I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
– Numb, Linkin Park
Friday, July 25, 2003
Bobbie stirred sugar into her coffee and grimaced as she looked at her watch. “Elizabeth’s hearing starts in two hours. I wonder if she’ll change her mind.”
“She seemed pretty sure when she called yesterday.” Carly sighed. “She feels the same way I do about the trial, Mama. She told me that she and Jason talked about it, and we’re on the same page.”
“And Sonny is the odd man out,” Bobbie said, with a lift of her brows. “Well, he’s never been one to trust the police. I’m surprised Jason is going along with it—but—” She pursed her lips. “Maybe not. If Elizabeth said this is what she needs—”
“I knew he’d listen to her on this. Just like I know he’d have agreed to it if it was just me. It’s just…” Carly shook her head. “I understand why Sonny…I get it. But I’m kind of tired of this attitude he has—Courtney has a little bit of it, too. This—I get how awful that week must have been for the people looking for me. I mean, I watched Elizabeth and Jason—I watched you when you came over. And I know Sonny had a breakdown. I know all of that, but at the same time—is it wrong to be angry that everyone is treating my trauma like it happened to them personally?”
“I mean, I’m in the hospital, barely recovering, and Courtney wants to know if I could see any evidence of an affair on the monitors. And Sonny keeps talking about how they all went through it, but I’m sorry, Mama —” She bit her lip. “And maybe I’m starting to get why you wanted him to talk to someone.”
“I just…I wonder how much more could have been accomplished if Sonny had been involved. If he’d been another set of eyes. I mean, what Nikolas suggested about a panic room—that shouldn’t have been brand-new information to us. It shouldn’t have taken us until Friday to talk to Ned and learn about Faith and Ric. But Elizabeth had her overdose less than twelve hours after you went missing. She nearly died, Carly. And after that—”
“She became someone else Jason had to worry about.” Carly said, with a sigh. “She refused to leave which ended up being the right call, but—” She shook her head. “I just…I want this to be over, and part of me wants Sonny to just…make a call and end it. To make it over tonight. It’d be so easy and—” Tears stung her as she looked away from her mother. “To be able to lie my head down tonight and know he wasn’t in the world anymore—it’s disgusting how much he hangs over me and he’s not even in the zip code.”
“But you still want to testify.”
“I think—and knowing Kevin, he’d agree—that maybe I’m still processing the worst of it. I said it out loud to Sonny the other day and had a panic attack about ten minutes later. And no, I didn’t tell you when I got to your place that night, Mama, because I knew you’d worry. I had the guard drive me around for a while.”
“Ric was going to kill me. He was going to keep me in that room for as long as he could, then kill me and take my baby to give to Elizabeth. And if Michael hadn’t seen him, if Jason and Sonny hadn’t gone to the house that night and found Elizabeth drugged up—”
“It haunts me how close we came to losing you, Carly.” Bobbie swallowed hard. “It was easier for Elizabeth to believe what happened because we were there, telling her she was drugged. And Ric only doubled her dose because he doubted her. But if she hadn’t believed, if Michael hadn’t seen you—”
“I might have been in there for weeks,” Carly murmured. “Longer. Maybe Ric would have been able to move me. And it’s hard to admit how close it all was. How if one thing had been different, I might still be gone.” She sighed. “I think I need to look him in the face, Mama, so I can put it away. I need to be the reason he’s gone. I need to be part of it. And I need to know that he’s rotting away, dying in a cell, just the way I nearly did. So yeah, as easy as it would be to just tell Sonny to hell with everything else, end it tonight—it wouldn’t stop the nightmares. It wouldn’t stop the panic attacks.”
She picked up her fork to stab at her omelet. “And if Sonny doesn’t understand that, then I don’t know where that leaves us. Because if he gives the order—”
“Will Jason allow it?” Bobbie finished. “I hope we won’t have to find out.”
Warehouse: Sonny’s Office
“I don’t know what the hell Carly is thinking,” Sonny said as he paced the confines of his office. He turned back to Jason who remained sitting quietly in his seat. “Doesn’t she get how weak this makes me look—”
“To who?” Jason asked, interrupting him. He’d listened to Sonny complain about Carly’s decision to testify and her request that Ric be allowed to rot away in prison. He hadn’t been surprised to learn Carly’s wishes aligned with Elizabeth—in a lot of ways, the two of them were similar though he’d probably be risking his life if he told either of them that.
