I’m doing the best that I could.
Trying my best to be understood
Maybe I’m changing slowly
I get out, turn around
– Dead Wrong, The Fray
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Robert Scorpio’s hair had long ago turned to gray, which he blamed mostly on his daughter and his line of work. There were lines around his eyes and his mouth, giving away the fact that this man had seen more than his fair share of years. Robin stood in the door way to diner for a long moment and just stared at her father, drinking in the changes.
His head was bent over a newspaper, his mug of coffee sitting in front of him. It would be black, with no sugar. And it would be strong. She’d learned that the hard way when she was twelve and trying to pretend that she was grown up enough to stay home alone. She’d associated coffee with maturity and adulthood because no kid she knew drank the beverage.
With one sip of her father’s strong, bitter brew, Robin understood why. And she’d given up using that tactic to prove her maturity.
He never ate a big enough breakfast, a fact that she’d fretted over when she’d gone through her nurturing phase (a phase that had also coincided with home economics class). She’d liked cooking and for three months, she made a big breakfast for her father. He never ate it, choosing instead some rye bread toasted so lightly it was barely warm. She’d eventually given up but kept sneaking vitamins into his lunch—which she also packed. That had continued right up until the day she’d moved out to live in a small cramped apartment with Ellie and Patrick.
Her parents had divorced when she’d been only seven and while she and Anna were extremely close, Robin had grown up in Port Charles with her father while Anna had returned to London and to the World Security Bureau. Robert had stayed beyond to raise Robin in the vicinity of his brother Mac and his family. They’d forged a special bond, father and daughter, and the only thing that had broken it was Robin’s silence while in Paris.
But that part of her life was over now, Robin told herself. She was home and she was going to live her life to the fullest. She was going to mend the fences she had broken and somewhere during the process, she was going to find peace again.
“So how long did you know I was there?” Robin asked as she approached the table.
Robert folded his newspaper and set it aside with a brief smile. “You stood in the courtyard for an additional ten minutes, so fifteen altogether.”
“Good to know those skills aren’t slipping,” she replied, taking her coat off and setting it on the chair next to her father, choosing to sit across from him.
“Your mother called,” Robert said, gesturing for the waitress to come take their order. “She’s worried about you.”
The corner of Robin’s lip quirked up into half a smirk. “Divorced for eighteen years and you guys still use the same code. Mom said the same thing to me when I stopped in London before I came home.” She studied the menu for a brief moment before ordering the same breakfast she’d always ordered. Rye bread, lightly toasted with strawberry jam.
Large breakfasts weren’t her thing either. She ordered orange juice though—she never had acquired much of a taste for coffee.
“When either one of you remarks that other one feels a certain way,” Robin began, “it’s because the two of you have discussed it and are going to gang up on me. Mom’s worried that I worked too hard in Paris. And you’re worried…?”
Robert pursed his lips for a long moment and met Robin’s eyes directly. “You’ve been back a week and you’re already working long hours.”
“I like my job,” Robin answered. “Anything else, Dad?”
“Now that you mention it, your mother and I were also a little worried about the fact that you didn’t call for two years,” Robert said idly, but there was a strain of disappointment and anger beneath the tone that Robin recognized—from her mother.
“I wrote,” Robin said softly. “There—there are things about those two years that I have to tell you, Dad. And hopefully they’ll answer your questions.” The waitress brought their identical breakfasts and she sipped her orange juice. “But I don’t want to ruin the holidays. So can we just table that until after the new year?”
“If I say no, will it make a difference?” Robert asked dryly.
“No,” Robin replied with a brief smile. “Now. I want to know everything that’s been going on.” She pointed a finger at him. “And Ellie happened to mention that you’ve been dating, so I want details.” She wrinkled. “Not too many.”
“Elizabeth Drake, as usual, has been spending too much time worrying about everyone else,” Robert muttered. “But with her family, I don’t suppose I can blame her. Can I just say…that despite everything else, I am so relieved you and Patrick Drake are done with?”
Robin blinked in surprise. “You and Mom liked Patrick. We were—we were all friends. You, Noah, Mom and Mattie. You guys are the reason that I was friends with Ellie and Patrick at all and you and Noah got a kick out of it when Patrick and I started dating.”
“That was nine years ago,” Robert said stiffly. “Things have changed. People have changed.”
