November 28, 2018

Hey! Today I’m posting Chapter Seventeen. I honestly cannot believe we only have two chapters left or that this story is over next week. The feedback has been great and I love that you guys are picking up and appreciating the PCPD world I’m building, because you really need to buy into that for the next book.

Chapter Seventeen

So Nano was a complete bust this year. There are a lot of reasons for it, and I want to get into more fully over at my blog where I’ve been writing about the process, but it basically came down to a few things. One, I ended up putting a story in the poll that was never going to work, and two, I’ve been sick for most of the month which made it so much harder to be creative and push this plot.

I’ll go into detail about why it wasn’t going to work (and give away plot details and whatnot) and maybe even post the stuff I did write at some point.

This mostly blow up my spring schedule for posting, but I have some thoughts on how to get it back on track. I’ll check back in a few days when the meds I got today kick in.

For now, I hope you enjoy today’s update 🙂

This entry is part 17 of 19 in the 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.”

November 26, 2018

I am so sorry that I didn’t post this earlier today. It’s just been the weekend from hell. But I took about two hours today so that I could edit AND schedule the last four chapters. So we are ready to go for the next week and a half. All I have to do is write the little post that actually gets emailed to you guys. I’m writing this one now and then I’ll schedule the rest tomorrow. I have to go eat dinner and work on my paper.

Chapter Sixteen 

I am so sorry that I didn’t post this earlier today. It’s just been the weekend from hell. But I took about two hours today so that I could edit AND schedule the last four chapters. So we are ready to go for the next week and a half. All I have to do is write the little post that actually gets emailed to you guys. I’m writing this one now and then I’ll schedule the rest tomorrow. I have to go eat dinner and work on my paper.

Chapter Sixteen 

I’m going to come back later with news on Nanowrimo.

This entry is part 16 of 19 in the 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 21, 2018

Hey! This is a bit later than I like to post, but I forgot that I had a dentist appointment early this morning and then I woke  up too late — just one of those annoying days.

Anyway, here is Chapter Fifteen. We have four chapters left before the first book is done. I can’t believe how close we are to the end 😛

On the status of Counting Stars, I’ve been posting updates over at my blog. If you’re following it, you know I recently decided to discard my first draft. I was only about four chapters in, so it’s not a bad thing. I’ve discarded much longer first drafts (Mad World went through five drafts before I got anywhere close). I re-outlined the story and I hope to still finish it on time since I discarded a lot of the subplots that was dragging me down when I wrote it.  The blog is really the best place to get my semi-daily writing updates if you’re interested.

This entry is part 15 of 19 in the 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?”


“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—”


“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.”

This entry is part 14 of 19 in the 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 14, 2018

I’m so excited to be posting this chapter — everything has been pushing towards this chapter, and it’s a crazy roller coaster. But I also like that I didn’t leave you with a tremendous cliffhanger either for the next four days. I can’t believe how fast these few weeks are going!

Chapter Thirteen