Chapter 103

This entry is part 28 of 41 in the Mad World: Liberty

It’s always been up to you
It’s turning around, it’s up to me
I’m gonna do what I have to do
Just don’t
Give me a little time
Leave me alone a little while
Maybe it’s not too late
Not today, today, today, today, today
Tomorrow, Avril Lavigne

Monday, April 19, 2004

Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room

Jason was more comfortable at the mansion than he used to be, but that still didn’t mean he liked spending time inside. He preferred meeting Lila in the gardens whenever he had to come over, but today, she’d surprised him by insisting on the family room.

He realized why when he came in and saw AJ on the sofa, a cup in his hands. His older brother set the cup on the table, flicked irritated eyes to their grandmother, then he got to his feet. “Jason. I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Oh, did I forget?” Lila asked, her eyes wide. “Dear me, darling. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know AJ would be in town until this morning—”

“I can go,” AJ said. “I have a meeting I should be prepping for—”

“It’s fine,” Jason said, even though it really wasn’t. They hadn’t been alone together since Courtney had filed for divorce and AJ had left for New Orleans. Though Jason knew now he’d never loved Courtney the way she’d deserved, he still felt a measure of guilt for his part.

And clearly AJ hadn’t forgotten where Courtney had ended up after the separation and with whom. The two of them eyed one another warily before Jason came around the end of the sofa.

“We need to co-exist,” Jason said finally. “If you and Carly are serious about all of this, we’ll be around each other.” He reached into his pocket for the packet of pictures he’d brought his grandmother. “She thinks you can be trusted.”

“We’re both taking a chance,” AJ said. He nodded at the photos. “I hear your son is doing well. I’m glad.”

“Yeah.” Jason handed the photos to Lila and sat down so he could talk her through them. “We’re getting closer to bringing him home,” he told her. “And as soon as we do that, we’ll bring him to you.”

“Oh, how darling—” Lila murmured. “Alan said he was in a crib now. And Elizabeth looks so happy. I’m so glad this is behind you.”

AJ gingerly sat at the end of the sofa. “Are you worried about any complications?” he asked after a minute. “Don’t premature babies have to deal with a lot of those?”

Jason tensed, but he saw Lila’s pleading. His beloved grandmother didn’t have much longer, he knew. And if she wanted peace in the family, he could give that to her. For all the times he hadn’t. “We’re in the clear on most of them,” he said finally. “He’s breathing and eating on his own. We might have vision issues later,” he added. “But glasses will take care of it.”

“How much longer?” Lila asked. “Your father said you and Elizabeth spend nearly every minute there now. It must be uncomfortable.”

“We’re doing overnight stays now, so yeah. A lot of time in cots.” He handed her a photo of Edward holding Cameron. “But sometimes Monica talks Elizabeth into taking the sofa in her office.”

“Is that Grandfather?” AJ wanted to know, leaning forward. “You let him near your kid willingly?”

Jason scowled, then forced himself to relax. AJ’s tone was light, almost teasing. He could do this. “It’s important for Cameron to be around people,” he muttered.

“Edward was a great source of support last fall,” Lila told AJ with a proud smile. “With the case and the mayoral race. It makes me very happy to see you taking your place in the family again, my darling.” She touched Jason’s hand. “I know there are things we can’t ever undo. Words that were said. Actions that were done.” She eyed AJ who looked down. “But I believe in second chances. In redemptions. Your grandfather has not always been a fair or kind man. But he’s always been a good one.”

“I don’t know—” Jason shook his head. “I know that’s true in a lot of ways,” he said finally. “And I know that everyone did their best after the accident. Including Grandfather,” he forced out. Lila’s smile was reward enough. “So we’re just going to see how this works out. It means a lot to Elizabeth for Cameron to have a lot of family around him, and she doesn’t really have anyone of her own with Audrey gone.”

“Steve and Audrey would be so proud of her,” Lila said. “They loved her very much, and I know they’re looking down with happiness.” She paused. “I won’t be here forever, my dears—”

“Grandmother—” AJ protested.

