Cause sometimes shit don’t go your way, sometimes
And sometimes you gon’ have those days, yeah
And sometimes you’ll feel out of place
You can’t promise me it’ll be the same
Cause sometimes change
Sometimes, sometimes change
– Sometimes, H.E.R.
Saturday, March 6, 2004
General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room
Cameron’s first night was a long one. Despite his family’s encouragement, Jason didn’t sleep. He preferred to spend long stretches in the NICU, then trade places with someone so that he could sit next to Elizabeth.
He wanted to be there when she woke up, wanted his face to be the first she saw so that he could tell her that their son was okay. That Cameron had responded to treatment — and that Jason had been allowed to hold him twice.
It was nearly seven the next morning when her eyes began to flutter. Jason didn’t even hesitate — he pressed the call button so that someone could take out her breathing tube, then grabbed her hand to squeeze it.
She coughed, her eyes flying open when she couldn’t quite take a breath, looking panicked. Then she found his face—their eyes met—and she squeezed his hand back.
“Hey,” he murmured, bringing her hand to his lips. “It’s okay. They’ll take out the tube in a minute. You’re okay.”
Her other hand flew up to touch her abdomen. She clenched her hand into a fist.
“Cameron’s okay. You delivered him yesterday, and he’s in the NICU. He’s doing well,” he promised her. “He’s never alone. Monica is with him now. He was strong enough—I got to hold him.”
She closed her eyes, a tear sliding her cheek as she nodded. Finally, a nurse came in.
“Good morning, Mrs. Morgan,” she said with a smile. “Dr. Drake will be here in just a moment, and we’ll be taking out your tube.” She looked to Jason. “How long has she been awake?”
“Just a few minutes.”
Patrick arrived shortly after with a relieved smile. “Hey there,” he said. He looked at the nurse. “Epiphany, you ready for removal?”
Elizabeth gagged as the tube was removed, and Jason was ready with water to soothe her throat. She drank greedily, her lips dry and cracked. “Cam—” She said hoarsely. “He’s…okay?”
“He had some issues with his lungs,” Jason admitted. “But it’s common, and Dr. Devlin said that his lungs were already showing improvement the last time I was upstairs. I got to hold him,” he repeated. “They never would have let me do that if he weren’t doing well.”
She nodded, closing her eyes again, squeezing his hand. “He’s okay.”
“You’re okay, too,” Patrick told her. “Do you remember what happened yesterday?”
“I—Waiting for you,” she told Jason hoarsely. “Then…Sonny…and blood. I coughed—there was blood—”
“We stopped the bleeding, and your lungs are also healing,” Patrick said. “Everything went as well as it could, Elizabeth. Good work.” He made a notation on his chart. “We’re going to keep the morphine drip steady,” he told Jason and Elizabeth. “Between the lung issues and the Cesarean, she’ll be in some pain for a few days. Dr. Lee will be by to check her stitches and make sure that’s going well. But we, ah, we dodged a bullet here.” He lifted a brow. “Now, I know you’re jealous because you were my first patient at General Hospital, but that doesn’t mean I need you coming to see me every few months.”
Elizabeth managed a surprised laugh as she nodded. “Won’t—won’t make it a habit.”
“Great.” He flashed them both a grin before leaving.
“You’ll be on liquids for the rest of the day,” the nurse—Epiphany—continued. “But maybe at dinner, we can talk about some solid foods. You know where the call button is.”
When they were alone again, Elizabeth squeezed Jason’s hand again. “Sonny?”
Jason hesitated, but then he nodded. “I left him with Carly and Justus. They handled it. Kevin Collins—he signed involuntary commitment papers to Ferncliffe.”
Her eyes widened. “Jason.”
“Don’t worry about any of that right now.”
She smiled faintly as her eyes drifted closed. “Tired,” she murmured, forcing them back open.
“Sleep,” he said, kissing the inside of her palm again. “It’s almost my turn to go back up to NICU and hold Cameron. I think—I think Nikolas is going to come down and sit with you.”
“Never alone. I remember.” With her free hand, she brushed his cheek with her fingertips. “Never alone.”
