Chapter Eight:
Dysfunction Junction

The Spencer House

Lucky holds Lulu's hand as they mount the steps to the house. It's already dark, and the cold weather has returned with a vengeance. The amber light from the living room looks especially warm and homey tonight. Lucky wonders to himself when he developed such an aversion to this house. His parents had made a good home here. He's feels momentarily stupid for letting anything keep him away from this place. However, that cold feeling returns almost immediately, and he sighs and open the door, steeling himself to deal with his mother. Laura is not in sight.

Lucky: Mom? (No answer. Lucky shuts the door, and kneels down and helps his sister take off her coat and gloves. Lulu sits down on the floor and lifts one boot clad foot up for him to free her from the heavy footwear. Lucky takes the boot and begins to attempt to undo the laces. The door to the kitchen opens and Laura sticks her head in.)

Laura: Lucky! I thought I heard you. (Lucky looks up and stares at his mother. She looks the same as always, eyes bright, and warm. His stomach knots itself. He doesn't want to deal with this today. He turns back to Lulu's boots.)

Lucky: Hey. (He yanks the boot off Lulu's foot, and the girl calmly lifts the other foot, looking over at her mother).

Lulu: Jack's got bugs.

Laura: I heard. You got to spend the afternoon at the club.

Lulu: (lightly) Yeah. Is Lucky staying with us tonight?

Laura: You'll have to ask him. (Lucky shoots his mother a look, suggesting this isn't a fair tactic on her part. Laura chooses to ignore it).

Lulu: Are you staying? (Lucky yanks off the second boot).

Lucky: (muttering) I have school work.

Lulu: (sulking, as much as this child ever does) You always have school work. (Lucky examines her face, remembering the shock it registered when he snapped the laptop shut. Besides that, he scared off Emily, who Lulu adores. He sighs deeply.)

Lucky: Ok. You win. I'll stay. (Laura beams. Lulu leaps to her feet.)

Lulu: I have to go do MY school work. (With this she scampers up the stairs. Lucky watches her go, then look over at Laura.)

Lucky: So, what's for dinner?

Laura: Tuna casserole. I didn't know you were coming.

Lucky: Sounds good to me. (He stands up and follows his mother into the kitchen. Laura moves over to the sink where she is slicing carrots. Lucky sinks into a chair at the kitchen table, and leans his head against his hand. Laura senses this without turning around.)

Laura: Having a rough day?

Lucky: (bitterly) Day? (Laura turns around and eyes him with concern)

Laura: Are you having problems with Emily, again?

Lucky: (Irritated) Why can't I ever have a bad day without it being about Emily?

Laura: (with full Motherly charm) Do you want to talk about it?

Lucky: (looking up at her) Dad mentioned Switzerland today.

Laura: (hesitating) He did?

Lucky: It's funny, you mentioned Em. She ... She broke up with me for keeping a secret from her. And it was only something I kept from her for a month or something. Meanwhile, I keep Dad in the dark for two years.

Laura: (sitting down across from Lucky) I know this has been hard on you.

Lucky: Then why don't you just end it?

Laura: Lucky. (She reaches across the table and takes Lucky's hand. For the first time in a year he's feeling just vulnerable enough to let her do it.) I've tried... I tried to do what I thought was right for this family. And the last thing I wanted was for you to find out about this. It's not the sort of thing a mother ever wants her child to have to deal with.

Lucky: (Pulling his hand away) I can deal with it. That's not the problem.

Laura: (aware that Lucky's version of 'dealing' with something and hers are two very different things) You shouldn't have to. I thought, for a while... After Nikolas was shot, and you and your father seemed so concerned, I thought that perhaps it was alright to tell the truth. But then, a few weeks later, everything was back to the way it was before.

Lucky: (tense) That's not true. Nothing's like it was before the shooting.

Laura; I know. I know you and Nikolas managed to find a way to coexist, and for that I am grateful. (sadly) I never expect you to act like brothers.

Lucky: But you hope for it.

Laura: (nodding) I admit, I have. And when you found out about Nikolas's paternity I thought maybe your insistence that we keep it quiet was out of concern for him.

