were a team.
It made Jason forget for a little while what was happening outside of the hospital.
He reluctantly left when Michael drove the group home to Elizabeth’s house and she went back to work. Jason headed across town to the neighborhood where Anna Devane lived to get to the bottom of the strange story that Franco had told them about Andre Maddox.
Anna stared at him for a long moment after opening the door. She stepped back finally. “Well, you certainly look like you’re supposed to,” she said, closing the door behind him. “Did anyone check for masks?”
Jason furrowed his brows. “Actually, yeah, but—”
“Hmmm. Well, Faison was the one who put you in the water,” Anna told him, “but he did it while wearing a very realistic Duke Lavery disguise.” She sighed. “Are you here about the WSB connection? I assure you, I wasn’t part of Victor’s research projects. Neither were Robert and Frisco. Victor kept a lot of his work guarded from the agency at large.”
“Andre Maddox,” Jason said and watched as Anna closed her eyes. “You knew he was involved.”
“No, no, I didn’t,” she said softly, “but he left town in a hurry yesterday, and I knew something was up, so I asked Robert to get a background on him. The timing works—” Anna winced. “He moved to Port Charles shortly after Jake Doe’s reveal as Jason Morgan. After Jake came home. Just before Jake Doe got the memories back. If he was involved with your kidnapping, that means he had a connection to Victor. And the WSB. Damn it.” She sighed. “What exactly did he do?”
“I don’t know. He told Franco something about putting Chimera in Jake’s head. That he’s the one that did whatever happened to me and—” Jason stopped. “I don’t trust Franco, obviously, but Elizabeth seemed to think something Maddox did the other day lines up—”
“I think it’s worth finding out for sure.” Anna went over to the phone. “I can commiserate, you know, coming back to a life that has moved on without you—a twin who has a penchant for pretending to be you and mucking about—” She stopped. “Frisco, I’m so glad I caught you. Yes—I need some intel. Does the WSB have a file on Andre Maddox, probably birth date somewhere in the mid to late 70s. Doctor of Psychiatry and Neurology—That rat bastard.” She made a face. “Can I get a copy of that? Yes—yes, we have a problem. Another Cassadine mess to clean up.”
“What did he say?” Jason demanded.
“Andre Maddox worked in WSB Special Projects from 2008 until just last spring. I didn’t—” Anna set the phone down on the hook. “I didn’t know that. He never said a word. And that—that is something to be considered. We were friends, working for the same agency and he never said a word. Frisco is sending me a copy of Andre’s personnel records, and he’s assigning Robert to this officially. Jason—”
He hesitated, then looked at her oddly at the use of his name. “You’re not waiting until the tests come back?” he asked.
“We may not know each other all that well,” Anna told him, “but you forget that I’ve had the privilege of knowing both versions of you. The way you hold yourself—the expression in your eyes—it matches the man I knew five to six years ago so much more than the man walking around with your name. Even the world’s best con artist can’t fake that kind of thing.”
She paused. “If the WSB was part of whatever happened to you and, well, I suppose your brother, then I promise you — Robert, Frisco, and I will get the answers. We’ve dedicated our lives to this agency. Sacrificed family and friends for what we believe in. Victor Cassadine has left a stain on it that can’t ever be removed.”
Belle Forest Road: Driveway
Jason took out his keys as he walked to the end of the driveway to the SUV parked at the curb. Just as he slid the key in the lock as he saw a pair walking towards him, or at least in his direction. Sam, holding the hand of a young blond boy dressed as a green character Jason recognized vaguely from movies he’d watched with Michael.
Sam’s feet slowed as she stared at him, her eyes shadowed in the street lamps. “We’re—” She took a deep breath. “We’re finishing up our trick or treating. My mom lives around the corner.”
Jason nodded, his throat tight. He looked down at Danny, the little boy he’d only seen for a handful of hours before he’d been shot and shoved into the water. Jason had rescued him from Heather Webber and brought him home to Sam. He’d thought it was a chance for them to try again, to get it right—to try to make up for how badly he’d treated her—
“Hi,” Danny said with a shy smile. “I’m Danny, but tonight I’m Yoda.”
Jason nodded. “Hi,” he said, then felt a lump in his throat when Sam tightened her hand around Danny’s. What did she think he was going to do? Tell a five-year-old that he was Jason? Announce that he was the little boy’s biological father?
