"Is this line secure?" Jason asked with a frown.
"Of course it is. I called you, remember?" Sonny asked with his signature laugh.
Jason relaxed a little, but a few nagging doubts remained. "Are you sure?"
"Look, man, if you don't want to talk, just say so-"
"No! That's not it... Don't think I'm not happy to hear from you. Actually, I was thinking about calling you, or maybe making another visit. There's some things we need to discuss."
"I thought as much. That's why I called...to see how things were going with you and to see if some changes were to be made. I take it everything worked itself out?" Sonny asked, not bothering to mask the concern he felt for the man he thought of as a younger brother.
"More or less," Jason said with a smile as he remembered the time he'd spent with Keesha. Come to think of it, he thought, the emphasis definitely belonged on the 'more' side of things.
"Mm... You sound like a man who's in love, my friend," said Sonny with laughter in his voice.
"Well, that's cause I am. She's everything I remembered and more," Jason said in all seriousness.
"So, you and Keesha are together?"
"No, not yet, but soon. We're taking it slowly, but I know that in her heart she still loves me. But trusting me... Well, that's something else. Jason Morgan hurt her deeply and I'm trying to prove to her that I'm not him anymore. It's gonna take some time, but I think I know a way I can speed things up."
"Yeah, I'm listening," Sonny said quietly. He had a strong feeling he knew what Jason's line of reasoning was and he thought he'd be ready when the time came. He wasn't, but he was a man and he would take Jason's decision like one.
"I have to leave it all behind, Sonny. I can't do what you did, but I need to find a way to walk away. Do you think you could help me?" Jason asked.
"Whatever you need and in any way I can. How soon do you need me to be there?"
"You're coming here? I wanted you to help me get out, but I didn't expect you to come back. You can't risk your life for me. Not like this," Jason said, his voice filled with anxiety at the thought of anything happening to his best friend.
"Jason, you need me. I don't turn my back on my friends. I got you into the organization and I can get you out, but I can't do it long distance. Trust me. I'll be okay. Now, answer my question, mi amigo. How soon?" Sonny repeated.
Jason wiped his face with his hand. He knew when he was defeated and wouldn't try to fight him any more. Sonny could be even more stubborn than Jason and resisting him would only drag out the inevitable. Jason smiled and asked, "Is yesterday too soon?"
Sonny laughed and said, "You've got it bad, my friend. Very bad. I'll be there."
AJ tried to give the plans for the new neo-natal unit his full attention, but he couldn't. His thoughts kept drifting back to a lovely vision in white. The dream he had, refused to be ignored, and he couldn't help but wonder what it meant.
Being a Quartermaine, he wasn't prone to believe in psychic premonitions, but still he wondered. Was the dream a promise of things to come? A honeymoon for him and Keesha, perhaps? A smiled crossed his face at the thought of Keesha, dressed in white, coming down the aisle to him. She had a smile on her face as she gave herself to only him forever and always.
A glance at his watch told him that lunchtime was close at hand. His stomach rumbled softly, reinforcing the idea. AJ normally worked through his lunch hour as his position at ELQ meant a great deal to him. He didn't want the other employees to think he maintained his status because of his last name. He wanted them to know that he was an executive because he earned it. He was proud of his accomplishments and he didn't mind the extra work.
His stomach growled again and an idea formed in his head. Lunch with Keesha.
"Yeah," he smiled. His hand reached for the telephone to call her, but he quickly changed his mind. He'd rather surprise her instead.
With his mind made up, he stood, grabbed his jacket, and left.
Jason stepped off the elevator and headed straight for Keesha's office. His conversation with Sonny inspired him and gave him the confidence to seek Keesha out sooner than he had planned. He had been hesitant about telling her about his decision to leave the mob, but he wasn't any more. He wanted her to know. She had a right to know, he reasoned. What he planned to do might possibly affect her as much as it did him. Well, he hoped it would.
The hallway leading to Keesha's office was deserted as he rounded the corner. Everyone cleared out at lunchtime, he chuckled to himself. Her door was closed and he wondered if she was with a patient. There was only one way to find out, he decided. He knocked.
