November 7, 2018

This entry is part 11 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Being me can only mean
Feeling scared to breathe
If you leave me then I’ll be afraid of everything
That makes me anxious, gives me patience, calms me down
Lets me face this, let me sleep, and when I wake up
Let me breathe
Afraid, The Neighborhood


Saturday, June 28, 2003

PCPD: Squad Room

“I am going to have someone fired today!”

Scott Baldwin’s voice boomed through the room even before he crashed through the double doors, waving a copy of the Port Charles Sun in his hand. “Which one of you fucking assholes did this?”

He threw the paper in the direction of the Organized Crime Unit—the set of desks where Capelli and Taggert sat. Taggert scowled as he caught it—the headline screaming FEMME FATALE over a trio of single photos—Elizabeth with Ric and Jason on either side…and in much smaller print on the lower third of the cover it proclaimed LANSING SUSPECT IN MOB KIDNAPPING.

He closed his eyes, crumbling it slightly. It was worse than he’d thought it might be—

“I tried to get the story killed yesterday—I’ve been on the phone with every reporter I know—” Taggert threw a scathing glance at his partner. “How much did you leak?”

“What makes you think I did this?” Capelli asked, even as he smirked. He took the paper from Taggert and opened to the article. “Hmm…they were definitely resourceful…” He held the center spread out. “How do you think they got this picture?”

Taggert glared at a photograph from the warehouse fire in 2001—someone must have snapped it just as Morgan and Corinthos had escaped—and later realized  Elizabeth was in the frame, a bouquet of white roses at her feet. There was another photo of Elizabeth at her grandmother’s funeral with Ric at her side.

“You are—” Scott jabbed a finger at him. “Do you have any idea what kind of lawsuit you just opened us up to? You just—” He shook his head, so angry he couldn’t speak. “Mac? Where the hell are you?”

“What are you so pissed about?” Capelli said with a shrug. “We needed to shake something loose on this case. If Lansing kidnapped Carly for her kid, he’s going to make a mistake now—”

“A mistake that might end up—” Scott almost reached for his neck but drew his hands back at the last minute. “I can’t with you right now.  I want—”

“Scott,” Mac said, uneasily, carrying his open copy of the Sun, as he emerged from his office. “I know you’re not happy about this—”

“I want them off the case,” Scott cut in. “Give it to Major Crimes—”

“Major Crimes is two detectives that already have their plates full.” Mac looked at Taggert. “Who’s on the Lansing house today?”

“Rodriguez—” Taggert got to his feet. “This is bullshit, I told you she’s not involved—”

Capelli dismissed his concerns but Mac shook his head. “This was supposed to be a line item in the gossip section,” he told Capelli, irritated. “I told you. It was supposed to read like a rumor—you gave them everything we had—Michael’s statement, the fact that Jason Morgan has been inside the house—”

“A gossip item wasn’t going to get Lansing’s attention. Stop worrying,” Capelli said. “We got a car at the house, and didn’t one of the rookies say the wife has one of Morgan’s men following her—”

“They’re not inside the house,” Mac said with clenched teeth. “If Lansing goes after her, we might be too late—”

“Pull him in for questioning now,” Scott barked. “Pick him up, get him out of the house.”

“We’re all acting like she’s an abused wife—”

“You’re off the case, Capelli,” Mac snapped. “And you’re suspended—”

“You’re going to hear from my union rep,” Capelli snarled. But he grabbed his keys and stalked out of the room. “This is bullshit—”

“I told you I didn’t want this leaked to the press,” Scott told Mac. “If anything happens to her because of this, her family is going to own you and this building—”

“She doesn’t have any family,” Taggert murmured. He set the paper down. “I’m going to call Rodriguez and tell him to do a welfare check.”  He picked up his keys and drew his badge and gun from the drawer where he kept them.

“There’s a reason we don’t keep rookies, why qualified senior officers don’t stay,” he continued. He met Scott’s eyes, then looked at Mac. “Capelli doesn’t give a shit about Elizabeth Webber because she’s mixed up with Corinthos and Morgan. He figures if something happens to her, then it means Morgan will have a motive to go after Lansing. It’s all about them. Fuck anyone else.”

“And I haven’t been much better. We screwed up this case from the beginning because we all saw it as a back door to maybe getting them.” He started for the door, but turned back just before he left. “If anything happens to her because of this, you’ll have my badge. I’m done with this shit.”

“Scott,” Mac began once Taggert had left but Scott just shook his head.

“He’s right. We figured Elizabeth was making her own choices. We should have hauled him in for assault last week. There was enough probable cause.” Scott exhaled slowly, looked down at the paper. “We forgot what we’re supposed to be doing here. She’s not a pawn, not someone we can use to get to someone else.” He glared at the commissioner. “And you can tell the mayor I don’t give a shit if it’s an election year for him. I’m tired of ignoring what I know what is right.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason had fallen sleep on his sofa in the early hours of the morning after overseeing the cleanup and dump of Faith Roscoe’s body. She was one more threat they should have neutralized months ago, and it felt almost like a relief to do something proactive.

And knowing she would never be in the position to hurt Elizabeth again was just a bonus.

He was jarred out sleep by a pounding on his door—it was too early for the guard to be on Sonny’s door and run interference—so by the time he got the door unlocked, his cell phone had started to ring.

“Oh, God, I thought you weren’t here,” Bobbie said, tears in her eyes, her chest heaving. She pushed a paper at him. “This was dumped on my doorstep about twenty minutes ago.”

Jason shook his head, trying to clear the fog of sleep—he was usually a pretty light sleeper and alert once he woke, but he’d been running on fumes for days—last night had been the most sleep he’d managed at once since Carly had gone missing.

He stared down at the paper, horrified to find his face next to Elizabeth’s—with a headline accusing them of an affair. He ripped the paper open and started to skim the article. “What the hell is this? How did—”

Sonny had threatened all the papers if they ran anything about Ric, but maybe the Sun

“The article cites sources in the PCPD,” Bobbie snarled as Jason struggled to understand what was happening. “It says you’ve been in her house for hours—and they’ve got you visiting her at the studio—”

“It also says one of my guys is on the door at the studio—to keep people out—” Jason squeezed his eyes. “If Ric sees this, he’s either going to believe it’s an affair or he’s going to know she’s been helping us—either way—”

He let the paper fall to his feet and scooped his phone from the charger on the desk. He pressed Elizabeth’s speed dial—but it went straight to the automated voicemail. “Damn it. Is it too early?” It was just after eight AM and he saw now that she’d sent a text at six to let him know she was awake, and he had missed a call at seven so he had two additional texts from her, both simply stating that she was okay.

The last text at eight had asked him if he was okay. He sent her another text asking her to call him, but he couldn’t wait for her to check in—

“Call Cody—” Bobbie suggested as Jason told her about the texts. “He’ll know if Ric brought in the paper.”

Cody picked up on the first ring. “He hasn’t left yet,” he said, the usual greeting.

“Did he bring in the newspaper yet?” Jason demanded. “Could you see which ones?”

“I didn’t—I didn’t really pay any attention—from the shapes, it looked the Herald and the Sun—why?”

“Okay. Okay. I need you to—” Do what? Call the police? Storm the house? What if Ric didn’t notice right away—what if Elizabeth was able to hide the paper—

“Jason—” Bobbie said. “I can go over. I can check on her. I should have gone straight there, I just—”

“Wait—” Cody said, drawing Jason’s attention. “There’s something happening in the police car—”

“What—”

“Rodriguez is getting out and going up the walk to the door. Should I find out?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“I’ll go.” Bobbie darted out the door, leaving Jason standing there, cell phone in one hand—the paper sprawled open at his feet, Elizabeth’s face staring up at him.

Fuck it. “I’m coming over,” he told Cody. He snagged his boots from the sofa and managed to catch Bobbie before she got on the elevator.

Lansing Home: Panic Room

Carly barely recognized that it was morning—only the sunshine pouring in when Ric opened the door to get the paper told her it was a new day—and the sunshine was a dim white on a small black and white screen in her prison.

Almost as an afterthought, she watched him scan the headlines on the top paper—the Herald from the way it was folded—before setting it aside for the Sun. She missed reading the tabloids—it was always filled with someone else’s misery and someone’s scandal—those were the days.

When she saw Ric’s expression change, Carly sat up straight. What was in the paper that would make him so angry—He hurriedly opened the paper—continued to read, then to started to shout—no mistaking the anger in his features, even on her tiny screen.

“What’s going on?” she murmured, leaning in.

Lansing Home: Living Room

“What the hell is this?” Ric snarled. Elizabeth rose from the sofa, confused until she saw a glimpse of her own face on the cover of the Port Charles Sun. “Are you fucking him?” His face seemed somehow twisted, flushed red, the cords in his neck bulging. His teeth were bared as he spit out the words.

“What?” Elizabeth blinked. She took an involuntary step back at the light in his eyes, the set of his mouth. But she was having a particularly rough morning and her reflexes were not nearly as fast as they needed to be—before she could even register that he was moving—he had grabbed her arm and was shoving the paper into her face.

“He’s been in my damn house, Elizabeth—” Ric was so close—his nostrils flaring, his teeth bared. “Every day—”

“It’s—” Elizabeth struggled to make sense of what was happening. Her heart was racing, and she couldn’t find the words at first. Make it stop, make it stop. How did she make it stop? “What are you talking about?”

He shoved her away—and she hit the floor, her elbow hitting the table as she fell. Pain exploded in her arm, in her side as she crashed into the hardwood floor. She sucked in a deep breath. Phone. Get to the phone. Elizabeth started to crawl towards her purse—why didn’t she keep the damn phone with her? Why had she tried to get cute and hide it?

Get to the phone. Call Cody. Call Jason. Get help—

She tried to scream as Ric grabbed her again, wrapping his fingers around her upper arm, digging into the skin, and almost lifting her to her feet in one fell swoop. He shoved the paper at her again—she tried to claw away from him—pushing him—scratching him—

“Let me go!” she cried. Her elbow hit something hard—and something crashed and shattered. The vase on the table next to the sofa.

Everything I’ve done for you!” Ric was screaming at her. “And you’ve been betraying me!”

Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears—her chest aching—she finally managed to break away from him and throw herself at her purse. It fell from the small book case against the back wall, and she scrambled for it. She could almost hear him now coming after her and she flipped on her back, kicking out with her feet.

She managed to land one right in between his legs and Ric fell to the ground, giving her a small break—a chance. Elizabeth lunged to her feet, her purse in her hands, trying to fish the phone out.

“Fucking whore. Bitch—” Ric managed. On all fours, trying to grasp his breath, he stared her, his jaw clenched, a vein throbbing in his neck. “I gave up everything for you!”

One hand on her phone, she pressed speed dial, bringing it to her ears. With the other—she fished something from behind the umbrella stand—a baseball bat. She shifted her grip so she could swing it more easily. “Stay away from me—” she choked out. “Cody? Cody! I need you! Please! Call 911—”

But the words were no sooner out of her mouth then there was a furious pounding on the door—and then it burst open. Cruz Rodriguez rushed in, followed closely by Cody—and then bringing up the rear—Taggert who swept his eyes over the room, took in Elizabeth’s tears stained face—the scratches on her arm—the dark red marks from where Ric had grabbed her.

“You son of a bitch,” he breathed. He almost went for Ric with his fists—but drew himself back. He pulled out a set of handcuffs out. “You’re under arrest—”

“Me?” Ric got to his feet, his eyes bulging. “What for—” He gestured at her. “She’s the whore—she’s been screwing Jason Morgan—”

Elizabeth closed the phone and shifted the bat until she gripped it with both hands. “Even if I were, you have no right to put your hands on me. To drug me!”

Ric scowled. “I knew you believed him—I knew you took his side—”

“I didn’t need to take his side!” She screamed and then sucked in a breath as her head started to spin. “I nearly died last week—I overdosed, and Jason found me. He took me to the hospital—you can talk to Monica. She ran the tests—” This she let tumble out to Taggert, whose face darkened into a furious scowl.

She actually saw Ric rein himself in now. His expression softened. His voice changed. “You’ve been taking Valium since the miscarriage—I’m—I’m so sorry, Elizabeth. I overreacted, the paper—”

And how quickly he shifted personalities—from the angry, violent, cuckolded husband to the worried husband. God, how many faces did he have? “I’ve tried to talk to you—” he continued, talking to her as if she were stupid. As if she had imagined it all.

“Don’t you even dare try it—Monica can prove you started drugging me in January!” She pointed the bat at him. “Did you drug me because you knew I’d never sleep with you otherwise?”

“What?” Taggert demanded, his eyes burning as he stepped between them. “You son of a bitch—” He strode over to Ric who didn’t fight too hard as he was roughly handcuffed. “You’re under arrest for assault—”

“It’s her word against mine,” Ric grunted. All traces of the worried husband had vanished now.

“Yeah, I’m not worried about that—” Taggert glanced over as they heard another car screeching to a halt in the street.

Cody leaned out the open doorway and winced. “It’s Bobbie-” He glanced at Elizabeth with almost a bit of regret. “And Jason.”

“Of course,” Ric snarled. “Her lover’s coming to check on her—”

“Shut up, asshole,” Taggert hissed. He looked to Elizabeth. “I’m taking him down to the station. I’ll need you to come down to the station to press charges—” He hesitated. “Please, for the love of God—”

“Just tell me where to sign,” Elizabeth almost growled as Jason and Bobbie joined the crowd at the door. She watched as they took in the scene, as Jason’s eyes raked over her disheveled and bruised appearance. Bobbie put a hand on his shoulder as if to hold him back.  “Where is she, Ric? It’s over. You know that, don’t you? Where’s Carly?”

Ric smirked as Taggert almost dragged him towards the door. Bobbie had to literally pull Jason out of the way as they came within a hairbreadth of one another. “I have no idea. I hope she’s still alive.”

And then he was gone, down the steps to the sidewalk. Cruz cleared his throat awkwardly after a moment or two had passed. “Um…do you want me to drive you there? To the PCPD, I mean,” he said hesitantly.

Elizabeth took a deep breath and loosened her grip until the tip of the bat hit the ground. “I can’t—” She pressed a fist against her chest. “I can’t seem to—”

Bobbie and Jason both moved at the same time, but Jason reached her first. He put an arm around her shoulders and almost carried her to the sofa, so she could sit down. She closed her eyes. Tried to catch her breath. Why couldn’t she stop breathing so fast—

Dimly she was aware of Bobbie perching on the coffee table in front of her, taking her wrist. “Your pulse is racing, Elizabeth. Let me call Monica—have her meet us—”

“No…” Elizabeth opened her eyes. “No, I’m—I’m okay. It’s just—” Her lips were dry. “It’s—I’m halfway through the two weeks she said it would take to withdraw from the—” She blinked as Jason took the bat and set it aside. “I need that,” she murmured. “Don’t take it —”

“It’s right here.” Jason glanced around the room—took in the shattered vase, the newspaper in tatters, the furniture moved out of the way—her purse’s contents strewn across the floor. “Elizabeth—”

“I’m sorry, I ruined everything,” she said sucking in a deep breath. “Ric knows. He knows. And it’s my fault. I didn’t know how to—I couldn’t think—he was so angry, and I couldn’t calm him down—I couldn’t get him to stop screaming long enough to make up—”

You don’t need to apologize for anything,” Bobbie hissed. She got to her feet and glared at Cruz. “Sources at the PCPD,” she said, scathingly. “No wonder you and Taggert were practically on her doorstep when the story broke. Guilty conscience?”

“What?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I didn’t even see the paper—I just—he was so angry, he knew you’d been here—”

“You were already coming up to the house when Miss Webber called,” Cody said to the officer flatly. “You knew there’d be trouble.”

“I don’t—” Cruz shook his hand, clearly shaken. “I got word from Taggert he was on his way, but he wanted me to do a welfare check. I didn’t know until I heard something break and then you were screaming so—” He swallowed hard. “I didn’t know.”

“He’s a rookie, Bobbie,” Elizabeth murmured. She pressed her hand to her head. Everything hurt so much. “Last week was his first day. You told me he started with Lucky, remember?”

Bobbie exhaled slowly. “I know. I know. He’s just—” She gestured uselessly. “He’s here. Who am I supposed—” She narrowed her eyes. “Scott. That’s who I’m going to kill next. Then maybe Mac. Depends who I see first. They’re both too fucking concerned with Sonny and Jason and my daughter is gone—” Bobbie’s voice broke.

“He’ll never tell us now,” Elizabeth said. She squeezed her eyes. “Maybe if I don’t press charges—”

“He’ll never tell us,” Jason repeated. “Because it puts him on the hook for kidnapping, and if something happens to Carly because of it—” He couldn’t finish his sentence. “We can’t think about that right now. We need to make sure he stays behind bars at least for right now. Until we can figure out what to do next. So, we’ll go sign a statement, and then you’ll come back here, get your stuff—”

“I can’t go,” Elizabeth said, and she scowled when almost everyone in the room groaned. “No, no, you don’t get to act like I’m being stupid about this. There’s something in this house—” She shoved Jason’s hands away from her arms and rose to her feet, grimacing when a wave of a dizziness swept over her. “You know I’m not stupid. If I stop living here, I can’t come back—”

Jason hesitated, and Bobbie glared at him. “Stop letting her guilt you into this! Elizabeth, it’s done. There’s nothing here. She’s not here—”

Jason held up a hand to cut Bobbie off, and then eyed the cop for a long moment. “You can go to the station,” he told him blandly. “We’re going to let Elizabeth clean up, calm down, and then we’ll be down.”

Because Cruz badly wanted to go and get his head on straight, he nodded, and then left. Cody closed the door behind him and leaned against it, remaining silent.

“I talked to Faith Roscoe last night and she told me that Ric was looking for a particular house. That something about this place was important.”  He rubbed his eyes. “I just—you’re right, Elizabeth. I know you’re right. But if you stay here, it’s like we’re saying Carly is more important than you—”

“No, you’re not.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No. That’s not what I think is happening here. Hey, look at me, Jason. Every second of the last week, you’ve been trying to drag me out of this house because you were worried what would happen with Ric. Not for one minute have I thought you put Carly’s safety in front of mine. And I—” Her voice trembled. “And what happened was—I was scared. But I got myself out of it. And Ric’s gone. He’s not in the equation. You—You can get me a lawyer who can get me a restraining order. I’m in less danger now—”

She looked at Bobbie. “It’s even worse now. Wherever Carly is, she’s alone. And I know she’s scared. Ric’s gone. If he was taking her food or supplies—I don’t know how—but if he was—then that’s done now. We have to find her now. Today. I don’t have to worry about Ric finding out what I’m doing anymore. He knows. So I need a ride to press charges, I need to get a restraining order, so we can come back here and gut this place if we have. Rip out the walls. I don’t care.”

She pressed a hand to her head. “But I need a ride because I don’t think I can drive. I don’t feel that great.”

“We’ll go to the hospital after—”

“After we find her,” Elizabeth said, interrupting Bobbie. She gingerly moved towards her purse and knelt on the ground, trying to reach for the contents that had spilled in her desperation—for her wallet, her keys— “I know what’s wrong with me, and there’s nothing Monica can do for me except give me more drugs, and I’m not interested in that.”

Bobbie helped her gather the rest of her things, and then helped her to stand. “Okay, let’s go press charges.”

“Elizabeth…” Jason hesitated. Holding her arm back. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. Bobbie tipped her head at Cody, and the two of them went outside.

“No,” she admitted. “I’m not. I am—I’m so far from okay, right now.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t even know what happened. What he accused me of—why—”

Jason picked up the torn Port Charles Sun and held it out. She looked at him, then took it. “’Femme Fatale’,” she murmured. “Nice that I get top billing.” She found the main article and sighed at the photos the paper had dug up of her with Jason and Ric. “Lucky for them that they took this photo at just the right minute, huh?” She said, holding it up. “Five seconds later and I wouldn’t have been in the frame.”

“Elizabeth—”

“’Sources in the PCPD’,” she murmured, “’suggest that the affair is recent after a long period of estrangement. Jason Morgan reportedly spends hours in the newlywed’s home after Richard Lansing leaves…’” Her eyes burned. “I thought everyone was trying to keep Ric’s name out of the papers—why would the PCPD leak his name and let them think—” She swallowed hard. “I guess…I mean.” She set the paper down. “It’s only partially a lie.” She licked her lips. “I mean—I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

“Elizabeth…”

She moved past him and picked up the baseball bat. “I brought this home from the studio a few days ago and hid it in the umbrella stand.’

He took it from her, turned it over in his hands. “It’s the one I got you last year.”

“Yeah. I didn’t get to use it.” When he handed it back, she tucked it back in the stand. “But I remember what you told me. Go for the knees.” She rubbed her chest again. “Let’s get this over with. Nikolas’s plane is supposed to be coming in soon, and I want to be able to focus on what we’re going to do next.”

“Okay,” Jason agreed. He opened the door for her, locked it, and then followed her down the walk.

Behind the walls of the living room, Carly sat on her cot, her arms wrapped around herself, rocking back and forth. Oh, God, what was she going to do? Ric would never tell them where she was—she’d screamed herself raw while Ric was attacking Elizabeth—when the cops were there—

But he’d been right. The room was sound proof. And they were never ever going to find her. She was going to die in these walls.

November 12, 2018

This entry is part 12 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

We grew up way too fast
And now there’s nothing to believe
And reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ’em your name
Name, Goo Goo Dolls


Saturday, June 28, 2003

PCPD: Squad Room

When Elizabeth walked through the double doors of the squad room, Scott was leaning over Taggert’s desk, making notes on a police report. He straightened, cleared his throat, and smoothed his hand down his tie. “Elizabeth—Ah, Mrs. Lansing—”

She stopped, Bobbie and Jason just behind her. Her eyes were red and puffy, and some eyeliner was smudged under her eyes. He could see scratches and dark marks on her arms left bare by the red tank top she wore. “I never changed my name,” Elizabeth said without any emotion.

“Ah—”

“Scott,” Bobbie interrupted him as she stepped in front of Elizabeth and jabbed her ex-lover in the chest with her index finger. “I don’t even know where to start with the level of incompetence and outright negligence that I have witnessed—my daughter is missing, and your officers have spent the last week chasing ghosts and gossip—”

“Bobbie—” Scott put his hands on her shoulders. “I’ve already taken the steps to reprimand the officer who leaked the details of this investigation. Mac has put him on suspension—”

“You think that’s enough?” Bobbie demanded, shaking his hands off.

“No,” Scott said honestly. “In fact, Mac and I were just preparing a report to charge the officer with insubordination. He violated direct orders when he leaked that information.”

“Bobbie, Elizabeth—” Mac rose from the desk. “I can’t begin to express our apologies—”

“No, you can’t,” Elizabeth said dully. “So, can I make my statement and sign it? I have to file for an order of protection before Ric makes bail—”

“Oh, he’s not making bail anytime soon,” Scott said darkly. “He can’t be arraigned for another six or seven hours, and I’m asking for a full cash bail.”

“He’ll have trouble getting out if no one brings any cash,” Mac added. “At least until Monday when the bail bonds offices open.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Okay. Let’s just get this over with.”

She followed Taggert into the interrogation room while Bobbie and Jason went to the waiting area. Scott turned his attention to the officer who had joined. “Officer Rodriguez, you were first on scene.”

The rookie blinked at him, then cleared his throat. “Yeah. I—” He ran his hand back and forth through his short dark hair. “Um. I got a call over dispatch that Detective Taggert was on his way to pick Ric up for questioning but that he wanted me to do a welfare check. I was walking towards the house when—I guess it’s a bodyguard, I don’t know—he got out of his car. He was on the phone—I thought I heard something break inside. The next thing I know, the guard was running towards me—I was already at the door, pounding on it—we broke through when we heard screaming—”

He closed his eyes, swallowed. “Um, Miss Webber was—she was near the door, Mr. Lansing behind the sofa—she had a baseball bat and a phone in her hand.”

“She had a bat? Did it look she’d used it?”

“No—she—he was on the other side of the room—I think she’d just gotten to it. I don’t know. He doesn’t have any marks like that. Not like—”

“And she didn’t give a statement at the scene?”

“Not about what happened. Only that he got angry and put his hands on her when he saw the paper. She, ah, accused him of drugging her for months. Apparently, there are medical records that confirm an overdose last week—”

“Jesus Christ.” Scott sank into Taggert’s empty desk chair. “Months,” he repeated. “There are—she can prove it?”

“I guess.” Cruz looked at Mac. “Did we really—I mean—the PCPD—we told the tabloids she was having an affair?”

“It was—it was a mistake,” Mac said faintly. “And not done in the way I instructed it—”

“I don’t—” Cruz shook his head. “Um. I need to—” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “I’m due for a lunch break.”

“Yeah.” Mac waved him away and the rookie quickly disappeared. “He’s been drugging her for months,” he told Scott. “And we not only didn’t arrest him when we suspected him of doing it last week—but put her in danger by leaking a probably false rumor to the papers.”

“What’s this we shit?” Scott muttered, but he bowed his head anyway.

PCPD: Interrogation Room

“Are you going to ask me about an affair?” Elizabeth asked with a sigh once she and Taggert were seated.

“What?” Taggert shook his head. “No. I don’t give a shit about that, Elizabeth—pardon my French. I—” He swallowed. Tapped his pencil against his notepad. “I know what you’ve been doing this week. I know you and Morgan have been searching for Carly as hard as I have been. I had no idea that Cap—that anyone in this office thought differently. As soon I as saw that paper—I came to check on you—”

Elizabeth looked down at her arms, at the burgeoning bruise. “If I press—I mean, if this went to court—someone else would ask, wouldn’t they?”

“Probably,” Taggert said after a moment. “But—”

“We’re not—I mean, we’re not having an affair. Not the way the papers say. Jason was engaged until—until I guess yesterday,” she murmured. “But you know we have a history.”

“I do—”

“I just—I wanted to make it clear. Jason was just—he was searching the house. And we’ve been—it’s been a stressful week. And I guess—I don’t—people respond to stress in—” She slid her fingertips lightly over the scratches on her arms left by the scrape of Ric’s nails as he’d grabbed for her. “Emotions ran high. But we never slept together.”

“Okay.” Taggert dipped his head trying to catch her eye. “Even if you were doing what the paper said, he had no right to touch you. To do anything you—can you tell me about the drugs? Can you tell me what’s happened?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth met his eyes and started her statement.

PCPD: Locker Room

Dante and Lucky were changing for their shift when Cruz came through the doors. He sat down in front of his locker and just stared at it.

The two rookies exchanged looks, got up, and sat on either side of their friend. “I thought you were on guard duty today,” Dante said, touching Cruz’s shoulder.

“I was. Until the paper came out and Ric Lansing went after his wife.” Cruz swallowed hard. “Capelli told the Sun Jason Morgan has been in the house every day for hours, and they printed accusations of an affair—”

“Went after?” Lucky repeated, lunging to his feet. “What the hell are you—is she okay?”

“She—he left some bruises—she got away, got her hands on a bat. I was right there, and I guess she was able to call the guy Morgan has watching her—but—” Cruz looked straight ahead. “Capelli put her in danger. This department did that. We’ve all read the same reports—we knew what was going on. What Lansing was suspected of doing and—Capelli didn’t care. He did it anyway.”

Dante sighed, returned to his locker, and drew out his uniform shirt. “I’ve been on the job for a week, and it makes me sick to go to work. The only time I feel like I’m doing any good are the shifts I watch the Lansing house. Because I know I’m there to look out for the wife and to help find a missing woman.”

“I—” Lucky leaned against the bank of lockers. “I know. When I’m not pulling those shifts—I’m watching your cousin be completely lazy and—worse, he’s an asshole. We caught a sexual assault case earlier this week, and he—” He swallowed hard. “He treated the victim like trash. I thought about going to Mac, but he’s my superior officer and I’ve been on the job for a week.”

“This just isn’t what I thought I was going to do here,” Cruz said after a moment. “Capelli wanted Morgan to go after Lansing. I knew that. I knew he was hoping to scoop them all up. Taggert’s doing what he can, but he’s blinded by them, too. And Carly’s still missing. They have no idea where she is.”

He drew in a deep breath. “I think maybe I should start looking for another station—another city. Maybe Buffalo—or shit, anywhere but here. I feel like every day I’m here, I’m becoming someone else.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to last the year,” Dante admitted. “This city—this department—it’s the reason people hate cops.”

