A/N: Here's the last part of Opposite Sides! I want to thank all of you guys who've been with me since the beginning and those of you who just happen to stumble upon Opposite Sides later or even if this is the first time you've ever read Opposite Sides. Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you!! As always, please leave a comment and look out for new stories, courtesy of yours truly! :)
Epilogue – 8 Months Later…
Johnny sighed happily as he shut the accounts book. He looked up and surveyed his surroundings. He was standing in his newly opened Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. It wasn't his father's and it wasn't a front for some illegal operations for his family or his father-in-law, Sonny Corinthos.
The restaurant was his.
They opened about three months ago and due to the great reviews and Emilio, the Zacchara villa cook who Johnny insisted head the kitchen in his new restaurant, it was now one of the premier places to eat in the city. Johnny was surprised that they had booked reservations up until New Year's, which was almost four months away. However, Johnny worked hard to make the restaurant successful and it paid off. He finally had something to show his kids… something that wasn't built from the blood of others… something his children could be proud of.
Johnny turned around and saw Emilio standing in front of him. He smiled at the stout man.
"How many times have I told you to call me Johnny or John, Emilio? You've known me since I was five years old." Johnny laughed.
"Oh, I could never… you are my boss…" Emilio said politely, like he always did.
"I'm giving you permission… Mr. Zacchara sounds like my father or like I'm fifty years old…" Johnny said.
"I have the new menu choices ready for you if you would like to look at them now, Mr. Zacchara." Emilio said, handing him a small stack of papers.
"Emilio… please, call me Johnny or at least John… I insist…" Johnny said, taking the menu choices from the chef, and Emilio began to laugh.
"What is it?" Johnny asked.
"Oh, I just remembered something that Claudia said about you when she lived in the villa… she would be so proud of you… and she would love that this restaurant is named after her…" Emilio said.
Johnny smiled weakly and turned to the small picture that he had in his accounts book of the two of them when they were young. It was Lulu's idea to name the restaurant after Claudia. She knew how much Claudia meant to him and when they sat up for days, trying to figure out a name, she just perked up and said Claudia's. After that, everything just fell into place with the restaurant. Obviously, the décor was in red, Claudia's favorite color, plush white dining chairs, and black and white photos of Claudia when she modeled for a few years in Italy were up on the walls. It was perfectly Claudia.
"I would like to think that she would've liked it…" Johnny said softly and Emilio put his hand on Johnny's shoulder.
"So, are you a dad yet?" Emilio asked with a grin on his face and Johnny smiled.
"No… not yet… she's waiting for the perfect moment to make her debut… I think that she's got a little bit too much of Carly's personality already…" Johnny laughed.
"So you know that it's a girl?" Emilio asked.
"I don't know for sure… neither of us know for sure… Lulu wanted it to be a surprise but I've got a feeling that it's going to be a girl…" Johnny said with a proud grin.
"And if it's a boy?" Emilio asked, raising his eyebrow.
"Then I'll be the first one in line at the store to buy baseball gloves, basketballs, skateboards and all of that stuff…" Johnny laughed.
Lulu looked in the mirror and groaned. She had never felt so unattractive in her life. Johnny insisted that she looked as beautiful as she always did but he was required to say that. Her hormones were all over the place and the smallest thing would set her off so Johnny opted for the safer route: lying. Her nine month pregnant stomach could barely be contained by her oversized t-shirt and maternity sweatpants. She knew in her heart that Johnny loved her even when she was as big as a whale and she believed him when he told her that she had never looked more beautiful than she did when she was pregnant. Maybe Johnny was crazy for doing so because she didn't understand it fully herself. He just never stopped being wonderful even after things in their marriage calmed down after their move from Port Charles to Los Angeles. She half expected Johnny to get bored or to lose interest in her because she wasn't the unattainable daughter of his enemy but he was just as caring, doting and loving as he was then. Suddenly, she felt the baby kick and she put her hand on her stomach.
"Well if you don't like it in there, you don't have to stay…" Lulu muttered.
She looked to the clock on the bathroom counter. It was 11:47, meaning Johnny should be on his way home by now. The restaurant stopped serving at 11:00 on Sundays and Johnny stayed for inventory on the weekends, which were the busiest days for Claudia's.
