Major, major thanks to Suerum on this one. Goes AU in that Spinelli doesn't come home after Jason yells at him about Claudia. LJ was being evil so I had so split the post. Um, characters you recognize are not mine, those you don't are. Yay for boosting NaNo count. Enjoy!
Spinelli doesn't come home that night. Not after Jason yells at him. Not after Jason says all those things. He gets a room at the MetroCourt and sets up the remote access on the computer he left Jason with to keep tabs on Stone Cold's – and this is the first time in a long time that the Stone Coldness has been directed at him – activities. He's getting ready to do just what Jason asked of him.
He's not needed. He'll leave. Just like Jason wants.
He's listening when Sam and Jason return with Devlin's CDs. Listening when Jason's theory is proven correct and Spinelli's apparent naïveté is proven fallacious. There's no hope now. Jason really doesn't need him, obviously.
"Very well, then."
"Has Spinelli come back yet?" Sam asks over the phone later that night. He can hear the worry in her voice.
"Not yet, no." He says. Jason isn't all that concerned, nor surprised, when Spinelli doesn't come home. He's kind of glad. He really doesn't want to have to listen to more protests and complaints about going after Claudia. He'd been right. He was right about Claudia's involvement. So, unless Spinelli's coming back home to apologize, he doesn't want to hear it at all.
There's still no sign of him the next day, either. Jason starts to feel bad about the things he'd said in the argument. But, still. He's definitely not the one who should be apologizing here. Spinelli had doubted him, doubted his reasons and his plans.
So, Spinelli can take as long as he wants to take. Jason will be busy planning his attack on Claudia anyway.
He sneaks back into the Penthouse the next day, while Jason's out doing something. Probably something to do with organizing the hit on Claudia. He gets a good portion of his possessions out of the pink room and scrawls a hasty note that he leaves on the desk in his room for Jason to find later.
With one last look around Casa De Stone Cold, he leaves knowing that the most important person in his life doesn't want him anymore.
With that last and final task out of the way, he heads to the airport.
The intended day of the hit – four days after the initial fight – Jason is marginally concerned. He also needs to contact Spinelli. He needs to He needs to know where Spinelli is so that he won't be in danger of any police investigation. There is no ringing, no straight to voicemail, he gets a series of unnerving beeps followed by 'We're sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have…' He hangs up and tries again, only to get the same thing in response.
"Damn it!" He growls, tossing the phone onto the desk. "Where are you?"
And that is a decidedly bad result of his attempt at communication. He checks Spinelli's room. Just out of sheer gut instinct. And finds the noticeable absence of various things here and there.
He kicks the door so hard in his frustration that it splinters under his assault. "Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it. Not good." He sees the notes – a piece of torn out notebook paper, less well-prepared than last time he got one of these.
You don't need me. I'm gone. As you wished.
Keys sit beside the goodbye note.
The plane lands on some small tarmac in some small airport. He's made it damn near impossible to trace him. He's been jumping from plane to plane for the last day and a half. It will take Jason - or anyone else – forever to sort through all his various stops. He even has it set up so that it appears as though he's continued on from here.
No, no one from Port Charles will find him.
Here, as it turns out, is Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jason won't think to look for him here.
Still, he misses Port Charles already. Misses the pink room and Maximista and Stone Cold. But, he's always wanted to check out Santa Fe. It has a fascinating history. And, as he walks through the out of the way airport, he hums some tune from some old Disney movie that seems appropriate.
"No," He tells himself, dragging his carry-on bag behind him. "There is no more Port Charles. This is my life now."
He calls everyone. Maxie, Lulu, Sam, Mac, Mike, Sonny, Robin, the hospitals, the morgues. Everyone. There is no trace of Spinelli anywhere. He gets Mac to issue a missing persons alert. Doesn't tell him about the note, though.
"There has to be something!" He demands of Max when the guard reports no sign of Spinelli around town anywhere.
But… There's nothing. Spinelli's gone ghost on him.
