Chapter 79

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Mad World: Liberty

But am I the only one
Who wonders still about your days?
Did you find your sense of peace? Lord, please

I hope you’ve forgiven me
Couldn’t see you drowning
Sacrificed your sanity
Stole my silver lining

Happy (In the End), Gabbie Hanna


Monday, February 9, 2004

 Lake House: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth had never been much of a morning person and relished the days when she could sleep until the sun was high in the sky. She wasn’t surprised to find the clock on the side table was past nine and that the other side of the bed was empty.

Jason was a morning person, and she considered it a fatal flaw in his character.

Elizabeth rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and pulled herself up, pressing a hand against her chest when her lungs felt tight. She breathed in, then breathed out. Did her counting exercises, and still—she couldn’t quite force out more than a series of shallow breaths.

“If I just get moving—” Elizabeth’s muscles felt heavy, and by the time she’d put her feet on the floor, she was nearly sweating from the exertion. She’d be better if she walked around the room a little, she reminded herself. It wasn’t the first morning she’d woken up like this, and she knew how to shake it off.

Bracing a hand on the side table, she got to her feet—then swayed slightly as her lungs began to burn and she couldn’t quite balance herself, the bulge of her belly throwing her off.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.” She caught the edge of the dresser with her other hand, waiting for the vertigo to pass. If she could just get to the end of the room and then back, she’d be better—

“Are you—” Jason’s question broke off as he scowled at her. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing—” But the words had barely left her lips before Jason had scooped her off her feet and deposited her back on the bed. His back was turned then as he rummaged in the top dresser drawer for the two most hated items in Elizabeth’s luggage — the blood pressure cuff and the oxygen mask.

“I’m fine,” she said flatly, tipping her head away from him when he tried to fit the mask over her face. “I’m fine,” she repeated. And she was. The pressure on her lungs was already easing, just like it always did. “We don’t have to go through this every morning—” But he had that look on his face, so it was just easier to extend her arm so he could put on the cuff.

“I hate this,” she muttered, and didn’t even bother to hide the resentment in her eyes when she caught his gaze. “It’s my body, Jason, and I should get to decide if I want to start my morning by having my arm squeezed until I can’t feel anything—”

He ignored her, and that made her even more angry. She wasn’t a damn child! Why did everyone think she was trying to kill herself? “I’m fine,” she repeated.

Jason grimaced as he took in the reading. “They’re in the right range,” he said, loosening the cuff.

“I told you.” She lightly shoved him aside and pulled herself to her feet. “I wish you trusted me—”

“It’s not about trust—” Jason shook his head and returned the medical equipment to the drawer.

“Really? Then what is it?” She folded her arms. “One time. One time, I didn’t tell you everything Monica told me at a doctor’s appointment, and now every time you think there’s something wrong, I have to stop what I’m doing—” She broke off when he flinched. Tears stung the corner of her eyes. “And now I’m the bad guy, right? Because you’re just trying to take care of me and I’m being a bitch—”

“I know you’re frustrated,” he said, and that patient tone she usually adored made her want to set the entire house on fire.

“Oh, so not only can you tell me when I’m sick, you can tell me what I’m feeling?” The anger pounded in her veins like an adrenaline surge. She tugged on a robe and went past him, down the hallway towards the kitchen.

“Elizabeth—”

“I’m sick, Jason. Do you think I don’t know that?” She whirled around, hissing in frustration when her balance deserted her and she had to brace a hand on the wall. “No!” Elizabeth threw out of the other hand when he started forward, probably to drag her back to bed “I’m fine. I moved too fast, but there’s nothing wrong.”

“You’re pale,” he began, a muscle in his cheek beginning to twitch.