"Are you anxious for daddy to come home?" Lulu whispered and the baby did another flip in her stomach and Lulu laughed.
"Me too…" she said, smiling.
Lulu waddled out of the bathroom and across the living room into the kitchen. She opened up the fridge and laughed. Johnny had restocked the freezer with all of her favorite flavors of ice cream: Mint Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Rocky Road, and Cookies and Cream. She bit her bottom lip as she agonized over which ice cream to down first. Lulu was never a huge chocolate eater but this baby just brought it out of her. Chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies, and Milky Way bars were this baby's favorite foods. She and Johnny joked that they should name the baby Hershey or Nestle because of the amount of chocolate consumption that this baby needed. Lulu's hand reached for the Cookie Dough but the baby kicked again.
"You're a little tyrant, you do know that right? There is no question that Johnny Zacchara is your dad…" Lulu grumbled, putting down the Cookie Dough and picking up the small tub of Rocky Road.
The baby stopped kicking, presumably in contentment over the correct choice in ice cream flavor. Lulu then heard the garage door open outside, went to the window and saw Johnny's car pull into the garage. She smiled and began to meet Johnny at the front door when she suddenly felt strange. She didn't recall losing control of her own bladder but that's exactly what she felt had just happened. She looked down and found herself standing in a puddle of water.
"Oh my—" she started but she was interrupted by Johnny.
"Hey gorgeous…" he said, opening the door. He looked up at his wife, holding her stomach, standing in a pool of water and with a shocked expression on her face.
"Johnny… I think—I think my water just broke." Lulu whispered and Johnny dropped everything that was in his hands. He rushed over to his wife, grasped her hands and exhaled shakily.
"Ok—ok… we have the bags with everything ready to go… we're going to drive down to the hospital and we'll call Carly, Sonny, Jason and Sam…" he started.
"And Georgie and Spinelli… I need Georgie there…" she whimpered.
"Of course… and remember what the doctor said about your breathing, Lu…" he said, gently taking her by the arm and leading her towards the door.
Lulu nodded and began her breathing exercises. This was it. After months and months of hypothetical situations, dreams and wishes, this baby that was inside of her was on his or her way out. Johnny picked up the suitcase that had everything that Lulu needed for her hospital stay in it and they walked out to the car. She squeezed his hand tightly, coming to the realization that this baby was real and was coming and Johnny could sense some fear in his wife.
"Everything's going to be fine, Lulu…" he whispered.
"You promise?" she asked, squeezing his hand.
"I promise…" he said, opening the door for her.
Jason rolled his eyes as he sat in his seat on Sonny's chartered airplane. It was close to four o'clock in the morning and Carly and Sam still managed to find something else to spar over. And for once in his life, Jason's revered patience was beginning to wear thin.
"Jason, can you please tell your wife that if she's going to complain about the time… she can take herself home and catch a domestic flight later!" Carly snapped.
"I'm sorry but you don't have a baby at home that wakes up every few hours! Jason, will you tell Carly to just leave me alone?" Sam fired back.
"Hey! This isn't about you two… Lulu just went into labor and asked us all to be there… so both of you just sit on opposite sides of the plane and go to sleep!" Jason barked.
Sonny, who was standing behind the two sparring women, snorted as Sam and Carly marched to their respective places on the plane and curled up in their plush chairs. The brief moment of tranquility was interrupted when Spinelli and Georgie piled onto the plane.
"Greetings!" Spinelli said cheerfully and Carly and Sam groaned.
"Um… Spinelli, maybe we should just go sit over there…" Georgie said, ushering him the nearest window seat that happened to be close to Jason.
"Where are Michael, Morgan and Danny?" Georgie whispered to Jason.
"Leticia is bringing them over tomorrow on another flight…" Jason yawned.
"The Valkyrie and Fair Samantha seem to be at odds once again…" Spinelli said quietly.
"What else is new?" Jason asked matter-of-factly and Georgie snickered.
"But why?" Spinelli asked.
"Because Carly is being ridiculous and picking fights to make herself feel better so she won't have to think about becoming a grandmother…" Sam said loudly.
"Oh no…" Georgie said but sure enough Carly sat up quickly and reacted even faster.
