Life After Dark - Chapter 113
Chapter 113

~ New Year's Eve: Piecing It Together ~

"What's wrong?" Jason asked, eyeing his young friend curiously.

Tommy glanced at Jason and with a frown, mumbled, "Nothing."

Jason sighed and rolled his eyes. It was New Year's Eve and his two closest friends were as glum as a…as a… Well, he didn't know what, but what he did know was that he didn't like it. When Sonny had first appeared up at the Ward House door with a dark scowl on his face, Jason had been concerned. He had tried to draw the older man out, but nothing he said or did worked. Finally fed up, Jason had casually mentioned if Sonny's sour mood had anything to do with one of the Ward House's faithful servants having taken a trip to the Big Apple. The low roar of Sonny's negative reply had sent the twins running into the kitchen to help Keesha and had forced Jason to remind his friend of where he was and how he should behave. Immediately contrite, but still kinda down, Sonny had left Jason and went in search of Gracie and Georgie to apologize. The kids had listened to his apology with suspicious eyes, but after a few flashes of his deep dimples, the kids had warmed up to him again. Within minutes, the twins had grabbed one hand each and had pulled Sonny into the library with them to watch "The Little Mermaid."

Remembering the sight of the once head of the 'organization' watching a cartoon brought a soft chuckle to Jason's lips…a chuckle which didn't go unnoticed by his present companion. Tommy clenched his jaw and resumed his task of sweeping the remaining pine needles from the now departed Christmas tree into a dustpan. The light chuckle faded away as Jason folded his arms across his chest. He wasn't psychic, but he knew that Tommy hadn't come all the way over to the Ward House on his day off just to help him take down the Christmas tree. He was a good kid and all, very helpful and conscientious, but he wasn't a saint. What he was… Well, he was upset. If he wanted to talk about it, Jason would listen, but if all he wanted to do was glower, Jason thought a few minutes with Ariel and Sebastian might be in order. They had done wonders with Sonny. Maybe they'd do the same for Tommy, Jason hoped.

"So, you and Gina have any big plans for tonight?" Jason asked, figuring that Gina would be a safe topic of discussion. He knew how Tommy felt about his mother's trip to New York and he was not in the mood for that conversation again. But maybe he should have been, Jason thought, as Tommy stiffened. What was up with *that*?

"I dunno," Tommy mumbled. Having swept up all of the pine needles, he know directed his attention to the invisible ones. One never could be too sure when pine needles were concerned. Besides, little kids were in the house. What if Georgie decided to tast-

"What do you mean 'you don't know'?" Jason asked, moving swiftly to remove the broom from Tommy's grasp and interrupting his friend's attempt at thinking of something besides his present problem. "Did you guys fight? What's going on?"

"I'm not finished," Tommy responded, reaching for the broom again.

"Oh, yeah, you are." Jason moved the broom out of Tommy's reach. "What gives, man? Spill it, or sing 'Under the Sea.' Those are your only choices."

"'Under the Sea'?" A confused frown creased Tommy's brow. "What are you talking about?"

"The Double G's are watching 'The Little Mermaid' again with Sonny. That's what happens when you come in here with a foul 'tude. So, what's it gonna be?" Jason asked, holding onto the broom with both hands.

"What's up with Sonny?" Tommy asked. "Did he and Taggert go at it again or something?"

Jason didn't know if Tommy was aware of Sonny's thinly disguised interest in his mother, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to be the one to tell him about it. He didn't feel it was his place. Keeping his voice and demeanor as neutral as possible, he answered, "Nah. It's kinda complicated and I can't talk about it."

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Tommy asked, eager to get his mind off of his own troubles for a moment or two.

Jason smiled. "Nah," he said, shaking his head. "Sonny's gotta work it out on his own. So, back to you. What's up with you and Gina? And, don't lie to me again. I know you guys have something planned. She told Keesha and you know she told me. So, out with it, or start singi-"

"I know, 'Under the Sea,' I know." Tommy drew a long breath. Walking as if the troubles of the world were on his broad shoulders, he slowly moved to the sofa. He lowered himself down onto the plush furniture and expelled a loud sigh. "We didn't have a fight. Well, we disagreed, but it wasn't anything major."

"Oh, yeah?" Jason cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. He rested the broom against the wall and then moved to plop himself down onto his treasured recliner. Shaking his head, he said, "Something doesn't fit. If it's not major…"

"It's not," Tommy said. "You know how bossy she can be and you know how I hate to drive. You can figure it out from there. Besides, we go back and forth about that all the time." Thinking he heard footsteps, Tommy glanced over his shoulder. No one was there, but he lowered his voice anyway. "It's kinda personal, but…um…well…"

"Sex," was Jason's blunt reply. He nearly laughed aloud when a faint tinge of red colored Tommy's lightly bronze cheeks.