“I hope that you both learn how to see each other again. You competed all your life,” she continued. “And battled. And sometimes, you took care of one another. I know that’s behind you now,” she continued when Jason grimaced. “But my hope is that you can do this. Sit in a room and acknowledge who you were. Only then can you truly go forward.” She clutched a photo of Cameron and Edward to her chest. “I would like this framed, darling. So I can look at it often.”

“I’ll take care of it.” Jason glanced at AJ, then cleared his throat. “Elizabeth and I are testifying in the custody case,” he muttered. “For Carly. And—” He paused. Took a deep breath. “I know why she’s doing it. I support it. And I’m…sorry. For my part.”

AJ blinked. “Sorry—” he cleared his throat, then nodded. “All right. Okay. Thank you.”

Luke’s: Office

“Well, Barbara Jean—” Luke smiled as his sister came in. “This is a good surprise. You here to help me with the books?”

“Absolutely not. I gave Kelly’s over to a professional a long time ago,” Bobbie said, rolling her shoulders. “And you should do the same.” She kissed his cheek. “I just had lunch with Lucky—”

Luke wrinkled his nose. “Don’t tell me Cowboy is asking you for old stories—”

“He mentioned you didn’t seem all that interested in talking about Ollie Joyce or the old days.” Bobbie set her purse down on the desk and raised a brow. “I knew him, too, Luke. When Roy worked for Frank. Ollie was a good man. According to Lucky—”

“He was a nice guy, but don’t get it twisted. Good men don’t stay working for Frank Smith for almost two decades.” Luke lit a cigar. “I told Cowboy to leave this alone—”

“Because of what you know or because it brings back memories of another kid learning about the crimes of their parent?”

Luke grimaced, sat at his desk. “It’s not about any of that, Barbara—”

“Lucky thought you hung the moon. Laura had tumbled off the pedestal when Nikolas showed up, but he still thought you were the hero who’d saved the world.” Bobbie paused. “Kelsey thought her father was upstanding lawyer who died in a car accident. Lucky knows what she’s going through. He wants to find her answers, just like he found for himself.”

“None of that did any good,” Luke muttered. “Things are better left in the past. Dragging all that up for Laura—”

“What is there to find about her father, Luke, that’s so terrible?” Bobbie wanted to know. “Tell me.”

“It’s not about Ollie,” Luke said finally. “And I don’t know anything for sure. I can’t be talking about what I think happened. I’m not doing it. End of story.”

Kelly’s: Kitchen

Dante winced when Cruz appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. He caught Lu’s eye in the order window and glared at her. She just kept pushing, didn’t she?

“Don’t blame her,” Cruz said, leaning against the door. “And I’m not staying or anything. I just—” He hesitated. “I wanted to touch base is all. I got your rent payment, and thanks for that, but it’s been like two months. How long is this to keep going?”

“I’m not—”

“And I don’t mean the job. I get your concerns about the PCPD. I still got them, but—” Cruz paused. “You came here to get away from the reporters, Dante. And you stayed after the shooting to get your head together. But now it feels like—”

He didn’t turn to look at his friend, at his roommate. Dante just stared into the pot of chili simmering and bubbling on the stove in front of him. “Like what?” he asked when Cruz didn’t say anything.

“You’re hiding. Running from all of it. I don’t know why you’re still staying here when you’ve got the apartment,” he added. “Is it me? Because I’m still a cop?”

“No—” But maybe it was. Maybe watching Cruz get up and go to work at the job Dante missed like a lost limb. Cruz got to go to work every day. He still got to be part of the dream. They’d had plans after leaving the academy. Lucky and Cruz still got to be cops.

Dante couldn’t figure a way to be one anymore, and maybe he resented them both for it. Maybe that was why he couldn’t go back to the apartment. Why Lu had to drag him out of Kelly’s even for a date. Why he’d barely talked to Lucky or Cruz since the shooting.

“It’s not you. It’s nothing to do with you or who you are,” he told Cruz. “It’s me. I’m still working through things.”

