September 30, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter Thirty-Seven.

In Case You Missed It: Untitled Flash Fiction Series, Part 1.

So, last night, I decided to write a flash fiction. It’s a nugget of an idea I’ve had rolling around in my brain for a few weeks since I started rereading the JD Robb In Death series and wondered what it would be like Liz really had to face Jason’s job. My brain pulls some weird inspirations sometimes. It’s not titled, but I hope to get back into writing flash fiction more often.

I’m also happy to report that I’ve made a choice regarding Fool Me Twice. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get done the full 37 chapters by October 31 because it took me about three weeks to get into the swing of things at school. Like I said, when I constructed the production schedule, I hadn’t been hired as a long-term sub.

I’d always planned to split FMT into two books (like Bittersweet) but I did the math and realized that all of the plots and characters I wanted to cover in 37 chapters meant I’d end up with a book about 185k words long — about twice the size of a traditional novel. I usually get to about 150k before I start feeling uncomfortable. (MW is about 145k and The Best Thing is 154k). Anything over that is just…way too long and it generally means my plot isn’t tight enough.

So I’ll be splitting FMT into a trilogy like Mad World, and Book 1 will be 19 chapters. This is great news for you guys because it means I can still finish FMT on schedule for Oct 31, you guys still get a new story in February, and then I can keep my schedule moving along.  I have to tweak a few things but to be honest, once I decided to do that, I realized how perfectly Chapter 19 had been plotted to be the end of the book.  I’m already done seven chapters, so I can totally finish the last twelve chapters in a month now that my schedule is sorted and I’ve set up a writing space at home that really works for me.

In other news, I’m closer to nailing down a full plot for Mad World 3. I have the umbrella story (Carly’s kidnapping, the serial rapist, and now something new) but it needs to be integrated properly. I’ve enjoyed writing the larger GH universe in MW and you guys seem to like it too. Hopefully, you’ll have Book 3 by this time next fall.

Lots of busy stuff happening at CG! I’ll see you guys later this week with the next chapter. I’m curious as to what you guys think about the new turn Chapter 37 takes.

This entry is part 18 of 31 in the series All of Me

Is it dark, where you are?
Can you count the stars where you are?
Do you feel like you are a thousand miles from home?
Are you lost, where you are?
Can you find your way when you’re so far?
Do you fear, where you are?
A thousand nights alone
Longest Night, Howie Day


Monday, September 8, 2003

General Hospital: Monica’s Office

Elizabeth shifted in her chair and checked the clock on the wall. It had been at least ten minutes since Monica had gone to get her blood test results. Not that Elizabeth was all that nervous about her two-month checkup — the checkup that would, hopefully, go a long way towards reassuring Jason.

He’d gotten a lot better about her health in the last five weeks and she hadn’t needed the oxygen mask in two weeks, but she still sometimes caught him looking at her closely and hesitating before doing anything more strenuous than walking across the room.

Finally, almost fifteen minutes after Monica had left, Jason’s mother returned, a folder in her hand…and a carefully blank look on her face.

Elizabeth straightened in her chair, watching with trepidation as Monica sat in the empty chair next to her, not behind her desk. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong,” Monica said. “There was…” She pursed her lips. “A result on the initial round of tests that came back that required further testing. The results of that second test just came in…” She looked at Elizabeth. “I had to run a pregnancy test.”

“Pregnancy…” Elizabeth trailed off with a shake of her head. “Well, I’m not pregnant. I mean, it’s too soon after everything that happened, and—” With a slight flush, she lifted her hands in confusion, letting them fall back into her lap. “Jason and I are careful. I mean, I can’t use the pill anymore, but we—Monica, we’re—” She bit her lip. “Did it come back positive?”

“It did. We can run another one if you’re really not convinced. When was your last period?”

“Honestly? Not since before the miscarriage.” Her heart plummeted into her stomach. “Oh, God. Monica. There’s no way I was pregnant before everything happened — I mean, I didn’t…I didn’t sleep with Ric again, but he was drugging me—”

Her stomach lurched as she turned away. Oh, God—

“No, no, of course not. We ran all of these tests at the last appointment and this is the first time this hormone level was elevated. I can assure you, Elizabeth, you were not pregnant when you came in for the overdose. I ran a full toxicology report at the time and pregnancy is just…it’s one of the basic things we test for in our female patients.” Monica exhaled in a huff. “I’m sorry. I never meant to make you worry—it’s not Ric’s child. No chance of it.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. “Okay. Well, then, at the most, I couldn’t be more than seven weeks along. Um…” She looked at Monica, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. “You still look concerned. Worried.”

“This isn’t my specialty,” Monica admitted, “but I will admit to being a bit…apprehensive about what a pregnancy means for your health—at this point. Unfortunately, there’s not a terrible lot of information out there about the risks of embolisms in pregnant patients after already having suffered an occurrence. But—”

“Blood clots, specifically pulmonary embolisms, are a risk factor in pregnancy,” Elizabeth finished. She stared down at her hands. “What else?”

“You didn’t just suffer an embolism, Elizabeth. You were in cardiac arrest. You had a mild heart attack when the second clot burst. You’ve struggled to regain your stamina and energy because of how severe the crisis was.” Monica waited a moment. “If you had come to me, asking for a timetable, I would have recommended waiting at least year.”

“We were safe,” Elizabeth repeated, more to herself. “Jason—I mean, after Robin—and you know obsessed he’s been about my health. He never would have—”

“I think—” Monica bit her lip. “It hasn’t hit the news quite yet, and of course, it depends on your brand, but one of ELQ’s subsidiary companies will be issuing a recall on a batch of condoms. For this very reason, apparently. They were…less than effective.”

“Oh, God.” Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face. “Enduro.”

“Yes.”

Pregnant. Less than two months after nearly dying from blood clots and cardiac arrest…she looked at her doctor, at Jason’s mother. “What…happens next? What would you recommend? I mean, if I were just any other patient—”

“You mean if you weren’t carrying my grandchild?” Monica asked. When Elizabeth nodded, Monica waited another moment before answering. “This isn’t my area of expertise,” she reminded Elizabeth. “I’m going to make some calls and get a recommendation for the best OB/GYN who specializes in high-risk pregnancy, but make no mistake, Elizabeth—this is a high-risk pregnancy. You’re at an elevated risk for another blood clot already, particularly because yours was hormone induced.”

“And adding a condition that elevates the risk even further…I could have a blood clot tomorrow,” Elizabeth murmured.

“You could. I just…” Monica reached for Elizabeth’s hands. “But I think you have time to make a decision. For you and Jason to talk about what it means, to consult a doctor—”

“We talked about children just…just a few weeks ago. I wanted them. I do. But…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Can you make those calls? I’ll…talk to Jason. And we’ll see where we are.”

Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

Scott glanced up from his paperwork as Taggert entered his office, followed by Kelsey. He exhaled slowly and got to his feet. “Judging by the looks on your faces, the tests came in as scheduled.”

“All fourteen rape kits have been processed. A few of them came back negative, but…” Taggert looked at Kelsey before continuing. “We have results in ten of the cases. Seven of them…linked.”

“Seven.” Scott closed his eyes. “All seven under investigation for the park rapes? Isn’t it unusual for—”

“It is,” Kelsey admitted. “But the lab report…” She set the results on his desk. “Apparently the guy didn’t wear a condom in any case at all. Which…can be a signature on its own. He’s…reckless.”

“He thinks he can’t be caught,” Taggert muttered. “And he’s right. Because Elizabeth Webber’s dress came back positive for semen, and her case matches the other six. Guess who got excluded?”

“Fuck me.” Scott perused the report as his stomach continued to twist and turn. “They covered it up. They made her case go away. Why? Why would they cover for Baker?”

“I don’t think they did.” Kelsey took a seat. “You said you talked to the ADA on the Baker case, right?” she said to Taggert.  “To Dara Jensen, about the rape kit results?”

“I did. Why?”

“Remember what she said about the media circus around the trial? Baker was accused of blackmailing and holding Edward Quartermaine’s granddaughter hostage.” Kelsey arched a brow. “Did Edward Quartermaine know about the Webber rape case and the accusation against Baker?”

“I—I don’t know why he would have unless Emily had told him. You don’t think—”

“I think it’s possible Edward Quartermaine leaned on Floyd to make sure Baker went away. Floyd leaned on the commissioner. And, I guess, look at it from the commissioner’s standpoint—if he believes Elizabeth Webber, Tom Baker admitted he raped her. And he’s going to trial on slam dunk charges that will put him away for at least twenty-five years, if not more.”

Taggert exhaled slowly. “Meanwhile, we got a rape kit that may or may not come back positive — and if there’s no DNA, it’s her word against his. The rape case was weaker.” He hesitated. “And to be honest, we hadn’t really talked about the case at the department after Baker was arrested. The evidence was weak. Dara didn’t tell us outright she wouldn’t file rape charges, but I think there was already an atmosphere…Baker was going to jail. We didn’t need to spend the time or resources.”

The lieutenant looked away, cleared his throat. “But that doesn’t explain what happened to her case. The dress in the evidence box, the way her case was pushed off the open list—”

“Exactly.” Kelsey leaned forward. “And look, if that had been the case — if everyone involved had agreed not to prosecute the rape because of its overall weakness, that would have been fine. But that’s not what happened. Without testing the kit, there was no way of knowing the strength of the case. All we know for sure is that in November, you were told to make the case inactive. If you’d run that kit and it had come back negative for Baker, it might have brought Elizabeth Webber’s credibility into question.”

“Because if she’s lying about his confession, the defense could have made her look hysterical and unstable. She’s the one holding the gun…” Scott shook his head. “Doesn’t explain the falsified lab report—”

“You said Elizabeth nearly caused a mistrial with her outcry in the court room,” Kelsey said. “Maybe Edward Quartermaine got cold feet about hurrying the case along.”

“Or, maybe he found out for the first time that the charge existed,” Taggert offered. “And Mac and Floyd had to cover their tracks. I—” He shook his head. “I thought I got a real big win when Mac said he’d sent the kit out for testing. Even though he wanted me to shelve it, he’d said he’d send it over. He never intended to do that.”

“It doesn’t make any of it right,” Kelsey said. “And the fact that the commissioner put her case in the closed archives rather than cold storage—it meant that we didn’t make the link. Think about this — the seven cases we have—the first three are spread out.”