"Ssh!" Tommy said, glowering at his amused friend. He glanced over his shoulder again and in one movement, slid down the sofa so that he was closer to Jason. "Yeah, it's…sex."

"Well?" Jason asked, enjoying the turn of the conversation more then he could let on. Resting his elbows on his thighs, he leaned closer. "Did something happen? Want me to go with you to pick up a box of Enduro? I have an extra one here…um never mind. I can go with you to get some if you want."

The blood rushed to Tommy's face in full force and he had to swallow before he could speak. "Nothing's happened and *no*, I don't need a box of...Enduro."

"We could get Trojan or Lifestyles if you prefer, but I gotta tell you, Enduro is way better than either of those." Miraculously, Jason kept a straight face until the end, but when Tommy's cheeks darkened a little bit more, he lost it.

At Jason's broad grin, Tommy buried his face in his hands and released another long sigh. Seeing the distress that was written all over his friend, Jason immediately sobered. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't laugh. Is this something you can talk about? We can and I'll be serious, but if it embarrasses you…"

"I'm kinda embarrassed, but…" Tommy shook his head. His green eyes were dark and tortured as he gazed upon his friend. "Jason, I'm scared to be with Gina tonight. On Christmas, I went too far and I think I scared her. I don't want to scare her, but I keep getting these feelings and… and… Man, I don't know what's gonna happen."

"What happened on Christmas?" Jason asked. "When she says no, you have to listen-"

"I know that!" Tommy said. He abruptly rose from the sofa. He moved to the fireplace and rested his strong hands on the mantle. "Don't you think I know that? I would never force myself on her. Do you think I would? Do you think she thinks I would?" he asked, his voice shaking as continued to grip the wood.

"I don't think you would, and judging from what she has planned for you both tonight, I don't she does either. What I think is that you should talk to her. Tell her-"

"I can't!" Tommy said, breathing heavily as he shook his head. He turned to face Jason. "She's scared, too! I can't lay this on her, too."

"What's she afraid of?" Jason asked, rising from the recliner to stand before Tommy. "Is there more going on?"

Tommy released a long sigh as he folded his arms across his chest. "She's afraid that she won't be able t-to…well, you know… After what happened to her, she's afraid of being *intimate*. I respect how she feels and I understand it. I remember how those bastards used to look at her, Mama and the others. I remember the look in Gina and my mother's eyes…afterwards. I wanted to kill every last one of them and I still do. What they did to them…it was…inhuman…horrific, and now… Here I am, thinking of Gina and what I want. I'm surprised she doesn't hate me," he said, his voice filled with self-disgust.

Jason grasped Tommy's shoulder in a firm grip. He applied just enough pressure, forcing Tommy to look at him. Once he had the younger man's attention, he said, "You can't compare what you feel to what those animals did. You are nothing like them. They were nothing and you're better than that. Tommy," Jason said his name forcefully, "are you listening to me? Wanting to be with Gina, wanting to make love with her, isn't wrong. It's natural. What you feel for her is okay. It's fine-"

"But, it scares her," Tommy said sadly.

"But, *you* don't scare her. Listen to me," Jason commanded. "Gina trusts you. She may be afraid of taking your relationship to another level, but she's not afraid of you. Sex can be a scary thing, but it can also be wonderful…when the time is right. Right now, the timing is a little off. Just wait a little while longer and I think this is gonna sound impossible, but try to think of something else when you're with her. Do things with her that will take your mind off of…" Jason shook his head. "I know it's gonna be difficult, but…"

"I hear ya, but our plans for tonight… She's making dinner and she bought a new dress…" Tommy drew another long breath. "Tonight's gonna be hard, but I'll try to think about something else, I guess. That's all I can do. I can't cancel on her and I can't tell her that I'd rather go out instead." Tommy gave Jason a faint smile. "Thanks."

Shrugging, Jason released his hold on Tommy's shoulder. Smiling, he said, "No problem."

"What's not a problem?" Sonny asked upon his re-entrance into the living room.

Jason tilted his head to the side as he looked his good friend. "They let you leave?"

"Let me? I had to escape!" Sonny said, laughing softly. "Those two *love* that little crab… Whathisname?"

"That would be Sebastian," Jason told him with a grin. "So out with it? How did you escape?"

Sonny smiled and shook his head. "That's my little secret. So, what's going on in here? You got a problem, Tommy? Anything I can help with?"

Tommy glanced at Jason, whose facial expression was blank. He wouldn't say anything, Jason silently told him. He shrugged as he looked at Sonny. "It's nothing I can't handle on my own. Thanks for offering, though."

