Part Twenty-six

"What have you decided to do?"

Justus rubbed his temple as he considered Lois' question. Even though their conversation was via telephone, he could see the expression on her face. There would be a slight frown, making her eyebrows bunch together. Her bright blue eyes would darken with intensity and her cheeks would be flushed.

"I can't discuss this with you," he explained for the umpteenth time.

"I know, but humor me," she implored. "Justus, they're my best friends. They just got their daughter back. If you're gonna nail him for something, please don't let it be for fighting for his child."

"Have you ever considered a career as a defense attorney?" he asked, trying to keep his tone light. "That would have made one helluva closing argument."

"I'm serious."

He inhaled a deep breath. "So, am I. After my decision has been made and it's gone through the proper channels, you'll be the first to know."

A knock sounded at his door. Justus silently thanked God for the unknown guest. "Sweetheart, I have to go. Someone is at the door."

"Where's your secretary?" Lois asked.

"She's on her lunch break." The knock came again. He put his hand over the telephone's mouthpiece. "Come in!"

As the door creaked open, he went back to the phone. "I'll see you later for dinner. If you see Dara today, tell her again that I'm glad she got her daughter back."

Lois mumbled her goodbye, and just as he set the receiver onto the telephone base, Alex fully entered the room.

"Good afternoon, Mr. DA," the police commissioner greeted. "Have you had lunch?"

Justus shook his head. "I was thinking about ordering from Kelly's. Wanna join me?"

Alex's mouth quirked into a faint smile. "Not going out?"

Justus snorted. "Have you looked outside the window? It's ridiculous. The media doesn't know when to give up."

"They're like the rest of us," Alex said, sitting on the guest chair in front of Justus' desk. "We wanna know what the fallout from the blood bath will be. The longer it takes to make an arrest... We already have Luigi Petrillo under police guard at the hospital, but what about Corinthos and Morgan."

Justus sighed. "Not to mention former Detective Taggert and Detective Ward. How are they treating her at the precinct?"

"How do you think?" Alex asked. "It's not good, but she's handling it all in stride. I have her on the desk for now."

"First Dara and now, Keesha." Justus shook his head. "What is it with the bad boys? I don't think I'm out of line to ask what the plans are for her at the Department. Disciplinary action or what?"

"She's a good cop," Alex said. "Should she be penalized for her personal life? In theory no, but this is Jason Morgan we're talking about and his tie to Sonny Corinthos cannot be ignored. Later this afternoon, I plan to have a talk with her."

Justus winced. "You're gonna ask her for her badge."

"I have to," the commissioner replied. "It's not like I have a choice. She'll be on a suspended leave until further notice. We have to make sure that all her collars have been above board. It's the same as what's going on with Dara's cases."

"Yeah, I know." Justus glanced at the Kelly's menu on his desk. "You still wanna get something to eat?"

"Yeah, sure." Alex took the menu and read over it. "I'll take the clam chowder."

Justus phoned in the order, clam chowder and a bowl of chili for him. "Now, that's out of the way. Let's get down to business. In good conscious, I cannot indict Corinthos or anyone who helped him in getting his daughter back. I don't agree with the methods, but the reasons... But then again, what about the message I'm sending to the public? It's okay to take the law into your hands and gun down someone who's threatening your family. Shit! Where is the balance?"

"There's no easy answer for this," Alex said. "I agree. When we nail Corinthos, it should be for his 'business' not for this."

"We can't let him off the hook, though," Justus said quietly. "There were too many dead bodies out there. Did the weapons check out?"

"Keesha and Marcus' did. The others?" Alex shook his head. "No."

Justus nodded. "Illegal possession of firearms and manslaughter."

# # #

"Thanks for meeting me on short notice," Carly mumbled as she entered Gail Baldwin's office. Gail smiled at her and Carly tried to return the gesture. She wasn't able to. "I've tried facing my insecurities, but it's just not working."

"Okay," Gail said, her tone sympathetic. She pointed to the chair in front of her desk. "Have a seat." As Carly sat, the doctor added, "I've seen the newspapers. Your household has been rather hectic lately."

"It's always hectic," Carly said, running a hand through her hair. "That's normal."

"But is it really?" Gail prompted. "Last time, we discussed your upbringing in Florida. You said the Bensons had a routine family life and it wasn't much different than your classmates."

"It was boring," Carly responded, looking at her fingers. "Bacon and eggs for breakfast...pot roast and mashed potatoes for dinner."

"There was more to your family than your menu, wasn't there?"

Carly hunched her shoulders in a half shrug. "I suppose so. My da-- Jack Benson would take Virginia and me out on his boat sometimes. Before he took off and left. Virginia was the leader of my Girl Scout troop."

"Did you enjoy the family outings?" Gail asked. "Having your mother be involved with your extracurricular activities?"

"I guess so. Jack was great until he had that first can or bottle of beer. Virginia tried to make up for his drinking," Carly said. She frowned, as memories of her childhood came to her. The Bensons had the outside trimmings of a perfect life, but inside the two-story house, it was anything but.

Jack Benson drank and Virginia compensated for it. Her mom was always apologizing for Jack's behavior. Overcompensating, in Carly's opinion. Nothing the woman ever did was enough to make Jack put the bottle down. And Carly's love for her daddy wasn't enough to make him stay. Eventually, he just left.

"And you blame yourself for his leaving?" Gail asked, after Carly finished speaking. "If you had been good enough, he would have loved you enough to stay?"

Now with tears streaming down her cheeks, Carly nodded and sniffled. "But nothing I did was ever enough. How could it be? My own mother didn't want me. She gave me away. The first chance, Jack got he left. If Virginia could have managed it, she would have left me, too."