“Yeah.” Scott looked at his list of dates. “February 1998. April 1999. January 2000. And then nothing until February 2003.” He tapped his pencil. “Taggert, I know you’ve been holding off telling Elizabeth that the case is reopened, but I think with these results—”

“Yeah, I know. I should tell her today, but…” Taggert shook his head. “Let me leave it for last. I’ll officially reopen the 1999 and 2000 attacks, take those victim statements.”

“And what does the delay give you?” Kelsey asked. “I mean—”

“It doesn’t give me anything. It just gives Elizabeth Webber a few more days, maybe even a whole week before I have to rip open that wound again.” Taggert held out his hand and Kelsey gave him back his copy of the lab report. “And yeah, I know it’s special treatment and maybe I should start with her first because, chronologically, she is the first known—”

“I think, for once, it won’t kill us to give Elizabeth Webber a break,” Scott told Kelsey. “This is a lot to ask her take on, and she may not want to get involved. I mean, what do we tell her about what happened with her file? She thinks her evidence was tested.”

“I don’t know,” Kelsey admitted. “I mean, we don’t know anything for sure.”

“I’m not going to lie to her.” Taggert shook his head. “She’s had enough of that from this department. And if I didn’t want to be kicked off this case or fired, I’d be calling the papers.”

“We’re not leaking to the papers,” Scott said. “It’s bad enough the papers are digging into the other three victims and dragging Brooke’s case out every time Ned Ashton makes a speech. You want Elizabeth in the middle of another media circus? With Ric Lansing out on bail?”

“Fine. But I’m not letting Floyd or Mac get away with this forever, Baldwin. So figure out how you want to play this.”

Brownstone: Living Room

Bobbie braced Carly’s elbow as her heavily pregnant daughter lowered herself onto the sofa. “I would have come to you in the penthouse,” Bobbie told her as she sat next to her. “You don’t need to drag yourself out when you’re feeling so tired.”

“Does it show?” Carly bit out as she set her purse next to her and leaned back. “And I needed a break from the penthouse. Sonny is…”

“Driving you crazy?”

“I wish.” Carly sighed. “He’s barely talking to me since Elizabeth and I told Scott that we didn’t want a deal.”

“Is he that angry he’s going to have to wait a few more months for Ric to have an accident in jail?” Bobbie said, rolling her eyes. She crossed into the kitchen as Carly remained seated. “I get that he wants it all over—”

“He’s not mad about that, even though he’d prefer it already be over. He’s mad because I told him…I told him no accidents at all.”

Bobbie hesitated behind the counter where she was pulling out her tea kettle. She filled the kettle and placed it on the stove before rejoining her daughter in the living room. “No accidents ever?” she asked.

“I want Ric Lansing to rot away in a small cell for the rest of his life. I want to visit him there and make sure he knows who put him there.” Carly sat up straighter. “Death is too easy. Too quick. I want him to suffer. Is that so goddamn bad?”

“No,” Bobbie admitted. “And now that the image is my head, I have to admit, I like it. Elizabeth…felt the same way?”

“She didn’t talk to you about this?”

“Not really. I knew she didn’t want a deal either, but…”

“Yeah, it’s one of the few things we’ve ever agreed on,” Carly said, with a shrug. “And of course, Jason was on board with it. Whatever she needs, he gives it to her. But I get stuck with Sonny, who’s so goddamn selfish—”

She let her head fall back against the sofa. “I get Sonny’s life, Mama. I get it. And mostly, I don’t give a shit about it. But this happened to me. Not him. And it’s getting really old trying to balance worrying about Sonny’s mental health when I’m just trying to get through my own day.”

“Are you…” Bobbie pursed her lips. “Are you still having nightmares? I thought Kevin’s sessions—”

“I’m not sure the nightmares will ever go away,” Carly admitted. “But Kevin taught me how to avoid the panic attacks, to manage the stress. But I’m tired, Mama. You know when you told me you wanted Sonny to get help, and I told you not to worry?”

“Because you and Jason would handle it?”

“Well, I’m thinking about what you said back then. About how that’s not fair. And I thought—well I’m his wife. That’s the role I agreed to. It’s in the vows. And Jason is his best friend. That’s how this is supposed to work. You stand by each other until the bitter end. The thing is…” Carly sighed. “I think I’m starting to get to the bitter end part of it, and I have a feeling Jason isn’t far away. He wants his own life. To put Elizabeth and her needs first. And what kind of bitch would I have to be to demand he put me and my family first? He has his own.”

“Carly—”

“I’m just having a bad day, Mama. So I need…I need a break from Sonny, from that penthouse…because I’m starting to forget why I’m there in the first place.”

Port Charles Hotel: Renaissance Room

Alexis walked away from Elton Herbert as the flamboyant and verbose party planner prattled on about the menu for Ned’s fundraiser later that evening.

She might be Ned’s events coordinator (she still wasn’t sure how that had happened) but there was not enough money on God’s green Earth to make her listen to that man for another second.

“Do whatever you want,” she called over her shoulder as Jax, who had been appointed as Ned’s actual campaign manager, entered the room. “Thank God. Tell him to stop asking me about serving caviar or langoustine. I don’t even know what the second thing is.”

She pursed her lips, spying Jax’s pensive expression. “What’s wrong?”

Jax sighed, then steered her over to an empty table in the corner of the room. “I’m worried.”

“About what?” Alexis drew her glasses out of the purse she’d left on the table and reached for the sheaf of papers in his hands. “Are those the polls Ned commissioned? It looks like he’s neck and neck with Floyd, which is good considering—” She caught Jax’s eye. “It’s not good? Why?”

“Because…” Jax sighed, leaned against the wall of the room and watched as the workers on the far aside continued to assemble the stage. “Because in two months this campaign will be over.”

“Uh huh.” Alexis shook her head and removed her glasses. “I’m still not seeing the problem, Jasper. With two more months, Ned could easily overtake—” She tipped her head. “I thought we were in agreement on this. Floyd is a boil on the butt of humanity and Ned was the perfect choice to not only clean his clock but to take over.”

“And I still think that. I just worry…that we’re not doing the right thing by Ned,” Jax shook his head. “I don’t know if he’s really…grieved yet. He lost his daughter. He lost his fiancée last year—” he grimaced, obviously remember Ned’s fiancée had been her sister. “I’m sorry—”

“It’s been a very difficult year for all of us,” Alexis offered. “But this is how Ned gets through things. You know that. You only got out of bed after Brenda went over that cliff because your family lost its fortune and you had a goal.”

“Yeah, I had a goal to get back what my family had lost. To rebuild my future,” Jax reminded her. “Ned got into this for revenge. I think, even if he beats Floyd, he’s going to wake up and realize how empty that really is.”

“I don’t know. I got my revenge on Luis Alcazar,” Alexis said, pitching her voice slightly lower. “And that felt damn good then and still feels good now.” Even if she hadn’t entirely meant to shove him over the balcony, oh man, it had been sweet. Apparently, she’d inherited something from her ancestors.

Even if she’d immediately locked it right back up after pretending to have her mental breakdown and losing custody of Kristina. Nothing ever went well when she unleashed her inner Cassadine.

“Don’t remind me,” Jax muttered. “I’m just worried about him. About the day after the campaign. What if he loses?”

“Let’s just get to the end of the campaign,” Alexis suggested. “One day a time, isn’t that what we said we’d do?”

“Yes, but—”

“It’s healthy for him to focus on the campaign. To have a reason to get out of bed. I know you don’t disagree that keeping him busy is the best idea.” Alexis patted his shoulder. “This isn’t something we can fix, Jax. All we can do is follow his lead and be there when he falls down.”

Kelsey’s Apartment: Dining Room

Somehow, without Kelsey realizing it, her life had fallen into a routine. Working the serial rapist case full-time had allowed for a regular working schedule for Lucky, which meant they finished their day about the same time. Lucky had started to wait for her outside the Municipal Building, across the street from the department.

She’d driven them back to her place where they both compared notes on their day, on the cases, over dinner. Then they’d go to bed—together. And start over the next day.

They weren’t living together—it was way too soon for that but for right now, they were both eating, breathing, living with this case and somehow, being together made the horrors bearable.

The day the DNA matches came in, they didn’t talk about in the car. Lucky talked about his brother who was coming home in a few days while Kelsey related how much she was looking forward to her mother driving up for dinner again.

But once they got home, spread out their files along with their dinner from Kelly’s, the light banter had ceased. Lucky stared down at his case notes, brooding as Kelsey studied her court docket for the next day.

“You feel guilty,” Kelsey said after a long period of quiet. She pushed her spoon around the bowl of chili. “Because Taggert still doesn’t want to tell Elizabeth.”

“I guess.” Lucky shrugged. “I mean, I get his argument. I understood it back in July. Until we had physical evidence, what was the point of dragging her into this, but we have it now. And Elizabeth would at least sit down with us. She’d give us a statement.”

“Taggert still having issues getting the others to agree to a follow-up?”

“He’s trying to find Logan and Lopez now. They moved out of town, and Taggert’s having trouble finding family members to ask.” He reached for a notebook. “Watson, Norton, and Morris weren’t returning our calls two months ago. What makes anyone think they’ll change their mind now?”

“You don’t think Taggert could persuade them?”

“He could.” Lucky sighed. “I guess I just—I’m not in a hurry to bring that back for her. But waiting for the others to give their statements just delays our progress—”

“I think it’s more that Taggert hasn’t figured out how to tell Elizabeth her case is opened again without explaining why suddenly we have a DNA profile we didn’t have before. Unless he lies to her, she’ll know something happened.” Kelsey shrugged. “He’s taking her case personally. The way you are. And neither one of you wants to let her down. So he’s waiting until he has all the evidence before he has to come clean.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Lucky asked, eyebrows raised.

“I think…” Kelsey looked down at her case notes, at the collection of photographs she kept just inside the top folder—a photo of every single victim prior to their attack. She kept them there to remind herself that they came first, and that everything they did was for them. “I think that after the PCPD screwed up their cases in the first place, the least we can do is avoid further harm. We don’t have a suspect, Lucky. We don’t have a lead. Do you want to tell Elizabeth that we’re reopening her case with nothing more than what we could have had five years ago?”

“I guess. I just don’t want her to fall through the cracks again.”

