**I know you need a friend, someone you can talk to
Who will understand what you're going through
When it comes to love, there's no easy answer
Only you can say what you're gonna do**
The roar of the rushing water pounded in Jason's ears as the stream of water pounded on his back. But, he didn't hear it, nor did he feel it. His senses had shut down. It was a trick Jason Morgan had perfected and Jason was a little surprised it still worked for him. Over the last few weeks, he had intentionally rejected all things Jason Morgan, but this one last remnant refused to disappear and for that, Jason was grateful.
Going through the motions, Jason grabbed the shampoo bottle and began to lather his hair. Even in his present state of listlessness, he still moved with urgency, so without thinking he wiped his eyes with his lather covered hands. The sting of the soap awakened all of his senses with amazing speed and the feelings he had been trying to avoid swooped down and took over his soul.
He hurt! But not in his eyes. The water from the shower flushed the offending shampoo from his eyes. But in his heart. It wasn't the typical heartache that consumed him when Robin left him and moved to Paris. No, this pain went much deeper. It squeezed him and if he stood very still, he was almost certain he could feel the blood as it oozed from his heart.
Why did she kiss him was the question that screamed in his ear and tormented his spirit. They had made so much progress. The times they spent together had brought them closer. He knew it had. And even though during their argument they both said things which would have been better left unsaid, he knew they could move past it. He had believed that if he gave her time to cool off and if he cooled off himself... Later, when their minds were clear, they could discuss Tommy and Jason's plans for the future like mature adults. He might have even been able to ask her if she was ready to discuss a future with him. If she was ready to commit to him the way he was ready to commit to her.
But after seeing her in AJ's arms, he wasn't sure of what to do anymore. He accepted and understood that she needed time to come to terms with everything. She needed to learn how to trust him again. She needed to learn that she could trust herself to love him and to believe that he wouldn't hurt her. He understood her reservations and he understood that he had to prove himself to her. He even understood her having residual feelings for his older brother, but dammit!! Jason didn't want to understand how Keesha could let AJ kiss her!
He didn't want to understand, but he did. She had to be certain of her decision. Keesha wasn't the type of woman to keep two men on a string, and if her heart wasn't clear on who the *one* man would be, he'd have to understand. He loved her enough to give her the time she needed, but the longer it took for her to make her decision, the closer to the breaking point he came.
**Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you
Or are you goin' back to the one you love?
Someone's gonna cry when they know they've lost you
Someone's gonna thank the stars above**
AJ whistled to himself as he stepped out of the shower. All in all, he'd had a good day. Hell! He'd had a wonderful day. He didn't want to gloat over Jason's stupidity in calling her irrational or having chosen the mob as his career, but AJ couldn't resist. He loved his baby brother with all of his heart, but that love was surpassed by his love for Keesha.
Oh, how he loved that woman! After he quickly toweled himself dry and as he stepped into his boxer shorts, he thought about their kiss. He paused as he dressed himself to lightly raise a finger to his lips. A smile spread across his face as he remembered the sensation of her delicious full lips on his. He never rated kisses or compared them, but if he had to rate them, the kiss in the hallway was even better than the kiss on the enclosed garden.
Sure, the Hallway Kiss, as he now referred to it, wasn't a deeply passionate one, not like the Garden Kiss. But for some reason, the Hallway Kiss was special. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was just something different about the way their lips met. The way Keesha responded to him was unlike anything they had ever experienced in the past.
As he took one last glance in the mirror and his nicely dressed reflection stared back at him, he began to understand. He thought, not that he was one hundred per cent sure, but maybe, just maybe Keesha was on the verge of making a decision.
Hot damn! He almost shouted for joy as he slammed his bedroom door shut behind him. If his Keesha was ready to make her declaration of love for the *one* man she wanted in her life, he'd make his vow right now to get down on his knees and thank the stars above for bringing her back to him.
"Emily! You wait right there, young lady!" Edward bellowed as he entered the living room.
Emily, nicely dressed in a flowing lavender dress, paused as her hand reached for the doors which led to the terrace. "What now, Grandfather?" she asked without turning to face him.
"I need to have a word with you," he said, his voice stern as mentally he decided whether or not she was dressed appropriately. From behind, her dress seemed to cover her nicely, so he felt no need to comment on it, yet. He'd have to see how it fit her from the front before he'd make his final decision.
"Yes?" she asked, rolling her eyes. She'd really wanted to have a few moments to herself. She should have known it would be impossible for her to have any privacy there. According to Quartermaine family rules, there was no such thing as privacy. She'd have to wait until everyone was in bed before she could think about the day's events...and her new friend.
"Who was that young man who was with you earlier? I know I've never seen him before."
"Oh, Grandfather, please!" Emily said, shaking her head. Before he could speak again, Emily turned around to face her grandfather and said, "His name is Jordan."