“Should I look for a new roommate?”

Dante looked at him, but he couldn’t see anything in Cruz’s eyes. Not irritation, resentment, or even worry. Cruz could have been asking him to pass the salt for all that Dante could get from him.

“I don’t know,” Dante murmured. “I’ll let you know.”

Brownstone: Living Room

“I’m glad I ran into you,” Elizabeth said, following Carly into the room. “I was looking for Bobbie, but I wanted to let you know that if Alexis wants to schedule me for a deposition or whatever, I’m ready—”

Carly picked up a blanket from the sofa and folded it. “Are you sure? I thought you’d want to wait until Cameron came home—”

“We’re only a week or so away from that,” Elizabeth said. She reached into her purse. “And I know you haven’t been able to see him, so I was going to drop off pictures. You’ll be our first visitor when he comes home.”

Carly smiled. “If I’d known working at the hospital or being on the board would be my only way in, I would have finished the nursing program,” she said. She pulled out the first photo. “He’s bigger.”

“Yeah. We’re having hearing and vision test today, and Dr. Devlin wants to do the car seat test at the end of the week. If he passes all three—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “But I’m not here to talk about that. I know Jason’s not wild about me being involved because he knows what Alexis will ask—”

“And what Sonny’s lawyer will do,” Carly said. “Jordan Baines doesn’t have a heart. She’s going to go after you anyway she can. I don’t blame Jason for not wanting to do any of that.” She sighed. “I wish this were over, but—” she wandered into the kitchen and Elizabeth followed. “You want something to drink? Water?”

“Sure.” They sat at the table. “Jason said that the judge rejected Sonny’s push for a temporary custody order. That’s a good sign, isn’t it? He’s not getting visitation even without the hearing.”

“Alexis said it was. We filed in family court for AJ’s paternal rights. Which feels weird to say out loud.” Carly dragged her hands through her hair. “It’s been one thing after another,” she murmured. “For years. I’m so tired.”

“And I know this will take time. Sonny will fight every step of the way, but Jason and I are behind you. And it might be weird to have AJ back in this, but that means the Quartermaines are behind you now.”

“That used to scare the crap out of me.” Carly leaned back. “A year ago, do you know where we were?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Hating each other?”

“Well, yes,” Carly allowed. But also— I was solid and happy in my marriage, overjoyed at being pregnant. Happy that Jason was dating someone who I could get along with, and so sure that no matter what life threw at me and Sonny, we could get through it.” She rested her chin on her fist. “And now—I can’t even remember what it felt like.”

“I had just broken up with Ric for the first time,” Elizabeth murmured. “After learning all the lies and things he’d done to you, to Sonny—”

“I don’t know why the panic room had to change everything so much,” Carly said when Elizabeth didn’t finish. “Why it twisted and broke so many things. Some for the better. Jason’s definitely better off than he would have been. Outside of all of this with Sonny, I mean. That is what it is. But he’s happy with you.”


“For a long time, I kept thinking I wanted to go back to how things were before. That I wanted to be that Carly again. But what’s broken inside Sonny—it was always there. If it wasn’t Ric, it would have been someone or something else.” Carly took a deep breath. “I will never be grateful for what happened to me. To either of us,” she added. “I know Jason found a silver lining because without it, Cameron isn’t here, but I couldn’t find mine. I couldn’t see what it had brought me except trauma and terror.”

“And now?”

“I’m going to be a better person because of it. It made me look at everyone in my life. To look at who I was and how I reacted to things. I never would have let AJ back into Michael’s life, or God, apologized to Tony.” Carly bit her lip. “I wish it had never happened, but it did. It’s okay to find good in it. To find benefit. Isn’t it?”

“I think it’s the only way we can ever really move on from it. I’m a better person because what happened to me,” Elizabeth told her. “The rape. Ric. All of it. It brought me to this moment, to this life.” She twisted her wedding ring. “I have Jason and we have Cameron. I’m stronger than I would have been, I think. I found the good in what happened to me, Carly. But that doesn’t mean I wanted it. Or that I’m grateful. It just means I’ve found a way to live with it.”