Port Charles Mall: AMC Movie Theater

It was the first time they’d attempted to have another movie night since Brooke’s rape two months earlier. They’d gone to the mall in the middle of the day, deciding that it would be different enough to keep their minds off that tragedy.

Only Lucas hadn’t really taken into account just how much had changed since that sweltering July night. Maxie had brought Kyle again, but Lucas wasn’t paying that much attention to him. Not since Maxie and Georgie had both suggested he bring Felix.

Lulu had also joined them, sitting with Dillon and looking cozy, which gave Georgie an excuse to glare at the blond who, up until two weeks ago, been one of their closest friends. Lucas didn’t know if his cousin was dating Dillon or not, but Lu liked to cause drama. So she’d hung over him maybe a bit more than she might have otherwise, sharing his popcorn and laughing at any joke, no matter how feeble.

“How long before she goes for the hair?” Felix murmured in his ear as the movie lights dimmed and Georgie got in one more shot about how hard Mac was working that day, which only made Dillon tense more. His cousin really was an idiot, Lucas thought with a grimace.

“Oh, let’s hope we at least get through the movie. I’m not in the mood to get kicked out of another one.”

They managed to get all the way through Maxie’s pick, Intolerable Cruelty, but even she was wrinkling her nose when they filed out of the theater and into the mall at large. “Ugh, that should have been better. It’s a romantic comedy. Why do I not feel flirty and happy?”

“Maybe it’s the company,” Georgie said. “Can we go now?”

Maxie huffed at her younger sister, then turned her back to look at the rest of them. “Wanna go to Kelly’s or the food court?”

“I’m going home,” Georgie announced. “I have work to do. Some of us want to graduate college.” A flick of glance in Lulu’s direction made it clear who she meant.

“Oh, get off it, Jones. We only started classes a week ago,” Lulu said. She rolled her eyes. “You need to get a grip.”

You need to—”

Lucas stepped in front Georgie as she stepped forward while Kyle edged preemptively in front of Lulu. “Let’s just calm down.”

“Oh, relax,” Georgie said, with a roll of her eyes. “No one is gonna stalk off in a sulk—” she pressed her lips closed as the group stilled and Dillon’s already irritated expression grew more furious. “Whatever. I’m going home.”

She stormed off towards one of the mall entrances, leaving the rest of them to stare after her. “Ironically,” Kyle offered, “she’s storming—”

“We all caught it,” Maxie said, pressing her lips over her boyfriend’s mouth. “Don’t mansplain it.”

“Mansplain—”

Anyway,” Lulu said, with a dramatic roll of her eyes. “Can we go to back to the part where we get lunch? I’m starving.”

They opted for the food court, then went off in different directions to get their food. Maxie and Lulu headed for Salad Works while Felix and Lucas decided to get Chinese food.

Kyle followed Dillon to the burger stand, and as they waited their turn, he cleared his throat. “Listen, I’m sorry about Georgie.”

“Why are you sorry?” Dillon muttered. “We broke up two months ago. And Lulu is our friend. She’s been Georgie’s friend longer than I’ve known either of them.”

“Who didn’t mind playing up the new girlfriend role,” Kyle offered. “No, I mean, it just…it sucks that she’s taking it this way. I mean, Maxie is messed up about Mac, too. All the crap that’s been in the press. She’s…” he hesitated. “She’s cried a few times about it. Says Mac’s a great guy, but she doesn’t understand why he didn’t tell them. So she could have warned Brooke, too.”

“She gets it then.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean she likes it.” Kyle jerked a shoulder as they moved up in the line. “And you know it’s been a lot worse with your brother running for mayor. It’s on the news, it’s in the papers. And Georgie’s…she’s always been a…” he trailed off.

Dillon eyed Maxie’s boyfriend, wondering when he’d stopped being annoyed by him. Maybe it had been Kyle’s steadiness in the park that terrible night or later, after Lucas had introduced them to Felix, Kyle had been the first to suggest Felix come to the next group thing.

“Maxie’s made a lot of mistakes in her life,” Dillon said after a moment. “Gotten into trouble. Done dumb things. It’s easier for her to see that other people aren’t perfect.”

“But the thing this—with Mac in the papers all the time, it just means Brooke’s still in the papers. And I know you guys knew that would happen when Ned decided to run, but still—I’m sorry, man, but every time I read another account about how she left us while we were arguing, I get angry at myself all over again. I don’t know what the hell Lucas and I were thinking. Or why it seemed so important.”

“Maxie and I were bickering, too. We were all ignoring Brooke.” Dillon stepped up to the counter and put in his food order. When he and Kyle had moved over to the pick up window, he took a deep breath. “Lucky Spencer told me that it might take a long time to forgive myself. That even though I know, logically, it wasn’t our fault…”

“It still feels like it is,” Kyle finished. “Yeah. Well, I know all about not being able forgive yourself for the dumb stuff you actually do. What happened with Maxie—”

“Is not something anybody but Maxie needs to forgive you for,” Dillon interrupted. He looked back at the table where Maxie and Lulu had returned to. “Can you get Maxie to call Georgie in a few more minutes? Make sure she got home okay?”

“Yeah, but I bet that’s why she’s pulling out her cell phone now.” They picked up their food and headed back to the table.

Condo: Living Room

Elizabeth told herself to put it away for a few hours, to stop thinking about Monica’s announcement, and the implications of it until she could talk to Jason after he got done work.

She had to stop herself several times from going straight to the warehouse and dumping this on him, but truth be told…

She didn’t know what Jason would do when she told him she was pregnant. Because as much as she wanted to be happy—she was terrified. She’d gone to the library and checked out a bunch of pregnancy books, pouring over the side effects and all the possibilities. She’d tried a few Internet searches while there—she still didn’t have a computer of her own—but everything seemed to tell her she was dying.

Instead of calming her down, the fact that pulmonary embolisms were listed as a side effect in every single pregnancy book only worried her more. Did that mean they happened a lot? And apparently, they were more common after birth, which meant her baby might live but Elizabeth would die.

And was that a risk she wanted to take? Was it a risk Jason would be on board for?

She thought about talking to Bobbie or Emily, even calling Nikolas, but she managed to keep the phone on the hook. Jason deserved to get this news first. Even if she didn’t know exactly what to tell him or what he might say.

Finally, around six, Jason walked through the door. He offered a smile as he pulled off his jacket and hung it in the closet next to her door. “Hey.” He joined her in the kitchen where she was perusing the freezer and their selection of frozen pizzas. He kissed her, his hand cupping her jaw. “What’d you do today?”

“Um…” Elizabeth closed the freezer door. “I had my appointment with Monica.”

“Right, the two-month checkup. You said something about it this morning.” Jason followed her out of the kitchen, his brow furrowing. “How did it go?”

“Um, good. I think.” She turned to Jason. “Monica…had to run a secondary test, though. To check out one of my results—” God, why was she stalling?

“Is everything okay?” Jason asked, his voice sharpening. “Elizabeth—”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just…” She sat on the sofa, to stop herself from pacing. “I guess it’s just…I don’t know. I’m pregnant.”

“Preg—” Jason closed his mouth and sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of her. “How—what—”

“Turns out the condoms we use are from ELQ, and Monica said they’re going to recall them for…you know, not actually doing their job—” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “It’s yours—”

Of course it’s mine,” Jason said with an irritated frown. “Why—” He exhaled slowly. “Right. Because you were drugged and not sure—but they would have known in the hospital in July.” He exhaled slowly. “Okay. What…what does that mean? I remember from Carly’s pregnancy that one of the possible side effects—”

“Long story short is that I’m already at risk for another PE. Pregnancy makes that risk higher, but Monica said she didn’t know exactly how high. And she said there was…other issues. My recovery was long and I had heart issues…” Elizabeth shook her head. “She didn’t say it, but I think she was a lot more concerned than she let on.”

“Yeah.” Jason took a deep breath. “What…does she think—” he swallowed hard. “I mean, what do you think—” He shook his head. “I don’t know what to say.”

“That makes two of us. Monica said we should make an appointment with an OB/GYN who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.” Elizabeth watched as he pushed himself off the coffee table and started to pace. “She said, um, she—”

“High-risk pregnancy,” Jason repeated. He dragged his hands through his hair before letting his hands, still laced together, rest at the back of his neck. “Elizabeth—”

“She didn’t say it was too soon after what happened,” Elizabeth offered as she got to her feet. “But she also said if we’d wanted to plan it, she’d have recommended a year. Not…two months.” Her eyes burned. “You’re mad.”

“Mad—” Jason’s hands fell at his side as he crossed back to her and drew her into his arms. “I’m sorry. I’m not—I’m not doing this right. I’m not mad. Why would I be mad? We didn’t plan this. We were careful.” He edged away from her slightly, to frame her face with his hands. “Listen. I’m not mad,” he repeated. “I’m…worried.”

“Me, too.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “We talked about this. We both agreed we wanted children.”

“Yeah, but—” Jason closed his mouth. “Whatever you decide, Elizabeth. I’ll support you.”

“But what do you want?” she asked, covering his hands with her own. “Jason—”

“I want you,” he told her. “And I want you to be happy. At the end of the day…” he swallowed hard. “That’s all that matters.”

“But…” She bit her lip. “I’ll guess we’ll wait for Monica to recommend an OB and see what they say, right?”

“Right.”

She wanted desperately to ask him if he was even a little bit happy about having a baby with her, but she was afraid of what he’d say. Whatever she decided, Jason had told her. She hadn’t even realized a decision was on the table. Did Jason want her to get an abortion?

Did she want an abortion?

But she couldn’t ask him that. He would never tell her what he thought—after all—he’d support whatever decision she made.

But supporting a decision and living with it were two different things.

Elizabeth took a deep breath and tried to smile. “I’m not in the mood to make dinner. How about we order some Chinese?”

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Flash Fiction: 25 Minutes or Less

Alternate Universe. Written in 25ish minutes.  It has no title because I am bereft of inspiration. Maybe one day.


From the minute Jason Morgan walked through the doors of the Queen of Angels church after a year of being away from Port Charles, he could tell that something was seriously wrong.

Even more wrong than the reason he’d ended his global travels and hurried back to his hometown after an upset phone from one of the men who had stepped up as Sonny Corinthos’ right hand man in the organization after Jason had decided he’d devoted enough of his life to violence and mayhem. He’d needed to get out. Desperately.

