The Path to Power
Chapter Seventy Five
Maybe power outages are like camping. Nobody really sleeps in-- at least not at AJ and Lydia’s house. As soon as the sun is up the rest of the household isn’t far behind. Lydia had kicked AJ out of bed and pulled his pillow over her head in an effort to block out the light. But really it’s all her fault that they are up early. It’s not enough that Sally is going to help her father with the meals on wheels so are AJ and Michael. Leaving the house all to herself. Well except for the guards and a very noisy generator.
AJ sits on Lydia’s side of the bed putting most of his weight on the arm in the center of the bed. He pulls his pillow off her face. "Hey."
"Cruel, cruel man. How did I marry such a cruel man?"
"I think he knocked you up." AJ leans in for a kiss first for Lydia and then for the baby. "Michael and I are out of here. We’re buying breakfast at Kelly’s before going to the senior center. Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?"
"Call me at noon." Besides this is good alone time with Michael. Lydia pulls AJ in close for another kiss. "Go be nice to old people and small children."
"I’ll call you later." AJ rises from the bed and heads out to the backyard to find Michael. About two seconds after the throaty roar of the Hummer can be heard on the back alley, Rosie jumps up on AJ’s side of the bed and in moments is totally racked out.
Lydia considers protesting and then shrugs. "Wake me before ten and we’re going to have a problem."
Skye takes off the lid of the coffee she picked up at Kelly’s on the way home. She’s grateful for Bobbie opening the diner even while the sun is just coming up. Coffee is actually kind of redundant at this point. The adrenaline of getting the paper out is fading fast and even the additional caffeine isn’t going to keep her up much longer– just long enough to get home. But she’d done it; they’d done it. Gotten the paper out in the first major national crisis with local impact since she purchased the paper. And damn; it looked good. Even though she already knows every line and every story she opens the Herald up on the dinette table.
The paper had met deadline at 10:30pm and the edition had rolled out of the building at 1:30am right on schedule. Probably shouldn’t have gone on the route with one of the distributors but it was handy to see what was up and what wasn’t. Some of the power was up at 1am but there are still huge chunks of the city without power. It had been a long muggy night for them. A little shiver goes up her spine.
"Don’t you have that thing memorized by now?" Cole growls in her ear as reaches around her to take the coffee out of her hand and put it on the table.
"Oh yeah, pretty much." Skye turns around in Cole’s arms. "I’m going to have to go back and do it all over again but I really needed to get some sleep." Her stomach growls and she steps back guiltily. "Sorry."
"Damn it, Babe!" Cole shakes his head. "At least you knew enough to know you had to catch some z’s but having something other than coffee didn’t cross you mind?!"
"I brought you some too." Skye indicates the other cup on the counter. "I didn’t know if the power was going to be on or off when I got home ‘cause we do live out in the Port Charles version of the sticks and I didn’t want to wake you up."
"Wake me up." Cole growls. Giving her a sharp pat on the rear, he goes into the kitchen. He’d brought home a cooler full of ice from the bar the night before. The power had come on at Jakes at 1am. He figured the machine would be working overtime to get the bucket refilled, but he hadn’t felt guilty about taking the last of the old and the first of the new back to the house. Like Skye, he’d figured the power might be iffy as they were the last house on the road. It’s more cost effective to get the denser parts of the city up and running first. He opens up the cooler and pulls out some portioned fruit and the milk. Reaching up into Kyle’s cupboard, he offers Skye her choice of cereals.
Even though she’d been the one putting them on the list, Skye winces and sighs as she pulls up a bar stool to the breakfast bar. She’d been picking them with Kyle’s preferences in mind. "Raisin Bran." It’s the least sugary of the selections.
Cole puts the cereal on the counter with bowls, milk and fruit. He stands behind the bar and pours his own after Skye has portioned herself. "If we’re going to be out here this winter, we might as well get used to this."