And he couldn’t understand why Sonny was turning Carly’s reasonable request into some sort of betrayal. He wanted Ric wiped from the face of the Earth, too, but as long as he was sent to prison, away from Elizabeth and Carly, Jason could live with not actually seeing him dead.
If he ever got out—if he were a free man—well, that was a different situation entirely.
“Zacchara? Ruiz?” Sonny sneered. “They’re going to think I’m weak, that I can’t handle my business—”
“And they’d be right, wouldn’t they?” Jason said, irritated for having let Elizabeth head to the courthouse without him because Sonny wanted to have a meeting. Once again, he hadn’t been there for her because of Sonny. He promised himself this would be the last time.
“What the hell does that mean—”
“It means you should have taken Ric out back and shot him months ago,” Jason shot back. “When you learned about the shit he did to Carly. When he kidnapped Courtney. When he tried to kill you. He shouldn’t have been breathing long enough to get to Carly again, to put a hand on Elizabeth. But you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t kill your mother’s son. Do you think you don’t already look weak?”
Sonny glared at him. “You think I’m a coward for letting him live?”
“I think I don’t give a damn—” Jason bit off his words. “Elizabeth wants to testify, too. And she also wants Ric to rot in prison. So that’s what going to happen—”
“If I give the order—”
“I’ll refuse it. I’m not breaking a promise to her because you need to feel strong, Sonny. And you can’t do it without me,” Jason said even as his partner opened his mouth to protest. “I’m the one with the prison connections. You wouldn’t even know who to ask.”
He exhaled slowly. “Carly went through hell. She gets to decide how this goes. Ric didn’t go after her because of who you are in business, Sonny. He did it because of your blood. It was personal. You had your chance to get rid of Ric.”
“You’d refuse a direct order—” Sonny stared at him blankly. “After everything Ric did to Elizabeth, you’d let him live—”
Jason checked the clock on the wall. He’d have to leave now if he had a prayer of making it to the hearing on time. “Look, she and I agreed — she gets to testify and if he goes to prison, he gets to rot there. If he gets acquitted, if he gets out on parole, all bets are off. I have to go, Sonny.”
“Where the hell do you have to go that’s more important?” Sonny demanded.
Jason got to his feet, impatient. “To the courthouse. Elizabeth might still have to testify, even though—”
Sonny blinked. “Testify? Wait.” He held up his hands, some color draining from his face. “Did I—what day is it? I don’t—when did the trial start? Did—”
His ire drained, Sonny sat down. “Did I lose time again? What day is it?” he repeated, his voice climbing in volume and tone.
“It’s July 25, Sonny. And it’s Elizabeth’s hearing about the restraining order. She’s not pushing hard to renew it, but the judge still might ask her to testify.” Weary now, Jason shook his head. “You need to talk to someone, Sonny. I thought after Carly was found, things would get better. But it’s not. And you’ve lost track of time before. You need—”
“I need the people in my life to do what hell the I say!” Sonny jumped back to his feet. “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“I have to go,” Jason repeated and then left, even as his partner sputtered in protest.
Port Charles Courthouse: Courtroom
“Am I reading this correctly, counselor?” the judge asked as he peered at Diane Miller over the top of his glasses. “Your client has decided against testifying in today’s hearing?”
Elizabeth stared straight ahead at the judge. She hadn’t seen Ric since that terrible morning at the house almost a month earlier when she’d had to protect herself with a baseball bat, and she’d realized, just outside of the courtroom, that she wasn’t entirely ready to see him now.
But she knew she had people behind her that cared. Emily and Monica had come to give her support, while other members of the family had gone to Bensonhurst to bury Brooke. Scott and Bobbie were sitting in the front row, while Jason had taken a seat next to his sister and mother. Even Taggert and Cruz Rodriguez had shown up.
She had people behind her that cared, and that mattered.
“Your Honor, my client feels now that she has filed for divorce and moved out of the marital home, along with the fact that the defendant has moved to Crimson Point, her order is unlikely to be renewed. Putting herself through testifying would be useless.” Diane lifted her brows with a smirk. “Particularly given Your Honor’s history with the case.”
“Don’t get cute, Ms. Miller, or I’ll find you in contempt—”
“He means it, too!” Scott called out as Bobbie elbowed him. “Ow! Just giving her a warning.”