Lucky: (immediately defensive) Concern for Nikolas? He doesn't need my concern.

Laura: You've always said that. I don't think you believe it any more than he does.

Lucky: Mom. Look. I tried, for a while there, I actually tried to be... (cringes) friendly with him. It didn't work. We're too different. And I didn't come here to talk to you about Nikolas!

Laura: Alright. You want to talk about what happened in Switzerland. (Lucky stares at the table top, stubbornly incommunicative). I never ever intended for you to find out that way. Stefan and I hadn't been in contact for months. But, every once in a while he would have to appear and remind me of what he had on me. Threaten me again. Why he choose to do this when my son was visiting -- (she becomes visibly distressed, and takes a deep breath, attempting to say what she knows Lucky has to hear). Lucky. You were already so suspicious of me, I thought for sure that you'd never speak to me again. That I'd succeeded in hurting both you and Nikolas so badly that both of my sons would cut me out of their lives. (Lucky stares at the table top even harder, as tears come to his eyes) I have never been so shocked in my life when you told me that Luke couldn't know, that you and I both had to keep this from him. And I thought... Oh, Lucky. I wanted to believe that we could go back to Port Charles, and pick up the pieces and go on. And that you and I could be like we had been before. I wanted that to be true so badly that I didn't notice that the truth was eating away at you. And by the time I realized how much pain you were in, it was too late. You were already holding me at arms length. So in the long run, I lose you too. (Lucky stands up with a start. He is shaking, emotionally on edge. He looks at Laura, forcing back the lump in his throat)

Lucky: I can't do this.

Laura: (pleadingly) Lucky...

Lucky: Tell Lu I'm sorry. (Laura sags at the table. She nods and wipes a stray tear from her eye).

Laura: Alright, Lucky. Alright. (Lucky stares at his mother. He wonders how he could want to hurt the person he's been trying to protect for so long. Yet, he's doing it again. He has to get out of here)

Lucky: I'll... See you later. (He turns and walks out of the kitchen, leaving a devastated Laura behind.)

* * * *

The Quartermaine's Dining Hall.

Emily sits at Lila's right, picking at her dinner. She can't sit still. Every moment she spends at the table is wasted time. Monica and Alan sit across from each other, but don't speak about anything besides the hospital. Edward is uncharacteristically silent as well. Emily is suppressing, once again, the intense desire to scream. Having run out of hospital and food related conversation, Alan turns to her.

Alan: How is school, Emily?

Em: Fine.

Alan: Any big assignments?

Em: I have an English symposium tomorrow morning and a Bio exam in the afternoon.

Monica: An exam?

Em: It's in-class. Real exams start next week.

Monica: Sounds like a lot of work.

Em: (shrugging) It's for a good cause.

Monica: (looking at Alan, pointedly) You know what we haven't done in a long time? You and I have not gone out just the two of us. We should do that after your Biology exam. Have dinner at the Grill. Would you like that? (Emily looks over at Monica. She is smiling broadly, hopefully. Em realizes she just wants to spend some time with her. However, time is now her most valued asset. She takes a deep breath).

Em: I'm not sure. I could have something to do.

Monica: Alright. Well, if you don't, why don't you come by the hospital after school, and we'll go out and celebrate.

Em: Celebrate what?

Monica: Making it through another day.

Alan: A minor miracle in this house. (Emily laughs in spite of herself)

Em: Alright. If I don't have anything to do with the newspaper, I'll drop by the hospital after school, alright?

Monica: I'll take what I can get. (She smiles at Emily lovingly. Em looks down at her plate)

Edward: Good lord, Emily. Aren't you going to eat more than that?

Alan: (warningly) Father.

Edward: Well, look at her! A strong wind could blow her away!

Em: I'm fine, Grandfather.

Ed: Don't you "I'm fine Grandfather" me!

Monica: Edward! (both Alan and Monica look at each other like they've taken a wrong turn in a bad neighborhood. The only thing they agree on these days is to lay the least amount of stress at Emily's feet as possible)

Ed: I'm so sick of sitting here and acting like something isn't wrong with that girl! And here you two are planning outings! What she needs is a good night's sleep and some food.