PCPD: Waiting Area

Bobbie frowned down at her watch. “Nikolas’s plane is landing soon—” She sighed, rubbed her eyes. “What are we going to do next, Jason?”

“You’re going to pick him up,” Jason said. “I’ll take Elizabeth back to the Towers, and we’ll figure out the next step—” He hesitated. “I want to check on Sonny, Justus is going to meet us there, and I don’t want her to be alone. Not now. I know Baldwin says they’re going to keep Ric until tomorrow, but—”

“I can’t believe any of this.” Bobbie closed her eyes. “I can’t believe we still don’t have any idea what Ric has done with Carly, and I’m having trouble believing that we’re going to find her alive—”

“Hey.” Jason put an arm around her shoulders. “I—I know it’s hard, but I can’t let myself picture anything else.” He swallowed hard. “We’ll…cross that bridge if we have to, but—”

The back door to in the interrogation room opened and Taggert stepped out in front of Elizabeth. “I’ll let you know when we have an arraignment hearing,” he told her. “If he makes bail, I’ll warn you.” He looked at Jason and Bobbie. “I know you’re pissed at the department right now—”

That is an understatement,” Bobbie retorted.

“And I know I shouldn’t admit liability, but what happened was a goddamn—” Taggert stopped. Shook his head. “We’re still looking for Carly, Bobbie. I’d like to search the house again, Elizabeth. I know we’ve been through it, I know you and Morgan have been through it, but—”

“Go ahead,” Elizabeth said, folding her arms across her chest. “I think Jason is taking me to a lawyer to start the TRO, right?”

“Yeah. Justus is going to meet us, and Bobbie is picking Nikolas up at the airport.”

“Even though Ric is out of the house, I’ll still keep an officer out front.” Taggert hesitated. “If that’s okay.”

“That’s fine.” Elizabeth sighed. “I just want to get out of here.” She crossed to Bobbie and Jason and they started for the doors.

“Morgan, you get any leads on Carly, you let me know,” Taggert told him. “I—I need to try to make this right.”

“You can’t,” Jason said flatly and left.

Harborview Towers: Hallway

 Elizabeth and Jason stepped off the elevator, and he touched her elbow. “Justus is waiting at my place,” he told her. “With everything you need. I need to check on Sonny.”

“Right.” Elizabeth rubbed the back of her neck. “Okay. And then…we’re going to meet with Nikolas and figure out something.” Her mouth lifted in a half smile. “Maybe Taggert’s search will find something we missed. Fresh eyes, right? That’s what we’re hoping for.”

“I don’t care who finds Carly, as long as someone does.” Jason’s fingers tightened slightly at her elbow. “I wish you’d…reconsider going to the hospital. Can I call Monica? Ask her to come—”

“I told you,” Elizabeth said, but her tone was gentle. She pressed her hand against his chest, her eyes on his. “Monica gave me a rundown of what I’d be going through for a while. I’ve been irritable, tired, dizzy, nauseous—but I’m halfway through. I can’t think of any way he could have drugged me at all since Saturday. I haven’t eaten or drank anything at the house except water from the tap.”

“I know, but…” Jason shook his head. He covered her hand with his. “I’m just worried.”

“Tell you what—if after we talk to Nikolas, we don’t have anything new to look at—we’ll call Monica. I’ll let her do whatever she wants.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “I don’t want to be someone you worry about.” She broke eye contact. “I mean—I don’t want you to think of someone else you have to take care of—”

“I don’t want you hurt. And I’m sorry,” Jason’s voice lowered a bit as he tipped her chin up so their eyes met again. “But I care about you. And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. Not anymore.”

“We’ll call Monica if we don’t figure out the next step,” Elizabeth said after a moment as warmth spread through her. “But right now, you need to check on Sonny, and I need to get Ric out of my life.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Guest Bedroom

Sonny was propped up in his bed, clad in a pair of black silk pajamas, his eyes clearer than they had been the day before.

At his side, Max was cleaning up a lunch tray and quietly nodded to Jason as they passed one another.

“You drugged me,” Sonny said simply as Jason stood in front of him. “I woke up about an hour ago with no idea what’s—” He hesitated. “The last thing I remember is yelling at my sister. Max said it’s Saturday…I lost…I lost almost six days.”

“Yeah.” Jason sat on the edge of the bed. “You were talking to Lily.”

Sonny closed his eyes. “I’m useless, aren’t I? I had one job. Keep the police out of our hair so you could find Carly, and you’ve had to deal with everything—”

“You got the ball rolling—Justus pushed off the warrants—there’s a hearing next week, but we’re going to be fine.” Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “But I think Baldwin is going to cancel the hearing anyway. He’s…the PCPD is going to be lucky to survive this investigation without Mac or Scott losing their jobs.”

Sonny frowned. Sat up more firmly. “What’s going on? What happened?”

“It’s not about Carly. We don’t have—we don’t know where the hell she is, where Ric has her. But the—someone in the PCPD told the tabloids that I’ve been at the house every day and they did this cover story about Elizabeth and me—” Jason grimaced again. “Accusing us—Ric went after her.”

“Is—” Sonny shoved the blankets aside and hauled himself out of bed. “She’s okay, or you wouldn’t be here—did you—”

“Taggert wasn’t part of it. He saw the story and was already on his way to the house. She got herself away from him—got to the phone, called Cody—we all kind of got there at once. Ric’s been arrested—Elizabeth isn’t going to have to lie to him anymore—”

“Well, I guess that’s something,” Sonny murmured. He rubbed his chest. “Where is she? Is she okay—did he hurt her? I mean—”

“She’s—managing. She’s at my place meeting with Justus.” Jason hesitated. “Bobbie called in Nikolas Cassadine. He was the only person she could think of that might…be able to…I don’t know…we just needed someone else. Someone who hasn’t been living with this for a week. I, ah, sent Michael to the island with Courtney yesterday.”

Sonny eyed him for a long moment, then nodded. “Let me get dressed. I’ll be over, and we’ll see if we can’t do something. I need…I need to do something. I need to help, Jason. I think leaving the search to you is what drove me the over edge. I have to feel like I’m doing something to protect Carly.”

Jason nodded. “I’ll see you over there.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Justus was sliding a folder into his briefcase and closing it when Jason opened the door. Elizabeth looked worn out—as if she’d been up for days. Jason wasn’t satisfied with waiting to call Monica—he had to convince her to talk to someone first.

“Hey, is Sonny okay?” Elizabeth got to her feet. She closed her eyes, swayed just a little, and put her hand on the arm of the sofa to steady herself.

“He’s on his way over. He’s a lot better.” Jason looked at Justus. “Do you think they’ll give her the TRO?”

“I’m on my way to file it,” Justus said. He glanced at Elizabeth who sighed.

“And he’s filing a notice of legal separation. I wanted him to start divorce proceedings,” Elizabeth said. “But Justus thinks I should find someone who specializes in family law.” She folded arms. “I really just want it over with.”

“I think you’ve got a good case for an annulment,” Justus told her. “And since you don’t want anything—you might be happier in the long run without a divorce on your record.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ll talk over my options after we find Carly.”

“I’d better go file these so that the order can go into effect before Ric gets released. Call me if you need anything, Jase.” Justus touched his shoulder as he passed him, then left.

“You okay?”

“Aren’t you tired of asking me that yet?” Elizabeth asked dully. She sat back down, put a hand to her head. “Um…could I have some water? I haven’t—” She swallowed hard. “I didn’t really get a chance to eat anything this morning, and I need some aspirin.”

“You should eat something,” Jason said. “Let me—”

“We can grab something on the way to the house—”

Stop being so damn stubborn,” he cut in, throwing his hands in the air. “You look like you’re about to pass out, Elizabeth—”

“Have you eaten today?” she demanded. Her face flushed, she got to her feet—too quickly—because she stumbled and nearly pitched forward over the coffee table. Jason caught her, wrapping his arms around her waist and putting her back on her feet.

He didn’t release her right away, and she let her head fall back against his chest, slumping slightly. “You’re not taking care of yourself either,” she murmured. “We’re both pushing too hard.” His hands were splayed against her abdomen, and she covered them with her own. “You, me—Sonny, Bobbie.” She turned, sliding her hands up his chest. “Did you eat today? Yesterday?”

“I—” Jason hesitated. Shook his head. “I can’t really remember.”

“Okay.” She nodded and then pulled away from him. She walked across to the penthouse door, opened it. At Jason’s door, Cody was there along with Milo. “Hey. I haven’t eaten—and I know Bobbie hasn’t. I’m afraid it might take too long for delivery, but—”

“I’ll go get some things from Kelly’s,” Cody said, as if eager to for way to help. “Some sandwiches. I’ll go right now.” He hesitated. “Don’t go back to the house without me.”

“Thanks, Cody.” She started to close the door but then Sonny rounded the corner from his penthouse. “Hey.” She stepped forward, embraced him. “How are you doing?”

“Surviving,” Sonny said. He hugged her back, and they both went into the penthouse, closing the door behind him.  “How about you?”

“I think surviving is a strong word,” Elizabeth sighed. She sat back on the sofa and took the water Jason had gotten for her while she was at the door. He also handed her a bottle of Tylenol. “Thanks.”

“We’re waiting on Nikolas and Bobbie?” Sonny said. “We really don’t—” He grimaced. “No leads?”

“Just the house,” Elizabeth started to say, but Milo knocked on the door, then opened it. Bobbie stepped through, followed by Nikolas Cassadine.

Nikolas looked a bit hesitant, no doubt because she and Nikolas hadn’t really been close for a long time—and of course, Nikolas had never been a big fan of Sonny and Jason.

“Nikolas. Hey.” Elizabeth started to get up again, but he waved at her to remain seated.

“Bobbie said you’ve been ill, so don’t get up for me—” He flicked his eyes to Sonny, then Jason, before looking back to Elizabeth. “Apparently, you need some insight into crazy lunatics, and God knows, my family has them in spades.”

“I was just about to tell Sonny what we’ve been doing,” Jason said. He sat on the sofa, next to Elizabeth, which made Nikolas tilt his head slightly, but he said nothing.

Sonny dragged out the desk chair, Bobbie sat in the arm chair, and Nikolas remained standing. Quickly, Jason told him what had gone on during the last week.

“So, you’re convinced the house has to have some sort of role to play,” Nikolas said. “Because Faith Roscoe said Ric was obsessed with the right kind of house?”

“The timeline, too,” Elizabeth said. She turned, tucking a leg underneath her body. “I came home last Friday around six, and I think—” She bit her lip. “No, I know—Ric had poured me a glass of champagne. I drank it, and I don’t really remember anything after that until I woke up. It was just…just seven. I remember looking at a clock upstairs.”

“Carly went missing about fifteen minutes before seven,” Jason said. “He wouldn’t have had time to take her anywhere else.”

“I called around then,” Nikolas said, squinting his eyes. “I had spoken to Bobbie earlier—just before five, I think. You hadn’t left for the church yet,” he told Bobbie. “And you gave me the number. No one answered.”

“I think that’s because I was passed out and Ric was gone.” She looked at Jason. “You were going to check the time of that call—”

“Six fifty,” Jason said. “Ric wasn’t there.”

“The timing seems too tight,” Nikolas agreed. “I agree with you on that. As someone who has…” He coughed. “A bit of experience with moving people around who are not…”

“He means when I faked my death and he had to move my body so that Sonny could arrange to pick me up and get me to safety,” Elizabeth said dryly. “It’s time consuming.”

“It took forever,” Nikolas agreed. “And you weren’t six months pregnant.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But the PCPD searched that night.”

“And Jason and I searched that house a thousand times. We’ve put cameras in Ric’s bedroom, in his study—on the stairs—” Elizabeth shook his head. “A GPS on his car—Jason’s had people following him, I’m sure the cops have. The PCPD has been outside the house since that night. There’s no way Ric brought her to the house and then moved her.”

“So, she’s either in the house or she was never there.” Nikolas pursed his lips. “Have you spoken to the real estate agent who sold the house?”

Jason blinked, and Elizabeth stared at Nikolas for a long time. How…Jason closed his eyes. “The real estate agent would know what Ric was looking for,” he muttered, irritated with himself

“Seems to me there’s a hidden room in the house,” Nikolas continued. “One of those…” He gestured with his hand. “Panic rooms. We have three of them at Wyndemere. Uncle put them in after the first time Grandmother…descended upon us. One in each wing. They’re hidden with the structure of the house—tucked in some dead space or something. Usually a remote to open them or a button somewhere. They’re supposed to be for safety—a phone line, supplies. Sometimes there are cameras.”

Jason pressed his lips together and scowled. Of course.

“Why didn’t we think of that?” Elizabeth demanded of him. “Of course—”

“Neither of you have slept or eaten the way you should have,” Bobbie muttered. “And I guess—of course—”

“Fresh eyes,” Nikolas said easily. “And my family is certifiably insane. It’s easier for me to find the crazy.” He nodded. “So, what do we do—”

“Wait, wouldn’t you have seen a hidden room on the security footage?” Sonny demanded. “You’ve had cameras in place since Sunday—”

“Not in the living room.” Jason said. “We just put those in yesterday, and Stan and Spinelli have hours of footage to go through. They’re also doing other tech stuff—background on Ric, financial records, trying to stay ahead of the cops—” He shook his head. “And the living room makes sense—”

“Because that first night, Ric sent me upstairs. He wanted me to take a shower. He was irritated—he said I was done faster than he thought—” Elizabeth rubbed her mouth. “He came upstairs just after I—you said there are cameras?”

“So, he could monitor where you were,” Nikolas said. “Probably a camera out front.”

Bobbie got to her feet. “Well, we’ll just tear the damn house apart,” she said, starting for the door. Sonny reached out, stopped her. “What?”

“Let’s approach this carefully, Bobbie—”

Carefully? Carly’s been in a goddamn panic room for over a week, and Ric hasn’t been in there today to bring her food—”

“Jason and I have searched every inch of that house, Bobbie. I never saw anything that looked like it might be a button.” Elizabeth got to her feet, and Jason followed suit, bracing a hand at the small of her back when she swayed slightly.

“I think that Bobbie and I should meet with the real estate agent,” Nikolas suggested. “We can hopefully confirm the existence of the room and even get its location.” He nodded at Sonny. “I think you may want to go where this security footage is.”

Sonny narrowed his eyes almost as if he wanted to question how the hell Nikolas had ended up in charge—but honestly—no one in the room could argue. Within ten minutes of his arrival, Nikolas had given all of them a sense of hope. He was the only one who could claim to be well-rested and clear-headed.

He hadn’t been living in hell for the last eight days.

“We can go back to the house,” Elizabeth told Jason. “We can start looking for any empty space and someone should be there if anyone gets a location. The sooner the better.”

“We’re going to eat first,” Jason said firmly. He looked at Bobbie who opened her mouth to argue. “Bobbie, you were here this morning—we’ve been at the station all day—and Elizabeth is going to fall over. The only way she’ll eat is if we eat, too.”

Bobbie sighed, but Cody opened the door then. He handed them the takeout bags, and Bobbie quickly distributed the food. “You can stay here,” she said, a container in her hands. “But I’ll eat on the go.”

“We can eat at the house,” Elizabeth said, and this time, Jason didn’t argue. They all felt so close to finding Carly—a sense of optimism that they hadn’t felt since the day she’d gone missing.

Today was the day.

Lansing Home: Living Room

Elizabeth had managed to eat a few bites of the burger Cody had brought, and Jason had to settle for that—she’d also watched him like a hawk to make sure he ate as well.

Finally, he agreed to start searching.

“I was hoping Nikolas would have called already,” Elizabeth murmured as they started with the wall against the door. Jason was looking under the desk and umbrella stand while Elizabeth ran her fingers over the door frame. “He can be charming when he wants to be.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t think of the real estate agent,” Jason muttered. “We’ve been saying all along the house was the key—”

“Because we thought Ric had some sort of paperwork or clue here,” Elizabeth argued. She scowled as she moved onto the bookcase. “Not that the house itself was important. You said Faith Roscoe told you that yesterday.”

“Last night really,” Jason admitted. He hesitated. “She was working with Ned and Ric.”

“The whole time?” Elizabeth stopped, looked at him. “Since—since November?” She sighed, looked back at the bookcase, sliding her fingers behind it. She knelt and felt along the baseboards. “They were sleeping together, weren’t they?”

“Yes. At some point. I don’t know when or if it stopped.”

He watched her carefully. “You don’t seem surprised.”

“I guess not. She…always gave me the creeps. She was always around, you know? And…she came by the hospital after I fell.” Elizabeth looked up. Met his eyes. “She pushed me, didn’t she? Because I was pregnant, and Ric had married me.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Yeah, I kind of figured.” Elizabeth stood and moved to the other side of the bookcase, momentarily slipping out of view. “Well, she can have him.”

“You don’t have to worry about her anymore,” Jason said before he could think it through. Elizabeth stepped back and looked him, tilting her head. “Ever.”

She bit her lip. “Did—Did she help Ric with Carly?”

“No. Carly wasn’t part of the plan. Ned told me Ric stopped returning phone calls around the time everything happened at Martha’s Vineyard. He didn’t know Ric was Sonny’s…” Jason shook his head. “She wouldn’t have helped him.”

“No, I guess not.” Elizabeth licked her lips and squinted a bit, almost as if she wanted to ask but didn’t. “Okay. I don’t have to worry about her. One less thing.”

She returned her attention to the wall that ran towards the stairwell, sighing. “I know there has to be something here.” When she knelt again to feel along the baseboards on that side, she slipped and fell against the wall. “Damn it. I can’t keep my head—” She pressed her hand to her head. “Is the air conditioner on? Did we turn it off?”

Jason strode over to her and helped her to her feet. He guided her over to the sofa. “You feel warm,” he murmured, pressing the back of his hand to her cheeks. “Is that one of the side effects Monica mentioned?”

“I don’t really remember,” she admitted. “There was a huge list, and I—she wanted to give me pamphlets, but I didn’t—”

“Want Ric to see them,” Jason muttered. He pulled out his phone. “I’m calling Monica.”

“Jason—” Elizabeth put a hand over his to stop him from dialing. “She said all they could do is give me more pills to deal with those symptoms, and I don’t want them. I don’t want any pills—” She bit off her irritation. “I get that you’re worried, but this is my life, and I don’t need you to take care of me.”

“Someone has to—”

“Oh, and that’s you?” Elizabeth jerked to her feet and slapped his hands away when he tried to steady her. “It’s been more than six months, Jason, since you gave a damn. I know you feel guilty Ric went after me because of you, but I can take care of myself. I’m doing fine—”

“I never stopped—” Jason stood, irritated. “You’re the one who left me.”

“Because you lied!” She threw her hands up in the air, clenched her jaw. “And don’t act like you spent a lot of time missing me. You were screwing Courtney by Christmas—” She stopped, closed her eyes, and put her hands up. “I am not doing this. I am not someone you need to save, Jason. I got myself into this mess, I’m going to get myself out of it—”

Jason swallowed. “I can explain about Courtney,” he said, even though he didn’t know what he’d even say. “It wasn’t—it wasn’t what you think—”

“You mean you didn’t fall in love with her when you were with her all the time?” Elizabeth arched her brows with a smirk. “Because you know, Jason, I don’t know what I’m supposed to think. You were either guarding Brenda—who you married—or Courtney—who you almost married. But me—I’m the one who got kidnapped and shot at—you ignored me for weeks and let me think your best friend was dead. So please—tell me what you think I think happened.”

He hesitated. “When you say it like that, it sounds bad,” he admitted. It sounded…terrible. Calculating. “And maybe I can’t explain it.”

“It doesn’t matter. Not right now.” She pressed her hands to her eyes. “We’re not going to re-litigate this. We already agreed we hurt each other a lot last summer. Between Zander and Courtney, I don’t think either one of us has any room to talk. It’s—it’s over. It happened. I know you care about me. I care about you. Let’s just—we’ll find Carly and—” She sighed and looked at him. “I can’t think about what happens after that, Jason. I really can’t.”

“Elizabeth—” His phone rang, and he yanked it out. “Yeah?”

“Jason, we’ve found the real estate agent,” Bobbie sighed. “He confirmed that Ric wanted a house with a panic room, but he refuses to tell us where. Nikolas thought you might…come and …”

“Threaten him?” Jason supplied.

“Yeah.”

“Give me the address, we’ll be right there.” When she did so, he slid the phone back in his pocket. “Nikolas needs me to threaten the real estate agent. There’s a panic room—but he won’t tell us.”

“Then you have to go. I’ll stay here,” Elizabeth said. When Jason opened his mouth, she lifted her chin in that stubborn expression he hated. “We agreed. Someone had to be here if we got the location. Sonny could call, too. The faster we find Carly, the sooner this is over.”

“I—” Jason shook his head. “I don’t want you alone—” He grimaced. “It’s not that I—”

“I don’t want to be alone either,” Elizabeth said. “So, you can tell Cody to come in and keep me company, and hell, let the cop in. I saw him at the curb when we got here. They can help me keep looking.” When he still didn’t look convinced, she sighed and cross the room to him. She put her hands on either side of his face. “Carly comes first. We both agreed. And…now we know. There’s a panic room in this house. I am not going to let her be alone. If there are cameras, then she has watched us search for her for days. I’m not leaving her.”

“I—” Jason wrapped his hands around hers and brought her fingertips to his mouth, kissing them gently. “Okay. I know you’re right. I just—the last time I let you out of my sight—”

“I get it.” She stood on the tips of her toes and brushed her lips against his. “Go find out where this panic room so we can bring Carly home.”

He sighed and kissed her again. “I don’t care what happened last year,” he told her. “I care about now.”

“We’ll figure it out,” she promised. He finally released her hands and started for the door. “You scare the crap out of that guy and call me. I want to be able to give you the phone and let you talk to Carly. Got it? And send in my…” She wiggled her hand. “My entourage, I guess. Might as well put them to work.”

He opened the door. “We’re going to find her today,” he told her. “This is the first time I’ve actually felt like that was true.”

November 14, 2018

This entry is part 13 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Oh days go by I’m hypnotized
I’m walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
Oh light the sky and hold on tight
The world is burning down
She’s out there on her own and she’s alright
Sunny came home
Sunny Came Home, Shawn Colvin


Saturday, June 28, 2003

Lansing Home: Living Room

Cody and Cruz stepped inside the house, both looking at each other hesitantly. The cop and the mob bodyguard. If Elizabeth had the energy, she might feel sorry for the rookie. It had been a hell of a first week for him. Cody eyed the younger man with an air of suspicion.  “Ah, Jason said you wanted us both?” he asked, with his brows raised.

“Yes.” Elizabeth looked at the officer. “Right now, you know I’m not the biggest fan of your department.”

Cruz looked away, unable to meet her eyes, his cheeks flushing slightly. “Miss Webber, to be brutally honest, what happened makes me physically ill. I’m sorry—”

“But I know you didn’t do it. So that’s why I’m asking for your help.” She pressed her hand to her chest, irritated at the ache and exhaustion creeping into her bones. She just had to hang in there a little longer. “Nikolas and Bobbie talked to the real estate who sold Ric the house. There’s a panic room.”

Cruz blinked, then straightened his shoulders. “A panic room?” he repeated. His eyes lifted to the ceiling, started to glance around the room. “They’re hidden within the structure, right? You can’t see them from the outside?”

“Exactly. The agent wouldn’t tell Nikolas where it was, so Jason went to…” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Convince him. We’ve had the house under surveillance for a week hoping Ric would give something away, but yesterday we put in cameras here in the living room. Sonny and some of his men are watching footage right now. Any minute, one of them are going to call and tell us where the panic room and how to get into it.”

Cody exhaled slowly. “Holy hell, you did it.”

Cruz squinted. “So…if you don’t trust the department—”

“You can call anyone you want after we find Carly,” Elizabeth told him. “But if we tell Taggert now, I don’t know what they’ll do with the information. I’m not convinced they don’t want Sonny and Jason more than they want to find Ric. It’s important to me that we find Carly first. Taggert might go after the agent who might clam up—”

“Telling the PCPD might cause more problems than it solves.” Cruz nodded. “Yeah, I get it.” With a weariness that no cop should feel after seven days on the job, he took a deep breath. “What can we do until they call?”

“Jason and I were looking for a switch or something that might tell us…” She gestured to the wall near the door. “We’ve searched that—” She stopped, her lungs seizing up as she struggled for breath. Oh, God. What was wrong? She gripped the back of the sofa and tried to take smaller breaths but struggled to force air down her throat.

“Miss Webber?” Cruz said stepping forward, Cody on his heels. “You don’t look so good—”

“It’s…It’s the withdrawal,” Elizabeth managed as the sensation passed. She could breathe now—at least get air into her lungs. “Um, from the benzos—Monica said it was going to be bad for the first two weeks.”

Cody hesitated. “You’re sure—”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, her teeth clenched. “I just have to get through it. It’s almost over. We’re—we’re going to find Carly—so—” Her cell phone rang—the little burner cell that sat on the coffee table. She stared at it wondering if she could make there in time before the ringing stopped.

Cody fetched it for her and handed it over.

“Hello?” Elizabeth said as the pounding in her chest began to echo in her ears. “Jason?”

“Sonny just called,” Jason said, his tone clipped. Short. Breathless. “They—they got it. Ric came into the living room at—the table against the wall, Elizabeth. The one near the stairs.”

Elizabeth turned. “The one with the cabinets underneath—”

“In the middle cabinet. Ric opened it, did something, and then—he disappears. I can’t tell but I think the panic room is across from the door—”

She stared at the wall, at the smooth expanse. “Right there. The whole time—” She stumbled towards the cabinet, but her legs gave out, and she fell against it. She tried to take a deep breath but couldn’t force the breath into her lungs. Oh, God. Not now. “Where are you?”

“Turning around, coming back—we’re all on our way—”

“I found a button—” Right there. Tucked in the corner by the door. She pressed it. Something whirled and groaned behind her, but it all felt so far away.

“Holy shit,” Cody murmured as Elizabeth turned her head—but they could already hear the screaming.

Carly’s voice, hoarse, raw came pouring out. “Press it, press it! Please—Thank God, thank God, you found me—”

But already Carly’s voice was receding. Her vision was dimming, fading at the edges. “J-Jason.”

“Elizabeth—I can hear her—” the relief was so evident in his voice, it was almost as if he was right in front of her. “I can—we did it—”

“You—I can’t b-breathe…” Elizabeth kept her eyes locked on Carly. Dimly, she could hear Cruz calling in for backup and an ambulance—he’d gone inside the room—but Cody was in front of her. Oh…he looked so concerned.

“Elizabeth?” Jason demanded. “Hey. Hey, are you there—”

“She’s okay,” Elizabeth murmured, but her words were slurring. “We did it.”

“Elizabeth, stay with me. Keep talking to me—”

“Can’t.” She closed her eyes, her wrist trembling with the effort to keep the phone at her ear. Cody was still talking but she couldn’t hear anything. “Always…liked your voice…”

Even as he called her name, the phone slid from her hand and the grays and blacks filled her vision until she couldn’t see anything.

Lansing Home: Street

Jason didn’t even know if he’d pulled the car into park or turned it off because he was shoving the door open and sprinting up the lawn. Near him, he was aware of other cars pulling up—of the sirens of an ambulance somewhere in the distance—

He registered Sonny’s voice, Bobbie’s cries—but he couldn’t stop, couldn’t take any of that in. He shoved through the door, all but taking it off the hinges.

A large gaping hole had opened directly in front of him, and oh, God—Carly—she was there, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She was sobbing, pointing down—the cop was next to her, holding her leg—

And Cody was behind the sofa, leaning over Elizabeth, who lay sprawled out over the hardwood floor, the phone still flipped open. Her eyes were closed, her skin almost gray.

Jason rushed forward, sliding to his knees at her side. Sonny and Bobbie rushed in, crying, screaming Carly’s name.

All of that disappeared as Jason cradled Elizabeth’s limp head in his hands. Her breathing was faint, and—he took her wrist—her pulse was barely there. “What happened?” he demanded. “What happened?”

“I—” Cody shook his head. “One second, she was explaining what we were going to be looking for—and then she couldn’t catch her breath. She managed to get the door open, but then she—She just passed out.”

Leaving Carly to her husband and mother, Cruz joined them, his eyes wild. “What’s going on? There’s an ambulance—” he started to say, but his voice had raised in pitch. The rookie was clearly out of his depth.

Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered and then she smiled, seeing Jason at her side. “You…you’re here…” but her words were still slurring, sliding into one another.