“I’m always pale,” she retorted. “And I’m hungry.” She attempted a deep breath, but couldn’t quite manage it. Still, she counted to ten. “I know you’re scared.” She met his eyes. “I’m scared, too. Okay? And I know you’re mad at me—”

“I’m not—”

“I’m too annoyed to find another word, so mad will do. I can’t do what you and Monica and Kelly and everyone want me to. I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I’m taking care of myself, taking it easy, and I have done everything your mother has told me to do for the last six months—”

“I know you have—”

“I always feel like trash when I wake up,” Elizabeth said. “I always have to pull myself out of bed, and then I walk around, and I’m okay—”

“Until you’re not,” Jason cut in sharply, his eyes flashing. “You were fine that day in the house. I wanted you to call Monica, and you refused—”

“Don’t—”

“So it wasn’t just one time you ignored what Monica told you,” Jason continued. “You’re doing it right now—”

“That is not—” The tears slid down her cheeks, hot and angry. “I am not ignoring anything! I’m giving my child his best chance—” She pressed her hands to her face. Why couldn’t anyone understand? Why couldn’t they see this was the only way? How could she bring her precious son into this world and make him struggle for every breath? It was so damn selfish of everyone to expect her to just give up and not try to give Cameron as much time as she could.

“I’m not having this argument. It doesn’t change anything.” Jason shoved his hands into his pockets. “I won’t drag out the blood pressure cuff again,” he said. “Or the oxygen.”

Her lip trembled slightly but she bit down. He made it sound like he was doing her a favor, like she was some unruly child who was in the middle of a tantrum.

Elizabeth lifted her chin. “You think you’re the only person who gets to be scared?” she asked softly, and he frowned at her. “I’m sick. I know that. And I know that the condition I have could take my life. But I’m not the one who chose a life where the danger doesn’t go away with a surgery.”

His body tensed and he just stared at her, unblinking. “I’ve seen the scars, Jason,” she continued. “I’ve been part of the shootings, the bombs, and the explosions. I’ve patched up bruises, cleaned up blood, and watched you risk your life over and over again. Do you think it’s easy for me to let you walk out the door with everything that’s going on?”

“Elizabeth—”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” She turned away and went into the kitchen. A few minutes later, she heard the front door slam.

Ward House: Living Room

“Kimi—” Justus stared at the mess his daughter had made in the living room, with toys and cushions strewn everywhere. “What is Mama going to say?”

Kimi screwed her face up into a thoughtful expression as she considered the disaster zone. “She be big mad.”

“Exactly.” Pleased she agreed, Justus nodded. “She will be.”

“You in big trouble.”

“Me?” Justus repeated, squinting. “I didn’t do this—”

Kimi shrugged. “You daddy, I’m the baby. You watch me.” She flashed him a grin and fluttered her eyelashes. “You in trouble.”

Justus considered this argument. “Okay, fair enough. But you’ll get yelled at, too.”

This hadn’t occurred to her, but it sank in now as Kimi’s eyes widened. “Oh, no. You and me big trouble.” She hurried over towards her toy box and threw open the top. “Help.”

The doorbell rang then, and Justus sighed. “You get started, baby. I’ll be back.”

“Hurry.”

Justus left his daughter and went to the foyer, then frowned when he peered through the windows. “Has hell frozen over?” he asked, pulling open the door to find Taggert on his front step.

“No,” the lieutenant muttered. “Can I come in for a minute?”

Intrigued, Justus stepped back. “Yeah, but I can’t stay long. Kimi and I gotta clean up before Mikki gets home.” He looked back into the living room. “Kimi, keep going, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“This won’t take along.” Taggert shoved his hands in his pockets. “Listen, this Sonny business landed on my desk because it’s domestic, not business.”

“Okay—Carly wasn’t pressing charges, so—”

“This time,” Taggert said, blocking Justus as the lawyer started to open the door. “I don’t care about Corinthos or Morgan. Don’t get this twisted. But Carly and her kids, Elizabeth, Bobbie—they’ve all been through too much—and every time Sonny does something like this, they all suffer.”

Justus turned back to the cop, irritated. “Why is that any of your business?”

