Sequel to A Few Words Too Many.
All day starin’ at the ceilin’ makin’
Friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices tellin’ me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for somethin’
Hold on, feelin’ like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why
– Unwell, Matchbox 20
Friday, May 1, 2007
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
It always felt a little bit like traveling between worlds, Jason Morgan thought, as he left his bright and airy penthouse, filled with the sounds of kids laughing or crying, the hardwood floors littered with toys and the occasionally tipped over sippy cup or potato chip crumbs to cross the hall to the darkly decorated, eerily silent penthouse where his partner and best friend lived.
It had been just over two years since kids had lived in Sonny Corinthos’s home full-time, and even then, Michael was a quiet kid who kept mostly to his room, and his brother, Morgan, barely old enough to walk much less make a mess. After Carly had kept one too many secrets from her husband, their marriage had imploded and Carly had walked away, taking much of the noise with her.
Jason had lived in this penthouse once, for a little under a year, and he’d liked the silence back then. Now, he really couldn’t imagine a day passing without watching his daughter chase her little brother, Cady’s dark curls flying behind like a streamer, and Cameron’s high-pitched maniacal giggles.
He’d have to do without those sounds for a few days, he thought as he nodded to Max Giambetti, the guard in the hallway, then turned to Sonny. “It should be pretty standard. I’ll be back Sunday night at the latest.”
Sonny nodded. “Yeah, I appreciate you taking this one. I’ve got the rest of the summer,” he told him. “So you don’t have to worry about leaving Elizabeth after the baby gets here.” He crossed to sort through some paperwork on his desk, Jason catching sight of some glossy pamphlets—gathered during one of Sonny’s trips over the last two years. London, Paris, Cairo, Hong Kong—Sonny had racked up the miles while Jason hadn’t been able to leave the country other than runs to Puerto Rico every other month. Not since their Italian honeymoon had left them with a surprise nine months later—Cameron.
“I wish we could skip this month completely,” Jason muttered. “I don’t like being out of town with her this close to the due date.”
“Still got three weeks, don’t you? Elizabeth missed the due date last time, anyway. She could go late.”
“Or she could go early—” Jason exhaled slowly. No point in worrying about any of that. This wasn’t four years ago, he wasn’t running to Puerto Rico to avoid the tension tearing apart his home. They’d been married for three years, together for four, and surprise baby two was due at the end of the month. And their daughter, whose birth he’d nearly missed chasing ghosts in Puerto Rico, had just turned three in December.
“I’m right across the hall,” Sonny reminded Jason. “Max is outside the odor, and—” He frowned. “Who did we end up putting on yours? I can’t remember.”
“Kevin,” Jason said, a bit irritated now. Cody had been the best choice to take over after they’d moved Francis to Puerto Rico, but it wasn’t really a great time to switch up the guard who knew Elizabeth and the kids best. “I know your trip is scheduled for Tuesday—”
“Yeah, that’s all set. I haven’t been back to Rome in years, and I’ll have time to enjoy the food with Kate busy at the photoshoot.” Sonny started rifling through some more paperwork. “Anyway, Elizabeth is in good hands. You know that.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“And if I ever let anything happen to her, Carly would murder me.”
“That’s true,” Jason said dryly. “All right. I have to go to the warehouse, and then I need to finish packing. I’ll see you on Sunday.”
“See you then.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“Ugh.” Elizabeth Morgan put a hand on the arm of the sofa and lowered herself slowly to the cushion. “I feel like a ship docking.”
“I don’t miss that,” Carly Jacks offered with a shudder. She swirled her spoon around what was left of her Rocky Road. “But Jax thinks we should think about trying soon.”
“Really? You want to go through this again?” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her swollen belly, grimacing as the baby rolled and then delivered a solid kick to her ribs. “Knock it off. You’re not winning any scholarships in there, buddy.”
Carly pursed her lips. “Maybe not this part, but hey, you’re the one who decided to get pregnant three times in four years.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Not a lot of deciding going on.” A spontaneous round in the shower one morning in Venice (or maybe it been the hot tub—or—well—there had been a lot of spontaneous moments on their honeymoon), and a defective condom mixed with a city wide-blackout, a sleepover at the grandparents, and candlelight — and suddenly, Elizabeth was about to pop out a third kid.