The knock on the door took Keesha away from her thoughts. Once again, her gaze had been directed out of the window to stare sightlessly at the day unfolding below. Gina had left a little worse for wear. The cry had helped her release much of the pent up emotion which had plagued her during her Janet Jackson marathon, Keesha surmised, but she was still hurting. Keesha wished she could have offered her some words of wisdom, but she was unable to think of any. The only words which came to her were fierce and angry. Those words were being saved for someone specific. Someone who for some reason had decided to worm his way back into her heart and her soul.
Keesha crossed the room and opened the door. She was surprised to see the worm on the other side of the door, smiling back at her.
Jason wasn't sure if she would appreciate seeing him again so soon, but he decided to risk it. Now, as he looked into her furious brown eyes, he wished he hadn't. She was pissed. He didn't know what caused it, but his sixth sense told him to beware.
"What's wrong?" he asked with concern. Without his permission, his hand moved to caress her cheek. He quickly dropped it when she flinched from his touch and narrowed her eyes at him.
"Don't touch me!" Keesha said through gritted teeth.
"Okay, I won't!" he replied in reaction to her outburst. "Just tell me what's going on. Then, maybe I can fix it-"
"Fix it? Fix it liked you fixed Tommy Hardy's problem. Is that how you want to fix it?"
"I don't understand," he said with a frown.
"You gave him a job, right?" she asked, resting most of her weight on one foot as she crossed her arms.
Jason slowly nodded and said, "Yeah, I did. He needed some money to pay for Simone's bills. I helped him out."
"You call that help?" she asked, incredulously, unaware that her voice had risen an octave.
"Well, yeah! What would you call it?" Jason asked, perplexed and a little bit irritated with her attitude.
"I would call it taking advantage of a kid!"
"I'm taking advantage of him?! Tommy came to *me* asking for a job. I gave him one! How is that taking advantage?"
"Jason, please. The innocent act isn't working with me, okay?" she said, shaking her head at him. "He had no idea what he's getting into. He could be killed for goodness' sakes!"
"Killed?" Jason asked, confused.
"Yes! Killed! Or don't you care about that? Probably not. The only thing you probably care about is adding more into your fold," she said, derisively.
AJ heard the raised voices as soon as he rounded the corner. Distinctly recognizing one as belonging to Keesha, he quickened his step. He was surprised to see Jason on the other side of her wrath.
He almost made a move to intervene, but something told him to stay put. He didn't know what was going on between them and he might fare better if he didn't make his presence known. Who knows, he thought, maybe Jason would give him something to use later. Something that would work in his favor, he smiled to himself.
He backed up and stood on the other side of the corner. He could still hear them, but he was out of their line of vision as they were out of his. He folded his arms across his chest as he listened intently to their heated conversation. He almost chuckled out loud when Jason made the mistake of saying...
"Keesha, calm down! You're being irrational-"
"Irrational? And don't tell me to calm down! Tommy Hardy is a sweet, young boy! He doesn't deserve to be used to further your parasitic, materialistic gain!"
"I'm not using him!"
"'Oh?'! There's that damn word again! Oh! What does it mean? Oh, what?" he asked angrily. Now, he was as mad as Keesha. His anger stemmed from her lack of belief in him. He came over all happy and excited to tell her about his new life only to find that she thought he had led a kid onto the path of destruction. He had half a mind to tell her the truth, but the more her eyes flashed at him, the more stubborn he became. If she had this idea of him, there was nothing he could do to change it and he wasn't sure if he wanted to.
"Don't you dare raise your voice at me, Jason!" Keesha fired back at him.
You tell him, baby, AJ thought as his smile turned into a grin.
"What are you so happy about?"
AJ nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the question. He placed a finger to his lips and pulled Eve to stand beside him against the wall. "Ssh!"
"You're eavesdropping, aren't you?" Eve asked, as the pair of voices went back and forth in rapid fire succession.
"Yep," he grinned back at her. He whispered against her ear, "It's good stuff, too."
"I'll bet it is," Eve smiled back at him. "Just don't get caught."
"I won't," AJ smiled. He then turned his attention back to the next round.
"Well, you *are* being irrational! You have no idea what you're talking about-"
"Enlighten me," she said with attitude.
"I doubt if that's possible, Keesha. You seem to think you have all the answers and that you know everything. I'm not sure if I have enough light in the world to make you think differently!"
