Sunlight burst through the stained-glass windows of St. Vincent's Cathedral. The fragrance of over a hundred bouquets--domestic and international--provided the sweetest perfume. A string quartet played "Because You Loved Me." Silently, Dawn replayed the lyrics in her mind.
You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you
She wandered to the mirror. Through hazy vision, she inspected her reflection. An off the shoulder, antique white gown offset her honey brown skin. The gown flowed over her hips and down to the floor with a three-foot train trailing behind. Her mother's stylist framed her face in waves of curls. Pearl earrings, a family heirloom, adorned her ears. The matching necklace hung around her neck, emphasizing her pushed and pumped up cleavage.
"Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue," she murmured.
Dara made damn sure they adhered to the old rules. Dawn didn't have to check. It was all there. Old pearls, new dress, borrowed handkerchief and a blue garter. Yep, all accounted for.
She glanced down. God, her hands shook. Clenching them together, she turned from the mirror and moved toward the window. The music was beautiful but just for a moment, she wished there were voices to drown it out. She shouldn't have sent everyone away. The quiet unnerved her.
A single knock and a voice asked, "Decent?"
Relief swept through her. A friend. "Yes, come in!"
The door opened and in walked AJ. He looked so handsome and fit in his white tuxedo. Just looking at him, no one could guess what he'd been through. If anything, he looked more relaxed and content than he ever had before. She smiled and held her hands out to him.
Careful of her attire, he took her hands and swung them back and forth. "Beautiful bride. Happy?"
She nodded. Her voice cracked as she said the single word, "Yeah."
"Scared?" Concern registered in his clear blue eyes.
She shrugged. "A little."
"We leave. Let's go--"
"No!" She tugged on his hands when he would have pulled her to the door. "I'm marrying him!"
"Sure?" He cocked his head to the side.
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me
Dawn nodded. The lingering doubts died a final, quiet death. "Yes, I'm sure."
"You may now kiss your bride," Father John Black told the groom. To the congregation, he announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Stefan Cassadine."
Keesha was allowed to enjoy the ceremony for just another moment more when a vicious twinge squeezed her middle.
"Ow." She clutched Justus' arm. "Get AJ. It's time."
"Mommy?" Maya placed her hand over her mother's large midsection. "Is the baby coming now?"
Keesha patted her daughter's hand. "Yes, sweetie. Right now if we don't get out of here soon."
"Daddy!" Maya stood on the pew and shouted.
With another contraction attacking her, Keesha didn't have the energy to scold. She breathed and counted. Around her, the room parted. Close friends, family and the newlyweds came through.
AJ reached her side first. "Now?"
He curved his arms under her and lifted. She linked her fingers together behind his neck. "I can walk."
"No," he said, firm and definite. "Hospital."
He looked through the crowd, searching for a specific face. "Jason. You drive."
"Maya, stay with Justus!" Keesha called out as her husband rushed her out.
Maya came straight to him. "Uncle Jason, is the baby here, yet?"
"Just about," he said, grateful for her hand to hold. Several times on the race to GH, Keesha's cries shook him down deep. He knew from Michael's birth how difficult childbirth could be. He saw it in Carly's eyes. But he didn't really feel it until he heard Keesha shout or see the way she gripped AJ's hands. He looked down at his daughter and wondered how much pain Keesha endured to bring her here.
"Come sit with us." She tugged his hand, pulling him toward groups of Wards, Quartermaines and Cassadines. "We brought the wedding 'ception here, but not the great big cake."
"We're saving the cake for later," Dawn said as she patted the girl's head. "So that your Mommy and Daddy can have some with us."
A few moments later, AJ dressed in hospital greens appeared. His hair, dark with sweat, stuck to his forehead. He didn't seem to mind. A broad smile made him look years younger.
"Kee fine," he said, bending down as Maya ran to him. He picked her up and held her in the curve of his arm. "Baby perfect. A boy. Strong lungs like mama."
"When can we see them?" Maya asked.
"Soon. Kee rest. Baby rest. But soon," he assured her. "Okay?"
He lowered her to the ground and beckoned to Jason. They moved away to have a private conversation.
"Kee want you. Come."
Puzzled, Jason followed his older brother down the hall to Keesha's recovery room. She looked drained, tired and unnaturally radiant. He gulped, indulging in his desire to gape at her.
"Come. She rest. Come now," AJ prodded.
Jason nodded and obeyed. As he reached her, he noticed she wasn't alone. A tiny bundle lay curled in her arms.
"Alan James Quartermaine, III. I wanted you to see him," she said. "He looks so much like Maya. Would you like to hold him?"
He was barely able to speak. "Yes, I would."
AJ lifted the baby and handed him to Jason. The tiny body could easily fit in the palm of Jason's hands. Silky dark brown curls capped the little one's head. Wrinkly arms waved. His miniature hands balled into fists. Eyes, a curious mixture of brown and blue, met Jason's stare for a brief moment. Then, the infant yawned and promptly fell asleep.
A nurse swept into the room. "We need to take him."
With great reluctance, Jason allowed the nurse to take the baby. As the nurse reached the door, she paused. "The mother needs her rest. Two more minutes."
AJ nodded. "Yes. We go soon." He smoothed Keesha's hair from her forehead. "Rest. Sleep."
The nurse closed the door. Jason moved to follow.
"Wait," AJ said.
Jason came to stand at the foot of her bed. This close to them, he couldn't deny their connection. He wondered why they let him in. He had no business there. He was an intruder.
"We wanted to know if you'd be Jay's godfather," she said.
He frowned. Countless emotions ripped through him. His gut tightened. "I don't know, Keesha."
"We tell Maya," AJ said quietly. "One day, we tell her."
Jason's gaze cut to Keesha. She nodded. "When she's old enough to understand, we'll tell her the truth. All three of us."
"What truth?" Jason asked, aching as he said the words. "AJ's her father and a good one. She l-loves Uncle Jason. I don't want to risk that."
"No risk," AJ said. "She good girl. Good heart."
"Let's wait on it," Keesha said. "There's time."
[Author's note: "Because You Loved Me" sung by Celine Dion.]
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