Gail's face held an expression of compassion and concern. "Did Virginia ever say that to you?"

"No, but..."

"You're making an assumption?" Gail asked.

Carly's temper flared. "No! I lived with the woman! I know she didn't want me!"

"What did she do to make you feel this way?" Gail asked, not responding to Carly's anger. "Did she stop participating in your Girl Scout troop? Did the dinners stop? What did she do?"

"She didn't have to do or say anything!" Carly insisted. "I just know."

"I think you assumed," Gail said quietly. "You believed that because you were adopted and because Jack left, that Virginia wouldn't want you either."

"You're assuming wrong," Carly grumbled. "You weren't there."

"You're right," Gail agreed. "I wasn't, but you were. When you're ready, I want you to take a good, long look back to the relationship you had with Virginia. And be honest."

Carly paused for a moment. "Maybe she wasn't that bad, but how does that help me now? Michael and I moved back in with Sonny, but... It feels like nothing I ever do is good enough or right."

"With Michael or with Sonny?"

A hint of a smile touched Carly's lips. "Michael is a great guy. He's my little man. It's Sonny... His daughter is back now and she and Dara are living across the hall. I feel all this pressure to compete with them and no matter what I do, it won't measure up."

"Have you told Sonny any of this?" Gail asked. "Are you communicating with him? Holding everything inside builds resentment."

"He never wants to hear anything I say."

"Is your marriage important to you? To both of you?"

Carly nodded. "To me, it is."

"Then you both need to communicate. No marriage can survive without communication."

Carly swallowed hard. Communicate? Wasn't that what they were already doing and no matter what she said, it came out wrong?

"Okay, Dr. Baldwin," she said, summoning up her courage from somewhere. "I'll talk to Sonny and we'll work on our communication skills."

# # #

Dara smiled as Hope joined her on the sofa. She put away the James Patterson novel she'd been reading and watched as Hope grabbed the remote and turned the television on.

"What?" Hope asked, glancing at Dara.

"Nothing," Dara replied, resisting the urge to pull her daughter into a fierce hug. Things had gotten better between them, but spontaneous touching still seemed to be off limits with the teenager. Dara and Sonny prayed that would change as she got to know them. "How did your day with Michael go?"

Hope smiled. Crossing her legs underneath her, she shifted on the sofa to face her mother. "It was great! He's so much fun. Do you think you'll ever have...? Well, you know another kid someday."

"It's a good possibility," Dara said with a soft smile. "I'm not so old that I can't have any."

Hope released a short laugh. "I didn't mean it that way."

Dara took a chance and patted Hope's knee. "I know. I'd like to have another child. It's not high on my list of priorities right now. I'd rather focus more on us."

Pink colored Hope's cheeks as she smiled. "I wouldn't mind having a brother or a sister."

"Well, you already have a little brother. We'll see what I can do about the other."

Hope seemed to be satisfied with that answer. She turned towards the television and began to channel surf. After awhile, she said, "I saw your boyfriend in the hall."

Dara stiffened. She didn't know why. It just happened. "Did you talk?"

"He was getting on the elevator. I didn't want to bother him. He seemed pissed. Did you break up?"

Break up? Where did that idea come from? "No, just a little disagreement."

"Are you gonna marry him?" Hope asked in a rush.

"I've been thinking about it," Dara replied, a little surprised by Hope's line of questioning. She decided a little teasing was in order. "Why? Do you have a better candidate in mind for me?"

"Yeah," Hope said, quietly. "My father."

# # #

Keesha and Sonny stood in the ICU hallway just outside of Jason's hospital room. They'd barely said two words to each other. Both were too busy worrying about the man being examined inside. When Drs. Matt Harmon and Monica Quartermaine stepped out to join them, they raced to get to the surgeons.

"How is he?" Keesha and Sonny asked simultaneously.

"His vitals are normal considering what he's been through."

Keesha felt relief course through her. "That's great!" She stepped to the door. "Is it okay to see him now?"

"Keesha, wait," Monica stated. She lightly placed her hand on Keesha's shoulder. "He doesn't want to see you."

"What?" She shook her head. "Monica, that has to be a mistake. I know he wants to see me."

"There's been a minor setback--"

"What kind of setback?" Sonny asked, interrupting Matt. "What aren't you telling us?"

"The swelling around Jason's spinal injury has caused paralysis," Matt replied, unconsciously gripping the arm of his wheelchair. "He has no feelings in the lower quadrant of his body."

"He's paralyzed?" Sonny repeated, his expression dumbstruck.

"I must see him!" Keesha moved again to the door.

Monica was faster and blocked the entrance. She grabbed Keesha's upper arms. "I'm sorry, but he doesn't want to see you. He specifically asked that you not be allowed to see him now."

Tears blurred Keesha's vision. "But Monica...I have to see him. Please."

"I know," Monica said, her voice raspy with emotion. "I wish I didn't have to tell you this. He's upset and he's not ready to see you."

"Just give him some time," Matt said gently from behind her. "He'll come around."

"You're talking like this permanent," Sonny said. "Is it?"

"We won't know for sure until the swelling goes down."

"I want to see him," Sonny declared.

Monica grimaced. "You, he's agreed to see. Go in, but you don't have more than five minutes. That's all."

"Dr. Quartermaine," Sonny began.

"Don't!" Monica bit out. "If it wasn't for you... Just don't. Five minutes. If you take longer, I'll have security throw you out."

Keesha reluctantly stepped aside to so that Sonny could enter Jason's hospital room. When he grabbed the door handle, she said, "Tell him I'm here and I'll be here as long as he needs me."

Sonny nodded once. "Will do."

He pulled the door opened and this time, she placed her hand on his arm as she said, "Tell him I love him."

Sonny nodded again and went inside.

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