Night On the Terrace

Night On The Terrace: a Carly/AJ vignette

AJ turned, not sure what sound, what motion it was that made him do so. After that, for the rest of his life, he could never have said what it was that made him move in that one moment. But he did, he turned, and lifted his eyes to meet his ex-wife's, as she stood behind him. Carly advanced on AJ, her eyes so dark it was as if her pupils had swallowed them whole. For a moment, AJ could have sworn he saw the stars falling in her dark, dark eyes. But it was only a moment, a brief, brief moment. Because then, his eyes fell to her hands, and what she was holding, and where it was pointing, and there was no time to pay attention to the stars in Carly's eyes anymore. There was a gun in her hand, pointed at him, and it was not shaking. Carly's whole body was trembling, almost imperceptively, except for her hands. Her hands were steady, and they were straight, and the gun she was holding was aimed directly at his heart. It only took AJ a second, a split second to register this. This and one other thing -- the moment he looked down the barrel of that gun, he was stone-cold sober. Slowly, slowly, AJ lifted his eyes to meet those of his ex-wife's, afraid he'd see stars again. Afraid he wouldn't. His mouth formed her name, soundlessly, but nothing came out. Instead, it was Carly who spoke.

"Say goodbye, AJ," Carly whispered, tears in her eyes, not of grief or of sorrow or of anything human. Of pure, blind, elemental fury, so white-hot there was no room for nothing else, fury so deep, so intense that if there were no tears, she thought she'd die of it. Maybe she'd die of it anyway. "I'm going to do to you what you did to my baby." Carly took a single step towards AJ, her world reduced to two things. The gun in her hand, and him. The man who stood in front of her. The man who wasn't allowed to breathe anymore because her baby never had.

"Carly," AJ spoke her name, tasting the sound of it like ashes in his mouth. "Wha-- You, you're insane," he whispered, then closed his eyes, knowing as the words left his lips that they were wrong. Whatever else he saw in Carly's eyes, they were not the eyes of a crazy woman. Possesed, maybe. Angry beyond words, beyond truth, beyond all. Death. He saw death in her eyes. "Don't do this," he finally managed to say, his voice cracked and low.

"Don't tell me what to do," Carly snapped back, her own voice thin and sharp and quick, like a razor-blade, cutting through skin. "You don't get to tell me what to do," she took another step towards him, over the chasm, over the edge, "not ever again." A strange smile flashed across her face, strange in it's presence, in the fact that it seemed connected to the real world. Carly felt it bend the corners of her mouth upwards like clay cracking on a hot summer day. Shattering into a thousand pieces. Like her heart when her baby died. "Pretty soon, you won't get to tell anyone anything, ever again."

AJ swallowed, his throat, the very air he breathed thick with regret and pain and mortality. "I didn't kill your son," he protested, reaching across a distance more than miles, more than physical to Carly. "I would never have hurt him, Carly. It was an accident." For a moment, AJ thought he could hear the word 'accident' echo in his head, over and over and over again. As if all the times he'd said it before were whittled down to this one moment. "I swear it," he whispered. "It was an accident."

"You were drunk. And, I was pregnant," the tears started to fall; Carly didn't brush them away. She didn't feel them touch her cheeks. Her eyes closed a brief moment, then snapped open again. Too dangerous to walk blind. "Was pregnant," she repeated, her voice a whisper, almost too soft to hear. She shook her head once, taking another step forward, close enough now to touch him, if her fingers had not been full of cold, grey metal. "And you wanted my baby dead; you wanted him not to be born. Not to be. It's always an accident with you, AJ; that doesn't make my baby any less dead," she spit out.

"I'm sorry--"

Carly laughed, wildly, the laughter more frightening than the tears. She took another half step forward, the barrel of the gun barely touching AJ, right above the heart. "Say that again," she whispered, harshly. "I dare you. Tell me how sorry you are, how much you wish it hadn't happened. How much you wish you could bring my baby back, how much you wish you could hold him, just once, tell him that I loved him. How much I wish I could see the color of his eyes, the curve of his cheek, the way he smiled. I never got to hold my son," she cried, the cry coming up from the very bottom of her soul, as the air blurred in front of her eyes. AJ winced; it was as if her finger had tightened on the trigger, and the bullet had shot through him with her gutteral cry. "I never even knew his name," Carly's voice dropped to a whisper, and she could feel her knuckles start to whiten on the barrel of the gun.

