If we’re only ever looking back
We will drive ourselves insane
As the friendship goes resentment grows
We will walk our different ways
But those are the days that bind us together, forever
And those little things define us forever, forever
– Bad Blood, Bastille
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
By the time Jason had finally managed to corner his partner, it was a week and a half after the warehouse fire. After Johnny Zacchara had disappeared without a trace only to end up in Sonny’s custody.
Their contacts in the Zacchara organization didn’t seem to think Anthony was aware of it, but if Johnny was MIA for much longer, the girlfriend was likely to contact him. She hadn’t yet, which meant she was all too aware of the reaction she’d trigger.
Jason stood just behind Sonny, who was calmly sipping bourbon as he stared out over his view of the waterfront docks. “Where is he, Sonny?”
Sonny turned and arched a brow. “I wasn’t aware you were in a position to give me orders,” the other man practically purred, the arrogance and self-certainty oozing from every word. “Remember? You told me you didn’t want the power.”
Once, Jason would have stepped around the question. He would have ducked the confrontation, but the reasons for doing so were gone. Jason didn’t have to protect his guardianship of Evie or Carly’s ignorance.
Carly had never believed the lie—that was certain now, and Jason would rather be roasted over a pit of burning coals before surrendering custody of Sam’s daughter to this man.
Jason had hoped his illness could be controlled, that they could resurrect a semblance of their old life, their old friendship, but Sonny’s mental health would always be precarious, and Jason was no longer prepared to sacrifice his family or their men to the capricious nature of chemical imbalances.
“I don’t,” Jason said bluntly. “But you can’t handle it. You kidnapped Johnny Zacchara, Sonny. Tommy’s guys told us—you kept him in a warehouse and beat him, trying to force him to admit guilt. There’s nothing to admit.” Jason flung a copy of the final fire report at him. “It was an electrical fire. You’re starting a war over an accident. You didn’t wait for evidence, you didn’t wait for a reason to go after him.”
“I don’t need to wait.” Sonny ignored the papers as they settled at his feet. “You,” he scoffed. “They all worship you for your patience. For your steadiness. You’re not a fucking accountant, Jason. We don’t have the luxury of time here—”
“When you brought me into this business, you told me that there are two men I never want to piss off,” Jason interrupted. “Hector Ruiz, whose sons were ruthless animals even then, and Anthony Zacchara, a man rumored to have murdered his own wife while taking a shot at his kid. He’s insane, Sonny. And you know it. You fuck with his kid, Anthony Zacchara is going to unleash his people on you. On your family. On me and mine. We knew by the end of the day the fire was electrical, but you couldn’t wait a lousy six hours.” He fisted his hands. “Where is he?”
“I always wondered what it would take for you to turn on me,” Sonny mused. His lips curved into a bitter half-smile. “I screwed your woman, you didn’t blink. I left you in charge when you clearly weren’t ready, it didn’t seem to faze you. I cost you Elizabeth, and you just went about your business. I’ve all but destroyed Michael and Morgan’s childhood, but that’s not why you’re turning on me, is it?”
“I’m not—” Jason took a deep breath. “I’m not turning on you, Sonny. You’re—you know you’re not well. That whatever medication you were taking isn’t working. You need to go back to the doctor—”
“I’m in control, Jason.” Sonny sipped his bourbon. “My voice isn’t the one raised. Johnny Zacchara has done nothing but cause us trouble for months—”
“There was never any proof—”
“You didn’t want to see it because it meant you’d have to look away from your precious family,” Sonny sneered. “Because if you took your eyes off Elizabeth for a single minute, she’d run away like she always does. What? You think she won’t run now because you’re engaged? You’re still the naive little boy I took in all those years ago.”
“I want Johnny Zacchara,” Jason said evenly, ignoring the attacks. “We can sort out whatever the hell is wrong with you this time later. But I need him back. I need to pack him off to his father so I’m not facing a war from Anthony Zacchara—”
“You’re scared of a little territory scuffle?” Sonny chuckled. “That tells me you’re not cut out for this. I trusted you too much, that’s clear—”
“Anthony Zacchara doesn’t engage in scuffles,” Jason shot back. “When Moreno went after his trucking route, he blew up Moreno’s home and held his wife hostage for a month. For a fucking trucking route. What do you think he’ll do if he thinks you’ve got his son? Do you think he’ll care that I didn’t have a damn thing to do with it?”
