Never Carved in Stone – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

~ When Worlds Collide ~

November 1997

Keesha's mind was a mass of confusion and doubts as she walked along the path to Kelley's on that fall afternoon. The beautiful rainbow of gold, brown and orange leaves were lost on her, and the sound of their crunching was dim in comparison to the sound of the whirlwind in her mind.

She'd made an awful mistake the night before. Everything in her heart and soul screamed at her to take her time and don't be so quick to respond. And, she had listened to that advice. She had told him as clearly and as gently as she could that now was not the right time and that there was nothing wrong with waiting. With both of them in the middle of their internships, their minds would be focused elsewhere. To her desperate ears, her explanation, her excuses, had sounded reasonable. Surely, he would agree with her, she had thought.

Surely, not, she should have realized.

He had smiled his beautiful, endearing smile, and had taken her hands within his own. He then had brushed aside her words as easily as he brushed aside that lock of blonde hair, which always found itself in his eyes. He had told her they didn't need to wait and that nothing would or could stop them. He had told her that he knew that they could make it work—because they were that solid.

Oh, were they?

She couldn't help but wonder…even if she wasn't bold enough to ask him.

"Hey, Keesha! Over here!"

Keesha's inner conflict was abruptly put on hold at the shout of her closest friend and roommate, Dawn Jensen. Keesha waved back at GH's youngest intern with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. As she drew closer to the younger woman, the endless pile of medical books, journals and notebooks that surrounded Dawn brought a smile to Keesha's face. She was relieved to note that even though her world seemed to have just tipped a little off its atlas, some things were still the same.

"What's up?" Keesha asked, pulling out a chair. She put Dawn's leather backpack on the ground so that she could sit down. Once Keesha was settled, she looked across the table to see Dawn's brown eyes shining back at her. "What?"

"What?!" Dawn giggled. "Come on, girlfriend. Out with it. Brighten up my dreary November day."

"What are you talking about?" Keesha asked, feigning ignorance. But inside, she knew exactly what Dawn was speaking of. She should have known he would tell her.

Dawn's giddiness lowered a few notches as she took a long, hard look at her friend. She rested her back against the hard wooden chair. Her eyes glanced down to her friend's left hand and upon finding it bare, her eyes fluttered back up to look at Keesha's face. Slowly, she said, "Um…I'm not quite sure what I'm talking about. Never mind."

"He told you," Keesha said off Dawn's look. "Don't deny it. It's written all over your face."

"Well…he might have mentioned…something," Dawn said with a shrug. "So," she pointed down to Keesha's bare left hand, "what happened? I thought that when you didn't come home last night… You told him no?"

"Not exactly." Keesha drew a long sigh and reached into her purse. She pulled out the small black jewelry box. She opened it to reveal the most exquisite diamond engagement ring. She handed the box to Dawn, who frowned as she took it. "I told him that I'd prefer to wait…"

"But, here's the ring and you didn't come home. Does this mean you said yes? Help me out here, Keesha! I'm so confused," Dawn said with a small laugh. She handed the box back to Keesha.

"It means he tried to convince me to change my mind, and because you're only this side of not being a minor, I won't go into details about that."

"I appreciate that," Dawn said, grinning. "But, please go on."

"We compromised. He believes that the longer I keep the ring, the more apt I will be to set a date-"

"Wait a minute," Dawn held up her hands. She moved her hands backward in a rolling motion. "Back it up. Set a date? Didn’t you just say that you wanted to wait? Without going into detail about exactly how he convinced you, please elaborate. Inquiring minds need to know."

"Well, I told him that I wanted to wait and he thought that meant to getting married, but really it meant to answering his proposal," Keesha explained.

"So, why didn't you just tell him? Keesha, you and Jason are so good together. When he mentioned the proposal to me, I just knew you'd say yes and that I'd be a bridesmaid come June. What's going on, girl?" Dawn asked. "Don't you love him?"

Keesha's eyes lowered to the jewelry box, which she held in a tight grip. She couldn't bear to raise the lid and see the glimmering diamond stare back at her. She should be happy dammit! Why wasn't she?

"Keesha?" Dawn asked softly. "Is everything okay? If it's Carly, I know for a fact that he's not interested. Trust me on that one."

Keesha shook her head. She raised her eyes to Dawn and gave her a faint smile. "Carly has nothing to do with this. I-I do love him, but… I'm not sure about a commitment right now, you know? We've been through a lot together and we've made it, but…"

"But what?" Dawn asked.

