Chapter 2

~ Empty ~

If I can't read your thoughts, then I feel empty.

The reception for Michael and Grace's wedding had been a beautiful party. Filled with friends and family, Gina was glad that she and her family were there to witness the occasion. The last few months had been tense, she thought. Jason's return had turned Keesha's family upside down, but her best friend was seeing it through with the fighter's spirit that Gina so admired in her. And then in Gina's own household life was just as rocky. Ciarda's departure for boarding school and Tom Hardy's return to Port Charles sent everything off balance. Everyone missed Ciarda and none of them knew what the addition of Tom Hardy, Sr. to their world would bring.

And then, there was her beloved's reaction to it all. Tommy was the best man she knew. Sometimes stubborn, always loving and loyal to those closest to him and fiercely protective of them, too. His father's return struck something deep inside him. But he wouldn’t talk about it. And it hurt Gina. His silence hurt her a lot.

She glanced over her shoulder to the back seat. The twins and Buffy gabbed nonstop. They talked about the wedding, the people and the cute young guys in attendance. Gina smiled at their youthful exuberance and looked at her husband. His glittering emerald eyes remained fixed on the road while a muscle flicked angrily at his jaw. She looked down at his hands. They gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were ash-white. Unease settled heavily in the pit of her stomach. Her hand dropped to his muscled thigh. God, he was tense all over.

"Tommy, what is it?" she asked quietly so as not to alarm the teenagers.

"Look." He jutted his chin. "We've got company."

Gina followed the direction of his steely-eyed gaze. Tom Senior sat on the front steps of their home. It was only a matter of time. "Will you talk to him now?"

"No."

She expelled a low breath. This was his stubborn side. "He's been calling. He wants to talk to you."

"I don't care what he wants." He eased off the accelerator as the car crept closer to their home. "You and the girls will stay in the car until he's gone."

"Daddy, who's that man?"

"It's nobody, Alanna," Tommy replied.

"Don't say that," Gina said. "They should know who he is."

"He's your great grandma's son," Tommy finally said, "Tom Hardy. That's who he is."

~*~

"What do you think is happening down there?" Ciarda asked, her gaze transfixed out her bedroom window to the gazebo where her father and grandfather were hidden. "Daddy was so mad. Did you notice his eyes?"

"Yeah." Alanna sat on the other end of the window seat.

The shower ran in the bathroom the twins shared. Buffy was inside, giving the sisters privacy to ponder their father and his father.

"Mama wanted to be with them," Alanna added, "but Daddy asked her to come inside with us. I didn't think she would. Did you?"

Ciarda shook her head. "Not at first."

A knock sounded on the door, and she called out, "Come in, Mom."

The door creaked open. A hand, much larger than her mother's hand, waved inside the opening. Then, a voice asked, "Are you decent?"

Ben?

The sisters looked at each other in surprise. What was Ben doing at their place in the middle of the night?

Ciarda looked down at her sleepwear: t-shirt and boxers. She glanced at Alanna's knee-length nightie. They were decent enough.

"Sure, come on in."

Ben did, but he wasn't alone. Dominik was with him.

~*~

After showing Ben and Dominik inside, Gina resumed her perch in the kitchen's back doorway. The screen door was the only thing separating her from the fall night. She chewed nervously on her thumbnail as she waited for the shouts and raised voices from the gazebo. None came. But that didn't lessen her anxiety. If anything, the eerie calm aggravated her worries.

She wanted to go out there and be a part of Tommy's pseudo-reunion with his father. But he asked her to stay inside. Gina couldn't and wouldn't go against his wishes. The shrill ring of the telephone jolted her. Turning away from the darkness, she moved to grab the telephone.

"Hello."

"What's wrong?" Simone asked quickly. "My mother's intuition is--"

"It's driving her crazy," Sonny interrupted as he apparently took the phone from his wife. "Hi, Gina. Everything okay over there?"

"Tom is here," Gina replied. "He and Tommy are out back talking."

There was silence on the other end. Then, Sonny asked, "Should I come over?"

"What is it?" Simone asked, her voice distant because Sonny still had the receiver. "What's going on?"

"Tom stopped waiting," Sonny said. "No, Simone. Wait."

"Sonny, tell her it's okay," Gina said, even though she wasn't altogether sure she spoke the truth. "Everything is fine here. She doesn't have to worry. Neither of you."

"Are you sure?" Sonny asked. His concern for his stepson sounded clearly in his voice. He cared for Tommy as if he was his own and had been there when Tommy's own father wasn't around. Gina knew Sonny's worry was sincere.

"I'm sure," Gina said. "Thanks."

