The wind whipped around Morgan as he exited the plane, Jason just in front of him and Carly a step behind him. It had been a quick jaunt from Port Charles down to Florida, and the five-year-old boy had slept for most of the plane ride. Carly had sat next to him, absently stroking his hair as she watched him dream. The quiet moment was something she would remember years later when she finally told him every detail of how his older brother had died. A college student by then, it was the first time in many years he would allow his mother to hold him. It was also the first time in as many years that he had seen her break down. Jason had come and wrapped his arms around them both, acting as the singular support network that both of them had always relied on.
But back in the present, Morgan was still just a young child who didn't quite understand what he was doing standing a few feet from the ocean and being incapable of running into the surf. His mother held his hand tightly as Jason shifted a small box from one hand to the other. He looked up at his "uncle" and second father as he exchanged a long glance with his mother. Even if he didn't quite get what passed between them, Morgan understood that it was meaningful. Squeezing Carly's hand tighter, he brought her gaze down to his and smiled brightly. He would do anything to take away the sad look that dwelled so relentlessly in her eyes.
"Mommy, when can we go swimming?" he asked innocently, hoping that the prospect of fun would be enough to cheer her up. He wished that Michael was there with him to play in the ocean. He had always loved to splash Jason, who would just grumble before retaliating without holding back even a little bit. "Mercedes packed my new swimming trunks. You know, the ones that match Jason's!"
Carly smiled softly at her son, ruffling his hair absently. Jason had taken Morgan shopping the day before to pick up a few essentials. They had returned with several parcels filled to the hilt with new clothes and toys for the little boy. Carly had teasingly chastised Jason for spoiling him, but she had laughed in delight when her son paraded all their finds. And in a true fashion that Carly could pull off, she even managed to convince Jason to try on the matching plaid trunks that Morgan had insisted that they get. They were dark brown and light blue, matching the eyes of both her favorite guys. She couldn't wait to see them playing together in the waves, but first, they had to put this all behind them.
"In a little while," Jason answered patiently for her. He reached down to scoop the child up into his arms, slyly passing the box off to Carly. She tucked it under her arm tightly, careful not to let it slip out of her shaky grasp. Max and Mercedes trailed a few yards behind them, ever-present in case they needed help but far enough off to give the family privacy. Carly stopped suddenly turned around suddenly and looked at the young man trampling up behind them. With white oxide smeared across his nose and goggles hanging loosely around his neck, Spinelli reminded Jason of Gilligan. "Come on, Spinelli! We can't wait all day."
"My deepest apologies to Stone Cold and the Valkyrie," he proclaimed as he jogged up slowly beside Carly. She threw him an amused smile and shrugged nonchalantly. "I wanted to make sure I had all of the Namesake's toys. We have a full day ahead of us."
"Yeah, we do," Carly deadpanned quietly before bowing her head to stare at the sand below. Jason reached out automatically to wrap a comforting arm around her waist. She leaned into his body as they padded across the private beach toward Michael's favorite cove. Until last night, Carly hadn't known that Jason had bought their piece of Florida heaven a decade ago, just after their first visit. He had kept it a secret from everyone, even Sonny. It was something that was just theirs, and he knew that someday they would come back there as a family. He just hadn't counted on missing Michael on their return journey. "Jase, why don't you let them have the rest of the day off? I just want it to be the four of us."
He nodded in acknowledgement before turning around to address their most trusted bodyguard and nanny. "Hey, guys, I think we're going to take this from here," he told them. "You both can have the rest of the day off. There is staff up at the house waiting for our arrival. You can stay there and relax or head off into the city."
"Thanks, Boss," Max retorted before stepping forward. He hugged Carly intently, searching his mind for the right words for the moment. He and Milo had said their goodbyes to Michael at a private ceremony held with the immediate family back in Port Charles. This moment was more about Carly and Jason saying goodbye to their son. "If you need anything…"
"Thank you, Max," she murmured as he pulled back. She studied him for a moment before continuing. "Not just for this but for everything you have done for my boys and me over the past ten years. Michael loved you very much, so I hope that you know how much you meant to him. Morgan is very fortunate to get to still have you in his life."
Max nodded as he started off toward the house. Mercedes made her goodbyes quick to Morgan before following after the burly guard. Carly turned away so that she didn't have to watch them leave. Mercedes and Max were definitely apart of the family, and she felt guilty about asking them to leave. However, she wanted this to be just for the four of them. She needed this ending to be yet another beginning for them.
Jason pulled on her hand to lead her forward. Spinelli quietly flanked her other side, occasionally bumping her shoulder as they trekked along the shore. "Maybe the Jackal should head up to the house, too," he decided suddenly. Carly stopped, her face stricken at the thought. "It was just a suggestion. I don't want you to feel obligated to have me along."