“I made mistakes last summer,” Taggert said, “and I got tunnel vision. I could have done better by Carly. Maybe she didn’t have to spend all that time in that damn panic room. Maybe Lansing wouldn’t have been able to assault or nearly kill Elizabeth. I lost sight of why I was doing this job, Ward. I’m not going to do it again. I don’t give a rats ass what happens to Sonny, and if it were up to me, for what he did to Carly, I’d already have him in lockup. I know about December,” he added. “That he locked her in the bedroom. How can you still represent him knowing it?”

Justus grimaced, then looked back at the living room. At the center of his world, his precious baby girl. Then he looked back at Taggert. “Jason’s my cousin. Elizabeth is part of my family, too. And he needs someone to have his back. Right now, that means dealing with Sonny.”

Taggert hesitated. “Look, I came here because I want to spare Carly grief where I can, but as soon as that restraining order goes through, she loses the right to press charges. He violates it, I’m under orders to bring him in. And that makes things worse for everyone.”

Justus scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay. Okay. Yeah, you’re right. The last thing we want is Sonny in lockup. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll do what I can.”  He opened the door. “Hey, about last year—”

Taggert turned. “What?”

“You weren’t the only one with tunnel vision. Who made mistakes,” Justus offered. “This is off the record, but that Zacchara connection — it threw us, too. And we missed things. It’s time we all let it go.”

“I can’t. I’m a better cop now for remembering it.” Taggert shifted his eyes past Justus, at the little girl who had come to the door and wrapped her arms around his leg. “Have a good day.”

“You, too,” Justus murmured, watching as the lieutenant retreated to his car. He looked down at Kimi. “Let’s go finish cleaning up, baby. Mama will be home soon.”

Seneca Lake

 Jason’s boots crunched over the icy snow as he walked towards the lake, heading for the pier that extended over the water. Though the temperature was below freezing, the lake’s strong currents had prevented it from freezing over.

Most of the time Jason was grateful he couldn’t feel the cold. He could make sure he was warm enough to survive because he could still freeze to death, but then he could be outside longer than most people. It was an asset in the life he’d chosen, the ability to outlast the patience and perseverance of everyone else.

But he wished for the cold now, for the numbness he knew would seep into his limps and make it harder to feel anything, to think.

He very much wanted to stop thinking.

I’m not the one who chose a life where the danger doesn’t go away with a surgery.

 …watched you risk your life over and over again…

 He shoved his hands into his pockets, exhaled a harsh breath, a puff of white air that lingered for a moment before dissipating. How could she even compare the two? It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t.

Except, he finally allowed himself to admit, it was.

He’d grown used to just reaching for her hand over the last six or seven months and checking her pulse. He made sure she took all her medication, even though she was capable of doing it. And he always made sure the oxygen masks and portable tank traveled with them, especially after Christmas.

And how many times had she not wanted it? How many times had she just sighed and let him take her pulse or shove the mask on her face to make him feel better?

Was this ball of fear, small and tight and unmovable inside, was this what she felt when he went out at night? When she knew he was taking risks and meeting with men who might want him dead? This neverending fear that if he didn’t pay attention, if he didn’t watch her like a hawk, she’d stop breathing in the middle of the night, and he’d lose her? Was this what she lived with?

Jason turned back to look at the house, nestled comfortably in a clearing of maple and evergreen trees. He’d insisted on a two week break from Port Charles, even though she’d repeatedly offered to cancel or go home early. And she’d given in because she wanted to make him happy. Because he’d made it about him. About what he needed.

He exhaled slowly, most of the anger and irritation burning away. He drew out the burner phone and pressed the speed dial.

“Hey, Jason. Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Jason rubbed the side of his face. “I’m just checking in.”

“Business wise, things are going fine. Johnny’s doing about as good as we’d expect. The Star Lounge got raided again—”

Jason winced. “Tommy?”

“Handling it. I told him where you were, and he didn’t seem to expect Sonny this time. Cops didn’t find anything. I don’t know why they bother. Tommy knows how to cover his tracks better than anyone.” Justus paused. “Taggert stopped by my place this morning.”

