Part 11

Jason spent the next few days contemplating his offers.

The bodies of Keesha and their son haunted him. The images refused to leave his mind. The Medical Examiner warned him, but Jason had to see them for himself.

The explosion from the car crash left them barely recognizable but he'd been so sure about what he did recognize… His son bore a birthmark on his leg the same as the one Jason had. Keesha had a scar the shape of a half moon on her upper thigh. Both markings were evident and conclusively proved to Jason that they were gone.

What if he was wrong? What if one of his enemies kidnapped them?

Frowning, he rubbed his eyes. Jason moved to shaded area of the playground. Groups hung out, playing ball and lifting weights. Jason preferred solitude. He always had.

What if Keesha took their son and ran?

He grew still at the thought. She hated his lifestyle. Even when they became lovers, he knew their relationship wouldn't last. The carefree, risk taker who made love with him in wild abandon only masked the true woman beneath. A woman whose beliefs and morals opposed his. For awhile, they made it work. Jason didn't question her when she left. Now, he realized she was pregnant then and decided she didn't want him in their child's life. She never gave him a chance. He would have made it work if she had.

Four years.

He missed four years of his son's life. He doubted if he'd ever forgive her for stealing those years from him.

Tony and Joey appeared on either side of him. He continued to lean against the cement wall, staring straight ahead. They wanted to talk. He'd listen.

"The offer still stands," Magic Fingers said. He glanced at the guards before he fixed his gaze on Jason. "But we need an answer soon."

"Why me?"

"Why not?" Tony countered. He ran a hand over his slick head. Sweat flew in several directions. "You don't bother nobody. Your reputation speaks for itself. Why not help you out?"

"What do you want in return?" Jason asked.

Magic Fingers looked at Tony and laughed. "He don't trust nobody. Everybody's got an angle."

"Everybody does," Jason said. "You haven't given me any reason to believe you. Where's your proof?"

"Next visitation, I'll get your proof."

Jason fixed both men with a dead stare. "Don't bother me again until you do."

*/*

Jian's investigation of the snooping teenager revealed nothing more than what the kid stated. A bunch of teenagers claimed the vacant building as their own. Conversations with a few neighbors created a picture that reminded Keesha of her own teenage years in Philadelphia.

She and her friends converted an old church into their club center. When her father discovered their hideaway, he forbade all of them from using the building again. He warned that drug dealers and the like would love to take over their spot and wouldn't hesitate to resort to violence in order to claim possession. Those words were enough for Keesha and her buddies.

She smiled at the old memory, but the happy feeling didn't last. For just a moment, the teenager presented a real threat. What would she have done if the kid worked for Jason or for one of his enemies? Justus and Jerry moved her and Jacob to Connecticut. They gave her a new identity and chose a completely different profession. But where the changes enough? Would she and Jacob ever truly be safe?

Childish laughter filtered through the screen door. She glanced through the window at the back yard. Like a shadow, Jacob clung to Jian's every movement. Her heart ached as she watched her son. He missed AJ. A day didn't pass where Jacob didn't ask about the man he believed was his father. In the beginning, he cried himself to sleep. Only since Jian's presence in their lives had those tears subsided. And that scared her to the bone.

Jian-Wa Chang was a good man, but he had his own life. She couldn't expect him to stick around. His departure would break her heart, but she could live with that. What she couldn't live with was her son's heartache. If Jian left, it would crush her little boy to the core.

"Granny Mae, I wish you were here to tell me what to do."

A second later, her computer beeped with an incoming email. She left the window and double clicked on the little mailbox icon. Port Charles Online loomed on the screen. Since the relocation, curiosity about her old home nagged at her. She signed up for a free Internet subscription to the newspaper. Some days reading the news only brought heartache of what she missed. Other days the familiar names made her smile.

Luke Spencer's disappearance covered the front page. Keesha stifled a yawn and clicked to the community news section. Nikolas Cassadine made a huge donation to the Charles Street Foundation. She remembered Stefan's interest in the Foundation and was glad to see that his son followed in his footsteps. A photo of Nikolas and AJ appeared at the bottom. Standing beside her former lover was Michael. Justus told her that AJ took and her Jacob's death hard, but judging from the smile on his face, he worked through his grief. He had moved on.

