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Chapter 3:Aftermath

<a href="http://suerm.livejournal.com/564.html">>"Chapter 1:There's No Time!</a>

Redemption

 

Chapter 3: Aftermath

 

Port Charles slowly stirred awake to another lovely fall day. On the surface it appeared much as any other moderate-sized, eastern seaboard city. Its citizens were getting ready for their usual day of work and school. People were eating toast, drinking coffee, and dressing; multi-tasking by watching or listening to the morning news. 

Then as a new report started, heads turned and people stopped what they were doing and saying and simply listened in shock. The newscaster mentioned no one by name, there was no picture for reference.   As she continued to talk, her voice was superimposed over a dark, grainy homemade video of a pier, a crate, a crowd, and glaring spotlights. She spoke of a bizarre, tragic accident involving a young man in his early twenties who worked in tech support for a local coffee importer. There was a logical connection made between his job and his presence on the docks... Around the city, those who knew him listened stunned:

In Kelley’s a coffeepot shattered and Mike raced over to pull Lulu up out of a mixture of glass shards and scalding liquid.

Diane Miller stopped preening in front of the mirror, a tight band of grief swelled in her chest as tears rolled unchecked down her immaculately made up face. 

Elizabeth Webber and Carly Jacks, one watching T.V. the other listening to the radio, simultaneously said “Jason!”

Claudia Zacchara felt her heart skip a beat as a mix of sadness and anger consumed her.  She looked speculatively at her father, who seemed oblivious, and thought she would kill him if he had anything to do with it. Then she reconsidered: he would have already been dead-Jason would have made sure of it. 

Johnny rushed by, heading for the door, his cell phone in hand as he frantically tried to call Lulu.

Robin and Patrick looked at each other across the breakfast table, her eyes wide with concern as she thought of Maxie and then Jason. 

Jax was in the conference room in his offices at the Metrocourt. He had been there all night; work was what kept him sane these days. He watched the report and thought sadly of the young man he had once tried to mentor. So much potential and humanity turned to dust; he felt no surprise; only regret that he hadn’t manage to salvage Spinelli and keep him from his preordained fate. 

Nicholas Cassidine and Nadine Crowell were sitting with Sam, as she lay sedated for shock in a hospital bed; they already knew what had happened. Somehow seeing the footage-the huge crate, brought the reality of it home to Nadine. Nicholas reached across the bed for her hand but she pulled free and ran out into the hall. 

She saw Sonny Corinthos, across in the waiting room where he often cat napped. He was rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck as he watched. Then his expression changed and a grim, cold smile emerged to sit oddly on his lips. 

It was the next news story, seemingly unrelated, that illustrated the duality of life in Port Charles. It had been a violent night all around. A Russian mobster named Karpov and his attorney Sasha Donev, had been killed execution style. Their bodies had been found on the side of the road, with no attempt made at concealment; each had a single bullet wound to the head. The road led to a small private airport, it seemed Mr. Karpov might have been trying to flee.

There was yet another death last night, an Iraqi war vet named Cody Paul, had died of what looked like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen. He had a criminal history and had been addicted to prescription pain pills.

Detective Lucky Spencer had agreed to be interviewed and he admitted that “It wasn’t a common way to commit suicide, but all the evidence pointed to it.”

“Yes,” he said grimly, “Mr. Paul suffered greatly before he died.” In addition, he told the reporter that the Port Charles Police had no leads in the murders of Mr. Karpov and Ms. Donev. “It was likely a mob contract and done by a professional. We might never solve it,” he said sighing.

Everyone affected by Damian Spinelli’s death understood the message-swift justice had been meted out. Not even the softest heart amongst the listeners felt anything but a sad vindication. That was how it was to live in Port Charles; they took care of their own.

 

Jason slumped in the elevator as he rode up to the Crimson offices. He had never felt this exhausted, not even when he had a bullet in him. He had asked Lucky to tell Mac that he would go to Maxie, it had to be him and reluctantly Mac had agreed. He had no idea how he would do this or what he would say. He only knew it was next in a series of Herculean chores that he been asked to perform by Spinelli and failure was not an option.  