“Never,” he promised as her eyes closed again and she slid into a more natural sleep. He watched as her chest rose and fell evenly. He’d never get tired of watching her breathe.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Kelsey craned her head to peer into the window that looked into the kitchen. “Do we comment on Dante working here or let it go?”
“We let it go,” Lucky decided, stirring cream into his coffee. “Lu gave me the heads up, and if we don’t annoy him—” He stopped as his phone vibrated. “Hold on, it’s Emily—I need—” He stood up and headed out to the courtyard.
Cruz’s eyes followed him, concerned. “He’s still wincing when he walks.”
“Yeah, I know. He got an all-clear from the doctor—” Kelsey picked up a sugar packet and twisted it in her fingers. “I’m trying not to be worried. He won’t like it if I hover.”
“He really won’t.” Cruz sipped his coffee. “You doing better? I heard your mom was in town for a few days. I bet that helped.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Kelsey paused. “Sort of. We had another fight about her coming to Port Charles, and she only came because she felt guilty.” She sighed. “Maybe I should be nicer to her about all of this, but am I insane for feeling like she’s overreacting? Dad died in a car accident ten years ago, but Mom acts like it was yesterday, like this town is poison. It’s been comforting for me to be here with people who knew Dad and loved him. To drive by our old house.”
“People react to grief in all kinds of way, Kelse—”
“Yeah, but Mom didn’t even let me say goodbye. I couldn’t go to his funeral, and we moved like five minutes later. Dad died in June, and then we were gone by August.” She shook her head. “It’s not right.”
They looked up as Lucky took his seat again. “Hey, what did what Emily say?” Kelsey asked.
“Giving me an update on Elizabeth. She’s out of the woods,” he reported. “And the baby is doing okay in the NICU. Plus, she wanted me to hear it from her—” Lucky hesitated. “Sonny got sent to Ferncliffe last night. Carly got Dr. Collins to 5150 him.”
“Involuntary commitment.” Cruz’s brows shot up. “That’s a tough sell. He had to be a threat to himself or others—”
“Which makes me wonder exactly what happened in that penthouse before Elizabeth had to be rushed to the hospital.” Lucky shook his head. “But it’s not a criminal case. She just wanted Dante to get the heads up. I, uh, better go let him know.” He got to his feet and headed for the kitchen.
“Man, I hope this doesn’t mess with Dante’s head more,” Cruz muttered. “He’s got enough problems without the sperm donor making it worse.” He focused on Kelsey. “You said your dad died in a single car accident, didn’t you?”
“Yeah. Coming back from an appointment with a client or something. I don’t know. It’s all mostly a blur.” She frowned. “Why?”
“I don’t know. Ten years is a long time not to get over a car accident, and I met your mom the last time she was here. When you were hurt last fall,” he reminded her. “She only stayed a few days. You had a brain injury. You’d think she’d stick longer. She and Scott were all tense every time I came into a room with them together.”
Kelsey tipped her head. “She was really angry about me coming here to work. You think it has something to do with him? He wasn’t even in around when my dad died.”
“It either bothers you enough to find out,” Cruz said, “or you can let it go. That’s going to be up to you.”
Kelsey sighed, looked back down at her partially eaten meal and let Cruz’s words roll around. How much did it really matter that her mother had some sort of phobia about coming to Port Charles? In the end, she’d shown up. Wasn’t that what was important?
But would it always be like this? What if they got married? Had kids? Would her mother always refuse to be part of her life as long as Port Charles was Kelsey’s home?
She wasn’t going to be able to let this go.
Carly peered through the window next to the door and grimaced. This was the absolute last thing she wanted to deal with today, but —
She pulled open the door and folded her arms. “I thought you weren’t coming to Port Charles until the hearing was scheduled.” Or that he wouldn’t show up here without warning.
“I never said I wouldn’t come earlier,” AJ said. “And I waited until I saw Michael leave the house with Lucas. We made a deal, Carly, but this is still where my family is from—”
“Then come to Port Charles and see them. Why are you on my doorstep?” she demanded.
“Carly—” Bobbie appeared over her daughter’s shoulder, her brows drawn together in surprise. “AJ.”