No, Jason knew Anthony would blame him for letting Sonny lose control. Sonny would be destroyed, but Anthony would take personal pleasure in razing Jason and his family to the ground as a warning to others who let personal feelings rise above business.
“If his son wants to play with the big boys,” Sonny said, his voice still eerily calm, “Anthony should have known better than to send him.”
Jason bit off his protest. “Who are you working with?”
His partner blinked at him. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not using any of our guys to hold him,” Jason said. “And Tommy’s guys swear they left the kid alive. Which means you’ve got men holding him somewhere. If he’d confessed, you’d be throwing that in my face, and he’d be dead. He hasn’t confessed yet. Did you grab men off the street?”
“That,” Sonny said quietly, “is none of your business.” He raised his tumbler to his mouth. “You wanted the power, Jason? Fine. But don’t get too comfortable. I’ll be coming for what’s mine.” His dark eyes glinted. “All of it.”
There was nothing to accomplish here. He couldn’t beat the truth out of Sonny—he hadn’t had the psychotic break they’d feared, but Jason was more convinced than ever that Emily and Elizabeth had been correct. Sonny was bipolar and his antidepressants convinced him he was in complete control.
Even as everything disintegrated around him.
Jason closed Sonny’s penthouse door behind him and looked at Max. “You’re officially relieved of duty,” he told him. “Make sure Carly and the boys still have their guards, but you’re needed elsewhere.”
Max nodded and followed him to the elevator. There was nothing left Jason could do for his friend. His family had to come first. The organization had to come first.
Elizabeth slid into the seat across from Nikolas. “I am so sorry for being late—it’s Nora’s day for a summer class, so I have the kids—” She paused to lift Cameron out of the stroller and set him in a chair adjacent to hers before tugging Evie into her lap. “Maybe we could get some booster—”
Nikolas raised a hand. “Give me a second.” He went to the doorway at Kelly’s, reached inside and brought out two highchairs. With his usual brand of efficiency, both children were quickly settled with their sippy cups and snacks into their own chairs.
“You,” she said, “are going to be an amazing father.”
He laughed, the sound tinged with a bit of anxiety. “Well, it’s easy with other people’s children, but…” Nikolas lifted a shoulder. “I suppose I can’t be much worse than other members of my family.”
Elizabeth arched a brow. “That’s putting it mildly.” She glanced over where a cadre of guards had taken the other outside table. Milo, Denny, and Lyle looked a bit uncomfortable in their usual suits, but she and the children went nowhere without them.
Nikolas followed her gaze. “Security has been ramped up, I see,” he said quietly. “Emily mentioned things have been tense since the fire.”
“They’re…” Elizabeth set her menu down and twisted her napkin in her hands. “God, Nikolas, I don’t even know. We’re still getting settled in with my grandmother—we’re staying with her until Jason can find something more permanent, but he didn’t want us across from Sonny and Carly anymore. And Sonny—” She looked away. “Let’s just say it’s possible we were on the mark about his medication.”
“Ah.” Nikolas exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth, I’m not being—I don’t want to be like I was before, warning you away, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least…voice my concern.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile. “I’m sure you’d be much happier if you could hogtie me and put me and the kids on a plane to the far corners of the Earth. But I appreciate you not saying it.”
“It’s human nature to want your family safe,” Nikolas said, conceding her argument. “But I know that Jason is taking security seriously. He’s sent some men to check over things at the mansion and at Wyndemere. I allowed him access to the background checks we run on servants. I just…I worry that all his precautions won’t be enough.” He touched his throat where a faint scar still lingered. He’d once nearly died for standing too close to Jason.
“I know.” Elizabeth picked up a butter knife and looked at it. “And there are no easy answers. I love him. Nikolas. And he’s not just dealing with—business concerns. Sonny is out of control. He was always a father figure to Jason, you know. His best friend, his brother. And now…he basically has to decide between keeping us safe and Sonny.” She pursed her lips. “Maybe we’d be making different choices if not for Cam and Evie, but—”
“Emily mentioned you were feeling a bit…apprehensive,” Nikolas said. “Do you really think it’s just the kids precipitating Jason’s choices at the moment? Do you think if it were just the two of you, he’d sacrifice you for Sonny?”