The judge ignored the outburst and looked at Elizabeth. “Mrs. Lansing—” Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest but the judge held up a hand. “I apologize. Miss Webber.” He eyed Ric’s table. “You might want to correct your legal petitions to the court, Mr. Lansing. Referring to her with a name that she never took doesn’t bode well for your case and makes me wonder if maybe Miss Webber might be better off with a formal, permanent order of protection after all.”
Elizabeth’s mouth dropped slightly as Diane scowled. “Politics,” she muttered. “The judge took a beating in the press after the way your case was handled. He’s up for re-election this year.”
“I apologize, Your Honor,” Ric said smoothly, his voice causing Elizabeth to shudder. “In my defense, I gave my…estranged wife…the necessary paperwork and she told me she had filed it.”
A lie. He’d given Elizabeth the paperwork, she’d said she’d get to it, and that had been the end of it. But it wasn’t important anymore.
“Miss Webber,” the judge began again. “Does Ms. Miller state your case correctly? Do you not intend to testify? Do you not think a protection order is warranted?”
“To be honest,” Elizabeth said, as she stood. “I didn’t intend to put myself through Ric Lansing’s cross-examination at this point because I didn’t think you’d renew the order anyway. It’s no doubt reached Mr. Lansing’s attention that I have reunited with the man I was dating before I met my estranged husband. I worried you might see my moving on as some sort of sign that I wasn’t…” Afraid was not the right word. God, she didn’t want to admit it, but— “That morning, when he threw me across the room, when he grabbed me, chased me—I was terrified. I knew he’d kidnapped Carly, I knew he’d drugged me. But somehow…I didn’t think he was capable of that.”
She took a deep breath. “And despite my charges of assault against him, Your Honor, you agreed to a temporary injunction that gave him power over me as I recovered from an illness he was responsible for and then kept him from being arrested for nearly killing me and kidnapping Carly Corinthos. So, with all due respect, Your Honor, I’d rather have the protection order, but I didn’t trust the system to grant it.”
The judged stared at her for a long moment with a furrowed brow, as if not sure whether to find her in contempt as he’d threatened her lawyer or just ignore her outburst. “Miss Webber, if I decide not to grant your request, you understand that Mr. Lansing will be allowed to contact you. He’s serving as his own attorney in the case you referred to.”
“And it’s my understanding that if I decline to sit for an interview with him, asking me again would count as witness harassment and intimidation,” Elizabeth said. “Which might cause his bail to be revoked.” She looked at Ric who was almost smirking at her in return. “So, let this serve as your notice. Mr. Lansing, that it will be a cold day in hell before that happens. The next time you and I see one another will be in a court room to make sure you pay for what you did to me and to Carly.”
“Your Honor,” Ric protested. “I have every right to build the case to clear my name, and we’re in the middle of divorce proceedings. Contacting her—”
“Miss Webber, I’m granting a renewal of the protection order,” the judge said. “For an additional six months.” He banged the gavel. “Court is adjourned.”
Ric scowled, but gathered his papers, then stalked out. Taggert and Cruz got up and followed, likely to make sure he actually left the premises and didn’t hang out to wait for Elizabeth afterwards.
Elizabeth blinked and looked at Diane. “Why did that work?”
“I’m not sure…” Diane frowned as she twisted in her seat to look at Scott. “Thoughts, Scott?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Scott said with a shrug. “Maybe a few calls from some well-placed donors reminded him who the hell he was here to serve. He wants to win re-election in November, he can’t afford to annoy some people.”
“Some people?” Elizabeth repeated only to catch Emily’s eye as her best friend, Monica, and Jason joined them at the front of the court room. “Emily—”
“Grandfather was more than happy to make a few phone calls on your behalf, Liz. He’s feeling really helpless with everything that’s going on with Ned and Brooke, so this was something he could do. And Nikolas also made some calls from London.”
“I appreciate the support.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’m glad we were able to get the order renewed without Carly having to testify. I think we both only really want to do this once, you know?”
She looked at Scott, who raised his brows at her. “We haven’t—we’re still talking about it, Scott. But I know I’m leaning towards a trial.”
“We got time, Elizabeth. This was a win today.” He looked at Bobbie. “Do you want a ride home or am I still in trouble?”
“You’re always in trouble,” Bobbie muttered but she followed the district attorney out of the room. Within twenty minutes, Jason and Elizabeth were able to extract themselves from the rest of the crowd and head for the parking garage where Jason parked his SUV.
