Everybody’s talking in words
I don’t understand
You got to be the only one
Who knows just who I am
And you shine in the distance
I hope I can make it through
‘Cause the only place
That I want to be
Is right back home with you
– You Make It Real, James Morrison
Cassadine Estate: Hallway
Nikolas scrubbed his weary hands over his face, exhausted to the bone. Nearly a year of doing his grandmother’s bidding and he still had so little to show for it.
Jake had been returned home, but he hadn’t found a way to reveal Jason Morgan’s identity that wouldn’t be traced back to him. If the world discovered he knew—
No one would ever believe he’d kept it from Elizabeth, and her world would crumble around her. She’d done exactly as he’d told her — move on with her life as if the secret didn’t exist but he knew it was tearing her apart inside to allow Jake Doe to marry her and raise little Jake, never knowing the truth.
Nikolas wondered how Elizabeth slept at night, but then of course — he managed to find an escape when his eyes closed and his crimes were legion. He could have stopped her long before that night at the Nurse’s Ball, long before she’d been humiliated by Ric Lansing.
If Nikolas couldn’t find a way out of this before the wedding in a few weeks, it would be so much worse.
The truth always came out in Port Charles.
He approached his grandmother’s study, then paused as he heard the murmur of voices. He knew Helena’s voice, but the other—
“How soon do you want the memories implanted?” a man asked.
Nikolas leaned against the wall next the door, frowning. Memories implanted? What—
“I want you to get settled first. Mr. Morgan might be difficult to take into custody — and I want to be sure this ceremony goes through.”
“I’m not sure why it matters—”
“This isn’t the way I planned it,” Helena admitted, “but I’d be a fool not to take advantage of that weak moron. She knows the truth and is still trying to create a future? No. I want her at her happiest before I break her for good.”
His lungs constricted as Nikolas took that in. Helena wasn’t talking about his mother or another Spencer —
She was talking about Elizabeth.
Suddenly, pieces of this made sense. Taking Jason Morgan in the first place — kidnapping Jake only to return him once Elizabeth had lied about Jake Doe—she’d done it to twist the knife—
“You’re sure that the trigger is set?” Helena continued. “When I send the gift, the boy will get the message?”
Wearily, the man murmured in agreement. “Yes. It’ll be a slow build up, but the voices will escalate. He’ll perform the final trick and trigger the Chimera at the Nurse’s Ball just as you wanted.” There was a pause. “Mrs. Cassadine, there has to be another way to get your revenge—”
“My justice,” Helena snarled as Nikolas absorbed what he’d heard. “You knew what you were getting into, Dr. Maddox—”
“I’ve done as you’ve asked every step of the way, but please don’t pretend I knew everything. I took a research position. I never agreed to work on children or to plan their death—”
Nikolas’s hands fists at his side. Had this man planned the accident that had stolen Jake away from his family? He’d destroy him—
“You knew you were brushing aside ethics when you took my brother-in-law’s offer,” Helena retorted. “What’s the different between destroying the life of an adult and a child? Their height?”
“Jason Morgan and his brother are still breathing. I never planned their deaths. You’re planning to use an innocent child to kill a room full of people—”
“My, my, Dr. Maddox—” Helena’s voice was amused. “Where was all this righteous fury six months ago when you completed the work on young Mr. Webber?”
The man was silent.
“That’s what I thought. Now, we have much to do before the Nurse’s Ball. Let’s look at our timeline.”
Nikolas listened as Helena laid it out, including the trigger that lived in Jake’s head. He listened as he realized his grandmother had lied to him from the beginning. She’d never intended Elizabeth to get her son back. Not for good. Not for real.
It was time to stop Helena. He’d let her run the show long enough.
Monday, December 25, 2017
Webber House: Living Room
From the moment Aiden and Jake came down the stairs around six the next morning, they couldn’t drag themselves away from looking at their brand-new bikes, even though Jake looked pretty excited to see that Jason had stayed the night. He was sitting next to Elizabeth on the sofa with his own cup of coffee, watching them take turns opening the gifts.
The only gift that rivaled his bike was the baking set that Aiden simply stared at after he’d torn the paper from it. His eyes were shining as he looked at his mother. “For me?”
“My birthday cake turned out so good this year,” Elizabeth said, “I wanted to see what you could do for your brothers in May.”
“Wow—” Aiden ran his fingers over the picture on the box, with the decorating tools. “I don’t even know how to use all this stuff.”