Robin pressed her lips together. “Dad—”
“Let’s not talk about the Drakes anymore,” Robert suggested. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Why does Lulu get to see you before me?”
The familiar voice was a welcome interruption and Robin all but leapt from her chair to embrace yet another childhood best friend. “Lucky!”
“Hey, Ladybug,” he hugged her tightly and drew back. “You’re still short.”
“And you still look like you cut your hair with your eyes closed,” Robin shot back good-naturedly. She eyed her father. “Are the Spencers also on your list or is it still okay to associate with them?”
“The father’s a loss,” Robert sighed with a good natured smile, “but I suppose Junior’s decent enough.”
Lucky frowned and looked back and forth between father and daughter. “Clearly, I’ve missed something.”
“Nothing important.” Robin kept her hand on his arm. “Do you have a second to speak outside?”
“Ah…” Lucky nodded. “Sure.”
“Dad,” Robin said, grabbing her coat, “I’ll be right back.” Robert nodded—as if he’d had a choice and she started for the courtyard, Lucky following her. Once they were alone, Robin bit her lip. “So I just…I wanted to thank you again for coming last year.”
Lucky nodded. “No problem.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Are you doing okay today? I mean, with it being the one year and all. I wanted to find you—”
Robin smiled faintly. “I had a bit of a meltdown last night but I’m doing okay, I guess. As well as can be expected. I just—it meant a lot to me that you came all the way to Paris.” Her eyes became distant and Lucky knew she wasn’t in the present with him anymore. After a moment, they cleared and she turned her smile back on him.
“Have you…told anyone?” Lucky asked quietly. Robin shrugged and looked away. “I know I’m only repeating what you already know, but Rob, you gotta tell them. Your parents at least.”
“I know,” Robin bobbed her head in agreement. “And I’m going to. I just—I want to wait until after the holidays. I just want one last Christmas, you know?”
“Hey…” Lucky held up his hands. “It’s your call, Ladybug. You know I’m here for you.”
“Thanks.” Robin tugged her jacket a little tighter and sighed as she saw Patrick enter the courtyard and hesitate at the sight of her. “Lucky, do me a favor?”
“I’m gone,” Lucky nodded, going back to the diner.
Robin bit her lip. “I’m sorry,” she offered weakly. “About the scene in the lab last night.”
Patrick nodded stiffly. “That’s fine. It’s probably better if we don’t talk too much about—” he shrugged. “Anything.”
“Patrick…” Robin sighed. “I don’t want it to be like this between us,” she said. “I want us to be friends—”
“Well, I’m sorry, Robin, but I don’t exactly have any openings,” Patrick interrupted. “Especially not for someone who cut and run when things got a little difficult and didn’t bother to come back until things were all clear.”
“That’s not—” Robin growled in frustration. “You don’t understand, Patrick. You can’t understand what it was like that last year we were together.” She dug her fingers into her hair and closed her eyes. “You were gone. The guy I’d grown up with, my boyfriend, the person that I loved, you weren’t there anymore—”
“My mom was sick, then she was dying, and then she was dead,” Patrick retorted. “I’m so sorry that I didn’t feel all sunshine and happiness—”
“You’re an idiot,” Robin muttered. “You never talked to me, you never opened up. And the longer it dragged on, the more miserable the both of us were. And I know that losing your mom was hard—I loved her too—”
“I’m not talking about this anymore,” Patrick sliced a hand through the air as if cutting a string. “It’s over, Robin. It was a lifetime ago.”
“Save it, Robin. We’re colleagues, but that’s as far as it goes.” Patrick brushed past her and nearly ripped the door open in his haste to get away from her.
Quartermaine Mansion: Dillon’s Bedroom
Dillon Quartermaine pressed the stop button the DVD that he and Lulu were watching and glanced over at the pensive blonde seated on the bean bag chair next to his. “Dude. You probably don’t even know the title of this movie.”
Lulu flicked her hazel eyes his way and frowned. “Ah…something black and white.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Dillon nodded. He tossed the remote aside and maneuvered his chair until he was facing her. “You came over this morning and you wanted a distraction. We’ve been watching movies for six hours, Lu. You wanna tell me what you needed a distraction from?”
“Nope.” Lulu reached for the remote but Dillon blocked her. “C’mon, Dillon. Does a girl need a reason to spend time with her best friend?”