Once inside the car, Jason exhaled slowly and just sat for a moment before starting the engine. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth leaned back against the headrest, her eyes closed. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m glad the judge changed his mind and renewed the order. With any luck, six months from now, the trial will be over, and he’ll be sentenced.” She looked at Jason. “Carly and I didn’t talk long yesterday, but I got the impression Sonny is maybe less on board than you are.”
“He thinks letting Ric live makes him look weak,” Jason admitted. “But I made it clear to him — this is what you and Carly want. This is what you guys get. It’s not up to me and Sonny. This isn’t business, it’s personal and—” He hesitated. “He’s not doing well, Elizabeth. He thought the trial was today.”
“He’s still refusing to get help?”
“He came close after Carly was rescued, but…he’s been doing this for years. Crashing, getting well again, sliding towards the edge again—”
“Carly and I—we’ve been good at keeping him together. We just…it’s hard right now—with Ric.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and stared out the windshield at the cement walls of the parking garage. “If letting Ric go to trial and live in prison is such an issue, if Carly changes her mind, then I—”
“No.” He shook his head. “You told me this is what you need. I’m not going to asking to you change your mind because of Sonny—”
“You’re not asking me, Jason. I’m offering. I know how scary it was for Sonny to hallucinate Lily, and I don’t want to create problems with him—”
“You’re not, Elizabeth—” He looked at her. “You told me that you hated when I put them first—”
“And you listened. That matters, Jason. But it’s important that I listen to you. So, let’s…it’s an option I’m willing to consider if Carly ends up changing her mind, okay?”
“Okay.” Jason switched on the engine. “Let’s get out of here.”
Brownstone: Front Steps
Lucky leaned against the car as he waited for Kelsey to stop scowling at her phone. “It’s good news,” he repeated. “The last thing PCPD or the DA’s office needs is Ric Lansing with the freedom to go near Elizabeth.”
“I know, I know—” Kelsey finally shoved her phone in her purse and climbed out of his car. He shut the door. “I guess I’m just—I’m nervous. This is a huge case, and Scott’s trying so hard to do the right thing. He offered them a deal to avoid testifying—”
“Yeah.” Lucky rolled his shoulders. “Yeah, well he probably feels guilty for railroading my mom—” When she shot him a dirty look, he held up his hand in surrender. “Okay. Fine. I appreciate that Baldwin has approached Elizabeth’s case with this much care, and I know my aunt is relatively happy with him.”
“Yeah.” Kelsey blew out a breath. “Your aunt.” She looked at the Brownstone. “Are you sure we need to go to dinner tonight? I mean, it’s been a long day. I’m sure your aunt is tired—”
Lucky put his arm around her shoulders and propelled towards the stairs. “Hey, are you and I serious about doing this? You still want to date me?”
“Yes.” Kelsey wrinkled her nose, looked at him. “Yes. But if I have to meet your family, you have to meet mine. My mother is coming up to see me next month, and I want you to come to dinner with us.” She stopped him before he could open the front door. “And Scott.”
“Oh, man—” Lucky grimaced. “Kelsey—”
“You don’t have to like him,” she told him. “But I think we’ve moved past the part where we declare a neutral zone, you know? He’s my boss, and he’s someone that—” She bit her lip. “He’s a connection to my father. And I miss my dad, so sometimes, I can still feel close to him because my dad really loved Scott.”
“Okay.” He kissed her forehead. “Okay. Now, c’mon, I want you to meet my Aunt Bobbie. She’s been the rock of the Spencer family for most of my life, and she’s important to me.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry in advance about my sister, though. There’s no explaining her.”
Kelsey laughed as he opened the door and gestured for her to go inside.
Brooklyn, New York
Cerullo Home: Front Porch
When Ned stepped out the front door, he found Lois sitting in a patio chair on the cramped porch of her family’s home. With a glass of wine in her hand, his ex-wife sat in stony silence, oblivious to the sound of conversation coming from inside.
“I wondered how long you’d last,” Lois said sourly as Ned leaned against the porch post and looked out over the streets of Bensonhurst. “Ma never really liked you after we got divorced.”
“Well, she never really believed I was good enough for you.” Ned sipped his water. “Thank you. For letting my family come.”
“Yeah, well, that was Ma and Liv’s idea. Me? I don’t want to think about Port Charles again. You and me never have to talk again.”
Ned exhaled slowly and gently sat at the top of the stairs, his back to Lois. “Fair enough. I loved you. Part of me always will. I wanted to believe I could be the man that you thought I was. Eddie Maine. The good guy who did good things for the right reasons. I wanted that life. I wanted it with you.”
