Amid the laughter and the feeding of face, Tommy almost forgot about the bride and groom. A quick glance at his watch told him that they'd been gone for far too long. After telling Gina he had to step away, he went in search of them. Mentally, he crossed his fingers, hoping that he wouldn't walk in on an…ahem…private moment.
Tommy made his way through the crowd without any problems and soon found himself in the foyer. The sound of the nature's fury was loud and he followed the sounds of the rolling thunder and crackling lightning to investigate. Upon reaching the open front door, he almost closed it, but he quickly changed his mind. Grabbing an umbrella, he decided to go outside to see if someone needed some help or something.
The wind and rain were cold on his face as he stepped out onto the brick walkway. His initial quick scan of the grounds revealed nothing but wet cars. Then he saw movement. What was that, he wondered. Was that a person? Determined to get a closer look, he went toward the lone crouching figure.
"Jason?" he asked, kneeling down to help his sobbing friend. With his free hand, he grabbed Jason by the arm and pulled him to his feet. Concern was in his eyes and his voice, as he asked, "What's wrong?"
Jason looked at his friend and with a hoarse voice, said, "She's gone."
"Who's gone?" Tommy asked, confused.
"Keesha," Jason croaked. "She left."
Tommy stood still for a moment as the realization swept over him. Keesha was gone? It was her wedding! Why would she leave, he wondered. He looked at his friend and saw the devastation and emptiness in his eyes and he knew that whatever happened between them hadn't been good. Not at all. Keeping a firm grip around Jason's sagging shoulders, Tommy began to take charge of the situation. "Come on," he said, leading his friend back toward the mansion, "let's get you back inside where it's warm and dry."
Jason became immobile. "I'm not going back in there. I can't."
"Jason, you can't stay out here. We'll go right upstairs. No one will see-"
"No," Jason said, standing firm. "I'm not going back." Suddenly feeling claustrophobic, he moved away from Tommy, unaware of the rain that continued to drench him. His eyes moved frantically, searching for his car. "I've got to get out of here."
"I can't just let you leave like this," Tommy called after him. As Jason strode away, Tommy ran to catch up, and he said again, "You can't leave! Not like this! You're not fit to drive."
"Fine." Jason reached into his pocket and threw his car keys at Tommy. "You drive."
Taken aback, Tommy looked at the keys. He hated driving and the rain didn't improve his feelings about it either. But after one more glance at Jason and his grief-stricken face, he knew that if he didn't take the wheel, Jason would. In his friend's present state, he knew that he couldn't let that happen. He sighed heavily and followed Jason as he turned away and went to his black, Toyota Land Cruiser.
After both young men were settled within the warm and dry confines of the vehicle, Tommy asked, "Where to?"
"Anywhere," Jason said, his voice barely audible. "Just take me anywhere."
Laughter consumed AJ as he followed Eve into his apartment. He was so tickled that he could barely see straight. Slamming the door behind them, he gasped, "I wish I had a camera! Your face was priceless!"
"Oh, hush, you!" she said unable to keep a straight face while responding to his mirth. "It wasn't as bad as all that!"
"It wasn't bad at all," he laughed, wiping the corner of his eyes. "It was hysterical! Thanks, Eve. Watching you stand down a three-year-old for the last candy apple…and then losing-" He stopped speaking as another wave of laughter consumed him.
"How did I know that a three-year-old would be smart enough to apply logic to the situation?!" she replied, shrugging out of her raincoat. She held her out for his and through fits of laughter, he took his off and handed it to her. "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have wanted that old apple in the first place."
She moved past him and went into the kitchen. AJ followed her, and leaning against the doorframe he replied, "And, how was it my fault?"
"You wouldn't let me have a bite of yours!" she said. She began to prepare tea to ward off the chill from the rain. She filled two mugs up with water and placed them into the microwave. After choosing the time and pushing start, she turned around to face AJ. She was a little surprised to see him standing right behind her, but she was very pleased.
AJ wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to him. "You wouldn't have taken just a bite and you know it. You would have devoured the entire thing."
"Yeah," she agreed, smiling at him as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Call me a glutton."