“Right here. I’m not going to leave again,” he told her, gripping her hand in his. “Stay with me, Elizabeth. Don’t close your eyes.”

“Can’t…” Her eyes fluttered. “Can’t stay.”

“Don’t you dare—”

“I found her. It’s okay.” She tried to squeeze his hand, but her grip was as weak as Michael’s had been when he’d been a newborn. Weaker, Jason realized, his heart pounding in his ears.

You did it—”

Bobbie knelt, and Cody slid down out of her way. She took Elizabeth’s pulse, felt for her heartbeat and swore. “Her heart is racing—”

“How is that possible? Her pulse is barely—” Jason swallowed in fear. “What the hell did—”

“He drugged her…” Carly rasped as she limped towards them, Sonny holding her upright. “Drugs—”

“We know, with Valium, but—” Bobbie shook her head. “Elizabeth, hey, look at me, sweetheart.” Behind them, Nikolas hovered, worry in his dark eyes, and they could hear the ambulance coming closer.

“Elizabeth,” Bobbie said again. “Look at me—”

“Just want to go,” she murmured. Her eyes were unfocused and then…her eyes closed. “Want to go. Hurts.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Birth control,” Carly managed to get out as the ambulance screeched to a stop on a squeal of brakes. Cruz went outside to let them in. “He gave her birth control pills. Lots of it. He put it in the ice cubes. Every night. Every time she took a drink—”

Bobbie’s eyes bulged as she met Jason’s. “Birth control,” she breathed. “Jesus Christ. Rodriguez!” she cried. “Tell them to bring a defibrillator!”

“What?” Jason demanded. He tore his eyes away from Bobbie, then back to Elizabeth whose breathing had grown even more faint. “Elizabeth, hey, hey, please open your eyes. Let me see your eyes.” His voice broke. “They’re so beautiful. Let me see your eyes.”

She fought to open them. Her free hand came up and brushed his cheek. “Yours…like yours…. more…. sorry. Messed…it up.”

“Elizabeth—”

“Love…” And then her head slid to the other side, her hand dropped back to her side. Her chest stopped rising.

“Bobbie!” Nikolas shouted from the doorway, but then the paramedics were there. They came rushing in with a boxy object. Jason didn’t want to go, didn’t want to drop her hand—but he didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t help her now.

He watched in horror as the paramedics looked at one another for a split second before exploding into action. One tore Elizabeth’s tank top, and the other slapped electrodes on her pale skin. Her tiny body jerked as they shocked her.

“Still in V-fib. Charge it again—”

“Clear—”

“Oh, God,” Carly choked as Bobbie leaned over Jason’s hunched form by Elizabeth. “Oh, God. He killed her.”

Another ambulance came to a stop outside, and more paramedics came in—each wheeling in a stretcher. One rolled towards Carly, and the other—

“Clear—”

And then they got her back—he knew it because the box wasn’t screaming anymore. Everything happened in a blur after that—Elizabeth was placed on the other stretcher and rolled towards the door. Jason followed without even thinking, without even looking at Carly.

Nikolas was clutching at his hair, both of his hands digging into the dark strands. “Jesus Christ. What was that? They—they got her back?”

The second set of paramedics were settling Carly onto the other stretcher, and the blonde was sobbing. “She was trying to save me, wasn’t she? She stayed, and he poisoned her every day because of me—”

“Carly—” Sonny’s soft words were lost as the stretcher wheeled towards the door, with him next to it.

“Pulmonary embolism,” Bobbie murmured as the room cleared. She looked at the trio left behind—at Cruz, Cody, and Nikolas, all of them shell-shocked. “Blood clot in the lungs. It’s a common…side effect of estrogen imbalance or overdose.”

“But you know what it is—” Nikolas took her arm. “They know—”

“Patients who have gone into cardiac arrest have a high mortality rate.” Bobbie pressed her hands to her face, trying to process. Trying to understand. “We thought it was just—I never dreamed—Oh, God, he’s killed her—”

Stop it!” Nikolas shook her a little more roughly than he meant, as if trying to shake sense into them both. “They got her back. You know what it is. We have to go to the hospital. We have to tell Monica and make sure that Ric can’t make any decisions.”

“What?” Bobbie blinked at him. “What?”

“He is her husband,” Nikolas said. “And she’s his best chance to get out of this. If Elizabeth dies, all of this—this might go with her.”

“No.” Bobbie shook her head, even as everything inside her screamed of course he was right. Reasonable doubt was all Ric needed. He could blame everything on Elizabeth. “We—we have to go. We have to go.”

“I’ll stay,” Cody said to Cruz as the two of them rushed out. “You—you need someone to give a statement.” He touched the rookie’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“No.” Cruz shook his head slowly. “No, I’m not. Everything she went through today—she did it with that happening inside her—and now she might die.” He exhaled slowly. “I’m supposed to protect people.”

“Welcome to Port Charles,” Cody said with a smirk as the cavalry arrived with Taggert and Mac rushing up to the lawn, followed by several other uniforms.

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Monica was already waiting when the doors swung open. They’d lost Elizabeth again in the ambulance, and Jason could see from the paramedics that they didn’t expect her to make it.

That cardiac arrest with a pulmonary embolism was a lethal combination—that once the blood clot had gone to her heart, that survival was almost impossible.

Somewhere in Jason’s head, that made sense, but he couldn’t let himself even think it.

Elizabeth had, until her final moments of consciousness, been trying to find and free Carly because Carly was his best friend. Because she was a kind and giving person. And even though Jason damn well knew differently, the world wasn’t supposed to give up on people like her.

“Jason,” Monica started as Elizabeth was wheeled into a trauma room. “The paramedics on the scene suspect a pulmonary embolism.” She touched his arm. “We’re going to confirm with an echocardiogram—”

“Just do whatever—” His voice failed him, and he had to close his eyes. “Just do whatever you have to do,” he managed.

“They’re stabilizing her for the test now, but I need you to know that if it’s true, then—”

“Then her chances aren’t good—”

“They’re almost non-existent,” Monica told him, and he snapped to attention at that, because that was different. This was Monica, and she loved him. She wouldn’t say that without a reason. “Mortality rate is ninety-five percent, Jason. By the time the clot reaches the heart—”

Jason shook his head. “No. No—” His throat seized, and he just kept shaking his head. “No. She’s stronger than that—”

“Okay, okay.” She took his face in her hands and he met her eyes. “I’m going to do my very best,” she murmured. “I promise you.” She kissed his forehead, and then she disappeared behind the curtain.

Another stretcher came through the doors—Carly, followed by Bobbie and Sonny. Jason turned, looked at her, dragging his hands through his hair. He wanted to follow them, wanted to see Carly, to check on her, but his feet felt glued to the floor.

Sonny murmured something to Carly and Bobbie before they were whisked away behind another curtain. “Jase? What’s going—”

“Monica thinks it’s too late.” Jason swallowed. “The blood clot reached her heart, and she went into cardiac arrest twice—they’re, uh, confirming the diagnosis, but—” The room started to spin, and Jason sagged.

Sonny half dragged him to one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs and then knelt in front him. “Hey. No one fights like Elizabeth Webber. Jason—”

“I knew something was wrong. I kept asking her to go see Monica, to take care of herself, but she refused. We were so close, and I let her—I let put her life at risk, so I could find my friend—”

“And I can never ever repay Elizabeth for that.” Sonny shook his head. “They’re looking Carly over, but she’s in remarkably good health, they said. She’s okay. My child is okay. And I can’t imagine the universe would give her back to me and take Elizabeth.”

“You know it doesn’t work like that, Sonny—”

They both lunged to their feet as Elizabeth was rolled past them on a gurney, her eyes closed, her head lolling to one side. Jason started to follow, but Monica stopped him, nodding to another doctor, a younger man, tall with a shock of dark hair.

He sighed and stepped away from the team as Elizabeth disappeared around a corner.

“Where are you taking her?” Jason demanded.

“You’re the next of kin?” The doctor said with an arched brow. “They’re taking her to get an echocardiogram. It wasn’t the right set up in there, and then from there, they’ll probably take her straight to the cath lab to start thrombolysis.” He hesitated. “They got her stabilized, man. Her chances went up to about fifteen.”

“Fifteen?” Sonny demanded. “That’s supposed to make us feel better?”

“It was at five percent,” the doctor pointed out. “So…that’s not nothing. It might take a few hours. We’ll know more then.” He shrugged and disappeared down the same hallway as Elizabeth, jogging to keep up.

“That’s good.” Sonny patted Jason’s shoulder. “They’re giving her better odds.”

“Yeah, only an eighty-five percent chance she’ll die. Great.” Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay, okay, I need to see Carly. I’m sorry, I didn’t even—”

“She gets it.” Sonny managed a half smile. “More than you might think. C’mon.”

Jason followed him to Carly’s examining area where the blonde was laying back against the pillows, her eyes closed. There she was. After a week of desperation, fear—his best friend had emerged mostly unscathed.

“Carly,” he managed, taking her hand in his. “Hey. Hey. I’m sorry it took so long—”

“I saw you,” she said, without opening her eyes. “Every day. I saw you looking for me. I saw you today, searching the walls. I knew you were getting closer.” Her dark eyes found his. “I knew you never stopped. I knew you and Elizabeth wouldn’t stop until you found me.”

“We didn’t.” Jason’s throat tightened. “Thank you. We—we were able to help her faster because of you.”

“I wanted to stop your wedding,” Carly said with a faint smile. “That’s what I was thinking before Ric grabbed me. I knew you were miserable. That you didn’t love her. I was thinking about how angry you’d be, but I was gonna do it anyway.”

Bobbie laughed with some surprise while Sonny looked pleased as if this was a sign his wife had come through this traumatic experience without any scars.

Jason sighed, but he didn’t look upset “Carly—”

“I didn’t mean I wanted to get kidnapped,” she said dryly. “But, hey, I stopped it. And you—” Her eyes filled. “I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t make him stop trying to hurt with the pills…I tried to stop him from taking—they’re in the panic room. In a lock box. He’d get them every day, make new ice cube trays. In the middle of the night. I saw the Valium, too. He didn’t use that again. Not after last week. But he used something else, something to make her tired and sleep. And the birth control.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “You did help her. You told us—”

“He was hurting her today. I saw it. I was screaming, but I couldn’t make it stop. And then they arrested him, and I was so scared it would never be over—” She squeezed her eyes shut as Sonny came to her other side. “I was scared I would die in those walls.”

“I was going to start ripping holes in the drywall,” Bobbie promised. “I was never going to let that happen.”

“I know, Mama. But you came back today, Jason, and I saw you searching again, but this time—you were searching the walls. I knew it would be today. I knew you would find me.” She closed her eyes. “She can’t die. It’s not fair.”

“They took her for an echocardiogram,” Jason told Bobbie as silent tears slid down Carly’s face. “And then thrombolytic treatment. I don’t—I don’t know what that is.”

Bobbie took a deep breath and explained. “They’re going to inject thrombolytic drugs into the site of the blockage to thin her blood and break up the clots. Either through an IV or a catheter. Um, knowing Monica, and the seriousness of the condition, they’ll probably go with the catheter, so they can try to also physically break it up.”

“How—is it dangerous?” Sonny asked.

“Not normally, but Elizabeth has some risk factors. She was already in poor health after her miscarriage and overdose, and then two rounds of cardiac arrest. They’re going to be worried about internal bleeding, and there’s always a small chance the clot could go somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else?” Jason repeated. “Like where?”

“It could develop into an aneurysm,” Bobbie admitted. She rubbed the side of her face. “But those are minimal risks.” She hesitated. “Elizabeth might also be at risk for organ damage.”

“Jesus Christ.” Sonny hissed something else under his breath. “Well, you make it clear to this hospital that money is no object. She saved my family—she gets whatever she needs. The bills go to me. My psychotic brother—Did they charge him with this yet?”

“I—” Jason blinked when he saw Nikolas over Bobbie shoulder, gesturing towards him. “I’ll be right back.”

He joined Nikolas back in the emergency room. “Hey. She’s—”

“I pulled her file. One of the small perks of my family basically owning this place. I was worried about Ric being her next of kin, legally speaking, and I wanted to contact Alexis if the hospital needed to file an injunction—”

“I hadn’t even—” Jason closed his eyes. He couldn’t seem to think straight. That was what he did every day in his job, but he couldn’t keep a thought in his head right now. “I hadn’t thought about that—”

“We’ve got a small problem. Spouses are legally the default next of kin, but Justus filed a restraining order and notice of separation. Elizabeth apparently started paperwork last summer to establish a power of attorney with control over her medical decisions, but she never completed the paperwork.” Nikolas hesitated. “She named you with her grandmother as a backup. But she was supposed to get you to sign it.”

“Last summer?” Jason frowned, shook his head. “She never asked—” Except there’d been that day she had told him she needed to talk to him. After she’d come home from the hospital and the gas explosion, he’d come over to see her because she’d asked him.

She’d been terrified, holding a knife when he arrived, and they’d been distracted by buying the baseball bat for better protection. Then he’d left when Carly called.

“So, what happens? Does Ric get control?” Jason demanded. “What can I do? How do I stop it—”

“I’ve called Alexis and asked for her opinion,” Nikolas said. “She said for the moment, Ric isn’t available to make any decisions, so they’ll perform whatever the doctor on call says is medically necessary. She said it’s a stop gap measure. We can use her paperwork from last year—all that’s left is your signature. Ric can always challenge it because the marriage happened in the interim—”

“Give me the paperwork,” Jason said immediately. “I’ll call Justus and ask him to prepare for that.” He closed his eyes, trying to think. He didn’t know the next step. Didn’t know where to go next. “We should find out what’s going on with Ric—”

“I gave your guard my number and asked him to give me the updates on the scene. I figured you were—” Nikolas swallowed hard. “Distracted here.

“Did they charge Ric with this? Are they—”

“Scott was already writing the indictment for the assault, Taggert said.  They’re adding kidnapping and attempted murder charges—and anything else related.” Nikolas shook his head. “I knew she didn’t look well—we should have—I don’t know what we could have done. Elizabeth never did listen to anyone when she was sure she knew better.”

“Monica said her odds are at fifteen percent,” Jason managed. “It’s better than when she came in—”

“Monica’s the best in the state, if not the entire region,” Nikolas said after a long moment. “She knows what she’s doing. I’d trust her with my life.”

Jason looked down the hallway where Elizabeth had disappeared. “All we could think about was finding Carly. I knew she wasn’t okay, and I left her there—”

“With a body guard and a member of the PCPD.” Nikolas put a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Short of throwing her on the plane to Emily or to me in London, what else were you supposed to do?”

It was over an hour before Monica came back through the doors, her eyes were exhausted but not devastated. Jason and Nikolas had been joined by Bobbie as Sonny and Carly had been taken upstairs to a private room where she’d be kept a day or two for observation.

Taggert had arrived, followed by Scott, who Bobbie had grudgingly allowed to sit next to her. “Elizabeth suffered a blood clot in her lungs as well as in her heart—”

Bobbie muffled a gasp at this second part of the news as Monica continued. “We were able to break up the major clots and stabilize her for now.” She hesitated. “I am upgrading her condition from critical to serious. She’s not out of the woods, but her response to the treatment so far has increased her odds to around thirty percent.”

Jason felt some of the pressure in his chest finally release as Scott hugged Bobbie, and Taggert’s shoulders slumped. “Is she awake?” Jason asked.

At this, Monica hesitated. “Elizabeth suffered a great deal of trauma today,” she said after a long moment. “And the blood clot caused a lack of oxygen—”

“Monica—”

“She’s fallen into a coma,” Monica admitted. “This is not uncommon, and it’s not necessarily—” She saw the looks on their faces. “I don’t know when she’ll wake up. With the cardiac arrest—it could be hours, days—”

“Or never,” Jason said roughly. “She could survive the embolism, and still—” He closed his eyes. “She might never come back from this.”

“I don’t expect that, Jason. I really don’t. This is very common after what similar patients suffer. The body protects itself and I think that’s what is happening. We’ll move her to the ICU.” Monica touched his arm. “She made it this far, Jason. Give her some credit.”

“She’s tougher than she looks,” Jason said after a moment. He looked at his mother. “ICU usually restricts visitors to family, but—”

“Between Nikolas, myself, and your father,” Monica said with a brow, “I really doubt that’s going to be an issue. You’re now her power of attorney, Bobbie is the closest thing she has to a mother, and Nikolas was nearly her brother-in-law. That’s good enough for me. We’ll get her settled upstairs and you can see her then.”

November 19, 2018

This entry is part 14 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Something’s gotta give, something’s gotta break
But all I do is give and all you do is take
Something’s gotta change, but I know that it won’t
No reason to stay, is a good reason to go
Is a good reason to go
Something’s Gotta Give, Camila Cabello


Saturday, June 28, 2003

General Hospital: ICU

 An hour later, Elizabeth was moved to her own room in the ICU unit, and Jason went to sit at her bedside. Bobbie and Nikolas joined him, and they rotated to keep with the unit’s two at a time restriction.

Jason understood that comas could be healing—that this was likely Elizabeth’s body forcing her to stop, to take a break, and to rebuild her strength. But he also knew that she might not be completely unconscious, completely unaware.

He didn’t want her to wake up and be alone.

Around eight that evening, it was his turn to go for a coffee refill and Nikolas took his place. He knew the other man had spent most of the night on the plane from London, only to arrive in the middle of chaos, launch himself into Carly’s rescue, and then Elizabeth’s medical issues.

Nikolas seemed like a different person—not the immature man he’d quarreled with in the past, and Jason remembered now that he’d been in London with Laura Spencer after her breakdown. Maybe that accounted for the difference in attitude.

Jason took the elevator to the cafeteria where he intended to grab another round of coffees and something for Bobbie to eat. He hesitated when he saw Ned leaving the conference room, deep in discussion with another board member Jason didn’t recognize.

“Jason.” Ned’s steps slowed as they drew abreast of one another. “I—I heard about Elizabeth in the ICU. How is she?”

“In a coma,” Jason said, shortly. “She nearly died. Twice today.”

Ned looked away. “I can’t ever make it right,” he murmured. “I can’t ever go back—the signs were there, but I let myself ignore them. I let myself be swept away by hate and anger.” He locked eyes with his cousin. “Should I be looking over my shoulder for Faith?”

“No,” Jason answered. “She’s not an issue anymore.”

Ned exhaled slowly. “Thank you—I know you didn’t do it for me,” he said when Jason started to shake his head. “But my daughter is safe now. And that’s what matters. Grandmother is praying for Elizabeth, and…well, Grandfather sends his wishes. Emily is making arrangements to come home.”

Jason grimaced. “I forgot to call her—” he realized, dragging his fingers through his hair. “I should have—”

“I thought you had your hands full with finding Carly and…with Elizabeth. I ran into Monica and she asked me to call because she was busy with Elizabeth as well. She was trying to find a flight out tonight, but it probably won’t be until tomorrow—she had to deal with her program, but I’m sure she cares even less about that now.”

“I know Elizabeth will want to see her. Thanks.” Jason started past him. “I need to get coffee and food for Bobbie.” He dismissed Ned from his thoughts entirely and headed for the cafeteria.

General Hospital: Hallway

Sonny carefully closed Carly’s hospital room door as he joined Courtney in the hallway. He accepted his sister’s awkward embrace, then stepped back. “Michael is at the penthouse?”

He wasn’t really sure how to deal with Courtney—not after the last week. Courtney had called the police, proved how little she understood the way Sonny lived his life—and had actively proved to be a detriment. She wasn’t someone he could trust—and he struggled now to accept her as someone who belonged in his life at all.

Blood didn’t create that bond—his other half sibling had proved that thoroughly.

“Yes. We landed just after seven,” Courtney told him. She looked past him, through the small window into Carly’s room. “How is she?”

“All right, I guess. It’s hard to say. Everything is still settling in.” Sonny rubbed his hands over his face. “It still doesn’t seem real.”

“I know.” Courtney stepped closer to the door, sliding her fingers down the wooden surface. “It’s…it’s insane. No matter how much anyone searched, it wouldn’t have mattered unless they found the entrance. How did they figure out it was a panic room?”

“A lot of things went right at the same time. We got lucky.” Sonny shifted. “Courtney—”

“It was a bad week. We—we were all scared. And I know I made some mistakes, Sonny. I’m not oblivious. I know—I know I was wrong to make those calls, to let them in…I just—” She chewed on her bottom lip. “I wanted to help. I wanted to do something…it’s not like you or Jason would have let me.”

Sonny brought his fingers to his chin, stroked it lightly. “It’s not that things were said we didn’t mean. I…I don’t pretend I know what happened between you and Jason—”

“I threatened to move out.” Courtney avoided his eyes. “I was so jealous he was concerned about Elizabeth, but I guess it makes sense now. I mean, Ric was really going after her. I saw…I saw on the news that he hurt her this morning—that he was already arrested before they found Carly—” Courtney shook her head. “It’s awful. I didn’t know how bad it was. I would have helped her—”

“The thing is, Courtney…” Sonny shifted. Was it his place to tell her what was going on? “I think…this week cleared a few things up.”

She frowned. “What—what do you mean? I don’t—” She pressed her lips together. “No. No. I was jealous, but Jason asked me to marry him—” She held up her hand, wiggled her ring finger. “I know—I know we agreed to take a break—”

“Is that what you did?” Sonny asked gently. “A break? Or maybe…it was something more final?”

“Jason proposed,” Courtney repeated. “What are you trying to say—” She shook her head. “We argued, Sonny. And I know I made things worse—”

“Because Jason doesn’t love you the way you deserve to be loved,” her brother said quietly. “And you knew that. You figured you could live with it. And maybe Jason was going to try to, but…Elizabeth exists. And Jason almost lost her today.”

Her face crumpled. “He just—he just broke up with me yesterday,” she all but whimpered. “You’re telling me he moved on—”

“He never moved away from her to begin with, Courtney.” Sonny reached out, but she backed up. “You know that. You had to see it. The rest of us did—”

“He didn’t love her. He told me he didn’t love her—” Or…had he just not answered the question? She closed her eyes. And wasn’t her brother right? Hadn’t she always known? “He’s down with her now, isn’t he?”

“He hasn’t been up to see Carly since she was moved from the ER,” Sonny admitted. “Elizabeth is in a coma—and well, no one can say what’s going to happen.”

“Oh.” Courtney folded her arms. “I didn’t realize it was that serious. I—I guess—” She swallowed. “I’ll go back to the penthouse. Your penthouse,’ she said quickly. “Make sure Michael is settled. I’ll come back tomorrow. Hopefully Elizabeth…she’ll be better. And Carly will be up for visitors. I really…I am relieved she’s okay, Sonny. That’s all I wanted.”

“I know.” Sonny embraced his sister again. “Thank you for taking care of Michael this week. It meant a lot to me.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Shit was about to hit the fan.

Mayor Garrett Floyd stormed into Mac’s office around eight-thirty that evening. Trailing behind him was a sullen Scott Baldwin, who had likely already received his own chewing out. Mac rose from his desk, extended his hand, but Floyd ignored him.

“What we have here is a fuck up of massive proportions,” Floyd announced, folding his arms over his chest, his suit blazer discarded as soon as he entered the room. “I already told Baldwin I’m not interested in playing the blame game—”

“That’s not what it sounded like,” Scott muttered.

“I can recognize that I have not always sent the best of signals to your office. I’ve always prioritized organized crime when running for office. As did you,” Floyd said, shooting Scott a dark look. “And maybe I’ve been too focused on the election this year. But I think we can all agree that we’ve had blinders.”

Mac hesitated, then nodded. If that’s the way Floyd wanted to play this, fine. But he’d be damned if Floyd was going to make his officers look bad. “To be fair, this investigation was done by the book. All leads were followed. We didn’t find Carly because we—”

Didn’t follow every lead,” Floyd corrected. “The way I read the report is Morgan and Corinthos confirmed the existence of a panic room. If Lansing was the main suspect, why didn’t you tear his life apart? He wasn’t even brought in for official questioning until after he assaulted his wife.” He narrowed his eyes. “An assault for which this department can be blamed.”

“I’ve already begun the process to terminate Capelli,” Mac began but scowled when Floyd shook his head. “Why not? He was insubordinate—”

“He can spin it by suggesting your directive was unclear. He had your permission to leak, Mac. We fire him, we got a wrongful termination suit on our hands.”

Mac exhaled slowly. “I can understand that but if we don’t do something, Elizabeth Webber can also sue us. She’s got Justus Ward on her side, and you better believe he’ll recommend filing charges.” He met Floyd’s eyes, knew the mayor followed him. “We don’t want her digging into how this case unfolded.” Or any other cases. Floyd cleared his throat—and Mac knew he’d gotten the message.

“We can turn that around,” Scott said. “You read the rookie’s report, Rodriguez? She asked him to come inside the house, kept him in the loop. She trusted him. Now yeah, he should have called for backup, but he kept the trust of the victim and was instrumental in Carly’s rescue. It would be good morale to reward him for it. Show the other rookies in his class the kind of behavior we’re looking for. Capelli takes a thirty-day rip—”

“It’s not going to change the beating we’re going to get in the papers tomorrow,” Floyd said. “But I see your point. We have three rookies, don’t we? They all worked the case. That’s good. They probably did the best work—”

Taggert did good work on this case,” Scott murmured. “He was the arresting officer this morning. Took Elizabeth’s statement.” He met Mac’s eye. “But I know he’s upset with how she was treated. Has he spoken to you?”

“No, but I imagine he’s waiting to see how Elizabeth does. She’s still in a coma according to Monica.” Mac rubbed his eyes and took his seat. He gestured for both to take seats. “I have some thoughts on how we can get ahead of this. I talked to the beat reporter at the Herald—they’re planning a long editorial tomorrow about the way this case was handled. They’re going to criticize its handling and assignment to Organized Crime.”

“It made sense at the time,” Scott murmured. “It dealt with Corinthos and Morgan. It’s been policy to refer any case dealing with them to OCU, but…maybe that needs to be revised. Major Crimes should be getting the focus. The resources. One of the reasons the Alcazar case got all messed up is…we saw the mafia connection, and we didn’t think about outside of it.”

“Taggert took the Lieutenant exam a while ago,” Mac told them. “I propose creating a position in the MCU. Put him in charge of the squad and assign more officers. Right now, it’s just Vinnie Esposito and Jack Beaudry with Lucky Spencer and Dante Falconieri as rookies. I’d keep them, but I’d shift Taggert over there and I think Rodriguez should go as well. Organized Crime should be more focused, more narrowly defined. I can pull a replacement for Taggert from somewhere else to take over that unit.”

Floyd hesitated. “Just moving around resources. Promote the one officer who did good work, take responsibility from the other—and if we assign the rookie—Rodriguez— to Taggert, that’s fast-tracking him. We can play that up. We recognized his attributes. It’s what we want to encourage—”

“And I think Beaudry and Esposito need the oversight. Vinnie’s new—” Mac paused. “Well, sort of. He joined the force back in ‘95 but moved to Buffalo in 2000. He’s only been back since December. And Beaudry has his twenty years in. They’re both…” Mac shifted. “Less dedicated…than I would like. Taggert could do good work there, and I think he’s ready for the change.”

“Suggest it to him.” Floyd got to his feet. “Keep a closer eye on your officers, Mac. Or I’ll be making other changes. Regardless of what happened in the past.” He grabbed his suit jacket from the back of the chair and strode from the office.

Luckily, Scott didn’t pursue the final cryptic remark, and merely rolled his eyes. “Every public official in this town has made their careers running against organized crime,” he complained. “It’s how we get elected. We had one—okay, two if you count Alcazar—screw ups—”

“I really do think we need to adjust how we approach cases. It’s usually our way to blame Sonny and Jason for everything that goes wrong in Port Charles, but…” Mac shrugged. “They’re the best of a bad bunch, and when you think of the people who have vied for the territory over the last decade—it could be worse.”

“What? Are you suggesting we start ignoring them?” Scott demanded. “Look, I’m willing to grant we went too hard at them this last year—”

“I’m suggesting that we put Capelli on gambling and smuggling. That’s what I want him worried about. But someone is always going to want the waterfront, Scott. I live in the real world. The mafia is here to stay. Better the devils I know.” Mac shrugged. “I’m not saying we let it go—let’s just do a better job of picking our battles.” He was quiet for a moment. “What do you think about the case against Ric Lansing?”