She nodded to herself and smiled. "Thanks, Granny Mae."

*/*

"I'm sorry about that." Dara led Alex into her office. "The security system is new. I'm still getting used to it."

"I should have called first," he said. He reached out and cupped her face. "What is going on? Why the fortress? Have you been threatened?"

Concern and sincerity lit up his emerald eyes. The desire to tell him the truth warred with the pact she made with Jerry. She promised that if anyone asked, she'd remain vague. His warning wasn't without merit. She had no choice but to adhere to their guidelines.

"Just a precaution." She shrugged and stepped away from his touch. As she walked around the desk to her chair, she said, "I sometimes handle high profile cases. It's better to be safe than sorry."

His stare was unrelenting. "Are you sure?"

"Alex, yes. Of course, I'm sure. Why wouldn't I be?" She pointed to an empty chair. "Please, have a seat."

"Because you've seemed nervous the last few times I've telephone." He settled on the edge of the seat. "I wondered if you had second thoughts about seeing me. That's why I came today. But when I saw the cameras and security panels, I couldn't help but wonder if you're in danger. You can tell me if someone has threatened you. I can help."

"You're an investment banker. What can you do?"

"Then you are in trouble."

The determined set of his jaw and hardened tone of his voice threw her off guard. She grasped the arm of her chair to settle her nerves. "I'm not. I'm fine! Really."

He pushed from his seat. Turning his back to her, he faced her floor to ceiling bookshelves. She watched in fascination as his shoulders heaved. Then, slowly, he turned around.

"We've only known each other a short amount of time…" He paused to inhale a ragged breath. "I've read about some of your cases in the paper. Believe it or not, investment bankers worry and we're not without friends. If you are threatened for any reason, please, let me know. I care about you, Dara. Probably more than I should."

*/*

"How's it going?" Elliot said the words in a conversational tone, but Dawn sensed that more lay beneath the surface.

She stirred cream and sugar into her coffee and glanced around the squad room before answering. "Fine, just fine. The transition has been great. Thanks for asking."

"You're freezing me out," he said. "It's your choice. We can be friends and from where I'm sitting, you could use one. You look like shit."

"Gee, thanks."

"Let's take a walk," he suggested. "Come with me to the roof."

"People will talk."

"Nobody will say a word. They know we've worked together before. Besides, the vibes you're giving off aren't screaming sex. You're a wreck. You need to talk to somebody. Come on, before Olivia and Rey return with our lunches."

They reached the roof without anyone sparing them a second glance.

"I'm not sure talking to you about this is smart."

Fox hadn't spoken to her in days. He would lose it if he knew she confided in Elliott. She felt on the brink of losing it if her husband didn't connect with her soon.

"I just want to help," Elliott said. "You came to me and asked if we could still be friends. I said yeah. I meant it, Dawn. As a friend, I don't like seeing you like this. Your job--"

"I'm damn good at my job!" Sudden fire raged inside her. "No one can say that I'm not."

"No one is, but that's all you're focused on. A few of the other detectives have tried to get to know you and you've blown them off. That is not how SVU works. You don't want that kind of reputation especially since there are a few who would love to use your husband's job against you." Elliott threw up his hands. "Look, you don't have to confide in me, but you desperately need to get it together."

"Fox knows what happened." Unable to say the words, she simply gestured between them. "I told him."

Elliott's mouth tightened into a grim line. "And he's giving you shit about it. I'm sorry. Do you want me to talk to him?"

"No!" Chill bumps covered her arms. She rubbed for warmth. "He and I have gone through worse. We'll be fine."

"I hope so." He headed to the door. "Remember what I said about work. Not everyone here is your enemy, but that depends on you."

"Have I really been that cold?"

His mouth twisted into a faint smile. "I wouldn't say cold. Distant is a better word. Aloof even better than that."

"Shit."

He laughed, a rich comforting sound. "It's not the end of the world. Listen, some of us are going to Casey's for a few drinks after work. Come with us."

"Okay. I will." She joined him at the door. For a brief moment, she squeezed his arm. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

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