This is my first entry in The Great Y&R Fan Fiction Challenge. The prompt word is “ill”. The pairing is Likey (Lauren/Michael). This takes place in mid-2013 after Lauren’s regrettable affair with Carmine.
Living for the Moment
“Are you going to tell him?” Christine asked as she sat beside Lauren on a bench in front of Genoa City Memorial. They both stared ahead, not daring to look at each other for fear of what they’d see in the others’ eyes.
Lauren shook her head. She locked her tiny fingers around the edge of the bench and squeezed until her hands were so white, they appeared almost translucent.
“I can’t, Christine, I just can’t okay?” Lauren said in an unnaturally high voice. “He still hates me for what I did with Carmine.”
“Are you kidding? He doesn’t hate you. Michael could never, ever hate you. He’s angry, he’s devastated, but he still loves you and he needs to know the truth. The truth that you have –“
“I know what I have,” Lauren snapped. She softened her voice. “Sorry, it’s all just a lot to take in right now.”
“I believe that,” Christine said. Her hand found the small of Lauren’s back and she gave her some reassuring rubs there. She then hugged her gently, as if she was afraid to hurt Lauren. “Michael needs to know, Lauren. So do Fen and Scott. If you’re going to get through this, you’re going to need the love and support of your family and friends.”
Lauren dashed at an angry tear. “I hurt him so badly, Christine. To ask him to turn around and hold my hand while I go through –“ she paused a moment; her breath coming out shuddery –“chemo. To watch me fall apart… It’s wrong though maybe he’ll think it’s karmic justice.”
“Oh come on. You don’t really believe that at all.”
“I don’t know what I believe anymore,” Lauren said. She finally looked at Christine. “Thanks for letting me confide in you. I needed that but Michael – Michael can never know.”
Christine ran into Michael at the police station a little over a week later. She had purposefully steered clear of him so that she didn’t feel the need to unburden herself of what she knew about Lauren.
“Longtime no talk, stranger,” Michael said. She looked away. She had seen the haunted look in his eyes that told her he was broken – more broken than he’d ever been. The whole debacle with Carmine Basco was destroying him bit by bit. Christine realized that he needed Lauren, every bit as much as she needed him right now.
“Is something wrong, Christine?” Michael asked.
“What? No. I’m fine,” Christine said. “What makes you think-“
“Well for one you’ve been avoiding me and now you can’t look me in the eyes. What aren’t you telling me? Is Carmine still behind bars or isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is. This isn’t –“ she sighed –“isn’t about Carmine. It’s about-“
“Spit it out, Christine!” Michael said impatiently. “What’s going on?”
“How’s Lauren?” Christine asked instead.
Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in a week.”
“You moved out?”
“I had no choice, Christine. She’s been pushing me away again. I take it she’s angry that I got her ex-lover locked up. Or maybe she’s angry that I couldn’t protect Fen from that monster.” Michael ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know anymore.”
“This has nothing to do with Carmine,” Christine said again. “I swear.”
“Then what’s going on? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Just go see Lauren. Go see your wife.”
“I told you. She completely closed herself off to me. In fact, she seemed relieved when I told her that I was leaving the apartment.”
“Michael, I am asking you – no, pleading with you- to go see her and don’t give up on her.”
“She gave up on me. She gave up on us.”
“She made a mistake, Michael. God knows we all have. But remember a few years ago when no one could look past your misdeeds, she did. She came to your side and loved you and you owe her to be there for her now.”
“What’s going on with her, Christine?”
“I can’t tell you. She’s going to hate me for even mentioning it but if you ever loved her, you will look past your wounded pride go to her now.”
Lauren stumbled off the elevator. She felt as if she was going to heave all over again. She had already done so twice just on the drive home. Dr. Winters kept telling her that she shouldn’t come to chemo sessions alone but who else could accompany her? She hadn’t asked Christine because she knew Christine was so busy. She couldn’t ask her sister. Jill was out of the country. And asking Michael…
Well, that was out of the question now.
She reached her apartment. Her hands shook as she pushed her keys into the lock. She shoved the door back and ran inside. She made it to the bathroom and dropped to her knees, hugging the toilet bowl as she began to vomit violently.
She ended up laying on the cold tile for what felt like hours afterwards. It might have only been a couple of minutes though. She wasn’t sure. She didn’t know anything anymore – what was up and what was down. Her world was spinning crazily on an off-kilter axis.