“If the wife survives—rock solid.” Scott sighed. “But if she doesn’t…he’s going to blame it on her. He’s going to plead diminished capacity—he was just trying to help her—”

“Well, that’s bullshit—”

“I know that, but it’d be nice if she’d pull through, so she can tell him to go to hell.” Scott got to his feet, then snapped his fingers. “That’s what I wanted to tell you—I just got out of court when Floyd showed up. Ric got an arraignment earlier than I thought.”

“We…hadn’t prepared the new charges, yet—Damn it.”

“Which means he was eligible for bail.” Scott grimaced. “And the judge didn’t go for cash bail. Ric was able to post bond—and I saw him taking paperwork to the civil division to petition for control of Elizabeth’s power of attorney. Apparently, she started paperwork to give it to Morgan, but—I don’t have the details. Ric’s challenging it now—” He looked at his watch. “As we speak. I’m going to head over and see how it turns out. I want to warn Monica if it becomes necessary.”

“Damn it. If he gets control of her care—no judge is going to give him that, are they?” Mac got to his feet, alarmed.

“After this last week, I’m not going to predict what the hell is going to happen next.”

General Hospital: Carly’s Room

Bobbie stepped out of Carly’s room, and stopped Sonny from taking her place. She closed the door.  “I’m worried,” she murmured. “Carly…she’s not herself.”

“Bobbie, she just spent the week locked up in a small room—” Sonny shook his head. “How is she supposed to be acting—”

“She’s not herself,” Bobbie repeated. “I’ve seen Carly after traumatic events. After losing her child. In post-partum. I know how my daughter generally reacts. This is…this isn’t it.”

Sonny hesitated. “What do you mean?”

“She’s…Courtney was here, and she carried most of the conversation. Carly just stared at her. One word, maybe two-word answers. She just seems…not to be there. I’m not saying that she should be bouncing back. Not within twenty-four hours, but I’m a nurse, Sonny. I know what I’m talking about.”

Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. “You think…something’s wrong.”

“I think we should keep our eyes open. Being locked in a small space, trapped without a lot of light.” Bobbie squinted at him. “You know what I’m talking about, Sonny. Carly’s…showing some of the signs of acute stress disorder, and if that’s not treated, it can end up developing into post-traumatic stress disorder. We don’t want that.”

“Okay. So…we keep our eyes open.” Sonny passed her, put his hand on the door knob. “How’s Elizabeth?” He looked at his watch. “It’s…been hours.”

“Five,” Bobbie murmured. “Not too terribly long in the grand scheme of things. She’s…being monitored. There are some more blood clots in her lungs that Monica is keeping her eye on. We’ll probably be sending her back into the cath lab in a few hours. Monica just…she’s being cautious.”

“Courtney came back,” Sonny told Bobbie. “I think that I convinced her to go home, to leave Jason be, but she has this idea that…it’s over now, and maybe things will go back to how they were.”

“I highly doubt that.” Bobbie shrugged. “At least for Jason. I don’t know. I think he turned a corner this last week. Even if it’s not how Elizabeth feels—I hope Courtney has the decency to stay away until we know if Elizabeth is even going to—” Her voice faltered.

“It’s not like my sister doesn’t…have a point,” Sonny said slowly. “Or that she doesn’t have a right to hope…they were engaged. They might still be, for all I know. I’m not—I’m not judging Jason, Bobbie. I’ve always known how he felt about Elizabeth. It’s the reason I was against this from the beginning. Also, I don’t know if you noticed this—but my sister is an idiot.”

Bobbie laughed despite herself, clasping her hands in front of her mouth. “Yeah. Yeah, I noticed. Still, this isn’t the time for Courtney to figure out her love life. Elizabeth could go into cardiac arrest at any time, Sonny—and this time—”

“She might not make it. She’s tough, Bobbie. She pulled through when it was at five percent. What is she up to now? Thirty-five? She’s a survivor. Just like you and me.” He pulled his mother-in-law into a hug. “Don’t count her out yet.”

Luke’s: Bar

Dante frowned when he saw Cruz sitting at the bar, and Lucky behind it. “Hey…I thought you guys were both on tonight.” He took a seat next to Cruz, and Lucky brought him a beer. “What changed? Did you get the same call I did?”

“From Taggert? Yeah.” Cruz sighed. “And they told me I didn’t have to go in tonight since I went above and beyond today.” He grimaced. “Mac told me they want to give me an award. I didn’t even do anything.”

“Things hit the fan today, my friends,” Lucky told them. “I heard the Herald is going to chew out the entire PCPD tomorrow in a Sunday editorial. I’m surprised Mac still has a job—”

“I can’t believe Capelli still has a job,” Dante muttered. “Turning an innocent woman into a pawn. Everyone knows he went too far, but gotta cover your ass—I swear, the second I hear someone else is hiring, I’m out of here—”

“That would be a shame.” They looked over to see Taggert with tired eyes joining them at the bar. He sat on the other side of Cruz. “How about a gin and tonic, Spencer?”

Lucky mixed him the drink and set it in front of him. “What’s going on, Detective?”

“Apparently…” Taggert leaned over, away from Cruz, digging into his back pocket and drew out a badge. “It’s Lieutenant Taggert now. I took the exam a while ago, and they decided that the officer who didn’t feed Elizabeth to the wolves should get a promotion.” He stared at it for a long moment before exhaling. “You all did good work on the case.”

“I just sat in the car,” Dante said, shrugging. “Nothing to it.”

“You didn’t actively make the case worse, and in Port Charles, that’s enough to be good.” Taggert sipped his drink. “I’ve been reassigned to take over Major Crimes. You both work for me, now, and Cruz, they’re assigning you to me as your training officer. They want to fast-track you.”

Cruz grimaced. “Politics,” he muttered. He tossed back his tequila shot and Lucky wordlessly refilled it.

“Look, you guys have been here a week, and I think that’s probably long enough for you to see the department is rotting from the inside out. I’m sorry to say it but we don’t do the job here.” Taggert paused. “But things are going to change. I’m not working Organized Crime, and I’m glad. And I know—I don’t know you that well, Falconieri, but I’ve seen you work, Cruz. And Lucky…” He met the younger man’s eyes. “I arrested you once, so I know how quick you are. You got the makings of a good cop. I’d like to see you turn into something. All of you. I’d like you to do it here.”

“I just wanted to make a difference,” Cruz mumbled.  “I don’t think it can be done here.”

“After this case, I get that.” Taggert put a twenty down on the bar. “But I hope you give me a chance to do something better.”

General Hospital: ICU

Monica gestured for Jason and Nikolas to join her in the hallway. With some hesitation because Bobbie hadn’t returned from visiting Carly, they did so, though Jason positioned himself so he could see Elizabeth through the clear walls of the room.

“I just got a call from Scott Baldwin,” Monica said with some regret. “Ric made bail before they were able to charge him under the new indictment. They’re pulling that paperwork together, but they thought they had more time—”

“He’s out?” Nikolas demanded. “Security should keep him away—”

“I wish that were true.” Monica bit her lip, looked at Jason. “As soon as Ric posted bond, he had a lawyer file an injunction against you, demanding power of attorney be turned over to him. I guess Justus didn’t want to bother you with it.”

“He can’t do that—he has no standing,” Nikolas said. “Elizabeth has every right to choose who ever she wants—even if the paperwork was a year old, all it needed was Jason’s signature—”

“He won, didn’t he?” Jason said, cutting off Nikolas’s rant. “That’s why you’re here. To warn us that Ric is taking over her case.” He swallowed hard. “Monica—”

“Listen to me—I already called Alexis—”

“She thought this might happen. We met about it earlier,” Nikolas said. “She’s prepared to file—” He looked over as Justus stepped off the elevator, exhaustion lining his face as well. “That can’t be good.”

“I came as soon as we got out of court. I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you. It happened fast. I don’t know who he paid or what strings got pulled—” Justus grimaced. “I’m already filing an appeal—I called Alexis, Nikolas. She’s filing an amicus brief on behalf of the hospital. But—”

“The courts are closed. Even for emergencies.” Jason closed his eyes. “What can he do to screw up her recovery, Monica?”

“Well, I’m scheduled to take Elizabeth into the cath lab in another hour to break up more of the clots. I could try a less aggressive treatment, keep her on the medication. But—”

“We agreed that blood thinners would be riskier—that the risk of internal bleeding—” Jason shook his head. “And a clot—”

“But it’s an option Ric could allow, and no one is going to be able touch him on it,” Monica cut in. “I’ll do what I can to stress the better the option—but that’s something he could get away with. He could also try to transfer her to another hospital—”

“Where I don’t have any family and Nikolas doesn’t basically own it.”

Nikolas scowled. “Give me an hour and I’ll have controlling stock in any hospital he tries. This is complete bullshit, Justus. Elizabeth specifically—”

“Which is why when I get into court tomorrow morning, I’ll win. The hospital has documented her case, there’s report of the abuse, we have Carly’s statement—I don’t understand how he won, and if I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

“Can you take her into the lab now?” Jason asked, even though he already knew the answer. If it could have been done already—it would have been.

“I might not even be able to take her in an hour. I need her blood pressure to stabilize. She could code on the table and if she goes into arrest again, that’s it. That’s the ball game. It would be a miracle to get her back, and I think we’ve exhausted our share of them.”

“We have to wait.” Jason went back to the doorway, took in Elizabeth’s still figure beneath the white hospital blankets. “What was the judge’s reason?” he asked quietly. Because he knew there was more.

“What does it matter—” Nikolas began.

“It was a family court judge who tends to favor the father over the mother, and frowns on adultery in divorce cases,” Justus said. “He was on the court when I lived here a few years ago. I remember Dara complaining about him. He suggested that Elizabeth had been seduced by a gangster and wasn’t in her right mind last year—that you were taking advantage of her after the miscarriage. That the court had a responsibility to respect the sanctity of marriage.”

Jason would deal with the judge later for that but nodded. It was always better to know what he was up against. “That’s what Ric is going to use against her all the way. In the restraining order. The divorce. The trial. He’s going to use me like a weapon.”

“She’ll hate that.” Nikolas sighed. “I’m going to call Alexis, start finding out who I know in the appeals court and how to buy them.”

“I didn’t hear any of that,” Justus said evenly. “I’ll go to work on my brief. Jase…I’ll be in touch.” He put a hand on Jason’s shoulder, and then followed Nikolas to the bank of elevators.

“You should sit with her while you can,” Monica murmured. Her hand fluttered out as if she wanted to touch his arm, but it fell back to her side. “I’ll warn you when Ric is on his way. His first…he’ll probably bar you from the room.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know that.” Jason moved through the open door and resumed his seat at Elizabeth’s side. He took her pale hand between his larger ones. They’d removed her wedding and engagement rings for her procedures and never put them back on.

“It’s just for a few hours,” he told her. “I’m sorry. We thought we had protected ourselves, but—” He shook his head.  He should have called in favors, had Ric killed in lock-up. He’d thought about it, but it was too hot right now and the last thing he wanted was to be arrested and put in jail.

“I’m sorry,” he said again. He pushed tendrils of her hair out of her eyes, tucking it behind her ears. Her face remained smooth, untroubled, and he hoped that she wouldn’t wake up until they’d won their case and Ric was gone.

If it was the last thing he did in this world, he would make Ric Lansing sorry he’d ever been born and remove the stain of his existence from all their lives.

November 21, 2018

This entry is part 15 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

I hope you’re not intending
To be so condescending
It’s as much as I can take
And you’re so independent
You just refuse to bend
So I keep bending till I break
Right Here, Staind


Sunday, June 29, 2003

General Hospital: Conference Room

Monica kept her features even as Ric strode into the room around one in the morning. The younger man took in the room’s occupants and scowled. “Why are they here?”

“Representing my client’s interests,” Justus said with a cold smile. “In eight hours, we’ll be back in a court room, Lansing, and you don’t have a prayer to keep control of Elizabeth’s medical care.”

“We’ll see.” Ric took his seat, shooting Alexis a dark look. “And I suppose you’re here because of the hospital.”

“I’ll be filing an amicus brief on behalf of the hospital demanding Elizabeth’s rights be respected.” Alexis arched a brow. “You’re wasting time.”

“Fine. Bring me up to date on my wife’s case.”

“Elizabeth suffered a pulmonary embolism around two this afternoon. She was quickly diagnosed due to information received at the scene regarding birth control pills—”

“There is no proof birth control pills—”

Alexis, as if she’d known exactly what Ric would say, slid a piece of paper across the table. “Lab results. Elizabeth’s estrogen levels were through the roof. By nine A.M., I will have three experts from the best hospitals in the country to testify that those estrogen levels are artificially induced, and that it is a leading cause of pulmonary embolisms in women of Elizabeth’s age with no other risk factors.”

Ric scowled. “Go on,” he told Monica, but his expression seemed less smug.

“Elizabeth went into cardiac arrest at 2:06 P.M, and then again at 2:18 P.M. Paramedics were able to stabilize her, and she arrived here at General Hospital at 2:24 PM.” Monica tapped her pen. “At which time, we took her for an echocardiogram and confirmed the embolism as well as a heart attack brought on a by blood clot to the heart.”

Some of the color had drained from Ric’s face. “She…a heart attack?”

“Blood clots are tricky bastards,” Justus murmured, and then Alexis kicked him.

“We took her to the catheter lab where we administered a combination of thrombolytic treatment as well as a physical breakup of the clots. We were able to eliminate most of them, but her pressure began to drop, and we had to pull back.”

“And her condition now?” Ric asked, the smug tone having dissipated.

“We upgraded her from critical to serious at 4:46 PM,” Monica continued. “By then, it was clear Elizabeth had fallen into a coma—not uncommon in heart attack and cardiac arrest patients. There was, of course, some oxygen deprivation to the brain. We don’t believe it was enough to compromise her, but it can contribute to a coma state.” She rubbed her eyes. “I had hoped to take her back to the cath lab around midnight to continue breaking up the clots—”

You instructed the hospital not to continue any other treatment until you arrived.” Alexis offered a sour smile. “That was four hours ago.”

“I have…many things on my plate right now, including finding representation for court tomorrow,” Ric said, his teeth clenched. “What are the treatment options?”

“At the moment, we are treating Elizabeth with thrombolytic medications—blood thinners—with the intention to return to the cath lab and break up the last of the clots. This is the fastest and most effective course of treatment,” Monica said, briskly.

“And…the risks of putting her through another round in the cath lab?” Ric asked. “I want the full picture.”

Of course he did. Smarmy bastard. “Infection is always a risk. There is also the possibility that bleeding could happen somewhere else in the body—”

“Like where? The brain?”

“Yes,” Monica admitted. “But we are monitoring very carefully, and the risks are, I believe, necessary.”

“And the risks of keeping Elizabeth on the blood thinners without the catheter treatment?”

“Believe it or not, the risks are the same. Thinning the blood increases the chance that bleeding will occur in other areas, particularly in the brain. The benefit of the catheter treatment is that it’s faster. And Elizabeth will be able to start recovery sooner.”

“I understand the risks are similar,” Ric said evenly. “Are the rates of those risks occurring similar? Do they happen more with catheter—”

“This is ridiculous,” Alexis murmured. “The doctor is giving you the most effective treatment—”

“She’s giving me the treatment plan she went over with her son who is my wife’s lover. I hardly think I should take their word for it without questioning it. You’re lucky I’m not requesting another doctor.”

Monica fought the urge to bare her teeth and growl at the moron. “The rates are comparable, but I believe it’s riskier to wait. Elizabeth has already had one clot travel to her lungs. I fear the next one might go to her brain—it’s a miracle she’s survived this long. I can tell you she will not survive a ruptured aneurysm—”

“But you’re monitoring her,” Ric said. “I think it might be more stressful for my wife to go back into a procedure without giving medication the time to work.” He got to his feet, slid his hand down his gray polo shirt. “We’ll revisit this in the morning. After I win my case.”

“I have to strongly encourage you to reconsider—”

“Is she even stable enough for the cath lab?” Ric asked, lifting his brows. “If she had been, you would have done it already—”

“Elizabeth’s blood pressure and other vitals have stabilized. They were stable at eleven, but we couldn’t do anything. Ric—”

“I haven’t given you permission to use my first name.” Ric stared at her coolly. “You have my directive. I also request that access to my wife’s room be limited to just me. I don’t want to find anyone else in there.”

He nodded to them, then left.

“He’s not really interested in trying to kill her,” Alexis said with a tap to her chin. “If he was, then there are things he could have done to destabilize her. Demand another doctor, demand a transfer—change her treatment, but he didn’t do that.”

“You’re telling me he doesn’t see that his case is better off if Elizabeth never wakes up?” Justus demanded, leaning forward. “You’re kidding me—”

“I’m telling you what I just heard. He was legitimately surprised by the seriousness of her condition—by the fact that we can prove birth control did this—and that it led to a heart attack. He didn’t know the side effects would be this bad. And he went with a treatment that a lot of people might have given the risks.”

Monica exhaled slowly. “He wanted to know her condition. How serious it is.”

“He’s working on his defense. He’s about to be arraigned on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. How he frames it during the arraignment tomorrow—” Alexis shrugged. “I think if Jason had decided to go with the medication only treatment, Ric would have gone for the opposite. You heard him. He didn’t want the treatment you and Jason came up with.”

“What does this mean about the hearing tomorrow? Don’t tell me you’re not going to be able to lift the injunction and give Jason back control—” Monica leaned forward.

Justus smirked. “Oh, I’ll win. Elizabeth has the right to dictate her own medical care. She never destroyed the paperwork. It only required Jason’s signature in front of a notary. And no one can prove an affair. Even if they could, it’s not relevant.”

“And my amicus brief is going to remind the court why this hearing exists. Hopefully, they’ll have officially charged him by then—”

“Baldwin said they’d hoped to have the charges ready by seven.” Monica sighed. “I should get some sleep while I can—after I call down to ICU and give them Ric’s directive.”

“You’re not going to warn Jason that Ric is here?” Alexis said. She stifled a yawn as she got to her feet. “I would have thought—”

“I had Jason told as soon as Ric entered the building.” Monica pressed her lips together. “It’s insanity. I could be giving Elizabeth relief right now, making sure she’s out of danger—”

“We have to work with the situation we’re given. If Elizabeth makes it through the night—we’ll be able to call from the court house. You can have her in the cath lab as soon as you get the word.” Justus started to gather his paperwork.

“If Elizabeth makes it through the night,” Monica said, darkly.

General Hospital: Hospital Administrator Suite

It was nearly six-thirty in the morning when Lucky found his brother at the hospital, deep in conference with Jason. Both men looked equally exhausted, their eyes rimmed with red and almost blood shot.

They looked up at Lucky’s arrival, and Nikolas frowned, taking in Lucky’s uniform. “You’re not on duty, are you?”

“I got called in to assist with an imminent arrest.”  Lucky frowned at them. “Have either of you slept—”

“No. I’m trying to make sure that Alexis has all the paperwork the hospital needs to petition—we’re not banking on the family court to lift the injunction on Jason—” Nikolas scowled. “The same judge is hearing the petition. Alexis wants to be ready to file for an immediate injunction against Ric, and allow for her act as guardian.”

“Guardian —” Lucky narrowed his eyes. “Isn’t that for kids?”

“Typically, but in this case,Alexis is going to argue that someone without a stake should be in charge—if the family court doesn’t want to give the control to a man suspected of, apparently, the awful crime of having an affair with another consenting adult, then he can’t leave it with someone who is also accused of trying—” Nikolas stifled a yawn. “Trying to kill her.”

“Uh huh,” Lucky said, with a squint. “Is adultery against the law in New York? Why would that even be relevant—”

“The judge cited statutes—it’s apparently a class B misdemeanor.” Nikolas snorted.

“Does anyone even care that it’s not true?” Jason demanded with a low growl. “We were not—”

“Do we really want to travel that road? Anyway, if the judge denies a guardian appointed by the hospital, then Bobbie is having Scott file a petition for her—”

“And Bobbie has standing?” Lucky asked, skeptically.

“Listed as an emergency contact.” Nikolas rubbed his eyes. “Wait. Imminent arrest?”

“Yeah. Baldwin is filing the arrest warrant with the courts at seven—he can’t do it any earlier. He wanted me to be here so we can arrest Ric before he gets word and has a chance to flee.”

“Did you already go by the ICU?” Jason asked hesitantly, his eyes reluctantly meeting Lucky’s. “I had—I had to leave around one. And I haven’t—” He swallowed. “Nikolas didn’t access her files. We didn’t want anything to mess up our chances in court.”

“Elizabeth is still stable, and he’s there with her,” Lucky admitted. “I ran into Monica, and she said that you can go up as soon as we arrest him. She’s not obligated to follow his orders if he’s not here to annoy her.” He looked at his watch. “This is all bullshit. Fucking lawyers. How can anyone think the man charged with domestic abuse should be in charge of that woman’s care? This goddamn city. That judge is off his rocker.”

Nikolas eyed Jason who stared back at him blandly. “Somehow, I doubt we’re going to have to worry about the judge today. Did you…” He slid his eyes over to Lucky. “Are you technically on duty yet?”

“I don’t hit the clock until Baldwin calls,” Lucky said, taking a seat. “So, until then, in this specific case, I’m Luke Spencer’s son.”

“You shouldn’t have to worry about filing any other petitions,” Jason said evenly. “I ran an errand when I left the hospital.” He reached for his cup of coffee.

“Then why…” Lucky gestured to the paperwork. “You stayed up all night—”

“Because I don’t know what connections Ric has,” Jason admitted. “I know what’s supposed to happen, but if there’s even the slightest risk—”

“Got it.” Lucky studied the other man. Objectively, he knew there had been bad blood between them. He had played the part long enough last year with Sarah, Elizabeth, and then the kidnapping—but somewhere along the line, since his mother’s breakdown, he’d stopped trying to play the role of Lucky Spencer…and just be who he was.

And who he was…remembered Jason Morgan more as the guy who’d helped him out when he’d needed a job and looked out for him.

His phone buzzed, and he grabbed it. “Spencer.”

“This fucking system is a piece of shit, and I am going to burn it to the ground—” Scott seethed. “I filed the paperwork for the charges, and do you know what the piece of shit judge said?”

“Uh—”

“He said that Ric Lansing was a respected member of the community and had business before the court in a few hours. We could wait until then to take him into custody and allow him to surrender on his recognizance. This goddamn—why are we the ones getting roasted in the papers? I’m going to leak the shit out of this—” Then the call hung up without warning as Scott apparently went to go kill someone.

“Lucky, is that the arrest—” Nikolas sighed when he saw Lucky put the phone down. “What happened?”

“The charges got filed, but the judge wouldn’t sign the arrest warrant. Apparently, since Ric is going to be in court later today, they’re going to give him a chance to surrender.” Lucky exhaled slowly. “I—I don’t understand. He’s being charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. He’s already accused of domestic violence. What the hell is going on?”

“And this is why we killed ourselves with paperwork. I can’t depend on the system, so I have to be ready for all scenarios—” Nikolas began.

“What if none of it works?” Lucky asked. He looked at Jason, then at his brother. “What happens then? I can’t—this is Mom all over again, Nikolas. This is why I wanted to—” He pulled the badge from his shirt and stared at it. “I wanted to stop it from happening to another family, thenthe PCPD practically put Elizabeth in that hospital bed.”

Nikolas put his head in his hands. “Watching Mom get railroaded, badgered, and harassed until her mind broke with the pressure—I don’t know if I could forgive Scott Baldwin or the PCPD enough to work for them.”

Lucky sighed. “Yeah, I get that. I just—Baldwin made it sound like it was something I couldn’t do.” His mouth curved into a half smile. “I never could turn down a dare.”

He pinned his badge back to his shirt. “If all the petitions fail, then what’s the plan?” he asked.

“I don’t have one. One of these has to work,” Nikolas said. He looked to Jason who just shook his head.  Whatever choices were left, Jason wasn’t willing to share them with a cop—even one who was Luke Spencer’s son.

“I better go check in and see what’s going on.” Lucky got to his feet. “Keep me posted.”

When Lucky had left, Nikolas lifted his brows at Jason. “What are you thinking?”

“If the judge doesn’t give the power of attorney to me, Bobbie, or the hospital, then Ric is going to stop being a problem, and to hell with it,” Jason muttered. “They’ll come at me, I might end up in jail. But Elizabeth will never have to look at him again. That’s the promise I made her. He’s not going to be in control of her. Not ever again.”

“I’m surprised he’s still breathing,” Nikolas admitted. “I would have thought this kind of thing was in your wheelhouse. You could do it without a trace.”

“I could,” Jason admitted. “But it’s not just me. If I didn’t get away with it, if I ended up in jail, Elizabeth would blame herself. And there’s Sonny to think about. It puts pressure on him with the cops, and he barely got through Carly’s kidnapping.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “But I can’t take the chance that he could have control over her when it’s the last thing she wanted.”

“If it makes you feel better, I think Ric could buy a few judges, but I highly doubt anyone is going to go against you,” Nikolas told him. “Ric’s going away for this. Everyone knows it. Going against you is going against Sonny. And…I made a few calls of my own. We’ll be prepared for everything, but I doubt the legal system in this city is willing to go to war against you and the Cassadines.”

He got to his feet. “I’m going to check in with the ICU and then I’m going to grab some sleep before court. We’ve done what we can, Jason. There’s nothing left to do.”

General Hospital: Carly’s Room

Carly blinked at her husband as his mouth moved and sounds came out. She couldn’t make herself follow him. Couldn’t quite seem to focus.

She was…dressed to leave—she was being released at eight, and Sonny—was—he was trying to tell her something but her mind kept drifting.

She closed her eyes, turned her head away, and let herself drift again.

As Carly fell asleep, Sonny closed his mouth and just stared at his wife. In his entire memory, Carly had never just…gone to sleep in the middle of a conversation.

Not that it had been an actual conversation. He’d been reluctantly telling her all the things that had happened over night—Ric getting released, not being arrested, ending up with control of Elizabeth’s care—he’d told her how excited Michael was to see her. And she’d just stared at him.

Maybe Bobbie was right, and there was something more that they would need to do—something more than time or rest.

Sonny sighed and left to find a doctor. Maybe Carly wasn’t ready to leave the hospital.

Port Charles Courthouse: Family Court Division, Room C

Scott Baldwin tapped a pen against his notepad and studied the proceedings as they unfolded. His interaction with Ric Lansing had been limited to scattered court appearances but none in the last six months. In fact, Ric’s legal practice in Port Charles had never really launched, and the man now accused of domestic abuse, kidnapping, and attempted murder hadn’t been in a court room in months.

Scott had  been livid upon learning that the criminal court had rejected an arrest warrant based on Ric’s appearance in court this morning. It was beyond Scott’s legal experience for a man to be accused of such crimes to not immediately be taken into custody.

Why was Lansing being given a chance to surrender himself? He’d been a resident of the city less than a year and his crimes were against his own wife, a member of one of Port Charles’s finest families.

And was this a sign of things to come? Scott was prepared to file an emergency petition on Bobbie’s behalf if neither the hospital nor Jason Morgan was able to wrest power of attorney back from Ric Lansing this morning, but Scott hoped it wouldn’t go that far. The precedent was clear—power of attorney belonged to the person granting it. Spouses were in charge only if nothing else existed.

And Scott knew that Justus was prepared to argue to the State Supreme Court if he needed to—if Elizabeth survived that long. Scott put a hand over Bobbie’s as she kept cracking her knuckles. “You’re driving me nuts. Relax.”

“Relax,” Bobbie muttered. “I should be with my daughter. I should be with Elizabeth, but no, I have to be here because this city is full of criminals—”

She only subsided when the judge called the room to order. As Ric came in, he cast a nervous glance at Jason Morgan. and Scott was amused to see Ric’s eyes narrow in confusion when he met Scott’s eyes in the gallery.

“Your Honor, my client is petitioning to have the injunction lifted against his power of attorney in the case of Elizabeth Webber—”

“Elizabeth Lansing,” Ric corrected smoothly as he got to his feet and shot Justus a smug smile. “She’s married now—”

“And never filed any name change so her legal name remains Webber,” Justus shot back just as cheerfully. “Don’t interrupt me.”

“Counsel.” The judge lifted a bushy eyebrow at them. “Mr. Ward, carry on.”

“On July 23, 2002, Elizabeth Webber began paperwork to name Jason Morgan as her durable power of attorney, giving him the final say in any decisions on her behalf. That paperwork was completed and signed yesterday. Pursuant to Statute 5-1501B, she has the right to name any person she so chooses.”