“You chose not to have it with me. Don’t give me none of that bull about what’s in your blood and how you’ll never be different—”
“It’s easy to blame my family,” Ned said, cutting in almost as if Lois hadn’t spoken. “Easier to think I couldn’t escape being Edward Ashton, but you’re right. I chose to lie to you about who I was. Chose to bring you to Port Charles. Chose to break promises to you, to put my family over you. I did all of that. And I knew even as I was doing it, I was hurting you. I was arrogant. I thought you’d stay with me. You’d already forgiven me for so much, I just assumed your generosity was a bottomless well I could never drain.”
Lois sat beside him and sighed. “Yeah, well, I was sure the man I loved was buried somewhere deep inside of you. That if I could just hold on tight, show you how much I loved the good in you, you could be that man all the time.”
“The thing that maybe I didn’t want to see is that it was wrong to want you to change. I mean, I knew you were the kind of guy who not only would lie about his entire identity, but also marry someone else, have an affair…” She grimaced. “Anyway—”
“I was a terrible husband and an even worse father,” Ned continued. “And I don’t blame you for not wanting to have anything to do with me again.”
“It’s—you weren’t a terrible husband and father,” Lois said after a long moment. “It’s easy to blame you,” she continued, echoing his earlier statement. “Because then I don’t have to remember I was fed up with her before I sent her away. I cut her off from NYU. I sent her far from her friends and family. And I was on board with you keeping away the car and the phone. We made those decisions together, Ned.”
She squeezed her eyes shut. “Looking at you, thinking of you, it reminds me that we killed her, together. We took away her freedom, her choices, and we drove her into that park. And then when she needed us, we were angry with each other. We’re responsible for her death.”
“Maybe two percent of the responsibility is with us, Lois, but I’m gonna blame the animal who did this to her. Who made her hurt so badly, who took away her security and dignity. We punished her, Lois. Maybe too harshly. But—” Ned swallowed hard. “I’m not going to sue the city. It’s not enough. I don’t want them to just pay. I want to make sure it can’t happen to another family.”
“You mean, you want to clean up the streets of Port Charles?” Lois snorted. “I’ve heard this before. I don’t think it’s possible.”
“Maybe not,” he admitted. “But it’s time for someone to do something. Floyd put all those girls in danger for his political career. You think this is the first time he leaned on Mac to do something like this? You think this is the first cover-up?”
Lois hesitated, then sipped her wine. “Probably not. Ned—”
“I tried to find someone else. I don’t—if I run for mayor, Lois, Brooke’s case doesn’t go away. It stays on the front page. But I don’t want it—” He shook his head. “I’m not using her to get power. And people might come talk to you. If you tell me you can’t handle this, I’ll keep trying to find someone else. I have six more days before the deadline to register for the election.”
She was quiet for a long moment as the sunlight dipped below the horizon at the end of the street. The streetlights flickered on as he waited.
“Losing my little girl was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but maybe I could live with it better if it’d been a car accident.” She finished her wine. “But the city knew the park was being stalked and didn’t even increase police presence. Floyd and anyone who went along with it—they threw our little girl away. Like she didn’t matter. And she’s not the only one. I didn’t do right by Brooke, Ned. Neither of us did. But maybe…maybe if we get someone in there who wouldn’t use it for his power—”
“Ten years ago,” she murmured. “Ten years ago, I probably would have thought you’d be the worst candidate for mayor. You were blackmailing Justus, covering up the accident, but you know…you did all of that to protect your family. Because you protect what’s yours.” She looked at him, met his eyes. “You end up as mayor, Ned, they’re all yours. Every single person. Protect them. Protect them better than we did our girl.”
He exhaled slowly, closed his eyes. “I wouldn’t have done it without your blessing, Lois.”
“Yeah, well, it’s gonna take some time before I can be in the same room with you, and that’s not because I hate you.” They got to their feet and Lois reached out to adjust his tie, smiling up at him almost like she’d done once upon a time. “She had your eyes. The way she carried herself sometimes and smiled at me—I can’t look at you and not see her. Right now…it’s too much.”
She leaned up and brushed a kiss against his lips. “But I’ll always love you and the perfect angel we created together.”
“I’ll always love you, too,” he murmured, kissing her again, remembering what he’d once discarded and taken for granted.
She stepped back and smirked at him, that gorgeous knowing look in her eyes that had always drawn him to her— “I better get back inside to Ma and the others. I’m…I’m glad you came.”