“I guess that’s all we can hope for.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Taggert emerged from the diner, pausing when he saw Justus at a table reading over some paperwork. He had never been all that interested in the man but he’d be connected to Justus for the rest of his life thanks to Portia. Portia adored her family, and thought of Tamika Ward as her best friend, not just a sister.

And Justus was a father. Kimi would be his kid’s cousin.

Maybe it was time to put the old feelings aside.

“You, uh, got a minute?” Taggert wanted to know. Justus squinted at him, then nodded. “Thanks.”

“What’s going on?” Justus asked. “Is there something at the station—”

“No, no it’s not about any of that. You and I don’t have a lot of run ins these days as long as Sonny stays away from Carly.” And it went without saying Morgan wasn’t going to show up on Major Crimes’ radar. “Um, I know you know about Portia. She said she told her sister before me.”

“Yeah. Mikki said something.” Justus shifted. “Congratulations. She brought over the DVD. Mikki can’t wait to be an aunt.”

“Yeah, she’ll be a good one. Kimi’s a cute kid, so—” Taggert sipped his coffee. “Uh, I guess this means you’ll be my kid’s uncle.”

“That’s usually how it works.”

Taggert scowled. “Look, I’m just—” He exhaled in a huff. “Portia and I are good. Solid. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m gonna be a good dad, but she’s got her heart set on a little girl. That scares the hell out of me.”

“Having a daughter?”

“You know this world. I’ve seen—” Taggert looked away, looked towards the diner where Georgie Jones was visible. “I’ve seen too much. And I can’t stop the world from hurting my kids.”

“I know it. I’ve had nightmares thinking about my little girl out in the world. Don’t think I’d do much better with a son,” Justus added. “Because there are whole conversations you gotta have with your son about walking around this world as a Black man.”

That hadn’t even occurred to Taggert and now his chest tightened. “How old were you when your mom had the talk with you?”

“Maybe seven,” Justus said, after some thought. “I got hauled in by some cops in Philly,” he continued. “I spent too much time in the candy aisle and the owner called in a beat cop.” He exhaled slowly. “You?”

“About the same. Mom told me that I was gonna have to fight harder than everyone else just to be seen half as good. She didn’t want me to be a cop,” Taggert added. “But I’d met a good one, I thought, and I wanted to help. I wanted to be part of a better world.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how anyone brings a kid into this world.”

“We’ve got an okay corner of it here. You’ve done good work at the PCPD,” Justus told him. “And you got good taste. Portia’s amazing. She’s going to be a world-class mother. And you’ve got family here. Whether we like it or not,” he added. “Mikki wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Taggert got to his feet. “Appreciate it.”

“Any time.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“I swear, if Penny gives me that look one more time,” Georgie muttered as she rounded the counter and flashed an angry look at the equally irritated waitress across the room. “I was gone for six months, and she acts like I’ve never worked a day in my life—”

She huffed and looked at Dillon. “You want the usual?”

“Yeah. Penny’s just mad because she’s always been everyone’s, like, third favorite waitress,” Dillon assured her. “Remember? You told me she thought she’d get promoted to manager when Elizabeth quit last year right after Courtney did.”

“And instead Bobbie just hired more waitresses and does the schedule herself.” Georgie smirked. “Yeah, I remember when Elizabeth trained me. She and Courtney got more tips, and it pissed Penny off. Now, Lu and I get more tips. You’d think she’d figure it out.”

“I think Lucas got more tips and he only worked here last summer.” Dillon flipped a page in his text. “You ready for finals?”

“Yeah, I think. Worried about the chem final. If I want to get into organic next year, I need to ace it. I’ll probably pull all nighter.” Georgie ducked into the kitchen to put in another order. When she came out, “I talked to Lu. She and Dante are trying to put together a movie night. I feel like we haven’t done one of those in ages.”

