Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this story. They belong to TPTB at ABC and the creators of General Hospital.
By, Ashley J.
Pouring himself another glass of whiskey, Luke closed his eyes and saw her face, forever emblazoned in his memory. It was a mixture of that young, sweet smile filled with exuberance for life and that blank stare he'd watched blinking obliviously at the wall for four years. The lump in his throat rose at the memory of seeing that smile break through the four years of blankness, and another tear slipped down his cheek as he remembered her slipping away.
He stared at the mirror over the bar, and he looked at his own reflection, seeing the damage the years had done to him. God, how had she even seen the same man she'd seen four years ago? He wasn't that man anymore. He was a coward. He was a deadbeat father. He was a liar. He was a drunk. Well, maybe some things never changed. But she'd seen the good in him. Maybe she really was an angel.
He swallowed the last gulp and smacked the glass down on the counter, hearing a definitive crack form at the base of it. He smirked, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. What was one ruined glass? It wasn't his money paying for it anyway. Money. How had something so insignificant cost him so much? If he hadn't been such a greedy bastard, maybe he never would have gotten tangled up with Tracy. Maybe he would have been a better father. Maybe he would have stopped and listened to his heart…listen to what Laura had wanted.
Getting up off of the barstool, Luke took a deep breath and looked around at the Christmas decorations that adorned each crevice and corner of the place. He'd traveled through the past month in a daze, as if he was in the same place as Laura where time stood still. His heart felt frozen. It felt as if a brick of lead had been dropped in the pit of his stomach.
He meandered over to the doors, swinging them open and letting a flurry of snow and wind hit him. He pulled his arms tightly around his body and gazed over the water toward town. He looked up at the sky, seeing nothing but the moon, partly hidden by snow clouds.
"Merry Christmas, Angel," he whispered. "I know we already celebrated…I don't even know if you remember." His cell phone rang for the sixth time in thirty minutes. He didn't even care to look down at the name. Nothing mattered. He couldn't even care. It was as if her slipping away had drained his life force away. The kids had forgiven him, but he didn't know why. He had lied. He'd lied to everyone…except for Laura.
"What the hell are you doing?" came that raspy voice from behind. He closed his eyes, shuddering in discontent.
"Go away, Spanky. I'm not in the mood for this." Tracy took a step back, sensing his tone, but she knew better than to let him stand by the rails, drunk as a skunk and shivering with cold.
"I'll go if you promise to come back inside."
"I'm a grown man…I don't need to take orders from anybody."
"Obviously not. But you do need to come inside before you catch pneumonia."
"Why do you care? Why don't you go out there and join the parade?"
"Parade?" She stepped closer to him, her stomach flip-flopping at the sight of him leaning over the rails.
"The parade of the good folks of Port Chuckles that think I'm an inconsiderate bastard for what I did." Tracy sighed and shook her head. Luke's cell phone went off again, and she raised an eyebrow in surprise as he let out an angered cry and sent it sailing across the room, cracking against the roulette table. He came in, slamming the doors angrily, not daring to look her in the eye.
"Why would I, Luke?" She started toward him again. Luke turned, seeing that her eyes were slightly reddened and puffy. He looked away.
"How'd your trip to the Dominican Republic go?" His words were starting to slur, but she knew that he was finished drinking for the night. Even Luke Spencer knew when to stop from time to time.
"I think you know," she said quietly.
"Well, go on."
"Let me have it. You've been waiting for this."
"I'm done, Luke. I went to the Dominican Republic to…to let you free of any obligations you might feel to stay married to me. I don't know what it was…was it guilt for making me believe that you chose her over me? What was it? What kind of game were you trying to play?" Luke braced himself. "How surprised do you think I was when I arrived to end this sham of a marriage…only to find out there wasn't one? There hasn't been one for six months."
"I didn't wanna hurt you."
"It was about the money." Luke said nothing. "Congratulations, Luke. The money…"
"I don't give a damn about the money. Not anymore." Tracy glared at him, her gaze turning bitter.
"Everything you said to me after she came back…"
"It was all a sham, Spanky." Like being stabbed through the chest, Tracy turned her back to him. How much of an idiot was she for believing he actually could love her? Maybe she was more of an idiot for letting herself fall in love with him. Either way, she decided never to make that mistake again.
"Why didn't you just save yourself the pain? You could have told everyone it was for real."
"You think I didn't want to? I couldn't hurt Laura. Divorced or not, she would've been hurt that I married you. I had to save her that. When she came back, I couldn't tell her…but I had to let you go on believing we were married…"
"Why?" Her voice broke.