Slightly taken aback and thinking of something else, Sonny repeated his offer. "You don't have to handle anything on your own. You're Jason's friend and that makes you my friend, too. If something's happened, if you or someone close to you is in trouble, I can help. I *want* to help."

Knowing where the older man was leading, Jason shook his head and tried to intervene. "Sonny, he's fine. Nothing's wron-"

"Why do I get the feeling that you're talking about something in particular?" Tommy questioned. "Who do you think is in trouble?"

Jason shook his head, silently pleading with Sonny not to continue. His pleas were ignored as Sonny said, "Have you heard from Dr. Hardy?"

"My mom?" Tommy asked. "Yeah, she called me this morning. What does she have to do with this? Wait a minute. What did you find out about John?"

Surprised, Sonny looked at Jason. Jason shrugged. "I didn't say anything to him."

"He didn't," Tommy said. "I kinda overheard you guys talking about it. I was surprised that you'd check into John's background, but I was also glad that you did. So, this offer…is it because of John? Is my mother in danger with him?" Tommy didn't try to mask the fear in his voice as he questioned Sonny. "You found out something about him, didn't you?"

"That's just the thing," Sonny told him. "I didn't find *anything* about him.-"

"But, it's only been a week-"

"Tommy, with the connections I have, I don't need a week. A week's more than enough time."

"So, what does that mean?" Tommy asked. "Is that odd or normal?"

"It might not mean anything," Jason said, trying to lessen the agitation that was filling the room.

"And, it might mean everything," Sonny countered. "And, no, it's not normal. Usually, in a day, my men's info would be so thorough, I'd know what the guy's second cousin, twice removed had for lunch. With this *Giovanni Montega* guy, they got next to nothing. No family, no friends, no past. It's like he just materialized, which means-"

"He's a liar," Tommy said, softly. "He's not who he says he is and he's got my mother and my cousin-"

"Tommy, man, relax," Jason said, scowling at Sonny as he moved to block him from Tommy's view. "John, Giovanni, whatever his name is, doesn't have them. They're on a trip. They'll be back the day after tomorrow."

"I don't know, Jason," Tommy said. "I got a weird feeling when they first mentioned their little trip and now, it just got worse-"

"Tommy, you were fine when you came in here. Remember, what we discussed-"

"I know, Jason!" Tommy shook his head. "But it's been there the whole time. The other stuff distracted me, but in the back of my mind… It's been there…"

"How was she when you talked to your mom? And, Elizabeth?" Sonny asked.

"She was fine. She sounded okay. Lizabeth did, too."

"Well, there you have it. They're okay. Let it go," Jason said.

"Nah," Tommy said, shaking his head. "I can't. Something's going on. I gave Lizabeth two blades and I hope my mom doesn't make her throw them away. You know, I'd better call them to make sure they're okay. Jason, I know it's long distance, but do you mind if I used the phone? I can pay-"

"Tommy, shut up and use the phone," Jason said, cutting him off. He gave the teenager an affectionate pat on the back as Tommy moved past him to grab the cordless from the end table. Tommy moved to the back corner and leaned against the wall as he punched in the numbers he had memorized that morning. As Tommy concentrated on his phone call, Jason moved in on Sonny. "What the hell was that about?"

"What was what?" Sonny asked, his voice rising slightly. Quickly remembering where he was, he lowered his voice, "He asked and I answered. Something's not right with Mr. Art Dealer. You've gotten vibes before, Jason, and he's been giving them off in spades!"

"Yeah, but maybe it's because he's European-"

"Oh, please," Sonny said, using a dismissing tone. "Tommy's buddy, Cassadine, is European and he doesn't give off that kind of heat. And, the way Montega acts around Simone-"

"I've seen Nikolas get pretty possessive around Dawn. Hell, I'm the same way about Keesha-"

"It's not the *same*!" Sonny whispered furiously. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. Speaking in a more even tone, he said, "I know you think I'm jealous of this Montega guy 'cause he's with Simone, but it's not that. I find her attractive and well, she *does* interest me…but…this stuff with that guy won't leave me alone. And, added to the way she was when we first met…something doesn't add up."

"I don't know what to tell you. I've felt…something…around him, but I wasn't sure if it was because Tommy hates him and I'm feeding off of that. Or maybe I'm picking up on what you're feeling, too. But, you and Tommy need to realize something," Jason said, "Simone isn't stupid. She's *tough* and she's smart as hell, too. If something was off with him, don't you think she'd know that by now?"

"I would hope so, but there are times when you can't see the forest for the trees. Maybe she's too close, or maybe she's feeling it, but she got the signals crossed somehow," Sonny said. "Whatever it is, something's not right. Don't ask me how I know. I just do."

