Chapter Twenty-Four

December 1, 2003

Corinthos Penthouse

It only took a moment for Elizabeth to realize that Carly was not unconscious or seriously hurt—merely stunned. She propped herself up on one elbow and clutched the other hand to her face.

Sonny blinked and his glazed expression slowly moved from his hand to his wife and for a moment he felt like he was floating. He was above it all and he wondered why she was crying.

For a moment, he was eight years old again and watching his stepfather hit his mother. Adela had had that same look in her eye that first time. That stunned and terrified look–as though she couldn’t believe this was happening to her

Bile rose in Sonny’s throat and he fell to his knees. “Oh, God,” he choked out. “Oh, God, Carly.”

But when he moved towards her, Carly instinctively sought to protect herself and crawled backwards helplessly. Jason stood and put himself between his best friend and his boss, his eyes catching sight of a horrified Elizabeth in the doorway.

“Elizabeth, help Carly to her feet and get her out of here,” he told her softly. There was no room for argument and Elizabeth wouldn’t have known what to protest. She crouched and held out her arms for Carly to grip in her path to standing.

Every limb in the other woman’s body was trembling violently and silent tears were streaming down her face. She’d never dreamed Sonny would turn his rage on her.

Elizabeth wrapped an arm around Carly’s waist and led her from the penthouse. She leaned down and found the keys for Jason’s place on the floor and shakily inserted the key into the lock.

She opened the door, shut it behind her and then helped Carly sit on the couch.

Across the hall, Sonny was shaking his head—almost sobbing. “What did I do?” he kept repeating to himself.

Jason shut the door and went into the kitchen. A few moments later, he emerged with a towel and some ice. He knelt in front of Sonny and took the bleeding hand in his. The blood wasn’t from Carly, Jason noticed with relief—but from overturning the mini bar. He wrapped Sonny’s hand in the towel and set the ice over it. “If you don’t agree to get help, I will force you to do it,” he finally told his former mentor. “Because I know you know what you just did was unacceptable.”

“I didn’t even realize I’d done it until I saw her lying there,” Sonny choked out. “Oh, Jesus, Jason…I hit her. One moment she was standing there–so angry with me and I just—Oh, fuck, I just snapped. I threw some glass and usually—usually that kind of relieves some of the anger in me, you know? I do it to blow off the steam.”

“I know,” Jason agreed. “But it didn’t work this time, did it?”

“No—so I-I overturned the whole bar and this—this rage was still boiling inside. I told her to walk away from me—I swear I did, Jason. I told her to walk away.”

“But Carly doesn’t know how to walk away from anything,” Jason remarked, closing his eyes. And why should she have? Sonny had never hit her before—had never given any indication he’d turn his rage on her.

But he’d been walking a tightrope for some time and he’d begun to stumble that night in October. Jason thought Sonny understood he needed help but then he’d lost it this morning. Completely–attacking anyone in his path. From innocent bystander Brian who was just there to support Courtney to Elizabeth, a girl Sonny had cared about as a friend almost before Jason could remember.

The tightrope had snapped and Sonny had taken a tumble into the darkness he knew so well.

“She was still standing there—still angry, still not afraid of me. She repeated what’d she said. Nobody needed me to fix them. I didn’t want to hear it—I told her to shut up and she just yelled right back at me. I wanted her to just—to just be quiet.” Sonny squeezed his eyes shut. “I hit her. Oh, God, I hit her just like Deke hit my mother. Right across the face–a backhanded slap. How could I have done that? To Carly, Jason. I hit Carly!”

“Yeah, yeah, you did.” Jason stood and had to haul Sonny to his feet. “We’re going to call Dara and you’re going to tell her that you’ve changed your mind. You’re taking a plea and then tomorrow when Scott offers you a deal, you’re taking it.”

“He won’t,” Sonny said hoarsely. “We’ve already gone this route, Jason. He’ll see me rot in hell before he cooperates.”

“He will,” Jason repeated. “Trust me, Sonny. He will offer you a deal to serve the time at a hospital. And you will take it and you go into therapy and you will get better, do you understand me?” he demanded sharply, desperation coloring his tone. This was the man he’d learned so much from–he’d learned how to treat women from Sonny. Respect, Sonny had told him. Always respect them. And never…ever lay a hand on them.

If this could happen to Sonny–the man Jason had always admired–it could happen to anyone.

Sonny nodded miserably. “Anything. Anything so I never have to see that look on Carly’s face again. She and my mother don’t look anything alike–except my mother wore that look for the rest of her life and I would rather slit my wrists before I see it on Carly’s again.”