“This is a friend of mine from a long time ago,” Sam said finally. “What are you doing in this neighborhood?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. “Sonny and Carly live almost two miles away—”
Did she even realize that she wasn’t treating him like a stranger? Like he wasn’t exactly who he said he was?
Did she even hear herself?
“I came to see Anna,” Jason said, squinting. “I didn’t know Alexis lives out here now. What happened to the lake house?”
Sam grimaced. “It’s a long story.”
“My brother is Luke Skywalker,” Danny continued, oblivious to the tension between the two adults. “So we made our sister be Princess Leia. Do you like Star Wars?”
“I’ve seen the movies,” Jason said. “It’s a nice costume.”
“Yoda is very smart,” Danny said, then smiled again. “But my brother is smarter. He’s braver than me, so he got to be Luke. Daddy was gonna be Hans, but he had to work.” The corners of his lips turned down, then looked up at his mother. “Is he coming later? Are we going to see Jake later?”
“Not tonight. I told you. We should get going, Danny.” Sam lifted him into her arms and walked away quickly, not looking back.
“Bye!” Danny said, waving at Jason over Sam’s shoulder. “Happy Halloween!”
“Happy Halloween,” Jason said, watching as Sam and her son disappeared into the shadows of the night.
Elizabeth gripped the brown paper bag with her dinner and shoved the door open, nearly running into someone who was entering the diner. “I’m so sorry—”
She stopped as the man put a hand on her shoulder to steady her. His blue eyes, once so dear to her, flashed. He stepped back. “Elizabeth.”
“Hi,” she said awkwardly. She moved a few feet away. “I—I meant to call or stop by but I didn’t think—”
“Why bother?” he said. He gritted his teeth. “You’ve made it clear whose side you’ve taken.”
“It’s not about sides,” Elizabeth said, with a shake of her head. “It’s about the truth—”
“The truth? You’re one to talk about the truth. How many lies have you told?”
The words bit at her and she flinched, looking away. Even if he wasn’t Jason, he had his memories somehow. He knew every time Elizabeth had lied to Jason—but more importantly—the months Elizabeth had lied directly to him in a desperate attempt to keep Jake Doe with her.
“Enough to know that I can’t pretend I didn’t know the truth the minute I saw him,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sorry—”
“Sorry? You’re just chasing the same thing you always have—” he threw back. “How are you any different than you were two years ago? Clinging to any desperate hope that Jason Morgan wants you—I loved you, Elizabeth. You were the one that destroyed that—”
“I know that. I was too scared to trust that you’d stay with me if you knew what Nikolas had told me,” Elizabeth calmly, but everything inside of her crumbling at this reminder of her lie. Her deepest shame. The one lie that she could never, ever, truly explain to herself or the world. “But—”
“You have a lot of nerve to stand there and talk to me about the truth, Elizabeth—” The way he elongated her name, drew out the syllables in a way that Jason never had—it cut at her. He sounded like Lucky had in those terrible days, when he’d been so angry at her he could hardly stand to look at her.
Elizabeth knew how to inspire rage and disgust in the men she’d chosen to love. “I can’t defend myself. You know that. I won’t even try—”
“Even if you didn’t believe me—” He hissed. “You owed me better this—I deserved more than this—”
“You do, but—”
“And you brought Jake into it! You’ve let that liar around our son! Bad enough you’ve let Franco live with him—Sam was right,” he seethed. “I should have gone after you for custody—”
Elizabeth forced herself to remain calm, to remind herself that he was going through a lot. “You never would have won.”
“Really?” he drawled. “You think if I reminded everyone exactly how many lies you’ve told—how many people you’ve screwed over—”
“And that’s how I know you’re not Jason,” she said softly, and he stopped, staring her. Tears slid down her cheeks. “Even when I deserved it, and I usually did, he never treated me this way. Not after all the crap I put him through with Lucky. With Zander. The lies about Jake — he never looked at me with hatred in his eyes.”
He stared at her. “Maybe I’ve finally gotten tired of dealing with your crap—”
“And maybe you need to lash out at me because I’m in front of you. Because I’ve already done terrible things to you. Jason should have cut me off a long time ago. He never did because he always saw that no one could hate me more than I hated myself. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I hope we get the results back and you find out who you are. But you’re not Jason Morgan, and I’m done with lies.”
