Life After Dark

Chapter 102

Aftershocks: The Middle

AJ pulled into the driveway of his former home with his mind set and his heart clear. He had a son! After all this time, what he had believed deep within his heart had finally been proven. Carly and Jason would no longer separate him and Michael. Never again.

He parked his car in the first available space and jumped out. He didn't have any clue as to what he would say to either of them, but one thing he knew for sure was that it wouldn't matter. This time…maybe for the first time in his life, he was right about something. And, right would prove victorious. It had to.

AJ found the front door unlocked and he easily slipped inside the house. He felt a small twinge of pain and the old familiar longing as he looked at the wedding decorations. The beautiful white roses adorned the staircase and released a fragrant odor into the usually loud and overbearing house. He had no idea where Carly and Jason would be, but none of that matter to him. He'd search the entire house if he had to until he found him…and claimed his son.


His wife was ignoring him, Nikolas realized as he repeated himself for the second time. He wouldn't mind it so much, but another man had captured her attention. A younger man. And, try as Nikolas might, he knew he was no competition. Maybe it was time for him to resort to really shameless tactics to reclaim his wife's good favor.

Nikolas, with a secretive smile on his face, slid his hand underneath the table and firmly placed it on Dawn's thigh. She reacted immediately and turned startled brown eyes to his teasing ones. "What are you doing?!" she whispered. "There's a room full of people here."

"So?" he shrugged, his expression nonchalant. But inside…inside, his heart raced as her firm thigh trembled beneath the gentle strokes of his hand.

"So," she said, covering his hand with her own, "you should save it for later. What's gotten into you?"

Nikolas bit his lip to prevent himself from grinning at the mock disapproval in her tone of voice. If he hadn't felt her tremble against him or if she had removed his hand, he would have known that she was serious. But like always, she gave herself away. With a playful pout, he said, "Do you think I haven't noticed?"

The forkful of baby carrots never made it to her mouth as she looked at him and asked, "Noticed what?"

"You've been ignoring me for another man. I saw you, so don't try to deny it," he told her.

"Okay, then," she said, placing her fork on her plate. She then gave him her full attention and looked him straight in his eyes. "You're right. I can't deny it. What now?"

"You're asking me?" He pointed to the center of his chest.

"Yeah. Where do we go from here? You caught me red-handed. I've been staring, and I should have been more careful," she admitted, keeping her voice soft so that only Nikolas heard her.

"Are you apologizing for your transgressions?" he asked her.

She shook her head. "No. I'm not apologizing. I can't. I find him irresistible and to apologize would be to lie to you, and I'd never do that."

"No apology, huh?" he mumbled, playfully narrowing his eyes at her. "Well, perhaps you should go to him. Hold him in your arms and kiss him they way you've been dreaming about for the last twenty minutes or so."

"Do you think he'd let me?" she asked, wanting to follow her husband's suggestion, but still hesitant.

"He'd be a fool not to," he told her. Nikolas leaned toward her and lightly brushed his lips against her full cheek. He then rose from his chair and helped her to her feet. Gallantly, he held her hand and led her to the young man in question.

"What's up?" Jordan asked, looking up from his plate as Nikolas and Dawn approached him.

"Dawn has a request," Nikolas said. With a gentle hand at the small of her back, he pushed her toward Jordan.

"Nikky, I-" Dawn began to protest.

"Go ahead, sweetheart. I'm sure it will be fine," he gently prodded her.

She shrugged. Nikolas was right. The worst Jordan could say was no. Well, she would soon find out. "Jordan…um…would it be okay if I held him?"

"That's what you wanted?" Jordan asked, looking at a smiling Nikolas and an expectant Dawn. He shook his head and laughed softly. "Yes. Please do." Holding a very inquisitive Michael in his arms, Jordan stood up and held him out to Dawn.

"Are you sure it's okay?" she asked, taking the baby from him. Her eyes were transfixed on the little boy whose eyes were glued to her.

"It's fine. Emily left him with me while she and her family searched the house for the missing newlyweds. He's a pretty good little guy," Jordan said, patting the baby's back, "but I was getting tired of holding him."

Dawn rolled her eyes at Jordan's words and began to bounce the baby in her arms. He laughed and kicked his feet in excitement.

"Dawn, sweetheart, be careful," Nikolas said. "He's not too heavy, is he? Maybe you should sit down."

