I Never Left

An Elani Short

By Lou

4

"Oh. You're talking to me now?"

"Don't pout, Brady. You're supposed to be an adult."

"It's been days, Lani."

"I'm sorry," She told him. "I wasn't aware that there was a timetable to getting over the shock of one's thought dead husband updating their status at their wife's wedding. I apologize."

"You're acknowledging the fact that we are married?"

She shook her head. "We aren't." She told him. "The ceremony wasn't completed-"

"What about, Veg-"

"Eli's being alive negates it. You know that, as I'm sure you've been to Justin and that he has explained that to you."

He took her hands in his. "I still want this," Brady told her. "I still want us. I still to be your husband."

"Brady-" Lani let him go when he pulled away from her and waited; watching while he paced.

"We have a life together." He said. "This guy is gone for six years and gets to just come back and put a stop to that? No. No, Lani."

"He didn't just walk out on me and deny our daughter," Lani said to him. "He, literally, went to work. He was held capative. We had a life before that. We had plans."

"And if he's captured again? Then what? Hm? Do you really think that he's done? Do you? Did you even think about that?" She hadn't and he knew it. "Did you even ask him if he was going back to that? I wouldn't leave you that way; not like that."

"Stop making it seem like he had a choice, Brady; I don't appreciate it. Eli was doing his job, and in doing so he was CAPTURED."

"So you've said, and I don't care. You're telling me that you're leaving me and going back to him. I don't want to lose you. I love you, and I don't want to lose us. It's not right; it's not fair, that he just gets to come in her and disrupt that. Don't let him," Brady pleaded with her. "Not when I know that you still love me, too."

"I love my husband, Brady," Lani told him. "I've never stopped."

"I'm your-You love me." He said to her. "You wouldn't have said yes if it didn't, and you wouldn't be wearing my ring if-" He snatched her hand up and his words fell away.

Her hand was bare.

He wanted to go back.

More than anything, Brady wanted to go back, and for Eli Grant to have stayed dead.

"You can't tell me that you don't love me, too." He told her quietly. "Not after everything."

"I can't tell you that I don't care about you, Brady. I do, because you are right. I did say yes, I was wearing your rings, but I can't lie to you. It's not enough. It doesn't erase what I feel-"

"Lani-"

"For my husband." She went on. "If Eli really had been dead, or had chosen not to come back at all, then I don't know; maybe, but he has and he is."

"Maybe? What do you mean 'maybe'? What does that mean?"

"I don't want to hurt you. That's the last thing that I want to do, but I am still very much in love with my husband."

"I don't accept that."

"You don't have a choice."

"This...This is a mistake." Brady told her. "You're making a mistake, Lani. The biggest mistake. I will not wait for you. Do you understand? I won't wait for him to go off and be a hero, leaving you, and your daughter, again; but for good this time."

"I would never ask you to."


"Okay...whaaat's your favorite color?"

His lips smiled. She'd already asked him that. "Blue. What's your favorite cartoon?"

"X-Men."

"Really?" His girl had taste.

"Yes." Valarie's curls bounced when she nodded, her voice carrying a slight lisp because she was missing some teeth. "It's my favorite because Uncle Theo watches it, too, and when he comes over, he tells me how the story happened in the comics."

"Do you read comics?"

"Mmmm?" She thought about it for a second then: "No. I've read one, so I guess I've read A comic."

"Did you like it?"

"I didn't hate it." Ree's eyes blinked heavily, her dark lashes touching down on her peanut butter brown cheeks before she forced her eyes back open again.

"So you like the cartoon better?"

She nodded yawning. "Favorite food."

"Tacos."

"That's mommy's favorite food, too."

"I remember."

"Are you going away again?"

"You'll never in your life have to live without me again, Valarie."

The little girl smiled sleepily. Murtaugh 'harumphed' under her little feet as they rubbed against his side. The dog stretched then sighed back into sleep.

"My grandma Lexie said that you wouldn't."

"You can believe her," Eli told the little girl, as he rubbed his cheek over the top of her head. He missed so much. He wasn't about to miss anything else.

"What's it like to have a beard?"

He laughed loudly, caught off guard by the question. " It itches sometimes."

She gave into sleep watching X-Men. It was okay for them to watch the old ones, she had told him because she had already seen them and talked to her uncle about them. Oh, and Eli didn't have to read the comics if he didn't want to, his daughter had also informed him.

He probably should have taken her to her room, but he didn't want to wake her. So he covered with the throw from the back of the couch, checked the locks, then went out back to stand in the sun.

It was time to start talking.

His wife had hidden from him long enough.


Brady watched Ree sleep for long seconds before he walked the rest of the way through the house, through the kitchen, and, eventually, out the back door.

He hated this house.

For the longest time, he hadn't been allowed here; and when he finally was, it had only been for a visit on the porch; never once had he been allowed inside. He'd had to temper his happiness when Lani had told him that she was going to sell this place and put the funds toward her daughter's schooling.

