Part Twenty-five

Days passed and Keesha settled into a routine. She went to work during the day, amid the stares and whispers of her colleagues, and when the workday was done, she went to the hospital.

Jason had survived the eight-hour surgery to remove the bullet lodged near his spine. According to Monica, Jason flatlined on the table. They almost lost him, but Matt Harmon was determined. It seemed that having a similar injury fueled his fire to save Jason's life. Whatever it was, Keesha was grateful. So very grateful for this third chance with the man she loved.

Due to the emergency surgery and the huge loss of blood, Jason fell into a deep sleep. Memories of being at his bedside and waiting for him to wake up returned to Keesha. The cold fear of history repeating itself gripped her. She knew she was being crazy. Before, Jason had a severe head trauma. It was expected for him to suffer some memory loss. This time, the wound was nowhere near his head. There would be no reason for him to wake up and not remember her...not remember them.

As she headed to Jason's room, she ran into Matt. He smiled when he saw her and she took that as a good sign.

"Hi, Matt. I'm hoping from that smile on your face, you have good news for me."

He nodded. "I think so. He's been awake off and on all day--"

"Why didn't someone call me?"

"Because you spend enough time here as it is," Matt said gently. "The time away is good for you."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm fine."

"Just barely," Matt mumbled loud enough for her to hear. "He's asleep right now. Go on in. I'm not crazy enough to try to stop you."

"Thanks, Matt."

The surgeon nodded and wheeled toward the nurse's station. She stepped inside Jason's room and was stunned by the shift in the atmosphere. It felt like they were on the brink of something...of a change in Jason's condition. Maybe it was the conversation with Matt that made her feel this way. Keesha didn't care. She just wanted Jason to open his eyes. She needed that proof to know that he really would be okay.

She dropped her coat and purse onto a chair before moving to his bedside. His usually ruddy complexion was pale. The stale hospital air left his skin dry and rough. Keesha kept moisturizer on the table by his bed. She dabbed a small amount into her palm and began to apply the skin cream to her lover's face. As she tended to him, she spoke about her day.

"Desk duty isn't so bad. They don't know quite what to make of me at the station. There have been a few whispers and snickers, but nothing I can't handle. Alex offered a leave of absence, but I thought it would only make the situation worse," she rattled on. "Marcus suggested I stick to my guns and that's what I'm doing. Frank has been a little distant, but he's new in town. He'll have to figure it all out on his own, I guess."

Her slender fingers smoothed his dark, blonde eyebrows before trailing down the bridge of his nose. So handsome, she thought. Please God, make him wake up.

"Jason, I was wrong before," she said, leaning close to his still face. "I love you. I doubt if I ever stopped. Fear can make a woman do some crazy things and I'm sorry that I let fear almost come between us. Please, baby, wake up. Let me make this up to you."

"H-How?" His voice was nothing more than a cracked whisper, but it was enough. He studied her with interest as a smile parted his lips. His blue eyes darkened with emotion. "Say that first part again."

"The part where I was wrong or when I said I love you?" she asked, tears of joy spilling down her cheeks.

"The love part," he instructed.

"I love you, Jason," she whispered. Keesha stood. "I have to tell Matt--"

"Wait." His hand caught her wrist. He wasn't strong enough to prevent her movement, but Keesha stood still anyway. She shifted his hold until their hands were joined.

"Show me."

Her lips pressed against his, gently caressing him. When the kiss ended, he gave her a faint smile. "You can get him now."

# # #

Dara glanced at the morning paper. The past few days, the media lost its collective mind in trying to piece together what happened on the South Side and her role in it. Despite her, Sonny and Justus' strongest attempts, word about Hope and her parents spread.

The ADA and the Godfather's Secret Revealed: Love Child

That headline was one of the nicer ones, Dara thought. The others became progressively worse and seedier, doing their best attempts to turn their past into something dirty and sordid. She and Sonny did their best to convince Hope that wasn't the case. So far, she seemed to believe them.

A quick knock sounded at the penthouse door. Dara called out for Johnny to allow whomever entry. She smiled when Marcus crossed the threshold.

"I'll be glad when you're out of this place," he announced, moving to take her into his arms.

His mouth swooped down and captured hers. Dara's heart raced as his tongue forced her lips open. A slow burn built inside the pit of her belly. She emitted a low groan as the kiss slowly ended.

"Where's Hope?" he asked, looking toward the staircase.

"She's at Sonny's playing with her little brother," Dara replied as she moved out of his embrace. "About us don't have long to wait. With Sorel dead and Petrillo in police custody, the threat has been lifted."

Marcus' brows knitted together. "With Sonny Corinthos a part of your life, there will always be a threat."

She sighed. Didn't he think she knew that? "I know, Marc, but it's different now."

"Is Hope going with you or staying with him?" Marcus sat on the sofa and Dara joined him.

"She's coming with me. He's giving us a couple of bodyguards--"

"You wouldn't need them if you married me," he cut in quietly. "You can't say that you're worried about me not accepting her. You know I do."

"I wasn't about to say that," she chided.

"But?" he prompted.

"But," she said with a deep sigh, "it's too soon. Hope has been through a lot and I want to make sure she's adjusting before things change again."

"I can help her make the adjustment."

"I know." Dara took his hand and pulled it onto her lap. "I know you can, but I think she needs to take things slowly. I don't want to rush her."

He was silent for a moment. Then, he asked, "What about you? Would marrying me make you feel like you were rushed?"

She looked at their joined hands. She didn't know how to tell him that her answer was yes.

