~A Fork in the Road~
AJ rubbed a weary hand across his face as he waited for the coffee to brew. A night of tossing and turning prevented him from getting a decent night's sleep. The longer Michael was missing, the worse it got. It didn't even matter if he was the baby's father. He was just worried sick about him regardless, and the not knowing was killing him.
The last drop hit the coffeepot and AJ was ready for it. Somehow, he summoned the energy to move fast enough to fill his mug with the steaming brew. He didn't bother with sugar and cream. The full effect of the caffeine would provide the jolt he needed to start another day. The first taste was strong. Not quite the way he liked it, but he hadn't quite gotten the hang of making coffee, yet. The taste would have to do.
He left the kitchen are of his tiny apartment and started to shuffle back to his bedroom. A vicious pounding on the door stopped him in his tracks. Who would come by his place this early? Maybe it was Scott! He hurried to the door and pulled it open. His mother's flustered face stared back at him and before he could say a word, she brushed inside.
"I've been trying to reach you for days."
"I've been busy," he answered, as he closed the front door. He swallowed more coffee before he turned to face her. He hadn't seen her this agitated in a long time. "What's wrong?"
"Why don't you check your messages?" she ranted on.
"I do!" he sputtered in his defense. "You said for me to call you back. I'm sorry, but other things have been on my mind. You're here now. Stop yelling at me and tell me what's wrong. Please."
She sighed. "It's your brother-"
"I don't have a brother. His words not mine."
Monica shook her head. "You have one now, and trust me, those words won't come out of his mouth again."
"What's that supposed to mean?" AJ asked.
"Our Jason is back," she said, a bright smile suddenly on her face. "He was beaten up pretty badly and was comatose for a short while. When he woke up, he wasn't the same anymore. He is the Jason he used to be. He's been asking about you. He wants to see you."
The news stunned AJ. He hadn't expected this. The doctors told them Jason would never be the same again. He'd just reconciled himself to not having a brother anymore and knowing that he was the reason why. Now, everything had changed. Jason was back. His beloved young brother was back!
"Don't you have anything to say?" his mother questioned. "Isn't this wonderful news? Aren't you happy-"
"Mom, please," he said, cutting her off. "Of course, I'm happy. I'm just surprised... Where is he? I want to see him."
"He's at GH, but I think he will be discharged later today. I'll have to speak with his doctor."
"This is the best surprise," AJ said, honestly. He went to his mother and hugged her. She hugged him back and kissed his cheek as the hug ended. The gesture made AJ feel good. It told him that she loved him still, but there was another parent, he wasn't so sure of. "How's Dad taking it? And the rest of the family?"
"Your Dad..." A strange look crossed her face. "It's hard to say what's going through Alan's mind. He's been very excited. He and Edward are planning a big celebration. It's actually strange to see them get along. The rest of the family is stunned, but happy. I'll call you with details. If he is released today, I expect you to be there for family dinner."
He smiled. "I will be. Thanks again for stopping by to tell me."
"Of course," she said, beaming. "I wanted you to know, sweetheart. I'll see you later."
After a brief talk with Bobbie, Carly learned why Jason didn't recognize her. Two years ago, she didn't exist in his world. And now, with him calling out for Keesha of all things, he would never know her. That hurt. In a matter of weeks, she'd not only lost her baby, but the man she loved, too. It wasn't fair. Nothing ever turned out right for her. No matter how hard she tried, it seemed like the entire world was against her.
Carly needed someone to be in her corner. She thought Bobbie could be that person, but her biological mother didn't trust her. Bobbie tried to pretend otherwise, but there was always a hint of wariness around her when they talked. Carly could have pressed the issue, but why? Maybe it wasn't worth pressing. Besides, she still had another mother.
The nurses at the convalescent home smiled at Carly as she moved down the hallway to Virginia's private room. Carly knocked once and entered. Virginia nodded at her and continued with her exercises. She did the movements incorrectly and Carly went to her and showed her the proper way to do the exercise.
"There's a reason why they have Physical Therapists," Carly told her. "You shouldn't do this without them."
"I do okay," Virginia slurred the words slightly, but Carly understood.
"Yes," she agreed, "but you're not doing them right. Pay attention to me. This is how you should move your arm. This is the proper range of motion."
They did the move together. Then Carly stepped back and instructed Virginia to do it on her own.
"That's good, Momma," she said with a smile. "Like that."
Perspiration glistened on Virginia's forehead with the exertion. Carly grabbed a towel from the bathroom and dabbed the other woman's forehead.
"You're welcome," Carly mumbled. She looked around the room. It was well-kept. Jason's money paid for it, but that would soon come to an end. Carly would have to find some way to make the future payments. She'd have to quit school. She'd have to get a job. She'd have to be responsible.
"Yes, Momma?" Carly offered her a tight smile as she looked at her.
Carly poured water into her mother's tumbler. She adjusted the straw and handed it to her. Virginia sipped her fill and gave the tumbler back to Carly. "What's wrong?"
Carly shrugged as she set the water down on the nightstand. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she told her about the recent events. "Things will change. I have some money in my savings account, but that won't last. I'm quitting school and finding a job. I suppose I could get something at a hospital..."
