Chapter 48

"Hey, Dad!"

AJ's thoughts had been on his son so he was a little startled when Michael entered the kitchen, calling out for him. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know," the teenager shrugged. "Did Uncle Jason take everybody on a trip or something?"

AJ shook his head. "I don't think so. Why?"

Trying to appear unconcerned, Michael picked up an apple for a bowl and started polishing it with his t-shirt. "No big deal. I tried to call over there and nobody answered the phone."

"Maybe he took them out for breakfast," AJ suggested. He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a carton of eggs, cheese and an onion. He set everything on the counter and then moved to the stove.

Michael frowned as he watched his father. "What are you doing?"

"Making breakfast."

Michael moved around the counter to join his father. AJ had turned the burner up too high so Michael lowered it. "Where's Mom?"

"She had an emergency with one of her patients," AJ explained. "She may be back around lunchtime."

"Oh," the boy sounded disappointed. He patted his Dad on his back. "Well, you don't have to make breakfast. I can just grab something or there's cereal."

"What are you talking about?" AJ asked. "It's Saturday. We always have omelets on Saturday."

"Yeah, but Mom makes 'em." Michael's eyes were filled with doubt when he gave his father a long look. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

AJ grimaced. "If you're gonna be a smartass, you make them."

Michael laughed. "Sure, Dad, and that will be twenty bucks, please."

AJ looked at his son's outstretched hand. Shaking his head, he asked, "For what?"

"For using profanity," his son grinned. He grabbed an apron and quickly tied it around his waist before shoving his palm underneath AJ's nose. "Come on, Dad, pay up. A deal's a deal."

"You call this a deal?" AJ asked, reaching for his wallet. "I call this highway robbery. Who came up with this twenty bucks per word crap anyway?"

"I think it was Mom," Michael said as he smiled down at the crisp twenty-dollar bill he now held in his hand. "Remind me to thank her when she comes home."

"Yeah, right." AJ swatted Michael on his rear before he left the boy in the kitchen to prepare their breakfast. He took a sat on the stool at the counter and watched as his son worked his magic in the kitchen. Cook never seemed to mind Michael spending time in the kitchen with her. Now, AJ knew why. The boy knew what he was doing.

"What do you have planned for today?" AJ asked.

"I was gonna stop by the Ward House. Shoot some hoops with George. Maybe call Dominik and see if he'd like to come along, too."

"What about Grace?" AJ asked, trying to sound innocent.

Michael turned beet-red. He quickly grabbed the onion and with his back to his father, began to wash it. "What about her?"

"I thought she was on the girl's basketball team," AJ said, trying not to chuckle at his son's discomfort. "I've seen her play. You guys should include her."

His face had almost returned to its normal color by the time Michael returned to the other side of the counter with the freshly washed onion. As he peeled the onion, he said, "I'm sure she's busy with other stuff. Besides, sometimes it's good when just guys hang out. Kinda like what we did yesterday after school, you know? Just you and me. Just guys."

"Did you like that?" AJ asked, his expression serious.

Michael looked up with a smile. "Sure, Dad. You're not so bad."

"Even though I don't ride a Harley?"

"Huh?" His son frowned.

AJ shook his head. "Nothing."

"I like Uncle Jason and he's fun sometimes," Michael said quietly, "but you're my Dad."

"That I am," AJ said with a faint smile.

They became quiet as Michael concentrated on making their breakfast. The smell of egg, cheese and onions filled the kitchen. The aroma made AJ's mouth water. When Michael was almost done, AJ grabbed a couple of plates from the cabinet and held them so that Michael could slide the omelets onto them. AJ then took the plates to the counter with Michael following with napkins and utensils. By now, they were so hungry that the juice would have to wait. They dug in with full gusto.

When their plates were bare and both were full, AJ leaned back against the wall and gave Michael a long stare. "Do you ever think about Carly?"

"No!" Michael said. He quickly stood up and grabbed their empty plates. He began loading the dishwasher as he asked, "Why are you asking me about her?"

"Because you never talk about her," AJ explained, keeping his gaze on his son. He noticed how Michael's hands trembled slightly and how he averted his eyes. Softly, he said, "It's okay to talk about her."

"Why would I want to? She doesn't mean anything to me."

"Is that why you didn't tell me about her waiting for you after school?" AJ asked.

Michael frowned. "Who told you that?"

AJ shrugged. "It doesn't matter. You should have told me. I didn't think we kept things from each other. You can always come to me or Eve about things. I thought you knew that."

"I do," he said. "I didn't want to worry you or have you hire a thousand more bodyguards."

"I hired them to protect you," AJ reminded him. "I may consider removing a few of them from your space if you talk to me about Carly."

"What do you want me to say?" Michael asked. "I don't want her in my life. I have a mother and I don't need another one. There. Are we done now?"

AJ sighed. "For now."

Michael removed the apron from around his waist and tossed it onto the counter. He started to leave the kitchen and over his shoulder, he asked, "You're not gonna make me see her, are you?"

"No, son."

"Thanks," Michael said before quickly leaving the room.


"This is quite a house you have here," Bobbie commented after Carly had given her a tour. They had shared a late brunch and now, their day was drawing to a close.

"I think so, too," Carly agreed. "Vincent insists on only the finest. He thinks I have exquisite taste."