"I'd rather call you beautiful…" He kissed her cheek. "… And wonderful…" He kissed her neck. "… And vivacious," he finished with a kiss to her lips.
Greedy for the thrill his kisses always gave her, Eve opened her mouth to him. Their tongues collided and their hearts pounded loudly. So loudly that they almost didn't hear the doorbell.
Reluctantly, he broke away from her. With a wink, he said, "I'll be back to finish what I started."
"You'd better be," she said, grinning at him.
AJ smiled to himself as he moved briskly to answer his door. He didn't want to be rude, but whoever was on the other side would be sent away as quickly as possible. With that thought the only one on his mind, he opened the door.
His hazel eyes widened in shock as a soaking wet and very tearful Keesha stared back at him. Thoughts of turning her away left his mind and he quickly pulled her into his home. "Keesha, what's happened? Were you in an accident?" he asked, taking in her wedding attire and how she shook uncontrollably. Noticing the wedding band, he asked, "Where's Jason?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," she said, barely able to get the words out as a fresh sea of tears threatened to stream down her face.
"Keesha, talk to me," he hoarsely demanded. Seeing her in so much emotional distress frightened him. He'd never seen her at so overwhelmed…except for when Mary Mae passed away and when she lost Jason the first time. He became afraid that something horribly wrong had transpired and grasping her shoulders, he questioned her again. "Tell me what happened!"
"AJ, I'm so sorry," she began. "I didn't know. He didn't tell me. If he had told me, I would have come to you immediately. I swear to you I would have."
"Tell me? Tell me what?" he asked. "Keesha, sweetheart, you're not making any sense. Let's dry you off and-"
"No!" she said, louder than necessary. Her outburst caused Eve to exit the kitchen and stand in the doorway, watching and listening as Keesha continued to speak. "That's not important right now. The important thing is…AJ, you have a son."
"What?" he asked. Eve gasped in the background, but AJ's entire being was focused on Keesha and the words, which were pouring out of her mouth. "What are you talking about?"
"Michael, AJ…" She paused to swallow back a sob which had lodged in her throat at the disbelief in his hazel eyes. "He's not Jason's son. He's yours. I'm so sorry."
AJ wrapped his arms around Keesha as she collapsed against him. Subconsciously, his hands rubbed her back, warming her as he silently repeated what she had told him. He had a son. Michael. He was his son, and apparently, his dear younger brother had known all along. Tears sprang to his eyes. That sonuvabitch, AJ thought. "Where is he?"
"Who?" she asked, raising her head from AJ's shoulder to look into his eyes. The tears in his eyes went straight to her soul and she began to cry again.
"Ssh," AJ said, cupping her face as he thumbed away her tears. "Jason. Where is he?"
"I-I don't know. I left him at the mansion… I-I guess he's still there," she said through her sniffles.
AJ's eyes darkened and he felt a hardness come over him. He led Keesha to his sofa and watched as she sat down. From out of nowhere, Eve appeared carrying towels and a blanket. He smiled a thank you to her as he took the towels and blanket. He wrapped the blanket around Keesha and handed her the towel. Watching her dry her face and hair, his expression softened. Of all the days to find out her husband was a liar… A loud clap of thunder reminded him of the earlier proverb. She was too beautiful a bride to deserve a wedding day like the one she'd obviously had, he thought, much too beautiful.
Eve stood in front of the fireplace in silence. She almost felt like an intruder on their moment, but even so, she couldn't make herself leave. She had a role in this dammit! And, she intended to tough it out. Sure, seeing AJ look at his former lover with such love and fierce protectiveness nearly broke her heart, but she could handle it. She loved him, too, and she would be damned if she lost him today.
Her eyes were trained on Keesha as she asked, "Are you sure?"
"Eve-" AJ began.
"I'm sure," Keesha nodded, really noticing the other woman for the first time. Her eyes went from Eve to AJ and back again. She had interrupted something, she realized. She hadn't wanted to interrupt AJ's life. She only wanted him to know the truth. He deserved that much. She moved to stand.