"We need you there, Spinelli," Carly assured him calmly. "You are in this family, and you are never under obligation with family. Morgan was born to me, he is my child. I couldn't be happier about that, but I'm also happy that you are in our family. You're special because we got to choose you to be in our family. Trust me, you wouldn't be here if we didn't want you to be."
Spinelli grinned at the very thought of being chosen to be apart of this amazing family. It may be an unconventional foursome, but he had never seen someone love as much or as deeply as these two. Having never really had parents that he could depend on, it was nice to have Carly and Jason around to love him so unconditionally. As an only child, he valued having Morgan look up to him. "Thank you," he told her with a smile, reaching around to give her a side hug. He started to move around to hug Stone Cold, but Jason quickly stopped him. "Sorry, I just got excited."
"It's okay," he said dismissively. His eyes suddenly went dark as he looked just ahead of where they were walking. Just over the small hill, he knew that the cove awaited them. They had decided that should be Michael's final resting place. There was a place in the crypt in Port Charles so that they could have a place to memorialize and visit, but this is where Carly wanted to set his soul free. "We're almost there."
Carly had dreaded this moment since they had boarded their private jet back in New York. She had tried to busy herself with Morgan or a stack of fashion magazines, but her mind remained focused on this moment. Part of her still wasn't ready to let go. It was very likely that she would never be completely ready. Just as she was about to reply to Jason, Morgan squirmed free from his arms and jumped into the sand. "Let's race!" he cried, taking off as quickly as his little feet would carry him. "The last one there is a rotten egg!"
Spinelli didn't give the other two adults any time to reply before taking off after the kid. Kicking off his flip flops, he tossed them in his beach bag and sprinted down the sand. Carly and Jason hung back for a moment, exchanging contented smiles as they watched the two chase after each other toward the cove. Then, Carly pulled off her sandals and tossed them into her satchel before jetting off next. Jason shouted in protest as he followed her, nipping at her heels. Finally, he managed to reach her, catching her by the waist and pulling her down to the sand with him. "Hey, no fair!" she protested as he trapped her beneath his body. He huddled over her teasingly, smiling boastfully as she turned away from his advancing kiss. "You cheated."
"Well, I did promise that I would always catch you," he reminded her before pressing his lips to hers. He swallowed her argument with his kiss. Carly expertly snaked her arms around his neck and pulled him down to her. She maneuvered her body beneath his quickly and managed to flip him on his back. Never breaking the kiss, she waited until he was on top and in control before smiling against his mouth. "Wait, how did this happen."
"And I promised you that I would always come up with a plan," she said proudly before crawling off him. She looked ahead to where Spinelli and Morgan were standing just at the cusp of the cove. "Come on, I want us to go down there together."
He didn't say anything as he jogged after her. She grabbed Morgan's hand and took off down the sandy hill. Spinelli launched himself after her, running alongside Morgan. Jason was on her other side by the time they reached the private beach nook. "Wow, it's really beautiful here," Spinelli breathed, his language finding a coherent pattern for once. "Why did you pick this place?"
Jason looked out over the clear blue ocean as he fell to the sand. He reached up for Carly's hand and pulled her down between his legs, never breaking his gaze from the waves. "This is the first vacation Michael ever went on," he explained. "Carly and I brought him down here when he was just a baby, and he loved it. She thinks that he fell in love with the ocean here. Either way, I know that he was absolutely happy."
Morgan listened carefully to the story. He had heard his mother tell the story about the first year of Michael's life many times. "Michael loved to run in the waves really fast so that the wind was in his face," he remembered. "He would always help me make these big splashes. We used to get Daddy really wet when we would go to the island, especially when we were on the boat."
"I remember that," Carly smiled reminiscently. Some of her favorite memories were with Sonny and the boys on the island. Other favored memories included Jason and her sons there. "We'll have to go down there again soon."
No one said anything for a few moments, allowing a comfortable silence to fall over the family. Finally, Jason reached for Carly's bag and pulled out the sacred box. He opened the lid and removed the four satin pouches. He kept one for himself and then passed along the others to Spinelli, Morgan and Carly. "How do you want to do this?"
Looking over the waves crashing along the shoreline, Carly knew that this was finally the moment. She had thought long and hard about this specific moment. She knew exactly how this was supposed to happen. Jumping to her feet, she reached for Spinelli and pulled him up. Then, she did the same to Jason and Morgan until they were all four standing on the sand together. "Let's go play!" she declared, winding the bag around her wrist. She didn't wait for them as she sprinted into the cool spray, allowing the salty water to splash around her tanned legs. "Come in, the water is perfect."