"But, I don't think I'm ready for forever and that's what saying yes to Jason would mean. Forever and always." Sadness crept into her young friend's eyes and Keesha's released her hold on the box to reach across to Dawn. She gave Dawn's hand a brief squeeze as she reassured her. "Don't worry about us, okay? We'll figure it out. Now, tell me. What's the deal with Nikolas? I stopped by the apartment earlier and Robin left a message for you from him. What gives, girlfriend? Did you finally break down?"

"Break down? For some jail bait?" Dawn asked, as a mixture of embarrassment and humor colored her voice and her face. "I helped him out with a little girl in the children's ward. That's about it."

"Sure," Keesha said, smiling as the opportunity to tease Dawn about her interest in a younger man gave her the moment to push her concerns aside…for the moment.

"Whatever!" Dawn said a little defensively. "He is too young for me!"

"He's barely a year younger than you are!" Keesha laughed. "Besides, that hasn't stopped you from checking him out. I intern at GH, too. I see your wandering eyes every time he comes into the break room, and I also see how his eyes always wander to you."

"They do not," Dawn mumbled. She concentrated on closing her textbooks and gathering her things as she wondered about Keesha's comments.

"They do so! I think it's cute, but it is getting rather old. I wish you'd do something about it already."

"Oh, I'd love to do something about it," Dawn murmured. A secret smile at the thought of having her way with Nikolas hinted at the corners of her full lips.

"I heard that-"

"What did you hear?" asked a warm masculine voice.

"Jason!" Keesha said, slightly taken aback at his sudden arrival. "I didn't even see you come up."

"That's because I was very quiet, sweetheart." Jason said, smiling. He grabbed a chair from a nearby table and set it next to Keesha. He straddled the chair and rested one hand at the back of Keesha's neck. He turned laughing blue eyes to her companion and said, "What's up, Dawnie Howser? Did Keesha tell you our news?"

"I got your Dawnie Howser," Dawn mumbled as he called her by the annoying nickname. She rolled her eyes at the nickname and gave him a faint smile in response to his question. "Yeah, she told me. Congrats."

"Thanks," Jason beamed. He looked down to see Keesha's bare hand and the ring box on the table. He grabbed the box and opened it. He said, "Babe? Why aren't you wearing this?"

"I-I…well, it was a little loose and I was afraid that I'd lose it. It's probably safer in the box, anyway," Keesha said, as guilt swept over her at her words.

"Oh? It's loose?" he repeated with a slight frown. "I thought I had the right size. So much for me being the perfect fiancé," he laughed. He closed the box and as he took her hand said, "I have a few free hours and I know that you do, too. We can get it resized now, and then it will be perfectly safe…on your finger. How does that sound?"

Keesha glanced at Dawn, whose expression was neutral, to Jason, whose eyes shown with love. She pushed her own doubts and worries aside as his love for her enveloped her. She smiled at him and said, "Okay. I guess that sounds fine."

♥·♥·♥

Stone stole a glance at the bright lights of his Honda Accord's clock. He already knew that he was running late and his quick glance confirmed it. The meeting with Lois had run much longer than he had anticipated. She was thorough to a "t" and she wanted to make damn sure that she knew everything he knew and then some before he took off for his honeymoon.

His honeymoon.

He couldn't have prevented the smile of joy and happiness from spreading across his face if he had wanted to. Years before, if anyone had told him that he would one day marry the woman who had shown him the path to real love—the niece of a police commissioner no less—he would never have believed it. But it was true. In two weeks, he and Robin Scorpio would be husband and wife, and he couldn't be happier.

With his mind still on his bride-to-be, he pulled into The Outback's parking lot with ease. Considering the lateness of the hour, he hoped he'd missed the lunch crowd and would find a parking space with ease. He did, and within seconds, he had parked the sleek black car and was well on his way inside the restaurant.

Standing on the landing, he shrugged out of his overcoat. He hung his coat on the coat rack and then held himself still as he looked out over the few remaining patrons. His deep brown eyes sought and quickly found his heart's desire. His smile was filled with tenderness and love as he looked at her. Robin's mind appeared to be focused on the documents in front of her. A stray lock of chestnut brown hair fell into her eyes and with a wave of her hand, she promptly pushed it aside. Stone's smile broadened as she made the unconscious movement and he firmly believed that she had never looked lovelier-

"Hey, you!" a cheerful voice called out. "Are you gonna stand over there gawking at her all day or are gonna go say 'hi.' You're already late…"

Stone threw V Ardnowski-Jacks, the co-owner with her close friend, Felicia Jones, of the restaurant a teasing glare. "Thanks, V," he said, hopping down the steps of the landing, "and I'm not that late."