Skye starts around a mouthful of raisin bran and then swallows. "Made friends with the snowplow driver. Very good friends." Skye rubs her fingers together in a money making motion. "He takes very good care of me. And at least in winter you can have a fire. I suppose we could get a generator. AJ has one at his place and the Quartermaines have a huge backup to keep the whole house going. But it never seems to last that long really. You’re the one I’m going to have to worry about. Your car is so... light."
"Guess we’re just going to have to carpool."
Skye grins. "I like that idea."
Kyle drags himself from out of his bedroom at the sound of voices in the kitchen. "What are you guys doing up so freaking early?!" He looks at the coffee maker and then sighs. He spies the unopened to go cup of coffee and pounces on it.
"When did you get in last night?" Skye asks.
"Closed Kelly’s and then headed out here." Kyle slides onto the stool next to Skye. He uncaps the coffee and takes a drink. "The place is totally gas so the grill, fryer and hot water were working fine. The place was packed until everyone headed home to stare at the black or something."
"We’re going to be busy today getting the bar ready to go." Cole tells Kyle. "The power came back after I closed and about twenty minutes before I left. I let a few things slide."
Kyle groans. "Cancun here I come." It’s his new mantra for when his uncle drops work on him.
"I know you don’t like us here." The remote production manager tells the back of Faith’s head. She’s working on the plants on the front deck while the weather is cooler. Ned has already gone to work as has Dillon. The power had come on, not by the 1am that the pundits had claimed but this morning. There is no answer from Faith as she moves on to the next pot. "And you were really great last night taking care of all of us when you really didn’t have to." He tries a little more butter.
Faith looks at him. "Cut the crap. What do you want?"
"Normally on the show the guys pimp a car."
"Hence the title." Faith’s sarcastic tone makes it clear she thinks the guy is an idiot.
"This is a little bit different with Alice and really what we’d like to do is pimp her garage. The guys from West Coast basically put together what would be on their wish list if they were outfitting a shop. We need to get her out of the house."
"Bruno." Bruno is right there with the clean phone. Faith dials a preset. "Reggie, is Lila there? Put her on the phone." There is a pause. "Lila, I’m using you as an excuse. It’s the only way I’m going to get rid of some of these people without resorting to... drastic measures. I’m going to have Alice bring the kid over there. Don’t let Alice out of there before... 3 o’clock. Have Reggie sabotage the generator if you have to." Faith nods. She hangs up the phone and hands it back to Bruno. "Verify their security. If it passes then do the businesses. If it doesn’t-- call me and I’ll get Manny to cover."
"Twenty minutes." Faith gets up and brushes off the front of her black twill shorts. "Bruno, bring the Lincoln around." Within twenty minutes, Alice is on the road with the baby. She’d actually been eager to go believing that the generator had gone down right when Mrs. Q needed it the most.
"You’re good." The production manager compliments.
"No, I’m not. And I suggest you remember that when you’re trying my very last nerve. Do what you’re going to do. Get what you’re going to get and then..."
"I guess they didn’t just hire you for your looks. You have until 3 o’clock." Faith goes back into the house.
AJ and Michael accompany the ice driver over half of the route that Sally’s dad normally covers. While some have power on and some don’t, everyone is grateful for the bit of company and nobody turns down the ice. Knowing one of these stops could be one that isn’t going to go well, AJ makes sure he is the one knocking on the door and making sure the person is alive before waving Michael on with the ice. The kid is getting a workout running from the refrigerated truck to the front door but his energy never seems to flag. He seems to instinctively know who is going to give him a pat on the head, who has a stockpile of sweets and who is going to try to pinch his cheeks.
At about the half way point they meet up with Sally and her father and reload her father’s truck with ice to do the other half of the route. They pick the Chloe Morgan Memorial Park as a good place to do the refreshing. Sally and Michael head off to the swings while AJ, the driver and Sally’s dad basically just set up a human chain tossing bags from one truck to the other. It’s still early enough in the day that there aren’t that many people around although a few people are out walking the paths. The park is the coolest place in the neighborhood between the shade of the trees and buildings and then the sprinklers kicking on to bring the temperature down.