Jason drags a hand down his face as he paces the living room – plans of revenge forgotten with his missing protégé. He curses and ends up doing exactly what he did last time. He breaks a few glasses in his anger. He sits on the couch and thinks of how he can fix this.
He'd been right, yes. But that certainly didn't negate any of the things he'd said in his enraged and incredulous state during the argument. In fact, that probably just made it seem more clear. Jason had found the proverbial smoking gun on his own – without Spinelli. Made it appear further that the Jackal was of no use to him. Hell, he didn't even think anything was wrong until the phone call.
What the hell was wrong with him? How did he not… see this coming?
He doesn't need Maxie this time. He knows he has to fix this on his own.
The smallish house he rents turns out to be pretty nice. He doesn't have much stuff, so he's quite glad that it comes with the basic furnishings already in it. He sets up his meager belongings in no time at all. The only thing he's apparently forgotten is food.
The market a few streets over supplies him well enough – even though they don't have his brand of chips. He hauls his purchases back to the house – Casa De Jackal, he attempts to dub it, but it just doesn't fit.
He already has a job set up, too. At some IT Department at some company. He starts that tomorrow. He is nothing if not prepared.
By the time Spinelli settles in for the night, he's already wishing he could paint his bedroom pink. He squashes that idea as soon as it appears. "I'm supposed to be moving on," He scolds himself, as he curls up in his bed. "Not endeavoring to recreate Port Charles."
There's no denying that it's not Port Charles he wants – its Stone Cold to defy the odds and drag him home again. Like last time.
Spinelli would be a great superspy, Jason surmises, staring at the long list of ticket purchases Spinelli has made. He can up and disappear and leave a trail that can go in a hundred different directions all at once. Hell, Bond would be impressed.
"Anything?" Sam asks him, leaning over his shoulder to watch his progress on the computer in a way that manages to do nothing but annoy him.
He doesn't want her help. He wants to do this on his own. Find Spinelli on his own. He messed everything up on his own, so he should be the one to repair it. Bring him back. Apologize. He doesn't need Sam following along, too.
"No. Nothing yet." He answers with a less than joyful tone.
Spinelli is starting to settle into his new life. He still catches himself daydreaming about Port Charles and about the friends – the family - he's left behind, but it's easier to get through the days without wondering what Jason is up to without him. If Claudia has yet met her demise.
He's making friends. At work, there are two guys, Alex Sanders and Tom Kelly. They're both cool guys. They've hung out after work a few times now. While they're both tech geeks, too, they're not quite on Spinelli's level of hacking, but more aware of technology than Jason – stop thinking about Jason – had been. There's a girl, too, Jenna Sanchez. He's fairly certain that she is interested in him, which is not what he's after at all. He just wants to adjust to his new life without the distraction of an unrequited romantic interest around.
"So, you got any plans for this weekend, Damian?" Alex inquires, the four of them gathered around the lunchroom of the IT offices. "Tom and I were thinking about showing you around the city some more."
They'd toured a few places one Friday night after work, but Tom had gotten kind of drunk and the tour had gotten cut a bit short. "Yeah, I promise I'll cut it on the Corona's this time."
"The Jackal is most amenable to such a plan." He answers with the fake-smile he's been strengthening in place. "What time shall we meet?"
"Eight am sound good. Nice and early."
Agreements are had all around and they all split up to get back to work.
Despite how much Jason wants to go after Spinelli the second he gets the list of possible locations that his best friend might have run to, he can't. He wants to. But…
But, then, Carly's gone missing, Claudia's gone totally rogue. Sonny knows everything now – except that Spinelli is still missing – and wants Claudia dead yesterday. There are cabins that aren't what he's looking for and… and he's almost killed a mom and her two young kids. That's how this whole thing started in the first place, wrong place, wrong time for Michael.
And he can't find Claudia and Carly, and doing so would have been so, so, so much easier if Spinelli were still here, still at home, still with him. But then he does manage to locate the missing women, and Claudia has Carly's baby. And Michael follows him and the next thing he knows, Claudia's dead on the floor and there's a bloody axe in Michael's hands.