"Whoa!" AJ said, stilling her with his hand. He lightly pushed her back down until she sat again and sat beside her. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I interrupted you and Eve. I should probably go now," Keesha said.
"You didn't interrupt us," Eve said, "and you don't have to leave. I do have a question though."
"Sure," Keesha said.
"You said you're sure. How sure are you? Did Jason tell you?" she asked. In her opinion, AJ hadn't asked enough questions. What if…just maybe…Keesha had gotten her facts wrong? What if she misunderstood something and was making a horrible mistake? Eve knew about AJ's mission to find out if he had impregnated Carly Roberts. He had told her how in awe he had been when he had seen the sonogram and heard the unborn child's heartbeat. She also knew how sad he'd been when he thought the child was Jason's and not his. If she could help it, she refused to see him go through that again.
"I overheard it, and when I confronted him, he didn't deny it," Keesha admitted, looking Eve in her eyes.
"Overheard it?" AJ asked, drawing Keesha's attention to him. "Who did you overhear?"
"Carly and Jason. She said that you were Michael's father."
"Was this at the mansion?" he asked, rising to stand.
"Yeah. I found them…right after the ceremony. They were arguing about Michael and she said it. He didn't deny it, AJ." A stray tear slid down her cheek and she absently wiped it away.
AJ smiled at her. With the back of his hand, he wiped away her few remaining tears. Leaning over her, he whispered in her ear, "Thank you, Keesha. Thank you so very much." He kissed her cheek and moved to the coat stand beside the door. He grabbed his raincoat and began to put it on.
"Where are you going?" Keesha and Eve asked, simultaneously.
"I'm going to my son." He told them, as he opened the door.
"I should come with you," Keesha suggested as she too stood.
"No." AJ held up his hand. "You don't need to go back there. Not right now. I can handle it. Eve makes the most fantastic tea. Maybe if you're nice to her, she'll make some for you, too." He smiled at her when he saw that she was still hesitant about him leaving without her. "Honest, Keesha. I can do this. Everything will be okay." He turned his attention to Eve and said, "Don't forget what I said earlier. I'll be back."
"I'll be here," she promised him.
Jason was alone. Tommy had wanted to come inside with him to make sure that he was okay, but Jason had warned him against following him inside. Tommy was a good kid, and a great friend, but sometimes when your world came crashing down on you, the last thing you'd want around was a good friend. Sometimes a mortal enemy would better serve you. He…or in Jason's case, she could take out the magical silver bullet and pierce him through his heart. Carly had already done so much on what was to be the happiest day of his life. Maybe he should call her up to complete her task.
He laughed humorlessly at the thought. The sound was strange to him in the stillness of the house and he abruptly ended it. Taking the steps two at a time, he ascended the staircase. His Wingtips made squishing noises on the carpet, alerting him to the fact that he was soaked through. As he reached the top of the staircase, he began to strip off his clothes. First, the four button wool jacket hit the floor with a quiet thud. The white Mandarin-collar shirt and the iridescent purple shirt soon followed it. The black pants landed somewhere along the way, as did his shoes. Dressed only in black boxers, Jason reached the bedroom he and Keesha had shared. Heading straight into the bathroom, he avoided looking at the bed and remembering…
Keesha was alone. Eve had dropped her off and although the other woman kindly offered to come inside with her, Keesha had declined the offer. It wasn't that she didn't like Eve. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After a few moments of extreme awkwardness, she and Eve had hit it off. They weren't best friends by any stretch of the imagination and might never be, but they were okay. A faint smile graced Keesha's face as she thought that AJ had chosen a woman who would be there for him. Eve was strong and willful, and extremely protective of her man. Just the kind of woman, AJ so richly deserved.
Shifting her completely ruined wedding drift to her other arm, Keesha trudged up the staircase. She hadn't been coherent enough at the time, but in hindsight, she was grateful to Eve for suggesting a shower and giving her a change of clothing. The sensation of being warm and dry as opposed to being cold and wet was the only sensation she allowed herself. She wasn't ready to deal with the aftermath of true confessions and what ramifications it would have on her marriage- Marriage? Would she and Jason still have one after this was all over, she wondered. And, as she reached the top of the stairs and saw his discarded clothing, she knew… It was all far from over. It was just about to begin.