"Tell that to your bride-to-be," V replied with a grin. A waiter came to her with a question and her attention quickly turned back to business.

Stone shook his head at her. Feeling eyes on him, he turned his head. He grinned and quickened his pace to reach Robin in record time. "Hi, there. Sorry I'm late."

"I think I've heard that one before," Robin said with a small laugh. She closed her eyes in preparation for the touch of his soft lips on hers. The kiss was gentle and loving, and left much to be desired. Later. Now, they had last minute arrangements to review.

"Mm," Stone whispered against her ear as their kiss ended. "Did that have to end so soon?"

"Well, maybe if you had arrived on time…" she teasingly scolded him.

"Ouch!" he winced, resting a hand on his heart. "I guess I deserved that, but Lois shares the blame with me. She doesn't know when to quit."

"She's a conscientious businesswoman. That's why L&B will rule the East coast," Robin told him.

"Oh, is that what she is?" he said, his eyes dancing. "So, if she's that, what does that make me?"

"Late!" Robin laughed. She smiled as he joined in and after a few moments, her no-nonsense persona took over. "Okay, no more stalling. Did you talk to her? You and Gina worked it out, right? She's coming to the wedding. Right?"

"I…um…well," Stone hedged. "I spoke to her, but as far as her coming to the wedding, I can't say."

"What happened? Stone, you promised me you'd work things out with her. Why didn't you?"

"Because it's not as simple as one meeting," Stone explained. "There's a lot between us…between all three of us, Jagger, her and me. Sweetheart, you can't expect our wedding ceremony to clear it all up. Not all families are like you and Mac. They’re just not."

"I don't expect that, Stone, but I do expect you to try. And, not just for me, but for you, too. She's been back for a year. You've both changed-"

"Exactly. She's not the kid sister who ran off at the mouth all the time, and I'm not the middle brother who's a street punk-"

"I've never called you a street punk," Robin denied.

"No, you never did, but my baby sister did." Stone drew a long breath and slowly exhaled. He took Robin's hand and said, "Let's save this one for later, okay? We've got two weeks, and I promise that in the meantime, I'll talk to her again. I won't promise that we'll be a family, but that we'll see what we can be. How does that sound to you?"

Squeezing his hand, Robin smiled, "It sounds better than nothing. Thanks."

"No, thanks necessary." He kissed the tip of her nose. "I thank you for pushing me about this, and for knowing when to stop pushing. So, what's up? I thought Sonny and Brenda were coming to this little meeting. Where are they?"

"Brenda had a last minute assignment for Deception. She and Lucy are in New York," Robin said, turning her attention back to pile of envelopes containing well wishes from friends, acquaintances and associates. She didn't want Stone to see the worry in her eyes.

He didn't see the worry, but he felt it. He placed a finger underneath her chin and raised her eyes so that they were on him. "Where's Sonny? Tell me what's going on, Robin."

A frown creased her brow as she contemplated her answer. She wasn't sure of how much to tell him. She didn't want to lie to him, but she didn't want him involved. But once he knew…

"Robin?" he prompted again.

She released a long sigh. "He's waiting for a shipment."

"On the docks?" Stone asked, stiffening.

"Yeah," she answered quietly.

"Who's with him?" Stone asked, pulling away from her slightly.

"I-I don't know," she said. When Stone pushed away from the table and rose from his chair, she became alarmed. "Stone, wait! He doesn't want you to go down there. He said he can handle it."

"I'm sure he can," Stone said, pushing his chair back underneath the table. "I have to go to be sure. Everything will be fine. I promise."

"Don't make me that promise when you already promised me that you wouldn't be involved with his war with Moreno. Stone…"

"Robin, sweetheart, I haven't broken that promise to you. I'm not involved with what's happening with Moreno, but I can't just let him do this alone. Sonny's my family. You know that. I'll see you later tonight, okay? I love you," he told her before he kissed her again and left.

♥·♥·♥

"Well, it certainly fits," Keesha said softly. The light from the sparkling jewel shone brightly in the late afternoon sun. The ring was a perfect fit upon the third finger of her left hand. As she gazed down at it, she tried to summon the feelings of joy and completeness that most would associate with a ring such as that. But she couldn't. The feelings wouldn't come and it scared her. And, then the questions began.

What did that mean for her and Jason? What was the point of the ring on her finger? The answers alluded her and that scared her even more.

Time, she told herself. Time would take care of her doubts and would put everything into perspective. She'd have to give herself time and for now, not give the ring another thought. She crossed the street and headed down the block that would take her home to the three bedroom apartment which overlooked the waterfront.