“When that girl begs said friend to break his already made plans with other friends because it’s an emergency,” Dillon nodded. “Absolutely, she needs a reason. Lu, how long have we been friends?”
A faint smile spread across her lips. “Since I pushed you down in the sandbox when we were five.”
Dillon frowned. “That’s not quite the way I remember it but, yeah, it’s been like twelve years. Have I ever proved myself untrustworthy?”
“There was that time you told my mother that I pushed you in the lake,” Lulu grumbled.
“I was seven and you pushed me in the lake because I made fun of your bathing suit,” Dillon said defensively. “It was a cheap shot, Lulu and you know it. Now, come on. I’m not kidding here.”
Lulu exhaled slowly. “Okay, so I’ve known about this for a while, but I don’t…think I’m going to be able to ignore it anymore.” She got to her feet and started to pace the large room that Dillon passed off as his bedroom, although it was both a rec room and a bedroom, what with the entertainment center in the corner and his film editing equipment on the opposite side. “I was looking at a calendar a few weeks ago, and I realized that something wasn’t quite right.”
Dillon nodded, though he wasn’t sure where she was going with this train of thought. It was true that they’d been practically inseparable since the age of five (though he was almost sure it had been him that had done the pushing in the sandbox). They were unlikely friends since Dillon was from the wealthiest family in the city and Lulu was from a more middle class family. The fact that her father was Luke Spencer had driven Dillon’s mother Tracy into forbidding the friendship more than once. But Dillon and Lulu had ignored that and Tracy had long ago given up separating the two.
They were each other’s constants, in worlds that changed on the whims of their parents. Lulu had been there for Dillon during each of Tracy’s three divorces and Dillon had been Lulu’s rock when Laura had been diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. They’d seen each other through boyfriends and girlfriends but their relationship had never been more than that of friends.
There was little that Dillon wouldn’t do for his best friend but he’d been worried about her for the last year or so. She’d used him as an alibi more than once so she could go out partying with her boyfriend Will Drake. Lulu stayed out all night, drinking and smoking and doing God knows what else. He knew she was just trying to make her mark with her parents but he was worried that she’d get herself into some sort of trouble that she couldn’t talk herself out of.
He watched her continue to pace and wondered if that day had finally come. “Lu—”
“How do you feel about kids?” Lulu asked, suddenly. She whirled around to face him with an overly large, bright smile on her face.
“Ah, they’re—they’re okay,” Dillon fumbled. “For being what they are.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Lulu nodded. Dillon felt the twisting of a knot in his stomach. “How would you like to be a father?”
So this is what a panic attack felt like, Dillon thought idly as his chest squeezed and breathing was no longer an option. He started to gasp for air and Lulu pounded on his back. When his lungs were functioning again, he sputtered, “What?”
“I realized that I’m—” Lulu coughed. “Well, I’m late.”
He almost asked for what but then remembered the line from about a thousand movies. He lunged to his feet. “Dude, Lu—”
“So, I went to the store and I bought a test,” Lulu continued, ignoring his outburst. “And I took the test and it was positive and my parents are going to kill me—”
“But you know, I can’t—” Lulu’s eyes were wide with panic. “I need you, Dillon. I need you to help me. Please.” She shook her head wildly. “I can’t tell Will. You know I can’t.”
Dillon held up a finger, and took a deep breath. He could do this. He could absolutely do this. He had a lot of experience dealing with Lulu’s insanity, and he ignored most of her crazy plans. Of course, there had been one time Emily and Nikolas had get them from St. Paul in the middle of winter, but for the most part, he kept her sane.
“Let’s just…back up.” He opened his hand, palm facing her, as if the action would magically restore reality to this situation. “You want me to pretend to be the father of your baby, which means I would have to tell the world this nonsense. This world, which includes my mother, your father, your brother, my grandfather, and that’s before we even get to the babydaddy, who would take me apart if he thought I touched you.”
Lulu scowled and folded her arms. “Well, if you’re going to be reasonable about all of this,” she huffed. “I guess there are some drawbacks to this solution.”
“Drawbacks, she says,” Dillon remarked conversationally to his Vertigo movie poster. “As if my own self-preservation was a drawback.” He turned back to Lulu, who just rolled her eyes. “I get you’re scared, Lu. Believe me, I’m not even actually in this problem, and I’m flat terrified. But if we have learned anything living in Port Charles, this close to the Quartermaine family, paternity lies are a mistake from the moment they begin.”