“Taggert?” Jason echoed. “Why?”

“The PCPD is taking their reorganization very seriously,” Justus said with a sigh. “And any case that can’t be tied to organized crime isn’t going near Capelli. After that fight at the Brownstone, Felix didn’t press charges because Carly didn’t want it. But Taggert’s under orders — Sonny slips up again with Carly or anyone else on a domestic front, they’re hauling him in.”

“That’s the last thing we need.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m trying to tell him, but he’s not interested. Carly’s temporary restraining order is going to a hearing tomorrow. Sonny isn’t planning to go, which means they’ll grant it. That’s all the ammunition the PCPD needs.”

“Yeah.” Jason hesitated. “I know. Okay. Thanks. Is there anything else?”

“Well, Carly managed to convince Alexis to take her case. We got the notice when we were served with the restraining order.”

“Alexis?” Jason repeated. “I thought she left private practice—”

“She did. Which means she’s doing Carly a favor.”

He did not want to deal with that right now. Whatever Carly had done to get Alexis on her side—that was going to have to wait until Jason could talk to her in person. “Okay. Thanks.”

“How’s Elizabeth?”

“About the same.”

“Ah, well, give her my best. I’ll call you if we get any updates.”

“Thanks.” Jason slipped the phone back into his pocket and looked at the house again.

Brownstone: Kitchen

Carly set Morgan in his seat so that she could feed him while Alexis talked. “How is the petition shaping up?” she asked, swirling her spoon in the container of peaches.

Alexis slid on her glasses. “We’re still in the organization stage. I talked to Justus this morning about the hearing tomorrow. Sonny, at the moment, isn’t planning to contest the restraining order, so that will be granted for at least ninety days.”

Carly wrinkled her nose. “He won’t care about it—”

“No, probably not, but violating it gives us more ammunition. Now, I know you don’t want to go too far back into Sonny’s past or business—”

“It’s important to me that Jason is untouched by any of this. I’m not going to use anything about that—”

“No, and I think we’re actually fine without it. You have a strong, personal case for the divorce and for custody,” Alexis continued. “At least for now. We’ll talk about how you moved home to reconcile after Morgan was born—”

“Do I have to talk about why I left in the first place?” Carly asked. “Because—”

“No, I don’t think Justus will challenge it—Sonny might want him to, but Justus knows better. You were having issues after the kidnapping, you and Sonny clashed over how to handle the recovery. You came back, and Sonny basically kept you a prisoner in the penthouse.” Alexis pursed her lips. “Now, we might have an issue with corroboration unless Jason or Elizabeth will testify.”

Carly paused. “I—”

“Because according to you, they both knew you didn’t have a key to the access elevator,” Alexis reminded her. “And they were both there when Sonny locked you out. Will they give statements?”

Carly said nothing for a long moment, just fed Morgan, enjoying his smile at the sweet taste of the fruit. She wiped his mouth when some of it slid free. Would Jason help her? Would Elizabeth? She needed this to be free. She needed this to move on.

“I think Elizabeth will,” Carly said, finally. “And Jason—yes. Yes. I think they both will.” She faced Alexis. “Jason has supported Elizabeth and me every step of the way since the panic room. Anything we needed to be okay—which included Ric going to trial. Sonny is the one that fought it. And Elizabeth gave me her key. She gave me her guard.”

“All right. For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. I’ll talk to them when they get back, but we might not need it for the initial petition,” Alexis said. “You’ll have your testimony, and if Sonny contests it, we can use them. Justus and the guards were there, but—”

“But Justus can’t testify and represent Sonny, and I’d never put Max or Cody in the middle.”

“We also have Lucas and Felix as witnesses and victims to the break-in last week, and Bobbie and Luke to the scene at the wedding when Sonny tried to scare you into returning.” Alexis tapped a pen against the table. “Your divorce petition is in good shape, and I think we can prove enough instability to handle full custody though Justus might win supervised visitation.”