"So you did the decorating?" Bobbie asked.

"Of course," Carly responded. "You don't think I'm capable?"

Bobbie's eyes narrowed. "I never implied that you weren't capable. Stop assuming the worst every time someone makes a comment."

"I don't assume the worst," she denied. "I know your opinion of me."

Bobbie sadly shook her head. "You have no idea what I think of you. I'm willing to let our past differences remain in the past, but that won't happen if you keep making assumptions about me. I would like to get to know the woman you are now as opposed to the child you were then."

Closing her eyes, Carly pinched the bridge of her nose. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"

"Yeah," Bobbie told her.

"I want this work, Bobbie, I really do," Carly said as she opened her eyes. "I have a habit of striking out first and asking questions later."

Bobbie nodded. "I remember and don't you think it's about time you overcame that habit." Bobbie sat down on the window seat and patted the space beside her. When Carly had settled beside her, she asked, "Care to tell me about your visit with Michael?"

Her dark eyes widened. "How did you know about that? Who's reporting back to you?"

"I don't have anyone reporting to me. AJ came to me because he was concerned about Michael and how your visit may have affected him."

"AJ had no right to do that," she said through gritted teeth. "My visit with Michael was none of your or his business."

"You can't believe that," Bobbie said, staring at Carly in surprise.

"What happens between my son and me has nothing to do with you or AJ!"

"Carly," Bobbie began as calmly as she could, "everything that happens with Michael concerns AJ. AJ has legal custody of Michael and he's responsible for making sure that Michael grows up in a healthy environment."

Carly grunted. "I remember there was a time when you didn't defend him...when you were on my side when they were trying to take my son away from me."

"That was before I knew the full details of what you did to AJ, and you know it," Bobbie said. "You were in no position to be a mother to him. You needed help."

"There's nothing wrong with me." She stood up abruptly, intent on getting away from Bobbie.

Bobbie's hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. She squeezed until Carly sat down again and then she gently held the younger woman's hand. "I shouldn't have brought up the past and I apologize. We should talk about now and the future. Were you drunk when you approached Michael?"

"Are you accusing me of being an alcoholic?" Carly shrieked.

"Assumptions, Carly. Don't make them." Bobbie sighed deeply before she spoke again. "I'm not accusing you of anything just answer the question."

Carly shrugged. She looked down at their hands. Her fingers flexed against the back of Bobbie's hand. "I may have had a little something while I waited for him to get out of school. I don't think I was drunk."

Bobbie nodded. "Are you serious about being in your son's life again?"

Carly swallowed hard. "Yes."

"Well, maybe that's something we can focus on." Bobbie gently patted Carly's hand and then she stood up. "Lucky—I meant Lorenzo came over last night. He may be in Port Charles for a while. When I told him you were here, he said he'd like to see you. I was thinking of having a dinner tomorrow night, a little family get together. You could bring Vincent. Are you interested?"

"Sure, I guess."

"Great," Bobbie said with a smile. "But there is one thing I should warn you about. He'll probably bring the new woman in his life. Please, try not to mention his half-brother, Nikolas."


"Well, Lorenzo's new lady friend is also his brother's wife."


"This is boring," Sonny announced as they sat in Jason's truck outside of the Santiago estate. "Tomorrow we follow the hubby."

Jason rubbed his chin. "I didn't know Bobbie and Carly were on good terms. Interesting."

"Didn't Bobbie testify against Carly at the final custody hearing?" Sonny asked.

"Yep," Jason replied as he reached down for his chocolate shake. Adjusting the straw, he added, "She even suggested that Carly seek therapy. Not at Ferncliff, of course, but somewhere. Even the judge agreed to that."

"Shit," Sonny murmured. Something he had forgotten came back to him and he wondered how they had missed it. "Damn!"

"What?" Jason asked, looking at his good friend. "What's wrong with you?"

"The judge, man!"

Jason frowned. "What about the judge?"

"Don't you remember who the judge was?" Sonny questioned. "You remembered what Bobbie said about her mental health. You gotta remember who was sitting on the bench."

Jason thought about it. At first no one came to mind, but when he remembered, his eyes grew large and he sputtered. "It was Dara!"


Jason sat still as he processed this new revelation. He knew that Carly could be vengeful and could hold a grudge forever if that was possible. Plotting something against Dara made sense, but the rest of it still didn't fit. "Who is Santiago tied to?" Jason wondered aloud.

"We can easily find that out," Sonny replied. "Why do you wanna know?"

"I'm just thinking about something. If he hooked Carly up with that doctor to hurt Dara, that was a dumb move. I saw how he worked over Sorel," Jason said. "He used brains more than muscle. He's not stupid or impulsive. I can't see him making an obvious move like that. Something that could be so easily traced back to him..."

"Maybe that's why Graham was hit," Sonny suggested.

"That just makes it look worse."

"What about that kid they spent the day with yesterday? Who's he?"

"He's my cousin," Jason replied. "His name is Dillon. He's Tracy's kid."

Sonny shrugged. "Well, we gotta start somewhere. Maybe he can give us some background info on Santiago."

"It wouldn't hurt to ask," Jason said.

"No, it wouldn't."

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Darkest Before the Dawn (and all original characters) © 1998-2001 niklovr
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