"I couldn't take the risk that you'd want revenge…that you'd tell her. I wanted her time left here to be…"
"Precious," Tracy whispered. "Well, congratulations, Luke. You managed to make it all wonderful for the woman you truly love. But tell me, dear ex-husband, why didn't you tell me…"
"Six months ago?" He chuckled, knocking his knuckles on the bar top. "It was about the money…'til she came back. Then I went on pretending for everyone…"
"Well…you got what you wanted. You got out of a marriage you never wanted…and you re-married the only woman you ever gave a damn about. Congratulations, Luke. Look how happy you are now." With that, she turned and stormed out of The Haunted Star. Luke shook his head, feeling his numbed nerves beginning to awake. He hadn't wanted to hurt her, but he'd gotten himself into a mess, but it was over now. He wore Laura's ring proudly, and their marriage certificate lay in a safe place at home. Home…he was never there except to gaze fondly at pictures and remember the way things were before she was gone. The thought of that smile, that gorgeous smile that was reserved only for him tore his heart in two. Then he knew what he needed on this Christmas night. He needed his family. He needed his Laura.
The corridor was silent. Most of the doctors and nurses were home with their families. For a moment, he wondered if his children would be there with her, celebrating silently along with her, as if nothing had changed. But they weren't there. Evidence that they had been lay on her table in the shapes of unopened gifts and a handmade card from little Cameron. She sat in her chair, staring at the wall. He shivered, remembering holding her hand just a month ago and watching her slip away from him forever.
Kneeling down in front of her chair, he took her hand, watching as her glassy eyes looked through him; past him, maybe looking in on memories they once shared. He only hoped they were good memories. Before she'd come back to him, he'd often wondered if she could hear what he was saying. Maybe she could, but she hadn't remembered.
There was so much they didn't know about her condition…so much they didn't know about LS49. Why couldn't she have stayed? Why couldn't that miracle drug have actually been a miracle? Instead, Laura had suffered more than he'd ever wanted her to. He had hurt her by keeping her in the dark, but she had forgiven him. She had seen his good intentions despite the fact that he was selfish. He had wanted her back first and foremost because he missed his wife. Damn the possible consequences. They'd had a great few weeks, and then she'd gone away again, terrified of where she was going but putting on a brave face for her children. He knew better. He knew she didn't know what to expect. Oh, what he wouldn't give to see that smile again, but he knew he never would.
"Forgive me, Angel," he whispered, wiping his tears with his own shirt. "Forgive me." He took her hand in his and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. He rubbed the back of her hand against his cheek, feeling the smooth skin, just as smooth and perfect as the day he'd met her. The years hadn't done any damage to her beauty, but they had robbed her of a life she was meant to live.
He closed his eyes and lay his head in her lap, feeling sobs bubbling up inside of himself. For a moment, he thought he felt her hands upon his head, softly caressing him to let him know that she was there and she was alright. She'd never leave him again.
"I need you back, Angel. I need you back."
The moments passed by like an eternity, and it was then that he felt her hands upon him, softly caressing his neck and the back of his head.
"I'm here." He knew he'd imagined it, but for a little while, it would be nice to pretend that it was real. He couldn't move yet. He couldn't let the moment slip by. He needed her.
"I miss you, baby. I miss seeing your face…I just need to see you smile."
"I'm dreaming." He pulled back slowly, seeing those eyes now looking into his. "I know I'm dreaming." But when those lifeless eyes shone with recognition for the second time, he moved back, unable to believe that it was happening. "This isn't real." Laura smiled, reaching out for him, remembering everything.
"This is real, Luke. I'm real." He shook his head, tears streaming heavier than ever. It was the booze. That was it. He wasn't there. He was really passed out on the floor of the Haunted Star, while she continued to pass her time staring at the wall, surrounded by four pale white walls on her favorite holiday. When her hands caressed his face, he closed his eyes, pressing his hand against hers before bringing it to his mouth. He placed endless kisses there before pulling her into his arms, feeling her heart against his.
"Oh baby, you are real. You're here. You're back…" His heart pounded, and fear closed in around him. How long this time? It wasn't supposed to work again.
"I think…I think I woke up earlier," she whispered. "They said they…were trying to get a hold of you…the doctors. I don't know how long I have." She closed her eyes. "I don't know how long…"
"It doesn't matter, baby. You're here now. That's what matters." He held her again, sobbing into her shoulder. His tears of grief and solitude had turned to those of joy. How was this possible? Wasn't it only supposed to work once? Was she back for good? There were countless questions that could be answered later, but for now, right now, he was going to spend Laura's favorite holidays right where he belonged…in her arms.