 

Maxie had been running on adrenalin and coffee buzz for the last week. After Kate had been shot she had decided that the best way for her to help was to keep Crimson up and running. For a nascent magazine to have both its editor and assistant editor out of commission at the same time would be a crisis no matter what. Through the violent circumstances of Kate’s shooting and the media frenzy surrounding it; a situation now existed wherein Crimson’s literal survival was threatened. So, Maxie was trying to help Kate in her way, but she knew that her own career was on the line as well. Therefore, there was no better incentive for her to dive into work with her trademark mixture of tenacity, charm and inherent comprehension of all things fashion…

 

She left the office late and returned earlier and earlier. Sleep was a foregone luxury, replaced by text messages, e-mails, and phone conferences. Until last night, she had actually been riding a wave of euphoria-she was doing it, she was running Crimson-and well! Last night though she suddenly felt exhausted and the one and only thing she thought of doing was being with Spinelli. He would talk to her, cheer her up, they could cuddle together and she would be revitalized for the days ahead. So, she tried to get in touch with him and that’s when things started to change. 

 

Spinelli had been unreachable. She had called and called-his cell, the landlines at the penthouse and the coffee shop-nothing had worked. Hours had gone by and there had been no response from him. This had never happened, never; she called and he responded with an immediacy that she had grown to rely upon, perhaps even taken for granted… Yet, this time there was only silence and at first she had been piqued, irritated, frustrated that the one person she needed and wanted to see was not responding. 

 

By midnight, she had started to feel uneasy, worrying that perhaps something had happened. She had gone to the penthouse and when no one responded she had let herself into a dark and unwelcoming silence. Clutching her cell phone in her hand like a talisman; she had become increasingly frantic, a sense of foreboding overshadowing all other thoughts.

 

She lay on the living room couch drifting in and out of a restless sleep. Images of Spinelli were constantly floating through her dreams and all of them were terrifying. He didn’t look right, he was pale, almost translucent and the expression on his face was frighteningly heartbreaking. He would call to her and when she would try to run after him and was almost able to reach out and touch him, she would find herself clutching a couch pillow. 

 

Awake she tasted tears that she hadn’t even known were falling. She would bring her cell phone up close to her face and check it hopefully for missed calls but it remained obdurately uncooperative. Then, dazed and fatigued, she would doze off and the nightmares would begin again. Finally, unable to stand it anymore, she had left the penthouse and come to the Crimson offices, while the sun was still hesitating over the horizon.

 

Now it was full day and she knew something was terribly wrong. She was deciding whether to try one more round of phone calls or to break down and call Mac. Maxie knew that Spinelli would not be pleased if he and Jason were out on some reconnoitering mission and her interference caused them to lose their quarry or even worse, get caught red handed doing something illegal. 

She couldn’t think about that though, all she cared about was finding Spinelli and making sure he was safe…nothing else mattered. Just as she getting ready to hit Mac’s number on speed dial the elevator pinged and she turned excitedly, here he was, “Spinelli!” she cried out happily. 

 

It wasn’t Spinelli, it was far, far worse than she had ever let herself imagine-it was Jason coming out of the elevator. Maxie knew that Jason would never come here, not like this, not at this time. Then she saw his face and all hope died. He was transformed, his clothes seemed too large on him and his gait was awkward and stilted, no longer the lithe movement of a large cat. He had lost the quiet aura of power and strength that he wore with assurance. When she looked into his eyes she realized that there was no spark, no spirit present. His skin was stretched tautly over the bones of his face and Maxie realized she was seeing what Jason Morgan would look like as a very old man. 

 

It was ridiculous she knew to even ask, but her mouth opened of its own volition, “Jason, where is he? Where’s Spinelli? I want, I need to see him. Is he coming?...”

 

She didn’t think that he could look worse than he did, but as she spoke and as he heard the pleading in her voice, his features twisted and he said hopelessly in a raw, pain edged voice, “Maxie, Spinelli, he…”

 

Maxie raised her left hand, the one with the traitorous cell phone in it, to cut off whatever he was going to say. She pressed her other hand down hard on the desk she was standing near; desperately fighting for some type of equilibrium, trying to prepare herself for the unendurable.  

 

They came, all the devastatingly familiar sensations; first numbness, then a fiery pain in the pit of her stomach, followed by a rush of bile that she managed to push back down. Maxie Jones was indeed a veteran of grief and she knew what to expect but this time was different. Never before had her heart done this inexplicable dance: first racing so she thought it would explode out of her chest and then taking so long between beats that she could examine her own mortality as she waited to see if it would pulse once more. The other, BJ’s heart, the alien that forever dwelt inside her, warring with her for supremacy over her choices and actions was making its own declaration of unspeakable loss. It seemed that Georgie, Jessie, and Coop had belonged to Maxie only but Spinelli- he had co-opted BJ’s heart along with Maxie’s soul. She had lost the pacemaker of her heart.