There had been a shooting at the penthouse where Sonny lived with his wife, Brenda, and tragically, his boss’s beloved wife had died. Sonny was inconsolable, no one could find their doctor to take care of him, and worse—no one could understand how Anthony Moreno’s men had managed to penetrate their security and made it to the top floor of the apartment building.

But when he returned to Port Charles, just in time for the memorial, he saw immediately the rot that had set in since he’d left. There was no security on the church, and the men that sat with Sonny up front weren’t looking around—weren’t aware of their surroundings.

Jason slipped into the back pew where Johnny O’Brien sat, leaning back with his arms folded. “Any word?”

Johnny shook his head, silently as the priest at the front of the church continued to drone on. Most of the congregation had tuned out of the long Latin mass that Sonny had insisted on. “Some sort of breach in the security room. The cameras were off in the entire building. And Sonny got rid of the parking garage guards, so—” He jerked a shoulder. “The doc is still missing in action, and that’s weird, Jase. He never would have taken off like this. Not with Brenda—”

Johnny exhaled slowly. “He took care of her after the miscarriage six months ago, you know? And I just can’t seem him not even—”

“Wait, he’s missing completely?” Jason hissed under his breath. “How—he works at the hospital—”

“He hasn’t shown up for a shift since the shooting. Some of the guys think maybe he did this—but nah, no way—” Johnny rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know. I was finishing up the Puerto Ric run when it happened. By the time I got back, no one wanted to talk about it. Sonny isn’t even demanding that many answers about the security breach.”

“He could just be…” Jason trailed off. He exchanged a look with the other man as they both remembered Sonny’s breakdowns. He’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years earlier, but had refused to go on any medicine. Had refused that sign of weakness. Brenda had always been good at keeping him even and balanced, but— “I shouldn’t have left,” he said roughly.

“You had your reasons,” Johnny murmured. “I know how much Michael meant to you—” He broke off, leaned past Jason as someone new lingered in the door way. “Oh. Did you know she was coming?”

Jason followed his friend’s gaze and saw the petite young brunette standing there, hesitantly, her eyes searching. When she saw them in the back pew, she bit her lip and approached them. Johnny immediately slid down, and Jason followed, keeping himself very still and maintaing at least six inches between himself and Elizabeth Webber, Steven Webber’s favorite sister and…

“Thanks,” Elizabeth said, flashing a white smile at them, her eyes darting around the church, her fingers trembling as they were clutched around the strap of her black clutch. “I, um, I haven’t heard from Steven—and the news—I just—I was worried. So I flew in from Boston—” She stopped, looking at her hand where his eyes had also gone. At the slim golden band and diamond ring on her fourth finger.

“I’m sorry—” Elizabeth started to yank it off, but Jason stopped her, covered her hand with his. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, dully.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Jason said. “Elizabeth—” He grimaced, then turned to Johnny. “O’Brien, go find somewhere else to sit. Now.”

When Johnny had slunk away, Elizabeth drew in her bottom lip, her teeth sinking in. “You haven’t seen Steven have you? He said you were away, but you’re back now—”

“I just got in this morning. And, no, I haven’t talked to Steven in months.” And if Steven Webber wasn’t in touch with his sister, then—

“I’m scared,” Elizabeth admitted, as she stared forward, down the long aisle of the church, down the thirty or forty pews that lay between them and the altar with the white coffin decorated with flowers. “I really can’t lose someone else I love.” She glanced at him, and for a moment—they were united as the parents they’d been a year earlier when their son had died. Then she looked away, her lips pressed tightly together.

He’d woken from the accident with a blank memory and pretty woman claiming to be his wife and the mother of his child. He’d pushed her away, but Michael was different. He’d fallen in love with his son. Until the day they’d lost him, and any chance of rebuilding a life with her had slipped away.

It had been Jason’s fault their son was dead.

And, maybe, indirectly, it would be his fault Steven Webber was missing.

September 26, 2019

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter 36.

I’m really glad the posting schedule worked out this way so that 36 was the last one over the weekend. It represents the end of part one and it’s the last one set in July 2003. Next week, we’re jumping into September.  I’m starting to final coalesce around another umbrella story for Book 3. I just have to figure out how to make the pieces fit together.

This entry is part 17 of 31 in the series All of Me

‘Cause we break
And we burn
And we turn it inside out
To take it back
To the start
And through the rise and falling apart
We discover who we are
Who We Are, Lifehouse


Saturday, July 26, 2003

 Port Charles Municipal Building: Scott’s Office

Scott scowled down at the report from the special master who had emailed his preliminary decision regarding the medical records Ric Lansing had subpoenaed. He’d completed reviewing Elizabeth’s files, and—

He looked up as Kelsey, dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt, knocked on his open desk door. “What are you doing here? You’re young. Go have a life. Go call Lucky Spencer.”

His ADA smirked at him. “I was wondering when you’d bring that up. Did his aunt tell you?”

“She said you came to dinner.” And Bobbie had been very effusive in her praise of Kelsey dating her nephew, suggesting that Lucky hadn’t been this happy in a few years. “She liked you.”

“I liked her. As for why I’m here today—I had a meeting with Taggert to catch me up on the park rapist.” Kelsey tilted her head. “Why are you here? Don’t you have Serena this week?”

“Next week,” Scott said. “And she’s too old to be hanging out with her dad during the day. I got the special master’s report back last night—would you believe this asshole thinks all of Elizabeth’s medical records should be open to the defense?”

“Transparency,” Kelsey offered with a shrug. “How many cases do you see get nailed because a prosecutor held something back? He’s probably just erring on the side of caution. And so what? If Elizabeth Webber was traumatized—”

“It’s just crap,” Scott muttered. “Sure, she got her protection order, but she also gets to know her psycho ex has access to her therapy sessions and just based on Gail’s notes, they’re going deep and working through a lot that’s not relevant. Even if he can’t bring it up at trial—”

“He gets to know it. Well, maybe that will help her make up her mind about going to trial.” Kelsey took a seat at Scott’s conference table. “Listen, not that I want to give you any more bad news—”

“Oh, hell.” Scott shoved the special master’s report aside. “What now?”

“You remember when you said something was off in the way Mac was counting open cases? We had nine in cold storage, four open, but Mac said there was fourteen.”

Scott pursed her lips. “He wasn’t wrong, was he? Was there another case?”

“Yeah, but it’s…not good news.” Kelsey took out her notepad. “Elizabeth Webber.”

“Oh, man. Oh, no. Don’t tell me the PCPD screwed up her rape case. This is not something I need in my life. This is not something that she needs either.” Scott buried his face in his hands and moaned. “Give it to me, Kelse. All the bad news.”

“Well, according to her file, Elizabeth was attacked in the park on February 14, 1998. She was sixteen, which meant the statute of limitations didn’t start until she turned eighteen in 1999. She was raped at the same fountain as Brooke, but her injuries were much less severe, and a friend took her home. She didn’t report right away—even took a shower. But someone convinced her to do a rape kit at Mercy Hospital where pictures were taken, and she turned over the dress she’d been wearing that night.”

“Okay. So…?”

“She finally made a statement to the police a few weeks later, sometime in March. Alejandro Garcia and Dara Jenson took the statement, but there wasn’t anywhere to go. Couldn’t send the dress for testing with no suspect, and according to Garcia’s notes, she didn’t remember a lot of details. Some minor things came back to her over the next few months — he’d smelled like soap…and…” Kelsey waited for Scott to look at him. “He only spoke three words to her.”

“Oh, hell. ‘Not a word.’ The same thing Brooke Ashton said.”

“Yeah. Garcia left the PCPD, but Taggert took over. He did some work, but nowhere to go. Until Emily Quartermaine and Elizabeth get held hostage by Tom Baker. Apparently, Elizabeth said Tom Baker admitted to raping to her while they were alone, but he later denied it. He went to trial on the charges in the blackmailing and kidnapping case, but Elizabeth had an outcry—”

“I remember all of this, but what happened to the rape kit—” Scott leaned forward. “Once Baker was a suspect, they must have sent it over—”

“That’s the part where Taggert is getting a little squirrely. Because that’s what our records show. Around Christmas of 1998, Dara Jenson marked into the DA’s file that a rape kit was returned from the lab with no profile or anything else. The same report exists in the PCPD’s file…but…”

“Kelsey—”

“Taggert never saw the report. And he said he was told in November that the kit had come back negative and that the case needed to be made inactive. He fought it, according to him, but eventually agreed. He said he walked the case to cold storage and listed it as an open, but inactive investigation.”  Kelsey rubbed the back of her neck. “Tom Baker pleaded to avoid a mistrial on the rape outcry and a retrial. He’s in prison now, but up for parole in December.”

“Wait…” Scott held up his hands. “Taggert was told in November the kit was sent back negative, but the report we have is from December?” He frowned. “After Elizabeth went public, accusing Baker?”

“Yeah, he noticed that, too. He said he was told a report would be sent over and Mac would take care of the filing. Taggert said he didn’t send the rookies down to get that case, specifically, but Lucky Spencer—”

“Knows Elizabeth. He was the friend who brought her home, right? I remember they were dating when he got…” Scott sighed. “So, Mac faked a report? Why?”

“He also officially listed her case as solved and the box ended up in closed archives. Spencer noticed it when they pulled the other nine—hers was missing from cold storage.”

“I—” Scott stared at her. “That doesn’t make any damn sense. Her case had a suspect, but he wasn’t convicted—”

“Yeah, Lucky pulled it out of the archives himself. He and the rookies went down there a few days ago to look for similar cases. And Lucky knew the details of her case, so he was looking for her case. When he gave Mac the list of cases to reopen, Mac only sent the first two. He didn’t include Elizabeth’s.”

He hesitated. “He didn’t include it—”

“Taggert told me Mac gave him some sort of excuse about how Elizabeth’s case didn’t have physical evidence and, because of Baker, might have reasonable doubt. But that doesn’t explain why the lab says they have no record her kit was ever sent to them and the dress itself doesn’t have any notation it was sent anywhere.”  Kelsey shook her head. “Taggert doesn’t want to call it a cover-up, but either it’s a massive screw up—”

“Or someone wanted her case to disappear.” Scott let his head fall to the surface of the table with a loud thud. “Of all the cases in all the world, Floyd and Mac had to fuck up Elizabeth Webber’s. A young woman we narrowly avoided getting killed this summer. Fan-fucking-tastic. I quit.”