“Bobbie.” AJ flicked his eyes back to Carly. “I wanted to touch base on the recent developments. Can I come in? Or if Michael’s coming back soon, can we meet somewhere else?”
“No, he’s—” Carly stepped back. AJ had a right to know what was going on, and it was just her own defensiveness, her own exhaustion, putting her on the attack. “Lucas and his boyfriend took him to a movie, then they’re going to Kelly’s.”
“Okay.” AJ stepped inside the foyer, waited for Carly to lead him into the living room before speaking again. “I wasn’t planning on contacting you on this trip,” he told her. “I flew in for some paperwork at ELQ and was going back tomorrow. But when I landed, it was in all the papers—”
“I know.” Carly scowled at the dining table where the pieces of the Herald were scattered. The media didn’t have the whole story, thank God, but it hadn’t stopped them from speculating. The Herald, as always, had taken the more respectful route, merely stating that Sonny Corinthos had been admitted Ferncliffe while the Sun gleefully reported Elizabeth’s hospitalization being connected. They were, but that wasn’t anyone’s business.
“I was worried,” AJ said, “based on what we talked about a few weeks ago.” He tipped his head. “What’s going on? If you can or want to talk about it.”
“It doesn’t affect the petition.”
“Carly,” Bobbie murmured. “Maybe—”
“It doesn’t,” she insisted. “In fact—” She jerked a shoulder. “It just makes me more convinced than ever that I need Sonny away from the boys, and he’s left me without a choice with Michael. If he can do that to Elizabeth—” she told her mother. “We begged him to get help—”
“Elizabeth?” AJ echoed. “I thought the Sun was just full of shit—”
Carly winced, turned back to her ex-husband. “It wasn’t,” she muttered. “Sonny flipped out, and Elizabeth had a health crisis. It’s not his fault, I don’t think. I mean, he didn’t hurt her. She was already sick, but the guards were dealing with him, and time was lost.”
“Is she all right? She’s pregnant, isn’t she?”
“She had the baby yesterday,” Bobbie told him. “He’s in the NICU. It looks okay for now, but it was a close call. And we’re all still a bit on edge.” She touched Carly’s shoulder. “I’m actually going to the hospital now, all right? I’ll call you.”
“All right, Mama.” Carly hugged her mother, then returned her attention to AJ. “Lucas and I are keeping Michael from the papers and from other people the best we can. He doesn’t ask about Sonny much anymore, and I’m going to take that as a good sign—”
“I know you said it doesn’t affect the petition,” AJ cut in, “but if Sonny’s at Ferncliffe—” He swallowed hard. “Doesn’t that mean he’s getting the help you wanted him to?”
Carly stared at him for a long moment, then looked away out the front bay window. She wandered over to it, her back to him. “I don’t know anymore. I can’t think that far ahead, I guess. Not yet. When I asked him to get help, it was right after I left in December. He didn’t do it.”
“But it’s happening now—”
“It’s a temporary commitment,” Carly replied. She looked at him again. “It’s just a 5150. If he stabilizes and stops threatening to kill people—” She cleared her throat. “He could be out and back, and we’re in the middle of this all again. He didn’t get help, AJ. I signed the damn papers after he threatened to kill Jason.”
AJ blinked. “He did what?”
“It’s a long story, and I don’t want to get into it. All you need to know is that it hasn’t changed my mind.”
“Not yet,” AJ added, and she frowned. “He could end up staying, Carly. He could actually get help. Does it matter that he didn’t want it?”
“I—why are you arguing with me?” she demanded. “You’re getting what you wanted—”
“I’m asking you not to make promises you won’t keep,” he retorted. “If you find out tomorrow what the hell is wrong with Sonny and that it can be treated, can you stand there and tell me you won’t take it back? We haven’t filed the damn petition yet, Carly. And if you don’t—” His face twisted. “I don’t know if I can come back to Port Charles, run ELQ, and still not be part of Michael’s life. I’m not strong enough for that.”
She closed her eyes but said nothing. AJ was right. What difference did it make how Sonny had ended up in Ferncliffe? Wasn’t what happened next more important? If he could get help, if they could find a piece of the man he’d been once—
If that happened, would Carly want to undo all of this? Would she still want Sonny in Michael and Morgan’s lives? God, it hurt so much to think about that possibility. It nearly stole her breath.