"Let’s round them up." Sally’s dad suggests as he puts the gate back up on the back of his truck. He catches his daughter’s eye and waves a quick hand.
Michael is the first one back. "How many more do we have to do?"
AJ hands over the list. The houses they’ve been to are already checked off. "And Lydia wanted us back by noon. I think she wanted to head out to Skye’s place by the lake before the day gets too hot."
"Yeah!" Michael gives a cheer and hanging onto the list starts climbing up into the big refrigerated truck. He pauses to look back at his father. "You know we shouldn’t have just brought ice. We should have brought ice cream too. If we would have the ice cream truck music then the people would have come to us rather than having to go up to their house. "
AJ nods consideringly. "Interesting idea. I like it. But we would still have stopped at their houses, Michael, just to make sure they were okay and not overheated and needing to see Grandma Bobbie at the hospital."
Skye pushes her hair back and belts her robe tight. Who in the hell would be stopping by without calling? When she see who it is she rolls her eyes. "Hello Ned."
"I called the Herald; they said you were here today."
"Did they also tell you that I didn’t get out of work until 5am?" Skye asks tiredly.
"That wasn’t mentioned." Ned admits sheepishly. "You really were working until 5am?"
"Got the paper set, printed and delivered. Didn’t you notice one at the house this morning?"
"Well yes, but I didn’t think you were delivering them all yourself."
"Haha. You’re so funny. I did the route with one of the distribution trucks to find out where in town is still without power." Skye wanders into the kitchen and checks the cooler. There are a couple of bottles of orange juice. Since she is planning on going back to bed as soon as Ned leaves she doesn’t offer to make coffee. "How is ELQ doing this morning?"
"Headquarters are fine. A few of the subsidiaries are in still affected areas and attendance is off but that’s too be expected." Ned takes a swig of the offered OJ.
Skye nods. "So why are you here this morning, Ned?"
"Well I have a bit of a proposition for you...."
AJ had called with his suggestion of heading out to the lake as soon as they were done with the ice delivery. The joy of technically being non essential personnel for the city he wasn’t called in today but could instead make it a long weekend although he’d probably telecommute a few hours over the weekend just to make sure he isn’t coming back to a disaster area on Monday. But he wanted her to be ready to go out to the lake. In fact the plan had formulated that they would borrow one of the Quartermaine boats and cruise up to Skye’s house, enjoying the lake and the day in the process.
Lydia picks out changes of clothing and swim gear and packs them in a duffle and then goes down to the kitchen to see what could be an appropriate picnic to bring with them. Michael’s had the brie before but he’s not a fan; he also didn’t seem at all interested in the smoked Salmon. Something about his mother not liking fish. What that had to do with anything at all. Grandfather had been a huge fan of tapioca pudding of all things. It didn’t mean she liked it. The child needs to develop his own taste buds and not just for frozen pizza, greasy diner food and spaghetti. Still playing it safe she grabs the fresh fruits, some fresh veggies and then spies the holy grail of picnics... left over fried chicken. She quickly packs the picnic basket she considers her and AJ’s first wedding present to each other from that trip to Washington DC all those months ago.
"I’ll take that for you, Miz Lydia." The security driver offers.
"That would be wonderful. I’ll just get Rosie and my bag then meet you out front." Lydia hands over the duffle and the basket. When she and Rosie come out of the house the car is waiting. The man riding shotgun opens up the back door for her while the driver keeps an eye on things. Once everyone is back in the car it’s a short trip to the Quartermaine mansion. Lydia’s security doesn’t believe in having her in the open for long periods of time. It has dual benefits-- minimize physical risk of kidnapping and cut down the paparazzi access to her. They no longer need to court the press. The judge has already made the decision; Michael is living with them. Now is the time to keep everything out of the press and just in the family.
Since security had called from the car, Reggie is already at the circular drive when Lydia pulls up. Her security guy gets her door for her but Reggie takes Rosie’s leash. "I’ll take this one. Mrs. Q’s dogs are keeping to their room today. Mrs. Q is in the family room. Alice brought Kristina over this morning."