The quiet tap of the telephone as Tommy placed it back on the wooden table was loud in the living room and effectively, silenced Sonny. But only for a moment. The look on Tommy's face caused him to stiffen. "What happened? Did you talk to her?"

Tommy shook his head. "No. The phone had a busy signal."

"Tommy, there's nothing wrong with that. Maybe they were ordering room service or something-"

"Nah." Tommy shook his head again. "He's taking them out to dinner, or that was the plan. What if something happened and the phone was knocked off the hook? Look, I gotta go talk to Gina...tell her that I have to cancel our plans for tonight. I'll see you two later," Tommy's voice became distant as the wheels turned in his mind.

"Why are you canceling? What are you planning?" Jason questioned.

"I'm going to New York, and I'm bringing them back."

"How are you planning to get there?" Jason asked him, hoping that his question would bring the teenager back to reality. His hopes were dashed as Sonny spoke up.

"I'm taking him."


"I know I should have said something and I apologize, but you know how you get…" Gina's smile was strong in her voice as she cradled the telephone between her ear and shoulder.

"How is that?" Simone asked her friend.

"Pigheaded…stubborn…like a bull. Better yet, like your son." Gina told her, laughing softly. She stuck the wooden spoon into the tomato sauce and stirred. She inhaled deeply and smiled as the aroma filled her. Tommy would love it, she thought, as another huge smile graced her face.

"Like Tommy?" Simone asked, laughing. "Now, that was cold. But seriously, a switchblade? And you taught a fifteen-year-old kid how to use it? Gina, what were you thinking about? I wouldn't expect Tommy to come to me, not about this, but you… Gina, what if Elizabeth hurt herself?"

"She won't. She's a fast learner," Gina reassured her. She raised the spoon to her lips and tasted. She frowned slightly. It smelled delicious, but the taste…it needed something. What, though?

"Gina!" Simone exclaimed. "Do you think that's gonna ease my mind?"

"Simone, I understand what you're saying, but trust me on this. Liz knows how to use it. I taught her myself and she picked it up like a pro." Gina quickly switched the phone to her other ear as she went through her spice rack. Surely, there was something she could add to the sauce, she thought.

"And where did you learn how to use a switchblade?"

Gina bristled slightly, but not in response to Simone's question. But in response to a memory. For months, she had been tormented by demons in her sleep, pulling and tugging on her. Once, during an especially bad dream, half asleep she had pulled a knife on Tommy. And now thinking back on the look on his face and knowing what she could have done to him still had the power to shake her.

Before that morning in her bedroom, during the weeks they had waited for Simone to awaken from the coma, Gina had taught herself to become self-reliant. She had attended every self-defense class that was offered and she had given herself an extra credit assignment, too. For some reason, she had chosen sharp, cold steel as her weapon of choice and she had become an expert in defending herself with it. At first, a part of her had doubted that she would be able to draw on her knowledge if or when the time came. But after the test in the alley where Tommy came too close too suffering what she and Simone had endured, she knew that she could do whatever it would take to protect herself and those she loved. Whatever it took.

"Gina," Simone said, softly ending her interrogation to mention something that had been weighing on her mind.

"Yeah?" Gina asked, pausing, her hand closed over her container of sugar to listen closely to Simone's words. "I'm listening."

"I-I think I remembered something, but I'm not sure. Maybe it was a dream…"

"Tell me," Gina prompted her. "I haven't forgotten anything. If it happened, I remember."

Simone's deep sigh was long and weary as it traveled to Gina. Her voice was strong, but a little shaky as she spoke again. "We were going through laundry. A-and you were angry, very angry. I could feel it. It enveloped me and gave me strength. S-something had happened to me, but I keep drawing a blank. I think I might have been assaulted or something… Anyway, you were talking about someone, but I can't remember the name. Did this happen? Gina, was that real?"

Gina pushed the container of sugar away from her as her fingers tightened around the receiver. Her chest felt tight and the pounding of her heart sounded loud in her ears. She swallowed hard. "Yes," she replied, her voice hoarse. "It happened. I remember it vividly because it happened…too many times to count."

"I thought as much," Simone said with an overwhelming sadness in her voice. "Thanks, Gina. Now, that I know what I'm seeing and feeling is real, maybe it'll all come together now. I have to get ready for dinner. I'll talk to you later. Give my love to Tommy and Happy New Year."

"Simone!" Gina called into the phone, but she was too late. The low hum of the dial tone signaled to her that Simone was no longer on the other end. Gina frowned as she hung up her telephone. There was more she had wanted to say. More she felt she had to say about that time and the certain someone whose name as well as his obsessive fixation on her friend Gina knew that would never forget.


Go to Chapter 114.