“He sent her kit over with the other nine to the lab.” Kelsey waited to continue speaking until Scott had gathered himself. “I also filed a court order to get Baker’s DNA tested. Elizabeth’s profile matches the other rapes, so I want to exclude him. But I don’t know what to do with all the rest of it. Baker was in jail for the rest of the attacks.”

“Let’s…” Scott took a deep breath. “Okay. When can we expect the DNA on all seven cases to come back?”

“I put a rush order on all of them, but I moved Webber to the top of the list. Maybe the first week of September.”

“Okay,” he repeated. “Tell Taggert to keep investigating, but let’s keep a lid on the case. If her case doesn’t have DNA, we can’t do anything with it anyway. And if she’s believed the right guy is in jail and has been all along, I am in no hurry to bring that trauma up. Not after what she’s been through.”

Not after the horrifying notes Gail had made about Ric Lansing drugging her to have sex. The last thing Elizabeth Webber needed to think was her first rapist was on the loose, too. Motherfucker.

“Scott-”

“I want to have all my ducks in a row before I accuse the commissioner and Floyd—because he’s damn well involved—of covering up the rape of a teenaged girl.” He swallowed hard. “Because that’s not the Mac Scorpio I’ve known for a decade. He has stepdaughters he’s raised practically since birth. He adores them. I can see holding off on a public warning, but actively covering up for another rapist—there has to be a reason.”

“Maybe,” Kelsey said. She sighed. “Lucky and I decided we’d bring this to you because we’ve only been here five minutes, and I think Taggert will probably go along with it but promise me…promise me we’re not going to let this slide. This is…this is sickening. This case, from the start, has been screwed up, but to know it goes so far back—” She shook her head. “I can’t deal with it.”

“I don’t care if I have to broadcast the news myself. If I can prove the PCPD and the mayor’s office covered up a rapist who was then allowed to continue operating, leading to six more rapes and the death of a young girl—I’ll burn this city to the ground.”

Monday, July 28, 2003

 General Hospital: Gail Baldwin’s Office

Elizabeth sat on Gail’s sofa with a smile on her face. “You’ll be happy to hear that I just had my check up with Monica and she said everything looks great.”

“Really?” Gail asked as she set her notebook in her lap. “Your scans are still good?”

“Not a clot in sight. I’ll still have to be careful about exertion because I still get winded easily, but she said that should really start to subside as long as I stick to the physical therapy regimen.” She smirked and rolled her eyes. “And once Jason gets his hand on it, there’s no chance I’ll slack off.”

“He’s still taking your health more seriously than you I see,” Gail said, and Elizabeth winced at the admonition in her therapist’s voice.

“We haven’t argued about it since last week, but yes, Jason is a little more…” She hesitated. “Obsessed with it than I am. He’s been better, though and we’ve been…” Her cheeks flushed. “We went out of town Saturday night. Just overnight to a place he knows in the Adirondacks, not that far away. But we’re…we’re okay in that area, too. As long as he knows where the oxygen mask is.”

“Sounds romantic,” Gail quipped, and Elizabeth managed a short laugh. “That doesn’t bother you?”

“You mean, do I love the fact that the two or three times we’ve been intimate since last week, he stops everything to make sure the mask is within reach if I need it—” She grimaced. “It would, except I needed it on Saturday night, and it was right there. So, no panic attack. No hyperventilating. No embarrassing check up with my boyfriend’s mother in the middle of the night.” She shrugged. “Seems like an even trade. I get Jason, and he gets to make sure I’m alive.”

“I have to say…considering your hearing on Friday, you seem remarkably upbeat. You received my message about the special master?” Gail asked. “I’m so very sorry—”

“You have a court order, Gail. And, no, I’m not surprised Ric is trying anything he can to mess with my credibility. But what is he going to learn from those notes? That I had a damaged view of myself last year? That I thought so little of myself that Ric seemed like the best option?”

Elizabeth sighed, some of her cheer fading. “How does that change the medical reports or Carly’s testimony? I hate that he’s going to have an open window into my relationship with Jason, but you know? It’s more important that I get this right, with Jason, I mean. To understand why I did the things I did last year—to be able to think clearly and make good choices.”

She crossed her legs at the ankle. “I had a run-in with Courtney last week—we talked about that, remember?”

“Yes.”

“And…I remember trying to explain to Jason how knowing he’d gone to the Quartermaines and the police when I was kidnapped—how that would have helped me understand him more last summer. He’s so contained, Gail. I mean, he’s better than he was, but he still keeps so much locked away. And all I could see was him leaving me. Every time he had the chance, he left me to go to someone else…and…”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Somewhere along the way…I decided it was difficult to love me, and that most of the time, people didn’t think I was worth the effort. That’s why…they left. Or forgot me. Or moved on. I thought…there’s something inside of me that makes it impossible for someone to promise forever and mean it.”

“Do you still think it?” Gail asked.

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. “I know I felt that way when I had the miscarriage. I think that’s what made losing the baby so much worse. I thought…I thought I would be a good mother. That I would love my child and give them the unconditional love I never had. And you know, it’s horrible to think this way…but with my baby, I wouldn’t be alone anymore. That I would just have someone who would love me just for…just for what I was.” She met Gail’s eyes. “That’s too much pressure for a baby, I guess.”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”

Elizabeth shrugged. “I just…I made so many choices out of fear of being alone, but I guess I never thought about why I didn’t want to be alone. Why was I so desperate for Lucky to love me? For Jason to put me first? For Ric to give up his vendetta against Sonny? Why would I have…ignored all my instincts and stay when my feelings weren’t there. I agreed to marry Lucky and Ric, and I didn’t really love either of them.” She shrugged. “And you know…I did it because they were going to stay. And God, I guess…that was…I guess I was measuring love by whether someone stuck.”

Elizabeth looked out the window. “I should have found another way to measure it, I guess. It should be more than someone who doesn’t go away.”

“What should it be?”

“It should be…” She hesitated. “Someone who comes back. Who…doesn’t know what you’re thinking, but I guess, but can understand why you think it. Someone who…” she managed a half smile. “Who can cook but eats out because you can’t. Or will let you struggle with something he could do in five minutes because you’re trying to make a point and he respects you. Who watches movies even though he hates it because he knows you like cuddling on the sofa. Who compromises by making sure there’s an oxygen mask because he gets how important it is for you to feel normal and in love when he’d rather wrap you in cotton and keep the world away.”

Another tear slid down her cheek. “Someone who’s honest even when it hurts. Who doesn’t stay because he has nowhere else to go but because there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.” She looked at Gail. “It’s not hard to love me, is it? Jason’s shown me for years what it was supposed to be. I just didn’t know what I was looking at.”

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Mac paced his office, checked his watch, and swore when Floyd arrived, ten minutes later than their scheduled meeting time. “You know, you could return a few phone calls—”

“What’s so important that you’ve been badgering my secretary for the last week?” the mayor demanded, folding his arms across his chest. “I thought we agreed that I should make fewer visits—”

“Taggert sent officers down to cold storage to look at open cases, looking for a link to this guy.” Mac dragged both hands through his curly hair. “And he sent Spencer who damn well knew that the Webber case was supposed to be there.”

“So, it’s a mistake.” Floyd shrugged. “Her case was considered unofficially solved. Taggert knows that—”

“Dara Jensen called me this morning to ask why Scott Baldwin is asking her about the Webber case and if it was routine for her to check in lab reports a month after they were received.”

Floyd grimaced. “I knew we should have back dated that report to November.” He leaned against the table. “So?”

“So, Taggert sent the rape kit over for testing because he says it was never processed in the first place. I played it off like it was a mistake, but…” Mac shook his head. “You’re going to blame this all on me?”

“Should it come out?” Floyd lifted his brows. “Of course. That’s the deal. Now if it comes back at me, I can throw Edward Quartermaine under the bus. He’s committed so many atrocities against his own family, I highly doubt they’d think was beneath him. You’re worried about this too much. There are only three days left to file paperwork to run against me. By the end of the week, I’ll be officially running unopposed.”

“And how does that help me?” Mac demanded. “Look, maybe I should just come clean. I should resign.” He took a deep breath.  “That’s the right thing to do. I wanted to do it after Brooke, but maybe I’ve just been on borrowed time.”

“You told me Baker was the guy,” Floyd hissed, stabbing a finger at him. “You told me that he confessed. That you believed the Webber girl when she said he confessed. Do you think for one minute either one of us would have falsified that report and closed her case if we’d thought he was still out there?”

“I know I wouldn’t have,” Mac said, with a lift of his chin. “But this guy—the cases are too similar—”

“What purpose does it serve for you to come clean and resign?” With a firm shake of his head, Floyd rejected that premise. “Listen to me, you feel guilty, fine. You think the guy got away, fine. Make it right. Find the guy.”

Mac scowled but the mayor just left. Even if he found the guy, even if they were able to put him away for what he’d done to these women, if it was true that Mac had made Elizabeth’s case go away and left the real rapist out on the streets…

There was no making it right. He’d be handing in his badge one way or another. As soon as this case was closed.

This city deserved a better commissioner, and he hoped like hell a better man than Floyd ran for mayor.

Quartermaine Estate: Poolside

 Dillon scowled down at the computer and deleted the entire chunk of text he’d just typed. Nothing he’d worked on in the last week had been worth keeping, and just like every other screenplay he’d tried to create, this one would go in the trash.

He wanted to get away from everything, had told Reginald that, barring an emergency, no one needed to know where he was.

But better men than Reginald had fallen under the spell of a pretty girl, so Dillon was unsurprised when Georgie turned the corner around a hedge and offered him a sheepish wave. They hadn’t spoken since Brooke’s memorial the week before, and Dillon was okay with that. More okay than maybe he would have been considering they’d been dating for a few months.

But maybe she was here to ask for forgiveness, to apologize for defending her stepfather only days after Brooke had taken her own life. And Dillon could understand if Georgie had lashed out in loyalty. Her fierce devotion to people was one of his favorite things.

“Hey,” she said, taking a seat in the lounge chair across from him. “I always forget this is back here.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of the appeal. I’m the only one who uses it. Emily’s usually too busy.” Brooke had used it a few times, but he left that unspoken.

