Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
– Fight Song, Rachel Platten
Thursday, July 3, 2003
General Hospital: Kevin Collins’ Office
Carly twisted her fingers in her lap and looked longingly at the door to Kevin Collins’ office through which her son and his nanny had just exited.
She wanted to be with them and done with her therapy. Done with the horrors of the panic room and her kidnapping. She wanted to start the next step of her life—to put this away for good and never think about it again.
But there was no denying that the flurry of sessions she’d scheduled with Kevin had helped—she’d learned how to deal with the panic attacks that seemed to strike without warning, how to recognize potential triggers for anxiety and nightmares, and even how to deal with her young son’s terror over watching her kidnapping.
The first time she’d seen Michael after her rescue, she’d gone into a daze. Just the sight of his face, his tears, had sent her careening back to that horrible night—she’d been struggling to escape Ric, trying to fight off the drug he used to knock her out—seeing Michael’s sobbing face—his screams as the world had gone dark—
“I think that went well,” Kevin said as Carly stared down at her hands, turning the gold wedding band she wore. Around and around. Around and around. “How was your first night home?”
“Good,” Carly murmured. When Kevin just raised his brows, she sighed and lifted her chin. “Hard,” she admitted. “Sonny’s hovering. He can’t help it. When we found out about the baby—” She pressed her hands to the mound of her belly. “He went into nutrition Nazi mode, you know? He threw out all my junk food—and it’s just in his nature. But he wouldn’t leave me alone.”
She turned her head to look out the window where Kevin’s office overlooked Port Charles Park. “You’ve lived in Port Charles a long time, so you know about his first wife—about Lily.”
“I do. I was there that night at Luke’s,” Kevin said. “They had been celebrating her pregnancy.”
“Yeah, well, he couldn’t protect her. And our first little boy—um, Sonny had to choose me. I mean, there was no saving our son anyway. If I died, the doctors—our son wasn’t old enough.” Her chest was tight as she continued. “We both…we both feel a huge responsibility to take care of this baby. I’m not surprised he hasn’t left me alone. I don’t blame him.”
“But it’s not easy for you,” Kevin said.
“No. I…I was alone all week, but it didn’t feel like it. Not really. I knew Ric could come in at any point, and there were cameras—I worried maybe Ric was watching me somehow from where he was—” The hairs on her arms stood up at the memory and she shivered. “But…I slept okay last night. I did what you said. I set the alarm every two hours a—and it seemed to work. I’m still a little tired but I didn’t have nightmares.”
“Good.” He nodded, scribbled something. “This is going to be an adjustment, Carly, and there’s no right way or correct length of time. Acute stress disorder usually fades after about a month—especially when you’ve faced it head on. But you might still have some panic attacks, some anxiety—”
“I want it to be over, but it’s not—he’s in jail. There will be a trial—I’ll have to testify, and—” Carly swallowed. “Baldwin said something about maybe testifying when Elizabeth’s temporary restraining order expires in a few weeks—”
“What do you think about that?”
“About testifying? In the trial, I mean, I have to. I was there. And—and I’m sure Ric would try to blame it on Elizabeth, but I was there, and I know what he said to me. Um…I guess that means I have to testify for her, too. I saw it—I know what he did to her.” Carly shifted. “I just want it to go away. The more I want that, the more it seems to stay in my head. I want to go back to work, I want to get ready for my baby, think about my husband and son.” Her voice trembled. “I want it to be over, but it’s never going to be over.”
“Even when he goes to jail,” Carly said slowly, “that’s not going to stop that…I can just close my eyes and I’m back there. I’m locked away, convinced that no matter how hard he tries, Jason is never going to find me. I just know I’m going to die behind those walls, and just because I didn’t—I can’t seem to stop…I don’t know how to convince myself it’s over.”
“You may not be able to do that in the first week,” Kevin told her bluntly. “Or the second. I know this is not the answer you want to hear, Carly, but the only thing that’s going to make this better is time.”