Webber Home: Kitchen
“So.” Michael sat down next to Cameron at the kitchen table, reaching for the last slice of pizza. “What did you do to piss off Trina? Wasn’t she supposed to come over tonight?”
“Nothing,” Cameron muttered, hunching his shoulders. “She’s just mad I didn’t tell her about Friday.” He glared at Oscar. “You mad about that, too?”
“No, but I’m not dating you either.” Oscar picked at his cheese fries. “You know girls. She’s mad that Joss knew first.” He squinted at Cameron. “It’s really not a big deal, you know. You could have told us.”
“I didn’t want it to be a thing.” He looked at Michael. “You get understand, right? Now it’s something everyone is talking about, and I didn’t want that.”
“It happened to you,” Michael said with a nod. “You have a right to decide who gets to know things. I just think you gotta ask yourself why you don’t want your best friends to know. Why your girlfriend shouldn’t know.”
Cameron hesitated. “I just—I knew they’d blame my mom. Joss and Trina both immediately had that look on their face, and they don’t get it. Mom really thought he’d changed. She wouldn’t want me to be hurt.”
“But you got hurt,” Michael said gently. “I told you on Saturday—it’s okay if you’re mad at her.”
“Fine. Then I’ll be mad at her. But no one else gets to be, okay? They don’t understand. They didn’t see her face or how upset—I don’t want to make my mom cry. She cries too much.” He stared down at the table. “She cried all the time when I was kid. Lucky was addicted to drugs and he was always screaming at her. Having affairs. Even later, when they tried to get back together because she wanted me to have a dad again—” Cameron scrubbed his hands down his face. “Franco sort of made her happy for a while. And so did Jake Doe. I wanted her to be happy.”
“I know what you mean. Franco made my mom happy, too,” Michael told him. “For a few months. He’s good at making people believe in him. He just can’t hold on to the pretending for long. He let it slip, and I’m glad your mom saw it. That she didn’t try to make excuses.”
“You get it, but Joss and Trina don’t. Neither did Emma. And maybe it’s just because they don’t live here.” Cameron stared out into the living room where Joss was sitting with his brothers. “My mom loves me. And she feels bad enough. I don’t want a bunch of people looking at her, knowing this happened, and thinking it’s her fault. It’s Franco’s fault.”
“Of course it is,” Oscar said, loyally and Cameron flashed him a grateful look. “I don’t know your mom that well, Cam, but she was really nice about setting up that test for me, and she was totally cool with Kim not really wanting to be part of it. I think Kim just didn’t want to get her hopes up, and she’s still—like—in denial about everything. I mean, she was at the hospital today and didn’t come to see us because she doesn’t want to see someone with my dad’s face who isn’t my dad.” He paused. “But you just gotta be around your mom five minutes and you can see you and your brothers are the most important people. And I’m just sorry I didn’t get to see her firing a warning shot. That sounds pretty cool.”
“It was. She made him think she was gonna listen—” Cameron’s chest tightened because he remembered thinking in that moment his mother was going to take Franco’s side and it had gutted him— “She, like, shoved the bat at me, had the safe open, and was aiming the gun before he even knew what was going on. I knew if it was just me and her and him she might have killed him. She didn’t wanna make it worse for my brothers.”
“Joss and Trina—and Emma—” Michael said, “are just worried about you. But I get it, Cam. It’s the oldest kid of a single mom syndrome. My mom was single for a lot of my childhood. And my teen years. And even when she was dating someone, she was always really wrapped up in that. Sonny, Jax, Johnny—” He winced. “Franco.” He shrugged. “Someone has to keep things together. I had to make sure Joss and Morgan were okay. And sometimes it meant giving my mom a break even if she didn’t deserve it.”
“It’s not exactly the same,” Michael said, cutting off Cameron’s protests. “I know that. But you spend a lot of time looking out for your brothers. And protecting your mom. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I learned the hard way, Cam. Sometimes you spend so much time protecting other people, you forget that you matter, too. I think that’s all Trina, Joss, and Emma are saying.”
“I know I do—”
“Maybe you didn’t get kidnapped for four years like Jake or for a few weeks like Aiden,” Michael continued, “but your mom wasn’t the only one who lost Jake.” His voice faltered a moment. “I know what it’s like to lose a brother.”
“I got him back,” Cam said, his eyes stinging. “It’s not the same—”
“He was gone for four years, Cam. I remember. You and I got to know each other while our parents were dating,” Michael reminded him. “And you were always watching Aiden like a hawk. Even more closely than your mom, and I don’t think anyone hovered like she did. Getting him back won’t erase that time.”