“YouTube, man,” Cameron advised him as he reached for a box. He wrinkled his nose and tossed it at Jake. “That one’s yours—”
“Oh, yeah—here’s one for you—” The boys switched their gifts—then opened up boxes of clothes.
“Uh, it’s nice,” Cameron said, laying the blue sweatshirt back in the box. “Any more video games?”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “You know, you’ll thank me when you’re not freezing your butt off in February.”
“I said it was nice,” Cameron said, rolling his eyes. He hesitated as he saw a small pile underneath coffee table. “Hey, how come those are over there?”
“Those are from me,” Jason said. He set the coffee aside, intending to get up—but Jake had realized the shapes couldn’t possibly be more clothes and scrambled over to drag out the pile. “Here’s yours, Aiden. And Cam—”
Cameron took the box from Jake, then looked at Jason, then back at the box. Finally, he opened it, and then frowned as he took out a smaller box with a key in it. “What…what is this?”
“Your mom said you’re getting your permit this year,” Jason said, “because you’ll be seventeen—”
Elizabeth made a face. “And I made the mistake of telling him you get to do behind the wheel in March at school, so you’ll get your permit early.”
“It’s not much,” Jason said, as he got to his feet and, stunned, Cameron followed him to the front door. Outside, parked at the curb, was a small two-door Chevrolet Cavalier. “It’s not a new car,” he continued. “I think they said it was a 2004—”
“You bought me a car,” Cameron said. He turned to his mom. “You said it was okay?”
“Yeah. Well, it’s from me, too, but it was Jason’s idea,” Elizabeth said, standing up. “I’m really not ready for you to get behind the wheel of a car, but your first car should be a terrible clunker. Jason found one to fix up.” She bit her lip. “Is it okay?”
“Okay?” Cameron repeated. “You bought me a car.”
“Whoa, that is wicked cool!” Aiden said, bouncing up and down. “Can we go driving now?”
“Not until March,” Cameron said, still a bit stunned. “Is it going to sit there?”
“I still need to do some work on the engine,” Jason told him, “so it’ll be at the garage when I finally sign the lease. But your mom said with your permit, you can drive with other adults. So—”
Elizabeth handed Cameron an envelope. “That is an agreement from several adults with licenses to take you. Michael volunteered, and so did Drew. Jason and I are both here if you want it. Felix and Griffin both offered, too, but I’ve seen Felix drive, so—oh, and your grandmother. Both of them.”
Cameron stared at the list of people who’d agreed to give him driving lessons. “This is—” He looked at his mother. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
“Well, a car seemed like a really big gift for a birthday,” Elizabeth said, “and this way you’ll have it when you start the class. You have to learn how to take care of it yourself—and pay for your own gas—”
“Yeah, whatever you need. I’ll drive the kids everywhere—” Cameron threw his arms around his mother, and hugged her tightly. “Thank you.”
She closed her eyes, sighing at the way her little boy towered over her now. “Hey, all I did was say yes, pay for the insurance, and get the driving lessons—”
“Oh, yeah, yeah—” Cameron looked at Jason. “Uh, thanks. I mean, really. I mean it, thanks.”
“This is gonna be the best summer,” Jake said. “No more Michael driving us everywhere—”
“Uh, he can’t drive you two anywhere by himself until he’s eighteen and that is still a whole year and a half away,” Elizabeth said as Aiden and Jake returned to their gifts. Jake was very excited by the new drawing set and watercolors, and Aiden was beaming again at the offer of baking and cooking lessons from Sonny.
Later, when Elizabeth was in the kitchen with Jake and Aiden, watching carefully as the two of them cooked breakfast, Cameron helped Jason clean up the living room.
“You knew you were getting me the car last night when I said all that stuff?” Cameron asked, his cheeks a bit flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry—”
“Cameron—” Jason waited for the teen to meet his eyes. “You have every right to your feelings, and nothing you said last night was out of line. In fact—” He paused. “There were some things I needed to hear. And if you needed to say them, I’m glad I could be there. I asked your mom what you’d want most for Christmas, and we worked together on this. I’m glad you like it.”
“Like it? Dude, it’s a car.” Cameron shook his head. “It’s the best. I want to know how to take care of it, so, maybe when you do that engine work, I could help—”
“Yeah, sure.” Jason arranged some of the gifts Aiden had left strewn across the room more neatly under the tree. “I have a few more places to see this week, but I should have something early in January. We’ll have the car ready by the time in time.”