“I don’t know what happens if Sonny gets treatment and we get a measure of sanity back,” she finally said, her voice softer. “You weren’t in the room last night. You didn’t see—” Her hands were shaking as she brought them to her face. “You didn’t see what happened between Sonny and Jason. I’m sorry. I can’t pretend I have the answers today.”
“Okay,” he said. “Okay. That’s honest, and I can accept that. I have to prepare myself, Carly, for you to take it back. You always do.”
“I know what I’ve done before,” Carly said, flinching. “But I also have to prepare myself for you to start drinking again. You always do,” she threw back at him. “We’re both asking for a measure of trust here, and if you can’t do that, then I don’t know why we’re even bothering—”
AJ put up a hand. “Why don’t we leave it there right now?” he suggested. “You don’t know what’s going to happen with this 5150 thing yet, and I can occupy myself at ELQ with other things.”
“Fine. I’ll be in touch.”
General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room
Elizabeth opened her eyes again and smiled when she saw Jason sitting at her side. “Hey,” she murmured. She fumbled for the controls and raised herself up, wincing slightly. The morphine had been dialed back a few hours ago, and she was starting to feel the pain. “I was hoping you’d be here when I woke up.”
“Hey.” He leaned forward to kiss her lightly, lingering another moment. “I was in the NICU when you were having dinner. I got to hold him again.”
“I’m so jealous,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “Kelly came by while you were gone, too. She said I can go up to see him tomorrow. And if I’m up to it, I can hold him.” She smiled. “I get to catch up, right?”
“You can take as many turns as you want,” Jason promised, sliding her hair off her forehead with a smile. “You did the work, you should get the rewards.”
“Well, you’ll still get to spend more time with him for a few days. Kelly wants me to take it easy.” Her smile deepened. “It’s crazy, you know? I was so afraid to think about this part. I was sure that something terrible would happen, but I’m not scared anymore. I made it through the delivery, and the doctor said the CTEPH surgery itself isn’t so bad. We—we get to plan.”
“Yeah, we do.” He kissed the inside of her palm. “I—I have to go, though.” Jason hesitated. “I’m sorry. It’s just—something came up, and we—I have to take care of it.”
“What?” Elizabeth asked. Her eyes searched his. “What’s wrong?” He wouldn’t be leaving her or Cameron right now if it weren’t serious.
Jason paused, then nodded. “We know the Zaccharas were behind the sightings,” he told her. “We were right. They were hoaxes planted by Anthony and Trevor to screw with us.”
She narrowed her eyes. “So Ric was never in the country.”
“No. But it needs to stop. We need to know where he is, and we need to make this over,” Jason told her. “If it could wait—”
“But it can’t.” She nodded. “It’s okay. You know I understand. And I’m never alone here. Emily said Cameron isn’t either. It’s not just you and me anymore. We have so many people who love us. I’ll be okay until you come back.”
“I love you,” he told her. He got to his feet, and dropped a kiss on her forehead, then turned to find Bobbie in the doorway. “Hey.”
“Hey, my turn,” Bobbie said. She kissed his cheek. “Now get out of here and let me have my girl all to myself.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Jason told Elizabeth.
“I love you, too,” she called after him. “See you tomorrow.” She smiled at Bobbie. “Have you been with Cameron?”
“Just finished my turn,” Bobbie told her. “Alan’s reading him another book.” She squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “You did it, sweetheart. He’s here, and he is so beautiful.”
“I get to see him tomorrow,” Elizabeth said. Her eyes drifted closed. “I get to hold him.” She sighed as she slid back into sleep. “I can’t wait.”
Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office
Kelsey knocked on Scott’s slightly ajar door. He gestured for her to come in. “I should have known you would be here today—” She paused. “Do you ever go home?”
“Needed to distract myself with work. Thought about going to the hospital, but Bobbie doesn’t need me right now.” He sighed, leaned back. “You heard about Corinthos, I guess.”
“Yeah. Lucky’s parents are keeping him in the loop so that he or Lu can warn Dante. The press were at Kelly’s again. Someone leaked the 5150 to them.”
