Chapter 20

The evening sky was gradually darkening. Here it was just another day gone by. But in Port Charles the day was just beginning. Reginald would have set out the breakfast spread, and the old man and the rest of the Quartermaines would no doubt be on their fifth or sixth argument of the morning. AJ would be sitting silently through it all, trying desperately to nurse his latest hangover.

Across town at the club, Luke would be breakfasting on Claude's cheese fries and spiked coffee. While at the penthouse, Sonny and Benny were already discussing business over imported coffee and fresh croissants.

And then there was Carly. She probably wasn't even up yet. Mornings were not her ‘thing'. They didn't have to be. Leticia was there to make Michael's breakfast, and keep him company until Carly awoke.

Leticia used to be there, he corrected himself. But not since-

There was no point going over that day again. He couldn't change the outcome, no matter how much he wanted to.

The rustle of newspaper was the only sound at the Quartermaine breakfast table. But then, only Edward and Lila occupied the room. Lila's presence was the single calming influence in her husband's life.

"Good morning, Grandmother, Grandfather." Emily bounced into the room. She kissed Lila on the cheek, sat down at the table and began filling her plate.

"Why the devil are you so cheerful, young lady?" Edward slapped the newspaper down on the table. He saw every encounter with another Quartermaine family member as an opportunity for confrontation.

"Edward, leave the dear girl alone," Lila admonished. "Emily, tell me about last night. Did you have a good time?"

"Oh, yes, Grandmother. It was wonderful. Kind of like that scene in Cinderella where everyone dances around the room in slow motion and-"

"Nonsense!" Edward bellowed. "That Cassadine fiasco was just an excuse to parade their money before everyone. Royalty, my Aunt Fanny!"

"Father, what are you ranting about now?" Alan Quartermaine walked into the room.

"Alan, do you know how your daughter spent last night?"

"Oh, yes, the party," Alan replied, pouring himself a glass of juice. "How was it, Em?"

"I was just telling Grandmother that it was wonderful. I had a really great time."

Edward threw his hands up. "Don't any of you care that the Cassadines are stealing this family away one-by-one? First Ned, who I am glad to say finally came to his senses, then Emily. And oh yes, Justus. I don't want to forget him." He waited for Emily's attention. "I suppose he was there front and center?"

"No, he never showed up. Keesha kept waiting for him, but-"

"Why didn't you say something before now? I knew sooner or later his mob affiliation would get him killed!" Edward walked to the nearby desk and picked up the telephone. "I am going to call Commissioner Scorpio."

"Put the phone down, Father. Justus is fine. I spoke to him this morning," Alan informed him.

"You? Why the devil did he speak to you?"

"I was here when he called," Alan said simply, although not quite truthfully. Over the last few months, he and Justus had forged a tenuous relationship.

The only sound to be heard in the early morning hours was the occasional swish of a brush against canvas. Subdued light flooded the room, illuminating a large painted canvas. Swirls of black and white punctuated by brilliant splashes of color surrounded two dramatic streaks of purple. It was Elizabeth Webber's interpretation of the previous night's bacchanalia.

Elizabeth liked to draw. And paint. Whenever she felt the need, she would come to the little room she called her studio. It was her way to escape, to cope, and express her emotions. Her grandmother - Gram - thought Elizabeth spent too much time there. But other than the boxcar, memories of Lucky Spencer were strongest in her studio.

Lucky. Her paintbrush faltered even as a smile curved her lips. Lucky would have had a lot to say about last night's bacchanalia. Although he and Nikolas were learning to be brothers, Elizabeth doubted Lucky would have let his guard down enough to spend several hours on Spoon Island. Even so, there was no way Lucky wouldn't have given his brother and Andresj' a hard time about all the money spent, or the fact that so many Cassadine relatives were assembled in one place.

Why did life have to be so cruel? She and Lucky were so happy before the fire took his life. Their days were spent talking and planning for the future. Their nights were spent holding each other and dreaming of the day when they would consummate their love.

God, she missed Lucky.

Mac Scorpio checked his watch for what seemed like the tenth time in the last minute. Any moment now, she would walk into the ‘bullpen'. That was the name the officers had given their shared work area. Mac had his door opened just enough to watch her entrance unobserved.

As if on cue, Assistant District Attorney Dara Jensen turned the corner into the squad room. Three days a week she had set aside a block of time to review pending cases with him. Those scheduled visits had become the highlight of his day lately. They were a legitimate excuse to spend time in her presence.

Clad in a ‘powersuit', Dara looked every inch the professional. But to Mac, the tailored jacket and fitted skirt only emphasized a figure he had given a lot of thought to lately. And those legs . . . Uh-oh. He'd almost gotten too distracted by his thoughts. Adopting a casual pose, Mac pretended to be engrossed in the paperwork spread across his desk.

"Hello, Mac!" Dara's cheerful voice rang out as she pushed the door open. "I am glad to see that you're all ready for me."

The commissioner smiled at the irony of her statement. If only she knew the type of thoughts he had been having these past few months. "Hello, Counselor. Ready to tackle these cases?"

The Quartermaine family was by any definition twisted. Well, perhaps twisted was too strong an adjective. Dysfunctional was a more appropriate word. Communication was in the form of yelling, and ‘display of affection' was just code for willingness to lie under oath.

Edward Quartermaine had set the standard for his family. A ruthless businessman, his constantly changing code of ethics applied equally to his personal life. He would fiercely defend his own against any outsiders, but he also wasn't above some internal blackmail if it suited his purpose.

Doctor Alan Quartermaine, though he liked to believe otherwise, had taken on many of his father's vices. Within the family, Alan's earlier battles with his wife Monica were legendary. He had committed some questionable acts toward her in the name of revenge. That they were still together was due largely to Monica's adaptation of the Quartermaine way.

Like Edward, Alan had a son from outside his marriage. Technically, he still had another child or two to go before he matched his father in the illegitimate offspring category.

Unlike Edward with Jimmy Lee Holt or Bradley Ward, Alan had made his son Jason a part of his life almost from the beginning. Jason was his favorite child. It was a hard truth to acknowledge, and a shameful one.

Even now, when the stranger called Jason Morgan occupied his son's body, Alan still loved him best. As a result, he was anxious to keep some kind of relationship with anyone who kept Jason tied to the Quartermaine family.

There was Emily, of course. And there was Justus - his nephew by one of his father's indiscretions. But to call Edward's relationship with Mary Mae Ward merely an indiscretion was to do it a disservice. Alan knew that even now his father's feelings for the woman ran deep. Perhaps that fact explained why he had always held himself somewhat distant from Justus – a show of loyalty to his mother, Lila.

Initially, Alan saw Justus as a way to keep tabs on Jason. But over time the young man had won his respect. Justus had accomplished what Alan himself had not been able to do – maintain the respect and affection of both Jason and AJ.

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*