"He's not too heavy," she said, looking into Michael's eyes. He smiled at her and she laughed. "And we don't want to sit down, do we?"

"But, you should if he's too heavy-"

"Jordan, would you please tell my bossy husband that Michael isn't too heavy?"

"Well, actually, he is kinda heavy-" Jordan began. The sound of Michael's cry interrupted him and Jordan shook his head at Nikolas and Dawn's startled expressions. "He's hungry. I'll take him and-"

"No," Dawn interrupted him. "We can feed him, can't we, Nikky? We could use the practice."

"Yeah, Jordan, we wouldn't mind. Just give us his bottle," Nikolas said.

"I don't have it. It's in the kitchen. I'll get it for you-"

"No, it's okay. We can get it. I know where the kitchen is." Dawn smiled at Michael whose cries lessened as she spoke to him. "Besides, we'd like to go to the kitchen, right, Michael?"

Michael stopped crying and gave Dawn a watery smile. She grinned up at her husband. Nikolas smiled back at her and held out his hands for the baby. He said, "I'll carry him to the kitchen, and when we get there, you'll sit down and feed him. No standing up."

"Yes, sir!" she said, stroking Michael's hair as he now stared at Nikolas. "Anything you say," she said, walking beside Nikolas as they headed for the kitchen.


The loud, irritated and annoyed group of Quartermaines and Wards gathered on the second floor landing at a loss of where to search and what to do. Keesha and Jason were missing and no one knew where they were, which meant there was no one to blame. Both parts irritated the patriarch of the Quartermaine clan, but the latter irritated him the most. Eyes narrowed, he looked at the multitude of confused faces, and without thinking-as usual-opened his mouth. "This is all your doing, Monica!"

"My fault?!" she pointed to herself. "How is this my fault, Edward. Please, enlighten me!"

"You just had to have the wedding here, didn't you?!" he said, shaking his finger at her.

"If I recall correctly, and I know I do, you were just as adamant about having the wedding here as I was and besides, what does that have to do with anything?" Monica threw up her hands in frustration. "We still don't know where they are!"

"No, we don't, but if the wedding had been someplace else, say the Port Charles Hotel, for instance, we could have involved the security personnel in the search, but as it stands now, we-"

"Edward," interrupted Keesha's beautiful, fortysomething mother, Diana Ward. Despite the height difference, she was a good four inches taller than her daughter, she and Keesha were carbon copies of each other. And, their similarities extended beyond their looks, to include their personalities as well. "Edward!" she said again when he continued on with his tirade. He paused in mid-complaint after her second try and stared at her open-mouthed. She took the opportunity to continue. "Why exactly are we looking for them?"

Her dashing husband, Phillip nodded in agreement as did their nephew, Justus, who was quickly followed by his cousins, Emily, Ned, Alan and Monica.

With seven pairs of eyes staring back at him, Edward was dumbfounded. He opened and shut his mouth a number of times in the hopes that the appropriate words would somehow escape and he could, of course, take credit for them. None came and he promptly shut his mouth.

"Very well, then," Diana replied. "If we don't have a real reason to find them other than our own ridiculous curiosity, then perhaps we should go back downstairs and leave them in peace."

The others nodded in agreement and one by one, they began to file down the staircase, leaving a flustered Edward in their wake. He glared at each of them as they passed him. He might not have voiced a specific reason for wanting to find them, but he knew in his old grandfather's heart that he should find them. Very well then, he thought, subconsciously mimicking his new in-law, go back downstairs and eat and drink! He would keep searching until he came up with something. In fact, he wouldn't stop until he did!


"NO! You WILL sit down and shut up, or by God-"

"What?" Carly asked of Sonny as he stared her down. "What do you think you'll do to me, huh?"

"Keep it up, little girl, and you just might find out!" he warned her. He stalked away from her and went to the den's large oak double doors. He placed his tan hands on the doorknob, longing to turn the knob and open the door. He wanted to see how his friend fared. If he had been able to salvage what the little demon behind him had tried to destroy. Guilt at past misdeeds and callous decisions ate away at Sonny, and he couldn't bear the thought of another bride being left in the rain. Or a groom for that matter.

"Jason wouldn't let you do a damn thing to me," she replied, smugly.

"He's not the Jason you remember," he told her, distracted by the noises he heard on the other side of the door. He opened the door just a crack and saw the backs of the Cassadine kid and his wife as they walked past. Cassadine held his namesake in his arms and a quizzical expression crossed Sonny's face. Why did they have Michael? And, where were they going?