“Vultures,” Scott muttered. He shook his head. “Bobbie’s probably a mess, and I don’t want to think about how Carly felt having to sign that paperwork, but maybe it’s for the best.”
“Maybe. Lucky said Elizabeth is going to be okay. And the baby seems good. Did Bobbie tell you?”
“No, no, not yet.” Scott reached for some paperwork. “That’s good, though. Kid needed a break.” He focused on her. “You didn’t come here to update me on that, did you?”
“No, I came to ask you about my dad.”
“Your dad?” Scott frowned. “Why? What’s going on?”
“Mom left Port Charles so fast after Dad died, and she didn’t really want to talk about him.” She met his eyes. “For ten years, she’s refused to come back, and I’ve had to be almost dead or going through a crisis to get her here.”
“So I guess I’m asking what’s going on. And why my mom doesn’t really seem to like you anymore. I thought it was because you offered me the job, but—”
Scott hesitated. “I think your mom took your dad’s death harder than anyone thought. I don’t know what to tell you.”
“But—” Kelsey shook her head. “That’s not okay. That’s not good for her to still be like this. Dad died a long time ago. She always said it was a car accident, but was that really it? I mean, accidents happen. It’s almost like she’s scared to be here. And she said something really weird when Lucky got shot—how it brought back things with Dad.”
“Kelsey—” Scott closed his eyes. “I’m asking you to let this go.”
“And I’m asking you for the truth. He was my father, Scott. That should count for something.”
He sighed, dragging his hand back and forth across his head. “I know that he was found in his car, I know that it was ruled an accident, and by the time I got to Port Charles for the funeral, the papers weren’t covering it. I never looked into it further.”
Kelsey swallowed hard. “How could you never look into it? He was your best friend—”
“Because your mom didn’t want to get into it. And at the end of the day, that was what mattered to me.” Scott hesitated. “Do you want me to pull reports now? Make few calls?”
“No.” Kelsey shook her head. “No. I just need—I need to sit with it, okay? Because if I start doing any of that, I can’t go back. It might just make things with Mom worse, and I don’t want that.”
“All right. If you change your mind—”
“I’ll let you know.” Kelsey left his office and started down the hallway towards her own.
She’d lied to Scott, of course. He knew something he wasn’t telling her, and she didn’t trust him not to keep sugar coating the truth. She needed to pull the files on her own.
She needed the truth about her father once and for all.
Ward House: Kitchen
Tamika frowned when Justus walked through the door that evening. She set down Kimi’s dinner, then tightened the strap on her booster seat. “You’re home early.”
“Missed my girls.” Justus leaned down to kiss Kimi, then brushed his lips across Tamika’s. “Hey.”
“Hey.” She squinted, then shook her head. “Nope. That’s not it. Kimi, eat your dinner. Mama and Daddy have to go in the other room.”
“Don’t like mac,” Kimi said with a pout. She poked the noodles suspiciously. “Want cookies.”
“You get cookies when your plate is clean—and if you dump it on the floor—” Tamika said as Kimi lifted her plate. “I’ll just give you more.”
Kimi stuck out her tongue but then picked up her fork and started to shovel the food into her mouth.
“What is with kids today?” Tamika complained as she and Justus went into the dining room. “If I tried to talk back to my mother at three, my butt would be up close and personal with the back of a brush. Mama said I was too soft.”
“She’s eating, isn’t she?” Justus pointed. “Mikki, I’m fine. It was just a long day, and I wanted to be home—”
“It’s five, and you said you’d be working long hours tonight with Jason at the hospital.” Tamika raised her brows. “You wanna try a third time—”
“I can’t talk about it,” Justus muttered. “Let’s just—there’s something I know that Jason thinks he should. I disagree. And I’ll be out of a job again tomorrow because I won’t tell him.”
“Uh huh. Why aren’t you telling Jason whatever he wants to know if it’s bothering you, and you know you’re right?”
“Because I don’t know if I’m right,” he admitted.
“Oh, I cannot—” She sat at the table and folded her arms. “Look, I got spousal whatever, right? So just tell me what is going on.”