Monica: Emily, just eat what you can.

Em: I am!

Monica: I'm only trying to --

Em: Will you just let me do what I want for once? I'm not hungry. I had something to eat after school.

Ed: Humph. You wouldn't be so exhausted all the time if you didn't spend so much time with that Spencer boy.

Em: Well, Grandfather, you might now have to worry about that anymore. (she gets up, her voice a bit shaky) I have work to do.

Ed: Don't you leave this room until you've cleaned your plate! (Emily throws down her napkin)

Em: I'm finished. (Lila, silently, begins to cry. Monica notices this, and nearly tears up herself. She's at a loss.) I'll be in my room. (She quickly exits the dinning hall. Edward spots Lila in tears, and angrily follows after Emily, with a protective Alan close at his heels.

Alan: Father. You leave her alone, this is NOT your concern.

Ed: (reaching the stairs, and calling up after Emily) You've made your Grandmother cry! Are you happy?

Em: (freezing half way up the stairs). I'm just... (She stops. Now SHE'S going to cry. She takes a deep breath, and speaks very carefully.) I just want to get up to my room so that I can prepare for tomorrow. That's all.

Ed: And how do you expect to do that on an empty stomach?

Alan: Father! Please! Let me handle this. (Alan pushes past Edward, and mounts the stairs. Emily turns to face him, and then starts down the stairs towards Edward, leaving a confused Alan standing where she was.)

Em: Grandfather. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset Grandmother. I just really need to get this done.

Ed: (firmly, jaw set) Are you doing those drugs again?

Alan: (horrified) Oh, great! Why don't you just go and make this worse!

Ed: I'm only saying what everyone else is thinking.

Em: This is ridiculous! When I was doing drugs, no one noticed. When I try to do well at school and act responsibly, everyone gets on my case.

Ed: This is acting responsibly? Have you looked in the mirror?

Em: (yelling) It's the end of term! I have four classes that all need major projects done by the end of next week.

Ed: That's no excuse!

Em: No, it is, actually. It's hard work, and I'm going crazy trying to get it all done, but standing here fighting with you isn't helping me at all! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go upstairs and do some work. (She turns and dashes up the stairs, past Alan, and up to her room. Both Alan and Edward cringe when the door slams).

* * * *

The Docks.

Lucky sits on a bench and stares out at Wyndemere. He's trying to muster some of that blind hate that used to work so well for him. If he could find it, then he could insist his mother spill to his Dad about Nikolas being Stefan's son. The problem here is that piece of information could take down the whole clan. Certainly it would take down Nikolas, as he would no longer be in line to inherit the fortune -- the bastard son of the second son. There was a time when Lucky would have sunk Nik's future in a heartbeat. Now whenever he considers it, he gets an unexpected attack of compassion. He's lost his ability to be ruthless with Nikolas. It doesn't mean he's actually nice to the guy -- civil is about as far as he takes it, and then only because of Lulu and Emily -- but he can't bring himself to mess things up for him. He watches the house, heart heavy, and fiddles with the cellular phone in his hand. Finally he flips it open and dials a number from memory.

Emily sits at her desk, staring at her computer. She's trying to work, but her brain is so overloaded that her attention keeps drifting, and getting caught in things like watching her screen saver. The phone rings a few times before she focuses on it, and picks up the receiver.

Em: Hello?

Lucky: Don't tell me I woke you. (Emily doesn't say anything. Her eyes well up with tears and she stares at the computer screen). So how angry at me are you? (Emily still doesn't speak). I'm sorry. I was a real jerk this afternoon. I let some dumb stuff get to me.

Em: I recognized the symptoms.

Lucky: (voice gentle) How are you?

Em: I'm fine.

Lucky: Can I see you?

Em: Not tonight... I'll call you, alright?

Lucky: (covering extreme disappointment) Yeah. Yeah, whatever. You know where to find me.

Em: Yeah.

Lucky: Good night, Em.

Em: Night.