"He's still Jase," Carly replied, uncertain. She was oblivious to what had captured Sonny's attention and to be honest, she didn't care. She had other thoughts to ponder and plans to formulate. She wanted Jason, and she had to come up with the right plan to get him back. His anger over Michael was good, she reasoned, as she began to pace. He loved Michael and even that bitch he had married couldn't change that. She could use it to her advantage. She knew she could. She just had to figure out the *best* way to use it. But, first she needed the kid. "Sonny, I want out of here!" she demanded, coming up behind him.

She startled him, but only for a second. When she reached past him for the doorknob, he grabbed her by the wrists and through clenched teeth said, "You're not 'out of here' until *I* say you're out of here!" He roughly shoved her away from him so that she landed on the sofa. "Now, sit down over there and shut up!"

Carly wanted to respond with a retort that would tell him in no uncertain that he had better not *ever* manhandle her again, but for once in her life, she didn't act on impulse and kept her mouth shut. Rubbing her wrists to quell the throbbing, she pushed herself upright on the sofa. Her eyes glared at Sonny's back as he continued to look through the crack of the door. He'd regret ever putting his hands on her, she decided. She didn't know when, where or how, but Sonny Corinthos would learn that Caroline Benson was not a woman to be taken lightly.


Closing the door behind her, Eve stepped into the foyer of the Quartermaine mansion, immediately regretting her decision to go there. Maybe she shouldn't have followed AJ there. He had asked her to stay at his apartment, but after dropping Keesha off at the Ward House, she couldn't just go back there and wait for him. She *had* to be with him. At the most crucial moment of his life, there was no place other than by his side that she wanted to be.

Uncertain of which direction to take, she moved slowly into the entryway. She crossed her fingers as a silent plea for good luck in finding AJ before she was thrown out on her rear. She had taken about three steps toward a hallway when the front door opened behind her.

"Aw, man, I forgot to lock the door," the tuxedo clad teenager softly scolded himself. He made certain to turn the lock when he closed the door this time. He then placed his umbrella in the appropriate rack before he turned to find Eve staring back at him. "Who are you?" he asked her.

"I-I'm a friend of Keesha's," Eve said, mildly surprised at her quick thinking.

"Oh, yeah?" the young man said. In black jeans and boots, she didn't seem appropriately dressed for a wedding, but Tommy shrugged the thought aside. If he could have chosen a different attire, he would have definitely chosen something very similar to hers. He came to her and extended his hand. As they shook hands, he said, "My name's Tommy."

"Hi, Tommy," she said, smiling as she released his hand. "My name's-"

"Eve!" AJ said, suddenly joining them in the foyer. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to be with you," she simply said. Then she waited for his next outburst. None came. Instead, he surprised them both by releasing a deep sigh and reaching her hand. "Thank you," was his husky reply. He smiled at her and then directed his attention to Tommy. "Hey, Tommy."

"Hi, AJ," Tommy said with a slight frown. He was taken aback at seeing AJ at the mansion. He didn't know the specifics, but he knew that he and Jason didn't have the best relationship. He also knew that AJ hadn't been invited. He wondered if AJ's sudden appearance had anything to do with Keesha's disappearance. And, just as quickly as the thought entered his head, he pushed it aside. Whatever happened between Keesha and Jason was their business and not his. He cared about them, but interfering in their personal lives was not something he felt he should do.

"You're probably wondering why I'm here," AJ said, sensing Tommy's hesitation. "I'm here to see Jason and Carly. Do you know where they are?"

"Jason isn't here, and I haven't seen Carly. I doubt if she's here-"

"Oh, she's here alright," he said, unintentionally cutting Tommy off. "I'll deal with her later, then. Do you know where Michael is?"

"Um…I've been gone for a while, but the last time I saw him, Em was holding him. We were-"

"Tommy!" Simone and Gina had conducted their own little search party to find him, and as time passed, Simone's worries began to increase. She was very relieved to see him standing before her, safe and sound. "Where have you been?" she asked him, focusing her attention on him and only dimly aware of AJ and Eve.

"I took Jason home," he explained. "Mama, AJ's looking for Michael. Is he still with Emily?"

"Oh, hi," Simone smiled at AJ and Eve, and slowly they smiled back. "The last I heard, Emily was looking for Jason and Keesha. Jordan has the baby- No wait. Dawn and Nikolas have him."