All he wants is to find Spinelli.
But, he can't.
He has to hide this. He has to make it safe for Spinelli when he comes home.
They've been all over the place already, the Georgia O'Keffee Museum, the Governor's Palace in the main Plaza, and several other big tourist spots, as well. It's late by the time the four of them wander into the Loretto Chapel.
"The staircase," Tom gestures to the spiraling steps that lead up to the choir loft. "Stories say it was a miracle." He goes on to tell the tale of the forgotten-in-construction staircase and how the Nuns in the church prayed for nine days for something to aid them in their plight. Then one day, a carpenter, supposedly St. Joseph showed up and created one for them, leaving again before anyone could identify him.
Spinelli, listening intently to the story, finds himself immersed in the tale, even though he'd read it online previously. "The Sisters of Loretta certainly left behind quite the magnificent historical legacy."
They all sit down in the pews for a moment, Jenna sitting beside him, as she always seems to do when they're together.
"It's just… enchanting, isn't it?" She prompts him, her brown eyes landing on him, obviously hoping for some sort of romantic scenario to kick into action.
Which Spinelli is also envisioning, just not with her. "Affirmative." He answers, but Spinelli is wishing, hoping, praying, for something else entirely.
It takes longer than he would like to deal with everything.
First, he has to cover up Claudia's murder. Which, of course, everyone thinks he's committed. It's only when the search is dead-ended for her body that he loses his status of 'Suspect: do not leave the area, Morgan, or else'.
It takes time for that to happen, it takes time to set up the resources needed to follow Spinelli's complex and apparently random route across the country. He doesn't know how following his self-proclaimed protégé's route will make it easier to find him, but he just feels like he has to.
"Alright. If you hear anything, call me." He instructs Sam. She's still pissed he's refusing to let her come along. She doesn't get it. Doesn't understand that he needs to do this on his own.
So, with his bags packed and a pile of tickets tucked away, he heads out to follow the cold trail.
The first stop on Spinelli's expansive travel itinerary was the Missoula International Airport in Montana, appropriately dubbed MIA. Jason takes the time to ask around amongst the shuttle bus driver's to see if any remember Spinelli. No one does. His hotel room, as he plans to spend one day in each city asking after Spinelli's locale, is nearby. By the next morning, Montana gets scratched off the list.
Day two brings his next stop, Lawrence Municipal Airport in Kansas, and it yields similar results. It doesn't seem like a place Spinelli would stay – nor did Montana, but he was still working out the bugs in his plans – so he catches and earlier flight and moves on.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland is day three. He, like he has been, checks the airports, checks out companies that Spinelli might think himself useful in, looks up his name in the local papers – he's totally screwed if Spinelli's using an alias. And, yet again, he strikes out.
From there, it's on to California. Jason takes longer there, given that that's where Spinelli went last time, albeit a different area. The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is where Spinelli landed on his trip, if Jason hadn't yet missed him, and Jason spends a good while tracking down leads that turn to nothing. In the end, he is forced to keep going.
Day five comes and with it, a deterioration in Jason's hopes that this will go well. Tallahassee Regional Airport, in Florida, is thankfully less of a social explosion than Orlando or Miami would have been, at least, but it's still crowded. Spinelli might well have stopped there, but when Jason turns up with nothing in his search, he feels okay about that. Like he knows Spinelli isn't there.
West Virginia is Spinelli's next ticket purchase. Morgantown Municipal Airport is where he lands and he actually does some pretty intense searching there. West Virginia University, nearby, seems like a place Spinelli might want to go, so he checks around. Jason believes he has a lead for a while, but it turns out to be nothing. Another one down, though he is a day behind on his schedule now.
Day eight, a week into his travels, he lands in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas. Something tells him he's not there. Just has a feeling and he finds a flight to the next destination and skips asking around.