“When did you guys get back from New York?” Georgie asked.

“I drove back up with Alan on Saturday. Ned and Grandfather stayed until today to go over some business stuff, I think.” Dillon eyed her. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I just…I felt so awful about how we left things last week,” Georgie said. She sighed. “I shouldn’t have said that about Brooke. And of course, you blame everyone. I blame myself, too. We should have been nicer to her. Done more for her after, I don’t know. But…”

And she’d been doing so well. “Georgie, please don’t tell me you came over to plead your stepfather’s case again—”

“I’m not, not really. I just—” She shook her head. “I just thought with some time to calm down, you’d see that blaming someone and them actually being responsible are different. I know Mac didn’t do everything right—”

“He didn’t do anything right—” he bit off the rest of protest and shook his head violently. He closed his laptop, set it on the table next to him before getting to his feet. “I can’t believe you’re doing this again. Georgie, Brooke is dead.”

“And Mac isn’t—”

“I don’t know if she meant to take all those pills or if it was an accident, but either way, she had those pills because some asshole raped her and beat her within an inch of her life. He violated her, and your stepfather—he knew the park was being targeted. He took the time to warn his own kids but said fuck it to everyone else.” Dillon clenched his fists at his side. “So, if you don’t understand why the hell I think Mac should be fired—at the very least—then I don’t think we have anything else to say to each other.”

“Fine!” Georgie threw up her hands and whirled around to find Ned standing just inside the fence that surrounded the pool. “Um—”

“Don’t bother with condolences,” Ned said coolly, “or allow me to interrupt your storming out.”

Georgie’s face was bright red as she rushed past by Ned and fled.

“I’m sorry,” Dillon said, sinking back onto the pool lounger. “You don’t need to be hearing that shit.”

“She’s young,” Ned said after a moment. He sat on the lounger Georgie had vacated. “And she loves Mac. She’ll come around.”

“Yeah, but I think the part where we date is done now.” Dillon grimaced. “I didn’t realize you and Grandfather were back.”

“Just a little while ago. We, ah, stayed in the city for a meeting.” Ned hesitated. “We were hiring a campaign manager.”

“Oh, yeah, you found someone to run against the dick?” Dillon asked as he slid his laptop into his bag. “Who?”

“Me,” Ned admitted. “We filed notice on the way home. It’s surprisingly easy to get listed on the ballot run as an independent.”

“You?” Dillon repeated. “I didn’t see that coming—but I guess that’s good.” He hesitated. “But it means the press will be talking about Brooke all the time—”

“Which means they can’t forget about her case,” Ned said. “But yeah, it’ll be hard. I talked to Lois. She’s okay with it.” He studied his younger brother. “What do you think?”

“I think anyone is better than Floyd, even a Quartermaine,” Dillon said, only half-joking. He was relieved, and more than a little pleased, to see Ned laugh.

Maybe they’d be okay after all.

Condo: Bedroom

Elizabeth was already sitting up in bed, sketching, when she heard the front door open. Jason hadn’t promised to come by that night—only said he’d try to but there was a lot of work at the warehouse. But he was here.

When he appeared in the doorway, she smiled at him. “Hey. You look beat.”

“Yeah, it was a long day.”

She watched as he stripped down to his briefs and tossed his jeans and t-shirt into a duffel bag he kept in the corner of the room. “I cleared out part of the dresser.”

Jason turned to look at her. “What?”

Her cheeks were hot as she continued. “If you…wanted to keep clothes here. I could…um…wash them when I do mine.” Elizabeth bit her lip as he continued to stare at her. “I mean, it seems kind of crazy for you to keep going back and forth. You could just…keep them here.”

He sat on her side of the bed and she crossed her legs, moving into a sitting position to give him room. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, I mean…I know we haven’t really talked about it before…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I got my all-clear from Monica, so we’re fine on that front, but I also…I had kind of a breakthrough with Gail today. Something she said we’ve been working towards for the last few weeks, and it’s just…encouraged me to make sure I’m taking charge. Creating the life I want.”

Jason hesitated. “Okay—”

“When we talked about last summer, I said I had this thing about staying, but I didn’t want to get into it. The thing is…I needed to get into it. I needed to understand why I doubted you last year. Why I doubted myself. And why I keep making decisions out of fear.”

“You’ve been through a lot—”

“I have, but it’s not why.” She took his hand in hers, tracing the lines on his skin, the rough calluses on his fingers. “People tend to have a hard time loving me.” When he scowled, she added, “And I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about my parents. My sister. My brother. My grandmother. Even Lucky at first. And they all…left me. So somewhere along the line…I decided it was me. That I should work harder to make people stay. To make them love me.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Okay.”

“Knowing that doesn’t really fix anything, but it does…I can step outside of myself and see it. I look at you…and even after everything we’ve been through…sometimes I think there’s no reason you’ll stay. No reason to believe I can make you happy.” She took a deep breath. “But I don’t feel that way all the time. Most of the time, I can shut the voices up. It’s just…it’s hard for me to trust that I can do this. That we can make this work.”

“Elizabeth…”

“But the only way for me to get over it is to just…” Elizabeth shrugged. “Is to just do it. I’ve been scared to ask you about what’s next. What you want from me. What you want from us. And I keep hoping you’ll do it first, but I think you haven’t brought it up because maybe you’re just as scared as I am.”

“For a long time,” Jason began, looking down at their intertwined hands. “I didn’t think about the future. I didn’t really know what to do with the idea of one. I didn’t have a past, I couldn’t think past the moment. And, you know, Robin felt the same way. She didn’t really think of herself as having a future even though she planned for one.” He looked up, met her eyes. “But I want to think about it. With you.”

“Okay.” She smiled. “So, I’m going to start by being honest with you about what I want. And if it’s not what you want, you need to tell me that, okay?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

She bit her lip and looked down at their joined hands. “I want you to keep your clothes here. I mean, I guess you can keep your room at Jake’s if you want, but I want you to be here at night. And when you want us to, we can go to the penthouse. And maybe you can teach me to cook so we stop spending all our money on takeout.” She peeked up at him to find him smiling. “How are we doing so far?”

“All good things. I can bring over my stuff tomorrow—”

“Okay, good. Because I…I want children.”

His smile slipped just a bit as his eyes widened. “What?”

“Not now,” Elizabeth said immediately. “I mean, I said Monica gave me all the clear, but I still have physical therapy to deal with and I need to figure out what kind of career I’m gonna have, but…I want a family, Jason. And that’s going to be a deal breaker.” Her heart was pounding as she continued. “I don’t want to hear in a year or two that it’s too dangerous and we have to stop—”

“It’s never going to be perfect,” Jason cut in. “And I can’t promise you one hundred percent safety, but I won’t walk away from you because of it. And I would never walk away from a child. Which…” He nodded. “Yeah, I want that, too. When you want it. When you’re ready.”

“Okay.” She just stared at him. “Really?”

“Really.” He leaned forward and kissed her, sliding his hands through her hair, then framing her face. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she murmured as she drew him back against the pillows, parting her legs so he could settle between them. “And before you ask…I already set out the oxygen mask.”

He laughed and reached over to switch off the light.

Your update link: Mad World – Chapter 36.

I’m really glad the posting schedule worked out this way so that 36 was the last one over the weekend. It represents the end of part one and it’s the last one set in July 2003. Next week, we’re jumping into September.  I’m starting to final coalesce around another umbrella story for Book 3. I just have to figure out how to make the pieces fit together.

Fool Me Twice is starting to come along a bit more — I’m still fine-tuning my schedule, and most days I can write during my eight period prep because I go in an hour earlier and get a lot done during my lunch to give me the full 40 minutes. I’ve written about three scenes this week and hope to pick up the pace next week. I’m nearly done with one of my subplots, and then I’m going to tackle one of the major plots. Then I’ll move my way back and piece together the rest of the story. I think that’ll probably work. I’ll keep you guys posted.

September 23, 2019

Your Update Link: Mad World – Chapter Thirty-Five

Hey! Sorry this update post is so late! The chapter was up at 7, but I got distracted at work and haven’t had a chance to deal with it until now. This week’s chapters are the halfway point in this book — when we come back on Monday, the story picks up in September. I’m reallllly excited to be getting to this part of the story. I’ve moved a lot of pieces around, set up a lot of things and I feel like the last 14 chapters are just jam-packed with a lot of emotion and action. This chapter also has one of my favorite scenes — the ending scene with Ned and Lois. Hope you like it!

Your Update Link: Mad World – Chapter Thirty-Five

Hey! Sorry this update post is so late! The chapter was up at 7, but I got distracted at work and haven’t had a chance to deal with it until now. This week’s chapters are the halfway point in this book — when we come back on Monday, the story picks up in September. I’m reallllly excited to be getting to this part of the story. I’ve moved a lot of pieces around, set up a lot of things and I feel like the last 14 chapters are just jam-packed with a lot of emotion and action. This chapter also has one of my favorite scenes — the ending scene with Ned and Lois. Hope you like it!

This entry is part 16 of 31 in the series All of Me

I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow

Every step that I take is another mistake to you
Numb, Linkin Park


Friday, July 25, 2003

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Bobbie stirred sugar into her coffee and grimaced as she looked at her watch. “Elizabeth’s hearing starts in two hours. I wonder if she’ll change her mind.”

“She seemed pretty sure when she called yesterday.” Carly sighed. “She feels the same way I do about the trial, Mama. She told me that she and Jason talked about it, and we’re on the same page.”

“And Sonny is the odd man out,” Bobbie said, with a lift of her brows. “Well, he’s never been one to trust the police. I’m surprised Jason is going along with it—but—” She pursed her lips. “Maybe not. If Elizabeth said this is what she needs—”

“I knew he’d listen to her on this. Just like I know he’d have agreed to it if it was just me. It’s just…” Carly shook her head. “I understand why Sonny…I get it. But I’m kind of tired of this attitude he has—Courtney has a little bit of it, too. This—I get how awful that week must have been for the people looking for me. I mean, I watched Elizabeth and Jason—I watched you when you came over. And I know Sonny had a breakdown. I know all of that, but at the same time—is it wrong to be angry that everyone is treating my trauma like it happened to them personally?”