** How many times do I have to try to tell you
That I'm sorry for the things I've done**
Jason held the towel closed around his waist as he stood in the doorway of their bathroom. Her back was to him, yet he knew that she felt his eyes on her, begging for…forgiveness…a sign…anything to show him that he was there. That he mattered to her…just a little bit. And, that no matter how horrendous his actions were, she still loved him. She wouldn't leave him. For better or for worse.
"Keesha," he called softly, almost afraid that if he spoke too loudly, she'd leave. Him. "I'm sorry about what happened today. I'm sorry that Carly showed up, and everything. Sonny and I tried to prevent her from showing up-"
"Save it, Jason," she said, cutting him off. "Carly only gets half of the blame for what happened today. The other half goes to you."
**I tell myself too many times
Why don't you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut**
Her tone was harsh…anguished, and it hurt. Deeply. He never meant to hurt her. That hadn't been his intention. He'd only wanted to get them to a place where it was okay. Where they were in a comfort zone and confessing all to her would be safe. But there was no comfort zone, and nothing was safe. And nothing would be the same between them…ever again.
**That's why it hurts so bad to hear the words
That keep on falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth **
"Why?" she asked him with her back still to him, resting her hands on top of the dresser. The sparkle of her engagement ring caught her eye and she forced herself to blink the tears. She swallowed hard. So much was riding on what was said between them in the next few moments. Everything was so crucial. She wanted to throw it all away and turn tail and run, but she couldn't. She loved him too much. But the question was, did he really love her? If so, why didn't he trust her enough to tell her the truth? "Why didn't you just tell me?"
He would. He'd tell her everything. He moved from his perch in the bathroom doorway and went to their bed. He chose to sit on 'her' side of her bed, directly behind where she stood in front of the dresser. The bed moaned and creaked under his weight, but if either of them heard it, neither gave any indication.
Closing his eyes tightly shut, Jason searched for the words, which would tell her everything. He wanted to keep her by his side, but he wouldn't lie to do it. He'd had enough of lying. Now, was the time to release some truths. Truths they had glossed over and now had to face.
** Tell me...
His head bowed, he opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was his wedding band. As he raised his eyes, the second thing he saw were Keesha's soft, brown eyes staring back at him. "I was afraid…that I'd lose you," he admitted. "And, I couldn't do that. Not after finding you again, losing you wasn't a risk I was willing to take."
"Tell me the truth," she said, watching him closely. There was more to his actions than the fear of losing her. There had to have been. There was also AJ.
"I am," he simply said. "I'm telling you everything right here and now. I feared losing you like I've never feared anything before…except for losing Michael. I love him, Keesha. Like he were my own. Actually, he is mine-"
"He's not," she told him. "He's not your son. You had no right to keep him from AJ or any of the rest of them. It was wrong-"
"Was it as wrong as when you kept AJ's drinking from me?" he asked. There was no malice or anger in his voice. There was wonderment and a need for understanding. A desperate need. "Remember? We promised not to lie to each other. You promised to tell me if you saw AJ drinking again, but you didn't. Not until that last night…when everything changed. Do you remember?"
Rapidly blinking back tears, she nodded. After easing herself down onto the floor, she said, "I remember. I was wrong to keep it from you. AJ begged me not to tell you or the family, and I didn't."
"Why didn't you?" he asked, leaning toward her as he rested his forearms on his thighs.
"Because…he begged me not to," she repeated.
"Why?" Jason persisted, his eyes boring into hers.
She took a deep breath as she went back to that night. The night she lost her first love without the hope of ever getting him back again. She saw it all so clearly. AJ, the smell of alcohol on him, his sorrowful hazel eyes as he begged her not to say anything. *Please*, Keesha, he had said. The tortured look and the fear and the anxiety got to her, and against her better judgment, she'd kept his fall from the wagon a secret…until she couldn't anymore.