Justus grimaced, then sat in the other chair, arranging himself so he could keep an eye on Kimi in the kitchen, still working on her dinner. “We figured someone was feeding someone information about Sonny so that they could use it to make things unstable. The Lansing sightings? All made up. South America, the ones traveling up the coast — all a lie.”
“Well, direct hit then.” Tamika propped her chin on her hand. “You know who these someones are? They got a good reason?”
“Lansing is dead. And has been since November. I don’t know anything else about it,” he added quickly when Tamika widened her eyes in surprise. “But that’s the story. And Anthony Zacchara and Trevor Lansing wanted to use it to drive Sonny crazy because they thought it would make it easier for them to move in.”
Tamika nodded. “Sounds right. But they didn’t figure on Jason?”
“I’m not sure anyone ever knew just how much Jason was running things these last few months,” Justus admitted. “Sonny’s been in charge for a decade, and the only time Jason was in charge, he was a lot younger and got out within the year.”
“So you know who was telling these guys about Sonny, and you won’t tell Jason?” Tamika shook her head. “I don’t get it. That seems like a thing a person should know—”
“I understand why this guy did it, and I know he never ever thought it would backfire like it did yesterday. This guy—he wouldn’t have put Elizabeth in danger.”
“But he did, which is why Jason wants to set him on fire. Well, he sure knew who to dump this on to protect himself.” Tamika sighed. “I don’t envy you. I guess—I guess you gotta do what you think is right and hope Jason will understand one day.”
“Yeah. But I wonder—I think that if you were the one in danger, if it had been you and Kimi’s life this guy played with—” Justus took her hand in his. “I think I might want blood, too.”
“You might want it, baby, but you wouldn’t do it. You already carry enough guilt,” she murmured. She smiled at him, sadly. “You already have Damian Smith on your head. Don’t you go adding no one else, even for me and Kimi. Jason will either get that, or he won’t. You always made your limits clear to him. Don’t back down now.”
“I won’t.” He smiled at her, a relieved expression. “I love you.”
“Love you, too. And hey, I think I can get your mind off of this.” She got to her feet. “Portia came to work today with her own surprise. Kimi’s going to get a cousin in about eight months.”
“A cousin? Portia—” Justus winced. “Oh, hell, does that mean my niece or nephew is gonna be related to Taggert—”
“But don’t say anything yet. She hasn’t told him.”
“Wait, I know, and he doesn’t? Damn it—”
Her laughter echoed from the kitchen as he scowled.
Quartermaine Mansion: Terrace
It was still a bit chilly for afternoon tea, but few things stopped the indomitable Lila Quartermaine. She was bundled up with her hands left free to clutch the delicate porcelain teacup Reginald handed her.
“I’m so pleased you’re coming home,” Lila told AJ. She looked to Edward. “Your grandfather was just telling me how well you’ve done in New Orleans.”
“And we need a dedicated CEO here,” Edward told him. “Ned’s too busy, and there’s conflicts of interest. I’ll be happy to hand over the last of it—”
“You’ll never hand over the last of anything,” AJ said dryly. “But that’s an argument for another day.” He skimmed his eyes over his grandmother once more, reflecting on what Ned had told him. His grandmother had always felt immortal to him before, but his cousin was right. Lila was fading. “I appreciate the vote of confidence.”
“Well, I’m pleased to hear that you and Carly are coming to terms finally on young Michael. It’s a goddamn shame what she’s been through this year,” Edward offered gruffly, “and that insane bastard she’s stuck with—”
“Edward,” Lila murmured.
“I’m sorry, Lila, but after yesterday, I won’t hold back. I spent a few hours at the hospital this morning,” he told AJ. “You wouldn’t believe how little Cameron is or how pale poor Elizabeth is. After all Jason did for that man—”
“You’ve seen Jason’s son?” AJ cut in. “I thought he was in the NICU—”
“He is, but board members get a little bit of privilege. And Jason’s been slowly warming up to us these last few months. Finally seeing Sonny for who he is,” Edward said with a nod. “We were invited to the wedding.”
“It was lovely,” Lila said. “It’s wonderful that you and Alan are finally reconnecting with Jason.” She hesitated, looked at AJ. “I hope that you will find the same peace with your brother.”