“Your Honor, it is generally accepted that the next of kin has the final say,” Ric began.

“Unless there is superseding paperwork. Which there is.” Justus held up the form. “In fact, her paperwork has a list of people who can make those decisions if Jason Morgan is unable or unwilling. If the court finds that Jason Morgan is not a suitable person, Miss Webber indicated that Barbara Jean Spencer can make those decisions. If not Miss Spencer, then Emily Quartermaine. If Miss Quartermaine is not available, Nikolas Cassadine I think this list goes down to the janitor at General Hospital—”

“Your Honor, my wife—”

“Has also filed notice of legal separation from Richard Lansing, alleging cruel and inhumane treatment. He is the defendant in a domestic abuse case as well as a newly brought charge of attempted murder—”

Alleged—”

“It is irresponsible to allow medical care for Elizabeth Webber to remain with her estranged husband,” Justus continued. “And I can promise you that if she does not survive the injuries inflicted on her by her husband, I have any number of clients who intend to file a wrongful death suit against him, the city—”

The judge held up his hand and looked to Ric. “Counsel, why should I discard legal precedent and allow your rights as the spouse to supersede the wishes of your wife?”

“That paperwork was begun by my wife before we met and married. A year ago,” Ric lifted his chin. “They dug it out yesterday and had Jason Morgan sign it. Also, he is a suspected criminal, and I intend to ask the PCPD to charge him under Penal Law 255.17. He may have a vested interest in my wife not surviving either—”

“Penal Law…” The judge trailed off. “Are you suggesting that you intend to press charges against this man for adultery? And…that he might allow Elizabeth Webber to die so he can avoid thirty days in jail?”

Ric hesitated. It was clearly the only leg on which he had to stand, and Scott rolled his eyes. He rose to his feet. “Your Honor.”

“DA Baldwin.” The judge sat back. “I imagine you’re here to tell me that Jason Morgan isn’t going to be facing any such charges—”

“The District Attorney’s office has no pending investigation against Jason Morgan in any respect. Not for this scurrilous charge of adultery—I’d almost like to see you prove it, Lansing—or on any other charge. Nor do I imagine that situation to change at any point. Unlike Mr. Lansing who is about to be remanded into custody, Mr. Morgan is free to make Elizabeth Webber his number one priority.”

“Thank you, DA Baldwin. You may take your seat.”

As Scott sat down, he was aware of Bobbie’s wide eyes. He looked at her and wagged a finger. “Don’t you ever say I never did anything for you.”

“Is that everything?” the judge asked. When Justus and Ric nodded, he continued, “I have both your briefs. I will consider them and render my decision in an hour.”

“Your Honor,” Justus got to his feet. “This is an emergency—I have notes from Dr. Quartermaine—”

“Which is why you’ll get my decision in an hour. I can understand if Mr. Lansing and Mr. Morgan would prefer to await my decision at the hospital.”

“Ah, Your Honor.” Scott got to his feet. He gestured to Lucky Spencer behind him. “Officer Spencer is here to take Ric Lansing into custody—’

“And he can do that at General Hospital, Mr. Baldwin. You don’t run my court room. The arrest warrant is held pending the outcome of this hearing.”

“Pending…” Scott stared at the judge. “Are you whacked in the head? If you give him control of Elizabeth Webber’s case, he has no vested interest in her survival. He can’t take care of her from the jail cell unless you’re telling me you’re going to quash the warrant. What the ever loving—”

“I suggest you leave now, Mr. Baldwin, before I hold you in contempt.”

“Hold me in contempt? Listen, Bozo—”

“Scott,” Bobbie hissed as Justus made a slicing gesture across his neck. Cut it out! his eyes seemed to scream.

“You give Elizabeth’s care to this man, then you might as well sign her death warrant. Where the hell is the justice—”

“Officer Spencer, it looks like you’ll be able to take someone into custody after all,” the judge said dryly as he got to his feet. “Please place DA Baldwin under arrest for contempt of court.”

Hell. So much for keeping his cool. Scott turned to Lucky who tried like hell to fight his smirk. Little bastard hated him with good reason. “No cuffs necessary,” he told the rookie. “I’ll go quietly.”

“I’ll bail you out—” Bobbie began.

“Call my dad or Gail,” Scott said with a shake of his head. “You’re needed here.” He followed Lucky out of the courtroom.

Jason eyed Ric across the room gathering his paperwork. “I’m going back to the hospital. Did—did Baldwin’s outburst hurt us?”

“The judge hadn’t seen Elizabeth’s paperwork in detail. The fact is even if he doesn’t like you, Elizabeth gave him other choices. That should take care of his primary issue. Bobbie is next in line, which means we don’t need Baldwin anyway.”

“He has to know he’ll be overturned if he doesn’t give her care to someone else,” Bobbie hissed, sending a scathing glare at Lansing. “But I guess the damage will be done.”

“Go back to the hospital, Jason,” Justus told Jason. “Bobbie and I will wait here for the outcome. And you want to be there before Ric leaves here.”

It took everything inside Jason to walk past Ric at the other table and not pound the life out of him. That day would come, but first—first he couldn’t do anything that would put Elizabeth in danger.

General Hospital: ICU

When Jason got back to the hospital twenty minutes later, his mother was there to give him an update. Though it went against privacy laws, Monica was a Quartermaine and a mother just as much as she was a doctor, and sometimes her conscience had to come first.

“Elizabeth has developed another clot in her lungs,” Monica said as Jason joined her at the hub near Elizabeth’s room. Behind her, other nurses and doctors worked quietly. “She’s stable enough for the cath lab but I don’t have permission to take her. Ric has told me it’s medication only.”

Jason hissed. “The judge is delivering a decision in another—” He looked at the clock behind Monica on the computer. “Forty minutes. Maybe less.” He obviously hadn’t made it clear to the judge the night before. There was no guilt or regret in the thought—if Elizabeth died because this judge had kept Jason from her—because he had taken Ric’s side—then he’d forfeited his own life.

End of story.

“This can’t stand. I can make her better, I can save her life, but I am being held back.” Monica clenched her teeth. “I should have done more. I should have checked on her last week. I could have seen the signs—”

I saw the signs,” Jason said quietly. “She knew something was wrong. We just thought it was withdrawal. It wasn’t clear until today that—”

“I know, but I wish—” Monica pressed a hand to her head. “Emily is flying out tonight. She had to make arrangements with her program and get a flight—she’ll never forgive herself for going back last week.”

“I told her to go, Monica.” Jason saw the elevator doors slide open and grimaced as he saw his ex-fiancée walk towards them. “Great.”

“Oh.” Monica narrowed her eyes. “I really don’t like her.”

“Yeah, I noticed that before last week.” Jason left his mother behind and cut Courtney off before she got to Elizabeth’s room. She blinked as if she hadn’t seen him there.

“Oh.” She wrapped her hand around the strap over her shoulder, clutching it tightly. “I didn’t see you there. I was, um, coming to see you.”

He gestured for her to go towards the small waiting area with the couches. “Carly get home okay?”

“No, um, that’s why—” Courtney bit her lip. “Sonny said he didn’t want to bother you because of what’s—” She shifted. “They’re keeping her another few days. Sonny said they’re bringing in a shrink.”

“A shrink—” Jason shook his head. “Why? What happened?” He should have checked on Carly after he’d been barred from Elizabeth’s room, but it just—it hadn’t occurred to him. Carly had been in his waking thoughts every moment for the last week, and knowing she was safe a few floors below them had been enough apparently to dismiss her as an immediate concern.

“Kevin Collins told us it’s acute stress disorder, and if they don’t treat it, it could turn into post-traumatic stress. I guess that’s really bad, and they want to prevent it. Um…” She licked her lips. “Are you coming down? I mean…Elizabeth is okay for now, why can’t you come see Carly—”

“I haven’t heard back from the judge. As soon as I get the injunction lifted, I have to give Monica new orders—” Jason shook his head. “I’ll check in as soon as I can, but I have to be here in case Ric starts something—”

“I don’t get this,” Courtney snapped. She lunged to her feet, the vulnerability and uncertainty he’d seen in her expression fading into anger. “We were going to get married a week ago. You left her, Jason. You came to me. And now that she needs you—now that she’s a goddamn damsel in distress—”

“I don’t have time for this,” Jason said, and he turned away, dismissing her. Courtney grabbed his arm, her nails digging into his forearm and he grimaced. “Courtney—”

“How dare you look at me like I’m nothing,” Courtney hissed. “How dare you treat me like I’m trash you forgot to get rid of. You asked me to marry you. You told me you didn’t love her. You made me feel important, and now I don’t mean anything? What is wrong with you? Are you as damaged as everyone says you are?”

At that, something inside Jason shut down. He looked down at his arm and pried her fingers from it, flinging it back. “I’m sorry that I hurt you. I apologized for that two days ago. I broke up with you then. I get that you’re hurt. But if you want to be blunt with you, Courtney, I will be. I don’t love you. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I knew before Carly got kidnapped that it was a mistake. And any future we had ended the minute you called the PCPD and let them search the penthouses. You knew that.”

“Jason—I’m sorry. I-I didn’t mean it—” Her face was ashen as she stumbled back. “You don’t—you’re worried about Elizabeth—”

“Go be with Sonny and Carly,” Jason continued, but then the elevator opened again, and Ric stepped out. On his heels was an officer Jason hadn’t seen before.

“What are you doing here?” Ric demanded, his face scrunching up in anger. He turned to Monica who was still at the hub. “I barred him from the ICU—”

“You barred him from Elizabeth’s room,” Monica said dryly. “You don’t have the right to bar him from the entire ward.”

“Bullshit, ICU is only for family,” Ric shot back.

“And he’s my son,” Monica said with a bit of smugness that Jason almost enjoyed. “He’s visiting me.”

“Bullshit,” Ric repeated. He glared as Jason returned to his mother side, leaving Courtney without a second glance. “He doesn’t even like you.”

“We’re Quartermaines,” Monica returned with a lift of her brow. “We never like each other. That’s not how it works.”

“Look, Lansing, it’s not worth it. You‘re here to wait for the judge’s decision, but I remind you you’re in my custody,” the cop said, putting a hand on Ric’s arm. Ric shrugged him off. “You’re causing a scene.”

Ric opened his mouth to protest—but then the area was filled with the sound of beeping and Jason turned, dreading the location. The alarms were screaming in Elizabeth’s room.

Monica abandoned them all and rushed towards the room, followed by another doctor and several nurses. “She’s in tachycardia,” she announced as she took in the screen. “Get the crash cart!”

“What’s going on?” Jason demanded, having followed his mother, with Ric hot on his heels, the cop trotting behind them both.

“Her heart is racing.” Monica studied the monitors. “Give her 300 mg of Amiodarone,” she ordered the nurse who rushed to inject the medication into Elizabeth’s IV.

“What is that?” Ric demanded. “I haven’t okayed that. You have to let me—”

“It’s not working,” the doctor said as Elizabeth’s heart beat continued to go wild. “Monica—”

“Push another 150mg.She’s going to go into cardiac arrest if this clot—Damn it—” She looked at Ric. “I need to get her into the cath lab ASAP.”

“Is that just as risky?” Ric demanded.

“This clot goes to her heart and we won’t have to argue anymore because she’ll be dead,” Monica snapped.

“Not if the treatment is going—”

And Ric stopped talking because Jason had had enough. He punched the asshole so hard that he flew back into the cop and then slumped to the floor.

Jason knew exactly how to aim his fist in order to cause unconsciousness.

Monica stared at the prone man for a moment. “Well, that’s one way to deal with it. All right, in the absence of anyone telling me something else, let’s go. We’ll take her now.”

Monica and the team quickly readied Elizabeth and lifted her onto a gurney before rushing her out of the room.

The officer stared down at Ric. “When he wakes up and starts screaming assault, the story we’ll go with is that he tripped and fell on his face.”

Jason squinted at him. First Lucky that morning, then Baldwin, now this kid—was there something in the water at the PCPD? He left the room, intending to follow the gurney, but he was stopped as Justus came out of the elevator, followed by Scott and Bobbie.

“We won. We officially have—” Justus’s face fell as the trio took in the empty room. “Oh, Jesus.”

“Were we too late?” Bobbie asked, grasping Scott’s arm. “Jason—”

“Monica took her to the cath lab. Elizabeth had…another clot.” Jason swallowed. “And Ric…” They turned to find the other man slowing to getting his feet, exchange a few words with the cop before his face turned red. “He fell. He wasn’t available to consult.”

Scott lifted his brows. “As long as Falconieri backs that up, I hope it felt good.” He gestured at Jason’s hand. “You might want to ice those down before Ric tries to press actual charges.”

November 26, 2018

This entry is part 16 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

You took all there was to take
And left me with an empty plate
And you don’t care about it, yeah
And I am giving up this game
And leaving you with all the blame
Cause I don’t care
Are You Happy Now, Michelle Branch


Sunday, June 29, 2003

 PCPD: Squad Room

Kelsey paused just by the main hub of the squad room to pull a notepad and a set of folders from her bag. The officer behind the desk leaned over and with a leering grin she knew all too well, asked, “Can I help you, sweet heart?”

She sighed and, with her free hand, flashed her badge from the DA’s office. His expression didn’t become any less leering, but she was used to that.

A week in Port Charles had taught her that the problems in this city wasn’t just the allocation of resources. “I’m looking for either Detective Vincenzo Esposito or John Beaudry. Or Lieutenant Marcus Taggert—”

“Beaudry and Taggert are out, but Vinnie’s desk is just over there.” The officer jerked a thumb over his shoulder towards a set of desks where a man younger than Kelsey had expected sat. He was leaning back in the chair, his legs up on the desk, a folder in his lap that he appeared to be reading.

He was tall—she could tell that from the length of his legs—and lanky, with brown hair worn short. He glanced up when Kelsey approached his desk, and his chiseled features spread into a grin. “Hey there, good-looking. You looking for some protection?”

She hated these guys. These assholes who knew they were good-looking and wanted you to know they knew it. But Kelsey merely arched a brow, dropped her bag on the floor, and sat in the uncomfortable wooden chair adjacent to his desk. “Kelsey Joyce. Unit Chief of the Major Crimes Unit at the DA’s office.”

“Oh.” The grin faded slightly, and Vinnie sat up. “What brings you by? The Lansing case?”

“I’m not handling that directly,” Kelsey told him as she edged some of the paperwork on his desk aside to clear a space for her to set down her notepad. “I’m looking at the other cases being handled by the MCU.”

“You’d have to talk to our new boss,” Vinnie said caustically, and now the smile had vanished. Sourness had crept into his tone, into his expression. “He has all the answers.”

“He took over less than twenty-fours ago,” Kelsey said in a measured tone. “The open cases I’m here to discuss are older.” She took a freshly sharpened pencil from her bag and opened the first file in her lap. “You have about ten open cases on which you’re serving as primary. Is that typical?”

Vinnie snorted. “Welcome to Port Charles. My partner rides out on patrol, and I’m not entirely sure when he last got out of his damn car.” He shrugged. “So, yeah, ten is about typical. Always has been.”

Kelsey frowned. “What does that mean?”

“I started here at the PCPD,” he told her. “Put in almost five years—got promoted to Detective on a fast-track. That’s how they get you, you know.” Vinnie wagged a finger at her. “They woo you with positions of authority, then blame you for failing. I was in Vice before they shuttered that and merged the divisions into Major Crimes in 1998.” He shrugged. “I got married to a chick in Buffalo, but you know quick marriages crack up fast these days.”

Kelsey was not the least bit surprised this idiot was already divorced once. She nodded. “Well, hopefully, the addition of a Lieutenant and more officers—”

“Rookies,” Vinnie snorted. “And lieutenants just sit in their ass. Didn’t you ever watch Law & Order?”

“Fair enough. I am concerned about the heavy case load. Some of your cases go back to January and are still considered active.” She tapped her pencil. “You’ve got two open sexual assault cases. I checked the files but there’s not much there—”

“Never is in rape cases,” Vinnie said easily. “If you’re lucky enough to get a reporting victim, they usually don’t come in for days. The scene is ruined. No evidence. They go cold almost from the start.” He shrugged.

“Both of these victims were found by others unconscious at the scene.” Kelsey tipped her head. “Both in the park. Are you thinking it’s the same guy?”

“See, that’s how I know you’re brand new.” Vinnie smirked. “This isn’t television and it’s not one of those Eve Dallas books. Not everything is a serial killer or a mystery. What we got is two unrelated incidents, one of which I’m looking at the boyfriend for. His alibi is shaky, so it’s just a matter of breaking it. The other—” He shrugged. “You know the deal. No rape kits processed without a suspect. That’s policy.”

Kelsey nodded. She may not like his attitude, but he wasn’t wrong. Still…it troubled her that he was so quick to dismiss a connection. She’d have to keep her eye on these cases and hoped they progressed. “Well, I wanted to introduce myself in case you need any paperwork or warrants pushed through. I’d like to be someone you can rely on at the DA’s office.” She’d rehearsed that line before arriving and now regretted it because the leering grin had returned.

Lord, grant me patience. She got to her feet and packed up her files and folders. “Please pass that along to Detective Beaudry and Lieutenant Taggert. I’ll be in touch.” She, after a moment, gave him her card.

“Not a problem. Nice to have an ADA prettier than Baldwin,” he called after her. Kelsey left the room, but knew he was watching her.

She hated cops. Bunch of sexist assholes who still thought women only came in two categories, virgin and whore.

General Hospital: ICU

Almost an hour after Monica’s team had rushed Elizabeth away, Jason jumped out of his seat at the sight of his mother returning with Elizabeth on a gurney behind her.

He caught Monica’s arm as the team rolled Elizabeth back into her room and got her settled back into her bed. “Monica—”

“I broke up the last clot,” Monica told him with a triumphant, exhausted smile. “I’m not saying another won’t form, but we’ve cleared her for now. We’ll keep monitoring, but her heart rate stabilized after we completed the procedure. I’m upgrading her to stable condition.”

Stable condition. Jason’s grip on her hand tightened as Nikolas visibly relaxed. “Stable. We’re not talking about percents anymore.”

“No, barring infection or a sudden clot, I’m cautiously giving her the green light. She stirred a bit during the recovery, and her score on the Glasgow scale went up—” At Jason’s frown, she explained. “We have stages of a coma. She was at a seven yesterday and this morning. She’s responding to pain and her eyes opened a few times. She’s at an eleven. A fifteen is fully conscious.”

“But that’s good,” Sonny said. “It means she’ll be okay. That she’ll come out of the coma.”

“Improvement on the scale does indicate that. I don’t want to promise anything, Jason,” Monica told him. “Or give you false hope.”

“I know that. But it’s good news.”

“It is.” Monica seemed to finally realize that it was Sonny who had asked the original question. “Oh, Sonny. I hadn’t—I’m so sorry. I didn’t even ask how Carly was.”

“Health wise, fine,” Sonny told her. Jason looked at him and grimaced. “Jason, it’s fine. I understand. We knew from the second Carly got here that her condition was okay. Elizabeth should have been your top priority.” He hesitated. “Physically she’s fine, but Bobbie’s with her now, trying to convince her she should talk to someone.”

“I’m just so glad you were able to find her. I know how it weighed on you and Elizabeth.” Monica touched his arm. “I need to go get some sleep. I’ve been…” She sighed. “Up too long. And I need to be at my best if any of my patients need me.”

“It’s fine, Monica. Go ahead. Thank you. For everything.”

“We got a miracle,” she murmured, looking back at the sleeping figure in the room. “Audrey and Steve were looking over her.” She patted his arm again, but this time, Jason embraced her because he knew that’s what she really wanted.

“Thank you,” he repeated.

“Take care of yourself, Jason. You need rest, too.” She touched his face with just a caress of her fingers before she withdrew. “I’ll be at the mansion if you need me.”

Zacchara Estate: Study

Trevor grimaced as Anthony Zacchara took his seat behind the desk. He’d had a plan to dispose of this crazy, insane bastard. That was supposed to be his chair.

But instead he remained exactly where he’d been for the better part of the last twenty years—cleaning up Zacchara’s messes.

“What’s the situation in Port Charles?” Anthony demanded as he lit a cigar. “Your dumb fucking son dimed us out?”

“Not yet,’ Trevor admitted. “He’s playing a lot of legal games. He tried to get control over the girl’s condition so he could…” Do what, he wasn’t entirely sure. “But he was taken into custody about an hour ago for the charges against his wife and Carly.”

“Panic room in his own house,” Zacchara said with a sour grimace. “We groomed that little fucker to be smarter than that, didn’t we? What the hell was he thinking?”

“I’m not sure he was. I think…” Trevor stopped. “I think it’s time we discussed doing something permanent with my son.”

Zacchara lifted his bushy brows. “Yeah? Your own kid? I knew you were a cold fish, but—” He shrugged.

Trevor scowled. As a man who had killed his second wife while trying to kill his young son in a fit of psychotic rage—Anthony had some goddamn nerve. “However, I do wonder if we do something to Ric, if it might attract more attention than we want.”

“You mean we got the same problem Corinthos and Morgan have? Yeah, Ric is too hot to pick off just yet. They’re probably waiting for the trial.” Anthony leaned back, took a long puff on the cigar, considered their options. “Corinthos has to guess we were a little bit involved.”

“It’s possible he thinks Ric was acting alone on anger against him. After a certain point, it’s clear that’s exactly what happened. I raised him to hate Sonny. I guess I went too far.”

“Eh, what are you gonna do? Kids end up being disappointments most of the time anyway. Mine are completely useless.” Zacchara shrugged. “Let’s play this one by ear. Ric ain’t gonna flip on us if he hasn’t yet. He’s got nothing to tie us to all this crap, and if the PCPD or the state could have gone for us, they would have. If we need to take of things later, we will.”

Trevor released a long breath. He knew the right answer was to eliminate the threat, but Ric was his son, after all, and maybe he could still be saved. They just had to tread carefully.

General Hospital: Carly’s Room

Carly blinked and tried to focus on her mother as Bobbie spoke again. That was the trouble—people kept talking and she kept drifting away. She couldn’t focus, couldn’t stay in the moment.

She’d tried to sleep the night before, but had woken with the room darkened—she’d started to scream—convinced she was still in the panic room, still trapped, still living with the threat of death hanging over her—

Sonny had rushed to her side trying to get her to come back to him, but she’d kept screaming—and the next thing Carly knew, it was morning. They must have given her something.

Carly realized Bobbie had stopped talking and was looking for her to answer. She forced herself to look at Bobbie. “I’m sorry,” she said slowly. “I—I don’t know what you just said.”

Patiently, Bobbie repeated, “I’d like you to speak with Kevin Collins. He specializes in trauma disorders. I think you’re at risk, Sweetheart.” She stood, smoothing the hair over Carly’s forehead. “You had a panic attack last night. And then when Sonny tried to talk to you about it, you just kept folding and refolding the same clothes.”

“I did?” Carly sighed. Closed her eyes. “I don’t remember. I—” She swallowed hard. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Mama.”

“I know, and that’s why it’ll help to talk to Kevin. I’m not asking you to sign up for a year of therapy. Just let him come in. Ask a few questions.”

“Will he make it all go away?” Carly murmured. “I don’t want to think about it. I close my eyes, and I-I think I’m back there. I open my eyes, and for a minute, I’m still there. I know I’m in the hospital, but I can’t—I still feel like I’m chained, and I’m terrified he’ll come in the room—”

“He’s in jail. They took him into custody earlier today. He can’t hurt you or Elizabeth anymore.”

“Elizabeth.” Carly licked her lips. “She…was sick. They took her away. He tried to kill her. Every night. He put pills in her—” At her side, the heart monitor started to race.

Her mother squeezed her hand. “You told us, and you saved Elizabeth’s life. We knew immediately what was wrong. The paramedics brought the right equipment. You gave her a chance, and she’s doing better. She’s…” Bobbie hesitated. “She’s in a procedure right now that should make it better.”

“He wanted to give my baby to her, but she wouldn’t have done it. She didn’t trust him. I could see that.” Carly’s voice trembled. “I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t—”

“I know, sweetheart. And you did what you could. Now I’m asking you to do the same for yourself. Let me call Kevin. He’s an old friend, and I know he’ll come see you.”

“Okay.” Anything to make the darkness stay away. Anything at all.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Floyd tossed the newspaper down in front of Mac. “It’s worse than we thought it would be,” he told him.

“I know,” Mac muttered as he picked it, looked at the editorial again. “Our closure rates are in the toilet, the conviction rates at the DA’s office aren’t great—”

“And I’m sure Baldwin getting himself arrested for contempt isn’t helpful,” Taggert muttered from his spot in the chair in front of Mac’s desk.

“Actually, I’m told initial response from the media is good. He was making an outcry on behalf of a victim. Baldwin always knows how to come out on top,” Floyd muttered. “You, my friend, are not so lucky,” he said to Mac.

Mac scowled. “What do you expect me to do? The city keeps cutting my budget. I’ve had to lay off officers—most of detectives are overworked—”

“And the ones who aren’t are lazy assholes the union won’t let us get rid of,” Taggert said. “I spent all night looking at the Major Crimes Unit, and it’s a fucking mess, Mac. If Beaudry was ever a good cop, it was years ago. I can’t tell if Vinnie is lazy or just overworked because he’s been the primary on every case to cross the squad’s desk since he came back to the job.”

“Can you reassign one of them?” Floyd demanded.

“No,” Taggert said bluntly. “Because I can’t do this on my own. Vinnie is carrying ten cases. If I get rid of Beaudry, that’s five for us each—which isn’t going to make new cases coming up easier to deal with. I still have to do administrative crap.” He rubbed his forehead. “We got the rookies. They’re green, but I think they’re good.”

“This Lansing case—this is the city’s chance to make good. The closure rate is crap, and maybe we didn’t find Carly Corinthos, but we did arrest Lansing yesterday—”

“Because a member of this department leaked the story that put her in danger,” Mac said dryly. “I tried that spin. Jessica Mitchell—” He waved the paper. “She threw it back in my face. She’s got something against us—this isn’t the first time she’s come for me, but it’s the hardest, and well…” He sighed. “The most well-deserved.”

“You didn’t tell him to give the goddamn farm away,” Taggert said. “You wanted it in the gossip column to shake something loose. A rumor is one thing, verifying that Jason Morgan was at the goddamn house every damn day was…” He hissed. “Suicidal.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Floyd asked. “I need to have something to give the press, Mac, or as much as I personally like you, this department isn’t going to sink my career—”

Mac got to his feet. “Can you get the budget to hire experienced officers? Can you get me money to take care of testing? You know why Taggert’s in here, don’t you? He wants our back log of rape kits processed.”

“Twelve from the last three years haven’t been processed because of the policy against testing without a suspect. It’s a ridiculous policy—”

“It’s the only way to keep costs down. My only job here isn’t justice, Floyd,” Mac snapped. “If I go over budget, the council will have my job. If I don’t close enough cases, you’ll fire me. And if something slips through the cracks or my officers don’t do their jobs right, someone might die. Someone almost did. So what fucking miracles do you want me to accomplish without damn money or good cops?” He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you think you’ve put enough fucking political pressure on me since you got elected?”

Floyd hesitated. They stared at one another for a long moment. “The end of the fiscal year is in September. I can request more money next year, but the council will have to take it from somewhere else—”

“And then we’ll just go around in more circles.” Mac sat back down, put his head in his hands. “Taggert, any bright ideas?”

“I guess…we can try to arrange the unit to deal with what we’re good at. Beaudry is okay at patrol. We’ll keep him on that. He can be first responder during his shifts. He can train the rookies to do that—show them the shortcuts.” Taggert squinted. “I guess Vinnie and I can figure out what we’re good at. He worked Vice and Sex Crimes in Buffalo, but I think he’s burnt out on it. Maybe I can give him Robbery and Homicides, I’ll take everything else.” He exhaled slowly. “We can try that.”

“I can sell that to the press,” Floyd said. “We’re re-evaluating our personnel, making sure that everyone is in the position that best suits their abilities. I’ll make the money a thing, Mac. But I’m not a miracle worker.”

“Yeah, me either.” Mac shot the mayor a dirty look that made Taggert frown, but it was gone so quickly he wondered if he’d imagined.

“Let’s see if I got any in me,” Taggert said, finally getting to his feet.