“Awesome. Really. And it’s kind of cool you and Mom did it together. Um—” Cameron paused. “The things I said last night? I still meant them. Even if I feel bad about it.”
“I also think I was just a kid,” Cameron continued, “and I know maybe I don’t know everything that went down. It’s just—” He looked towards the kitchen, where Jake was grinning at Elizabeth who had managed to get waffle batter on her cheek. “I know you’re feeling messed up about this divorce thing, and like, I just—I really don’t want my mom to get hurt again.”
Jason nodded slowly. “Yeah, I know. I don’t want that either.”
“Did you—did you tell her what I said?”
“No,” Jason said, “but she knows you heard Lucky.” Cameron winced. “I didn’t tell her, but your fight with Trina wasn’t all that quiet, so it got back to your mom it was about something you heard from Lucky.”
“Yeah, and Mom’s pretty smart, so it didn’t take long.” Cameron stared down at the trash bag full of wrapping paper. “Is she okay?”
“She’s worried about you, and I told her you’d come to her when you were ready. I didn’t tell her anything you said, I just confirmed what she already knew, Cameron.”
“Thanks.” Cameron shrugged. “I should probably do that today, I guess. We do lunch at Kelly’s on Christmas, so maybe you could take Jake and Aiden, and I’ll talk to her then.”
“If you’re ready.”
Cameron made a face. “Well, that’ll be never, but I should suck it up. I don’t want her to worry about me.”
Greystone Manor: Kitchen
Joss practically bounced into the kitchen, beaming. “You are never going to guess what Cam got for Christmas!” she told her mother as she sat down at the table, then reached for the plate of pancakes.
“No, what—Avery—” Carly narrowed her eyes as her stepdaughter dipped a spoon into the strawberry jam and ate it. “That’s a topping for the pancakes, baby—”
“But it’s fruit,” Avery said, “and it’s sweet. Daddy said fruit is good for you.”
“Don’t even try it,” Sonny advised as he set the sausages down. “I know she’s only five, but she’s been talking circles around me with food.”
“Really? She’ll have to give me tips.” Carly picked up her coffee, and studiously avoided the
two empty chairs where her boys had once sat. Her first Christmas without Morgan had been a blur, but this second one—oh, man, it cut sharper than she thought it would. “What did Cam get?”
“A freaking car!” Joss slid a chocolate-chip pancake onto her plate. “Jason got him a really old used car they’re gonna fix up because Cam gets his permit in March. I can’t believe his mom said it was okay—”
“Oh, I knew about that,” Sonny said. “Jason told me about it, and I think Michael offered to toss in some driving time. So he liked it?”
“Liked it? He actually called to tell me, not text me,” Joss said. “Like, that says everything.”
“Clearly.” Carly hesitated. “It was from Jason?” Sonny sent her a look, and Carly glared at him.
“Yeah, I guess that make sense. Cam said his mom is paying for insurance, which I don’t know anything about, and he has to pay for his own gas, but Jason’s the one into cars, isn’t he? And it’s so cool Cam didn’t have to wait until his birthday—Plus, he’s been in a rotten mood the last few days because people are the frickin worst, but between the cars and my plans, 2018 is gonna kick ass—”
“Uh, your plans?” Sonny winced. “Joss, you think maybe you want to preview those plans—”
“Michael.” Carly stared at her eldest son as he came through the kitchen door, leaning over to kiss Joss on the cheek, then Avery. “I didn’t think you were coming this morning.”
“Grandma went over to Elizabeth’s to see the boys,” Michael said, “and I didn’t want to sit alone at the mansion.” He poured himself an orange juice. “I hear Cam likes the car.”
“Freaking awesome, right? Hey, am I going to get a car for my birthday?” Joss asked.
“I’m going to slap the crap out of Jason and Elizabeth for putting that idea in her head,” Carly muttered. Michael’s mouth tightened at her words, and she glared at him. “I’m not serious, Michael—”
“I don’t want to fight—”
“Well, I don’t want you to make faces at me either,” Carly snapped. “I’m entitled not to be excited about my daughter driving. I didn’t like it when you or Morgan—” She closed her eyes, waited as the sharp pain passed. “You’ll understand one day,” she attempted again, opening her eyes. “Putting your baby behind the wheel of a car that can hurt them—”
“A car took Morgan to Heaven,” Avery proclaimed with a sad sigh. “I miss him.”