“Maybe that’s what Trina and the others don’t get,” Oscar offered. “When my dad went missing, I thought Kim was gonna send me away. I thought I would be all alone. Just because she kept me, and because my dad is alive after all, it doesn’t mean I didn’t feel scared. It’s not the same, I know—”
“No, I get it. It’s just—I need to be okay for my mom and my brothers. I know that sounds stupid. But Mom kept going back to Lucky because she wanted me and Jake to have a father, and Jason didn’t—I don’t know what his issue was. But Lucky kept promising her he wanted us. He didn’t.” Cameron’s lips thinned. “I need her to know that it’s okay that we don’t have have a dad. Or that I don’t. I don’t need anyone but her.”
Elm Street Pier
Jason sat on the bench, and stared out over the water — he could almost make out the spot on Pier 52 where he’d been ambushed by Cesar Faison—where he’d found Bernie bleeding out, struggling to breathe. He’d been such a good man—he’d deserved better.
“I guess your day didn’t get better after you left the hospital,” Elizabeth said.
He turned to find her at the bottom of the stairs, a purse over one shoulder, a bag from Kelly’s in her hand. “Hey.”
“You know, I haven’t been here in a while,” she said, sitting down on the bench. “I think maybe I stopped coming here after we broke up the last time.” She glanced at him. “We always seemed to end up here—even back in the beginning. And I knew—after that last time—we were never going to make it work.”
“I stopped coming here, too,” he admitted. Jason looked back out over the water. “One of my favorite things to do was sit here and listen to you talk about your painting. Or a class. Or Kelly’s. Then, something about Cam or the hospital.”
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Really?” she asked. “You never told me that. I always thought you mostly tuned out my babbling.”
“Sometimes I did,” he admitted, and she laughed. “But mostly —” He paused. “No matter what was bothering me, I could just listen to you—” Jason met her eyes and held them. “And it would go away.”
“I know what you mean,” Elizabeth murmured. “Because you’d sit and listen to the ridiculous babbling, and then you’d drive me home on your bike.”
His smile slid away, and he looked back out over the pier. “I don’t even know where the bike is now,” Jason said softly.
She waited a minute. “What happened at Anna’s, Jason?”
“What happened to bring you down here instead of going home to the boys?” he asked pointedly, and she made a face. “We can talk about it tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe—maybe you could just talk to me about anything other than the last few days. Maybe we both need it.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Okay.” She paused, furrowing her brow for a moment. “A few years ago, when Cam was, oh, I think he must have been twelve. He and Emma were dating the way kids do—sitting on the couch, playing video games. Spencer and Joss wanted to break them up—”
“Joss?” Jason repeated.
“Oh, yeah, they’re partners in crime now, but Joss went through a period where she decided Cameron was her soul mate. He wasn’t interested, but didn’t know how to let her down lightly. So Joss decided Emma was her mortal enemy, and at Aiden’s birthday party—I think he was turning four—Joss decided to push Emma into the pool and ruin her dress. Trina saw her heading that way and pushed Joss first. Spencer was upset on Joss’s behalf and shoved Trina in the pool—and Cam got really mad—”
“How many of them ended up in the pool?” Jason asked with a hesitant smile.
“All of them. I thought Emma would escape the whole thing, but Joss doesn’t give up easily. She waited until everyone was distracted and finished the job. Aiden thought it was a lot of fun.” Elizabeth grinned. “Carly came to pick Joss up and gave her a lecture about wasting her time on boys who weren’t interested in her. She didn’t think it was funny when I started laughing, so she tried to push me in the pool, only she slipped and fell instead.” She sighed happily. “It’s one of my favorite moments.”
Jason laughed at that, his shoulders easing. He smiled at her. “Thanks.”
“Anytime.” Elizabeth got to her feet. “I should get home, though. I forbid the boys from watching anything scarier than Hocus Pocus, which means—” She glanced at her watch. “Aiden should be waking up from his first nightmare right about now.”
“I’ll walk you to your car,” Jason said, as they went up the stairs.
“Maybe you should find out where your bike is,” Elizabeth suggested.
“Yeah, you’re still not going to drive even when I do get it back.”
“I am the mother of three—don’t you think I can handle the responsibility?”
“Nice try. No.”