AJ wasn’t holding out much hope that Jason would ever let him back in, and AJ didn’t think he really wanted to. Not after Jason had helped break up his marriage— “I don’t know about that, but Jason will have to put up with me if Carly goes through with the custody petition.”
“And after last night, I doubt any family judge will let that man near those boys. He’s not fit to raise a cockroach,” Edward muttered.
“We still need to get in front of a family court,” AJ reminded him. “Carly could change her mind at any point, and as much as I want to be with my son, I don’t want him hurt anymore.”
“I know it’s hard to trust her,” Lila said, “but she really has come a long way this year.”
AJ had no doubt of that. He remembered the shaky woman that had come to New Orleans the month before asking for help. But the weeks had passed, and the Carly he’d seen that morning was as bristly and unfriendly as he remembered. “I’m going to take it one step at a time.”
“And you should,” Lila said. “Trusting someone who’s hurt you before can be quite terrifying, my darling, and I know how badly she’s hurt you. I know how it hurt to lose Michael and be shut out of his life.”
AJ’s throat tightened. He looked down at his own cup of tea, lukewarm and nearly unpalatable. “How can I be sure it’ll be different this time?”
“You can’t, dear, but that’s what makes trust such a fragile and dangerous exercise. Someone has to be the first to offer their hand and ask for help. Carly has done that. You reached back. Now comes that most difficult moment—” Lila paused. “You have to hold on.”
“I don’t know if I can, Grandmother,” AJ admitted.
“Of course you can. Your grandfather hasn’t always deserved my trust,” Lila said, flicking her eyes to Edward, who made a face. “But we’ve held on to each other. When one of us faltered, the other never let go.”
“Carly and I aren’t—”
“It’s not so different,” Edward said. “You may not be married any longer, but you share a son, and there were times when I know you only held on for Alan and Tracy,” he said to his wife, who smiled fondly but did not argue. “It can be enough.”
“For Michael, for the chance to be his father, I can try.” One more time, AJ finished silently. Just once more.
Zacchara Estate: Study
Claudia leaned back in her chair, enjoying the show. She smirked and sipped her wine as Anthony and Trevor cast blame on each other for screwing up the plans.
“You should have done a better background check!” Anthony snarled. “You’re lazy! You’ve always been lazy! You should have demanded a meeting in person!”
Trevor hissed, throwing up his hands, whirling away from Claudia’s father. “Ah, you’re nuts! It’s not my fault he balked at the last minute! You’re the one that got us into the mess!”
“I’m the one? I’m the one?” Anthony repeated, his eyes bulging. His face was flushed red as he stabbed a finger at Trevor. “Whose fucking idea was it to send your idiot son to Port Charles?”
“It was a good idea—it should have worked,” Trevor retorted. “You’re the one—”
Claudia glanced over at her distracted brother, who had been ordered to sit in on the meeting since, as Anthony always said, this would all be his one day. She snorted. It’d be nice if they noticed that John didn’t give a shit about any of it and was only counting down the days until his mother’s trust fund was released to him. Then he was out of here.
“How much longer do you think they’ll do this?” she asked. John Zacchara glanced up at her from his book and made a face.
“I don’t know. I still don’t know why either of us are here.”
“So they have someone to blame at the next meeting.” Claudia wandered over to the bottle of wine left out to chill. She refilled her Merlot and resumed watching the spectacle. Eventually, Anthony and Trevor would calm down—one of them would figure out how to blame Claudia, tell John to go run an errand—and then they’d come up with a new plan.
Just another day in paradise.
Except tonight—it didn’t go that way. The third time Anthony stalked past the glass double doors that faced their back terrace, she saw his shirt flutter in the slight breeze.
One of the terrace doors was ajar—just slightly pushed open, letting in some of the chill of the March night.
She set the wine glass down, but before she could do or say anything, a dark figure shoved the door open the rest of the way and grabbed Anthony from behind, jerking his head back.
Jason Morgan had materialized out of seemingly thin air like a goddamn magician, the barrel of his gun at Anthony’s temple, the click of the hammer ominous in the silent room.