“No, not since—” Dillon made a face. “Christmas. Lu and I broke up and it kind of soured things. But we should.” He hesitated. “There’s a Joan Crawford movie festival next week at the Harwin. They’re doing Baby Jane and Mildred Pierce on the first night. You wanna go?”

“Aren’t they both black and white?” Georgie asked. “You know Maxie hates those—”

“No, I just meant—” Dillon paused. “You and me. Just us.”

Georgie stared at him for a long moment, and he thought he’d made a terrible mistake. They’d only dated for a few months nearly a year ago and things had exploded. She wasn’t interested, and—

“Just you and me,” she echoed. “Dillon—”

“Hear me out, okay?” he said in a hurry. “We said we’d be friends again, right? But the thing is, Georgie—” He cleared his throat. “We were never friends in the first place, you know? From the first second we saw each other. And I know you were dating that guy for a while, but Maxie said that was over—”

“So you want to go on a date? With me?” Georgie said. “I know you said you forgave me for what happened—”

“It’s in the past. I promise. I’m not that innocent, either, you know. We all could have handled things better,” he continued. “And I just—” He met her eyes. “I just thought we could see if anything was still there. I never stopped caring, Georgie.”

“Neither did I,” she said softly. “And I miss your movies. Yeah, let’s go.”

Spencer House: Porch

Laura opened the door and blinked, stepping back. “Kelsey, this is a surprise—”

“I’m sorry just to drop in like this, but I went to the club, and the bartender said—” Kelsey stepped into the entryway and saw Luke standing by the sofa. “I hoped you’d give me a chance to ask you a few questions.”

“I told Cowboy everything I knew—”

“Yeah, he told me.” Behind her, Laura closed the door. Kelsey cleared her throat. “But he thought maybe you didn’t tell him everything, and if there’s something you don’t want people to know about my dad, I get it. I just—” She stepped down, closer to him. “I hope you’d at least hear me out.”

“He will,” Laura said, glaring at Luke. “He’ll hear you out and answer anything he can. Won’t you, Luke?”

“I can try,” he said, gesturing at the dining table. “What’s on your mind?” He sat across from Kelsey, his mouth tightening when Laura sat next to her and not him.

“I understand if you’re worried about things coming back on you, I really do get it. Lucky said you were mixed up in all of this for a long time.” Kelsey paused. “It’s just—I thought I knew who my dad was. I thought I understood what happened to him and why we left. But my mother’s still scared. Does that mean someone is out there? Still threatening her?”

Luke hesitated, then shook his head. “I’d be surprised if anyone has thought about your mother in a long time. I can appreciate her worry, but I’ll tell you Angela is safe. Even if she weren’t, I can make a few calls to make sure of it. Jason’s a good friend and this is his town now.”

“Okay. Okay. That helps. Did my dad—he was Frank Smith’s lawyer, and I know from the papers I’ve read Frank wasn’t a good guy. I know some of the terrible things he was accused of. They said he was running drugs and women in the clubs.” Kelsey’s eyes burned with tears. “Was my dad part of any of that?”

“Like I told Cowboy, your dad might have known about some of that, but he stayed on the right side of the line. Kelsey, you mean a lot to my boy, so I’m doing what I can here, but—”

“Do you know who murdered my father?” Kelsey asked.

Luke closed his eyes. “It wasn’t me, if that’s what either of you were thinking.” He saw Kelsey’s shoulders slump. “That wasn’t my thing,” he added, “and I wasn’t in the inner circle like that. Frank and me were enemies mostly. What happened to your dad seems like an internal thing, you know? I don’t know who did it.”

“But you know who might have.”

“I know who the players were,” Luke clarified. “And that’s all I know. I could give you names. But none of it would help. I’m sorry your father’s case got screwed up like it did. But the time to do something about it, that’s gone.”

“There’s nothing else you can tell me?” Kelsey wanted to know. “Please—”

“There’s nothing else I can tell you.”

When Laura had closed the door behind her son’s girlfriend, she turned to her husband who seemed already braced for what was coming.