“Yeah…” She exhaled slowly. “Yeah. I know that. Here—” She touched her index finger to her temple. “Up here, I get it. That every day is a step forward. And that testifying against Ric and being part of the process is going to help make it stop. But it’s hard—” She bit her lip to hold in the sob that bubbled in her throat. “It’s hard here—” Carly pressed her hand against her chest, “Here, I can’t seem to hold on to that. When the sight of my little boy reminds me of terror, when the thought of my husband constantly at my side makes me want to scream—it’s hard to remember that.”
Kevin merely nodded. “There’s no answer for that, Carly. No magical thing I can do for you or tell you. I wish there was.”
She sighed. “Well, I guess that would have been too easy.”
District Attorney Wing, Municipal Building: Kelsey Joyce’s Office
Kelsey frowned down at her open case report—and then looked back at the reports that had been emailed to her that morning.
“Lazy bastards,” she muttered as she brought up her email screen and started an email to Vincent Esposito. “Catch a case and then don’t put it on the report? No wonder your closure rate is in the toilet—”
“You gotta minute, Kelsey?”
She glanced up to find her boss at her doorstep, folders in his hand. Kelsey winced— “That’s not more cases for me, is it?” She already had twenty open cases from the PCPD along with thirty-five on their way to the court in the next few weeks.
The ink on her law license was barely dry, and already Kelsey was going to drown in work. She’d thought being given her own division would be a boon to her career—a great first step to one day becoming District Attorney.
But now she understood why this division couldn’t hold an attorney for long. Lazy cops, too many cases, too few hours—Two weeks in, and Kelsey was ready to throw in the towel.
“No, no…” Scott eyed the boxes littering every surface of the small office. “I wanted to talk to you about giving you some ADAs…two or three.”
She squinted at him as he carefully lifted a pile of folders from her lone chair and set them precariously on the floor. “Who do I have to kill?”
“It’s part of an overall—” He coughed. “Restructuring of our priorities. I told you when you started that Port Charles had issues—and I’m sure you saw the Sunday edition of the Herald—the DA’s office didn’t come out of this whole thing with a shining reputation.”
“No, but we fared better than the PCPD. A nice anonymous source who made sure the paper knew that the DA had, in fact, forbid the leaking of anything about the case.” Kelsey lifted her brows. “And your arrest for contempt wasn’t bad either.”
“We do what we can here.” Scott shifted. “The only catch is that—they’re not much younger than you. In fact…they’re about your age. We’re not attracting the best and brightest in Port Charles…not for long.” He grimaced. “We have a talent drain to Buffalo and Rochester.”
“I’ve heard.” Kelsey twirled her pen between her fingers. “Three ADAs would bring this office to four total attorneys. We have thirty-five cases ready for court, and twenty more that the PCPD is…investigating. It’s still a heavy case load, Scott. But yeah, thirteen cases is better than fifty four. And then when that ADA comes back from maternity leave—” She sighed when she saw Scott’s expression. “She’s not coming back, is she?”
He cleared his throat. “We’re going to do better, Kelsey—”
“You can do everything you want, Scott, but how are you going to solve the problem at the PCPD?” Kelsey gestured at her screen. “I got cops who can’t follow simple instructions. There was a sexual assault last night that Vinnie Esposito picked up and it’s not on the open case report.”
“Last night?” Scott checked his watch. “It’s noon. Those case reports are updated every morning.” He scowled, circled the desk. “Tell me about it.”
“Port Charles Park,” she said, tugging the police report towards her. “Twenty-three-year-old Wendy Morris, on her way home from the movie theater. Grabbed near the Martin Memorial, beaten, raped, and left unconscious. She was found around eleven p.m.” Kelsey hesitated. “It’s…the third rape in the park this year.”
“Third—” Scott hissed. “Tell me the rest.”
