Part Seventeen

Prompt #72: "To know the road ahead, ask those coming back. ~ Chinese Proverb

For two weeks, he had done nothing. Been idle. And it had slowly been driving Jason crazy.

Oddly enough, it wasn't the inactivity so much that bothered him; it was the guilt. While Johnny, Francis, and Jagger worked together to start the process of taking down Sonny, Jason rested. While the guys carefully made their way through the organization, determining which men were loyal to Sonny to a fault and which could be reasoned with to jump ship, Jason ate soup. And, while the guys planted things and in general set Ric Lansing up, Jason read travel guides. Even if he had been able to get his hands dirty – which, given the fact that he wasn't involved inthe business side of Sonny's operations, he couldn't, Jason also knew that Elizabeth would have protested – not because she was controlling but because she cared. For two weeks, when she wasn't working or studying, she was taking care of him, and, despite the fact that he wasn't one to allow others to fuss over him, he didn't mind Elizabeth's fussing. It was... nice in a way, and he sure as hell wasn't going to argue with anything that allowed him to feel her touch.

Since the night when they had shared their kiss, their physical relationship had not progressed any further. Occasionally, he could catch her off guard and steal another embrace, but she was very aware of and hyper-vigilant about his injuries and, on more than one occasion, had voiced her concerns that, if she got too close, she would hurt him. The idea was laughable – like tiny ElizabethMorgan.. even seven months pregnant... could ever hurt him, and, even if she did, Jason knew that he would enjoy the sweet torture. And that's exactly what spending so much time with her near but not close enough was: torture. The way she'd trail her impossibly soft, warm fingers against his healing incisions when she changed his bandages, the way she hovered over him as she tended to his wounds, the way she would focus all of her attention upon him and bite her lip in concentration as she...

"Hey, Jason!"

Caught unaware, he moved quickly to turn and face the man behind him, mentally giving himself a silent lecture for becoming so easily distracted. But Elizabeth just had that effect upon him...

"It's great to see you again," the other man continued, seemingly unaware that he had startled Jason. "After, well... you know what happened... I just, it's really good to see you up and about, moving around so easily. You doing okay?"

Folding his arms over his chest, he responded blandly, "I'm healing."

"Uh... right," Max Giambetti returned. "That's good." By the other man's tell-tale signs of discomfort – he was shuffling his feet, fidgeting, and looking anywhere but in Jason's direction, Jason knew that Max was unnerved by his presence there in the gym, probably because he felt a degree of guilt over what had happened. "So, uh, I heard that you're done fighting."

"Yeah."

"So, then... uh, what are you doing here?"

"I'm just here to clean out my locker," Jason said. And that much was true. Hewas going to clean out his locker. After all, he didn't like to lie. But his presence in the gym on that particular day – a day that Max and Ric Lansing were both there – wasn't coincidental.

"Yeah, sure," the guard replied, smiling and nodding in agreement. "That sounds good, Jason, and, you know, good luck... with everything."

"Thanks, Max." Just as the other man turned around to walk away, though, Jason called out to him. "Actually, Max, there's something that I wanted to talk to you about."

The two of them moved to a more discreet corner of the gym to stand in the shadows away from the other men working out. "What's going on, man? Is there something you need? You know, after what happened, I'm sure Mr. Corinthos would be more than happy to..."

In a low yet confident tone, Jason interrupted, asking, "have you ever heard of Jagger Cates before?"

"That name sounds familiar," Max started, only to brighten as he added, "wait, Cates...? Isn't that the name of the kid Sonny was friends with who died of AIDS?"

"Yeah, Stone. Jagger's his brother."

"Alright, but what does this have to do with...?"

"He's back in town." When Max just stood there, staring blankly at him, Jason continued, "he's also a Fed – an FBI Special Agent, and his wife... well, let's just say that there's some bad blood between Jagger and Sonny."

The guard narrowed his eyes in close observation. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Look, I won't deny that Jagger and I are friends. Even though he's been in California for years, after my accident, he reached out to me, offered me a place to stay if I ever wanted to get out of Port Charles. But Sonny's been good to me, too. Yeah, I'm done fighting, but I'm hoping that Sonny will... look kindly upon me coming to you with this and remember my... cooperation in the future."

And that's all it took before Max's bravado crumbled. Forlornly, the other man asked, "you think he's here to come after Mr. C.?" Before Jason could respond, Max sighed and admitted, "it makes sense. In fact, it's the perfect time for the Feds to come after us. Sonny... well, he hasn't been feeling well lately. Someone's bringing drugs into the territory, shipments are getting hijacked, men are deserting left and right – at least a couple everyday. If ever we were ripe for an investigation, it'd be now. I thought it was all this new player's doing – Alcazar, but that kind of distraction just makes it even easier for the FBI to plant a mole in the organization." Shaking his head, Max seemed to come back from his thoughts, lifting his eyes to meet Jason's as he asked, "I hate to put you in this type of position, but has your friend... this Jagger Cates... said anything to you about whether or not he has an inside man?"

"All I know is that he only came into town a few weeks ago, so, if someone's dirty, then they're probably a new hire, and, if Jagger was willing to not only pick up and move his career but also relocate with his wife back to Port Charles for this case, then it's probably someone near or at the top." And none of that was a lie... not really, because, whether Ric Lansing was a snitch or not, he sure as hell was dirty.

"Thanks, Jason," a very distracted and nervous Max told him, already turning away and making a call.

One man down, one to go.