"How lovely." How very strange. Lydia knows enough about Faith to know she doesn’t let Kristina come to the mansion.... ever. AJ had explained it was after Edward had burned down the gatehouse in an effort to get Faith and Ned to move into the mansion.
"It’s a test and Mr. Q knows it. I’m sure Faith is looking for any excuse."
"Ah. Yes, that makes much more sense." Lydia nods. "I’ll go say my hellos." Lydia heads toward the family room. "Good morning, Grandmother Lila."
"Hello darling. Do you see who came to see me this morning?"
"Yes, hello Kristina." Lydia comes over and takes a seat. "I swear she’s grown since the 4th."
"They do at this age every day brings something new." Lila sighs and runs a hand over Kristina’s baby fine curls. She glances over her shoulder to see if anyone is listening. "It’s been a lovely visit but really it’s a plot."
"A plot." Lydia shakes her head.
"Those people that have been hounding Faith want to... pimp Alice’s garage as a surprise and Alice can’t be there of course. So Faith had her bring the baby over."
"Pimp." Lydia looks at Lila blankly the only definition of pimp she can’t imagine the Grand Dame of Port Charles ever saying let alone knowing.
"Yes, Dawg explained it to me. He’s quite excited by the whole thing. It means they are going to do a total makeover of Alice’s workspace. I’m afraid poor Reginald had to sabotage our generator as an excuse to get her over here."
"Better than blowing up my microwave again." Cook interjects her two cents worth as she brings in refreshments. "And it’s a good thing the power was already back on."
"Yes, you’re quite right, Cook. If the power hadn’t been restored we would have had to resort to doing something drastic to the Bentley."
"Your basket is in the fridge in the kitchen when you’re ready." Cook informs Lydia.
"Thanks. I had to make it up myself this morning." Lydia turns to Lila. "Sally is out with her father, AJ and Michael, checking on the elderly and bringing them ice. Hopefully most of them will already have had power restored."
"Yes, the Meals on Wheels." Lila nods. "Sally’s father has been involved in it for years. Such a good cause. And of course the Garden Club does get involved. Most of the ladies are more into their flowers but there are a few that do vegetables, herbs and give to the senior center as part of Second Harvest. It’s one of the reasons why I want Marshall to get involved with the Garden Club other than just the scholarship now that he’s working his own landscaping business."
"I know you’ve been trying to involve all of us in your clubs, Grandmother Lila, and I don’t know how you manage. I feel as if I have my hands full with the family business, getting the house together and everyone in it. I think it does make Michael feel better about his counseling though now that he understands that I’ve carved that time out for reading– real reading not reports."
Lila smiles triumphantly at her new granddaughter. "Oh those days as a new bride when should's and ought's run your life. You should do this and you ought to do that. I gave that up decades ago and really haven’t missed it at all. Michael isn’t going to be in counseling forever. As soon as Carly’s back and the awful men put in jail, he’ll be able to let go of most of it. You’re going to have to find another excuse to read, Darling."
"You have something in mind."
"The Book Club."
The trucks had started to arrive as soon as Alice had left in the Lincoln. Because Alice is more interested in the mechanical rather than the bodywork or interiors of the vehicles that is where the emphasis of the recreated shop is: diagnostic computer, lifts, jacks, air compressor, tools– both hand and power. The only addition that had been added at the last minute is a high powered generator that could run the whole property. And because it is MTV Pimp My Ride– a totally ridiculous sound system and series of High def monitors. Faith’s crew had been held back from watching as well. Everything entered the garage under cover and then once in they’d put the garage doors down and gone to work. The only exception was Mouse so they know there is some really fancy electronics going on. Faith’s guys are also standing around waiting for the grand unveiling.