“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No. I mean, of course not. I know he loves me. I know he takes our engagement seriously. He offered an out, but—” She looked away. “To be honest, Nikolas, I’m not…” She closed her eyes, pitching her voice low so that her guards could not possibly overhear her. “I’m not always convinced. I mean, most of the time, yeah. But sometimes, I wonder…”
“And that’s human nature, too,” Nikolas told her softly. “Because you know what it’s like to have someone constantly put someone else in front of you. With Lucky’s brainwashing, that always seemed to take precedence.”
“I guess. I mean, I just—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t know. I know Jason and I aren’t together because of Evie and Cam. It’s been different this time, because Jason and I are different people, and we’ve allowed for that. I’m a stronger person. But yeah, part of me does wonder why it always has to be so hard.”
“And this is where I offer some platitude about how nothing worth having comes easy,” Nikolas said, “but I get it, Elizabeth. Life is full of difficulties, challenges, and obstacles, but when there never seems to be a break, when it always seem the day or the moment can grow bleaker, you begin to wonder if it’s worth it.”
“I just…I want to be happy. I want to have my life with Jason, with the kids. With my brother and my grandmother. With you and Emily…I want us all to be happy for five minutes. All at the same exact time. Why isn’t that something I get?”
“If I could answer that question, Elizabeth, I’d have solved one of life’s enduring mysteries.” Nikolas leaned back. “Are you having second thoughts?”
Elizabeth blinked at him. “No. Of course not—”
“And you can be honest with me.” He hesitated. “I have no vested interest in you pursuing a life with Jason beyond hoping for your happiness. Emily seems to think the two of you are soulmates. I don’t know. That’s something only you can answer. So when I say you can be honest with me, I mean that.” He waited. “Are you having second thoughts?” he repeated.
“Yes,” Elizabeth admitted. “And third. And fourth. I’m terrified to raise my son in a world where one man’s instability can bring it crashing down. If not Sonny, then one of Jason’s enemies. I hate it. And there are moments, when I wait for a car to be swept for bombs before I put my son into it, I wonder what the hell I’m doing here.”
“And yet, I stay,” Elizabeth finished. “Because I know that Jason loves me. That he loves me for who I am in this moment, not his fantasy of me. He doesn’t want me to fix him, he doesn’t need me to keep him rooted in this reality, or to save him. He loves me. And he loves my son. I’ve tried being without him. I always drift back. Because I love him. When I’m thinking about this insanity with Sonny, I’m not thinking about the dangers first, I’m thinking of that dream wedding where my grandmother walks me down the aisle, and Emily is my maid of honor—and Jason has Sonny standing next to him, and I know it will never happen. My grandmother is going to die, and Sonny is never going to be that man for either of us again. And if that realization breaks my heart, can you imagine how that destroys Jason?”
A tear slid down her cheek. “So yeah, I have my doubts sometimes. I wonder occasionally if it were just me, if Jason would put me aside to focus on Sonny, and if I could honestly blame him for that with all I know now. I worry that Cameron and Evie will grow up to resent my choices. But I can put those worries away. I love Jason, and he loves me. We love our children. Things are going to be difficult in the next few months—Sonny is going to crash and burn, my grandmother may not be with me much longer, but Nikolas?” She paused. “I can get through it. Because when I go home at the end of the day, Jason’s there. He’ll put his arms around me, and for a moment, it all goes away.”
Nikolas nodded. “Okay then.” He reached for the menu. “By the way, if Emily suggests using any form of the name Nikolas in our child’s middle name, you are to discourage it immediately. That’s not a request, it’s a command.”
And just like that, he turned the conversation to other topics.
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
Emily flexed her fingers and scowled down at the stack of forms she still had to get through. “Do you think insurance forms are proof there’s no God?” she asked the blonde standing to her side.
Nadine Crowell blinked at her. “What? Oh. Yeah. Sure.”
Emily frowned. While she wasn’t close to the blonde perky nurse, she knew her relatively well through working together at the hospital and Leyla Mir’s relationship with Lucky—Leyla being Nadine’s best friend.
And lately, the usually bubbly woman had been withdrawn. Even distracted. Epiphany Johnson, the floor nurse, had been on her case for more than a week.