Taking Morgan's hand, Jason jogged down toward the surf. Spinelli followed them hesitantly, unsure exactly what was happening. Carly played innocently in the waves, laughing from the pit of her stomach like a little kid. Jason, Spinelli and Morgan watched her playing alone, and then one by one joined her in the Atlantic Ocean. Each of them had their satin bag around their wrist.
"I'm going to swim out a little further," she decided before diving under the water. Carly had grown up swimming in this very ocean as a kid in Florida. She missed being able to run to the beach on a whim and lose herself in the salt water and waves. It was usually too cold to swim in Port Charles. When she finally tired herself out, she started to tread water and turned back to watch the boys play. Morgan and Spinelli had teamed up against Jason in a full blown splash war. The three of them laughed as they tried to dunk and soak one another. "This is perfect."
Swimming back, she finally felt the peace everyone had told her would come. For the first time, Carly felt like she could let go to the emotional pain that had been weighing her down. As she reached Jason, she felt as strong as he had believed her to be all along. "Let's say goodbye."
He smiled and took her hand, taking a long moment just to stare into her crystal blue eyes. The boys quit splashing, sending a contented peace through the air. Morgan was the first to remove the bag from his wrist. He carefully undid the loose knot and held it in the air. "No matter what, Michael, we will remember you forever," he promised. "Watch over Kristina and me. We will always love you." Carly watched proudly as her youngest son released his ashes into the ocean. He reached down and swirled the water around him until the grey dust disappeared before them.
Spinelli was next to open his sash. He carefully poured the ashes into his palm before clutching his fist shut. "Everything that I do as apart of this family will be in your honor," he avowed. The first tear found its way down Carly's cheek. Neither she nor Jason made any attempt to wipe it away. "Thank you for casting sunshine on my life, even if it was just for the briefest of times." As he spoke his final words, Spinelli opened his fingers and let the wind off the water sweep the ashes into the air.
Everyone was silent as Jason took off his bag. He untied the silk cord and held it loosely in his free hand. "I have never been good at saying the right thing. In fact, for the longest time, I thought that there wasn't a whole lot that I was good at," he remembered. "And then you came along and made me realize that there was one thing that I was very good at. I was really good at loving you, Michael. I was a better man for having loved and been loved by you. You were my first son, and you are the reason that I learned to be a father."
For his release, Jason clutched the ashes in his hand and turned away from the family. He disappeared under the water for a moment before returning with a fairly flat sea rock. Turning sideways, he launched the rock out along with the ashes and watched it skip over the clear water. It bounced several times before sinking below the water. "I taught him to skip rocks," he explained. "Our record was twelve." Everyone laughed briefly as the watched the place where the rock had sunk.
"Well, I guess it's my turn, Mr. Man," Carly said up toward the heavens as she slipped her bag from her wrist. It took awhile for her hands to stop shaking long enough to undo the knot, but she finally managed to get her ashes. "You, more than any other person, changed my life for the better forever. On the day that you were born, I was resurrected in a lot of ways. Before you, I had almost forgotten that there was any good in the world, but your presence in my life allowed my happiness to be reborn. It was like my old transgressions were washed away, kind of like a baptism. That's exactly how I feel about today. I will go into the water one person and come out another. Either way, whoever I am will always love you, Michael. In the beginning, it was you and me, and in the end, I promise you that we will all be there together – just the way that it was meant to be."
With those final words, Carly took a deep breath and submerged below the surface. She stayed there for several seconds, releasing the last of Michael's remains into the water. She whispered goodbye before pushing back up for air. When she emerged, Carly knew that her baptism had occurred. She looked at Spinelli and then Morgan and then Jason, her smile growing as she met the eyes of each of her men. "I love you all," she professed. "Thank you for sharing in this."
Over the next several hours, the new Morgan family played in the surf until they were completely worn out. One by one, they departed from the ocean for the comforting stillness of the shore. Morgan fell asleep first in the middle of the row of beach towels, his little mouth hanging open in utter exhaustion. Spinelli soon joined him, throwing his hand over his face to block out the sun as he fell into a restful slumber. It didn't take Carly much longer before she crawled for their peaceful beach haven. She pulled her floppy hat over her eyes and allowed the sun's warm rays to blanket her. Jason sat beside them, keeping vigil over the people that he loved most.
Just as he was about to settle on his back, Carly pulled away the hat and looked up at him for a long time. Reaching up with her right hand, she hooked his neck and brought his face down to hers. "Marry me when we get home," she told him in a hushed whisper. Her statement didn't need a reply, only a wide grin from Jason. He kissed her softly as he lay down beside her. She reached down and threaded their fingers together. "I love you."
"I love you," he echoed, brushing a kiss over the knuckle of her left ring finger. "How did I get so lucky? Look at all I have."
Carly shook her head and grinned as she looked at the two boys sleeping on her other side. Then, looking back at Jason, she said the only words left to hear. "No, Jase, look at all we have."