Later that day, he's in Maine, at the Portland International Jetport. Jason's beginning to wonder if he's ever going to be able to track Spinelli down. Nothing comes up in his search there. Day nine comes and he finds himself in New Mexico. The Santa Fe Municipal Airport is a hustling and bustling place, one that sees a lot of people come and go. Something, what he doesn't know, but something makes him change his hotel plans. Normally he stays at the airport's hotel, but this time, he doesn't. He feels something like justified when the next flight on the list is delayed because of inclement weather in Washington State. ***
"You're coming out with us tonight, right, Damian?" Jenna croons at him, battling her eyelashes and smiling sweetly at him as they all head out for the day.
Tom and Alex roll their eyes at her swooning crush, but wait for an answer as well. "Yeah, are you?"
"To what locale is it, again?" Spinelli asks, shifting his messenger bag as they all walk to the parking lot.
"To the Pink Adobe, it's a really nice restaurant." Tom assures him, and thusfar, with recommended locations, Tom has been correct. And, given that this is the only form of celebration he's going to be having – since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and Jason – stop thinking about Jason – isn't here to share it with him – it will have to do.
"Indeed, the Jackal will be in attendance."
Tom and Alex disappear off to their cars on the other side of the lot, Jenna gives him a gleeful wave, and Spinelli slides into his own car deciding whether or not agreeing had been a good idea. Perhaps he should have opted for sulking alone in his not-pink room.
The Pink Adobe. Figures. Couldn't it have been blue?
He ends up at a hotel twenty miles from the airport. It's called La Fonda, and it's a bit more fancy and extravagant than he'd been aiming for, but, upon driving past it in his aimless searching, he felt compelled to stop there.
The guy who checks him in is friendly enough. "Welcome to La Fonda, the inn at the end of the road." He says, quiet cheerily as he hands over a room key. "Room 122, all yours."
Jason opts to ignore the piling amounts of omens. No use getting his hopes up, he'll only be disappointed when he has to fly off tomorrow night and continue this hopeless search. "Anyplace you'd recommended for some food?" He asks of one of the hotel staff before he heads up to the room. "Nearby?"
The man doesn't even hesitate. "The hotel has a restaurant, but the best food in town is just down the street. The Pink Adobe."
Jason nods his thanks, figures he'll just grabs something to eat at the hotel once he gets settled and moves on to his room.
"Damian!" Jenna giggles at him as she approaches, with Tom and Alex just behind her as they all converge on the main entrance to the Pink Adobe. "Glad you made it."
"Yeah, man." Alex agrees. "You'll love this place."
They all head in, then, and are seated fairly quickly, despite the crowd, given that Tom thought ahead and set up a reservation.
"So," Jenna says, sitting beside him, as per usual, and sliding her chair unnecessarily close to his. "You have any plans for tomorrow?"
Spinelli bites his lip, mind once again overrun with images of where he could be, what he could be doing tomorrow. Perhaps convincing Stone Cold that they should attempt to partake in the typical Thanksgiving traditions. Or, on the very principle of the whole thing – being thankful for what one has. He'd be thankful if he were at home. He'd be thankful for his pink room, for his friends – his family, for Stone Cold.
But, as it stands, he has none of that. He has a job that barely challenges him, a house that doesn't suit him, friends that don't know him, and a girl that he has no interest in. He has nothing.
He doesn't have Stone Cold.
"No, the Jackal has no plans for tomorrow's festivities."
Jason has settled in and planned out every stop he plans to make tomorrow in his long-since-passed-approaching-desperate search for Spinelli. With nothing left to do but wait for morning, he decides to finally get something to eat.
He tries the hotel's restaurant – just as fancy as the hotel itself – but finds it's packed and the waiting list is close to ninety minutes. With a sigh, he heads out into the chilly November air, only just then realizing that it's the day before Thanksgiving.
"I'd be thankful if I could find Spinelli." He mumbles to himself as he walks down the street to the place the hotel worker had recommended. The Pink Adobe. He's oddly reminded of the pink room that hasn't housed Spinelli in over a month.
