AN: And here it is…The end. Or well not quite. But the end of this story. Thank you for reading and the excellent reviews. SK's AJ just plain rocks and I'm glad you guys agree. :-P If anyone is craving an AJ fix once this is done chapter 2 of "The Path To" is AJ-centric. Once more thanks for reading!!!! )


Returning

For twenty plus years Alan Quartermaine if answering truthfully would have admitted he had one great pride.

It hadn't been his great love for his wife, for she spent more years not being that or on the verge of not being that than their time together.

It hadn't been his exemplarily familial relationships because while he knew he should and always meant to take the high road, he could never quite seem to live up to his mother's example. Though he had always loved them deeply even when he hated them.

It wouldn't have been his stellar career for he had wasted his potential in a fit of jealous rage.

No...

If answering truthfully there had been twenty years of his life when he was proudest of them. Proudest of their bond, their deep and profound love for each other, best friends who would always remain such, there would be ups and downs, but they would always return to each other, always be there for each other, despite how they were pitted against each other.

-x-x-X-x-x-

"Hey Jason," AJ called out as he walked down the stairs seeing Jason in the foyer.

"Uh hey," Jason replied in a stunned fashion, still not expecting to see AJ and still having no idea what to say to him.

"You looking for Mom?" he asked as he continued walking passing a pink basketball between his hands, wearing a pair of heavy navy sweatpants and a grey sweatshirt, courtesy of Emily, who had quickly noticed how little clothing AJ had brought with him and had stolen some of Nikolas' more casual clothing for the time being.

"I just saw her, she seems to be doing better," he nodded.

"Yea," AJ nodded on the last step, "she's going back to work tomorrow."

"That's good," Jason nodded.

"Yea," AJ nodded back, suddenly remembering why talking to his brother was so uncomfortable. "Hopefully she'll be too busy to think."

A moment passed as neither said anything.

"Nice ball," Jason nodded.

AJ stopped tossing the ball between his hands and gave a chagrined smile as he looked down at it, "Only basketball in the house and its Lulu's." He shook his head, " Alice went on a hunt for me. Apparently Dillon tossed the only other one in the pond last summer and no one got around to replacing it." Another shake of his head, "You know our family would probably be a lot nicer if they realized the cathartic value of slamming the ball against the backboard and pavement."

"Instead of manipulating and screaming at each other?"

"Seems to be a lot less of that though," AJ nodded.

"Yea they've gotten better," Jason agreed. He couldn't be in the house with them ten years ago.

"Hopefully I won't manage to change that," AJ truthfully admitted with a cynical smile, making light of the comment.

"You're staying?" He knew about the upcoming hockey game, he knew AJ refused to relinquish his rights, he knew Emily and Monica wouldn't let him go without a fight, none of the Quartermaines would let him go without a fight, he knew that from experience.

"Yea," he nodded, "we'll see how that goes. I can't leave right now anyhow. Apparently the government frowns upon pretending to be someone else for ten years. And without any identification it's kinda hard to leave the country. And I'm pretty sure Grandfather guaranteed I won't be getting another passport or Visa for quite some time."

"That sounds like Edward," Jason nodded.

"Yea nice to know Grandfather's controlling nature hasn't changed. Weird enough coming home to another sister. And Luke?" he gave his brother a questioning look.

"No one expected that one."

AJ shook his head again and let out a disbelieving sigh, "Yea a malleable Edward would have put me right over the edge," he smirked at his brother.

Jason smiled a bit, "I don't think you have to worry about that."

AJ chuckled with nervous relief, "So what are you up to now?" He didn't mean to ask it, he just didn't know what else to ask and apparently that meant he just rambling on, instead of sensibly shutting up, he never had known how to do that.

"I was going to go for a ride," he had time, nothing but time on his hands lately. Ironic since he had just needed a few more minutes with his father.

"Sure you don't want to slam the ball into the pavement or my chest instead?" AJ offered.

"I don't really play," Jason admitted.

That horrified him. "How can you not play basketball Jason? It's the best sport there is."

"It never really appealed to me," he'd played a time or two, he couldn't focus though, everyone just kept talking and wanting him to talk back. "Michael made me try to show him how to shoot." His nephew had seen him endlesslessly shooting hoops while he was waiting for Sonny, but when he tried to show him, he realized he wasn't exactly sure of what he was doing. "He and Morgan like that horse game."

"Knew that boy had good taste," he nodded. "Come on," he nodded, "it'll be fun. Burn more stress than a ride on your bike and a little more exciting than horse."

"I'm not really-" he looked down at his jeans and boots.

"Come on Jason," his hands lifted, palms up, in true bball talking smack fashion, "are you telling me you can't play in your boots?" His head cocked, "Boarding school, kids played in a full school uniform," he made a careful omission of the word, 'we.' "When I beat you, it'll have nothing to do with what you're wearing." He innocently looked away, "Unless you're afraid."

"Was that supposed to convince me to play?"

"Depends did it work?"

"Are you going to do that the entire game?"

"I might," he admitted.

"Can you not?"

"I'll do my best," he tossed the ball at his brother, "but if you win, it'll be because my game's off because of it."

"I don't have a problem with that," he said following AJ to the living room to leave through the garden doors.

"And don't think I'm going easy on you because you don't normally play."

-x-x-X-x-x-

Monica took in a harsh breath with a hand on her chest as she looked out her window in the midst of writing thank you notes. "Oh Alan," she said with fingers atop her lips as she saw her boys pass on the lawn. She stood to better follow them with her eyes, younger casually following older. "Alan," she repeated his name, now cupping her mouth as tears starting to flood her eyes, "Alan," she repeated several times shaking her head in mutual relief and despair.

-x-x-X-x-x-

When asked about his life, Alan Quartermaine would admit one great pride…