*Words of Wisdom*
Confident in his parenting skills and non-interference from his family, AJ returned to work at General Hospital and enrolled Michael in its day care program. His lunches were taken with his son who never ceased to amaze him. The baby's intelligence grew daily and his social skills made AJ proud. He wondered how a parent could turn his back on his child. He wondered how his own father did that to him.
AJ reviewed Stefan's latest memo. His boss approved everything on AJ's last list of suggestions and gave AJ permission to go ahead with the changes. As he began to follow Stefan's instructions, he heard footsteps behind him. He glanced over his shoulder to see a surprise visitor.
"Dad? What are you doing here?" Immediately, he noticed Alan's bloodshot eyes. He grabbed his father's wrist and helped him sit on one of the Nautilus machines. "You don't look so good."
Alan waved away his concerns. "I'm fine. Just a little tired. The hospital keeps me very busy--"
"Dad, that's not it." AJ held his father's face and tilted it toward the light. Looking into his father's eyes was like looking into a reflection of his former self. Back when substance abuse was a way of life and the only life he thought he wanted. "What are you taking?"
"Let go!" His father tried to pull free, but AJ refused to release him.
"No, not until you tell me."
The older man's face flushed bright red. He sat rigid and reminded AJ of a petulant child. Finally, Alan relaxed. "Just pain pills. It's my hand. Nothing else seems to work."
"You need to stop taking them. They're not helping you--"
"Yes, they are! You're looking at me like I'm an addict. I'm not. I need them."
AJ wrapped his arms around his father and hugged him. "What you need is help and I think that's why you came in here. Let me help you. You can't go on like this. Too many people need you."
Alan's massive shoulders shook as sobs overtook him. "I'm not an addict," he cried.
AJ wiped the tears from his father's face. "Yes, you are, but it's okay. You can recover from this. Will you come back to my apartment and we can talk about this?"
AJ briefed a sigh of relief. That was almost as good as admitting the addiction. "Right now."
Emily sat beside him on the grass. She seemed deep in thought and tense with uncertainty. Lucky found it strange how easily he read her emotions. He guessed that love did that to people. "Em?" He took a blade of grass and slid it over her arm. Her responding shiver made him smile. "Why are you so quiet?"
She met his gaze with haunted brown eyes. "I wasn't sure if I should tell you."
The grass fell from his hands. He then wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Tell me what? Is your mom sick again?"
"No," she said with a toss of her head. "This isn't about my family, but yours. I saw your dad the other day."
Lucky tensed. They'd had this conversation before. He didn't want to have it again. "I don't want to talk about him."
"I know and that's why I haven't said anything, but Lucky, he's looking bad." She took his hands and squeezed. "He doesn't have anyone. Your mom and sister are still in North Caroline. Your aunt won't have anything to do with him, you told me so yourself. Someone has to help him."
"He brought this on himself, Em. He looks bad because he's full of hate--
"And you're not?" She fixed him with a hard stare. "If you don't watch out, you'll be just like him."
"That's not fair!"
"Did you ever apologize to Nikolas for calling him a product of rape? You're not a part of the Spencer/Cassadine conflict, but no one would know. You have an older brother who isn't so bad once you get to know him."
He clenched his jaw and spoke through gritted teeth. "Cassadine is your friend, not mine."
"It doesn't have to be that way."
He stood, turning his back to her. He didn't want to validate her words of wisdom. They made too much sense. Hell, he simply didn't want to hear them.
She followed him. Her arms circled him from behind. She rested her head against his back. "When my mother died, I had the comfort in knowing that she knew I loved her. I was fortunate that the Quartermaines adopted me and loved me, too. I don't want you to miss out on the love of your family. You and Bobbie are close and that's good, but…"
"But what?" He held her hands close to his heart. "What do you want me to do?"
"What I want is that you don't have any regrets. Nothing more."
Dara met Ellen in her office after hours. Not for the first time, Dara was grateful that her cousin studied medicine. Especially when discretion was so necessary. "What is it?" she asked, chewing on her bottom lip. "It's not the flu, is it?"
Ellen shook her head. "I don't have to read the results, do I?"
Dara released a ragged breath. "I'm pregnant."
"Yes," her cousin affirmed. "I would congratulate you, but judging by the look on your face… What's wrong? Won't Mac be happy about this news?"
"Probably…if the baby was his." Dara stood and headed to the door. Her cousin's words of wisdom were the last thing she wanted to hear right now. "Thanks, Ellen. I'll call you later."
Since signing Dara to L&B Records, the record company had been besieged by a plethora of talent. Ned and Brenda spent a good amount of time listening to demos and booking studio time. When Ned left ELQ, he had no idea that L&B would match his family's company in time and effort. Pride at fast everything was booming made his chest swell. Then, he'd glance at Brenda working beside him. Love quickly took pride's place.
"Ned? I've been thinking," she said as she pushed pause on a rockabilly demo tape.
"What, sweetheart?" He looked up from the list of Dara's next tour of engagements. Signing Dara was by far the best deal they made to date.
"I have an answer for you."
He frowned. An answer for what? Then, he caught the magical gleam in her brown eyes. Anxiety did a rude thing to his stomach. He rubbed his abdomen and sat back, waiting.
"I would very much like to be Mrs. Ned Ashton--"
"YES!" He jumped from the chair and swung her into his arms.
"Ned, wait." She linked her hands behind his neck. "We should talk to Lois first. She's my best friend and I'll need her blessing. If she gives it…oh, Ned, I love you so much."
"Lois will be happy for us," he said, drawing her close. "I love you, too, Brenda. We'll be happy together. For ever and always."