It's crowded, packed full, in fact, too. And he's turning to leave when he spots an open seat at the bar.
"Are we ever gonna get our drinks?" Alex sighs in frustration as the minutes tick by. Yeah, it's crowded, but, still, he's not particularly enjoying dying of thirst, himself.
Tom claps a hand on his shoulder and stands up, pulling his friend to his feet as well. "We'll just grab some from the bar; it'll be faster than waiting in this mess. What did you two want, again?" He asks Spinelli and Jenna.
Jenna pauses momentarily in her swooning to answer his inquiry with "I'll have whatever Damian is having," and promptly turns back to the object of her unwanted attention in wait for his reply.
"In lieu of the typical orange soda, the Jackal will select a glass of pinot grigio." He answers, and the duo take their leave, carefully crossing the crowded room to the bar in the area.
"Maybe… you'd want to come to my place for thanksgiving tomorrow?" Jenna tries, as they are left alone at the table.
He doesn't know what to say.
Jason would normally be annoyed by the hustle and bustle of the swarms of people around him at the bar. Would typically rather be outside in the nice, open, cool night air than trapped in a bar that is getting hotter by the moment as a result of the gaggle of bodies in close quarters. The noise would drive him mad.
But, with Spinelli's disappearance weighing heavily on his mind, it makes for a grand distraction. He doesn't have to think in here. About the likelihood of him finding Spinelli when he so clearly doesn't want to be found. About facing the possibility that he may be returning to Port Charles alone. About the fact that he may have alienated the one person he really needed and relied on his life.
He takes a long swig from his beer and pokes absently at his crab cakes.
He forces all thoughts of Spinelli out of his mind and tunes in on the conversations going on around him instead.
A girl three seats to his left is laughing at something the boy next to her said. He didn't catch what, but they seem to be getting along splendidly. The older man on Jason's other side is having a discussion with someone who is presumably an old army buddy about how various bones ache when it rains or snows back home – wherever that is. A quartet of girls at the other end of the bar are gabbing quite excitedly over the details of some winter dance at a nearby college. And the two guys who just walked in are trying to place and order with startling ineffectiveness. They're arguing about drinks and such, and finally seem to settle.
"Alright. So, I know what I'm getting. You're getting a cosmo." Alex summarizes the entirety of the conversation. "What'd Damian want again?"
Jason interest piques. Damian?
"Barring orange soda, I think he and Jenna wanted pinot grigio."
Damian. Orange soda. Damian. It can't be…
"Excuse me." Jason says, standing up to face the two men. "You said Damian. That wouldn't be Damian Spinelli, would it?" He asks, and he probably sounds entirely creepy but he simply does not care.
"Who wants to know?" One of them demands, but Jason isn't even listening. "Hey!"
Jason moves past the duo, looking around the main room for a sign of his missing best friend. It's so crowded; it's hard to find anyone. He turns back to the bar-goers with his Stone Cold glare firmly in place. "Where is he?" He demands.
They still don't answer, and Jason takes off into the crowded main room intent to search each and every table if he has to.
"Hey!" Alex shouts, the two of them following after the crazy man who somehow knows their friend. "Hey, stop!"
But, as much as Jason understands their position – he wouldn't trust some intimidating stranger approaching him about Spinelli, either – he needs to know. He ignores their protests and searches through the place as subtly as possible, until his eyes settle on a table tucked back in a corner of the restaurant.
"C'mon, Damian." Jenna is continuing to prod. "Come over tomorrow! We'll have dinner and you can meet my family. Watch the football game if you… Damian?"
Spinelli has stopped listening entirely. He hears protests that sound like Alex and Tom, and his time spent in mob life tell him that that is not a good thing anyway he tries to think of it.
"The Jackal believes that something may be amiss…" He answers, eyes scanning for the sign of the disturbance. They land on a figure crossing the room in what appears to be a rather intense search.
Any fears he may have had melt away and are replaced with a feeling of utter relief.
It's not even possible, is it?