“February 14 at the fountain in the north part of the park, Dana Watson, aged twenty-one, and May 30, sixteen-year-old Renee Norton at the Angel Fountain.” Kelsey chewed her bottom lips, twisting it between her teeth. “These are all Vinnie’s cases. And none of them have made any progress. I asked him about it but—”
“Wait, wait—the new case is Vinnie’s?” Scott interrupted. He waved his hand in the air. “He’s not supposed to be handling any more sex crimes.” He huffed. “I’ll talk to Mac. You’re right. I can’t keep people here if the cops aren’t going to turn over the paperwork when we need it.”
“Scott—” She stopped him as he started for the door. “I know that in other offices, I’d be starting at the bottom, and that you only took the interview with me because of my dad. I’m grateful…but I feel like I’m swimming upstream—”
“I know.” Scott sighed. “I’ll try to get the new ADAs reassigned here by Monday. And I’ll talk to Mac. Three rapes in the park in six months—that’s not something we should letting slip through the cracks. We’re going to do better, Kelsey.”
“Okay.” She watched him go, then returned to her work. He might want to do better, but he wasn’t a miracle worker.
General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room
Elizabeth smiled as Nikolas wheeled her back into her room. “It was nice to get out of the room a little bit—thanks for taking me outside.”
“I thought you might want some fresh air after being cooped up in ICU.” Nikolas set the brakes on the chair and then braced Elizabeth by holding her elbow as she stood and gingerly inched towards the sofa. “Careful there. Are you sure you’ll be ready to leave the hospital next week?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth grimaced as she adjusted herself. “It’s easier to move around, and Monica wants me to start doing laps around the ward.” She reached for his wrist and looked at the watch. “An orderly or a nurse is coming to get me in a half hour for my first round.”
“Okay. Well, I brought the lease for you to sign,” Nikolas told her. “Are you sure you didn’t want more pictures?”
She waved her hand. “No, no. It’s fine. I don’t need a lot. Just somewhere to catch my breath. Did you have any trouble at the bank with the release I gave you?”
Nikolas lifted his brows. “I never have trouble with banks. Everyone wants the Cassadine money.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Well, that’s a relief, I guess. I really appreciate what you’ve done for me. And Emily said she was grabbing a few things—I told her I just needed a bed, maybe a sofa and some chairs, but…I’m not going to argue with her.”
“Well, Emily feels guilty she went back to California. I’m sure it was the right thing to do at the time, but it doesn’t change the fact she feels like she abandoned you.” Nikolas lifted a shoulder. “And she’ll be flying back there tomorrow—”
“It’s important to me that she finishes this program,” Elizabeth told him, firmly. “And Jason agrees with me. Emily wants to be a doctor. Her internship at GH is contingent—”
“I have the controlling interest in this hospital,” Nikolas said patiently, “and her parents—”
“She doesn’t want special favors. She’ll do this on her own. I’ll call her.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “And I’ll do better about that. I won’t ignore her calls. I’ll make my own. I promise.”
“Good, then when you’re finished calling her, you can pick up the phone and call me.” Nikolas squeezed her hand. “That’s one of the reasons I came by today.”
“You’re going back to London,” she murmured. “I wondered when…”
“I came back to find Carly and help you. We’ve done that. Lulu is going to come with me, but we’ll both be back in August sometime. I talked to Lesley, and she says Mom is starting to chafe at being away from everyone.”
“Oh, do you think she can get the rest of her treatment here?” Elizabeth asked. “It would be so nice to see her around again.”
“I’m looking into the possibility, but her recovery comes first. That’s one of the reasons I have to go back. Lesley and Luke aren’t always firm with her.” Nikolas paused. “But I’m just across the ocean, and I’m always here if you need me. I need you to know that. Everything that happened before—it’s done now. I think I’m a better person, and I just—I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.” She leaned forward and hugged him lightly. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office
Sonny scrawled his signature on another contract and handed it back to Bernie. “Is that the last of it?”
“Should be.” Bernie put the paperwork away. “We’re back on schedule to open the coffee house at the end of the month, but—the architect said that Mrs. Corinthos was going to be in charge of interior design. Did you—want to hold off?”
“Um, I guess, I’ll talk to her about it at home. She might want a project to distract herself.” Sonny hoped she did. He looked at Jason as his partner sat on the sofa in the office, skimming contracts of his own. “Thanks, Bernie. For everything.”