~*~

Blood flowed through Tommy's veins thick and as fast as a locomotive running down the track. He stared into the green eyes that mirrored his own. His Grandma Audrey said he inherited his eyes from his father, Tom. Tommy hoped that was all he'd gotten from him.

"I hoped we would talk," Tom said, interrupting the ice cold silence of the gazebo. "I mean really talk and get to know each other."

"What's to know?" Tommy shrugged. "You weren't there. Mama and I were gone for ten years and you never looked for us. You didn't care."

"That's not true—"

"No?" Tommy cut in. "Where were you when my mother lay comatose at General Hospital? Grandma called everywhere looking for you. Where were you?"

Even in the dark night, Tommy noticed the red tint of embarrassment darken Tom's cheeks. "I was in the rain forest. The lines of communication don't flow freely there like here."

Tommy wasn't giving him an inch. "And afterwards?"

Tom's mouth opened and closed as if he didn't quite know what to say. But he didn't have to. Tommy already knew the answer.

"You were with your new family. I know," Tommy said. "I've always known."

"It's not the way you think!" Tom cried. "It was an arrangement."

"I don't care what it was."

"Tommy, please." Tom reached out as if to touch Tommy. The younger man flinched and took a quick step back. Shock registered on Tom's face for a moment. "I made mistakes. A lot of mistakes where you and your mother are concerned. I know I can't make it up to you. What you and Simone went through… My God, what they put you through and what you did to save her. I know—"

"Go," Tommy choked.

He raised his hands to his ears and squeezed. He didn't want to hear anymore. The images bounced around inside his mind. The guards reaching inside the cell he shared with his mother, dragging him out so that they could have Simone to themselves. Their taunts, anger and brutality had long ago been locked away. Or so Tommy thought. But this one conversation with his father brought everything back.

Tommy stumbled backwards. "Leave now!" he shouted. "And don't come back!"

~*~

Ben's appearance at the Hardy home threw Dominik. He anticipated speaking with both twins, but on his own terms and without Ben's presence. The two were good friends, but when it came to the Hardy twins, their friendship didn't matter. Competition burned inside Dom. He knew it was wrong. At his parents' anniversary party, his heart had chosen Alanna. Then later, his heart had second thoughts.

"Your Highness!" Buffy squealed upon exiting the bathroom. She bowed at Dominik's feet, blabbering all the while. "Oh, my God! This is wild. I had no idea! I look a mess!"

"Buffy!" Ciarda's hand shot out and gripped Buffy's forearm in a vise that Dominik knew was painful. "He doesn't like to be treated like royalty so cut it out!"

Dominik nodded as Ben groaned beside him. "There's no need to bow at my feet, and please, call me Dominik. Or Dom. My friends call me either."

"Well, Dom," Alanna said, "what brings you here in the middle of the night?"

Her green eyes glittered angrily like a cat. He met her stare. "I wanted to see Ciarda before she left again."

"You could have waited until morning," Alanna said, a flicker of hurt crossing her features.

"No, I couldn't," he said.

"What's going on with Aunt Gina?" Ben asked, his gaze trained on Ciarda. "She didn't even blink when she told us we could come to your room. I saw the other car in the drive."

"It's our grandfather's car," Ciarda said.

"You'd better not let Daddy hear you say that," Alanna said. She brushed past the two guys and stepped into the hall. "Buffy, we'd better give them some privacy."

Buffy cast another awe-filled glance in Dominik's direction before trailing out after Alanna, who promptly closed the door.

"Alanna is angry," Dominik said.

"No shit, Sherlock," Ben bit out. "What do you expect?"

"I didn't expect anger," Dominik responded evenly. He pointedly turned his back to Ben and gave Ciarda his full attention. "I'd like to speak with you alone. Would that be a problem?"

Ben plopped noisily down onto Ciarda's bed. He grabbed a stuffed animal and held it up. "Is this your school's mascot?"

The doll in question was a toy porcupine. Ciarda smiled as she took the doll and held it close. "No, Buffy's brother won it and gave it to me."

"The one who is driving you back to school?" Dominik questioned. Not liking the idea at all or how Ciarda smiled when she mentioned him.

"Yeah," she replied. "Seth is her only brother. He's nice."

Ben frowned. Dominik did, too.

~*~

Later that night, after the visitors left and the girls were asleep in their rooms, Gina waited in bed for her husband to join her. He hadn't said much after Tom left. He didn't even grunt when she told him that Dominik and Ben had stopped by. Tommy simply nodded and trudged into the den where he sat in the dark for a very long time.

Now, he was in the bathroom. Gina could hear him moving around inside. Eventually, he came to her. Her arms closed around him. His head settled on her breast. As they made love, the emptiness faded away.

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