She could have and would have laid there for another twenty hours at least but she heard a familiar voice calling to her through the haze in her brain. “Lauren? Where are you, Lauren? The door was open… Are you okay?”
It was Michael.
She immediately hauled herself up, gripping the rim of the bathtub for support. She then staggered out of the bathroom. Once she reached the bedroom, she forced herself to walk upright. Confidently. Like she had a plan and a purpose when she no longer had either.
“Michael, hello,” she said, edging into the living room. He looked as if he had been charging about the place looking for her.
“What’s going on, Lauren?” His eyes were critical but his voice was surprisingly gentle. He didn’t look angry. He just looked sad and confused.
“Christine told you,” Lauren realized. This was exactly what she hadn’t wanted to happen. “You know I have cancer, don’t you?”
Michael gripped his chest like he was having a heart attack and staggered back a bit. “What?”
“Ohmigod, wait – you didn’t know?” Lauren asked in a panicked voice. “Christine didn’t-“
Michael steadied himself. “The only person who bothered telling me that my wife has cancer is you and I suspect that that was never the plan.”
Lauren wanted nothing more than to sink to the floor and die right there but she couldn’t. “You weren’t supposed to know. Not unless-“
“Unless what? Unless you died?” Michael snapped. “You honestly believe I had no right to know that you have cancer? How could you deny me that knowledge?”
“Please don’t berate me, Michael. I just didn’t think you needed to concern yourself with this. We’re getting a divorce… I mean, that’s what you asked for.”
“I asked for a separation. That is a very different thing,” Michael said. “I just don’t know why you would keep this a secret.”
“We both know that’s what I do,” Lauren said bitterly. She sighed as she felt her stomach roil again. She immediately pushed past Michael and made a dive for the bathroom.
She hit her knees hard on the linoleum but that was the least of her worries. As she began to heave, she vaguely heard footsteps behind her and then felt her hair being lifted off the cold, clammy skin of her neck.
A tear rolled down her face and when she was done throwing up, she collapsed with exhaustion. Michael caught her in his strong arms. He gently picked her up, cradling her to him, and carried her back to the bedroom. He gently pulled back the covers with one hand and then set her down, drawing the blankets up to her chin.
She looked at him through blurry eyes. “This is exactly what I didn’t want, Michael.”
“What? Someone helping you?”
“No, you feeling sorry for me.”
“Don’t say that you don’t. I see the pity in your eyes. I’m not blind.”
“You must be because all you see is disbelief… and sadness. I don’t want you to be sick. Anyone else can have fucking cancer, but not you. You’re so strong, vibrant… alive.” He dropped down onto the mattress beside her and gingerly reached for her hand. “Promise me you’ll fight this. Promise me that you won’t give up.”
“Michael, why are you saying all of this?”
“Because you’re the mother of our son. Fen needs you. Scott needs you. Your family and friends need you… I need you…”
Lauren’s lifted her aching arm and laid her palm against his stubbly cheek. “You’re a good man, Michael Baldwin.”
“Hah. You can’t say those words with a straight face, can you?”
“I just did. I will always think you’re a good man. Kind and caring…. Michael, is it too late for us?”
Michael covered her hand with his. “I don’t want it to be but you have to fight. You have to beat this thing. I’ll be here whenever you need me.”
A tear rolled down Lauren’s alabaster cheek. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to do this.”
“I don’t. I am here because this is where I belong and where I want to be.” He squeezed her fingers. “You’re going to beat this thing, Lauren. You have to because you’re the brightest light in my life and if you were suddenly not there… It would be all darkness here –“ he placed his hand over his heart –“again.”
“I’m scared, Michael.”
“Me too.” Michael swiped at an angry tear. “Dammit. Look at what you do to me.” He sighed. “Never mind that. Just tell me, what do you need?”
“I need my husband… to hold me,” Lauren said. “I know it’s a lot to ask… Wait, what are you doing?”
He laid down beside her and gently pulled her against his chest as if he were afraid he might break her. “I’m holding you,” he said and she felt his tears dampen the back of her rose-colored blouse. “You need to be held and I need to hold you.”
Lauren smiled. “That feels nice. It’s been such a long time…. I hurt you so much.”
“Shhh, okay? Let’s not focus on that. We need to focus on you and this moment.”
“You can holder me tighter, you know. I won’t break. I swear.”
Michael cinched his arms around her waist and drew her closer to him. She could feel his warm breath on her neck and for the first time in a long time, she believed things might just be alright.