“I didn’t mean anything by the look, Mom. I just—” Michael shrugged as he cut up his pancakes. “You know how you get—”
“Michael,” Joss cut in, “maybe just, like, you know, stop. Right? It’s Christmas, and Mom didn’t even say anything.”
“Michael,” Sonny said sharply as Carly’s throat tightened.
“It’s fine.” Carly took a deep breath. “It’s fine,” she repeated. “I’ve been know to overreact where Elizabeth is concerned, and Michael likes her. I was joking, Michael. That’s all. I’m glad Cam likes the car,” she told Joss. “And I know Jason will make sure it’s safe for him. Plus, since he has a car, you don’t need one now.”
“Oh my God—” Joss huffed. “That’s not even funny.”
“Sounded great to me.” Carly checked the time on her phone. “Did you talk to your dad yet?”
“No, but it’s like practically tomorrow there. I’ll call him later. Hey, Avery, you gonna have any pancakes with that strawberry jam?”
Michael stayed only for breakfast, then left. Carly wandered back into the living room to look out over the snow falling on the terrace. She’d never lived in this house with the boys as children, so there were no memories of Christmases with Michael and Morgan underfoot, not like there were with Joss and Avery.
Carly turned to look at Sonny, then sighed as she focused on the snow again. “He’s nicer to you than he is to me, and you actually killed AJ,” she muttered. “I just covered it up.” She winced when Sonny lifted his brows. “I’m sorry.”
“And it wasn’t like this a few months ago. It just wasn’t. We were fine. I was dealing with Nelle. Then Jason came home, and the AJ stuff came back, and it’s like Michael decided he shouldn’t have forgiven us. And I don’t understand why—” Carly pressed a fist to her chest. “I know I’m not a good person, Sonny, but I don’t think I’m a terrible one. Not all the time. I was protecting you, yeah, but I was protecting Michael.” Her voice faltered. “I didn’t want him to lose you both. Should I have told the truth?”
“We can’t think about what we could have done differently,” Sonny told her. “We just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other. And it’s this Nelle stuff. Just stay away from her—”
“I keep trying, but she’s just—she’s just always there. She knows exactly what she’s doing.” Carly shook her head. “I know we said we need to let him make his own mistakes, but I can’t—I let Morgan go, Sonny. I let him make mistakes and he was sick. And I almost lost Michael so many times—I can’t do it again. I won’t survive losing another child—” Her voice broke. “I almost buried him once, and she’s stealing him from me, and he doesn’t even see it—”
“We’ll get through it, Carly—”
Penthouse: Living Room
Sam’s mouth was tight as she watched Drew put Danny’s coat on. “We could just go to my mom’s—”
“We always to go Kelly’s for lunch on Christmas,” Drew said. “Sam—”
“You said I could see Jake,” Danny told his mother, narrowing his eyes. “I saw Grammy last night. I wanna see my brother today.”
“But—” Sam paused. “Oscar will be there,” she told Drew. “We haven’t—”
“Oscar?” Danny looked back and forth between them. “That’s Joss’s friend. How come—”
“Danny—” Drew hesitated. “Look, there’s things going on right now that you don’t know about,” he began.
“Drew, don’t—” Sam slammed her mouth shut when Danny looked at her in confusion. She’d never called Drew by any name around Danny since it had happened.
“I don’t—” Danny’s little brows were crinkled together. “Why did you call Daddy Drew?”
“Because—” Drew said, heavily, kneeling in front of him. “We found out something really hard to understand a few weeks ago, buddy. You remember I didn’t know who I was when I came to Port Charles?”
“Don’t—” Sam started, but Danny and Drew ignored her.
“Yeah, but then you did—”
“Someone played a trick on me,” Drew told him, his voice tight. “And gave me memories that belonged to someone else. To Jason Morgan. Your father. It turns out I’m his brother.”
“Someone gave you his memories and made you think you were him? That’s mean—” Danny stopped. “But then how can you be my dad?”
“I—” Drew took a deep bracing breath. “I want to be. But I’m not your father by blood. Or Jake’s.”
“But—” Danny shook his head, trying to piece it together. He looked at his mother. “Mommy?”
“I told you I didn’t want to do this at all, and you’re doing it on Christmas?” Sam snapped.