It really wasn’t exactly what she’d planned, but it was still a pretty good deal. She sighed as the oldest, Cady, flew past the coffee table, something clutched in her hands. “Oh, no, she has Mr. Buttons again—”
“On it.” Carly set the bowl on the coffee table and plucked Cady out of the air. “What did we tell you about Mr. Buttons?” she demanded as she held the giggling little girl upside down.
“Mama!” Cameron sobbed as he toddled around the side of the sofa, rubbing his eyes. “Mama! Buttons! Sissy took Buttons!”
“Aunt Carly is on it, baby.” Elizabeth held out a hand to steady him as he climbed onto the sofa and tucked himself into her side. He set one of his tiny hands on Elizabeth’s belly.
“Hi, baby.” His tears faded as the baby kicked back. “Baby says hi, Mama!”
“Yes, it does—and look—”
Carly dropped the stuffed rabbit into Cameron’s lap. He grinned at her, hugging it closely. “Aunt Car bestest.”
“Bored, Mommy.” Cady sat on the ground dramatically. “Want Daddy.”
“We all do,” Elizabeth said, wincing. “Why is it always the ribs?”
“Because they’re there.” Carly perched Cady on her hip. “Where is your husband? I thought we talked about him leaving you alone with the Twin Terrors right now.”
“Daddy talk to Unca Sonny,” Cady told her aunt. “He has to go on a plane.”
Carly narrowed her eyes, then glared at Elizabeth who just sighed again. “What?’
“Puerto Rico. First weekend of the month. You know that doesn’t change—”
“I know that this doesn’t fall apart if you miss a month—” Carly hissed, set Cady on the ground. “Where’s he going this time, huh? Mexico?”
“He’s not going anywhere,” Elizabeth said. Then gave up under Carly’s withering stare. “He’s leaving on Tuesday for Rome.”
“I knew it—”
“Jason will be back by then—”
“He didn’t even tell me he’s going out of town in four days.” Carly sat back down. “I know we’re divorced, but next weekend is his. He’s only going for a few days? I don’t buy it. It’ll be like that cruise with that last bimbo—”
“No, the one before her—” Carly snapped her fingers. “The lawyer. Janna? Joan?”
“Right. He’s already cruising the islands of Greece, and I’m waiting for him to pick up the boys—”
“You mad, Aunt Car?” Cady asked. “Unca Sonny do a bad?”
“No,” Carly muttered. “Unca Sonny just sucks at communication. Man, you lie about one little thing—”
“Kristina isn’t really little or a thing—”
“Deathbed confessions mean nothing anymore, do they?” Carly huffed and got to her feet. “Well, when your husband gets home, we’re going to have words. I told him—”
“He already feels bad enough,” Elizabeth said, and Carly grimaced, recognizing Elizabeth’s tone. “And Sonny already agreed to do the next three months. He’s right across the hall if I need anything, and I seem to remember Sonny being pretty good about women in labor. He was here for Cady.”
“I remember. Okay. But I still think this sucks.”
“Aunt Car, that’s a bad word,” Cady said, shaking her finger sternly. “You say you sorry. Or Mommy gets the soap.”
“I find it hard to believe your mother ever came near you with a bar of soap,” Carly said to her goddaughter.
“Cuz I not say bad words.”
“Nuh uh, Sissy.” Cameron had clearly waited his entire life—all two years of it anyway. “Sissy says the baddest word.”
Cady gasped. “Nuh uh!”
“I should be paying attention to that,” Elizabeth told Carly as their voices got higher and shriller. “But I’ve got worse news.”
“I have to pee.” Elizabeth let the back of her head fall against the sofa. “Oh, man, I don’t want to get back up.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
“I’m not late, I’m not late!”
The bells over the Kelly’s door were still jingly as Nadine Crowell crashed landed into a chair across from Robin Scorpio and Emily Quartermaine. “I made it!”
“Technically,” Robin said. “My watch just turned to 1:31.”
“But I was inside the diner, so it doesn’t count.” Nadine grinned at her, set the pile of folders down. “I was stuck in traffic—”
“Robin leaves ten minutes early for everything to allow for traffic,” Emily said to Nadine. Robin scowled, but threw a French fry at the younger woman.