Quickly making his way into the locker room, Jason watched to make sure that no one followed him. If everything had gone according to plan, then Johnny would be waiting for him by his locker – seemingly changing for a workout, and the two of them would simply have a casualconversation, making small talk about Jason's new life... only there would be nothing casual about the information he would share. Each word had been carefully considered beforehand for maximum effectiveness.

Soon after Jason's last fight, Ric had started to come into the gym every evening. The man didn't do much actual exercising, but he usually stayed for about an hour anyway. Whether the effort was in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the other guys or simply to further blend into the organization, Johnny and Francis weren't sure, but, whatever the reason, it worked to their advantage. Because Jason had been MIA from the gym for a month, and because Ric had no idea that he was friends with many of Sonny's men, Elizabeth's ex-husband had no reason to suspect that he was being set up. But that's exactly what was going down that evening, exactly why Jason had rushed over to the gym on that particular night to pack up his locker: because both Ric and Max were there at the same time, and he needed to share some information with both of them.

"Hey, Morgan, long time no see," Johnny O'Brien greeted him casually as he walked into the locker room. "I see they didn't fix that ugly mug of yours when you were under the knife. Your poor wife must be sorely disappointed."

Despite the situation, Jason couldn't help but offer a genuine grin at the thought of Elizabeth. Such gestures were becoming much more common upon his face. Any other man would have returned Johnny's ribbing with a ribald comment, but that wasn't Jason's style, and just because they were trying to fool Ric, that did not mean that he would play those typical male games. "Elizabeth's doing good – busy but good. I'll tell her you asked about her."

"And the baby?"

"Growing," Jason stated emphatically. "In fact, we have a doctor's appointment next week. Seventh month check-up. With my injuries, we didn't get to have the ultrasound last month, so the doctor's going to perform it this time. If we want to, we'll be able to find out the sex of the baby."

As Jason threw his old workout equipment – gloves, shorts, and shoes... nothing fancy for him – into the duffle bag he had brought with him, Johnny asked, "and are you going to?"

"Don't know," Jason answered, shrugging. "It's up to Elizabeth."

And that was it. Short and sweet and to the point. Elizabeth did have a doctor's appointment the next week, and he was going to it with her. As far as Ric was concerned, the other man had made no qualms about the fact that he wanted a son, an heir, and, in his obsession with Elizabeth and her unborn child, he had somehow convinced himself that her baby would be that heir. So, despite the fact that Jason wanted Ric nowhere near Elizabeth or her child, and despite the fact that there was a restraining order against the man, preventing him from coming within 100 yards of Elizabeth, Jason knew that the lure of finding out the baby's sex would be too great for Ric to ignore. The trap had been set.

"See you around, O'Brien," he tossed over his shoulder.

Johnny offered up some kind of farewell, too, but Jason wasn't paying attention. Instead, he was focused upon getting the hell away from the gym and back home as fast as he could. For years, the old, worn building had been his second home, but now he didn't feel safe there. Instead, it felt like he had a target on his back. While he knew that he could hold his own in anyfair fight, there was nothing fair about Sonny's businesses – legal or otherwise – now. Plus, he liked the thought of going home to Elizabeth, home to her quiet support, her gentle touch, her secret smile that he would swear she only offered to...

"Morgan."

This time, he was prepared for the unexpected interruption of his thoughts. Without breaking stride, Jason approached his motorcycle, dumped his duffle into the saddle bag. Once it was secured, he turned around, quirked a brow. "Ritchie."

The guard took several steps forward out of the shadows, coming to stand beside Jason so that they could talk without being overheard by those others coming and going from the gym. Ritchie was one of the men who had elected to join their efforts to take down Sonny, so his presence didn't unnerve Jason, though it did pique his curiosity. True, they had always gotten along... on a cursory level, but they had never been good friends, and a long, drawn out,private conversation between the two of them would raise some eyebrows.

"I don't think this is a good idea," Jason told the other man. "If you have something to report, or if you have a question or a concern, you should talk to Johnny. He's inside. Or Francis, though I'm not sure where he's..."

"Why," Ritchie interrupted him.

"Why what?"

"Why are you doing this," the bodyguard asked. "What's in it for you? I know why I'm working with Cates, why Johnny and Francis are, but you... This has nothing to do with you, Jason. You're not a part ofthe business, so why put yourself in the middle of it? Why take that risk?"

For several seconds, Jason debated his response, but then he just settled upon the truth. "Did you know that I recently got married, Ritchie, that my wife is expecting a child?"

"No?"

He could hear the uncertainty in the other man's voice, the questions. "I'm doing this for them – for their security. I'm also washed up. After that last fight, I can't box anymore, and, when this place goes to auction after the Feds seize it, I plan on buying it cheap and fixing it up. Maybe I can't box anymore, but fighting's all I know. But most of all," he concluded, taking a step further so that he and the guard were only a few inches apart. Meeting Ritchie's gaze, Jason steeled his own. "I'm doing this because I want Ric Lansing dead."

Turning around, he climbed onto his bike, not waiting for the other man's reaction. He'd either trust him or he wouldn't. Jason gave him the truth, and that's all he could do. Everything else, that was up to Ritchie.

"We're going to need more." Turning to face the guard, Jason frowned in concentration, in inquiry. "Taking down Sonny and taking out Ric, that's only going to cause a power vacuum. Like you said, we want the Feds to seize all of Sonny's holdings and accounts. For that to happen, we needmore."

As Jason started his bike, he silently acknowledged that Ritchie was right.