"Yeah, sure. Talk your way out of it," she replied. She shook her head as she added, "I thought you had changed, but you haven't. You're still Jason Morgan. Through and through."
Jason swallowed back the retort which was on the tip of his tongue. Her statement hurt him deeply. He thought they had made some progress, and he was saddened to see that they hadn't. Maybe Keesha would never believe that he wasn't the same man who could and would order a hit on a person in the blink of an eye. Maybe there was nothing he could do to change her mind.
"If that's what you believe, well, I guess I am," he said before he stormed away. His eyes had clouded over with tears of anger, sadness and regret. He was so intent on his pain that he didn't notice the two people who stood on the other side of the corner. What he did notice was the slam of Keesha's door as he walked away. That's it, he thought, she's shutting me out of her life just as easily as she shut the door.
"Wait!" Eve pulled on AJ's arm as he moved to go to Keesha.
"Why?" AJ asked with irritation. "She needs me!"
"Yeah, but what are you going to say to her, huh? You can't just rush in there with a big grin on your face like you're claiming a prize."
"So the grin has to go?" AJ asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I think so," Eve suggested with a smile. "Answer my other question. How do you plan to approach her?"
"Yeah, I thought as much."
"Well, what do you suggest, Miss Know It All?"
"Don't give me attitude when I'm trying to help you," Eve said, scolding him.
"That's better." She smiled at him when she said, "I don't think you should let her know you heard everything. Don't lie to her, but don't admit anything either."
"Okay." AJ nodded. "Anything else?"
"You can tell her that you heard the raised voices and ask her if she's okay. The rest is up to you," she said, patting him on his arm.
"Thanks, bud," he said with a smile.
"No problem, pal."
AJ glanced back at Eve as he made his way to Keesha's office. He waved her away when she gave him the thumbs up. He quickly sobered when he tapped on Keesha's door. He opened it before she gave him permission. All thoughts of triumph over Jason disappeared when he saw her. Her sad eyes stared back at him and he quickly moved to take her into his arms.
As her arms encircled his waist, he said, "I heard the raised voices. Are you okay?"
Keesha buried her face in AJ's jacket as she nodded her head. "I'm fine. I'm just so mad, AJ. I can't believe it, but he almost had me fooled."
"Oh?" AJ spoke softly. His emotions ran rampant at her admission. What did 'almost' mean? Had he been thatclose to losing her, he wondered. Had he made it in time?
"He hasn't changed," she said, raising sad eyes to rest on AJ's loving hazel ones. "He gave Tommy a job."
"What?" AJ asked, feeling the fire of anger as it began to burn inside of him. He knew Tommy. He and Keesha had spent a considerable amount of time with him when they visited his mother. Tommy was a good kid and couldn't imagine why Jason would willingly destroy him.
"Yeah. That's what I thought, too," she sniffled. "Tommy has no idea of what he's getting into, and Jason knows it. But, he doesn't care."
AJ's hand cupped her face as fresh tears began to flow. "Ssh," he whispered. "We can help Tommy. I'll go talk to him, okay? Maybe I can get him a job at ELQ. I'm sure if we put our heads together, we could come up with a plan to help him. Want to try?"
"You're incredible. Do you know that?" she asked, smiling at him. "Yeah, I want to try."
"Good," he said with a smile as he brushed the tears from her face. His fingers were gentle as they caressed her cheeks. So soft, he thought, as his fingers lingered on her face.
Keesha's hands moved to rest on either side of his waist as he wiped away her tears. She felt her heart began to race at his proximity and the gentleness of his touch. She subconsciously licked her lips as she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I came by to invite you to lunch, but if you'd rather not..." He allowed the invitation to drift as his voice became husky with emotion.
"I'd rather we do," she said her voice a little above a whisper. "I think I'd like that very much."
Jason took deep breaths as he forced himself to calm down. He really shouldn't blame her, he decided, but he couldn't help it. She was *supposed* to believe in him, dammit! In his frustration, he angrily pushed the elevator call button.
"Hey! What did that button every do to you?"
Jason felt comforted by the sound of the voice. He turned to face the owner of the voice and before he could stop it, a single word escaped from his lips.