 

An inhuman high pitched wail that raised the hackles on Jason’s neck was wrenched from Maxie’s tiny body as she started to crumple towards the floor. He caught her and tried to hold her but her spine was bent at an impossible angle and she arced up out his grip in paroxysms of grief. He was petrified that she would hurt herself and even more frightened that he would hurt her by trying to contain the spasms. He gathered her flailing limbs as firmly as possible and rocked with her in a joint anguish. After an eternity, measured in moments, the incessant, unbearable keening trailed off into whimpering sobs and she finally lay still in his arms. 

 

He looked down into her face, a tear stained reflection of his own. She looked small, lost, and unutterably alone. Jason reached down and gently brushed away the hair glued to her cheek. Then gathering her up into his arms he pressed her against his shoulder. Maxie was now the most precious thing in his universe; Spinelli had charged him with her care and well being and he would protect and support her unto death. 

 

They sat in silence, while Maxie gripped Jason fiercely as though he and he alone were keeping her tethered to life and sanity. After a long while, Maxie slowly pushed back from Jason and looked searchingly into his eyes. “What happened to him, Jason?” she whispered, needing to know, no matter the cost. 

 

Jason swallowed and wished despairingly that he could avoid answering but she was owed the truth. “It…it happened last night on the docks. He and Sam were talking and a crate came off of a crane. Spinelli saved Sam but he was trapped.” He stopped, miserable, not knowing how to continue. Maxie was implacable, silently demanding that he tell her. “He was alive, but there was nothing anyone could do…”

 

Maxie drew in her breath and gave a sharp cry of distress that cut into Jason like a knife. “You saw him, spoke with him, were there with him….?” The words sputtered out of her. Shocked and beside herself, she tried to comprehend why she had not been called, not been allowed the chance to see him, not been given the opportunity to say goodbye. Feelings of bitterness and betrayal welled up within in her to mingle with the raw newness of fresh grief. She pushed away from Jason, crossed her arms defensively and glared furiously at him.

Jason shook his head in denial of her anger, her rejection of his comfort as he tried to explain.  “Maxie…he refused to let you see him like that. He didn’t want that to be your last memory of him.”

 

“No!” she started to cry again, tears rolling down her cheeks while huge gulping sobs erupted out of her. “It isn’t fair! It’s not! I never got to tell him how I feel…” At last the words that had been so long dammed up inside her heart broke free, “I love him, Jason, I love him. He is my world, my lodestone, my best friend, the best part of me. I never told him and now I never can.” She swayed back and forth in anguish, clutching her stomach and moaning.

 

Jason leaned in towards her and placed a hand under her chin stilling her rocking as he tilted her face up to his. “Maxie,” he said gently,” he knew, he absolutely knew. I told him that you love him and he called it a gift beyond measure. He was so happy to hear it. He said he loves you; that he had wanted to see your face last thing at night and your smile first thing in the morning. He wanted to build a life with you. So, no matter how you never said it to him or he to you; it was absolutely real and true and pure and reciprocated. You loved one another and no one can say otherwise.”

 

Maxie was absorbing every word he said like they were life sustaining droplets of something very precious. Then her expression changed abruptly as the realization of why she would never hear those three simple words from Spinelli’s lips struck her anew. “Oh, God!” she whimpered, “I’ll never see him again, never hear him call me Maximista, never feel his arms wrapped around me. I’ll never feel safe and loved and protected, because he is the one that did that for me, no one else ever did.” Her voice held total desolation.

 

Suddenly, she became panicked and looked up at Jason with wide stretched, tear filled eyes. “I’ll be lost, Jason! He was the only one who could save me, who saw something worthwhile-even good-inside me.” Clutching at his arm, she asked, “How are we going to survive Jason? How will we go forward today, tomorrow…?” Maxie stopped, her eyes turned inwards while she contemplated a bleak, empty future. How could she survive in a world lacking Spinelli’s gentle, kind, loving presence; that which over time, she had come to rely on as a buffer against the cold, uncompromising cruelty of life. Her safe haven had been ripped away from her just as she had come to trust that he would always be there for her. 

 

Jason sighed and said brokenly, “I don’t know how, I really don’t. We have to though; we have to because Spinelli would want us to. He said that you and I have to live for him and I promised him we would. Our lives aren’t purely our own anymore, they also belong to him. We have to think about what he would do, how he would act. We must honor him; show him how much his life meant and how much he will forever be missed. Our lives have to be living memorials to Spinelli.”