"You can do it, Caroline," Virginia encouraged with a twisted smile. "I know you can."
Virginia believed in her, Carly realized. It brought tears to her eyes and she wrapped her arms around Virginia and hugged her.
"This is a pleasant surprise," Dara greeted Robin with the smile and held the door open for her to enter.
Robin returned the smile as she stepped into the living room. "Hi, Dara. I hope I'm not intruding."
"You're not." Dara closed and locked the door. "You're welcome here anytime. I thought you knew that."
"I do. It's just that you and Uncle Mac are newlyweds. I don't want to intrude on you."
"You're not intruding. Have a seat." Robin sat on the sofa and Dara added, "Could I get you anything to drink or eat?"
Dara sat on the nearby easy chair. An expectant look was on her face. "Well..."
"I was looking for Uncle Mac. I wanted..." Tears blurred her vision. She tried to blink them away, but that only caused them to fall down her face. Dara was immediately at her side. "I don't know what's wrong with me," Robin sniffled. "I'm sorry for breaking down like this."
"It's okay," Dara assured her. "Just tell me what's wrong. Your Uncle Mac isn't here, but I am good listener, too."
"This is so silly," she said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "I can't believe I'm crying like this. I thought I had moved past him and what happened. But when I saw him with Keesha, everything came back. I still love him and now, I'll never have him."
"Who are we talking about?" Dara asked. "Not Jason Morgan, right?"
"Y-Yes," Robin stammered. "Jason, but I'm not sure about the last name."
"He's with Keesha? I thought they didn't have anything to do with each other. When did this change?"
Robin sniffled. "So many things have changed. Jason has changed. His memory returned, but he won't remember what we shared. When he looks at me, he won't remember a thing. He won't remember what we meant to each other. I apologized to Keesha, but I didn't know... I didn't know how much she hurt. This hurts so bad..."
"Come here." Dara put her arms around Robin's thin trembling shoulders. She rocked her gently. "I'm sorry that you're hurting like this. It's said that you can never know what someone else has suffered until you've walked in that person's shoes. It's overwhelming, isn't it?"
"Y-Yes," Robin agreed. "I'd always thought that maybe one day... We were good together, but it won't happen again."
"You never know..."
"I know," Robin told her. "I saw the look on his face when he held her. Even when he was mine, he never looked like that with me. So determined and so full of love. Keesha always had a part of him that I never would. I didn't realize that until I saw them."
"I'm sorry," Dara said softly.
"Thank you," Robin said as Dara released her. "You're right. You are a good listener. I hope that you and Uncle Mac will be very happy together."
Dara looked away. "I hope so, too," she murmured in a hoarse voice.
"Is something wrong?" Robin asked as she finished drying her tears. "I can return the favor. I'm a good listener, too."
Dara nodded. "Your Uncle left this morning and I don't know when he's coming back. Robert is with him so I guess that should give me some comfort, but it doesn't. I want him here and not out chasing... If something happens to him, I'll never forgive myself."
"I don't understand. Who are they chasing? Where did they go?"
Dara stood up. She went to the fireplace and removed the framed photograph of their wedding photo from the mantle. "Mac left to confront Sonny Corinthos. I don't know where he and Robert went. He refused to tell me. I guess he doesn't want me to be an accomplice. I wish he'd be more concerned about me becoming a widow."
"Why would Uncle Mac go after Sonny?" Robin asked. "He quit the force. I thought he left police work behind him."
"This isn't about his job, Robin," Dara said quietly. "This is personal. For a brief time, Sonny and I were involved. It ended, but not for Sonny. He doesn't seem to grasp that I prefer Mac to him. He won't leave me alone and Mac believes there's only one way to stop him."
"Oh, my God," Robin murmured. She couldn't believe her Mac could be so ruthless in his thinking. She knew he used to be a mercenary, but that was his past. And her Dad was with him? This was bad. She went to Dara and took her hands. "When was the last time you spoke to him?"
"When he left. He said he won't call until the job is d-done..."
Robin drew Dara into a hug. "I'm sure they'll come back safely. They have to. You shouldn't be alone right now. Would you mind if I stayed over until they come back?"
Dara shook her head. "No, I wouldn't mind. It would be good to have family around."
Keesha had been with him all morning, and Jason couldn't tear his eyes away from her. The feeling that it had been years since he'd last seen her wouldn't leave him. He didn't understand what it meant. He wanted to ask someone, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know the truth. But with Keesha's demeanor around him going back and forth between relief and wariness, he decided that he couldn't be a coward. He had to know why she looked at him as if she shouldn't trust him.
He took her hands. They trembled within his grasp, but she didn't pull away. She looked down at their joined hands and then her gaze went to his face. Her brown eyes stared at him. She was searching and Jason had to know what she was searching for.
"Tell me the truth, Keesha," he implored. "What's going on?"
"What have they told you?" she asked quietly. "I spoke to your doctor, but he wouldn't tell me anything since I'm not family. Monica has been too excited to tell me anything."