Even Ned and Dillon had gotten interested in the goings on. Manny had taken to updating them with a quick conference call about every hour but both the guys know that the grand unveiling would be after Alice came back from the mansion. ETA is 3pm but Reggie had a clear line through to give them fair warning when she was coming. Ned and Dillon arrive a little before two. The call from Reggie comes straight to the guard station. Manny runs over to the production step truck and pounds on the door. "She’s on her way." Then he calls back to the stables. "She’s on her way! Everyone get ready!"
Ned and Dillon take what is sure to be front row seats at the picnic table. The guys other than Mouse also find seats. By the time the Lincoln arrives there is an audience. The jig is up, even if her garage wasn’t closed and the door decorated. The cameras are in place. Faith goes over to the Lincoln and takes Kristina. "They’re here for you, Alice. And they’re here because of you, Bruno, so you stick right by her for the whole thing." With that direction Faith takes Kristina back to the picnic table. The only pictures of Faith for the Pimp My Ride episode is Faith taking the baby and then stepping out of the frame.
Alice looks around somewhat bewildered, she thought this was already done with everything that had been done before the blackout. Then XZibit steps up to start his spiel. With a hand flourish the garage door opens and the new shop is revealed. "Oh my Gosh!" Alice exclaims her mouth hanging open as she takes a step back. Then turning to the rapper she grabs him in a bear hug and lifts him off the ground. "I wasn’t expecting... this is so amazing... I can’t believe you guys did this."
"Um... could you put me down?"
"Sure. Yeah, sure." Alice puts the poor guy down and takes a hesitant step toward the refurbished garage.
Mad Mike joins Alice to tell her everything they’ve done to the space from the practical, to the exceptional, to the ridiculous. At the very end of the explanation, XZibit steps up again. He hands over the keys to all the cabinets in the shop. Then plucking at the material at the shoulder of Alice’s shirt. "You’ve officially been pimped."
At Port Charles Ice, the local TV crew is getting more than the puff piece they’d intended for the evening news. "AJ Quartermaine did what?!"
The driver who’d spent the morning with AJ and Michael keeps working on getting his truck situated for the next run. He’d made his money this morning but the demand for ice wasn’t going away and might as well make the money while he can. "Company got a call from AJ’s wife last night telling us to have a truck waiting at the Senior Center this morning. He and his son Michael rode with me delivering ice to the people on the Meals on Wheels roster. Checking on their welfare. His kid is a pistol and worked his butt off. But AJ always made sure the kid wasn’t the first one in the door– just in case. We were lucky so far. There were only a few people that were looking rough, only one that got a trip to the hospital. At least on the route we took. Don’t know about the other half."
"Do you still have this list?"
The driver shrugs. "Don’t remember throwing it out." He goes over to the truck and opens up the door. Sure enough tucked between the seats is a list with check marks all the way down it. "Yeah, here it is."
"Do you mind?"
The driver shrugs again. "If we get a call tomorrow I’m sure they’ll have another list."
Kyle hears the hail and runs down to the dock out back of the lake house. He isn’t surprised to see Lydia at the helm of the Quartermaine’s speedboat. With Lydia driving the boat, AJ could jump to the dock and start securing the lines. "You guys have a good time?" Kyle gives a hand to Michael so the kid can jump to the dock. Rosie takes a leap off the back of the boat and into the water swimming to shore. AJ jumps off on his own and ties the boat at the front while Kyle fastens down the back.
Only then does Lydia disembark from the boat after first handing over the picnic basket to Michael. She makes sure that she has a firm hand on both AJ and Kyle. "Oh yes, it was lovely and finally warm enough to really swim. It was a wonderful way to spend the blackout." Lydia smiles. Her sleeveless sheer white cover up offers sun protection but barely any coverage over her revealing bikini.
AJ runs a caressing hand over his wife’s protruding stomach. "And the baby is as much of a sun worshiper as his mother." Then he gives her a kiss. "It was nice out in the middle of the lake. We ran into a few photographers as we were pulling out of the boathouse at the mansion. At least on the way up here we were far enough from the shore to actually have some privacy."