"I don't know any Jordans. What does his family do for a living?" Edward asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Jordan is his first name. His last name is James, and I don't know what his family does. Why do you want to know?" she countered. She folded her arms and moved closer to Edward so that they were eye to eye.
"I want to know because... Because I just do! Don't be flippant with me!"
"I wasn't being flippant. You asked me a question and I asked you one," she replied with a shrug. A secret smile glittered in her eyes as she poured herself a glass of water and began to take a sip.
"Hmm," he grumbled to himself. His eyes narrowed even more as he noticed the new sparkle to her eyes. Grudgingly, he admitted to himself that he was happy to see it there, but his paternal concern refused to be abated. So, he continued with one more very important question. "Is he your boyfriend?"
Water squirted out of Emily's mouth at her grandfather's words. A coughing fit overtook her and prevented her from answering his question. Edward began to pat her back as he led her to the sofa.
"Emily, dear, are you okay?" Lila asked as Reginald wheeled her into the living room. "We could hear you in the foyer. Edward give her some water."
"That's what caused it in the first place," Edward mumbled as he followed his wife's bidding.
"I'm fine, Grandmother," Emily replied, trying to compose herself. She smiled at Edward as he handed her a fresh glass of water. "The water went down the wrong way, but I'm okay now."
"Very good, dear," Lila said as she patted Emily's hand.
"Good evening, everyone," AJ said as he made his entrance. He gave Lila a kiss on the cheek, and he patted Edward on the back as he almost glided to the wet bar.
Lila and Emily exchanged looks in response to AJ's happy demeanor while Edward moved to stand beside his grandson. Softly, so that no one else could hear, he asked, "So, my advice worked, I take it?"
"Like a charm, Grandfather. Like a charm. I have a very strong feeling that the other man in Keesha's life will soon be history," AJ said with a wide smile as he raised his glass of club soda to his lips.
Edward gave him a congratulatory pat on the back. "Very good, my boy. I knew it would work."
"So, what are you two schemers plotting now?" Ned asked, moving between AJ and Edward to pour himself a glass of Ginger Ale.
"Watch it, Ned. Your paranoia is showing," AJ smirked as he winked at Edward and moved to sit beside Emily.
"What gives?" Ned asked again.
"A personal matter. Nothing to concern yourself with," Edward reassured him as he left the bar to sit in the chair beside Lila.
"Does anyone know what this is all about?" Alan asked as he stormed into the room, coming off of a high always made him upset.
"It's called dinner, Alan. Surely, you've heard of it," Ned replied causticly.
"You know you become more and more like your mother every day," Alan replied, as he poured himself a scotch on the rocks.
"There's no need for insults, Uncle Alan. I was merely answering your question," Ned said, moving away from Alan to take a seat.
"You were merely being a pain in the as-"
"Alan! Enough!" Lila demanded. "Monica asked us all to come to dinner. She has a surprise. There. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes, Mother, it does. Thank you," Alan replied softly, his voice contrite.
The room became silent as each person became preoccupied with his or her thoughts. Emily smiled as she remembered the walk from Kelley's to the mansion. The walk was long, but she didn't notice. Getting to know Jordan better made the time fly by. Her smile broadened as she remembered how he gave her a backstage pass for DJLS's performance the following night. AJ's face mirrored his sister's as he too thought of someone. Of Keesha. Things were looking up for them. He could just feel it. He almost chuckled aloud, but remembering his surroundings, he stopped himself in time. He glanced at Edward and saw him smiling at him. AJ winked at him and stole a glance at Ned. Ned grimaced as he looked from his grandfather to AJ. Something was going on between them. Before the night was over, he intended to find out what it was.
"I'm happy to see that everyone is here and on time," Monica beamed as she joined her family.
"Monica, what is this about?" Alan asked, becoming agitated again.
"You'll see," Monica promised as she smiled at everyone. "The surprise should be here any minute."
"What kind of surprise is it?" Emily asked, feeding off of her mother's excitement.
"Yeah, Monica, what do you have in store for us?" Ned added.
"You'll see," Monica repeated as her smile broadened into a grin.
"Well, whatever it is, I hope it doesn't take too long. I'm starved. Besides, I doubt if Cook would wait dinner for us or the surprise," Edward huffed.
"Oh, Edward! Where's your sense of adventure?" Lila scolded her husband.
"Sense of adventure?! Humphf! Reginald, do you know anything about this?" Edward asked.
"Not a thing, and I'd be happy to keep it that way, too. Now, if you'll excuse me..." Reginald left before Edward could object. The energy was at all time high in the living room. Usually, he enjoyed a good Quartermaine fight, but he got weird vibes from them tonight. He'd rather take his chances with Cook, he decided.