“I’ll check in when they’re filed.”
Their new business manager left the office, and Sonny stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I guess we’re going to have to talk to Justus. He said he’d only be available to us for a little while, but that he wasn’t interested in leaving his practice in Philadelphia.”
“He’s married with a kid down there,” Jason murmured. “Emily mentioned it last year.” He paused. “He might relocate if you made it worth his while.”
“I’ll try it out, but we’ll have to look for other representation if he’s not interested. I doubt Alexis is going to want to come back now that she has her license back.” Sonny leaned back his chair. “Bobbie thinks I’m crazy.”
Jason looked at him, his attention focused now. “She said that?”
“Not in so many words, but she thinks that I should talk to someone.” Sonny grimaced. “Talk to someone. She’s watching too much fucking television.”
When his best friend hesitated, Sonny frowned at him. “What, do you agree?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Sonny. We had a plan to deal with Carly—” Jason got to his feet. “You were supposed to keep the PCPD out of my hair and the business running, and I’d find Carly. Except that within two days, I was doing everything. I’m not angry about it, but the fact was…”
“I was useless.” Sonny sighed, turned his attention to his office window—unlike Jason who had preferred to look out over the lake, Sonny preferred the docks. “I’ve always had these dark moods, Jason. Since…I don’t know. Not when I was kid. But maybe the last twenty years. Maybe since…” He hesitated. “I had a girl once. A sweet girl. Elizabeth reminds me of her sometimes. Connie Falconieri.”
“Falconieri—” Jason squinted. “There’s a cop by that name at the PCPD.”
“Might be related. I don’t know. She broke up with me because she was going to college, and I was going to stay in the neighborhood. Trying like hell to make my bones for Joe Scully.” He looked back at Jason. “It was the only way I was gonna get revenge for my mother after Deke killed her.”
“After Connie got on the train for Princeton, I had my first—I guess…my first whatever. I locked myself in a room for three days, didn’t want to come out. Got drunk. Got stupid. And my mother was there.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “Lily’s not the first hallucination I’ve ever had. My mother was.”
“I don’t know if talking to someone helps, but…” Jason joined him at the window. “I do know that Elizabeth mentioned something Gail Baldwin told her. She’s…been talking to her.” He cast his eyes away, uncomfortable. “And Elizabeth said that Gail could only report future crimes. So…”
“I could probably be honest to a point,” Sonny murmured. He stared out over the bustling docks—for the last decade, he had busted his ass to make sure he owned those docks. No one could take the power from him.
“It kills me that when my wife needed me to be strong, I couldn’t do it,” he continued. “That she wasn’t expecting me to save her—you hear her talking about it. She knew you’d come, Jase. She knew you’d save her.”
“She saw me on the cameras, Sonny—”
Sonny shook his head quickly. “It’s more than that. She still thinks of you as the man who’s going to fix everything, and that—it kills me that she was right. I could break down, Jason, because I knew you would be there. That you would find her.”
“But you found her, Sonny. You saw the footage, you called me—”
“I saw footage on cameras you installed,” Sonny corrected. “And Elizabeth pushed that button. I was barely involved. I don’t know, Jason. I just…I want more. I want to be the guy who can fix things. It shouldn’t fall on you.” He looked at Jason. “So…maybe I’m thinking about it.”
General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room
Restless, Elizabeth tossed aside another boring celebrity gossip magazine and amused herself with some of the Sun issues from that week—between Carly’s kidnapping and the court battle over Elizabeth’s medical care, the newspaper had outdone itself with sensational versions of the story.
“I like the one where my baby is actually Jason’s, and Ric was stealing it for you because you’re obsessed with Jason.”
Elizabeth glanced up to find Carly standing at the threshold of her open hospital door, a half smile on her face.
She hadn’t seen Carly since…before the kidnapping, Elizabeth realized now. She may have pressed the button that freed Carly, but she hadn’t actually seen her—she’d only heard her voice.