"Last I checked, coming into someone's home, uninvited, could get you shot."

"What is this? 1901? You wanna duel?"

"What are you doing in my house?"

"This is Lani's house."

"What are you doing in my house uninvited?" Eli went on. "With my child asleep in the living room? Leave. Now." Eli caught himself quickly.

Brady shook his head. "Not until we get a few things straight, and you understand-"

Eli came up the back porch steps. "No, you're the one who needs to understand a few things." He told him. "You came to my house. Where my daughter is asleep. Where she rests her head. You're not leaving when I tell you to; now you're trespassing."

"Okay. Hold on. Now you're being ridi-"

Eli snatched the man up by his collar. They stared then Eli tossed him aside away from him. He'd promised his baby.

"What I'm being is a father." He told Brady. "What I am is fed up."

"I love Lani."

"Good for you."

"We've made a life together. Do you understand that? Can you?"

"We have a life together." He told him. "Can you?"

"Six years. You've been dead and gone s-"

"We've had this conversa-"

"Six years." Brady went on. "Six. Now, Lani has moved on, and she's moved on with me."

"Really?"

"Actually." He replied. "And if you love her like you say that you do-"

"Don't say something that will get you put in the ground before God takes you, Kiriakis."

"She wants a divorce."

"Then she can tell me."

Eli considered the man for a long second for a smirk pulled at his face.

"What?" Brady sneered.

Eli shook his head. "Lani doesn't know that you're here, and I can't decide what title suits you more: stupid, entitled, or just plain disrespectful."

"I'm taking care of my family."

"No. What you're trying to do is take mine." Eli corrected. "That's my wife, that's my child, and this is our home. If you think I spent the last six years fighting my way home just to walk away from her because of you, you've lost your mind. If you think that you're about to play daddy to my baby, to my Valarie, you don't know me, and you damn sure don't know her mother; and you never did."

"Come on. We would never-"

"You aren't doing a damned thing; nothing," Eli told him. "You didn't spend all night to making her and you damn sure didn't raise her."

"I've been a part of that's child's life for the last 18 months. That's more than I can say for you."

"That so?"

"Entirely."

"Her name is Valarie."

"I know her name."

"Do you, because it's Valarie Tamara Grant. Grant; and I may not have been her physically, but I've very much been a part of my daughter's life. She wouldn't have known who I was, or come to me, otherwise.

"What's her favorite food, favorite color, stuffed animal, hell, her favorite X-Men? You should know all that, shouldn't you, Mr. 18 Months? No? I'm not walking away from my family. You coming here was a waste of gas."

"I can afford it. I assure you." Brady quipped. "I will not allow you to come in here and demolish the life that we've made together." His fists clenched unconsciously.

"The first one was free. The next one will come with shipping and handling."

"Don't threaten me, Horton."

"I would never be so lazy, Toscano." Eli pointed toward the side of the house. "You can let yourself out that way."

"This is not done."

"Yeah, it is." Eli started back inside then stopped. "Oh, and just so you and I are clear: I didn't just 'come in' anywhere. You know, just like I do, that I never left."


She had been on her way to have dinner with her family, talk things out with her husband, when Lexie called

She u-turned in traffic.

Lani called Eli on the way and had run three red lights before she made it to the hospital.

No one could tell her anything because they didn't know anything, and Lexie no longer had hospital privileges. She was retired and had already pushed farther than allowed.

Lani hadn't prayed so hard since the last time she had been in the hospital last; when she had to have an emergency c-section.

Her phone beeped as she paced the hall way. She hadn't even heard it ring. It was a message. A voicemail waiting for her.

"Baby...What's going on? Why aren't you picking up your phone? We're on our way. I love you."

When she looked up, he was there; striding toward her, their sleeping daughter on his shoulder, her little face pressed into his neck while she slept.

The girl could sleep through an earthquake...

He didn't say anything. The way that he moved, he didn't have to; the people around him seemed to just get out of his way. They met in front of the nurses' station and Lani felt everything lift away when he pulled her into them; just being, with her husband, their daughter, their family.

Together.

"What happened?" She heard him ask before she felt his lips brush over her head.

"Lexie thinks my father had a heart attack." Lani's voice hitched.

Hours they waited to be told that her father hadn't but was at risk and wanted to keep him overnight for observation.

These past few days it one shock after another for Lani it seemed. Eli coming back to her the way that he had, at her wedding, after years of believing him dead and lost to her; he never knowing their daughter. Her father being in the hospital may seem tame in comparison, but Lani would gladly live the rest of her life in relative quiet, she thought as she watched her father sleep; her husband's arm around her, their daughter asleep between them.

Oh, yeah, Lani thought, her own eyes growing heavy with Eli absently rubbing at her neck and shoulders, I welcome this.

When her phone rang, shattering the moment, Lani shifted Ree to him then stepped out of the room to answer.

"Hey, Bran..."