"Where are they?" AJ asked. The excitement of finally seeing his son and maybe holding his son consumed him and he had to restrain himself from jumping up and down.

"They left. I'm not sure, but I think they were headed toward the kitchen. Michael seemed kind of fussy and maybe a little hungry. Try there first, and if they're not there, try the nursery."

"Thanks, Dr. Hardy," AJ smiled at her. He took Eve's hand and quickly left the mother and son.


"You know, these strained beets look pretty good," Dawn said, holding up a spoonful to Michael's eager mouth. "Do you think Mrs. Landsbury has some at home?"

Nikolas scrunched his nose at her and the container of baby food. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah," she said, dipping the spoon into the jar for another spoonful. "It looks kinda tasty. I bet with some Ritz crackers and a little peanut butter it would be really good."

"Dawn," he groaned, clutching his stomach. "Tell me you're kidding."

"I'm serious," she said, smiling at him. "I guess it sounds gross, but I think it would taste pretty good."

Raising his index finger to Michael's eager hands, he spoke to the baby. "Do you hear my wife? And, what's worse, she probably expects me to try it with her."

Michael laughed and Dawn lightly elbowed Nikolas. Her eyes sparkled happily as she said, "Hey, no bad mouthing me in front of the baby."

"I would never do that," he softly vowed as he leaned toward her. One of his arms rested on the back of her straight back wooden chair as his free hand moved to gently cover her slightly distended abdomen. His fingers splayed across her dress as his entire hand covered the child, which lay underneath. As she looked at him and smiled, he said, "You're so good with him. Our baby will be so fortunate to have you as a mother."

"You, too, love. Our baby will have the best. You, me and our love," she whispered softly. He leaned closer to her and lightly brushed his lips against hers. As he raised his head from hers, they looked at the happy baby and both were filled with eager anticipation for the arrival of their own bundle of joy.


"AJ, wait!" Eve tugged on AJ's hand just at they reached the swinging doors of the kitchen.

"What, Eve?" he asked, frowning as she came between him and the doors which separated him from his child.

"I know you're eager to just rush in there and take him, but you're so wound up, you could frighten him," she told him.

"I won't frighten him. I would never scare him," AJ said, shaking his head. "He's my son. Why would I want to hurt him?"

"I didn't say you'd hurt him. I'm just saying that you should take a deep breath and calm down. Just a little bit. Babies pick up on just about everything. You want this to be a good moment, right?"

"Of course," he replied, indignantly.

"Well, listen to Dr. Lambert," Eve smiled. "I know what I'm talking about."

He nodded, and obediently followed her suggestion. After inhaling deeply, he slowly released the air. She gave him the thumbs up and he pushed the door open.

"My son, my son," AJ whispered softly as they stood in the doorway. He nudged Eve and teasingly added, "And look at who's holding him. That's my boy."

"Hush you!" she laughed softly. As he continued to just stand there, she patted him on the back. "Go. It's okay."

"It is, isn't it?" he asked with a hint of uncertainty in his eyes. He swallowed hard and then he took that first step.

The ten steps seemed much farther to AJ, but eventually, he stood beside the wooden kitchen table where Nikolas, Dawn and Michael sat. Three pairs of eyes stared up at him, and he was rendered speechless. But only for a second. With his hazel eyes mesmerized by a pair of hazel eyes, which were so like his own, he held out his hands and asked, "May I?"

Michael looked at Dawn and at the man. He squirmed on her lap as he raised his arms to the man, in a silent request to be picked up. The man was more than happy to fulfill his request.

Time and space meant nothing to AJ as he held his son for the very first time. He was holding his son!! AJ's mind screamed the exclamation, but he didn't dare voice it. In his joy, he was afraid that he'd shout it and unintentionally frightened the child who continued to stare at him in wonderment.

Walking around the perimeter of the kitchen, AJ took everything in. His arms felt the weight of his son. Maybe twenty pounds, give or take a few. His nose inhaled the child's scent. Milk…and baby powder. He'd never smelled anything that was as fragrant. His fingers lightly grazed the child's cheeks. So soft. He touched the straight red hair. So fine and silky. He smiled at Michael and the child laughed. And to AJ's sensitive ears, the sound was the sweetest he had ever heard.

AJ's eyes glistened with unshed tears. He had a son.

Chapter 103

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