# # #

"Hope!" Michael wrapped his arms around Hope's legs like he'd known her forever. "I wanna story!"

Whenever Hope stared back into his shiny dark eyes and saw the dimples that resembled hers, she forgot about the rapid gunfire and pools of blood. Other times, it wasn't easy. Her dreams were filled with Sorel's menacing face and sinister laugh. But when she was with her little brother, the bad thoughts went away. At least for a little while.

"Okay!" she said, kneeling to his height. She crawled to his bookshelf. "Which one do you want? A fairy tale or Dr. Seuss?"

His little forefinger pointed toward the large hardback book of fairy tales. Hope pulled the book down and settled on the floor, resting her back against the shelf. Michael crawled onto her lap as if he had every right to be there. Peace and joy bubbled inside her. She planted a noisy kiss on top of his mass of dark, wavy hair and asked him to choose a story. He settled on "Little Brother, Little Sister." He liked the story because now he had a sister like the boy in the story!

Hope smiled and hugged the toddler one more time before she began the story. They took their time going through the pages. Michael would point at the illustrations and Hope would explain them. They were having a great time when the door opened and Lucky appeared. Michael waved at their visitor while all Hope could do was stare. They had spoken over the phone a few times and he said he would stop by. She was surprised and happy that he finally did.

"Hi, Hope, Mikey," Lucky said, stepping further into the playroom. "Mind if I listen to the story, too?"

Michael shrugged. Hope nodded. "Sure."

A little self-conscious, Hope continued with the tale about evil stepmothers and fawns and a king. The males listened as if they were under a spell. By the time the story reached its conclusion, Michael was yawning. She walked him across the hall to his bedroom. Letitcia was already there and took over.

"I bet you didn't think I'd show up," Lucky said as Hope met him in the hall.

"I wasn't sure," she admitted. "I thought you'd be mad at me for leaving without you."

"I was more mad at myself for telling you how to get away." He cupped her chin tenderly in his warm hand. "Are you okay?"

She found it hard to tear her eyes away from his penetrating gaze. "I'm done with running if that's what you want to know."

"That's good," he said dropping his hand from her face. "How is everything else? Mikey is totally in love with his big sister."

She blushed. "Do you think so? He's such a sweet little boy. He accepted me as his big sister just like that. I didn't think he would."

"Sisters and brothers can have a unique bond," he replied. "What about everything else? Things okay here with my cousin? I know she can put it lightly."

"Carly has been okay. I don't sleep here. I stay in Jason's penthouse with my mo--with her. We're moving back to her place later this week. He's giving us bodyguards and stuff."

Lucky nodded, his eyes smiling at her. "That's good. Any word on you becoming a model?"

"I dunno about that." She headed back to Michael's room. They had played with almost every toy he had. Hope knew that the boy's nanny would clean up the room, but she just didn't feel right leaving it a mess. As she began to pick up the toys, Lucky helped her.

"What's to know?" he asked, grabbing a handful of toy soldiers. "Do you want to do it?"

"I've been in the newspaper enough as it is."

"There's never been a photo of you," he said.

She released a ragged breath. "I know! But they're still talking about me. If I modeled, everyone would know and it would be more of the same. I just wanna lay low for awhile. Just until it all makes sense. Okay?"

"Okay. If that's what you want."

"It is."

# # #

"Thank you," Sonny said after Keesha told him that Jason was awake. "Tell him that I'll be over to see him."

"I will. Bye."

Sonny slid his cell phone into his pants pocket. He plopped onto the sofa, dropped his head back and loudly exhaled. Finally. His life was back on track again. Both of his children were upstairs under his roof. His best friend was no longer at death's door. And his worst enemy was dead. All of Port Charles was finally his, and he didn't have to worry about it anymore.

He heard footsteps descended the staircase. The smell of Calvin Klein's One drifted toward him and he knew that his wife had entered the room. Tension oozed from her. He sat up straight and waited.

"Was that the phone?" she asked, sitting on the edge of the sofa beside him.

"Yeah, it was Keesha--"

"My, you're getting chummy--"

"She said," Sonny continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. He knew that the two women had nothing good to say about each other, but considering how close he and Jason were, the women would have to deal with that on their own terms. "She said that Jason woke up. Dr. Harmon is examining him now. I told her I'd come by. You can come to."

Her mouth pursed. "What kind of invitation is that?"

He expelled a low breath. "I know you don't care for Keesha and you don't like Jason that much either. I didn't expect you to join me."

"Would you expect Dara to join you?"

His mouth curved into a humorless smile. "Dara has her life. I have mine...with you, Michael and Hope."

"Hope is a part of Dara," Carly said.

"She's the only part we share," he said, averting his eyes. He stood and jutted his chin toward the staircase. "Lucky is upstairs. I don't wanna leave until he comes down."

"You can trust my cousin with your daughter," she replied. "He's a good kid."

"He's practically a man. My daughter is still a kid," Sonny corrected. He liked Luke's boy and sensed that Lucky liked his daughter more than he let on. If Hope was a little older, he'd be okay with them spending time together. But she was too young for a kid like Spencer. At least, right now she was. He and Dara would have to talk about that.

"Yes, she is," Carly agreed. Anxiety seemed to fade from her eyes as she smiled. "Mikey adores her. I wouldn't mind having her around full-time."

"I won't take her away from Dara," he answered without hesitation.

He went to Carly and gently kissed her cheek. "I'll be home in time for dinner. Make sure Lucky doesn't stay too long."

As soon as Sonny left, Carly reached for the phone and made an appointment with Gail.

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