“Well, you decided to start a fight about lunch and called me Drew,” he retorted.
“Don’t fight—” Danny’s lip trembled. “Don’t go away.”
“I’m not—” Drew took Danny by the shoulders. “I love you. I will always love you and Jake. I’ve talked to my brother. To the real Jason Morgan, and he knows how much I love you both, and he wants me to keep loving you both.”
“Oh. Then he doesn’t want me—”
“He wants you to be happy,” Sam cut in sharply. “And you’re happy with Drew as your daddy—”
“Yeah, but—” Danny tried to put his words together. “But Daddy said someone played a trick on him. So he’s someone else.”
“I’m Andrew Cain,” Drew told him. “Everyone calls me Drew. Before someone played a trick on me, I was a Navy Seal. I have a son, and you have a cousin. His name is Oscar.”
“Oscar?” Danny repeated. “He’s your real son?”
“By blood, yeah, but I want him to be part of your family, too, Danny. Just like Jake and Aiden and Cameron and Scout. He didn’t know he had any family, Danny. Just like me when I woke up from my accident. But now he has lots of cousins.”
“But I get to keep you?” Danny said, pensively. “My other daddy is okay if I keep you?”
“He wants what’s best for you,” Sam said before Drew could come up with a way to respond to that.
“He loves you,” Drew told Danny as Sam scowled behind him. “We’ll make it work. No one has to lose anyone. We’ll keep each other. Okay?”
“Okay,” Danny said, a bit dubious because even at six years old, he could sense the tension in the room. “Can we go to Kelly’s? I wanna meet Oscar and see Jake.”
“Yeah.” Drew got to his feet. “Do me a favor? Go check on your sister upstairs? Make sure she’s napping.”
When Danny was upstairs, he turned to Sam, who was glaring at him. “It had to be done. I didn’t want it to be today, but you’re right. Oscar will be there, and I don’t know—Jason might show up with Jake and his brothers. We can’t put our head in the sand. Whatever happens with custody of Danny, we weren’t going to be able to keep the truth forever—”
“You don’t get to tell me in one breath that you don’t want to be his father and then promise he gets to keep you,” Sam interrupted. “Because the only way he keeps you is if Jason signs those papers—”
“It’s not the only way. Why can’t you trust that Jason and I—and you—can make this work?” Drew asked. “At the party last night, I was with Jake and Oscar, and it was strange, but it’s starting to work. I’m looking at Oscar, and I’m feeling that connection. He’s my son, Sam. And Danny’s my nephew. I love him. I don’t want to lose him, but I’m not going to pretend that Jason isn’t trying hard to reconnect with Jake—and Jake’s happy. Why wouldn’t I want more love for Danny?”
“Because I’m not Elizabeth,” Sam said, tossing her hair over shoulder. “She might be fine with Jason waltzing back into Jake’s life, but fine. He wanted Jake. He never wanted my son—”
“That’s not true—”
“You might have his memories,” Sam said, “but that doesn’t mean you have all the information. You don’t get to tell me how I feel—”
“Did you ever believe I was Jason?” Drew demanded. “Because you don’t get to hold this crap against Jason when you didn’t against me—so what is it, Sam? Why are you so angry at him and not at me?”
“I—” Sam closed her mouth, her eyes wide at the question. “I don’t—” She swallowed hard. “I thought I put it all away,” she confessed. “I thought I’d forgiven him. But I didn’t. And maybe I didn’t know it until I saw his face and heard his voice. Because I could hear all the things he’d said to me. The way he made me feel dirty because of what happened to me—”
“Sam—” Drew cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. I didn’t—”
“You know what he said to me. He didn’t know if he could love Danny. And I’m supposed to magically forgive that now because we know he’s Danny’s biological father?”
“You were going to get back together before he got shot—”
“Maybe. But maybe I also would have wondered every day if he really loved my son. I don’t want that. You don’t have to like my reasons, Drew, and maybe you can’t live with them. But that’s not your decision to make. It’s mine. Danny is my son. He has been only mine since the day I found out I was pregnant. I fought for him, I grieved for him, I got him through cancer—no one else!” Sam’s hand fisted at her side. “No one is going to tell me how to raise him.”