“Carly…” Elizabeth struggled to sit up straight, wincing as her lungs protested. “I thought you were released.”
“I was.” Carly made her way gingerly across the room, dressed in a shapeless blue paisley sheath dress, a pair of light blue sandals wrapped around her feet. She lowered herself onto the sofa where Elizabeth found herself. “I had a session with Kevin Collins today. Mama suggested…I do something.”
Elizabeth smiled wryly. “Yeah, she must be on staff with the Psych department—she pretty much guilt-tripped me into seeing Gail Baldwin.”
“Well, that’s my mother for you.” Carly bit her lip. “I…realized today that we hadn’t…had a chance to…I don’t even know…talk. I mean, it’s insane, but I know I owe you my life—”
“No, no—I just pressed the button. I was there. Sonny and Jason were on their way—they had the same information—”
“Elizabeth…” Carly leaned forward. “You forget that there were cameras in that panic room. I saw you let Jason in every day to look for me. I saw you help him. And the only reason you knew where the buttons were because of the cameras you let Jason put into the house.”
“He probably would have done all of that without me. I just…”
“Made it so he could do it legally and not face charges. I’m not nice that often, Elizabeth, so don’t argue with me.” She bit her lip. “Do…do you know why Ric did what he did?”
“I don’t know for sure, but based on…I don’t know…everything, I imagine he intended for us to raise your child through a private adoption he’d arrange.” Elizabeth waited a moment. “I want to say I’m sorry, and part of me feels like I should tell you I never hinted that was something I wanted but…” She lifted a shoulder. “It’s not…it’s not my fault. Losing the baby—” Her voice faltered. “I didn’t do it. And I couldn’t change what he did. I just wanted it to stop.”
“Kevin has diagnosed me with acute stress disorder,” Carly told her. “It’s um, kind of like PTSD, only it’s usually shorter in—”
“I know what it is,” Elizabeth said softly. “I…had it last year.” When Carly widened her eyes. “After I was trapped in the crypt, I, um, had a lot of trouble with the dark, and I got scared so easily. I kept thinking they were going to take me again. I kept…ignoring it and trying to forget.”
“I’ve never told him. He already blamed himself for what was going on, and by the time I knew what it was…” Elizabeth shrugged. “I went to the hospital after the warehouse exploded last year. I’d been grazed by a bullet. When I went back for a follow up, I—I don’t even remember what it was, but something triggered a panic attack. My grandmother—” She closed her eyes. “She knew the signs. And she talked to some friends. I didn’t want therapy. I just wanted it to go away, so she got me some…tips and tricks. I skipped the therapy.”
“And that worked?” Carly asked skeptically.
“Mostly, I guess. I don’t know. I didn’t end up with PTSD which is always the risk. And, um, it was kind of relief to understand what was going on. I had…done and said a few things during some of the panic attacks that…were hard for me to understand. I didn’t…I tried to—” Elizabeth shrugged. “Anyway. They say, for the most part, time takes care of things.”
“So that part is true. It really does go away.”
Elizabeth hesitated. “I still don’t like the dark,” she offered. “But I haven’t…had a panic attack in about—” She dipped her head. “Maybe nine months.”
Carly tilted her head. “You had panic attacks when you were in the penthouse?”
“A few times. Um, it’s not a big deal, and it’s over. I just—I just didn’t need you to explain it to me—”
“Why didn’t you tell Jason?” Carly demanded. Elizabeth stared at her, and Carly pursed her lips. “You were dating him back then. You had no trouble telling me you thought he was with another woman. Why wouldn’t you admit you were…”
“Because it made me feel weak, Carly.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders, lifted her chin. “And actually, the last panic attack I had was the night I found out Sonny was alive and that everyone had lied to me. It never seemed like a good time.”
Carly squinted, studying her. “There were cameras,” she reminded her. “I know you and Jason—I know something is going on.”
“Is that why you came here?” Elizabeth huffed. And here she was, trapped on the sofa. She couldn’t even easily get away. “If you want any explanations, you can ask Jason.”