He nodded. That sounded right. His parents looked older and their behavior had never been stranger. "They haven't told me anything. My head injury has made my memory fuzzy and they told me not to push it. If the memories return, I'll deal with them, but not to worry about them if they don't. What do they mean by that? What memories? I've only been in here a few days, right?"
Keesha squeezed his hands. She took a deep breath and then asked, "What year is this?"
"The year?" he repeated with a chuckle. "Come on, Keesha. What year do you think it is?"
"I'm asking the questions right now," she said, her expression serious. "What's the year, Jason?"
"You sound serious," he said quietly as a chill went down his spine. "I'm almost afraid to tell you."
She shook her head. "You don't have to be afraid with me," she told him. "Just tell me."
"It's 1996. The New Year came a short while ago."
She drew in a harsh breath. Her bottom lip trembled ever so slightly. "That's what I thought."
"Am I right?" he asked, becoming anxious. "It's 1996, right?"
Long, dark curls brushed her cheeks as she shook her head. "No, it's not. It's 1998-"
"Two years!" He reared back and he released her hands. Running his hand over his almost bald scalp, he shook his head. "It can't be. Not two years! I couldn't have been in a coma that long. Look at me! My muscles would have atrophied. I move around without any problems. No, I can't believe I've been in a coma for two years."
"That's good," she answered, "because you haven't been. After the car accident in 1996, you woke up a different person. You had brain damage and Dr. Jones told us the damage was permanent."
Jason's fingers traced the outline of the bandage on the back of his head. Staring at Keesha, he asked, "What else? How was I different?"
Keesha swallowed hard. "I'm not sure I should be telling you this. If the doctors didn't mention it, they must have had a reason. If your parents-"
"They didn't have the guts, sweetheart," he interrupted quietly. "Please, just tell me the rest. What kind of man was I that caused you to look at me the way you did? That first day, you mentioned something about arresting me. What was that about? What happened between us when I woke up two years ago?"
Tears glistened in her eyes and choked her voice. "You didn't know me and you didn't want me around-"
"Yes," she said, the tears rolling down her cheeks. "I couldn't get it that you were a different person. I thought that if you saw me enough, you'd remember me. But it didn't work that way. The more you saw me, the more you h-hated me..."
"I could never hate you."
She shrugged. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, she continued, "Maybe hate is a strong word, but you didn't like me very much. You didn't seem to like too many people. You moved out of the mansion, changed your last name to Morgan and started working for Sonny Corinthos. Sonny and Robin became the people in your life. You shut everyone else out except for Emily and Lila."
"Stop," he said quietly. "I don't want to hear anymore. At least not right now."
"Okay. I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have said anything," she said, moving to stand. His hand closed around her wrist, making it impossible for her to move. "Jason, I should leave."
"I don't want you to go. I'm getting discharged today. I want you to be with me when that happens."
"I-I'm not sure," she hesitated.
Jason read fear in her eyes and he understood it. He shifted his hand until their fingers laced together. The perfect fit was like Heaven and felt like a soothing balm. "I'm sorry for the things I did before and for hurting you. I'm not that Morgan person. I'm not him, Keesha. I'm the Jason who loves you. I don't know if you're with someone new... God, I hope not. Are you?"
She shook her head. "Not really."
"That's almost a good answer," he said with a short chuckle. "I'm still in love with you, and I want to be with you. What do you want? Or is this too soon to ask?"
Keesha shook her head. "It's not too soon."
He held his breath as he watched her beautiful mouth curve into a smile. Wariness faded from her eyes and love replaced it. He released the air he'd been holding and opened his arms. She went to him and hugged him back as fiercely as he hugged her.
Tony looked around his apartment one last time. He'd packed his essential belongings and they were already loaded into the car. Looking around, he wanted to be sure that he hadn't left anything of importance behind. The pictures of Lucas were safely tucked away inside his suitcase along with all of his prized possessions. Once he was sure that there was nothing he needed still in the apartment he once shared with Carly, he left, locking the door behind him.
To his relief, he didn't pass anyone he knew in the hall. No one would miss him. He moved around in an invisible bubble. No one ever saw him unless they needed someone to blame, someone to push around, or someone to hurt. Well, as soon as he left Port Charles, those someone's could just go to hell. Dr. Tony Jones wouldn't be around for them to ignore anymore.
He guided his packed Ford Bronco to the outskirts of town to the old cabin he sometimes used to get away from the world. He parked the truck and went inside. Tammy, the new woman in his life, smiled as he entered the cabin. A small suitcase rested beside her feet and she picked it up.
"I have it," he said, taking the case from her as he brushed his lips across hers. As he stood up, he looked at the small bassinet on the bed. "How is he? Has he been good?"
"A perfect angel," she gushed. "I've never known such a well-behaved baby. You know I've been thinking. We can't keep calling him 'Baby.' He deserves a better name."
"That's fine," Tony said, waiting for her as she grabbed the diaper bag and the portable bassinet. She went to the door and he followed her. "We can decide on the name while we're on the road. I'm open to anything except Michael. We're making a new start, and he will have a new name."