“This is true,” Lulu sighed. She flopped back on the bed. “I remember when Carly Roberts tried to tell Tony Jones he was the father of her kid, only to discover it was some random guy in a bar. Tony went nuts and kidnapped the kid. So…yeah, paternity lies are bad.”
“Exactly,” Dillon nodded. He joined her on the bed, and they stared up at the ceiling as they so often did. “Why don’t you want to tell Will?”
“Because I’m a fucked-up mess, and I figure a kid only needs one of those as a parental figure.” Lulu sighed. “He’s just so angry all the time, and then he talks about being in love with me, but he’s just…he’s a Drake, Dillon. I mean, Patrick is mostly okay, but even he drove Robin to Paris for all those years. Drake men destroy everything they love, with alcohol and anger.”
“You have a point,” Dillon acknowledged, because though Will had been a good guy most of his life, and he’d even been casually friends with his fellow senior, he knew that his parents’ bitter divorce had triggered that destruction gene Lulu referenced. “But saying I’m the father is not the answer.”
“Well, what is?”
“It’s also not my question to answer, Lu.” He turned his head to face her, and she did the same. “But whatever you decide, I love you and I will support you. You’re my person, Lulu Spencer, and I’m yours.”
“God.” Lulu sighed and closed her eyes. “Life would have been easier if I thought of you as an actual guy. We’d be perfect for each other.”
“We’d murder each other in a week.”
Kelly’s: Parking Lot
Jason pulled the motorcycle to a slow stop and turned off the engine. Elizabeth slid to the ground and tugged off the helmet, letting her dark brown hair fall to her shoulders. “Thank you so much for the ride.”
Jason took the helmet from her and set it on the back of the back. “Sure, it’s no problem. Do you want me to have your car looked at?”
Elizabeth bit her lip and considered it but finally shook her head. “No, I don’t know how I’d explain the absence of my car to my father and he’d just…explode if he knew you were involved at all.” She shrugged. “I’m trying to keep things status quo, you know? With…his drinking.”
“I understand. I’m sorry your family has a problem with our friendship,” Jason remarked.
Elizabeth shrugged, resigned to the situation. “One day they’ll realize I’m a grown woman who can make her own decisions. But I’m still struggling to keep them together, I’m not looking to shake things up more than I have to.” Her lips curved into a shy smile. “Thanks for coming to my rescue.”
Jason opened his mouth to respond but a familiar BMW pulled into the parking lot and Noah Drake stepped out of the car. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of his daughter standing so close to Jason Morgan. He stepped up behind her and put a firm hand on her shoulder. “Elizabeth.” He nodded to Jason. “Jason.”
“Dr. Drake.” Jason glanced at the severely uncomfortable brunette and exhaled slowly. “I’ll see you around, Elizabeth.” He started the engine and pulled out the parking lot.
When the roar of bike’s engine was just a distant sound, Noah pursed his lips and looked at his daughter. “Are you trying to send me into an early grave?”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “You’re being ridiculous,” she muttered. She bit her lip to keep the ugly words from spilling out of her mouth. After all, up until a year ago, Noah had been doing a damn fine job of driving himself into that grave.
Up until a year ago, she’d been unable to have her father and brother in the same room with each other. And up until a year ago, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her brother smile.
It wasn’t much different now, but it was better, which meant it could only continue getting better. Elizabeth would continue to bite her tongue to keep her family from hitting rock bottom again. She had no intention of giving her friendship up to make Patrick and her father happy, but neither would she toss it in their faces more than necessary.
So instead of saying what she wanted to say, she linked arms with her father and pulled him into the restaurant. “My car wouldn’t start this morning, so Jason gave me a ride. How would you like to have lunch?”
“Well, that’s a coincidence. I’m meeting Patrick for lunch,” Noah said with a faint smile. “We can make it a family affair.”
Her family wasn’t perfect and there would always be times when Elizabeth would want to rip her hair out but she knew their hearts were in the right places. And that almost made up for all the rest of it.
Port Charles Mall
There were few things Dillon Quartermaine hated more in life than shopping at the Port Charles Mall this close to Christmas. Maybe spiders.
He frowned at the list Emily had scrawled for him, dictating the store from where she had ordered their grandmother’s gift. With her insane schedule at the hospital, she was unable to pick it up, and was therefore sending her innocent cousin to do it for her. After all, he owed her for coming to get him and Lulu in St. Paul.