"Because he was my friend, and he needed someone to believe in him…and help him." She shook her head as the enormity of her past actions consumed her. If she had only told Jason…maybe…
** I may be mad
I may be blind
I may be viciously unkind
But I can still read what you're thinking**
Jason slid from the bed and crawled to sit beside her on the floor. He reached for her hand, and sighed deeply when she gave it to him. Softly, he spoke to her, "I don't blame you for what happened to me. I never did, but now, can you see why I did what I did? For Carly?"
"I don't know…maybe," she said. Their fingers were laced together and it felt so damn good just to touch him again. She closed her fingers tightly over his.
"No, maybes, sweetheart. She needed someone that night. She came to me…pregnant, soaking wet and terrified. I couldn't turn her away. She asked me to do her a favor, and I did."
"I don't understand. How could you keep AJ and Michael apart for so long? Please, tell me. I need to make sense of it."
** Let's go down to the water's edge
And we can cast away those doubts**
Jason looked at their hands. Her hand was so soft and tiny in comparison to his. And, the wedding band and diamond looked perfect on her. They suited her as much as she and he suited each other. Their hands despite the size difference were a perfect fit. They, as he had always known, belonged together, and as they sat there, hands locked, he knew that they would stay together.
"I knew what AJ had done to me and what that family had done to him. I also knew what they had tried to do to me, and as Jason Morgan fell in love with that beautiful baby boy, he knew that he'd rather walk barefoot through a thousand pieces of broken glass than allow the same to happen to him."
** Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out
Turning inside out turning inside out **
"You said Jason Morgan," she said, raising her eyes to his. "Are you separate from him?"
"I wasn't at first. He was a part of me and I thought he always would be, but when you left me in the rain, so did he. He's gone from our lives, Keesha, and so are his beliefs in absolutes and in black and white without shades of grey. Gone are his rules and regulations and decrees. He's not a part of this marriage or our lives…not any more," he said, feeling a release when he said the words.
"What does that mean for Michael?"
"It means that although I love him and will always love him, I can't have the hold over him that Jason Morgan had. I have to let go, and give him to his father," Jason said. The words hurt, but the love shining unabashedly in her vibrant brown eyes eased it so that the pain he felt was dull and bearable.
"So if Carly chooses to continue to keep Michael from AJ, you won't help her?" she asked, needing him to clarify his intentions to her. She trusted him. God help her, but she did. If he said it, he meant it.
He shook his head. "I won't help her keep them apart. I know what it's like to miss loving someone. To look her in the face and not know…and not feel…" Tears welled in his eyes and he had to swallow the lump in his throat to continue. "I love Michael too much to put him through the two years of hell I went through. How does the saying go? If you love someone set them free?"
"Was it a saying?" she asked, a teasing smile at the corner of her lips. "I thought it was Sting."
"Cute," he said as she began to chuckle softly. "Very, very cute…and beautiful. God, Keesha, have I told you how much I love you?" He pulled her against him so that instead of sitting beside him, she now straddled him. When they were face to face, he cupped her face and asked her again. "Have I?"
Her hands rested on his hard, bare chest. Lightly, her fingertips stroked his hairless pecs, enjoying the light tremors she could feel course through him with each stroke. "I think the better question would be, have I told you?" she asked, looking into his eyes.
He took one of her hands and raised her fingers to his eager lips. Kissing each finger he said, "Yeah, you told me. When you came back, I knew you loved me. I didn't know if we'd make it, but you were here."
"For better or for worse, Jason," she smiled, and then with a roll of her eyes, she added, "and something tells me with Carly's return things are about to get worse."
Jason chose that moment to roll his eyes, which caused her to laugh softly. "Who gives a damn about Carly? She won't make things worse. She doesn't even matter. The only thing that matters is you and me." He lowered his face to hers and claimed her lips in a deep, imploring kiss, which was the first of many on their first night as husband and wife.
[Song credit: "Why" by Annie Lennox]
[Author's note: Thanks, Dee for the background info on J&K's relationship!! Also, there's an email only chapter for the newlyweds. If you're on the mailing list, you'll receive one automatically unless you tell me you'd rather not. And, if you're not on the mailing list and want a copy, speak up now or email me at email@example.com!