Chapter 24

Mad Season

~ …I need you now… ~

Lorenzo reached the airport as the Cassadine jet was taking off. He missed her. Dawn was gone. He'd have to wait for her to come back from Switzerland. Damn.

He took the long way home, visiting old haunts. A housing development resided in the spot that was once his temporary home: the abandoned railroad car. He remembered staying there when he realized he didn't have a real home. Not after learning the truth about his parents. The lies they told…the fairy tale they created for him and Leslie Lu. It turned his stomach just to think of it.

That was then, this was now. Although the homeless teenager he used to be resided within, he was a man now with a home and a beautiful pregnant wife.

His footsteps were quiet as he climbed the staircase. If Lynn was asleep, he didn't want to disturb her.

"You came back."

Sudden light illuminated the room. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. "Why aren't you asleep?"

"How can I sleep when I'm wondering if you're coming home?" Lynn asked. Her voice trembled slightly, but her blue eyes locked on him.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked. He sat at the foot of the bed and pulled off his boots and socks. "Why wouldn't I come home?"

"Because it's wide open for you."

He turned to look at her. "What's wide open?"

"Your shot." Her hands shook as she rubbed her swollen abdomen. "Your chance to be with the woman you really love."

Realization replaced confusion and hit him hard in the gut. "I am with the woman I love." He moved to sit closer to her. His hand closed over hers. "You shouldn't doubt that."

"How can I not?" Unshed tears clung to her eyelashes. "You told me what happened before the show and before we can discuss it, you tell me you have to stop her from leaving. Dawn is your brother's wife, yet, you run after her. Why? Because you never stopped loving her and wanting her."

Her accusations struck him in rapid-fire succession. He couldn't run from them. Especially when there was some validity to them.

"You are my wife and I love you," he stated, meaning every word. "I don't want Dawn."

"You can't deny you love her."

"You're right, I can't," he said. Lynn tried to pull her hand away from his, but he wouldn't let her. "I'm not in love with her."

"Why run after her?" Her voice sounded hoarse with unshed tears. "Why leave me alone? Don't you know that I need you now? Our unborn child does, too."

"Sweet Lynn," he said, gathering her into his arms, "I didn't mean to hurt you. She was hurting and I wanted to help. I didn't think--"

"You just felt--"

"Don't." He brushed his lips against her forehead and tried to explain. "Our final song brought back a lot of memories. And then, Dominik was onstage with us, too. I sung that song to her the night he was born. She and I have shared a lot. Twenty years later, the past is not erased. When I see one of my best friends hurting, I want to help ease the pain. I'm sorry if you feel threatened by that, but you shouldn't. I take our marriage vows seriously. What I felt for Dawn is in the past. You and our child are my present and future."

~…it seems to me you'd come around…~

Dominik ran until his sides hurt. Performing before a live audience gave him a rush that he'd never experienced before. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. Crazy thoughts, like confronting his father, went through his mind. But common sense prevailed. He'd talk to Nikolas when his emotions weren't raw. That was one Cassadine lesson well-learned. Besides, he needed to get his facts straight concerning his father and Gilly Spaulding. Then, he'd have the right ammunition to honor his mother.

Stay out of it.

A tiny voice nagged him and repeated his mother's warning. Dominik released an anguished yell and dropped to his knees. He didn't want to stay out of it! He wanted his family-- What? Back together? Could his parents repair the damage that'd already been done? They had before, but this time was nothing like the last.

"God help me," he whispered.

"What's wrong? D'you have a cramp?"

Dominik stood at the sound of the familiar voice. "Ben. No, I'm fine."

"So you just felt the need to pray in the middle of the park?"

Dominik stretched his heated limbs before muscle cramps set in. "Something like that."

"Good luck." Ben tipped an imaginary hat and moved to brush past him.

"Wait," Dominik called out.

"What for?"

"I haven't seen you around in awhile. How have you been? Did you catch the concert?"

"Spectacular debut," Ben said with a mild hint of sarcasm. "I'm sure the Royals are proud."