"Ok, I've had it with you, Sam! You don't even belong here! You're not even family!" Carly screamed.
"Enough! Both of you! Just do us all a favor and don't talk to each other for the rest of the flight!" Jason yelled.
Georgie and Sonny laughed and Spinelli uncovered his ears as he saw both Carly and Sam turn away from each other. Georgie curled up next to Spinelli and he put his arm around her and smiled contently. Jason stood up and walked over to his wife and took her in his arms as she slept. Sonny and Carly sat close, whispering to each other as they held hands. This rather strange assortment of people were, inexplicably, a family and as the plane took off, heading west, all that each person could think about was meeting this new little person who was going to join this crazy mixed up family unit.
"So, asking you if you're ok would probably get something thrown at me, right?"
Lulu looked up sharply at her husband with rage in her eyes. That was probably the dumbest question that Johnny had ever asked and she was just about to tell him so when another contraction seared through her stomach. She gritted her teeth and squeezed his hand tightly. No one told her that child birth was going to be this painful.
"Ok, I'm going to take that as a yes…" Johnny said and Lulu laughed miserably.
"I love you, Johnny… but that really was the worst question that you could ask right now…" she said and Johnny laughed.
"Ok, I'll be quiet… I promise…" he said.
"No, I don't want you to be quiet… I need you to talk to me… I need you to talk me through this…" she said and he nodded.
"Ok… um… we still need a name, right? So, let's think of some names… which ones did you like again? Trixibelle? Calliope?" he joked and Lulu laughed.
"You think you're just so funny, don't you? Ok… so if it's a boy…" she started.
"We're not naming him after Spinelli… Sorry, I draw the line right there…" he quipped.
"Damien Zacchara? You don't like it?" she asked and Johnny raised his eyebrow in skepticism.
"You do?" he asked.
"Ok… maybe not…" she groaned, putting her head in her hands.
"Hey, if this is going to stress you out, we can figure out a name later…" he said, caressing her arm.
"No! My child is going to have a name when he or she comes out… this baby isn't going to be in the nursery with the other ones and not have a name!" she cried, clutching her stomach.
"You're acting like the other day old babies are going to be making fun of our baby for not having a name!" he laughed.
"Kids these days are very perceptive…" she muttered and Johnny howled with laughter.
She looked over to her husband and couldn't help but to smile as she saw him laughing freely. It took her a while to get used to it but he did smile and laugh more often. Shedding the business seemed to lift an insurmountable weight off Johnny's shoulders and he could breathe easier. His deep brown pensive eyes met hers and he bent over and kissed her slowly.
"I love you…" he whispered.
"I love you too…" she whispered back.
He was just about to kiss her again but another contraction took a hold over Lulu and she squeezed his hand tightly until the contraction subsided.
"Johnny…" she whimpered.
"I'm right here… squeeze as hard as you need to, Lulu…" he said softly.
"I'm going to kill you for doing this to me…" she said meekly and he laughed.
"Oh, I already know…" Johnny chuckled as he ran his fingers through her blond hair.
Georgie Jones rushed to the doors of the hospital, dragging a whining Spinelli along behind her. She had just gotten off the phone with Lulu and she said that she was almost fully dilated. There was no way that she was going to miss the birth of this baby because Spinelli couldn't suck it up and keep up with her pace. She turned the corner and went straight for the nurse's station.
"Hi, I'm—I'm looking for—Lulu Zacchara…" Georgie said, completely out of breath.
"Oh… yes, her husband told us that he and his wife were expecting a large party… aren't there more of you?" the nurse at the desk asked.
"Yes… there are more of us but they're parking the car right now… can we go and see Lulu?" Georgie asked.
"What is your name?" the nurse asked, scribbling on her pad.
"Georgie Jones… and this is Damien Spinelli… we're friends of Lulu's…" Georgie said.
"Georgie Jones… yes, Lulu's been asking for you… right down the hallway… only one visitor at a time…" the nurse said.
Georgie looked over to Spinelli and he nodded. The nurse led her down the hallway towards Lulu's room. Georgie knocked softly on the door and pushed it open gently. Lulu looked up and smiled at her best friend.