Reginald was about two steps away from the dining room when the doorbell sounded. He had half a mind to let Monica greet her "surprise" herself, but his curiosity got the better of him and he answered the door.
Nothing had ever shocked Reginald more than the sight of Jason on the Quartermaine doorstep. It's not like he'd never opened the door for Jason before. Well, Jason Morgan, that is. But the person smiling back at him wasn't Jason Morgan. Reginald was almost certain that the person who stood before him now was the Jason of old. Jason Quartermaine.
Jason laughed softly at Reginald's reaction. "May I come in?"
Reginald, who was rarely at a loss for words, could only nod at Jason's request. He slowly backed from the door and allowed Jason access.
"Are you okay?" Jason asked with a small frown. He expected surprise, but he'd never seen Reginald so quiet before. Maybe the shock was too much for him? Nah.
"Jason?" Reginald asked, cautiously.
"Yeah, that's me."
"You're Monica's surprise?" Reginald asked, still in a state of shock.
"Yeah, I guess so. If that's what Mom said, then I guess I am," Jason replied with a shrug.
"You called her 'Mom,'" Reginald said, incredulously.
"Yeah," Jason replied, slowly, "cause that's who she is. My Mom. Remember?"
"Whoa! So, it really is you?" Reginald asked, not ready to believe what his eyes and ears were telling him.
"Yeah, Reginald," Jason said with a faint smile. "It's really me. Where is everyone?"
"They're in the living room," Reginald said, as he indicated with a wave of his hand.
"Thanks," Jason said, as he left to re-introduce himself to his family.
Jason was about to take a step back when he made eye contact with his mother. Her smile was so radiant and her eyes were so full of love and hope. He couldn't disappoint her. Not this time. Not ever again.
He smiled at her to reassure her and he walked in.
"Here's your surprise," Monica said, as she moved across the room to greet Jason. She linked her arm through his and pulled him in. "Our Jason is back."
The next few moments were filled with tears, hugs, joy and laughter as everyone celebrated Jason's return. Jason returned the love and affection with a warm smile and a few tears of his own. The love they bestowed on him felt wonderful. He could hardly understand why he was so hesitant to receive it...until his eyes met AJ's.
"Welcome back, Jason," AJ spoke softly.
Jason's eyes which had been so warm with love turned cold as ice as AJ addressed him. A thousand different emotions coursed through him. A part of him wanted to embrace his older brother and tell him how much he loved him, while another part of him wanted to beat him to a pulp and show him how much he hated him for stealing his life away. Suddenly becoming afraid of what he might do, Jason abruptly turned his back on AJ and moved to give Emily another hug.
Jason's reaction to him stung AJ. He knew the day would come when he and Jason would meet face to face again, but in his determination to keep Keesha in his life, he had pushed everything else from his mind. But as he looked back on it, he wished he had taken everything into consideration. Jason, the real one, his baby brother, was back and he didn't want to have anything to do with him. Maybe it was just as well, AJ decided as he moved away from his family and went to stand outside on the terrace.
AJ closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh air. He could still hear the love and happiness which filled the living room, but from where he stood he didn't have to see it. It wasn't that he was jealous of the family's reaction to Jason. Years ago, he had been, but he was beyond all of that now. Now, he was just happy that his family was happy. The only thing that upset was that he wasn't able to fully participate in the festivities with them.
At the sound of the door opening behind him, AJ opened his eyes and looked over his shoulder. He was surprised to see Jason, standing there. His mouth opened to speak, but no words would come. He realized that no words were necessary as Jason raised a finger to silence him.
"I'm only going to say this once, so I expect you to listen and listen well," Jason said, forcing himself to keep his voice cold and void of emotion.
AJ nodded and Jason continued. "Don't expect anything from me. I can't promise to be the brother you used to know. I don't know if that will ever happen...if I can ever be him to you again. I'll try to be civil to you...for the family's sake, but don't expect anything more."
"No, AJ. You listen. Biologically, we're brothers. Nothing will ever change that, but emotionally... Well, we're not. It's as simple as that."
"Excuse me, guys. I hate break up this heartwarming brother to brother moment, but AJ, you have a call. It's Miss Ward. Should I take a message or would you like to speak to her?" Reginald asked, cordless phone in hand.
AJ glanced briefly at Jason and then looked back at Reginald. With outstretched hand, he said, "I'll take it."
As AJ moved away to speak in hushed tones to Keesha, Jason felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. Desperately needing to know if Fate had finally intervened and Keesha had made a decision, his feet refused to move and his eyes watched AJ carefully. He took stock of every smile, chuckle and sigh. Instinctively, he knew. Oh, yes, he thought, a decision has been made.
When AJ ended the call and moved closer to him, Jason immediately pounced. "What did she say?"
AJ paused before he answered. He didn't want to hurt Jason, but since he asked... "She wants to see me."