“No—”

“I mean, I’m in the hospital, barely recovering, and Courtney wants to know if I could see any evidence of an affair on the monitors. And Sonny keeps talking about how they all went through it, but I’m sorry, Mama —” She bit her lip. “And maybe I’m starting to get why you wanted him to talk to someone.”

“I just…I wonder how much more could have been accomplished if Sonny had been involved. If he’d been another set of eyes. I mean, what Nikolas suggested about a panic room—that shouldn’t have been brand-new information to us. It shouldn’t have taken us until Friday to talk to Ned and learn about Faith and Ric. But Elizabeth had her overdose less than twelve hours after you went missing. She nearly died, Carly. And after that—”

“She became someone else Jason had to worry about.” Carly said, with a sigh. “She refused to leave which ended up being the right call, but—” She shook her head. “I just…I want this to be over, and part of me wants Sonny to just…make a call and end it. To make it over tonight. It’d be so easy and—” Tears stung her as she looked away from her mother. “To be able to lie my head down tonight and know he wasn’t in the world anymore—it’s disgusting how much he hangs over me and he’s not even in the zip code.”

“But you still want to testify.”

“I think—and knowing Kevin, he’d agree—that maybe I’m still processing the worst of it. I said it out loud to Sonny the other day and had a panic attack about ten minutes later. And no, I didn’t tell you when I got to your place that night, Mama, because I knew you’d worry. I had the guard drive me around for a while.”

“Carly—”

“Ric was going to kill me. He was going to keep me in that room for as long as he could, then kill me and take my baby to give to Elizabeth. And if Michael hadn’t seen him, if Jason and Sonny hadn’t gone to the house that night and found Elizabeth drugged up—”

“It haunts me how close we came to losing you, Carly.” Bobbie swallowed hard. “It was easier for Elizabeth to believe what happened because we were there, telling her she was drugged. And Ric only doubled her dose because he doubted her. But if she hadn’t believed, if Michael hadn’t seen you—”

“I might have been in there for weeks,” Carly murmured. “Longer. Maybe Ric would have been able to move me. And it’s hard to admit how close it all was. How if one thing had been different, I might still be gone.” She sighed. “I think I need to look him in the face, Mama, so I can put it away. I need to be the reason he’s gone. I need to be part of it. And I need to know that he’s rotting away, dying in a cell, just the way I nearly did. So yeah, as easy as it would be to just tell Sonny to hell with everything else, end it tonight—it wouldn’t stop the nightmares. It wouldn’t stop the panic attacks.”

She picked up her fork to stab at her omelet. “And if Sonny doesn’t understand that, then I don’t know where that leaves us. Because if he gives the order—”

“Will Jason allow it?” Bobbie finished. “I hope we won’t have to find out.”

Warehouse: Sonny’s Office

 “I don’t know what the hell Carly is thinking,” Sonny said as he paced the confines of his office. He turned back to Jason who remained sitting quietly in his seat. “Doesn’t she get how weak this makes me look—”

“To who?” Jason asked, interrupting him. He’d listened to Sonny complain about Carly’s decision to testify and her request that Ric be allowed to rot away in prison. He hadn’t been surprised to learn Carly’s wishes aligned with Elizabeth—in a lot of ways, the two of them were similar though he’d probably be risking his life if he told either of them that.

And he couldn’t understand why Sonny was turning Carly’s reasonable request into some sort of betrayal. He wanted Ric wiped from the face of the Earth, too, but as long as he was sent to prison, away from Elizabeth and Carly, Jason could live with not actually seeing him dead.

If he ever got out—if he were a free man—well, that was a different situation entirely.

“Zacchara? Ruiz?” Sonny sneered. “They’re going to think I’m weak, that I can’t handle my business—”

“And they’d be right, wouldn’t they?” Jason said, irritated for having let Elizabeth head to the courthouse without him because Sonny wanted to have a meeting. Once again, he hadn’t been there for her because of Sonny. He promised himself this would be the last time.

“What the hell does that mean—”

“It means you should have taken Ric out back and shot him months ago,” Jason shot back. “When you learned about the shit he did to Carly. When he kidnapped Courtney. When he tried to kill you. He shouldn’t have been breathing long enough to get to Carly again, to put a hand on Elizabeth. But you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t kill your mother’s son. Do you think you don’t already look weak?”

Sonny glared at him. “You think I’m a coward for letting him live?”

“I think I don’t give a damn—” Jason bit off his words. “Elizabeth wants to testify, too. And she also wants Ric to rot in prison. So that’s what going to happen—”

“If I give the order—”

“I’ll refuse it. I’m not breaking a promise to her because you need to feel strong, Sonny. And you can’t do it without me,” Jason said even as his partner opened his mouth to protest. “I’m the one with the prison connections. You wouldn’t even know who to ask.”

He exhaled slowly. “Carly went through hell. She gets to decide how this goes. Ric didn’t go after her because of who you are in business, Sonny. He did it because of your blood. It was personal. You had your chance to get rid of Ric.”

“You’d refuse a direct order—” Sonny stared at him blankly. “After everything Ric did to Elizabeth, you’d let him live—”

Jason checked the clock on the wall. He’d have to leave now if he had a prayer of making it to the hearing on time. “Look, she and I agreed — she gets to testify and if he goes to prison, he gets to rot there. If he gets acquitted, if he gets out on parole, all bets are off. I have to go, Sonny.”

“Where the hell do you have to go that’s more important?” Sonny demanded.

Jason got to his feet, impatient. “To the courthouse. Elizabeth might still have to testify, even though—”

Sonny blinked. “Testify? Wait.” He held up his hands, some color draining from his face. “Did I—what day is it? I don’t—when did the trial start? Did—”

His ire drained, Sonny sat down. “Did I lose time again? What day is it?” he repeated, his voice climbing in volume and tone.

“It’s July 25, Sonny. And it’s Elizabeth’s hearing about the restraining order. She’s not pushing hard to renew it, but the judge still might ask her to testify.” Weary now, Jason shook his head. “You need to talk to someone, Sonny. I thought after Carly was found, things would get better. But it’s not. And you’ve lost track of time before. You need—”

“I need the people in my life to do what hell the I say!” Sonny jumped back to his feet. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“I have to go,” Jason repeated and then left, even as his partner sputtered in protest.

Port Charles Courthouse: Courtroom

 “Am I reading this correctly, counselor?” the judge asked as he peered at Diane Miller over the top of his glasses. “Your client has decided against testifying in today’s hearing?”

Elizabeth stared straight ahead at the judge. She hadn’t seen Ric since that terrible morning at the house almost a month earlier when she’d had to protect herself with a baseball bat, and she’d realized, just outside of the courtroom, that she wasn’t entirely ready to see him now.

But she knew she had people behind her that cared. Emily and Monica had come to give her support, while other members of the family had gone to Bensonhurst to bury Brooke. Scott and Bobbie were sitting in the front row, while Jason had taken a seat next to his sister and mother. Even Taggert and Cruz Rodriguez had shown up.

She had people behind her that cared, and that mattered.

“Your Honor, my client feels now that she has filed for divorce and moved out of the marital home, along with the fact that the defendant has moved to Crimson Point, her order is unlikely to be renewed. Putting herself through testifying would be useless.” Diane lifted her brows with a smirk. “Particularly given Your Honor’s history with the case.”

“Don’t get cute, Ms. Miller, or I’ll find you in contempt—”

“He means it, too!” Scott called out as Bobbie elbowed him. “Ow! Just giving her a warning.”

The judge ignored the outburst and looked at Elizabeth. “Mrs. Lansing—” Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest but the judge held up a hand. “I apologize. Miss Webber.” He eyed Ric’s table. “You might want to correct your legal petitions to the court, Mr. Lansing. Referring to her with a name that she never took doesn’t bode well for your case and makes me wonder if maybe Miss Webber might be better off with a formal, permanent order of protection after all.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped slightly as Diane scowled. “Politics,” she muttered. “The judge took a beating in the press after the way your case was handled. He’s up for re-election this year.”

“I apologize, Your Honor,” Ric said smoothly, his voice causing Elizabeth to shudder. “In my defense, I gave my…estranged wife…the necessary paperwork and she told me she had filed it.”

A lie. He’d given Elizabeth the paperwork, she’d said she’d get to it, and that had been the end of it. But it wasn’t important anymore.

“Miss Webber,” the judge began again. “Does Ms. Miller state your case correctly? Do you not intend to testify? Do you not think a protection order is warranted?”

“To be honest,” Elizabeth said, as she stood. “I didn’t intend to put myself through Ric Lansing’s cross-examination at this point because I didn’t think you’d renew the order anyway. It’s no doubt reached Mr. Lansing’s attention that I have reunited with the man I was dating before I met my estranged husband. I worried you might see my moving on as some sort of sign that I wasn’t…”  Afraid was not the right word. God, she didn’t want to admit it, but—  “That morning, when he threw me across the room, when he grabbed me, chased me—I was terrified. I knew he’d kidnapped Carly, I knew he’d drugged me. But somehow…I didn’t think he was capable of that.”

She took a deep breath. “And despite my charges of assault against him, Your Honor, you agreed to a temporary injunction that gave him power over me as I recovered from an illness he was responsible for and then kept him from being arrested for nearly killing me and kidnapping Carly Corinthos. So, with all due respect, Your Honor, I’d rather have the protection order, but I didn’t trust the system to grant it.”

The judged stared at her for a long moment with a furrowed brow, as if not sure whether to find her in contempt as he’d threatened her lawyer or just ignore her outburst. “Miss Webber, if I decide not to grant your request, you understand that Mr. Lansing will be allowed to contact you. He’s serving as his own attorney in the case you referred to.”

“And it’s my understanding that if I decline to sit for an interview with him, asking me again would count as witness harassment and intimidation,” Elizabeth said.  “Which might cause his bail to be revoked.” She looked at Ric who was almost smirking at her in return. “So, let this serve as your notice. Mr. Lansing, that it will be a cold day in hell before that happens. The next time you and I see one another will be in a court room to make sure you pay for what you did to me and to Carly.”

“Your Honor,” Ric protested. “I have every right to build the case to clear my name, and we’re in the middle of divorce proceedings. Contacting her—”

“Miss Webber, I’m granting a renewal of the protection order,” the judge said. “For an additional six months.” He banged the gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

Ric scowled, but gathered his papers, then stalked out. Taggert and Cruz got up and followed, likely to make sure he actually left the premises and didn’t hang out to wait for Elizabeth afterwards.