"Georgie!" Lulu cried and Georgie went straight to her friend's bedside and hugged her.
"Oh my god! Hi! It feels like it's been ages since I've seen you?" Georgie said hugging her.
"I know… I must look horrible… like a big fat cow…" Lulu lamented as she clutched Georgie's hand.
"Oh stop it! Even though you're in labor, you're still glowing…" Georgie laughed.
"I know… I tried telling her but she didn't believe me…" Johnny laughed.
"You should listen to your husband more often…" Georgie said, squeezing Lulu's hand.
"Speaking of husbands… come on… let me see that ring that Spinelli gave you!" Lulu said, reaching for Georgie's left hand.
Georgie blushed as both Lulu and Johnny admired her engagement ring. Sure it wasn't as big as Lulu's, Carly's or Sam's rings, mostly because the amount of money that came along with buying a ring to rival those of the three of them would take about five of Spinelli's salaries. However, Spinelli knew that the size of the diamond wasn't important to her and she was proud to show off her ring to anyone who noticed it.
"That's gorgeous…" Lulu said.
"Congratulations… didn't know that Spinelli would ever get the nerve to ask you…" Johnny said, smiling. Another contraction hit Lulu and this time she gripped both Georgie and Johnny's hands. Her grip loosened as her contraction passed and she relaxed back onto her pillow.
"Truthfully… how much does it hurt right now?" Georgie asked.
"There are no words…" Lulu said through gritted teeth.
The entire clan rotated. After Georgie, Spinelli followed, bearing a little toy computer for the baby. According to him, it was never too early to expose the young Zacchara prodigy to the wonders of technology. Carly insisted on going next and she insisted that she was adamant on her official title as "Nana Carly". Sonny came next and he couldn't stop smiling and telling Lulu how proud he was of her. Sam was next, bearing toy boats and saying that they were unisex toys and that as soon as the baby was old enough, she would teach him or her how to pilot a boat. Jason was last, carrying a huge stack of travel books for every single continent, filled with vivid pictures.
"Ok, Mrs. Zacchara… I'm going to need you to sit up… it's time to push…" the doctor said.
Lulu looked up at Johnny, her eyes were filled with fear but Johnny kissed her forehead and grasped her hand tightly. It was just them right now. She shifted in the bed as the doctor positioned himself accordingly. She mustered up all of the strength that she had and pushed. Her entire body was shaking and Johnny's hand was turning bright red from squeezing it so hard.
"You're doing great, Lulu… a few more pushes like that and your baby will be here any moment…" the doctor said, smiling.
"Ok… one… two… three… push…" Johnny said and on his word, Lulu pushed. The pain was absolutely excruciating… like nothing she had ever experienced before. Johnny gently wiped the sweat that was gathering on her forehead with one hand and lent his other hand to help Lulu push. She then cried out sharply and collapsed back onto the bed.
"Great! I can see the baby's head… just one more push and you'll be able to hold your new baby…" the doctor said.
"One more push?" Lulu whined.
She sat up again and pushed for the last time. As soon as she heard the shrill cry of their baby, Lulu's entire body relaxed back onto the bed, her heart pounding against her chest. Johnny kissed the top of her head and beamed down at her.
"What—what is it?" she asked wearily and he smiled at her.
"It's a girl…" Johnny said, happily.
Lulu smiled back at Johnny as he squeezed her hand gently, knowing how much he wanted a girl. From the moment that she told him that she was pregnant, he had this image of having a daughter and now that he did, it was the best feeling in the entire world to see him this happy. It may have made up for the entire birthing process and the pain that went along with it. She watched as he cut the umbilical cord, with the proudest grin on his face. It was the dad grin and it looked so good on him. The doctor cleaned up the baby quickly and wrapped her snugly in a pastel pink blanket and handed her to Johnny. He held her like a prized china vase as he walked slowly back over towards Lulu.
"Hi," he breathed as he sat right beside Lulu. He couldn't take his eyes off his daughter, and Lulu chuckled.
"Let me see… oh, she's gorgeous, Johnny…" she said.
"Of course she is… she's my daughter…" he said triumphantly and Lulu laughed.
"Oh I think we're going to be fighting over you for the next few years because you are just too cute…" she whispered.