"Oh, so that's it," Dominik said. "Jabs at my title. Look, I didn't ask for it and if I could give it away… I probably wouldn't. I'm not ashamed of my birthright, but I never thought we wouldn't be friends."

"I don't give damn about your title, man." Ben slumped onto a bench. "Have you seen Ciarda?"

"I saw her at the concert. Her hair is different."

"I liked it better curly," the boys said in unison.

Their mingled voices brought an immediate terse silence. Tense seconds ticked by. Then, as if on silent agreement, both relaxed.

"She has a boyfriend," Ben said. "Her roommate's brother. Did you know that? Did Alanna tell you?"

Dominik joined Ben on the bench. "I'm not on speaking terms with either twin at the moment."

"You need to decide which one you want," Ben said. "Take my word of advice and set your sights on someone other than Ciarda."

Dominik's mouth thinned into a tight line. "I can't do that."

"You're better suited for Alanna," Ben advised.

"You're really interested in Ciarda--"

"It's more than that," Ben interrupted. "I care about her."

"So do I," Dominik said, "but I don't want to lose our friendship over her. You're my best friend. One thing I've learned from watching my parents is that real friends are hard to come by."

He extended his right hand toward Ben. Ben took it and shook.

"Friends," Ben said, "but on one condition."

"Which is?"

"I won't let you hurt her."

"The same goes for you."

~…I feel stupid…~

"You know you shouldn't be here." Keesha joined AJ on the backyard swing. He took her hand and placed it on his thigh. Enjoying the hard, rugged feel of him, she didn't move away. "If he looks down here and sees you--us--"

"I don't give a damn about him right now," AJ said. "Morgan James can kiss my ass."

She laughed. Her sides hurt. Tears blurred her vision. And she laughed harder. "AJ, stop."

"That sounds good." He slipped his arm around her shoulders. He gently rubbed her upper arm. "I can't remember the last time I heard you laugh. It's like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I miss you, sweetheart."

"I miss you, too."

"Do you really?" he asked.

"Really and truly. Living with that man is hell."

He began to rock the swing. In a low, soft voice, he said, "Tell me about it."

"He only cares about JE. He doesn't give Ben or Marisa the time of day. Ben's taking it hard. All his life, he's heard George and Grace talk about what a great father Jason was. He's seen the videotapes of us together." She rested her head on AJ's shoulder. "He loves you, AJ, but there were so many times, Ben would come to my room, crawl into bed beside me and ask me stories about Jason because he'd forgotten. He was so young when Jason…It breaks my heart to see what he's going through."

"What can I do to help?" he asked.

"Nothing. There's nothing any of us can do except continue to love Ben. And he knows we do." She shrugged. "We can't take his pain away. That's worst part about being a parent. You can only watch some things unfold. You can't change the outcome."

"I can love him," he said. "Ben is easy to love. Now, tell me about you. I saw the look on your face at the concert. So tense, unhappy and confused. It's hard having Jason's empty shell in your home."

"AJ, don't." She shifted from his hold. Her arms folded across her chest. Keesha looked toward the house. Gone was the home that their love built. Oh, it was happy for a time. But AJ was right. Tension, unhappiness and confusion filled its walls and tortured its occupants.

"I have to say it," he said. "Honesty binds us. I've never known you to runaway from the truth."

"I'm not running."

"But?" he prompted.

"God, AJ, I feel stupid, so stupid." Her walls shattered. The truth came pouring out. "You're right. He looks like Jason and sounds like him. There are times I'm reminded of him, but he's not Jason. But when for that moment, that split second, I'm pulled in…I feel weightless, suspended, hopeful even. Then, something clicks. Morgan reappears and I'm left feeling…stupid. And like I've betrayed you."

"Ssh." He drew her into his arms again. "No one can blame you for what you're going through, least of all me. I don't know what I'd do if Eve reappeared but was completely different. I love you, Keesha. You're not alone in this. I am here with you."

She closed her eyes and held on to him.

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