“You okay?” Emily asked. “You don’t seem like yourself.”
“Just…” Nadine jerked her shoulder. “Just tired. You know how these shifts can be.” She picked up a stack of files. “I’m gonna go work on these in the break room.”
She stepped away—Emily considered following her, but she really didn’t know the other woman that well. Maybe she could talk to Leyla.
Before Emily could decide whether to add Nadine Crowell to her roster of wounded hearts—as Nikolas liked to call them—Steven stepped off the elevator, looking every inch as exhausted as the woman who’d stepped away.
“Steven.” She set the pen down and rounded the counter. “Hey.”
“Hey, Em.” He pressed the heel of his hand in his eyes. “You talked to Bits today?”
“No, not yet—Nikolas is supposed to have lunch with her…” Emily took his arm and steered him toward the waiting room sofa. “Sit before you collapse. What’s up? I thought you were supposed to get more sleep with Liz and Jason moving in with Audrey.”
“Yeah, well they just spent their first night last night, so I guess I have some to catch up on.” He hesitated. “Em, Gram just had a checkup.”
“It’s only been a week since—” Emily pressed her lips together. “It didn’t go well, I suppose.”
“No, no, it did not.” Steve dipped his head. “I have to call my sister. Both of them. My parents. My uncle. I guess I should talk to TJ, though he’s never been close to Gram, thanks to his mother, but they should be on alert—”
“Surgery,” Steven said evenly, though his expression was devastated. “Surgery is no longer an option. Gram has—she’s declined rapidly in the last week and a half. Monica said it happens sometimes—the medication can control things for a while, but once it stops, it just…” He dismissively waved his hand. “It just stops.”
“Monica doesn’t think Gram would have made it through a surgery anyway, based on these results. She’s—” He closed his eyes. “It’s a matter of days now, Em. Maybe another two weeks if we’re lucky. She’s fading fast.”
“It—she was fine just two weeks ago,” Emily managed. “She was so happy at the party—”
“We all were.” He looked to Emily. “How did you do it last year?”
She blinked at him. “Do what?”
“When you lost your grandmother. She was like mine, right? Heart of the family. Center of it.” He expelled a harsh breath. “I don’t know what to do. I have to tell all these people Gram might go at any point, and I can’t—I can’t even process it myself.”
“I’m so sorry, Steven,” she murmured. She pressed her forehead to his shoulder. “My grandmother had been declining for years—we could all see it. But she had such a vibrant spirit, I suppose we thought she’d outlast us all. Then one morning, she was simply gone. She went in her sleep, how we all might hope she’d go.” Emily bit her lip. “Is Audrey in any pain?”
“Some shortness of breath, but not really—Monica has given her some meds to keep her comfortable—” He dipped his head again. “I should call Bits.” He looked to Emily. “Thanks. I appreciate you sitting with me.”
“Of course.” She squeezed his hand. “And tell me if there’s anything I can do. Nikolas and I are here for you.”
“She was happy at that party,” Steven said after a moment. “I know your brother hated it—it’s not his thing, but she told me he wanted to make Elizabeth happy. That he’d done it because he knew how much Gram meant to her. And she had a blast planning it, you know. She was so happy this last year with my sister and me in Port Charles, with her great-grandson. If she has—” He paused. “If this is it for her, then I’m glad she’s going out on a high.”
Warehouse: Jason’s Office
Max wrinkled his nose at the distant sounds of construction as crews began to repair the damaged portions of the building. “Is this place safe?”
“The structure is sound enough,” Jason said. “I’m not thrilled either, but after this morning, I can’t go back to the penthouse and Mrs. Hardy’s home is out of the question. I don’t want anyone to know about the new house yet.” He looked to Tommy. “What do you have?”
Tommy shifted. “Stefano has always been the liaison between us and the Zaccharas—you know that. He contacted me last night. He wanted a meeting with Sonny.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “And you’re just telling me this now?” He glanced pointedly at the clock on the wall which indicated it was two in the afternoon. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Figuring out what to tell Stefano so it’s clear that you’re in charge without anyone thinking it’s a power play,” the other man retorted. “Or do you want Zacchara to smell blood in the water?”