"Few years? I'll be fighting for her until she gets married…" Johnny said, running one finger over her tiny little hand.
"Look at you… barely even thirty minutes old and you've already got your daddy wrapped around your finger…" she said, running her fingers along her soft patch of dark brown hair on the top of her little head.
"What can I say? I've got a weakness for pretty girls…" he said, looking up at Lulu. She leaned in to kiss him but the baby started to cry.
"Ok, that's your cue…" Johnny laughed as he handed the baby over to Lulu.
She rolled her eyes at him and began to soothe her daughter by talking to her in a hushed voice. Johnny watched in awe as his wife just sat there and rocked their tiny daughter in her arms, speaking in gibberish. This was all that mattered to him in the world: Lulu and his daughter. He finally understood how men could go doughy-eyed and soft when they had a family. He walked over to the CD player that Lulu insisted that they bring and put on the CD that they made together of soft classical music to listen to while Lulu was pregnant. As soon as Johnny put on Clair de Lune, the baby immediately stopped crying. Lulu looked up at Johnny in disbelief and smiled.
"She recognizes the song… she's going to sleep…" she said, smiling.
"My girl has taste…" Johnny said, walking back over to the bed.
"Clair de Lune… your favorite… she really is your daughter…" Lulu said softly and Johnny looked down at the baby, holding onto Lulu's finger as she fell asleep.
"Claire… Claire Maria Zacchara… what do you think?" he whispered as he looked back at Lulu and she smiled.
"I love it…" she said.
"What about you? Do you like the name Claire?" he asked the baby and the little girl yawned and then smiled before closing her eyes again.
"I think she likes it…" Lulu whispered. Johnny smiled and leaned into kiss her when there was a knock on the door. He groaned and called to whoever was at the door to come in.
"I have to see this beautiful baby!"
Johnny and Lulu looked up and saw Carly, flanked by Sonny, Jason, Sam, Georgie and Spinelli. They saw that the baby had fallen asleep and quickly shushed Carly. Johnny and Lulu laughed as they all rallied around Lulu and the baby.
"Oh, she's gorgeous… isn't she, Jason?" Sam cooed, wrapping her arm around her husband's arm and Jason agreed.
"Did you guys ever decide on a name?" Georgie asked and Johnny and Lulu looked at each other and smiled.
"Her name is Claire… Claire Maria Zacchara…" Lulu said, gently rocking Claire in her arms.
"That's a beautiful name… a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl…" Sonny said softly as he wrapped his arms around Carly.
"Welcome to the family, Claire…" Carly said, gently touching stroking the top of her head.
The group stayed for a while but then slowly broke off, letting Lulu and Johnny rest after hours of being surrounded by doctors. After the entire Corinthos-Morgan (and-soon-to-be-Spinelli) crowd left for their hotel, Johnny came back over to the bed and wrapped his arms around Lulu. Claire was sleeping peacefully in her bassinet right next to Lulu's bedside. She exhaled contently and buried her face into her husband's warm and sweet smelling chest. This was what happiness felt like. After everything that they had been through, they deserved some happiness, didn't they?
"Lulu," he whispered, running his fingers through her hair.
"Mhm?" she asked, tilting her head up to him.
"Everything that matters to me in this world… is in this room right now…" he said before he kissed her forehead.
She smiled at him and cupped his face in her hands. He leaned over and rested his forehead on hers. She knew that he was trying not to be emotional and she kissed him softly on the cheek and his hands wrapped around her waist.
"I love you, Johnny…" she whispered.
"I love you too, Lulu…" he whispered back with a smile on his face.
He sat back on the bed, taking her with him as she put her head back on his chest. He ran his hand up and down her back and watched as her eyelids started to droop. He chuckled as Lulu tried with all of her might to stay up. He looked over to Claire's bassinet and he discovered that his daughter had inherited Lulu's trademark snore. This was his family. This was how things were supposed to be: him, Lulu and now little Claire to complete the family that he had always wanted. The family that finally made him complete. He smiled and closed his eyes. From these past months with Lulu, he knew that the next fifty… sixty… seventy years hopefully… was going to be nothing short of an adventure.
And he couldn't wait to start.