“Carly will be fine, I will take care of her,” Jason swore. “Go upstairs. Get a shower. Go lie down. I’ll take care of everything.”

Morgan Penthouse

Elizabeth handed her a glass of orange juice. “It’s the only thing Jason has in his refrigerator,” she apologized.

“It’s fine,” Carly said hoarsely, greedily drinking it. She set the half empty glass on the coffee table and wrapped her arms around herself. “I never—I never thought he’d actually hit me.”

A red splotch covered half of Carly’s face and Elizabeth knew without a doubt that it would turn into a rather large and ugly bruise. The two women had never gotten along and suddenly Elizabeth didn’t feel that she could offer the comfort the other women needed so desperately.

“Do you want me to call Courtney?” Elizabeth suggested. “Bobbie?”

“No!” Carly said sharply. She raked her hands through her hair and shook her head. “No one can know. They’ll look at him differently—they’ll look at me differently.”

“This isn’t your fault,” Elizabeth said softly. “I don’t care what he’s going through—none of it makes it your fault.”

“He told me to walk away.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “He told me to walk away and I didn’t. Why can’t I ever learn?”

“You should put some ice on that–it might help it not to bruise as badly,” Elizabeth said softly. “Carly…I wish I knew what to say to help you.”

“There’s nothing you can say.” Carly managed a weak smile. “Point for you for not arguing with Jason back there, though. You’re not really—if it had been Courtney, she would have. She’s his sister and she loves him. She would have tried to help him. But she wouldn’t have understood that the last thing he needed to see was another woman right now.”

“It seems to me that Jason knows Sonny better than anyone. He wanted me to get you out of there. Who am I argue?” Elizabeth stood. “I’ll get some ice—”

“I’ll get it,” Carly said. She stood and started for the kitchen. “And then I just…I need to be alone. It’s not you—”

“It’s fine, Carly.” Elizabeth watched in concern as the other woman retrieved an ice pack and disappeared upstairs.

It was another twenty minutes before Jason finally walked into the room and she immediately jumped up from the sofa. “Are you okay?” she asked immediately.

Jason nodded and rubbed a hand over his face. “I made him call Dara and agree to take a deal from Scott tomorrow. Is…is Carly okay?”

“She’s blaming herself but I guess that’s natural. She’s gonna have one nasty bruise on her face.” Elizabeth gestured towards the stairs. “She said she just wanted to be alone for a bit.”

“How long?”

“About twenty minutes. Jason–”

“I can’t walk you to the docks right now,” he interrupted. “I can’t… I can’t leave them alone up here.”

“I can walk myself. It’s broad daylight, it’ll be fine,” Elizabeth remarked. She hesitated. “Unless…I can stay, if you want.”

“Stay,” Jason said immediately. “Please.”

She nodded. “Sure.” She crossed to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, splaying her hands on his shoulder blades. “I’m so sorry,” Elizabeth said softly. His arms came around her and held her more tightly than he ever had before. He pressed his face into her hair and just stood there—for once accepting the comfort she’d always sought to give him.

Port Charles Grille

Brian glanced around the luxurious dining room. “I still like Webster’s better,” he decided.

Courtney managed a weak smile. “Their coffee is better,” she agreed. She used her fork to push her scrambled eggs around her plate. “So, now that you’ve met the other woman, what do you think of her?”

Brian frowned in confusion at the motive for the question but he answered it anyway. “She seems nice. A little intimidated by your brother but I bet she spends most of her time worrying about everyone else but herself.”

“Why do you say that?” she asked, surprised at his dead on impression.

“The way she stood when we were in the hallway–the way she acted the whole morning. She keeps darting her eyes around to the people near her. Not out of suspicion or guilt but concern. The edges of her nails are bitten down but they’re still polished so she’s definitely got anxiety problems but tries to hide them.”

“This is a bit of your FBI training showing through, huh?” Courtney asked with obvious respect.

Brian shrugged. “They just teach you to look for certain things–like the way someone playing a poker game learns the other person’s tells.” He shifted in his seat and sipped his coffee. “But I think you knew those things about Elizabeth. You were asking my opinion as a man, weren’t you?”

“Maybe,” Courtney admitted reluctantly. “My relationship with Jason was based on–it was more honest than my marriage. Not completely honest, but more honest and it’s hard for me to get the past fact that subconsciously, he wished he was with her the entire time.”

“She’s pretty,” Brian admitted. “Very pretty in that elfin sort of way. The kinds of guys who are attracted to her probably see something in her that they want to fix or protect. She kind of screams that vibe but I don’t think she’s weak at all. And I think that’s probably why she’s still alone–despite being pretty and being a good person who looks out for the people she loves.”

