Keesha closed her eyes and let the scent of Lilaís roses overtake her.  She sat on the bench in the middle of the rose garden, letting the sun beam down on her feet, as she swung her feet back and forth.  It was so- -

"Peaceful," a voice said next to her, reading her mind.

"I was thinking the same thing," she concurred, "great Ward minds think alike."

Pulling her slight frame into a bear hug, Justus kissed the top of her head.  Keesha remained enclosed in her older cousinís arms, loving the feel of having a bit of home and family surround her.  It had been so long.  After a few minutes, she reluctantly let go and moved slightly away from him.

"Little Bit, whatís wrong?"

"Why does anything have to be wrong for a girl to spend time with her favorite cuz?  Particularly one she hasnít seen in ages."  She pulled his ear. 

"Ouch!" he yelled and grabbed his ear.

"Thatís for getting married and not telling me or anyone else in the family.  I had to listen to Aunt Bessie for over two hours about how Granny Mae is spinning in her grave because of this new generation that have no sense of family responsibility."

Justus grinned.  "Weíll send her an invitation to the reception."

She cocked an eyebrow and he continued.

"Lila asked and Edward demanded.  Plus Brenda wants to show off our family."

"Whipped already?"

"Damn right," he agreed, nodding his head.

Keesha smiled and shook her head.  "Brenda Barrett, who would have guessed?"

"Brenda Ward-Quartermaine.  And neither of us did.  It caught us by surprise, but weíre different people then the ones who knew each other when we lived in Port Charles before.  And weíre definitely different from the people who first stepped foot in this town," he sighed, "life has dealt us some harsh blows, but we both survived and are stronger for it and found a lot of common ground because of it."

Taking a closer look at her cousin, she noticed the new wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, the hardened look in his eyes that wasnít there before, and the specks of grey around the edges of his temple.  Life could definitely kick you in the butt.  She had spent
some time with her new cousin and had been impressed by the mature Brenda, who no longer pined for Sonny.

"Wait, did you say Ward Quartermaine as in Ward hyphen Quartermaine?"

He wondered when she would pick up on that.  "Yes, with a hyphen."

"How did this come about?"

"It came about from being separated from you and the Quartermaines for so long.  Being back here with you and them reminded me of something I forgot," he paused, "how important family is.  When Sage was living with me, I wanted nothing more than for her to know those I loved and not just hear about them through my stories.  But what really got the ball rolling was Stone.  Weíre amending his birth certificate so he can officially have Sonnyís name. Heíll now be known as Robin Stone Cerullo Corinthos-Quartermaine.  He wondered why he didnít have the same last name as his big sister and his mom. So Sage came up with Quartermaine.  Technically, I am one and now being married to Brenda has made me more enmeshed in the family than ever before.  Once Sageís adoption is finalized, sheíll be Sage Mary Ward-Quartermaine, daughter of Justus and Brenda Ward-Quartermaine, as will the new baby."

"Sage took Granny Maeís name for her middle name?"

"Yes, sheís come to admire the woman I talked so much about and once Brenda started with her fond memories, it just felt right to her- -"

"Did you say baby?"

"Shh!!!  Brenda will kill me if she knew I let that slip."

Keesha hugged Justus tightly.  "Iím so happy for you. So Iím guessing you really love Mrs. Ward-Quartermaine?" she asked coyly.  That name was going to take some getting used to.

"With the passion that Granny Mae loved Edward and the endurance and fierceness she had for Grandpa."

She admired the steel behind his voice as he declared the  strength of his love for Brenda.  "And this ready made family?"

"Itís," he contemplated the right word, "nice.  Weíre learning to adjust with a little kid around.  Sage is learning how to share our attention and time."

"How did you end up with Sage?" she asked, she wanted to know how Justus ended up parenting the precocious teenager.

"Brenda told her that if she ever needed any help to come find me at the LA branch of ELQ.  One day, I noticed someone following me.  I led the person to a gym in the neighborhood, cornered the person, and to my surprise, my stalker was a fifteen-year-old.  Sage told me what Brenda said and the drama with her father and that was the end of my bachelor days.  Later, I could laugh at the fact that a fifteen-year-old had me
so paranoid."

Giving a fake laugh, Keesha cringed inwardly that her favorite cousin had a reason to constantly be looking over his shoulder.  She shook off these thoughts, she didnít want to venture there today.  Justus made his choices and now had to live with the consequences.

"Little Bit, you were such an easy going teen so I was blown away by Sage.  Sheís defiant, feisty, willful, and too intelligent for her own good, but she can be the sweetest, most sensitive girl in the whole world and is loyal to a fault.  And on top of all that, I
have to deal with her hormones and the boys.  Thank God, you got your figure in college and not before."

"Justus!" Keesha exclaimed.

"What?  Itís the truth.  If I catch one more guy staring at my little girlís bodyÖ"

She giggled.  "Sheís three years away from being a legal adult and she has a lovely figure- -"

"Donít say the words adult and figure in the same sentence as Sage," he demanded.

"Spoken like a true father," she assured him, patting him on the back.  "Is it hard?"

Nodding, his mood sobered and became serious.  "With Stone itís easy.  Brenda, the Cerullos, and Dara helped give him a firm foundation.  Sage on the other hand, was bounced around from boarding school to boarding school; and when she was "home", various nannies took care of her.  And that bast- - Alcazar indulged her every whim, yet couldnít give her the time of day and emotionally abused her.  She and I butted heads a lot in the beginning as we tried to figure our way through this relationship thatís called
father and daughter.  Sometimes I want to scream and kill her, but then I could hear Granny Mae telling me to be patient and remember not everyone had the same
privileged childhood as I had."  Justus looked into his cousinís eyes.  "We were very lucky."

"That we were."

"Luckily, Brenda can relate to a lot of Sageís parental issues, so thatís good.  Weíre in family therapy with Kevin Collins; that helps.  So besides the Alcazar issues, undoing his parental damage, teaching her that she canít have everything she wants, that sheís worthy of our time, love, and affection, we also deal with all the basic teenage issues, school, and boys."

"Ah, the typical life of a parent."

Justus nodded.

"And you love it."

He smiled brightly.

"Those few months alone with Sage brought me closer to Granny Mae than Iíd been since she died."

They both sat in silence for a moment remembering and missing their beloved Grandmother.

"So now tell me whatís wrong?"

Damn, it had felt good hearing about someone elseís life and problems for a while.  "Nothing."

"Funny, thatís the same thing my other cousin said right here in this same exact spot yesterday when I asked him that question."

Keesha looked at him, she wanted to ask but refrained. But the question was very apparent in her eyes.

"Yes, it was Jason.  So whatís up?"

Keesha decided to come clean.  "I donít know thatís the problem."

"Lilí Bit donít lie to me or yourself.  The problem is as simple and complex as this:  do you want to marry the second in command?  Do you want to be the enforcerís wife?  Notice I didnít say commit your life or love him because youíve already done those things. Youíve never stopped loving Jason Quartermaine and you now love the man heís become."  Justus shook his head. "I was mistaken.  The real decision you have to make is:  do you want to be the one that gets the phone call in the middle night saying heís been shot tomorrow or five years from now, or 50 years from now hear the doctor confirm that Jason did indeed die of a heart attack in his sleep; or do you want to get the
information second hand from me?"

Justus leaned over and kissed his little sister on the cheek.  As he stood to leave her to her thoughts and decision, Keesha grabbed him and pulled him back down. She fell against his chest and cried for the seemingly impossible decision she had to make that
would irrevocably change her life forever.