Her steps were sure and confident as she walked down the sidewalk. And, instead of worrying about her love life, her mind was now on dinner preparations. Tonight was her turn to tackle the kitchen and whip a concoction that would sustain her fellow interns who were pulling a twelve-hour rotation. Early on, the interns had discovered that home-cooked meals gave them better focus and more energy than the junk food they could order in, and by mutual agreement, they had created a schedule. There were a few who tried to flake—namely, Chris Ramsey—however; everyone else did his or her fair share. And to top things off, no one had gotten sick. Keesha crossed her fingers in the hope that tonight would not prove differently.

"Hey, Keesha!"

"Hi!" she laughed, surprised to see a friendly face. "Stone, aren't you going in the wrong direction? Isn't The Outback that way?" She laughed as she pointed back the way he had come.

"Does everyone in your apartment know my schedule?" he asked with a good-natured grin.

"Um, let's see…Robin, Dawn and me. That's about it! I guess that is everyone, huh?" she laughed.

"Just about it." He nodded. "Well, I have to get going. I parked my car in Robin's space for the moment. I hope that's okay."

"Sure, it's no problem. Dawn's working tonight and my car is still out of commission. But since I can see you're in a hurry, I won't go into the gory details. I'll see you later." She waved at him before she moved to part ways with him at the busy intersection.

Feeling like a jerk, Stone slowed his pace and moved to catch up with her as she went across the street. "Hey, Keesha. I'm sorry about that. I wasn't trying to brush you off. My mind is on some things."

"Like your wedding. Hey, I understand. It's not a problem. Go do what you have to do. I'll talk to you later," she said, pulling her coat closer around her. The breeze from the nearby water was brisk and traveled far. It ruffled trees and chilled pedestrians.

"Okay," he said, starting to go in the opposite direction, but something caught his eye and he stopped. "What's that? Keesha Ward, what is that big, shiny thing on your hand?" He grinned as he reached for her hand. "Is this what I think it is? Has Quartermaine finally seen the light?"

Keesha felt a little embarrassed at Stone's close scrutiny. As they stepped onto the curb, she turned her back to the oncoming traffic to answer him. "Yeah. Jason asked me last night."

"Congratulations," Stone said, smiling. "Too bad he didn't ask earlier and maybe we could have had a double-"

The rest of Stone's words were lost to Keesha when without warning Stone grabbed her and shoved her away from him. She landed flat on her back and out of harm's way as seconds later, a car jumped the curb and struck Stone, causing him to land several feet away.

In the back of her mind, Keesha could hear the screams and shouts of passersby and witnesses, but none of that registered. She pulled herself to her feet and raced across the yard to reach Stone. Calling on her medical training, she quickly checked for vitals. His heartbeat was faint, but it was steady. And, he was alive. She yelled for someone to call 911 as she continued to examine him. With gentle fingers, she quickly discovered that his head had landed on a rock. Blood was coming from the open wound with an alarming rate and she knew that his life would depend on keeping him conscious—as much as she could—and praying that the paramedics would arrive soon.

She shrugged out of her coat and threw it across him. Her voice was soft and firm as she spoke to him. "Stone, you're gonna be okay. I know you hear me. Just concentrate on my voice. The paramedics will be here soon, and you will be just fine. Stone-"

His eyes fluttered open and silenced her for a moment. Frantically, his eyes moved about, searching for the owner of the voice, and desperately needing something to hold on to.

"Stone?" Keesha asked, leaning closer to him…allowing him to focus on her, as she knew that was what he needed. "You're gonna be fine. You're awake and everything will be okay. Do you know understand me? Blink, if you do."

He blinked in response. He wanted to keep his eyes trained on her. He knew that he had to, but he felt himself going under. He didn't want to give it to it, and for as long as he could, he was determined not to.

"Good," she smiled in relief. "You're doing great. Do you hear that? Sirens. They're coming and they'll be here soon. But, until they get here, we'll go over some things, okay? Blink if that's okay with you."

He blinked again, and she continued.

"Great. You're hanging in there. That's good, Stone. That's real good. Now, this is an easy one. Do you know who I am? Take your time with the answer. I'm here and I can wait for you to get it."

He blinked in response to her question. When she smiled, so did he…but on the inside. Inside, he now engaged in a battle of wills. The pull to go under was so strong and so irresistible, but he didn't want to succumb to it. He fought and he managed to whisper, "I know…you're Keesha."

"That's right!" she began with enthusiasm. Her eagerness faltered as his eyes closed, and he fainted. Her breath caught in her throat in that moment, and then she began to pray.

Please, God, don't let him die. Please, let him live.

Go to Chapter 2

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