“Jason thinks she walks on water,” Courtney remarked bitterly. “Thinks she can do no wrong.”

“And that’s probably his mistake right there. It doesn’t work between them because he puts her on a pedestal. He probably has this firm idea of who she is in his head and refuses to change it. He thinks she needs his protection. The way he subconsciously came to her defense all morning says that. But I bet she resents that like hell.” He took a bite out of his toast and chewed it slowly. It’d been a while since he’d put his profiling skills to any kind of use and he found the exercise mildly amusing. He’d been curious about the woman Courtney’s husband had slept with and now that his curiosity was satisfied, he still didn’t understand why Jason Morgan would leave a woman who obviously loved him to chase a relationship with another woman who wouldn’t be with him while he treated her like a child

“But you don’t want to sleep with her right?” Courtney asked, injecting false humor into her statement and hating the way her voice shook slightly.

“No, I don’t,” Brian remarked off-handedly. “But I bet you could find a hundred men who don’t and then another hundred who would. This isn’t about her being better than you, Courtney. He didn’t love her better or more, okay?”

“No, he’s just in love with her. And he only loved me. I know enough to see the difference.” She stared at her plate. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

Letting the subject go, Brian finished his toast and cleared his throat. “Your brother is going to snap soon, Courtney. And I’d tell your sister-in-law to make sure she’s not in the room when he does.”

Courtney blinked and stared at him. “How can–why would you say something like that?”

“He’s got this tension in his body and the longer he was around her, the tighter the muscles got. I wasn’t sure at first if it was the idea of being in court, you being hurt by your marriage or Carly herself. The only people Sonny didn’t verbally attack were you and his wife. He holds the two of you very highly. You’re beyond reproach right now because he sees you as the wronged party. He’ll be angry at Jason until he snaps and then he’ll realize Jason’s probably the best friend he has.”

“So why do you think Carly would be in danger?” Courtney asked softly.

“Because she doesn’t live with him and you can see in the way she carries herself that she’s proud of her independence. She’s got a backbone I bet wasn’t there before. The next time you see her, take a look at her shoulders. They’re straight. She holds her head high and you can see it in her face that she’s not used to it. She wears expensive clothes and jewelry that she could never afford on her own–even if her nightclub were the most profitable in town. She’s had a year or more of complete dependence on your brother and this independence is new to her but she’s proud of it. And she’ll fight to keep it. Your sister-in-law reminds me of a tiger almost in that way. And once your brother recognizes that–it’ll be the thread that makes him snap. The only thing keeping him in line is the idea that his family needs him to fix them. And you and Jason have proved already that you don’t.”

“It’s almost creepy how well you know them,” Courtney murmured, “considering it’s the first time you met them. It’s not just the profiling stuff you know, is it?”

“Once you know what to look for, everything falls into place. It’s a matter of being observant and using what you see to connect it to what you already know. You’ve told me a lot about your family so I used that and connected it to body language and dialogue patterns.”

Courtney pushed her plate away. “I know you have to get back to Haye’s Landing–”

“I have the day off, you know that.”

“–but I want to check on my brother and Carly before we drive back,” Courtney finished. She started to search through her pocket book for her wallet. By the time she found it, Brian had already signaled the waiter and given him a credit card.

Port Charles High School: Library

Lucas shifted in his seat and studied his history notes. He had a test next period and though he knew the material inside and out, he still wanted it fresh in his mind.

A stack of books fell on the table across from him and his blonde cousin sat down with a sigh. “Okay, we gotta talk.”

“Maxie, I don’t really have time for this–”

“Hey…make time, okay? We’ve barely have ten seconds to talk since you’ve been avoiding Georgie for the last week.”

“Sometimes Georgie shows her age a little more than I’m comfortable with.” Lucas shoved his notes aside. “What’s on your mind? Something wrong with Kyle? He still not calling?”

“No, he called last night. He couldn’t get home for Thanksgiving. New Jersey had some bad rain and his flight got canceled. He’ll be home for Christmas but that’s not why I wanted to talk to you.”

“Oh?”

“Sage.”

Lucas sighed and shook his head. “I don’t really want to deal with this, Maxie. I know you don’t like her–”

“I don’t know her,” Maxie argued. “And you do. I need you to talk to me about it because it worries me a bit. She’s a pretty girl—is that what this is about?”

“If you’re insinuating that I just want to sleep with her, you can save your breath. I’ve barely worked up the courage to ask her to the dance next Friday.”

“Fair enough. I’m sorry. So, you really like her?”

“I really like her. She’s not the girl you guys think she is. She’s not a slut, she’s not a bad person–she’s just…she just haven’t had a good life. Her father shipped her off to boarding school, never called, never wrote. It’s kind of you like and your dad except she didn’t have Mac and her mother left her for good years ago.”