“Tommy,” Bernie murmured. “We could do without the attitude. You should have called Jason immediately, and you know it. Where do we stand?”
“Stefano knows we’re having issues,” Tommy admitted. “He wanted to give us a heads up. Word is out that things are fluid here. Sonny is still nominally in charge, but you’re doing the work. Zacchara was testing the waters by asking to see Sonny.”
“It wasn’t about Junior?” Jason asked, not sure if this was a good thing or not. He wanted Anthony in the dark about his son as long as possible, but if he was interested in the weaknesses—
“Not for the most part. Stefano asked if we’d seen Junior around lately. He’s been lax on his weekly call to his father, but Anthony figures he’s holed up in PC with the girlfriend. Johnny has maybe two more weeks to check in before Anthony gets worried. He’s annoyed, but it’s not the first time the son has deliberately stayed out of touch.”
“Thank God they’re a fucked up family,” Max said. “We got time to track Junior down—”
“The longer Sonny has him somewhere, the less likely it is we get him back alive,” Jason interrupted. “Max, tailing Sonny isn’t doing us any good. “ He looked to the men gathered in the office. “He’s no longer in charge.”
Johnny nodded. “About damn time—”
Bernie scowled at him. “O’Brien—”
“I’m just saying—”
“Sonny seems to think we’re merely risking a turf war with Zacchara if the son doesn’t come home.” At the annoyed and confused expressions reflecting back, he nodded. “I know. It’s why I can’t risk even the illusion of leaving him in charge. I don’t want any of the men thinking they report to him. Johnny, call Francis on the island. Make sure he gets the change out to his guys there. Tommy, Max, Bernie, anyone balks, do what’s necessary to get them to go along.”
“I doubt we’ll have more than a ruffle of feathers,” Tommy said. “Most of the men have never met him anyway.” He lifted his chin. “What are we going to do about the rest of it?”
“Tommy, I need to keep lines of communication with the Zaccharas open, so keep Stefano in the loop. We can honestly say we haven’t seen him around, but we’ll keep our eyes open. I also need you to concentrate on the bookies and the waterfront. Keep your territory running like usual. The cops are going to be digging into things, but I think the fire report calmed them down.” Jason looked to Johnny and Max. “I want you guys to tear this city, this county, even the state apart. I want Johnny Zacchara back, and I want him alive. And I need to talk to him before we send him home to Anthony.”
“What about whoever is holding him?” Johnny asked. “What muscle is Sonny using?”
“That’s what I want to know. If it’s guys off the street, that’s problematic, but it might be more likely Sonny has called in a favor from another organization. Tagliatti is still annoyed we didn’t skin Faith Roscoe, so he’s out. Vega has never particularly liked Sonny. He’s Italian, Sonny’s Cuban. It’s stupid, but it’s a point of honor for him.”
“Hell.” Max scowled. “That leaves Hector Ruiz. I’ll have Francis call Ramon. He might be able to give us some ideas.”
With their instructions given, the room cleared, leaving only Bernie and Jason. “Bernie—”
“The security upgrades will be done by the end of next week,” his business manager told him. “I tried to hurry it up, but I don’t want to compromise quality—”
“We’re okay at the Hardy house for a while.” Jason hesitated, thinking of how pale and wan Elizabeth’s grandmother had been that morning. “And I don’t…I know how much longer Mrs. Hardy will be with us. I don’t think Elizabeth will go to the new house until…” He hesitated. “Until things are resolved.”
The older man’s face softened. “Please extend my deepest condolences. The security at the house is decent enough. If we can keep the status quo, it should be okay.” He waited a moment. “Jason, I know these are tough times, but the men who work for you are loyal. They’ll do what they can to keep things from getting worse.”
“Even if Sonny gets his medication changed,” Jason said slowly, “I can’t imagine letting him be in charge again.” He met Bernie’s eyes. “Because he was doing well, and then everything just exploded in our faces. I can’t take the chance again. Not if I want to keep everyone safe.”
“I know.” Bernie sighed, gathering his files. “I guess we all knew we’d be looking to you someday, Jason, but I don’t suppose we thought it’d be like this.” He drew his shoulders back. “But we’ll get through it. We always do.”
And Jason knew he was right—somehow, they would come out on the other end of this. But at what cost?