 

Maxie looked at him with a deep abiding sadness, “We can’t be Spinelli, no one can be him. He was the best person I have ever known. You and I,” she paused, looking at Jason, and then finished, “…we’re damaged goods.”

 

Jason closed his eyes and frowned as he said harshly. “You’re right…I am nothing like Spinelli. I bring destruction to everyone I touch, including him. He would be here right now, if it weren’t for me…” his words dissolved in a welter of pain and self-loathing.

 

After a moment, he regained his self control, and continued. “Maxie, you should hate me. I hate myself. I found out this wasn’t an accident-he died because of his association, his connection, to me!” Tears began streaming disregarded down his cheeks and his voice was thick with more. “Then I went and did something I know he wouldn’t have wanted or asked for. I sought retribution; I broke my promise to him. I said I would change, try to be a better person. I just couldn’t let the people who did that to him, not to him, go unpunished… I couldn’t.”

 

Maxie looked at Jason in astonishment. This man who never thought twice about using violence to further his ends, his needs, was disintegrating right before her eyes. Jason, whom she had grudgingly tolerated for Spinelli’s sake, but whom she thought devoid of most emotions, was being torn to shreds by guilt and grief. He was just like her, everything she was feeling he felt. They were both teetering on the edge of the black hole that was Spinelli’s death. If one was saved both might be; if one was lost, so was the other. Yet, that could never be allowed to happen because then Spinelli would have died for nothing. 

 

Tentatively, Maxie reached out her hand to Jason and he gripped it with painful force. “Jason, you can’t blame yourself for his death. I know you would have done anything to protect him; you would have sacrificed yourself for him without a thought. You would never knowingly let him go into danger.”

 

“If he had never met me there would never have been any risk of danger,” Jason said dully.

 

“Spinelli wanted to be in your life. He loved you, Jason; he loved and admired you so much. You were his hero, his big brother, maybe even his father.”

 

“No! I didn’t have the right to pretend to be any of those things to him. I’m nobody’s hero; I’m a thug, an enforcer, a stone cold killer!”

 

“If that’s all you are, what does that make Spinelli?” Maxie demanded fiercely. “He loved you and me,” her voice broke, but she went on. “That heart of his, that wonderful, all seeing, all encompassing heart of his; do you dare tell me that he was wrong when he chose to give it to us? He put his life, his hope, his trust on the line for both of us time after time with no expectations. Even when we used him, were impatient with him, or hurt him; it never swayed his regard for us. He understood us better than we understand ourselves. To say you or I weren’t deserving of his love is spitting on the most precious gift either of us will ever receive!” She stopped, dizzy from fatigue and overwhelming emotion. 

 

Jason had raised his head and was listening, hanging on every word. She could see something stirring in his eyes, behind the pain. Perhaps it was the same flare of hope she could feel flicker deep down inside herself. 

 

“As to the other, Jason, I can’t absolve you for what you did. I can only say that I’m glad you did it. Spinelli, wasn’t us, he didn’t have a vengeful bone in his body.” Maxie looked at Jason with a cold smile flickering on her lips. “I appreciate what you did. I hope the bastards who did that to him-to us-suffered before they died and for all eternity afterwards.”

 

Jason looked at Maxie, dismayed at what she had just said.  The smile vanished as quickly as it came and she looked a little sick. “S…someday,” she stammered, trying to reclaim her soul, the inner goodness that Spinelli saw in her, “we won’t react that way. We’ll deal with pain without lashing out; we’ll learn to be more like him…”

 

They sat in silence for a moment, each lost in memories and grief. Maxie thought about Spinelli, about how much he had loved and admired this strange, taciturn man. His was the only presence she could bear to tolerate as she processed the first awful intimations that she would indeed survive, and even live, in a world that suddenly lacked grace, compassion and love. They had both lost him and Jason, unbelievably, seemed as grief stricken as she was. Maxie knew what Spinelli would wish for her to do and so she reached out her arms to the broken man sitting across from her. He came into her embrace with a groan, and she rocked and soothed him. “Shh, shh, It’s okay, I’ve got you, just let it go.” For once Maxie managed to put aside her own sorrow and reach out to someone in the same pain and try to heal him. Jason cried with anguish and abandon; wrapped in the safety of her arms. “He’s gone! I’ll never see him again…”

 

In that moment an unbreakable bond was formed between two damaged people-a tiny broken blonde sprite and an angry misfit. They had been bought together by the shared burden of unconditional love and faith. For the rest of their lives, they would protect and preserve the legacy of the one person who saw past the darkness to the light that emanated from each of them. 

 

 

 

 

 

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