“I didn’t know all that,” Maxie said softly.

“Well…now you do. Just because her father and her uncle are criminals, it doesn’t mean she is, too. So tell Georgie that I won’t avoid her anymore if she’ll just act a little more mature. Sage kissed Dillon twice. She hasn’t gone near him since and if I have anything to say about it, she won’t even remember his name.”

Maxie suppressed a smile. “You really like her, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Lucas admitted. “Is this going to be a problem?”

“No. I’m glad you’ve got someone, Lucas. Do I wish it wasn’t the niece of a crime lord? Sure. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers.” She checked her watch. “Okay, I’m late for chemistry.”

“You ditched chemistry to ask me that?” Lucas asked amused.

Maxie shrugged. “Not like I missed anything I’m gonna understand. Chemistry is like being in the middle of an advanced Spanish class when you can barely speak English.”

Morgan Penthouse

“Are you hungry?” Jason asked Carly as she descended the stairs.

“I don’t think I could eat,” Carly sighed. She glanced around. “Where’d Elizabeth go? She was here when I went upstairs.”

“She’s still here. She’s upstairs—morning sickness. She refused to let me in and help her so I’ve been sitting down here for the past twenty minutes.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “I talked to Sonny and he agreed with what I suggested.”

Carly closed her eyes. “I could say I don’t care and almost believe it,” she said softly.

“I called Dara and without giving her details–I convinced her take his case again. He’s going to reenter his guilty plea and Scott Baldwin is going to offer him a deal of six years in Ferncliffe.”

Carly frowned. “I thought Scott refused to deal this out.” She pulled the ice pack away and rubbed the sore skin. “What am I going to tell Michael?”

“The truth–as gently as you can,” Jason advised. “And Scott will deal. I’ll make sure of that.” He looked away. “But I think it’s for the best if you don’t tell Alcazar.”

“I can’t lie to Lorenzo, Jason,” Carly protested. “If he asks, I’m going to tell him what happened. He won’t come near Sonny, I promise.”

“Carly–”

“I won’t lie,” she refused. “If Ric hit Elizabeth, do you think you’d want to know?”

“It’s hardly the same thing,” Jason protested. “I’m not an idiot who would run around trying to get revenge.”

“Yeah, okay.” Carly rolled her eyes. “If you saw a bruise on her face even half the size of the one I’ve got, you’d shoot first and ask questions later. You’d want Emily to tell you, too. I’m not going to lie to him, Jason. Get used to it.”

Because he knew she had a point, he let the subject drop. A few moments later, Elizabeth slowly came down the steps, a hand braced over her abdomen and her face pale.

Carly managed a weak smile. “Yeah, that look feels familiar. You should eat some crackers. It’ll help settle your stomach.”

“To get crackers, I’ll need to get back to Wyndemere and making that trip on the launch is so not an appealing idea,” Elizabeth grumbled. She sat down gingerly on the arm chair to the left of the couch. “I’ll be glad when I don’t have to cross a body of water all the time.”

“You don’t have any crackers in your kitchen?” Carly demanded accusingly. “An expecting father should always have some.”

“I’ll put it on my grocery list.” Jason sighed. “Carly…is there anything you need…anything I can do?”

“No. I just… I want to get out of this building,” Carly said. “I have to pick up Michael from school in about an hour and I want some time to get the majority of this covered by makeup.”

“I’ll walk you down to your car,” Jason said. He looked at Elizabeth who’d leaned back against the chair, her eyes closed. “Will you be okay here for a few minutes? I sent Marco home for the day.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

Jason walked Carly down to the parking garage, waited until she was in her car and once she’d left the garage, he sent one of the guards after her and instructed him to stay on her until Jason told him otherwise.

By the time he returned to his penthouse, Elizabeth had fallen asleep. Her breathing was deep. He considered waking her but remembered that Carly had been tired early in her pregnancy with Morgan and had fallen asleep everywhere and anywhere.

He lifted her into his arms and moved her to the couch, where she stretched out but did not stir. He pulled a small blanket from the back of the couch and spread it over her.

He sat at his desk and started working on paperwork that he’d fallen behind with.

Carly’s House

Carly stepped inside and turned to lock the deadbolt. When she turned back towards the rest of the living room, she saw Lorenzo standing there, with a slight scowl on his face. “I heard what happened in court–” he broke off when he caught sight of the rapidly darkening bruise on her face.

He stepped forward, his dark eyes narrowing, his lips tightening in anger. “Who did this to you?” he demanded roughly.

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