"Lydia lost them dodging through the harbor." Michael declares smugly gazing at his stepmother adoringly. "And the bodyguard made sure they stayed lost." He strips off his life vest and tosses it back in the boat. "Then we went swimming and stuff and then had a picnic out in the middle of the lake."
"Sounds like fun."
"AJ let me steer the boat too after I told him my dad let me steer down on the island."
"And now you’ve figured out why boats are better than cars. You don’t have to be able to reach the pedals which is why people wait until they’re sixteen to drive. Sailboats are more challenging though and require some measure of... skill." Lydia shrugs. "Sorry. A prejudice inherited from my parents. They might have been killed while sailing because of a storm but they did love it so. It just goes to show, Michael, if you need to get somewhere fast... take a plane. And if you need to get somewhere in style..."
"Take a boat."
"Exactly." Lydia leans over and presses the top tip of Michael’s ear. "I think you missed a spot." Michael groans. Lydia is as bad as his mother and Leticia about making sure he wore sun block. Really what is so bad about turning into one big freckle?
"Skye and Cole around?" AJ asks.
"I dropped Uncle Cole off at the paper after we got finished with Jake’s. Skye pulled an all nighter yesterday and went in late today after taking a nap. He was going to try to drag her out of there at a decent hour."
Lydia hides a smile behind her hand. It did sound like something that Coleman would say. Really Skye’s walk on the wild side with Coleman Radcliffe had turned out to be anything but. Of course AJ had filled her in on some of the things that Cole and Skye had done before. As well as all the reasons why the oh so rich, handsome and eligible Jasper Jack had ended up being poison to Skye. AJ didn’t particularly like Coleman but as far as taking care of Skye even he’d been forced to admit Cole is better for his sister.
"Lydia." AJ makes eye contact with his wife and then waits until her nod. "Michael, we need to have a family meeting."
Michael looks from one to the other and gets a feeling of dread. But it couldn’t be too bad right? There was no way that AJ or Lydia could have heard anything. He’d been with them all day. He takes a step closer to Kyle. Rosie seems to sense something is off and comes over to Michael and leans up against the boy nearly knocking him off balance.
"Why don’t we borrow Skye’s front porch?" Lydia takes AJ’s hand and twines her fingers through his. The conversation is put on hold for the time it takes for everyone to get to the front porch and pull up a seat. Lydia takes the slider with Michael keeping a reassuring arm around him.
"Should I be here for this?" Kyle asks awkwardly wondering if he should go inside.
"You know what is going on. There is no reason for you to leave now." AJ leans back against the railing. "Besides this way you can fill in your uncle and Skye." AJ focuses on Michael. "Lydia and I asked your Grandma Bobbie about how the search is going for your mother, Michael."
"The reason Uncle Jason hasn’t been over lately is because he and Sonny heard that your mother may be in South America." Lydia tells the little boy.
"Wait a sec!" Kyle interjects. "I thought that Ric Lansing had Michael’s mother stashed somewhere around here, right Michael?"
Michael nods and his brow furrows as he tries to figure out what the heck is going on. "He stole Mama from the wedding but nobody believed me."
"Everyone believed you, son." AJ counters quickly. "But Jason couldn’t find your mom even though he knew Ric had hidden her somewhere. And he couldn’t hurt Ric or put him in the hospital for fear he still wouldn’t tell where your mom was. That’s why he had to wait so long. But someone else found your mom and stole her before Jason could find her."
"So Uncle Jason can kill Ric now?" Michael suggests helpfully.
"I think it’s more important that your Uncle find your Mother. Let the police handle Mr. Lansing." Lydia counters. "But your father and I hope this is good news, so we wanted to share it with you. Ric doesn’t have your mother anymore. And your Uncle Jason has a good idea who does."
"Nobody knew what Ric wanted, Michael. We think this guy wants money."
"And we have plenty of money?" Michael looks from AJ to Lydia.
"Exactly." Lydia gives him a smooch on the top of the head. "So it’s not over yet. It may be a little while to figure out how much money the bad man wants but we’ll be ready when he contacts us."
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