“Anyway, now that we’re all here—I do appreciate you helping out for the next few months,” Robin told Nadine. “When Elizabeth and I decided to start the foundation last year, she wasn’t exactly planning to be pregnant during our biggest season.”
“No, I think that was my family’s fault,” Emily said.
“I think it’ll be fun to work together. We always have a good time when I volunteer, and Elizabeth said that you’re a master of details,” Nadine told Robin. “Which I suck at, but I make up for it in enthusiasm—”
“And I’m here for comedic relief,” Emily said.
“Perfect.” Robin opened her planner. “Let’s get started.”
Harborview Towers: Hallway
The elevator doors slid open and Jason winced when he saw who was waiting on the other side. “Carly,” he sad warily. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“Someone had to hang out with Elizabeth and the kids,” Carly said as he stepped out. “What’s this I hear about Puerto Rico?”
“I’m not happy about it either—”
“Then don’t go. I thought the whole reason you took Elizabeth’s guard was so some other guy could do stuff down there.” She folded her arms. “I seem to remember you running off to Puerto Ric when she was pregnant the first time, and I told you were dumb then.”
“You didn’t.” That had been Sonny ironically.
“Oh.” Carly furrowed her brow. “Well, I meant to. Seriously, Jase, what gives? Why isn’t Sonny taking this run? I know you always switch off, but this is insane. Sonny doesn’t have a wife and two and a half kids at home. I keep telling her to get a nanny—”
“It’s a nonstarter,” Jason said. “But I’ll try again.”
“You do that.” Carly paused. “Listen, I know I nag you a lot, and I’m sorry for it. Sonny got you in the divorce, which means I got stuck with the Muffin—”
“Four years, Carly, and you’re still coming up with excuses.” But Jason smiled, because he knew the concern came from a genuine place. “It’s okay to admit you like each other.”
“Never.” Carly sniffed and pressed the button for the elevator. “When this baby pops out, you better give the girl a break.” She made a cutting gesture with her fingers. “Snip, snip, Jase.”
Jason winced, and went to the penthouse. Inside, he was surprised that it was mostly quiet, with Elizabeth on the sofa, her legs up, and a sketch pad in her hands. He stopped for just a moment, flashing back to another moment just like this. He’d been leaving for Puerto Rico, she’d been mere weeks away from delivery—
But today was different. Elizabeth looked up, smiled at him. No shadows in her eyes, no sadness in their depths. He crossed the room to kiss her, then lifted her legs to sit down. “What did you do with the kids? Carly tie them up?”
“No, thought about it though. Cam’s down for his nap, and Cady’s playing with her dolls. Carly bribed her,” Elizabeth admitted.
Jason nodded. “Worth it. I’m sorry about this,” he said with a sigh. “I know this sucks.”
“It does. But it won’t be long,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not like before,” she said softly and their eyes met. “You’re coming home to me as soon as you can. I know that. Em’s coming over to hang out tomorrow and spending the night, and Robin said she had foundation stuff on Sunday. Sonny will be right across the hall, which Max will be, too.”
“And Kevin,” Jason said.
“And Kevin. Sorry I keep forgetting about him,” Elizabeth admitted with a wince. “It’ll get better during the summer. The kids will get to know him.”
“I’m sorry about Cody.”
“Stop apologizing. Cody’s earned his promotion. I’m happy for him.” Elizabeth leaned back against the armrest. “How long until you have to leave for the airport?”
“I need to be there in an hour, so I need to go pack.” He got to his feet, kissed her again. “I’ll stop in with the kids.”
“I’ll enjoy my solitude for as long as it lasts. We’re adding another kid to this mix, we can kiss silence goodbye for at least a decade.”
“I like the noise.” He grinned when she just made a face, then went upstairs.
It didn’t take him long to toss a few things into a duffel bag. He looped the strap over his shoulder, then went cross the hall, knocking gently on the open door.
Cady’s room was still decorated with the peaches and cream colors, her name painted in an arch that spanned over her bed where her crib had once set. A few months after bringing her home, Elizabeth had stenciled Caroline beneath the swirling pink letters above it, Cadence Audrey.
In the corner, an elaborate Victorian style doll house stood. Elizabeth had been a little hesitant to get it this year—Cady was only three and still learning how to be careful with things but she’d wanted it so much—
And Jason never said no when yes was possible.