“He’d just stare at me,” Carly muttered. “And then not answer the question. No, what I—Courtney asked me if I had seen anything. And I just wanted you to know that I didn’t tell her anything. I don’t plan on telling her, either.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “Thanks…I guess—”
“It was a private moment that I was never meant to see,” Carly told her. “Which means it’s none of Courtney’s business. She told me Jason broke up with her before then, and—” She huffed. “I was planning to stop the wedding anyway.”
Elizabeth lifted her brows. “I thought you were their biggest fan.”
“Yeah, well…” Carly threw up her hands. “Even I’ve been known to be wrong from time to time. Look, if you’re…seeing Jason or dating him or whatever we’ll call it, it’s fine with me. I know—I know he killed himself trying to find me. I know you were with him every step of the way. And he was so scared for you, I didn’t even see him until the day after I was rescued.”
Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Okay. I appreciate that.”
“I came here to thank you for saving my life. For…believing Sonny and Jason and helping them.” Carly rubbed her belly. “It’s just…this isn’t over yet, you know? The…panic room…the kidnapping—yeah, that’s over. We’re both…I guess…in recovery. But there’s so much crap in front of us.”
“The trial,” Elizabeth murmured, dragging her fingers through her hair. “Yeah. And I have the divorce, the restraining order…”
“Ric isn’t out of our lives yet, so I guess I just wanted you to know that if you…if you need my help during the divorce or the protection hearing…” Carly took a deep breath. “I’m ready. I’ll testify.”
“Thank you, Carly. That means a lot to me.”
“And…” Carly hauled herself to her feet. “You should tell Jason about last year. Every time I keep secrets from Sonny and Jason, it just seems to piss them off.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Take care, Elizabeth. I’ll see you around.”
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Hospital Room
It felt really good to be on her feet, dressed in her own clothes, showered, and packing her things to leave this room. While Elizabeth was grateful to everyone who had worked on her case, she was eager to leave this all behind her.
As much as she could anyway. Her pulmonary embolism would follow her the rest of her life, according to Monica. She would always have an increased risk of blood clots, and most types of hormonal birth control were out of the question from now on.
But she wasn’t going to let that bother her. She had slowly regained her stamina even if she got tired more quickly than it had been. Monica and the other doctors assured her that as the weeks passed, her natural health would reassert itself. She had been healthy until the last year, and her immune system had been strong.
She turned at the knock at her door and managed a smile. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Jason slid his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. His gaze swept over her and she could tell he was fighting the urge to ask her to sit down, to let him finish putting her things into the tote bag. He said nothing, and she was grateful for it.
She wasn’t weak, and it mattered that he knew it.
“Nikolas left the keys with me before he left for the airport last night.” Elizabeth took the set of gold keys from her pocket. “He said you dealt with security.”
“Ric’s not out on bail, but he’s got his hearing soon,” Jason said after a long moment. “I just want to make sure he can’t get to you there.”
She lifted her tote bag from the bed, and Jason held out his hand for it. Without arguing, she handed it to him. He slung it over his shoulder, then reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together.
It was the first time she’d left the room with Jason, and as they walked down the hall towards the elevators together, Elizabeth knew people were watching her, maybe even whispering. The Sun had continued to print gossip about her and Jason, about the entire scandal.
There would always be people who believed the worst about her. Elizabeth just didn’t have to accept it as truth. Not anymore.
“Hey,” she said as Jason pressed the button for the elevator.
He glanced down at her with worry. “Are you okay? Are you having trouble breathing—”
“No.” She rolled her eyes but smiled as she did it. “I’m fine. I just—with everything that’s happened, and I know how much we still have to worry about—I’m just happy. Right now, in this moment—I’m happy to be with you.”
The elevator door opened, and he pulled her inside. When the doors closed, Jason tugged her closer to him, sliding his hand up to frame her cheek. “I love you,” he told her. “For all the times I wish I had said it before—”
“I love you, too. And as long as you’re standing next to me, I know I can deal with whatever comes next.” She pressed her lips to his, lingering, savoring every minute.