“Secrets and holding things in for years and years is what broke me,” she told him. “I never said the things I wanted to say, and I didn’t deal with all that I’d been through. I can’t let that happen again.”


“Lucky loves her. And I mean he loves her. This isn’t like Elizabeth. It isn’t young, first, sweet love. Kelsey is probably going to be our daughter-in-law in the next few years. Our first grandchildren will come from her.” Laura lifted her chin. “If you are holding on to secrets about her father, that will fester and simmer. The truth might not come out today. But it will come out. It always does. You need to decide where you want to be standing when it does.”

NICU: Cameron’s Room

Elizabeth’s fingers dug into Jason’s as Dr. Devlin slid the tiny probe inside Cameron’s ears as Nadine held the newborn steady. His little face scrunched up, but that was the only sign of discomfort.

“It’s okay,” Jason murmured against her ear. “We’re almost there.”

“I just—” Elizabeth tightened her grip, then winced when she felt Jason flinch. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

Dr. Devlin drew the probe out and said something to Nadine. The nurse laid the baby back into his crib, and the doctor turned back to the parents. “He’s passed with flying colors. Just like all the other tests.”

Elizabeth’s air rushed out like a waterfall. “Oh, thank God.”

“All we need now is the car seat test.” He made a note in the chart. “I’d like to give Cameron a few more nights, so let’s schedule the test for Thursday. If it goes well—” Dr. Devlin looked up and flashed another smile. “Friday, you can take your little boy home.”


  • Finally, Liz and Jason can take Cameron home. I am happy to see Jason and Aj get along. Who killed Kelsey’s father and what does Luke know?

    According to Shelly Samuel on July 28, 2022
  • Thank you for paying respect to people’s actual medical issues by how realistic you’ve been with Elizabeth’s health and Cam’s premature birth. Thank you for researching and being detailed in all your fics, it’s a depth you don’t have to go to but it’s appreciated when you do.

    According to jill on July 28, 2022
  • Never like Georgie & Dillon together. Dante needs to figure out what he is willing to live with and what he needs to change.

    According to leasmom on July 28, 2022
  • Yay! Cam’s going to get to go home soon! Awesome. So many lovely conversations in this chapter. I adored Lila getting her boys in the same room. They may never be brothers and brothers should be but for Lila in whatever remaining time she should have I think they will try to be better. Carly and Elizabeth were icing in the conversation cake. Maybe never completely friends although, I wouldn’t mind, but definitely more than frememies. Definitely allies. I feel for Kelsey. I agree with Jill, I have huge respect and admiration for the detail you have put into the complications of Cam’s birth and Elizabeth’s health.

    According to nanci on July 28, 2022
  • I liked Jason and AJ talking then Carly and Elizabeth also talking. I hope they can bring Cameron home. I hope Sonny doesn’t do something stupid when he hears both Jason and Elizabeth will be testifying for Carly. I wish Luke would tell the kids what he suspects about Kelsey’s dad. I’m glad Dillon and Georgie are becoming friends again and it was nice to see Taggert and Justus trying to get along.

    According to Carla P on July 28, 2022
  • Ah! I’m all caught up…

    I’m thinking Sonny had something to do with Kelsey’s dad. And I’m not looking forward to Sonny tearing into Elizabeth for supporting Carly. Can he just die already? Haha I’m so happy that Cam gets to go home soon but also nervous because that’s when Ric and Claudia will make their move! Great job!

    According to Stephanie on July 28, 2022
  • finally they can take cam home.
    Luke needs to tell what he knows

    According to Nicole on July 29, 2022
  • loved it.
    I still think Sonny was involved he was in the inner circle and is the only one left besides that Tommy guy– guess he could be involved.
    So glad Cameron is going home.
    Dante not sure how I feel about him.
    Like Taggert and Justus having a family talk.

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on July 30, 2022
  • It was good to see AJ and Jason talking. Carly has a lot of support including Elizabeth’s. At least, Taggert and Justus are trying. I’m thinking that Luke knows who killed Kelsey’s father. Dante is still struggling.

    According to arcoiris0502 on September 3, 2022