Hardy Home: Elizabeth’s Bedroom
After seeing that Nora had settled Cam and Evie in their temporary bedroom at the Hardy house and making sure their nanny was okay with the move, Jason went next door to Elizabeth’s bedroom.
She sat at a window next to the bed, perched on the windowsill, looking out over Maple Avenue. Across the street, a dark SUV sat with a set of guards. With a guard on the front door and another on the back door, as well as a brand-new security system, he wondered if she was regretting the move to her grandmother’s home.
“Hey.” He closed the door. “You okay?”
“Fine,” she murmured. She looked at him. “Gram looked tired today, didn’t she?”
Jason sat in one of the chairs and unlaced his boots, not sure how to answer that question. He’d been present before dinner, while Audrey had been resting, when Steven had told Elizabeth the devastating news.
He wondered now if Audrey had just held herself together through sheer force of will through the engagement party. She was, as Steven had said, fading fast.
“She did,” Jason said finally. “I’m sorry about the guards—”
“It’s not—” Elizabeth turned, her back now to the window, her bare toes sinking into the carpet beneath the sill. “I’m fine with the guards. With the security system. Gram didn’t care about any of that. And what’s the point?” She closed her eyes. “It’s not like things would be different if we’d stayed at the penthouse. She’d still be…”
He rose to his feet and crossed to her, pulling her up against him. “I don’t know what to say to you,” Jason admitted finally. “I can’t make any of this go away.”
“I know.” She pressed her forehead against his chest. “There’s nothing that can be said. Steven called my parents. They’re going to try to get away, but they’re in Botswana, and Sarah just came out over the weekend. She can’t get the time from her program again. My uncle might be able to come in for a day, and TJ—my cousin—he’s in medical school in Washington. No one seems to care.” She drew away from him, scrubbing her hands over her face.
“But you know who called me today?” She turned to him. “Your grandfather. He called while you were on the phone. He told me the Quartermaines are devastated for all of us, and if there’s anything he can do, just say the word.” A tear slid down her cheek. “And he’s not saying that because of you. I know you don’t care for him, but he—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “He sounded so upset on the phone. He told me Monica has been beside herself because she couldn’t do more, and I just…” She pressed a hand to her mouth. “And I was so relieved because it meant Steven and I aren’t alone. We aren’t the only ones to grieve.”
He didn’t know what to say to any of this. His grandmother had been there one day, then gone the next. How did one face this gradual fading away? This long goodbye? And what could he say about Elizabeth’s family except that they had always seemed selfish and useless to him.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said, her eyes red. “I shouldn’t have—I know you don’t consider Edward your grandfather—”
He held up a hand to ward off her apologies. “It’s not—I can’t say that anymore. Lila was my grandmother, so…” Jason looked away, remembering Emily’s birthday party, and Edward’s delight in Cameron, in talking with Elizabeth. The way the old man had looked at the party, holding out Lila’s wedding ring.
“As much as I’ve tried to deny it, he is my grandfather,” Jason said. “And Alan and Monica are my parents. I know they care about me.” And watching Elizabeth struggle with her own biological ties, how could he continue to deny his own when they tried so hard? “And they’ll be your family, too. I mean, you’ll probably regret that one day—”
She laughed then, pressing her hands to her mouth. “Oh, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve been to some of their parties.” But her humor passed swiftly, and she sank on the bed. “I’m just tired, Jason.”
He sat beside her, feeling her exhaustion. He wanted to look ahead, to picture a moment when he wouldn’t be thinking about all the ways his life could blow up, but he didn’t have the imagination for something like that. He’d never been good at thinking about the future.
“I know.” Jason took her hand in his, rubbing his finger across her engagement ring. “I wish I could make all this go away for you,” he told her.
“I know.” She leaned against him, her head tucked under his chin as he slid his arm around her shoulders. “I wish I could make it go away for you, too. But we can’t. This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we have to handle that.” Elizabeth turned her hand so that she could lace her fingers through his. “But I know I have you at the end of the day, and it makes it easier.”
He tightened his grip around her shoulders. “I feel the same way,” Jason told her, feeling a bit clumsy about it, because he would never be able to articulate what it meant for him to have a day like the one he’d had and know he could come home to Elizabeth, put his arms around her, and the world could disappear for just a few moments.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough for now.