Cady sat at the base of the house, her tiny fingers clutched around one of her dolls. Her dark brown, nearly black hair, hung half down her back, tangled in some places likely from running after her brother.
“Hey,” Jason said softly. She twisted her head, and her face—miniature replica of Elizabeth’s except for her caramel brown eyes—lit up.
“Daddy!” She jumped to her feet and raced across the room. He scooped her up in his arms, hugged her tightly. She always greeted him just like this—as if they’d been separated by decades and oceans, and not a matter of hours and miles. “You back from the plane?”
“Haven’t left yet.” He kissed her forehead and set her down on the bed, perching next to her. “I need to ask you a big favor.”
Cady sighed. “Okay, I don’t take Mr. Buttons again. Even if Cam drops him, and it’s funny.”
“Well, yeah, that’s a good idea—” Jason frowned, then shook his head. “But that’s not the favor. I have to go away for two days. That’s two nights. Two mornings.”
“Very long. Don’t like.”
“Me either, but getting older means doing things you don’t like.”
“I stay young forever. No adulting, Aunt Car says. She says it sucks.”
“She’s not wrong. You know Mommy gets tired really easily right now.”
“Because the baby kicks a lot. It’s not nice. I tell him that when he gets here.”
“I know you will.” He smiled at the thought of his daughter lecturing a baby. He couldn’t wait to see it. Cady had been eighteen months old when Cameron had joined them, so she probably didn’t remember much. “I need you to be a really great big sister and help Mommy take care of Cameron.”
Cady wrinkled her noes. “Do I gots to?”
“Yeah. I know I don’t have to worry with you looking out for him. You’re his big sister. And he’s going to be a big brother in a few weeks. He needs to know how to do it.”
“That true,” she nodded somberly. “He needs lots of practice. So okay. I help. I get him up and dressed so Mommy doesn’t.” She tucked herself into his side. “Don’t want you to go, Daddy.”
“I know. I’ll call you every day,” he promised. “And I’ll send you postcards just like always. Even though they’ll get here after I’m already home.” He hugged her one more time, wishing he could just stay here. He hated leaving them behind. Most of the time, he’d taken them with him — leaving them on the island while he was in Puerto Rico, then he’d join them for a day or two, completing his own work in less than a day to spend as much time as he could.
This would be the longest he’d left Cady since Italy more than two years ago.
“Love you, Daddy,” Cady said, squeezing hard, though it felt like a feather trying to hold on. “I take good care of Cam. And Mommy.”
“Love you, too.” He kissed her forehead again, held her close for just another minute. “You probably still owe Aunt Carly some doll playing time.”
“Yep.” Cady climbed off the bed, went back to her dolls and pointed at the clock on her wall. “Aunt Car says when the big hand gets to the twelve.”
“That’s fifteen more minutes.” Thank God for Carly, though he’d never say that outloud.
He reluctantly left Cady playing in her room before going next door to peek in on Cameron, sprawled out on his race car bed, his sunny blond hair dim in the shadows. He adjusted the covers over the two-year-old, kissed the top of his head, and closed the door behind him.
Downstairs, he set the duffel on the floor. “No one’s coming over tonight?” he asked, and Elizabeth frowned, setting aside her sketch pad.
“No. We’re good. Sonny said he’d bring over dinner so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.” Elizabeth slid off the sofa, and he hurried over to help her up. “A few more weeks—I can’t wait.”
“Me either.” He rested his hand over her belly, enjoying the press of the baby’s foot against his fingers. “And we made it the whole time without knowing if it’s a boy or girl.”
“You say that like it was in doubt. I told you — this baby was a happy accident. Everything about him—or her—should be a surprise.” She fisted her hand in his shirt to tug him down for a kiss. “Stop worrying,” she murmured, winding her arms around his neck. “It’s under control.”
“I’ll never stop worrying about you. Or the kids.” He rested his forehead against hers. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Hurry home.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Across the hall, Sonny waited for his call to connect, then grinned as the clipped tone of Kate Howard came over line. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt you?”
“No, of course not.” Her voice softened. “I thought it might be Maxie or Lulu telling me about another disaster. Are we still good for Tuesday?”
“Absolutely,” Sonny said. “I’ll be in Rome on Tuesday. Wouldn’t miss it.”