Elizabeth blinked and looked at Diane. “Why did that work?”

“I’m not sure…” Diane frowned as she twisted in her seat to look at Scott. “Thoughts, Scott?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Scott said with a shrug. “Maybe a few calls from some well-placed donors reminded him who the hell he was here to serve. He wants to win re-election in November, he can’t afford to annoy some people.”

“Some people?” Elizabeth repeated only to catch Emily’s eye as her best friend, Monica, and Jason joined them at the front of the court room. “Emily—”

“Grandfather was more than happy to make a few phone calls on your behalf, Liz. He’s feeling really helpless with everything that’s going on with Ned and Brooke, so this was something he could do. And Nikolas also made some calls from London.”

“I appreciate the support.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’m glad we were able to get the order renewed without Carly having to testify. I think we both only really want to do this once, you know?”

She looked at Scott, who raised his brows at her. “We haven’t—we’re still talking about it, Scott. But I know I’m leaning towards a trial.”

“We got time, Elizabeth. This was a win today.” He looked at Bobbie. “Do you want a ride home or am I still in trouble?”

“You’re always in trouble,” Bobbie muttered but she followed the district attorney out of the room. Within twenty minutes, Jason and Elizabeth were able to extract themselves from the rest of the crowd and head for the parking garage where Jason parked his SUV.

Once inside the car, Jason exhaled slowly and just sat for a moment before starting the engine.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth leaned back against the headrest, her eyes closed. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m glad the judge changed his mind and renewed the order. With any luck, six months from now, the trial will be over, and he’ll be sentenced.” She looked at Jason. “Carly and I didn’t talk long yesterday, but I got the impression Sonny is maybe less on board than you are.”

“He thinks letting Ric live makes him look weak,” Jason admitted. “But I made it clear to him — this is what you and Carly want. This is what you guys get. It’s not up to me and Sonny. This isn’t business, it’s personal and—” He hesitated. “He’s not doing well, Elizabeth. He thought the trial was today.”

“He’s still refusing to get help?”

“He came close after Carly was rescued, but…he’s been doing this for years. Crashing, getting well again, sliding towards the edge again—”

“Jason—”

“Carly and I—we’ve been good at keeping him together. We just…it’s hard right now—with Ric.”

Elizabeth bit her lip and stared out the windshield at the cement walls of the parking garage. “If letting Ric go to trial and live in prison is such an issue, if Carly changes her mind, then I—”

“No.” He shook his head. “You told me this is what you need. I’m not going to asking to you change your mind because of Sonny—”

“You’re not asking me, Jason. I’m offering. I know how scary it was for Sonny to hallucinate Lily, and I don’t want to create problems with him—”

“You’re not, Elizabeth—” He looked at her. “You told me that you hated when I put them first—”

“And you listened. That matters, Jason. But it’s important that I listen to you. So, let’s…it’s an option I’m willing to consider if Carly ends up changing her mind, okay?”

“Okay.” Jason switched on the engine. “Let’s get out of here.”

Brownstone: Front Steps

Lucky leaned against the car as he waited for Kelsey to stop scowling at her phone. “It’s good news,” he repeated. “The last thing PCPD or the DA’s office needs is Ric Lansing with the freedom to go near Elizabeth.”

“I know, I know—” Kelsey finally shoved her phone in her purse and climbed out of his car. He shut the door. “I guess I’m just—I’m nervous. This is a huge case, and Scott’s trying so hard to do the right thing. He offered them a deal to avoid testifying—”

“Yeah.” Lucky rolled his shoulders. “Yeah, well he probably feels guilty for railroading my mom—” When she shot him a dirty look, he held up his hand in surrender. “Okay. Fine. I appreciate that Baldwin has approached Elizabeth’s case with this much care, and I know my aunt is relatively happy with him.”

“Yeah.” Kelsey blew out a breath. “Your aunt.” She looked at the Brownstone. “Are you sure we need to go to dinner tonight? I mean, it’s been a long day. I’m sure your aunt is tired—”

Lucky put his arm around her shoulders and propelled towards the stairs. “Hey, are you and I serious about doing this? You still want to date me?”

“Yes.” Kelsey wrinkled her nose, looked at him. “Yes. But if I have to meet your family, you have to meet mine. My mother is coming up to see me next month, and I want you to come to dinner with us.” She stopped him before he could open the front door. “And Scott.”

“Oh, man—” Lucky grimaced. “Kelsey—”

“You don’t have to like him,” she told him. “But I think we’ve moved past the part where we declare a neutral zone, you know? He’s my boss, and he’s someone that—” She bit her lip. “He’s a connection to my father. And I miss my dad, so sometimes, I can still feel close to him because my dad really loved Scott.”

“Okay.” He kissed her forehead. “Okay. Now, c’mon, I want you to meet my Aunt Bobbie. She’s been the rock of the Spencer family for most of my life, and she’s important to me.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry in advance about my sister, though. There’s no explaining her.”

Kelsey laughed as he opened the door and gestured for her to go inside.

Brooklyn, New York

 Cerullo Home: Front Porch

 When Ned stepped out the front door, he found Lois sitting in a patio chair on the cramped porch of her family’s home. With a glass of wine in her hand, his ex-wife sat in stony silence, oblivious to the sound of conversation coming from inside.

“I wondered how long you’d last,” Lois said sourly as Ned leaned against the porch post and looked out over the streets of Bensonhurst. “Ma never really liked you after we got divorced.”

“Well, she never really believed I was good enough for you.” Ned sipped his water. “Thank you. For letting my family come.”

“Yeah, well, that was Ma and Liv’s idea. Me? I don’t want to think about Port Charles again. You and me never have to talk again.”

Ned exhaled slowly and gently sat at the top of the stairs, his back to Lois. “Fair enough. I loved you. Part of me always will. I wanted to believe I could be the man that you thought I was. Eddie Maine. The good guy who did good things for the right reasons. I wanted that life. I wanted it with you.”

“You chose not to have it with me. Don’t give me none of that bull about what’s in your blood and how you’ll never be different—”

“It’s easy to blame my family,” Ned said, cutting in almost as if Lois hadn’t spoken. “Easier to think I couldn’t escape being Edward Ashton, but you’re right. I chose to lie to you about who I was. Chose to bring you to Port Charles. Chose to break promises to you, to put my family over you. I did all of that. And I knew even as I was doing it, I was hurting you. I was arrogant. I thought you’d stay with me. You’d already forgiven me for so much, I just assumed your generosity was a bottomless well I could never drain.”

Lois sat beside him and sighed. “Yeah, well, I was sure the man I loved was buried somewhere deep inside of you. That if I could just hold on tight, show you how much I loved the good in you, you could be that man all the time.”

“Lois—”

“The thing that maybe I didn’t want to see is that it was wrong to want you to change. I mean, I knew you were the kind of guy who not only would lie about his entire identity, but also marry someone else, have an affair…” She grimaced. “Anyway—”

“I was a terrible husband and an even worse father,” Ned continued. “And I don’t blame you for not wanting to have anything to do with me again.”

“It’s—you weren’t a terrible husband and father,” Lois said after a long moment. “It’s easy to blame you,” she continued, echoing his earlier statement. “Because then I don’t have to remember I was fed up with her before I sent her away. I cut her off from NYU. I sent her far from her friends and family. And I was on board with you keeping away the car and the phone. We made those decisions together, Ned.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “Looking at you, thinking of you, it reminds me that we killed her, together. We took away her freedom, her choices, and we drove her into that park. And then when she needed us, we were angry with each other. We’re responsible for her death.”

“Maybe two percent of the responsibility is with us, Lois, but I’m gonna blame the animal who did this to her. Who made her hurt so badly, who took away her security and dignity. We punished her, Lois. Maybe too harshly. But—” Ned swallowed hard. “I’m not going to sue the city. It’s not enough. I don’t want them to just pay. I want to make sure it can’t happen to another family.”

“You mean, you want to clean up the streets of Port Charles?” Lois snorted. “I’ve heard this before. I don’t think it’s possible.”

“Maybe not,” he admitted. “But it’s time for someone to do something. Floyd put all those girls in danger for his political career. You think this is the first time he leaned on Mac to do something like this? You think this is the first cover-up?”

Lois hesitated, then sipped her wine. “Probably not. Ned—”

“I tried to find someone else. I don’t—if I run for mayor, Lois, Brooke’s case doesn’t go away. It stays on the front page. But I don’t want it—” He shook his head. “I’m not using her to get power. And people might come talk to you. If you tell me you can’t handle this, I’ll keep trying to find someone else. I have six more days before the deadline to register for the election.”

She was quiet for a long moment as the sunlight dipped below the horizon at the end of the street. The streetlights flickered on as he waited.

“Losing my little girl was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but maybe I could live with it better if it’d been a car accident.” She finished her wine. “But the city knew the park was being stalked and didn’t even increase police presence. Floyd and anyone who went along with it—they threw our little girl away. Like she didn’t matter. And she’s not the only one. I didn’t do right by Brooke, Ned. Neither of us did. But maybe…maybe if we get someone in there who wouldn’t use it for his power—”

“Ten years ago,” she murmured. “Ten years ago, I probably would have thought you’d be the worst candidate for mayor. You were blackmailing Justus, covering up the accident, but you know…you did all of that to protect your family. Because you protect what’s yours.” She looked at him, met his eyes. “You end up as mayor, Ned, they’re all yours. Every single person. Protect them. Protect them better than we did our girl.”

He exhaled slowly, closed his eyes. “I wouldn’t have done it without your blessing, Lois.”

“Yeah, well, it’s gonna take some time before I can be in the same room with you, and that’s not because I hate you.” They got to their feet and Lois reached out to adjust his tie, smiling up at him almost like she’d done once upon a time. “She had your eyes. The way she carried herself sometimes and smiled at me—I can’t look at you and not see her. Right now…it’s too much.”

She leaned up and brushed a kiss against his lips. “But I’ll always love you and the perfect angel we created together.”

“I’ll always love you, too,” he murmured, kissing her again, remembering what he’d once discarded and taken for granted.

She stepped back and smirked at him, that gorgeous knowing look in her eyes that had always drawn him to her— “I better get back inside to Ma and the others. I’m…I’m glad you came.”

“Me, too.”