Drew started to say something, then turned as Danny appeared at the top of the stairs. “Hey, is your sister asleep?” When Danny nodded, Drew continued, “Then we should get going.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Joss sat down at the table where Trina, Oscar, and Emma were waiting. “You were able to get out on Christmas?” she said to Emma with a furrowed brow. “Your parents never let you before—”
“Oh, Mom and Dad are doing a big powwow with Grandma and Grandpa,” Emma said, picking up her water. “Grandma’s still pissed about her car, and Mom wanted me out of the way so they could talk.”
“But you left the iPad recording, right?” Joss asked, and Emma nodded. “Good. Because I’ve been thinking that we’re getting left out of all this crap, and we shouldn’t be. Your grandma got hurt, and Oscar’s going through all of this, and it’s messing with Cam and his brothers. So we need more information.”
“This is a whole new side to you,” Oscar said, frowning at her. “You okay?”
“No. And we need to figure out what we’re gonna do—” Joss winced as she saw a familiar set of shoulders. “Crap. That’s Jason—Cam must already be here—”
“Hey!” Aiden rushed across the restaurant to hug Trina and Emma. “I didn’t know you were gonna be here!”
“Hey, kid. How’s Christmas? Santa been good to you?” Trina asked.
“He was awesome.” Aiden pointed at the table where Jake and Jason had taken a seat. “But Mom and Cam are back at the house, so I gotta go make sure we order for them.”
“Oh, okay, well, we’re over here if you need us.” Joss waited until Aiden had gone back to the table, where Jason met her eyes, raised his brows, and Joss hunched her shoulders. “Okay, so our time is limited, and Jason knows I know, so we gotta stay out of jail.”
“Wait, was jail on the table?” Oscar said.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Emma declared.
“I am,” Trina said. “I can’t get caught or I’ll catch fire.” She nodded to Joss. “So tell me the plan, and I’ll make it better.”
Joss narrowed her eyes, but decided not to break the truce. “Okay, well the objective is to destroy Lucky Spencer so hard that he stays the hell away from Port Charles forever and regrets the day he ever decided to be a giant asshole and make Cameron feel like crap. I think we can get him deported to somewhere in Asia. Spinelli knows a guy.”
Emma nodded. “Yes. I like it. Let’s think big.”
“Wait—” Oscar protested.
“How about Russia?” Trina wanted to know. “Do they still got gulags?”
Webber House: Kitchen
Elizabeth switched on the dishwater and looked across the counter at her eldest son, perched on the stool. “So.”
“So.” Cameron stared at his hands, flattened against the counter. “Uh, Jason said you know what I heard.”
“He told me, but he didn’t say anything about what happened last night.” Elizabeth leaned against the counter. “First, I want to say that I never should have had that conversation with you in the house. I obviously didn’t know he would say that, but if I wanted to tell Lucky Spencer he was a shitty father, I should have waited until none of you could hear it.”
“Yeah, well, in your defense, most guys would lie about whether or not they love the kid who used to call him Dad.” Cameron hesitated. “I don’t know what to say, Mom. It sucks, but I guess it’s better to know. I don’t have to wonder anymore. He doesn’t think of me as his kid. I’d say it wasn’t a big loss, but—” He hesitated. “Part of me really just doesn’t get it. He used to take me and Jake all the time when you guys got divorced. We played games and baseball, and he took me places. He told everyone I was his son.”
“And, like, I don’t know—I don’t think it changed a lot after Jake’s accident. But maybe it did.” Cameron scratched something on the counter. “It’s not like I thought of all the guys you’ve dated as, like, father figures or anything. Mostly they were nice to me, and I liked you being happy. Most of them didn’t bother me.”
“Cameron—there were times I was very selfish,” Elizabeth said, “incredibly, stupidly selfish. Never more than when I lied to Jake Doe about who he was. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t Jason, or that he never really felt like Jason. I thought he was supposed to be him. And I took the chance that it would work out for us because we were happy. I wanted it so much for for all of us—but mostly for me.”
She waited for him to meet her eyes. “And that lie dragged me down, and made feel so bad about myself that I thought Franco was a good idea. The fact that I brought him into this house, let him live here, knowing what he’d done in his past, let him around you three—he put his hands on you—”
“Just a push, Mom. It’s fine—”
“It’s not fine. And I would have shot him if your brothers hadn’t been there,” Elizabeth admitted. “I shouldn’t tell you that, but well, you need to know that I am deeply ashamed of what he did and that I let myself feel so worthless that I thought Franco was good enough for us.”