General Hospital: ICU

The layers of darkness began to dissipate and with a struggle, Elizabeth Webber opened her eyes.

And immediately started to choke and gasp for air.

“Wait, wait—” a hoarse voice touched her shoulders. “There’s a breathing tube—Monica!”

Her eyes focused on the man speaking—he was blurry, but she could make out the edges of his face—his tired and worn blue eyes, the stubble of beard on his jaw, the tousled dark blond hair.

She knew that face.

She thought she’d never see it again. Her fingers drifted up to touch it, and he took her hand, pressed it against his roughened cheek, closing his eyes briefly.

She could hear footsteps, felt someone else’s fingers near her face—and then burning pain as something slid out of her throat, scraping the raw skin.

“Careful now,” the familiar tones of Monica murmured. “Jason, some water—” And then a straw was at her cracked, sore lips. She drank greedily, quickly and then coughed when it was too much.

“What…what’s going on?” she managed, the words nothing more than a whisper. She felt herself rising up slowly as Monica Quartermaine pressed a button at the side of her bed.

Jason was at her side, one hand holding hers, the other smoothing her hair out of her face. She struggled, trying to remember what happened and where she was.

“Elizabeth,” Monica said, gently. “What do you remember?”

She licked her lips and Monica brought the water to her again. She drank a bit more. “I—I was—I was at the house. We were looking…but I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe, and everything was—” Her eyes widened, and she jerked her gaze to Jason. “Carly—”

She reached out, twisting her fingers in his oatmeal colored shirt. “Carly. She’s—the button. Did I find it? The panic room—I can’t remember—”

“You found her,” Jason told her softly, his voice hoarse as he bent down to be closer to her. He took both her hands in his now, warming them. She could feel the tingles through her entire body as she became aware of everything.

And God…everything hurt.

“I found her,” Elizabeth managed. She squeezed her eyes shut. “I was talking to you.” Listening to his voice, thinking it would be the last she’d ever hear. “And then you…you were there.”

“I was on my way back,” Jason told her. He sat on the edge of her bed. “I promised I wouldn’t leave you again. But you—” He couldn’t speak, and Elizabeth looked at Monica, confused.

“Did I overdose again?” she asked, trying to search her brain. How could Ric have drugged her? She hadn’t eaten anything he’d made.

“Pulmonary embolism. Blood clots in your lungs. One choked off your oxygen, the other went to your heart.” Monica hesitated, her own voice faltering. “You went into cardiac arrest twice, Elizabeth.”

“Cardiac…” She furrowed her brows, looked at Jason. “Did—I died?”

“Your heart stopped twice,” he confirmed. “But they got you back, and you kept fighting. You’ve been in a coma—” He stopped, took a deep breath, as if trying to find the energy, the strength to continue. “For the last twenty-four hours.”

“How—how did—” She shook her head. “How did I get—”

“The symptoms were very similar to the withdrawal,” Monica sighed. “You would have dismissed them.” She came to the other side of the bed, studying the monitors. “But you should make a full recovery.”

There was more they weren’t telling her—she could see that. But for now, she focused on Jason’s face, and saw the exhaustion in his eyes. “Carly,” she said again. “We found her.”

“She’s here. She’s…okay.” Jason smoothed his thumb over her palm. “You found her.”

“I did it.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, sank back against the pillows. “And…Ric…”

“Still in jail, charged with—” Monica stopped. “Well, we’re not expecting bail,” she said. Elizabeth frowned, but it was clear they wouldn’t tell her anything else.

“I’m going to go call Bobbie and Nikolas to let them know,” Monica told Jason. She looked back at Elizabeth. “Take it easy, okay? Don’t give us any more scares for a couple of hours.” She touched Elizabeth’s shoulder, then left the room.

Elizabeth looked back at Jason. “Have you been here the whole time?” she asked. “Did you see Carly? Is she really okay?”

“I was here until…” Jason hesitated. “I had to leave, but I—no, I haven’t seen Carly since we got here. There’s a lot…but-”

“You don’t want to tell me,” she said with a half-smile. “Because it’s all probably bad news.”

“Yeah,” Jason admitted. He brushed her hair behind her ear, letting his fingertips trail down her cheek. “And I promised Monica I’d keep you resting as long as I could. There’ll be time for all of that.”

“Jason…how close did I—” She hesitated. Coughed. “How close…”

Jason was quiet for a moment, as if debating what to tell her. “When we got to the hospital, after the second cardiac arrest, they gave you a five percent chance of survival,” he admitted. “And you didn’t get upgraded into stable condition until this morning.”

And Elizabeth grimaced. “Was Ric here? Did…he’s—we’re married, so I guess—I don’t know. Was he here?” she asked again.

“Actually,” Jason said, “Nikolas found some paperwork you had drawn up last year giving me power of attorney.” A flush crawled up his neck as he cleared his throat. “I signed it, and Alexis filed it.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “After the crypt,” she murmured. “I…never got a chance to ask you.” She opened her eyes, looked at him. “I’m glad Nikolas found out, but…so you had to make the decisions.”

“Yeah,” Jason admitted. “I’m glad it worked out, but…” He managed a smile of his own. “I’m with Monica on this. Can you try not to scare me again like that? At least for twenty-four hours?”

And if finding out the extent of Ric’s crimes and what had happened while she was in a coma would possibly upset her and compromise her condition—well then, Elizabeth didn’t think she wanted to deal with that right now anyway.

“I can try,” she murmured, and he smiled at the words—as if he knew exactly why she’d said it that way. She looked down at his knuckles, frowning at the bruised and broken skin. “What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just—” He shook his head. “That’s for later.”

“Okay.” Her eyes drifted closed. “I’m so tired. Is that normal?”

“Yeah, Monica said you’d be drifting in and out.” He kissed her forehead again. “Rest. You earned it.”

“Thank you for not leaving,” she murmured as she felt him lift himself off the bed. She tightened her grip on his hand as it started to slide out of her grasp.

But she was sleep before he could respond, and Jason took a deep breath, scrubbing his hands over his face. Somehow, he hadn’t believed she’d really wake up.

But now she had.

And it was time for everything that came next.

November 28, 2018

This entry is part 17 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Now it’s like I lied
When I said I didn’t need you
Alright if you’d left I’d never be
Tonight can we just get it right
Somehow, for now
For Now, P!nk


Sunday, June 29, 2003

General Hospital: ICU

Elizabeth drifted in and out of sleep for another two or three hours, waking only long enough to drink some water and have her vitals checked.

Around six, the door open, and Elizabeth opened her eyes, blinking blearily. “Who—” She fumbled for the controls of her bed, allowing it rise slowly.

“It took forever to get here,” Emily declared as she stepped up to the side of the bed. She had a smile on her face, but Elizabeth could see it was false. “I couldn’t get a flight yesterday; my professor gave me real shit about taking time off from the program,and then there were storms.” She huffed. “The universe was conspiring against me.”

Elizabeth managed a smile as Emily dragged a chair towards the bed. “But you came.”

“Wild horses couldn’t have kept me away. God, Liz, I should have dragged you with me—”

“Don’t—” Elizabeth coughed and reached blindly for the pitcher of water on the hospital tray on the side of the bed. Emily got back to her feet, dragged the tray so that it came closer to her and poured a glass.  “Thanks.”

“Have…have they talked to you about everything that happened?” Emily asked. She sat back down, her eyes dark with concern. “Nikolas kept me in the loop the best he could, but, um, Mom said they hadn’t really talked to you since you woke up.”

“They seem to think I’m not ready for it.” Elizabeth sighed, the fatigue dragging her eyes closed again. “Maybe they’re right. I know I almost died from blood clots, but I don’t understand how that happened—”

“Birth control pills,” Emily said bluntly. “In the ice cubes you drank. It was almost the first thing Carly said when they rescued her. He put birth control in them. Even if you didn’t eat anything or—”

“So, it wasn’t withdrawal…” Elizabeth forced her heavy lids open. “Why…did he bother with birth control…I wasn’t even…”

“But if you hadn’t believed, hadn’t avoided him,” Emily said softly. “He couldn’t take any chances you’d get pregnant and not want Carly’s baby.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, looked at the ceiling. “I don’t know anything about…what did Monica call it?”

“Pulmonary embolism. Basically, it means that the blood clot burst and blocked your oxygen in your lungs. That’s why you passed out. Another blood clot went to your heart, so you arrested,” Emily said flatly. “It’s the same thing as an aneurysm in the brain.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “He nearly killed me again.”

“Yeah. And somehow, he ended up out on bail and filed some sort of case that gave him temporary control of your health—”

“What—” Elizabeth winced as she sat up. “Damn it.” She fell back, gasping for air. “But Jason said—”

“He found himself a conservative asshole. Ric put a stop on any treatment Jason had authorized and had him removed from your room. Jason had to go to court this morning over it.” Emily managed a smile. “And Scott Baldwin got himself arrested for contempt when he flipped out on the judge. Apparently, Baldwin even gave a good character reference for my brother.”

“I—” Elizabeth took another sip of water, trying to control her breathing. “They didn’t tell me—”

“Well, I’m probably not supposed to either, but it’s your health. Anyway, Ric got arrested again today, and he’s in jail again.” Emily bit her lip. “Are you okay—”

“I just—Jason told me hadn’t been able to see Carly since she got rescued, and I feel so awful about it—he was stuck here—”

“Well, if the judge wouldn’t accept a power of attorney drawn up a year ago with a new signature yesterday, Nikolas and Alexis were going to petition for the hospital to appoint a guardian. You just made it easier. No one was going to let Ric have control over your care.” Emily tipped her head.

Elizabeth stifled a yawn. “I’m sorry, Em—”

“No, no…it’s okay.” Emily got to her feet. “I’ll let you rest.” She kissed Elizabeth’s forehead. “Stop scaring me.”

“Everyone keeps saying that,” she murmured and stopped fighting the sweet darkness of sleep.

Emily sat by her side for a few minutes before spying her brother stepping off the elevator through the clear glass of Elizabeth’s room. She got up and met him outside by the hub.

“Hey.” Jason embraced her. “When did you get in?”

“About an hour ago—Mom picked me up and brought me straight here.” Emily squeezed her brother tightly. “She said you were grabbing some sleep for the first time in probably days.”

“I slept a little on Friday night,” Jason told her. “But yeah, it’s—” He shook his head. “It’s been a lot. Have you been in to see her?” He looked at Elizabeth’s room. “She’s been drifting in and out since she woke up.”

“Yeah, Mom said she’d do that for a while. We talked a bit. You didn’t tell her about Ric trying to kill her and forcing you into court,” Emily accused.

Jason grimaced. “Did you? I was—” He shook his head. “I don’t know. I guess I was waiting until she was stronger.”

“Well, I told her. And she’s okay with it. She’s not delicate, Jase—”

“You wouldn’t say that if you’d been in the ambulance, watching her die,” Jason retorted, then scrubbed his hands over his face, wincing. “I’m sorry—”

“No, I guess it’s easier for me because I wasn’t here.” Emily took his arm and they went towards the waiting room. “I’m so glad you guys found Carly. I guess Liz wasn’t wrong to stay even though—” She bit her lip. “Even though she kept putting herself in danger.”

“Ice cubes,” Jason muttered. “We had most of the house under surveillance. She kept drinking water to avoid eating—and kept putting ice in them—I don’t even want to think about how much she took in—” He sat down. “We found her. She’s awake, and Monica said, barring another clot, she’s out of the woods.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Emily bit her lip. “Is it too early to ask you what’s going on? I mean, I knew you were helping when I left. I knew you were worried about her. But…” She dipped her head, trying to force him to meet her eyes. “It’s not just because she put herself in harm’s way for Carly.”

“No, it’s not. I broke up with Courtney,” he offered. He shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“I think you do know.” Emily looped her arms around his upper arm, practically hugging it. “Jase. Look, the thing is that you used to be really good at just putting things out there. You felt a thing, you said it. You wanted something, you took it. And you didn’t lie. You never saw the point.”

“I know—”

“As someone who hasn’t been around for the last two years, Jase…I can see that’s not true anymore. I mean…I came home last week to watch you marry a woman you dated for five months—a woman whose divorce to our brother isn’t even that old.” Emily watched as he grimaced again. “I know AJ hurt her, I’m not happy with that idiot either. But I—”

She hesitated. “I’m about to break the cardinal rule of best friends and tell you something Elizabeth…hinted at with me.  She thinks…whatever it is with Courtney…started before Elizabeth moved out. And that’s why you didn’t…really try to work things out with her.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I thought…I thought she knew I was with Brenda—but I guess—” He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. “I guess she would believe that. She was angry when she found out. I didn’t—she left me, Emily.”

“She did. Because you let her believe Sonny was dead. You lied to her. You don’t think she deserved to know the truth?” Emily arched a brow. “Because let me tell you, a lot of people who don’t even like Sonny were pissed at you over that. Mom called me, and she was literally off the chain—but Elizabeth always counted Sonny as a friend.”

“I get that—”

“Elizabeth has to put her entire life back together,” Emily told him. “She’s going to have a long recovery in her future—and I don’t need to tell you, but near-death experiences have a way of screwing with your head.”

“I know that—”

“And I want you to be happy, Jason, but you’re still lying to yourself.  I don’t get it.” Emily sighed, got to her feet. “I get lying to other people—we all do it—but if you can’t even tell yourself the truth, what’s the point—”

“She left me,” Jason said in a quiet voice. “And she told me I had ruined everything. I knew how angry she was. How hurt she was. I tried…to talk to her, but I couldn’t find the right words. I couldn’t make her stop being angry. So, I stopped trying.”

“Okay.” Emily sat back down.

“She told me I was all about Sonny, and that’s not true. I know why she thought it, and maybe—I could have tried harder to explain myself, but every time I opened my mouth, I couldn’t seem to make it right. And Brenda was threatening to make trouble. I just wanted to stop thinking about Elizabeth. I married Brenda, so I could protect her when she was sick.”

“What about Courtney?”

Her brother squeezed his eyes shut. “She was there. And she wasn’t angry at me. I was…lonely, I guess. I don’t know. It seemed to kind of happen out of nowhere. And for a while, it helped. For a while, I wasn’t thinking about Elizabeth. Except…I didn’t want anyone else to know. I didn’t want Sonny—”

“But people found out.”

“Sonny ordered me to break up with her, and I couldn’t—” Jason shook his head. “I couldn’t believe he’d do that. It wasn’t any of his business. He hadn’t really given a damn about Courtney until then. He didn’t have any right to tell me that, and he was the reason I lied to Elizabeth. Even if I didn’t want to be with Courtney, if I walked away—”

“Then it’d be like Elizabeth was right. That it was all about Sonny.” Emily sighed. “Do you…feel better saying it out loud?”

“I never meant to hurt Courtney. I know I didn’t do any of this right. I shouldn’t have asked her to marry me. I didn’t really care, and Carly said she wanted to get married. I put Elizabeth out of my head. I didn’t even know her grandmother died.” Jason looked at his sister. “I couldn’t let myself think about her. But after…after Carly went missing, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t put her away anymore.”

‘Okay.” Emily rubbed his shoulder.  “So, you broke up with Courtney. Good. Jason, you deserve someone who loves you, yeah. But you should really love them, too. It won’t work otherwise.”

“I know that.” Jason shoved himself to his feet. “I just…every time Elizabeth and I are in this position—one of us does something to make the other angry and walk away. I don’t want to do that anymore. Cardiac arrest. Twice. Emily, they had to shock her heart back into rhythm two times.”

“That must have been so hard to watch. It kills me to think of her going through it. I wish I could have been here,” she murmured, pressing her cheek into the sleeve of her brother’s short-sleeved blue shirt.

“For thirty seconds in that ambulance, Emily, she was dead. They almost didn’t get her back. They had to shock her four times—” His voice faltered. “For thirty seconds, I thought—I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I thought it was enough she was here, somewhere. Happy with someone else. But it’s not enough for me.”

Tears pricked her eyes as she tried to speak past the lump in her throat. “Jason—”

“So, if Elizabeth will give this another chance, then…” Jason looked down at her, his eyes shimmering with tears she so rarely saw from him. “Then…that’s where I want to be.”

Monday, June 30, 2003

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

 Monica sipped her orange juice and closed her eyes, listening to the beautiful silence. The mansion was so rarely quiet these days—Edward was always raging at someone, and Tracy was back, trying to wrest control of the company again.

And God knew, Tracy fought with everyone, so Monica treasured these moments when no one else was around.

Behind her, the terrace doors opened, and Ned came in, followed by his sullen daughter. “I don’t know what the problem is,” Brooke snapped as she sat at the breakfast table and poured her own glass of orange juice. “I just want a car.”

“And I said we’d talk about it when your attitude improved.” Ned smiled at her, but even Monica could see the teeth her nephew-in-law was trying not to bear in response. “It’s actually gotten worse.”

A sound emerged from Brooke’s mouth that was half growl, a quarter shriek, and a quarter of a whine. Monica winced to listen to it. She did not miss having a teenager—she and Alan had barely survived their trio of hellions.

Dillon strode in from the foyer, saw Brooke and Ned, stopped, spun around, and started right back out the door.

Ned, desperate for any port in the storm, lunged to his feet. “Dillon! My baby brother! I’ve missed you!”

“I saw you at dinner,” Dillon muttered, but he was too nice not to give in to the desperation, and reluctantly joined the three of them. “Good morning. I think. Are we sure?”

“Your mother hasn’t joined us yet,” Monica said dryly, “so I suppose—” She grimaced as she heard Tracy and Edward arguing on the stairs. “There it is.”

“Aren’t you going to the hospital today?” Ned asked, ignoring his daughter’s glare. He sliced open a croissant. “Usually you’re already gone.”

“I’m taking a few extra hours,” Monica said. “It was a long…” she shook her head. “A long weekend.”

“Yeah, I bet. But Emily said Elizabeth is going to be okay now, right?” Dillon asked. He eyed Brooke warily before asking, “Can I have the jam?”

Brooke shoved the jar towards him, but like everything else—she did it angrily, and it tipped over, hitting the porcelain plate with a smash—and the plate cracked. She glared at it.

“Well, that’ll teach me,” Dillon said with a sigh.

“Brooke,” Ned hissed. “You can be angry with me, but they’ve done nothing to you—”

“They’re the reason Ma left you, so what the hell do I care?” Brooke demanded. She lunged to her feet. “I hate it here, and I hate all of you. I’m nineteen, I can do what I want.”

“So, go do what you want,” Monica snapped impatiently, as she watched Dillon quietly clean up the plate and wince when he nicked himself. “Who’s stopping you?”

Brooke hesitated. “He is—”

“You’re nineteen,” Monica retorted. “Go get a goddamn job and stop blaming everyone else. You’re here because you’re failing out of school. No one at this table is the reason your mother left this house—” She heard Edward screaming at Tracy. “I repeat—at this table—but that was years ago. Stop blaming us. Go get a job. Buy your own car. Get your own place.”

Brooke stared at her, eyes wide. “I—I don’t even know what I’m good at except singing,” she admitted in a quiet voice. She sat down with a thud, her eyes on the table cloth. “Ma said I wasn’t gonna get anywhere with my voice.”

Ned exhaled slowly. “She said you wouldn’t go far if you only relied on your voice. We wanted you to take some business classes. We won’t always be here to protect you. If you’re intent on a career, I want you to understand your contracts, so no one can cheat you.”

Brooke studied him. “You’re not trying to make me into you?”

“No. I don’t even want to be me half the time.”

She bit her lip. “Okay.” She looked at Dillon, who had shoved his nicked fingertip in his mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break—”

“Could have happened to anyone.” Dillon waved it off. “But, ah, I think I’ll get breakfast at Kelly’s—”

“I’ll go with you,” Brooke said, missing Dillon’s grimace. “The last time I was there, they said they were hiring, and I—I need something to do.”

Dillon sighed, but didn’t argue as she followed him out of the room.

“How did you do that?” Ned demanded. “You fixed her.”

“There’s no fixing teenagers,” Monica muttered as she carefully tossed the plate into a trash can. “You just know what’s bothering her today. Something else will come up tomorrow.”

“Fair point.” Ned shifted in his seat, wincing as his mother and grandfather’s argument appeared to be coming closer to them. “Before they come in and really ruin our appetites…Dillon asked you if Elizabeth was doing all right.”

“She is,” Monica said, with a squint of her eyes. “Why do you care?”

“Oh…I—I did some business with Ric, and I feel…I don’t know—I feel like I was partially responsible. It’s silly.” Ned rubbed the back of his neck. “Jason came to ask me about it when he was looking for Carly. So, I guess—”

“She came out of it, but it’s a miracle.” Monica sighed, and winced as Tracy and Edward stormed into the room.

“I want you out of my house!” Edward thundered at his daughter. Tracy hissed, flung an arm in Monica’s direction.

“It’s not your house. It’s her house!”

“And I gave it to her,” Alan said mildly as he joined them all. “Isn’t it a little early in the morning for this—”

Monica groaned and let her head fall into her hands. Some days, this goddamn family—she knew exactly why Jason had fled this house.

General Hospital: ICU

Nikolas grimaced as he walked through Elizabeth’s open door. “How much longer are you going to be stuck in here?” he asked, taking a seat at her bedside.

“Another day or so.” Elizabeth picked at a piece of loose thread from the pajama top that Emily had brought her. “Monica said she’d feel better if I had seventy-two hours without any more clots. And then I’ll be out of here sometime next week.”

“Out of the hospital?” Nikolas raised his brows. “Is that enough time? I guess she’d know.” He hesitated. “We haven’t…really spoken in almost a year, have we?”

“No, I guess not. Thank you for coming home. I know you did it because Bobbie asked—”

“I came because she asked, but she asked because she knew I cared about you. The only way to get you out of that house was to find Carly, so that made it my fight.” Nikolas hesitated. “For all the times I didn’t stand by you. For the times I took Lucky’s side—”

“I didn’t think of it that way—”

“But that’s what it was. I took his side. I took Gia’s side. I took anyone’s side but yours, and I can’t ever go back and do it over.”

“We all made mistakes, Nikolas. I don’t hold them against you. I mean, how can I? Emily…she told me you and Jason worked all night on Saturday to get ready for that hearing. You worked with Jason because of me.” Elizabeth met his eyes with a wry grin. “Nothing else proves to me that you’re on my side.”

“My issues with Jason…were never about him,” he admitted. “It was…he got swept up in a lot of complicated guilt and just…anger that my brother never really came home. And I kept blaming Jason even though he was…well, he’s not innocent by any stretch—but of that particular crime—yeah.”

“How’s Laura?” Elizabeth asked after a moment. “I know you’ve been in London with her—I hate to think you’ve left her on my account—”

“Luke showed up about…I guess it’s two weeks ago now,” Nikolas told her. “And I don’t know where he’s been the last six months—he got into a drunken fight with Lucky when he found out Lucky was going into the academy—”

“I hate that they haven’t been able to put things back together,” Elizabeth murmured. “They were so close before…before I got attacked. Before the fire, they were getting there again. Luke was the kind of father I wanted mine to be.”

“Well, Luke was closer to that man in London than he’s been in a very long time,” Nikolas told her. “So I let him stay. Because I know my mother loves him, and he’s proved that he loves her. She’s…” He managed a weak laugh. “She started to respond to therapy.”

“Oh…” Elizabeth’s eyes watered, and she pressed her hands to her mouth. “Oh. I’m so happy—I’ve missed her so much. Do they think she’ll make a full recovery—”

“She should. The doctors think it was just a lifetime of traumatic experiences—my uncle told me she had some moments when they were on the island when she would retreat into herself. I can’t blame her for that,” he murmured.

“Do you need to be back with her?” Elizabeth asked. “You should go—”

“I am going to go back in a few days, but I wanted to make sure you were out of the woods—that Jason—” Nikolas hesitated. “Sonny was very occupied with Carly—and that makes sense. But I knew that Jason needed someone. Once it got rolling—we kept working together, and it seemed stupid to stop just because Carly was found. But Emily is here, and Carly will be released possibly tomorrow, from what I’ve heard.”

“I hope you’ve seen what a good man Jason is,” Elizabeth said softly. “He’s human—we made mistakes—but—”

“I’m not saying we’re best friends, but there’s a respect now that I don’t think was there before. We both love you, Elizabeth. It’s easy to work together when you have such a good cause.” He flashed her a smile. “So, talk to me about what comes next. What happens when you’re released.”

General Hospital: Carly’s Room

Carly smiled when her best friend strode in the room and gasped with joy. “You’re out of bed!” Courtney said, her eyes bright.

Carly held her hands out, tapping the seat cushion next to her on the small sofa. “I am. I just came back from my first session with Dr. Collins.”

“Sonny said that was today.” Courtney sat down. “Are—you look so good. So—you. He didn’t fix you in a session—”

“No, but acute stress disorder is apparently very treatable—the symptoms if they’re managed right—they can disappear in a matter of weeks. We just really talked about…” Carly hesitated. “He had me talk about the panic room, and then he talked me through a panic attack.”

“I can’t imagine how it must have been locked in that room,” Courtney murmured. “Jason kept insisting—and I guess Elizabeth did, too, but to everyone else—it just seemed impossible.”

“I know.” Carly scratched her temple, restless. “Thank you—Sonny said you took Michael to the island and stayed with him and Leticia since it happened. It means a lot to me.”

“Well, he was so upset, but Bobbie suggested he talk to a child psychologist—and we did that last week before we left. It helped, and it gave me some things to try when he got scared.” Courtney rubbed her hands against the thighs of her denim jeans. “Sonny said there were…cameras. So, you could see what was happening.”

“Yeah…all the rooms. It helped because I could see Jason looking for me, but it was awful at the same time.”

“You saw Jason on the cameras…with Elizabeth.” Courtney’s eyes flitted back and forth. “I feel awful asking you this—”

“You’re asking me if they were having an affair where I could see it?” Carly asked with a sigh. How did she answer this question? Because until Saturday—that last day—she could honestly say there’d been no physical evidence of anything between her best friend and the woman Carly had disliked for long.

But that would be ignoring everything Carly had seen—the way they’d searched together—how well they had communicated, sometimes without even moving their lips. And then…there had been that last day—before Jason had left—when they’d argued—and she’d seen them kiss.

It didn’t look like the first time, but somehow…Carly didn’t feel comfortable sharing any of that. It had been private and not meant for anyone else.

And Elizabeth had nearly given her life trying to free Carly from her nightmare. How did she turn around and aim Courtney’s wrath at her?

Uncomfortable, Carly shifted. “Not the way you mean it no, but—” Give her a different target, she told herself. “To be honest, Courtney, if I hadn’t been kidnapped—I was thinking of ways to stop your wedding.”

Courtney’s eyes bulged. “What—” She shook her head. “What are you talking about? You—we got ready together—”

“We did,” Carly agreed. “But that doesn’t change the fact that I could…” She hesitated. “I could see it was a mistake. I stopped looking at you, and I started looking at Jason.” She gestured to Courtney’s hand. “I can’t help but notice the ring is gone.”

“He broke up with me,” Courtney muttered. “For her. But it won’t last. It never does. I messed up, Carly. I—I was scared, and I wanted to help, so I called the police that night—and I let them search the penthouses—”

Carly stared at her. “You…you called the police and let them…” She pressed a hand to her abdomen as the baby rolled and kicked. “You cooperated with the police and let them into Jason’s home.”

“I was scared, and I knew they wouldn’t find anything—”

“You let them into my home—” Carly winced. “I’m surprised either of them are talking to you or that it took Jason a week to take back the ring.”

“I—” Courtney lifted her chin. “I was scared.”

“Yeah, I know what that’s like. I spent a lot of time nearly getting both of them arrested because I was scared and trying to help. I thought you would have learned from my bad example.”

“I find it funny,” Courtney said, her teeth clenched as she shot to her feet. “That in the space of a week, my own family and fiancé have decided I’m a complete idiot. You would have thought you’d give me more credit than that.”

“I also would have thought you wouldn’t call the police when Sonny and Jason already knew who took me,” Carly shot back.

“Fine. Be like everyone else. Elizabeth Webber is better than me, I get it. I have to go.” She stalked out, but Carly only scowled.

“You know I was the one who was kidnapped!” she called after her, remembering now why she’d once found her sister-in-law incredibly irritating.

General Hospital: ICU

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth murmured, twisting her fingers in the white blanket of her hospital issued bed linen. She lifted her eyes to Bobbie’s concerned gaze. “Do you really think I need to start therapy again?”