AJ swallowed, then slowly, slowly the tension drained out of his body. He could feel it, he let it go. He gave it up to her, to her passion, to her pain. To his own. "Yeah you do," AJ whispered, looking into her eyes. "You're his mother; you know his name. Just like you're Michael's mother, and you knew his name the moment you first felt him move inside you. Michael, our son. Who needs his mother." Carly shifted slightly, a small gasp of pain that couldn't even be called a noise leaving her lips. "He shouldn't have died, Carly," AJ said, after a moment, his voice trembling, not with fear; that had left. With guilt. "Your baby shouldn't have died."

"No," Carly shook her head, "he shouldn't have. He wasn't meant to die; it was wrong. It is wrong. The whole world is wrong. Because my baby was meant to be in this world, and now he's gone, and I can't be in a world where my baby's not! And, you don't deserve to." The trembling in Carly's body, in her soul, suddenly extended to her hand; she couldn't hold the gun straight anymore. Why couldn't she hold it straight? She lifted her head and looked into AJ's eyes, and suddenly her vision blurred and his eyes were Michael's were AJ's were Michael's. Carly gasped, and with that sound, became human again. "Why?" The question exploded from deep in her throat, and broke something frozen in her heart. "Why do you and I get to live when my son is dead? That's not fair!"

AJ shook his head, and then, the world clicked into focus. He knew what was next. What the price was. "Go ahead," he whispered, his eyes locking on hers. "Shoot. My life for his. I killed your son; I was drunk," he cried, his voice raising. "I grabbed your hand, I let go, I let you fall. I didn't want to hurt your baby, but I wanted to hurt you," he saw her hand tighten on the trigger, and he moved forward, until it pressed hard against his heart, the metal painfully pressing against his skin. AJ welcomed the pain. "I wanted to hurt you as badly as you'd hurt me, to make you suffer. I didn't push you, but there was, there is a part of me that wanted to. Shoot, Carly," AJ reached up his hand, covering hers, urging her to pull the trigger. "Do it!" he cried.

Carly's fingers started to tighten, and then, abruptly, her hands went numb and the gun clattered out of her fingers onto the stones of the terrace. She stared at AJ, frozen, a long moment. Days. Weeks. Years, they stood there, until suddenly, great sobs broke out of her body, and she began to crumple to the ground. "I'm sorry," she whispered through her tears, as AJ moved to hold her, to slide his arms around her less for comfort than to hold her to the earth, when she seemed in danger of falling off it's edge. Or maybe it was to anchor himself to the ground. Maybe it didn't matter. "I'm sorry," she sobbed, over and over again. "I killed my son," her voice cracked. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry," AJ breathed in return, tears running down his own cheeks, until it was no longer possible to see where his tears started and hers began. "I'm sorry." His words were a strange echo to hers, no less heart-felt, no less true. No more closer to bringing a dead child back to life than hers.

Sonny stepped out of the shadows, his opaque eyes meeting AJ's over Carly's head. The two men exchanged long, wordless glances, in which a thousand things were said, and nothing was resolved. But, something -- something shifted. Sonny stepped forward, after a moment, scooping Carly up in his arms. Her arms lifted to his neck, her face pressed against his shoulder, her tears flowed down his chest. Sonny looked at the gun, on the cold marble of the terrace, then at AJ again. After a long moment, AJ picked up the gun, and stood up, holding it out to Sonny. Sonny took it, slid it in his pocket, pressing his lips to Carly's head, a brief prayer in his eyes as he did so. "This never happened," he murmured, AJ's eyes, which were also Michael's eyes, locked on his. He held AJ's gaze a beat longer, reading what he had needed to read in the other man's gaze, then turned and walked away, Carly in his arms. Safe. Broken, fractured, fragile as spun glass. But, breathing, alive. And free.