“Mom.” Cameron pressed his lips together. “I know it was like losing Jake was this…crazy thing that just ruined everything for years. I missed him so much, and you were always so sad. Even when you weren’t. I thought getting him back would fix everything, but it made it so much harder. And I feel like shit for saying that. Sorry,” he said as an afterthought.
“No, it’s okay. Yeah, Jake coming home meant putting all my energy and time into him. Especially after his second accident, losing the house, and his issues these last two years. And I’ve been so proud of you—and Aiden—for stepping up and making him feel okay. You shouldn’t have had to do it, but you did.”
“It makes me so mad that someone stole him and screwed with his mind, and they did it to Jason and Drew, and all these people they hurt,” Cameron muttered. “They didn’t care what it did to us. Helena never cared about me or Aiden. She just wanted to hurt you. And Jake. And Lucky’s family.” He paused. “But things are better lately. Or they were.”
“I thought so,” Elizabeth said. “I’m so sorry, baby, that Lucky can’t bring himself to love you the way you deserve. I never wanted that for you. I wanted you to have a family where you felt safe. Every day, I wanted you to wake up and know you were loved just for being you. I didn’t have that, not even with Gram,” she admitted. “Not until I got older and I met Emily and Patrick. They never, ever judged me. Not even when they should have. Sometimes, the people who are supposed to love you let you down the most. I’m so sorry that you had to find that out like this.”
“I sort of blasted Jason last night,” Cameron said. “Joss told me about the divorce, and I was like—well maybe Sam was right. Because Jason left Jake, but he left you and me, too. I’m not stupid, Mom. He was around a lot, you were really happy. You almost went on a trip together, and then he was gone.”
“We were engaged for a half a second,” Elizabeth admitted. “But…Michael got shot, and Jake got kidnapped—and we just didn’t hold on enough. We got scared, Cam. Jason didn’t want to leave us, but we both—we both thought it was a good idea. I didn’t—” She hesitated. “And I think by the time we both realized we should have done things differently, we’d missed our chance. But Jason never abandoned Jake. Not the way Sam is saying in those papers.”
“Yeah, I know that now. I was just—I was thinking about myself, and Lucky—and Jake and Danny. He still gave me the car today, so I guess I didn’t piss him off too much,” Cameron said.
“It’s impossible to make him mad enough to cut you out of his life,” Elizabeth told him. “Believe me, I’ve done my own level of damage to Jason over the years, and you’ve met Carly.”
“Yeah.” Cameron snorted. “Yeah, I guess he does have a high tolerance for crap.” He paused. “Maybe things are better because he’s around again, and that’s why you’re happy again. But it never stays that way. How can you keep doing this, Mom? I mean, like, how do you keep—” He shrugged. “How do you keep letting people close enough to hurt you? I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Even Emma, and she heard it. I yelled at Trina, and I know I hurt Joss’s feelings. I hurt a lot of people—”
“That’s the best thing about finding a real family,” Elizabeth told him. “You find your people who love you no matter what, who get that sometimes you’re in a bad mood, and you do dumb things. It’s about trust, Cameron. You have to trust that Joss, Trina, and Emma have known you all your life, and will forgive you because they know what happened. Jason, no matter what you said to him last night, didn’t even consider holding a grudge because he just wants you to be okay.” She paused. “And that’s why I can trust him, Cam. Whatever is going on. Because at the end of the day, when you find the people who know who you are, deep down, all your ugly places, and love you anyway— that’s your family.”
“Thanks.” Cameron slid off the stool. “I’m okay,” he told her. “I guess I just should suck it up and go to Kelly’s to apologize, huh?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth paused. “Are you okay?”
“About Lucky? No,” Cameron admitted. “But you know, it’s his loss. He could have had all of us, but he just wants Aiden, and Aiden’s gonna see it one day, and then Lucky won’t have anyone. So—you know, that’ll be his problem. Not mine. But I was never mad at you.”
“Well, maybe you should have been,” she said. “Blast me next time, Cam. I can take it.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Trina shook her head. “No, I really think we’re not being creative enough. We should talk to Spencer. I bet he has some ideas.” She scowled at the scribbled notes on the napkin. “And maybe we could figure out a way to yeet Charlotte into the sun while we’re taking out Spencers that are pissing us off—”
“Look, you shot down my last six ideas just because I don’t think a Russian gulag is practical,” Joss said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t even know if they have them anymore.”