“I admit that I’ve been making that recommendation to nearly everyone involved,” Bobbie said with a half-smile. “I talked Carly into letting Kevin evaluate her. I arranged for Michael to see a psychologist, and I think I’ll be suggesting the same for Sonny.”

Elizabeth snorted at that thought. “Well, why not—he’s already the Godfather, why not also be Tony Soprano while he’s at it—” But she remembered now that Sonny had broken down and thought he’d seen Lily. “It might do him some good if he can figure out how to present his case without getting himself arrested.”

“I have thoughts about that, but I guess what I’m mostly—I just think you’ve been through a lot this last year—these last few years,” Bobbie told her. “It might do you some good.”

“I just think I need some time,” Elizabeth said, but her voice didn’t sound that convincing. “I mean…I can talk to you—”

“I love you,” Bobbie told her softly. “Which means I am eminently biased. I’m so glad you’ve already taken steps—that you’re going to let Nikolas find you an apartment—”

“With my trust fund from Gramps and inheritance from Gram,” Elizabeth added quickly. “He’s not paying—”

“But the fact of the matter is that you were drugged by someone who you trusted, who you married. I worry that you’re just going to shove that down. I know that it’s tempting to just try to pick up and move on—I’ve done it. And every time I didn’t deal with my pain, I threw myself into the next thing. Which is why I’ve been divorced nearly as many times as Elizabeth Taylor.”

“I—” Elizabeth let her head sink back against the pillow. “I guess…it wouldn’t hurt—to just see Gail once. Talk it all through once. I can do that.”

“Good.” Bobbie smiled, patted her arm. “Good. That makes me very happy. I think of you as one of my own, you know that. You have always meant the world to me, and you nearly killed yourself giving me back my daughter. You did that for me and for Jason. I just want to be there for you—”

“You have been. You would have been.” Her eyes watered. “I should have called you after Gram—when I was struggling and unsure about everything. You would have been someone to talk to. I just—I couldn’t reach out. I don’t know why—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “But that’s why you want me to talk to Gail. To see why I can’t seem to grab onto anyone else when I’m drowning—so I guess…I’ll talk to her and see what happens.”

December 3, 2018

This entry is part 18 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
This is Me, Keala Settle


Tuesday, July 1, 2003

General Hospital: ICU

 Elizabeth fumbled with the bed controls, wincing as she raised herself up until she was sitting at a higher angle. Seated beside her sat Gail Baldwin, one of her grandmother’s closest friends—and a woman who had helped her through the most traumatic experience of her life.

The only reason Elizabeth had acquiesced to talking to anyone was that Bobbie promised her that Gail was available. At least with Gail, there wouldn’t have to be a lot of painful background, a lot of family exploration—she’d done so much of that the first time around.

“Thanks for coming here,” Elizabeth said. “Monica isn’t letting me move around until tomorrow when they move me to my own room.”

“You’re only a few floors away from my office.” Gail still looked as she had the last time Elizabeth had come for a session—her grandmother had encouraged to see Gail a few times after Tom Baker had been caught, but she didn’t feel like she still needed regular therapy and hadn’t seen her in nearly four years.

Gail’s hair was still worn short with soft curls, though streaks of gray intermingled more freely than they had before. She wore a cream-colored jacket with a matching skirt, gold jewelry at her ears and around her wrist.

“So where do we start?” Elizabeth asked dully. She met Gail’s eyes. “Do I tell you what’s been going on?”

“We can do that,” Gail said. “You agreed to see me because Bobbie asked you.”

“It was important to her.” Elizabeth picked at her fingers; the nails had been bitten almost to the quick and were painful as they grew back.

“If you’re just humoring her, my dear—”

“She doesn’t…she’s worried about me. I guess…” Elizabeth hesitated. “I guess I get that. I know it seems crazy—um…that I stayed with Ric. That I married him in the first place.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t really…” Elizabeth’s eyes met Gail’s briefly then she looked away. “He was drugging me. Did Bobbie mention it?”

“I’m aware of it. Valium and birth control—”

“Since January,” Elizabeth cut in. “I don’t know why. I don’t—” She huffed. “I don’t even know what I’m doing. Why this—why this is so hard.”

“Okay.” Gail was quiet for a moment, but Elizabeth could feel her gaze on her. “If you’re not ready talk about the past, let’s talk about tomorrow.”

“What? Oh. Okay. Um…well, tomorrow I get my own room, and Monica says I can be released in five days. A friend—Nikolas—is arranging an apartment—I’m paying for everything—he’s just getting it ready for when I move in.”

“Is it important for you that I know you’re paying your own way?” Gail said. “Do you think I assumed you weren’t?”

“I—” Elizabeth blinked at her. Realized Gail was right—and that it was the fourth or fifth time she’d explained it that way. She’d told Bobbie…and Monica…and Jason—even Emily—she’d immediately reassured all of them that she’d be using her own funds to pay for the apartment, to furnish it—that Nikolas was just helping with the details. He’d always been good at details.

“I guess I did. I don’t know why,” she murmured. “I guess…I think people see me as weak—or the papers—I saw the gossip columns in the Sun—I had one of my doctors get the last few issues for me because no one else would—”

“Okay.” Gail waited a moment. “Do you often assume people are thinking the worst of you?”

“I—” Elizabeth licked her lips. “Aren’t they?”

“I don’t know. Do you think anyone would have thought less of you for asking for financial assistance?” Gail asked. “You’re recovering from a serious illness, going through what I imagine will be a difficult divorce. You left your job when you got married. Do you think anyone who cares about you would have thought you weak for asking for help?”

Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip, considering that. Nikolas had offered to help her financially—and Jason already was, wasn’t he? Justus had done so much paperwork on her behalf and she’d never even thought about paying him. And there was the divorce lawyer that Justus had recommended—had she thought about how much someone like Diane Miller cost?

“When…when this started…when, I mean…Carly was kidnapped, and I—Jason, Sonny, Emily, Bobbie—they all came to the house. And they kept trying to convince me to leave. Because they didn’t think I could help. They kept trying to make me leave. Jason wanted to send me away.”

“Because he thought you were weak,” Gail said.

“I—yes,” but Elizabeth suddenly felt less sure. “I mean…maybe weak isn’t the right word. Um.”

“Is it possible, Elizabeth, that they thought you were in danger and any help you could offer might come at the cost of your life?” the older woman asked, her tone soft and gentle.

“I—” Tears burned behind her eyes. “That was part of it. But it wasn’t all of it. Sonny and Jason think I’m not strong enough. I know that. They think I can’t do it. That’s why…that’s why Jason left me.” Her chest felt sore, and Elizabeth rubbed it absently, wincing as the IV in her wrist stretched.

“Is that what he said?”

“No, but it’s—” Elizabeth hesitated. “I don’t know what you’re getting at. Of course they think I’m weak. Look where I ended up.” She gestured with her free hand at the hospital room. “Almost dead. They were right.”

Gail hesitated. “Do you often assume people are thinking the worst of you?” she repeated. “Without asking them?”

“I—” Elizabeth considered the question more than she had the first time. “I guess I kind of do. Is…is that bad?”

“No, it’s human. We’re storytellers. It’s how we function,” Gail said with another one of those smiles. “We tell ourselves stories all day long. And a lot of time, we make ourselves the star of them because it’s just how we are. But sometimes…we also make ourselves the villain. We create stories that make us look bad because it reinforces how we feel about ourselves.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No, that’s—I like—” but she couldn’t finish that sentence. She didn’t like herself. She couldn’t remember the last time she had. “So, because I don’t like who I am…I tell myself other people don’t either?” she asked skeptically.

“It’s more that…and this is just a possibility we can explore,” Gail told her. “It’s perhaps that you have conditioned yourself to disappointment, to unhappy endings. So, you create a story in your head that fulfills that. You said Jason left you because you were weak.”

“Y-yes,” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Um…what’s the confidentiality thing again? How does that work?”

“I am only required to report any future crimes,” Gail said with a knowing smile. “Everything in the past—I’m bound to keep it to myself. This is a safe space, Elizabeth.”

“He lied to me last fall—when Sonny faked his death. He didn’t tell me. We were kind of dating—and he let me think for weeks that Sonny was dead. He didn’t think I could handle it. I wasn’t strong enough,” Elizabeth told her.

“And then he left you,” Gail stated, though her eyes were puzzled now. “Because you…couldn’t handle it.”

“I—” And now Elizabeth could see how that didn’t quite fit. “I left him,” she murmured. “He said that to me a few days ago. I left him. But—but he—he lied.”

“And you were hurt, so you left. That seems perfectly understandable.”

“It—it does.” She paused. “Why…why did I say he left me?”

“I don’t know. Does it feel like he did?” Gail asked. “Were you surprised he lied to you about Sonny?”

Yes.” And that Elizabeth felt to the core of her entire being. “Yes. Because he’d never—I never ever thought he’d put me through that. I liked Sonny. I cared about him. We were close once and I was so upset. For Jason and for Carly, because of who they lost, but because I would miss him—” The tears she’d swallowed earlier slid down her cheeks. “I had to leave him. I couldn’t stand it. How could he care about me and do that?”

“Did you ask him?”

“I—I tried. But he just looked at me—and he said it wasn’t about me. I didn’t get it. I was living with him partly because I had been in danger. I had helped him with Zander, a-and I had been shot and kidnapped because of him. I thought I had earned the right to—” The words spilled from her lips, and she pressed her hands to her mouth.

“Did you tell him that?”

“No. He said it wasn’t about me, and I just shut down. I couldn’t breathe, I was so devastated. It wasn’t about me. I didn’t matter. I can—he didn’t say it, but I could almost hear it in his voice. I didn’t matter. Carly turned Sonny into the feds and regularly almost got both of them arrested, but she got to know. I had never ever let Jason down. I had always kept his—” She turned away. “I couldn’t tell him that then. And he came to see me the next day, looking so hurt—like I had hurt him. He couldn’t see it.”

“It sounds…to me…that you had a reasonable reaction to what had happened. You felt you had earned his trust, and he hadn’t trusted you.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “It must have been something I did—I—we weren’t together, so I guess it wasn’t technically cheating, but I slept with someone else over the summer—and I don’t think he ever forgave me.”

“Is last week the first time you’d really had to see him since this happened?” Gail asked.

“Yeah. It was—it was hard because it was like it used to be sometimes. He was just—he was there. And I called him. Jason made me check in constantly—he said it was the only way he’d let me go back. I called him every night before I tried to sleep—” She exhaled slowly. “It was…it was a lot of emotions running high, adrenaline. He kissed me, but it didn’t mean anything. I don’t—” She stopped. Looked at Gail. “But that’s me doing it again, isn’t it?”

“Doing what?”

“Creating a story that makes me unhappy. That assumes the worst. Maybe I’m just anticipating what’s probably going to happen and just trying to get myself ready.”

“What’s probably going to happen?”

“This will all…fade,” Elizabeth said after a long moment. “I’ll go back to my life, and Jason will go back to his. I know he said he and Courtney argued, but he must love her. He was going to marry her—and he tried so hard with her—and she’s Sonny sister. So, I can’t let myself think last week meant anything…” she trailed off. “Can I?”

“I think we should leave it here for today,” Gail told her. “I have some homework for you to do before we meet again.”

Elizabeth eyed her. “We’re meeting again?”

“I think it might be a good idea, but of course, that’s up to you. Whether you make another appointment or not,” Gail said, “my homework assignment remains the same.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth said hesitantly.

“I want you to do two things,” Gail said, holding up two fingers. “One, I want you to create a story about last week that gives you a happy ending. And two, I want you to ask Jason what it meant.”

“I—” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I—I can try the first, but I can’t—”

“Why can’t you ask him?”

“What if he says it didn’t mean anything? What if I’m right? Because I’m right,” Elizabeth insisted. “Jason and I are doomed. It’s just a fantasy—”

“If you’re right, then you’ve already written that story. But I think Jason might have earned himself the right to be the one writing the ending for a change.” Gail got to her feet. “You’ve been through so much, Elizabeth. Just in the last six months. I think it would help to talk through it.”

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see how I feel after I do my homework,” Elizabeth muttered, closing her eyes, letting her head fall back against the pillows. “I don’t want to be unhappy.”

“We’ve set our first goal,” Gail said with a smile as she squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “It’s a bit more abstract than I like, but I’ll settle for it. Turn it around. Make it positive, Elizabeth. You don’t want to be unhappy.”

“I feel like I’m supposed to say I want to be happy—but I feel like that’s…” Impossible. “Am I allowed to say I just want to be okay?”

“You’re allowed to say whatever you want. Call me when to schedule another appointment when you’ve moved into your own room.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Bobbie smiled at Max as he let her inside the penthouse just after one. Inside, she found Sonny finishing up lunch with Michael. Her grandson lit up when she saw her and flew across the room.

“Grandma!” Michael wrapped his arms around her. “Daddy says Mommy can come home tomorrow!”

“That’s the word on the street.” Bobbie pressed a kiss to his bright blonde hair and then smiled at Sonny. “It’ll be good to have her back—and hopefully she’ll be able to get back into the swing of things.”

“You were right to encourage us to get Kevin to talk to her so quickly.” Sonny stacked the plates and handed them to his son. “Put these on the counter so Graziella can take care of them while we’re at the hospital, and then go upstairs to get ready to see Mommy.”

“Yep!” Michael sang out. He zoomed into the kitchen, and Sonny tried not to wince at the sound of the clatter of the dishes being dumped into the sink. Michael then flew past them up the stairs.

“He’s bouncing back pretty well,” Bobbie murmured, following him. “He might be the only one who is.”

“It’ll just take some time.” Sonny sighed, rubbed his forehead. “Last night was probably the first full night of sleep I’d had since this started.”

“Same here. I’d gone without sleep for so long I couldn’t quite let myself sleep much on Sunday night.” Bobbie hesitated. “I know that you and I have not been…close…but I like to think we’ve got a decent relationship.”

“Of course, Bobbie. We couldn’t have gotten through this without you.” He grimaced. “I was…mostly useless. And I know you were there for Michael, for Jason—for everyone.”

“I was here when…Jason gave you the sedative.” Bobbie folded her arms. “It led me to believe that it’s not the first time you’ve needed one.”

“I, ah…” Sonny looked away. “It’s never been that bad, but no…it’s not,” he admitted in a low voice. “You must be worried about Carly and Michael—”

“I’m worried about you,” Bobbie said. “I’m worried about all of us. If nothing else, this experience told me that no one in this family—and I’m including Jason and Elizabeth—does well with trauma. None of us know how to ask for help, how to reach out.”

“We managed to get through it,” Sonny said, and she could see he was ready to dismiss the entire experience to the heap of memory.

“Have you ever talked to anyone?” Bobbie asked. Her son-in-law flashed her a fond, if irritated smile.

“Do you get commissions from the Psych department, Bobbie? Michael, Carly—I hear you talked Elizabeth into seeing someone—”

“I’m a nurse, so I see the signs faster. Michael just needed someone to help him process—and we needed to get a handle on what to do for him. Carly is going to be okay because she’s treating the symptoms quickly. It’s not going to fester. But yes, I wanted Elizabeth to talk to someone who isn’t one of us. Who doesn’t have a vested interest in hating Ric or worrying about her. And that’s why I want you to do talk to someone.”

“It’s not possible.” Sonny turned away from her.

“You live a…difficult life,” Bobbie said. “And, yes, I worry about my daughter and my grandson. Because if you hallucinated Lily once, what could you conjure the next time?”

“Bobbie—”

“And what if someone who does not like you learns you have…a problem?” she pressed. “Am I wrong to think they’d exploit it?”

Sonny dipped his head. “I’m not Tony Soprano, Bobbie—”

“I’m just—I don’t want it to happen again. And maybe I’m thinking about Jason who had to shoulder all of the weight last week because you couldn’t be relied upon. It’s not your fault, but it happened. And Elizabeth saw that pressure he was under, and she felt the same pressure to find Carly. You couldn’t shoulder your responsibilities.”

His eyes were burning now. “Is this supposed to be concern?” he demanded, stepping towards her. “Or—”

“This is the God’s honest truth, Sonny. I worry about you, but Carly, Michael, and the baby come first for me. If you’re fine with the occasional psychotic break, then fine. It’s your life. But you have no right to put my grandchildren in danger.”

Michael came down the steps then, so excited he was practically vibrating. “Are you coming with us, Grandma?”

“I wish I could, Baby, but I have to get to work. I took a lot of time off last week. I’ll try to stop in on my shift.” She kissed his head again, ruffled his hair, and then left.

PCPD: Squad Room

Taggert frowned down at the stack of police reports and reached for the next one, unsure if there would ever be an end to the administrative crap he had to do now.

He’d split the work in the unit the way he’d told Mac he would—but neither Vinnie nor Beaudry had been thrilled with the new division. Vinnie had been more than happy to hand over future sex crimes, but balked at giving Taggert his open investigations. Beaudry liked not having any cases of his own but didn’t appreciate the fact that Taggert planned to come along on some of the patrols.

He’d hoped by transferring, by being in a new environment and people around him that he would be happier—that he would recover the satisfaction he’d once felt in his job.

Maybe that would come in time.

He glanced up when he saw Lucky Spencer come through the door with Dante Falconieri. The latter broke off to head down to the garage where he was supposed to report to Beaudry for patrol and Lucky came over to Taggert.

He saw the younger man glance at the empty desk where Vinnie usually sat before planting himself in front of Taggert’s desk.

He still couldn’t believe the little smart-ass punk he’d rousted more than once for trespassing had become a cop, but so far Taggert was pleasantly surprised by how well he seemed to take to the role.

Lucky didn’t look that happy right now and Taggert gestured for him to talk. “What’s on your mind, Spencer? Take a seat.”

Lucky sat in Taggert’s witness chair but shifted uncomfortably. “I know I haven’t been here long, and maybe it’s not right to think I know what’s best…”

“Spit it out.”

“Last weekend, I went on a follow up interview with Detective Esposito. A rape and assault case from the end of May.” Lucky hesitated. “He…was rough with the vic in a way…I didn’t think was okay.”

Taggert lifted his brows. “Can you be more specific?”

“He just…he asked her what she was wearing, and why she’d been in the park after dark.” Lucky bit his lip. “And when she tried to push back on it, he…just…he didn’t say it was her fault, Taggert, but—”

“He was less sensitive than he should have been, you mean,” Taggert interrupted. He sighed, pressing his index fingers against his temples. “Okay. I get it. I’m sure you’re even right.”

“But you can’t do anything.”

“It’s not against the law to be a dick. I wish it was, but that’s the world we live in. I think, personally, Vinnie is burnt out on sex crimes. He did Vice for a while in his first go around, and I know he spent a full two years in Sex Crimes in Buffalo. It’s a tough beat, and it’s easy to—” He shook his head. “I don’t have to tell you how hard it can be with rape victims.”

Lucky blinked at him, and then slowly said, “You mean because of Elizabeth. Because I—I helped her.”

He said it haltingly, which made Taggert frown, but he nodded. “Yeah. You gotta be sensitive. But the horrors of the job—it takes something out of you. If you’re not especially empathetic to begin with—” He stopped. “You think I’m making excuses for him.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. That’s why I’m here.”

“He’s not working any more sexual assault cases going forward,” Taggert told him. “He has the ones he’s already picked up, but going forward, that’s my beat. I know you’re frustrated, Spencer. I know Rodriguez and Falconieri are, too. It kills me to think we got a crop of rookies ready to throw in the towel after a week—”

“It’s not like that—”

“That’s not a gripe at you, kid. That’s at this place. I know the problems here. I don’t know if we can fix them overnight. I’m asking you guys to give me a chance to see if we can. You already know that I put Rodriguez on the fast-track to promotion. I’d like all three of you to take the detective’s exam within the next two years. I think—I hope we’ll have some spots opening soon.”

Lucky hesitated, then nodded. “Okay. Thanks for hearing me out.” He got to his feet and left.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

One of her other doctors had braced her arms and helped her from the bed to cross the three feet to the small sofa under windows. Elizabeth felt that she had exhausted all the energy she’d had to offer that day, between her three-foot journey to the sofa and the trip three flights down to a regular hospital room.

She was relieved to be out of the ICU with its clear and open rooms—to be taken off display. She knew from the newspapers she’d asked the staff for that her face continued to be plastered all over the tabloids, and more than a few patients and visitors had paused just too long by her room for her comfort.

Here—there were real walls and a door that would keep people out—Jason had offered someone to stand there, but Elizabeth wasn’t comfortable with that either. Not yet. Ric was still in jail—his initial request to be let out on bail had been denied though apparently, he’d appealed it.

He’d be out soon, but until then, Elizabeth didn’t want to feel any more confined.

Once her doctor—the name on his jacket read Patrick Drake—had settled her, he arched a thick dark brow. “You sure you’re okay if I leave you?”

“Yeah, I have…someone is coming in a little while. He’ll help me get back into bed.” Jason had promised to stop by once she’d been moved to her new room, but she knew he was busy getting things sorted out. She imagined in his business it was like transitioning between peacetime and war for a government.

“All right, well…” He set the remote next to her. “I’ll leave your call button.” He hesitated. “You know, I just started my fellowship here and you were my first case.”

“I hope it was an interesting learning experience,” she said dryly.

Patrick laughed, a small, almost embarrassed sound. “It was, actually, but um, I—I had to be the one to tell your…people that your chances weren’t great. Fifteen percent when you went up to the cath lab.”

She exhaled slowly. “I know—”

“I just wanted to say I’m glad we—that you pulled through. It’s good to see you on your feet.” He shoved his hands in the pocket of his lab coat. “But don’t go doing too much too soon and ruining all our hard work.”

And now Elizabeth laughed. “Don’t worry. Once I’m out of this hospital, I don’t want to be back. I’ll follow the directions Monica gives me to the letter.”

Behind them, the door to the room opened and Jason stepped in, hesitantly. “Am I—is this a good time?”

“It’s fine. Patrick is one of the doctors on your mother’s team. Or at least he was when I came in.”

“Patrick Drake. Fellowship in neurology—I’m specializing in blood clots, so Monica called me in when the paramedics called dispatch.” He said this to Jason, who nodded but clearly wasn’t interested.

“So, you don’t have to worry about me when I leave the hospital,” Elizabeth told her doctor. “I imagine Jason is going to make sure I follow all the instructions.”

“Great. Well, I better check on my other patients.” Patrick tipped his head to the both of them and then left. Jason eyed him as he left, then looked at Elizabeth.

“He was hitting on you,” Jason said, almost amused.

“Until you showed up and he remembered who I know.” But Elizabeth smiled. “Yeah, he was putting on some charm. Mild. It’s nice because I’m in sweats and I look…” She ran her hands through her hair. “Dry shampoo isn’t really great, but it’s all I can do for now.”

He nodded to the flower arrangement on the table next to her bed—a cream colored vase with an explosion of tulips, daisies, and carnations in various colors. “I—you got the flowers.”

“I did…thank you. I wasn’t…” She bit her lip as he sat down next to her. She winced as she turned towards him, curling her leg under her body. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it was nice to see color.”

“Emily suggested it,” he admitted. “She said your new room was even more depressing than the last one.” He hesitated. “How…are you feeling?”

That old awkward feeling was starting to creep in—that sensation of not knowing what to say, not wanting to say too much—wanting to hide underneath a rock—she could feel it sitting between them as it had for much of the last three or four months. After the anger had passed—they didn’t know what to say to each other—and now that the adrenaline of the past week had faded—

Elizabeth stared down at her hands for a moment, then took a deep breath. “Bobbie convinced me to see Gail Baldwin.”

Jason squinted. “That’s…Baldwin’s mother, right?”

“Stepmother, but yeah. Essentially. I, um, saw her for a while when I was raped. And a little bit after the guy was caught, but I didn’t go when—after the fire. Gram wanted me to, but I wasn’t…I don’t know. I guess it would have helped, but then I wouldn’t have been angry enough that night to go to Jake’s.” She offered him a half-smile which he returned. “That would have sucked.”

“Yeah, it would have. So…am I—” Jason hesitated, looking uncertain. “Should—can I ask?”

“Well, the reason I brought it up is that Gail always ends our sessions with a homework assignment. Something I’m supposed to do that uses what we talked about.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together, trying to figure out the best way to do this. “I—her assignments back then were always useful, you know? She’d tell me to do small things, but they always helped. The first thing she asked me to do was to look in a mirror and tell myself it wasn’t my fault, and—” On a shaky sigh, she continued, “It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and I cried, but then I did it again. And I did it every day until I believed it.”

“I’m glad she could be there for you,” Jason said, his voice was rough, his eyes soft.

“What she wanted me to do this time kind of involves—I mean, it actually is about you, so I just…I guess I should explain it. Um…we didn’t really get into Ric or…what happened. I started to, but I guess she could see I wasn’t really ready.” Elizabeth traced the seam of her sweat pants. “So, she asked me what I was going to do when I left, and somehow—she’s always good at doing this—we started talking about what happened last year. When I—I left.”

Jason exhaled slowly. Nodded. “Yeah…I guess we should talk about that.”

“Um, she kind of got me to see that I tend to, like…make up stories is the wrong way to say it, but—” Elizabeth stopped. “I don’t know how to explain it except…I guess I expect the worst, you know? I—I assume I’m going to be disappointed or unhappy, so I just…tell myself a story to understand it, and—” She saw his expression, and sighed. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Elizabeth—”

“When I left—that night—” Her chest felt tight, but this time, Elizabeth knew it had nothing to do with her illness. God, she didn’t want to do this, but maybe this was the only way. “I told myself that you—you didn’t tell me about Sonny because you didn’t trust me—because you thought I was too weak—”

And at the alarm in Jason’s eyes, the violent shake of his head as he opened his mouth, that pressure released. “And I can see now that’s not true.”

No,” Jason said, forcefully. “Elizabeth—”

“Three hours passed between watching it on the news and when I started to pack,” she said softly. “I knew—I knew you couldn’t call me right away.  But I thought…they said you’d been released. And I thought you might…even a five second call. But you didn’t.” And now was not the time to tell him everything about those three hours and the panic attack she’d experienced waiting for him.

“Elizabeth—”

“Let me finish. This isn’t—this isn’t about you feeling bad. And I promise I will listen to every word you have to say. I’m not even saying how I felt was right. But it’s part of the reason, I think, that we ended up…where we did. Because you didn’t call. And I kept waiting. And finally, around midnight, I started to pack. I kept telling myself that it was just that I had broken your trust that summer and you didn’t have…you didn’t want to just tell me that. And then I remembered you kept pushing me away, so I thought it was about not thinking I was strong enough—”

“Elizabeth…” Jason shook his head. “I’m sorry. Go ahead.”

“And when you did come home—” She stopped, the tears clinging to her lashes. “When you did come back,” she corrected softly, “I still…I wanted to be wrong. But you…you told me it wasn’t about me, and I guess objectively that was true. But what I heard…what I felt…was that I didn’t matter.”

The anguish she could see now— “I—that’s not—I messed it up.”

“But that’s what I do, Jason. I make up stories to explain what’s going on, and those stories are always the worst versions. Because I don’t know how to assume the best. I can only assume the worst.” She sighed.

“I wanted to tell you,” Jason said after a moment. She looked at him. “When Sonny and I planned it, we talked about how to minimize the damage. Michael went to the island so that no one could tell him. Carly—Sonny said Carly had to know. And so, I thought—I wanted to tell you. But Sonny said no.”

She bit her lip. “Okay.”

“I argued with him, but maybe not as much as I should have,” Jason admitted. “It wasn’t supposed to last so long, and I—Sonny and I had been having some issues. When you were kidnapped, he didn’t approve of what I had to do to find you.”

“I never did ask how you were able…” Elizabeth tilted her head. “What did you have to do that Sonny…”

“I asked Edward,” Jason said after a moment. “And Taggert.”

“Taggert. As in…” She gestured out the window as if the PCPD was across the street. Her eyes were wide. “You asked Taggert for help.”

“I’m glad I did, because I was able to find you, and I’d do it again,” Jason told her fervently. “Because we might not have made it if I’d handled it Sonny’s way. But he…was already irritated because of that. And all that stuff with Alcazar…I told you he gets into these dark spaces. And it was…I couldn’t chance that happening. Not when we had so much at stake.”