That caper was going to haunt him for the rest of his life. As was typical of Lesley Lu Spencer, the light of his life and the bane of his existence. And now she was in the biggest trouble of her life, and he’d been unable to fix it for her.
He wasn’t sure this was fixable.
“Damn it, Emily,” he muttered. Was this a C? Maybe it was an L. Frick his life.
Oh, no. No. No. No. No. No.
Could you scream in your head? Dillon thought so, because he was giving himself a headache as he heard Will Drake call his name. Act natural, act cool. You don’t know anything. You know nothing. If you run, he will catch you. He’s taller than you.
When he thought he had cleared the panic from his expression, he turned to find the tall senior loping towards him from the food court. It was a shame Will had turned out to be a self-destructive drunk, since the old Will would have known exactly how to fix Lulu’s situation. Dillon frowned when the lanky teen drew closer, because for first time in months, Will didn’t look drunk. He looked…painfully sober. Crap.
“Uh, hey, Will.”
Will stopped in front of him, and slid his hands in the pockets of his khakis. “Hey. Um…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Have you…talked to Lu lately?”
Was this a trick question? “Yes,” Dillon said, because the fewer lies you had to tell in this life was always better in the end. “Um. I know…she…” He coughed. “Yes, well. I’ve seen her.”
“Yeah, she dumped me.” Will cleared his throat, and Dillon realized they were both nervous as shit. He brightened a little, because he could relate to anxiety. “And, she’s, ah, not returning any of my calls or texts, so if you could…”
“I can tell her something,” Dillon agreed. Because after all, if Lulu was going to get out of this mess, this bastard was going to have to be involved, because once Will was involved, Dillon could stop being in the middle of it, and he might live another day. Or two. Until Lulu got in another mess. Frick his life.
“Um…” Apparently, Will hadn’t been expecting Dillon’s response, because now he looked away and squinted. “Um, tell her that I figure she’s got a point about the drinking, but I don’t see the point in knocking it off since she just gave me another reason to drink.”
“Oh.” Well, wasn’t that a cheerful message? He hated people. He really did. “I…if it’s all the same to you, maybe I don’t tell her that. Since it…won’t really…” Dillon gestured helplessly, “it won’t really get her back. If, ah, that’s what you wanted.”
“I do,” the boy admitted. “But I don’t want her to know that.” He squared his shoulders. “You know. Because that would be desperate.”
“Right.” Well, what the hell was the point of this nonsense then? “So…maybe I just tell her I saw you, you asked about her and you said hi?” Dillon suggested.
“Maybe you could tell her to stop being such a stubborn—” Will closed his mouth, which was good because Dillon didn’t want to have his ass kicked today and if Will Drake insulted his best friend, Dillon was going to have to throw a punch.
And that would be all he’d be able to do, because then Will would kill him. The boy was taller and a wrestling star. Dillon…was neither of those things. “I could maybe tell her she should call you.” He coughed again, and wished he could disappear into thin air. Like magic. In a movie. “Maybe I tell her you were at the mall, flirting with…someone. You know, let her know you’re not waiting around.”
Will hesitated. “Wouldn’t that just piss her off? Lu’s not like other girls.”
No. No, this was true. Dillon looked up in the air, because now he had no idea. “So…should I tell her anything?”
“Um…something would probably be good.” Will rocked back on his heels, and sighed. “Are you guys going to the Haunted Star party on Christmas Eve?”
“Always possible,” Dillon remarked. “Maybe I don’t tell her you’ll be there?” he suggested. “In fact, maybe I don’t tell her this ever happened.”
Will nodded. “I like that.” He hesitated. “You know why Lu broke up with me?”
“Um…” Dillon paused. Because in addition to the drinking, which hadn’t fazed Lulu at first until it was a constant presence, she’d been freaked out because he’d started talking about the future. Of course, now he knew why Lulu freaked about the future, and as usual, she’d made the situation immediately worse by tossing the future to the curb. “She mentioned it. But you know…Lu’s a drama queen. In the best possible way, but still…melodrama is her middle name. Play it cool, Will. Don’t…” He hesitated. “Don’t, like, get drunk and try to get her back. It’ll only annoy her.”
Will scowled, but looked away, because they both knew it was more than a possibility. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll see you at the party, maybe.”