“My grandma could find out,” Emma chirped. “I could call her—”
“Yeah, but then we’d have to tell her why,” Oscar said. “I still think we could think a bit smaller, a bit more legal—” When Joss scowled. “I mean, look, we could work our way up to gulags—”
“Well, I still like him being deported and dumped in the middle of the Sahara desert,” Joss decided. “Like right in the middle. See if he can be a little bitch when he’s roasting his nuts off—”
“Uh, who are you dumping in the Sahara?”
The four of them twisted to find Cameron standing behind them, his brow arched. “Because I think that it’s pretty good revenge idea. We should put it on the list in case we need it for later.”
“We’re going to destroy Lucky,” Emma told Cameron. “We’ve been planning it for the last forty-five minutes. Joss and Trina called a truce and everything.”
“Yeah, if a truce means them arguing about gulags for a solid twenty,” Oscar told Cameron as he pulled up a chair.
Cameron took a deep breath. “Call off the destruction,” he told them. “I appreciate it, but he’s still Aiden’s dad, and Aiden loves him.”
“Aiden doesn’t know any better,” Trina muttered.
“No, but he’s eight. And I already got one little brother who didn’t get to be a kid for long, so I’m okay with Aiden thinking his dad is a good guy for a few more years.” Cameron hesitated. “I’m sorry I flipped out. I yelled at most of you, but I’m okay.”
“I’ll be okay,” he corrected, interrupting Trina’s question. “Eventually.”
“Not that this isn’t touching,” Joss said, “and I accept your apology because you know, I’m on board with keeping the little man happy, but—” She gestured towards the doorway. “What do we know about the Danny situation?”
Cameron twisted in his chair, then winced as he saw Drew coming into the diner with Danny at his side. “Let me go do the recon.”
Drew walked Danny over to the table where Elizabeth had joined Jason and her boys. “Uh, hey,” he said to them, as Danny squinted his eyes at Jason.
“I know you. I saw you on Halloween,” Danny said. He looked at Drew. “Is he my other daddy?”
Jason’s eyes widened at that, and his mouth tightened at the corners, but that was the only part of his expression that changed. Jake got off his chair and went around the table to Danny’s side.
“Hey, Danny,” Jake said. “I missed you. Merry Christmas.” He hugged his younger brother. “Did you get good gifts?”
“Yeah, but—” Danny studied Jason. “You look like photos I saw once of Daddy before the accident, so you are my other daddy, aren’t you?”
Jason glanced at Drew who sat at one of the empty chairs. “Yeah, this is Jason Morgan. Your dad by blood,” he continued. “Remember I said that he’s my brother? Like you and Jake. We’re twins.”
“Oh. But you had the accident so now you don’t look alike no more.” Danny nodded, taking it in. He looked at Jason again. “Daddy said you said it would be okay if I kept him. Because he’s a really good daddy. But do I get to keep Jake?”
“Of course,” Jason said, his voice a bit rough. “Jake’s—he’s missed you these last few weeks. And I—I want you to be happy, Danny. I’m glad you have a good dad.”
“But you’re not Jake’s daddy anymore?” Danny said, looking at Drew again. “How can we be brothers, then?”
“Because brothers can mean a lot of things,” Cameron spoke up, and Danny tilted his head up. “You and me, we don’t have any of the same parents, do we?” he asked as he knelt down in front of the younger boy.
“But didn’t Jake say we were brothers?”
“Yeah.” Danny smiled shyly. “You have good video games.”
“So you and Jake can stay brothers no matter who raises you.” Cameron paused. “And you know, Drew’s awesome. I’m glad you to have him. I’m glad Jake gets to have him and Jason. You’re really lucky, Danny, to have so many people who love you.”
“Do I get more presents?” Danny wanted to know. “Because I think if I get two dads, I should get more presents.”
“You can have all the presents you want,” Drew told him. He met Jason’s eyes. “We’re still figuring everything out, but there’s no reason we can’t all get to know each other and do it together.” He gestured to the table of teenagers. “Oscar, come over and meet Danny.”
“You okay?” Elizabeth asked Jason softly.
“Yeah, I just—” Jason met her eyes. “I wasn’t expecting this today.”
“I know we haven’t talked about the custody thing,” she said softly, “but you and I both know how much you loved Jake. Don’t sign anything that says differently. Even if you think it’s best for Danny.”