Spinelli. There. Right there, not ten feet away from him.
Jason. There. Right there, not ten feet away from him.
He watches as Spinelli stands up, leaving a rather insulted looking girl beside him, but Jason does not care, he's crossing the room, trying to get to Spinelli as fast as he can.
They meet as Spinelli circles the table, and for the first time since he started Mission: Retrieve Spinelli, he realizes that he doesn't know what to do to get him to come back. The only thing Jason can think to do is exactly what he, in fact, does. He lets his arms circle the hacker's frame and – for the first time in their friendship – initiates a hug that tramples the few others they've shared previously.
Spinelli, upon realizing what is indeed occurring, hugs him back with a ferocity that tells Jason that getting him to come home with him will be easier than he thought. The younger clearly hadn't expected such an action, nor such a prolonged embrace from his mentor, as Jason is still holding on to him a good moment later.
Finally, though, Jason releases him, hands settling on Spinelli's shoulders as he keeps the younger man at arm's length. People are staring, chatting amongst themselves about what must be going on. The girl Spinelli was with is staring up at them with wide, betrayed eyes. The two guys that had alerted Jason to Spinelli's presence here are standing a few feet away, clearly unsure as to how to interpret this.
"Can we go outside?" Jason asks, because suddenly it is too claustrophobic and too hot and too loud for all of this.
Spinelli nods and the duo take their leave, heading out into the chilly November air only to realize that it has started snowing in the time since they'd stepped inside. It hadn't been in the forecast, but their reunion hadn't been either.
"I'm sorry." Jason says, first. Because that is definitely the most important thing he can say in this conversation. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. You have every right to stand up to me and question my actions when you think I'm wrong. I want you to do that. I need you to do that because if I don't have you to do that, then I'll end up just like Sonny." He shakes his head. He really doesn't want that, but that's not the part he needs to say, either. "I need you around, I need you with me. You're… you're amazing. You're a genius and my best friend, and my family. And I'm sorry. Okay?"
Spinelli, blinking up at him in something that Jason thinks might just actually be speechlessness, opens and closes his mouth several times in an attempt to respond to his uncharacteristic apology.
"I, your Jackal is… at a loss for words as to how to reply to Stone Cold's most touching words. He, too, would like to ask for forgiveness of his own actions. Running off as I did was childish action and a potentially hazardous one, at that."
But Jason is shaking his head again. "I told you to leave, and you did. I'm sorry for that, too. The penthouse is your home as much as it is mine now." Now for the part that could potentially spell the end of all of this. "You'll come back home with me, right?"
Spinelli turns away from his mentor, leaning against the railing and watching as the snow fell around then. This is what he'd wished for. For Jason to defy the odds and impossibilities of his relocation and bring him home. Nine days ago, he'd made that wish and now here Jason was, in eerie similarity to the tale Tom had told of the Loretto Chapel.
Jason's beside him then, watching the storm, too, and patiently awaiting the answer to Spinelli's important decision.
Though, it can hardly be qualified as a decision.
"Most assuredly, Stone Cold."
By late afternoon on Thanksgiving, they're back in Port Charles, back at the penthouse, back home. Spinelli's been all caught up on the developments with Claudia and Michael's part in the whole ordeal, the pink room has reclaimed all of its previous possessions, and Jason and Spinelli are just about ready to sit down to an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner.
"Hey, help me with this stuff, will you?" Jason calls from the kitchen.
Spinelli looks at his laptop screen, checking the message one last time.
The Jackal most humbly apologizes for his failure to say goodbye in person. I considers you a true and virtuous friend whom I will do well not to forget and perhaps, in time, you can see fit to forgive me for leading you on in any way. But, as was proven by my mentor's extensive attempts to search for and locate his protégé, it seems as though my home is just where I believed it was.
Please relay the relevant parts of this message to Tom and Alex, if you would.
Happy Thanksgiving, Damian.
With a sigh, he sends the message out across cyberspace. Closing his laptop, he calls out. "Be right there, Stone Cold!"