“Okay—”

“It wasn’t supposed to take a month,” Jason repeated, leaning in. “It was…a week, max.  But it kept going on. And then there was Brenda—we didn’t figure on her. Every time I saw you, I knew I was lying to you, and I knew you’d be angry. I didn’t call you that night. I thought about it, but I…didn’t know what to say. And that’s why I said something so unbelievably stupid—” He broke off. “You mattered, Elizabeth. Of course you did. And of course what happened with Alcazar concerned you.”

She nodded. “Okay,” Elizabeth murmured. “Okay, I get it—” She cleared her throat. “Um, that actually wasn’t the homework that…Gail gave me, but I guess…I needed to give you an example of a time I told myself a story that…assumed the worst.”

“Okay—” Jason reached for her hand. “So, what did Gail want you to do?”

“She wanted me to do two things. About last week…um, I guess we can say that…stuff happened.” Her cheeks flushed, and she dipped her head. “We…”

“I kissed you. And you kissed me,” Jason said matter of factly.

“Right. Um…she wanted me to tell myself a story that didn’t automatically…have a bad ending. And then second to…actually ask you what…that was all about.” She looked down at his hand as his thumb moved in slow circles on her palm. “Because I told her that it was adrenaline—and now that it was over, things would go back to the way they’d been.”

She looked up, but now she saw he was waiting for her to finish. “So the story I…the better version of that is that…” No way to go but forward. “The better version,” she began again, “is that I love you. When I’d call you at night…I didn’t just do it to check in. I could have sent texts. I needed your voice to be the last one I heard before I went to sleep.” Her heart pounding, she continued, not taking her eyes from his. “That’s the truth for me. That’s how I feel. The part where I tell the better story is what it was for you…and the best version of that truth is that…you felt the same for me.”

He was quiet for a long moment, just looking at her with those eyes—oh, God…she wasn’t crazy.

“I didn’t really sleep a lot last week,” he said finally. “I spent the nights watching surveillance—and every time I saw you on the monitor, I could breathe easier. When you sent texts or called first thing in the morning to let me know you were okay—that’s how I got through it.”

He paused for a moment. “Because I love you. I put it away. I had to, and I tried…I tried something else. I tried to move on. But walking out of that house that first night—leaving you behind—every time I had to let you go back because I knew you were right. I knew that the house was important, and I had to let you stay.”

Jason stopped, as if trying to find the right words. “It was almost impossible, and there were times I would find myself halfway to the house just to argue with you again. Not because I thought you were too weak to do it, but I knew you would stay until the bitter end if it meant we could have a find a chance to find Carly. Because that’s how strong you are.”

A single sob burst from her throat. “Jason—”

“I went with you in the ambulance,” he told her. “And they—you went into cardiac arrest. Your heart stopped for thirty seconds. You were dead. They got you back, but they looked at me—and I knew they were thinking how to tell me—they wanted me to prepare myself because you might make it to the hospital, but that you probably wouldn’t survive—” He stopped, shook his head and looked away.

“Jason…” She murmured. Elizabeth released his hand and turned his face back towards her, framing it with her hands. His eyes were bright and glittering with unshed tears. “I don’t even…I don’t know what to say.”

“It’s…” He hesitated. “What was the second part of your homework?”

“To ask you what last week meant to you, but you already—” She slid closer to him, only wincing slightly. “You already answered that.” She hesitated. “What…what happens next—no, wait let me rephrase that. What do you want to happen next?”

“What do I want…” Jason drew in a deep breath as if he hadn’t considered that. “I just want you.”

“Well, lucky me…because that’s what I want, too.” She closed the short distance between them, and kissed him, lingering, savoring every minute. For a moment, it remained light, but she could feel the tension in in his body, the bunching of his muscles, and then his fingers slid up to cradle her face and shift the angle of her head. As if a dam had burst, he deepened the kiss, pulling her more tightly against him.

She broke away, gasping for breath, her chest heaving. He had tugged her forward until she sat partially in his lap.

“Are you okay?” Jason asked, his breath shallow, and she was stunned to see his fingers trembling slightly as he tucked her hair behind her ears. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think.”

“I guess I’m not quite as ready for this part as I thought,” Elizabeth said wryly, then winced and pressed a hand to her chest. “I think I’m supposed to avoid activities that require breathing hard.”

Jason laughed, the rumble in his chest spreading through her as well. “Yeah, I guess that would be a good idea.”

“I also think I just aced my homework.”

December 5, 2018

This entry is part 19 of 19 in the series Break Me Down

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
Fight Song, Rachel Platten


Thursday, July 3, 2003

General Hospital: Kevin Collins’ Office

Carly twisted her fingers in her lap and looked longingly at the door to Kevin Collins’ office through which her son and his nanny had just exited.

She wanted to be with them and done with her therapy. Done with the horrors of the panic room and her kidnapping. She wanted to start the next step of her life—to put this away for good and never think about it again.

But there was no denying that the flurry of sessions she’d scheduled with Kevin had helped—she’d learned how to deal with the panic attacks that seemed to strike without warning, how to recognize potential triggers for anxiety and nightmares, and even how to deal with her young son’s terror over watching her kidnapping.

The first time she’d seen Michael after her rescue, she’d gone into a daze. Just the sight of his face, his tears, had sent her careening back to that horrible night—she’d been struggling to escape Ric, trying to fight off the drug he used to knock her out—seeing Michael’s sobbing face—his screams as the world had gone dark—

“I think that went well,” Kevin said as Carly stared down at her hands, turning the gold wedding band she wore. Around and around. Around and around. “How was your first night home?”

“Good,” Carly murmured. When Kevin just raised his brows, she sighed and lifted her chin. “Hard,” she admitted. “Sonny’s hovering. He can’t help it. When we found out about the baby—” She pressed her hands to the mound of her belly. “He went into nutrition Nazi mode, you know? He threw out all my junk food—and it’s just in his nature. But he wouldn’t leave me alone.”

She turned her head to look out the window where Kevin’s office overlooked Port Charles Park. “You’ve lived in Port Charles a long time, so you know about his first wife—about Lily.”

“I do. I was there that night at Luke’s,” Kevin said. “They had been celebrating her pregnancy.”

“Yeah, well, he couldn’t protect her. And our first little boy—um, Sonny had to choose me. I mean, there was no saving our son anyway. If I died, the doctors—our son wasn’t old enough.” Her chest was tight as she continued. “We both…we both feel a huge responsibility to take care of this baby. I’m not surprised he hasn’t left me alone. I don’t blame him.”

“But it’s not easy for you,” Kevin said.

“No. I…I was alone all week, but it didn’t feel like it. Not really. I knew Ric could come in at any point, and there were cameras—I worried maybe Ric was watching me somehow from where he was—” The hairs on her arms stood up at the memory and she shivered. “But…I slept okay last night. I did what you said. I set the alarm every two hours a—and it seemed to work. I’m still a little tired but I didn’t have nightmares.”

“Good.” He nodded, scribbled something. “This is going to be an adjustment, Carly, and there’s no right way or correct length of time. Acute stress disorder usually fades after about a month—especially when you’ve faced it head on. But you might still have some panic attacks, some anxiety—”

“I want it to be over, but it’s not—he’s in jail. There will be a trial—I’ll have to testify, and—” Carly swallowed. “Baldwin said something about maybe testifying when Elizabeth’s temporary restraining order expires in a few weeks—”

“What do you think about that?”

“About testifying? In the trial, I mean, I have to. I was there. And—and I’m sure Ric would try to blame it on Elizabeth, but I was there, and I know what he said to me. Um…I guess that means I have to testify for her, too. I saw it—I know what he did to her.” Carly shifted. “I just want it to go away. The more I want that, the more it seems to stay in my head. I want to go back to work, I want to get ready for my baby, think about my husband and son.” Her voice trembled. “I want it to be over, but it’s never going to be over.”

“No?”

“Even when he goes to jail,” Carly said slowly, “that’s not going to stop that…I can just close my eyes and I’m back there. I’m locked away, convinced that no matter how hard he tries, Jason is never going to find me. I just know I’m going to die behind those walls, and just because I didn’t—I can’t seem to stop…I don’t know how to convince myself it’s over.”

“You may not be able to do that in the first week,” Kevin told her bluntly. “Or the second. I know this is not the answer you want to hear, Carly, but the only thing that’s going to make this better is time.”

“Yeah…” She exhaled slowly. “Yeah. I know that. Here—” She touched her index finger to her temple. “Up here, I get it. That every day is a step forward. And that testifying against Ric and being part of the process is going to help make it stop. But it’s hard—” She bit her lip to hold in the sob that bubbled in her throat. “It’s hard here—” Carly pressed her hand against her chest, “Here, I can’t seem to hold on to that. When the sight of my little boy reminds me of terror, when the thought of my husband constantly at my side makes me want to scream—it’s hard to remember that.”

Kevin merely nodded. “There’s no answer for that, Carly. No magical thing I can do for you or tell you. I wish there was.”

She sighed. “Well, I guess that would have been too easy.”

District Attorney Wing, Municipal Building: Kelsey Joyce’s Office

 Kelsey frowned down at her open case report—and then looked back at the reports that had been emailed to her that morning.

“Lazy bastards,” she muttered as she brought up her email screen and started an email to Vincent Esposito. “Catch a case and then don’t put it on the report? No wonder your closure rate is in the toilet—”

“You gotta minute, Kelsey?”

She glanced up to find her boss at her doorstep, folders in his hand. Kelsey winced— “That’s not more cases for me, is it?” She already had twenty open cases from the PCPD along with thirty-five on their way to the court in the next few weeks.

The ink on her law license was barely dry, and already Kelsey was going to drown in work. She’d thought being given her own division would be a boon to her career—a great first step to one day becoming District Attorney.

But now she understood why this division couldn’t hold an attorney for long. Lazy cops, too many cases, too few hours—Two weeks in, and Kelsey was ready to throw in the towel.

“No, no…” Scott eyed the boxes littering every surface of the small office. “I wanted to talk to you about giving you some ADAs…two or three.”

She squinted at him as he carefully lifted a pile of folders from her lone chair and set them precariously on the floor. “Who do I have to kill?”

“It’s part of an overall—” He coughed. “Restructuring of our priorities. I told you when you started that Port Charles had issues—and I’m sure you saw the Sunday edition of the Herald—the DA’s office didn’t come out of this whole thing with a shining reputation.”

“No, but we fared better than the PCPD. A nice anonymous source who made sure the paper knew that the DA had, in fact, forbid the leaking of anything about the case.” Kelsey lifted her brows. “And your arrest for contempt wasn’t bad either.”

“We do what we can here.” Scott shifted. “The only catch is that—they’re not much younger than you. In fact…they’re about your age. We’re not attracting the best and brightest in Port Charles…not for long.” He grimaced. “We have a talent drain to Buffalo and Rochester.”

“I’ve heard.” Kelsey twirled her pen between her fingers. “Three ADAs would bring this office to four total attorneys. We have thirty-five cases ready for court, and twenty more that the PCPD is…investigating. It’s still a heavy case load, Scott. But yeah, thirteen cases is better than fifty four. And then when that ADA comes back from maternity leave—” She sighed when she saw Scott’s expression. “She’s not coming back, is she?”

He cleared his throat. “We’re going to do better, Kelsey—”

“You can do everything you want, Scott, but how are you going to solve the problem at the PCPD?” Kelsey gestured at her screen. “I got cops who can’t follow simple instructions. There was a sexual assault last night that Vinnie Esposito picked up and it’s not on the open case report.”

“Last night?” Scott checked his watch. “It’s noon. Those case reports are updated every morning.” He scowled, circled the desk. “Tell me about it.”

“Port Charles Park,” she said, tugging the police report towards her. “Twenty-three-year-old Wendy Morris, on her way home from the movie theater. Grabbed near the Martin Memorial, beaten, raped, and left unconscious. She was found around eleven p.m.” Kelsey hesitated. “It’s…the third rape in the park this year.”

“Third—” Scott hissed. “Tell me the rest.”

“February 14 at the fountain in the north part of the park, Dana Watson, aged twenty-one, and May 30, sixteen-year-old Renee Norton at the Angel Fountain.” Kelsey chewed her bottom lips, twisting it between her teeth. “These are all Vinnie’s cases. And none of them have made any progress. I asked him about it but—”

“Wait, wait—the new case is Vinnie’s?” Scott interrupted. He waved his hand in the air. “He’s not supposed to be handling any more sex crimes.” He huffed. “I’ll talk to Mac. You’re right. I can’t keep people here if the cops aren’t going to turn over the paperwork when we need it.”

“Scott—” She stopped him as he started for the door. “I know that in other offices, I’d be starting at the bottom, and that you only took the interview with me because of my dad.  I’m grateful…but I feel like I’m swimming upstream—”

“I know.” Scott sighed. “I’ll try to get the new ADAs reassigned here by Monday. And I’ll talk to Mac. Three rapes in the park in six months—that’s not something we should letting slip through the cracks. We’re going to do better, Kelsey.”

“Okay.” She watched him go, then returned to her work. He might want to do better, but he wasn’t a miracle worker.

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

Elizabeth smiled as Nikolas wheeled her back into her room. “It was nice to get out of the room a little bit—thanks for taking me outside.”

“I thought you might want some fresh air after being cooped up in ICU.” Nikolas set the brakes on the chair and then braced Elizabeth by holding her elbow as she stood and gingerly inched towards the sofa. “Careful there. Are you sure you’ll be ready to leave the hospital next week?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth grimaced as she adjusted herself. “It’s easier to move around, and Monica wants me to start doing laps around the ward.” She reached for his wrist and looked at the watch. “An orderly or a nurse is coming to get me in a half hour for my first round.”

“Okay. Well, I brought the lease for you to sign,” Nikolas told her. “Are you sure you didn’t want more pictures?”

She waved her hand. “No, no. It’s fine. I don’t need a lot. Just somewhere to catch my breath. Did you have any trouble at the bank with the release I gave you?”

Nikolas lifted his brows. “I never have trouble with banks. Everyone wants the Cassadine money.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Well, that’s a relief, I guess. I really appreciate what you’ve done for me. And Emily said she was grabbing a few things—I told her I just needed a bed, maybe a sofa and some chairs, but…I’m not going to argue with her.”

“Well, Emily feels guilty she went back to California. I’m sure it was the right thing to do at the time, but it doesn’t change the fact she feels like she abandoned you.” Nikolas lifted a shoulder. “And she’ll be flying back there tomorrow—”

“It’s important to me that she finishes this program,” Elizabeth told him, firmly. “And Jason agrees with me. Emily wants to be a doctor. Her internship at GH is contingent—”

I have the controlling interest in this hospital,” Nikolas said patiently, “and her parents—”

“She doesn’t want special favors. She’ll do this on her own. I’ll call her.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “And I’ll do better about that. I won’t ignore her calls. I’ll make my own. I promise.”

“Good, then when you’re finished calling her, you can pick up the phone and call me.” Nikolas squeezed her hand. “That’s one of the reasons I came by today.”

“You’re going back to London,” she murmured. “I wondered when…”

“I came back to find Carly and help you. We’ve done that. Lulu is going to come with me, but we’ll both be back in August sometime. I talked to Lesley, and she says Mom is starting to chafe at being away from everyone.”

“Oh, do you think she can get the rest of her treatment here?” Elizabeth asked. “It would be so nice to see her around again.”

“I’m looking into the possibility, but her recovery comes first. That’s one of the reasons I have to go back. Lesley and Luke aren’t always firm with her.” Nikolas paused. “But I’m just across the ocean, and I’m always here if you need me. I need you to know that. Everything that happened before—it’s done now. I think I’m a better person, and I just—I miss you.”

“I miss you, too.” She leaned forward and hugged him lightly. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

“Damn straight.”

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

Sonny scrawled his signature on another contract and handed it back to Bernie. “Is that the last of it?”

“Should be.” Bernie put the paperwork away. “We’re back on schedule to open the coffee house at the end of the month, but—the architect said that Mrs. Corinthos was going to be in charge of interior design. Did you—want to hold off?”

“Um, I guess, I’ll talk to her about it at home. She might want a project to distract herself.” Sonny hoped she did. He looked at Jason as his partner sat on the sofa in the office, skimming contracts of his own. “Thanks, Bernie. For everything.”

“I’ll check in when they’re filed.”

Their new business manager left the office, and Sonny stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I guess we’re going to have to talk to Justus. He said he’d only be available to us for a little while, but that he wasn’t interested in leaving his practice in Philadelphia.”

“He’s married with a kid down there,” Jason murmured. “Emily mentioned it last year.” He paused. “He might relocate if you made it worth his while.”

“I’ll try it out, but we’ll have to look for other representation if he’s not interested. I doubt Alexis is going to want to come back now that she has her license back.” Sonny leaned back his chair. “Bobbie thinks I’m crazy.”

Jason looked at him, his attention focused now. “She said that?”

“Not in so many words, but she thinks that I should talk to someone.” Sonny grimaced. “Talk to someone. She’s watching too much fucking television.”

When his best friend hesitated, Sonny frowned at him. “What, do you agree?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Sonny. We had a plan to deal with Carly—” Jason got to his feet. “You were supposed to keep the PCPD out of my hair and the business running, and I’d find Carly. Except that within two days, I was doing everything. I’m not angry about it, but the fact was…”

“I was useless.” Sonny sighed, turned his attention to his office window—unlike Jason who had preferred to look out over the lake, Sonny preferred the docks. “I’ve always had these dark moods, Jason. Since…I don’t know. Not when I was kid. But maybe the last twenty years. Maybe since…” He hesitated. “I had a girl once. A sweet girl. Elizabeth reminds me of her sometimes. Connie Falconieri.”

“Falconieri—” Jason squinted. “There’s a cop by that name at the PCPD.”

“Might be related. I don’t know. She broke up with me because she was going to college, and I was going to stay in the neighborhood. Trying like hell to make my bones for Joe Scully.” He looked back at Jason. “It was the only way I was gonna get revenge for my mother after Deke killed her.”

“Sonny—”

“After Connie got on the train for Princeton, I had my first—I guess…my first whatever. I locked myself in a room for three days, didn’t want to come out. Got drunk. Got stupid. And my mother was there.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “Lily’s not the first hallucination I’ve ever had. My mother was.”

“I don’t know if talking to someone helps, but…” Jason joined him at the window. “I do know that Elizabeth mentioned something Gail Baldwin told her. She’s…been talking to her.” He cast his eyes away, uncomfortable. “And Elizabeth said that Gail could only report future crimes. So…”

“I could probably be honest to a point,” Sonny murmured. He stared out over the bustling docks—for the last decade, he had busted his ass to make sure he owned those docks. No one could take the power from him.

“It kills me that when my wife needed me to be strong, I couldn’t do it,” he continued. “That she wasn’t expecting me to save her—you hear her talking about it. She knew you’d come, Jase. She knew you’d save her.”

“She saw me on the cameras, Sonny—”

Sonny shook his head quickly. “It’s more than that. She still thinks of you as the man who’s going to fix everything, and that—it kills me that she was right. I could break down, Jason, because I knew you would be there. That you would find her.”

“But you found her, Sonny. You saw the footage, you called me—”

“I saw footage on cameras you installed,” Sonny corrected. “And Elizabeth pushed that button. I was barely involved. I don’t know, Jason. I just…I want more. I want to be the guy who can fix things. It shouldn’t fall on you.” He looked at Jason. “So…maybe I’m thinking about it.”

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

 Restless, Elizabeth tossed aside another boring celebrity gossip magazine and amused herself with some of the Sun issues from that week—between Carly’s kidnapping and the court battle over Elizabeth’s medical care, the newspaper had outdone itself with sensational versions of the story.

“I like the one where my baby is actually Jason’s, and Ric was stealing it for you because you’re obsessed with Jason.”

Elizabeth glanced up to find Carly standing at the threshold of her open hospital door, a half smile on her face.

She hadn’t seen Carly since…before the kidnapping, Elizabeth realized now. She may have pressed the button that freed Carly, but she hadn’t actually seen her—she’d only heard her voice.

“Carly…” Elizabeth struggled to sit up straight, wincing as her lungs protested. “I thought you were released.”

“I was.” Carly made her way gingerly across the room, dressed in a shapeless blue paisley sheath dress, a pair of light blue sandals wrapped around her feet. She lowered herself onto the sofa where Elizabeth found herself. “I had a session with Kevin Collins today. Mama suggested…I do something.”

Elizabeth smiled wryly. “Yeah, she must be on staff with the Psych department—she pretty much guilt-tripped me into seeing Gail Baldwin.”

“Well, that’s my mother for you.” Carly bit her lip. “I…realized today that we hadn’t…had a chance to…I don’t even know…talk. I mean, it’s insane, but I know I owe you my life—”

“No, no—I just pressed the button. I was there. Sonny and Jason were on their way—they had the same information—”

“Elizabeth…” Carly leaned forward. “You forget that there were cameras in that panic room. I saw you let Jason in every day to look for me. I saw you help him. And the only reason you knew where the buttons were because of the cameras you let Jason put into the house.”

“He probably would have done all of that without me. I just…”

“Made it so he could do it legally and not face charges. I’m not nice that often, Elizabeth, so don’t argue with me.” She bit her lip. “Do…do you know why Ric did what he did?”

“I don’t know for sure, but based on…I don’t know…everything, I imagine he intended for us to raise your child through a private adoption he’d arrange.” Elizabeth waited a moment. “I want to say I’m sorry, and part of me feels like I should tell you I never hinted that was something I wanted but…” She lifted a shoulder. “It’s not…it’s not my fault. Losing the baby—” Her voice faltered. “I didn’t do it. And I couldn’t change what he did. I just wanted it to stop.”

“Kevin has diagnosed me with acute stress disorder,” Carly told her. “It’s um, kind of like PTSD, only it’s usually shorter in—”

“I know what it is,” Elizabeth said softly. “I…had it last year.” When Carly widened her eyes. “After I was trapped in the crypt, I, um, had a lot of trouble with the dark, and I got scared so easily. I kept thinking they were going to take me again. I kept…ignoring it and trying to forget.”

“Jason never—”

“I’ve never told him. He already blamed himself for what was going on, and by the time I knew what it was…” Elizabeth shrugged. “I went to the hospital after the warehouse exploded last year. I’d been grazed by a bullet. When I went back for a follow up, I—I don’t even remember what it was, but something triggered a panic attack. My grandmother—” She closed her eyes. “She knew the signs. And she talked to some friends. I didn’t want therapy. I just wanted it to go away, so she got me some…tips and tricks. I skipped the therapy.”

“And that worked?” Carly asked skeptically.

“Mostly, I guess. I don’t know. I didn’t end up with PTSD which is always the risk. And, um, it was kind of relief to understand what was going on. I had…done and said a few things during some of the panic attacks that…were hard for me to understand. I didn’t…I tried to—” Elizabeth shrugged. “Anyway. They say, for the most part, time takes care of things.”

“So that part is true. It really does go away.”

Elizabeth hesitated. “I still don’t like the dark,” she offered. “But I haven’t…had a panic attack in about—” She dipped her head. “Maybe nine months.”

Carly tilted her head. “You had panic attacks when you were in the penthouse?”

“A few times. Um, it’s not a big deal, and it’s over. I just—I just didn’t need you to explain it to me—”

“Why didn’t you tell Jason?” Carly demanded. Elizabeth stared at her, and Carly pursed her lips. “You were dating him back then. You had no trouble telling me you thought he was with another woman. Why wouldn’t you admit you were…”

“Because it made me feel weak, Carly.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders, lifted her chin. “And actually, the last panic attack I had was the night I found out Sonny was alive and that everyone had lied to me. It never seemed like a good time.”

Carly squinted, studying her. “There were cameras,” she reminded her. “I know you and Jason—I know something is going on.”

“Is that why you came here?” Elizabeth huffed. And here she was, trapped on the sofa. She couldn’t even easily get away. “If you want any explanations, you can ask Jason.”

“He’d just stare at me,” Carly muttered. “And then not answer the question. No, what I—Courtney asked me if I had seen anything. And I just wanted you to know that I didn’t tell her anything. I don’t plan on telling her, either.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “Thanks…I guess—”

“It was a private moment that I was never meant to see,” Carly told her. “Which means it’s none of Courtney’s business. She told me Jason broke up with her before then, and—” She huffed. “I was planning to stop the wedding anyway.”

Elizabeth lifted her brows. “I thought you were their biggest fan.”

“Yeah, well…” Carly threw up her hands. “Even I’ve been known to be wrong from time to time. Look, if you’re…seeing Jason or dating him or whatever we’ll call it, it’s fine with me. I know—I know he killed himself trying to find me. I know you were with him every step of the way. And he was so scared for you, I didn’t even see him until the day after I was rescued.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Okay. I appreciate that.”

“I came here to thank you for saving my life. For…believing Sonny and Jason and helping them.” Carly rubbed her belly. “It’s just…this isn’t over yet, you know? The…panic room…the kidnapping—yeah, that’s over. We’re both…I guess…in recovery. But there’s so much crap in front of us.”

“The trial,” Elizabeth murmured, dragging her fingers through her hair. “Yeah. And I have the divorce, the restraining order…”

“Ric isn’t out of our lives yet, so I guess I just wanted you to know that if you…if you need my help during the divorce or the protection hearing…” Carly took a deep breath. “I’m ready. I’ll testify.”

“Thank you, Carly. That means a lot to me.”

“And…” Carly hauled herself to her feet. “You should tell Jason about last year. Every time I keep secrets from Sonny and Jason, it just seems to piss them off.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Take care, Elizabeth. I’ll see you around.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Hospital Room

It felt really good to be on her feet, dressed in her own clothes, showered, and packing her things to leave this room. While Elizabeth was grateful to everyone who had worked on her case, she was eager to leave this all behind her.

As much as she could anyway. Her pulmonary embolism would follow her the rest of her life, according to Monica. She would always have an increased risk of blood clots, and most types of hormonal birth control were out of the question from now on.

But she wasn’t going to let that bother her. She had slowly regained her stamina even if she got tired more quickly than it had been. Monica and the other doctors assured her that as the weeks passed, her natural health would reassert itself. She had been healthy until the last year, and her immune system had been strong.

She turned at the knock at her door and managed a smile. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Jason slid his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. His gaze swept over her and she could tell he was fighting the urge to ask her to sit down, to let him finish putting her things into the tote bag. He said nothing, and she was grateful for it.

She wasn’t weak, and it mattered that he knew it.

“Nikolas left the keys with me before he left for the airport last night.” Elizabeth took the set of gold keys from her pocket. “He said you dealt with security.”

“Ric’s not out on bail, but he’s got his hearing soon,” Jason said after a long moment. “I just want to make sure he can’t get to you there.”

She lifted her tote bag from the bed, and Jason held out his hand for it. Without arguing, she handed it to him. He slung it over his shoulder, then reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together.

It was the first time she’d left the room with Jason, and as they walked down the hall towards the elevators together, Elizabeth knew people were watching her, maybe even whispering. The Sun had continued to print gossip about her and Jason, about the entire scandal.

There would always be people who believed the worst about her. Elizabeth just didn’t have to accept it as truth. Not anymore.

“Hey,” she said as Jason pressed the button for the elevator.

He glanced down at her with worry. “Are you okay? Are you having trouble breathing—”

“No.” She rolled her eyes but smiled as she did it. “I’m fine. I just—with everything that’s happened, and I know how much we still have to worry about—I’m just happy. Right now, in this moment—I’m happy to be with you.”

The elevator door opened, and he pulled her inside. When the doors closed, Jason tugged her closer to him, sliding his hand up to frame her cheek. “I love you,” he told her. “For all the times I wish I had said it before—”

“I love you, too. And as long as you’re standing next to me, I know I can deal with whatever comes next.” She pressed her lips to his, lingering, savoring every minute.

 

 

Author’s Note

So that’s the end of Book 1. As you can see, I’ve laid some bread crumbs for the next part. The PCPD and DA’s office are falling apart, the teens are on the fringes and will play a large role in the next book.

Book 2 is going to be a bigger ensemble piece, but it’s going to have Jason and Liz at the center of it. A few years ago, one of my friends almost died from a pulmonary embolism so when I started to plan this draft, I wanted to take her PE seriously in a way the show never did.

I did a lot of research into the recovery and learned a lot that can fuel some really good conflict and I think what’s going to happen in Book 2 is going to be even better than Book 1.

I don’t have a release date for Book 2 just yet, but I’m already about 20% finished it. I’m hoping to have it posted by April at the latest, but stay tuned to my website and my Twitter feed.

Thanks for reading this! I hope you enjoyed it!