“I can feel a but coming,” Carly said dryly.

“The revocation of the adoption,” Alexis said. “That’s a big ask for the court. I don’t think we have enough. At least right now.”

“Okay.” Carly spooned up the last of the peaches. “What do we need?”

“We have the fact that Michael hasn’t been Sonny’s legal son for more than two out of his six years, and of those two years, he’s only spent one year under Sonny’s roof. That’s a point for us.” Alexis paused. “What we need is for Michael to meet with a child psychologist who can prepare an affidavit for the court that argues this is in his best interests.”

“I hate putting Michael through any of that,” Carly sighed, “but okay.”

“And I think we need to talk about the other biological parent.”

Carly set down the peaches and stared at her lawyer. “What?”

“As far as the court is aware, AJ Quartermaine surrendered his parental rights because he hadn’t been in Michael’s life for nearly two years at that point and he thought it was in the best interest of his son.” Alexis lifted a brow. “I think we both know that’s not why AJ signed those papers.”

Her stomach twisted as she stared down at the table. “No, it’s not.”

“If AJ were to join the petition to revoke the adoption and reinstate his parental rights, it would strengthen your case.”

“I—” Carly shook her head. “No. No, absolutely not.” Her heart pounded. “No.”

“Listen to me, Carly. I know it’s a risk—”

“If I let AJ back in, he’ll take Michael from me. And what stops him from telling the court what happened?” Her hands started to shake. “I didn’t know what Sonny was going to do until it was done, okay? I didn’t know he was going to hurt him or force it—”

“AJ has been living and working in New Orleans for most of the year,” Alexis continued. “He’s sober, and has been for two years. He’s stronger now than he’s ever been. Carly, you understand that it’s very possible he’s aware of what’s happening here. What Michael has been through.”

Carly closed her eyes. “Yes—”

“Michael has been through a very difficult time. Watching you be kidnapped, shuttled back and forth, scared of his father—if AJ were to petition for his rights back on his own, he’d likely win. And then he could sue for sole custody.”

Oh, God. She hadn’t even thought— Her eyes flew open. “Wait—”

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m telling you that AJ is a chess piece. He can be on our team or he can work against us for his gain. This is entirely up to you.”

“He’ll never agree to help me—”

“He might,” Alexis argued. “AJ would have a faster and smoother road to getting his rights back if you were on his side. And we would have a much easier time removing Sonny. If that’s really what you want—”

“I need—” Carly took a deep breath. “I need to think about this. I can’t just—I can’t just decide this on a whim, Alexis. If I let AJ in, it’s not something I can undo later. Not this time.”

“All right. We can save that argument for another day. We’ll get the petition together, and I’ll write it with the assumption that we’ll be able to get statements from Jason and Elizabeth at a later point.” Alexis waited. “Carly, you’re not the woman you were two years ago. Or even six months ago. AJ will see that.”

“No, he won’t.” Sick to her stomach, Carly swallowed hard. “And he has no reason to trust me. So I’ll think about it, but I don’t think I can do it.”

Lake House: Living Room

Elizabeth stirred from a light doze when she felt the cushions at the end of the sofa move. She opened her eyes to find Jason lifting her feet so he could sit.  He set her feet in his lap. “Hey,” she said softly. “You came back.”

“I should have told you I was going into town,” he told her. He offered a half smile. “I thought Cam might be craving pizza.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips and rested her hand on her belly, feeling the soft kick. “Pepperoni?”

“Yeah.”

“Mmm…he might be in the mood.” She swung her legs down and Jason helped her turn so she was sitting up. “About this morning—”

“I’m sorry—”

“I shouldn’t have—” Elizabeth said at the same time and sighed when he broke off. “I shouldn’t have said that. About your job and the risks. I didn’t mean to throw it in your face—”

“That’s not what you did—”

“It’s exactly what I did,” she insisted. “Look, the job—it’s what you do, and I knew who you were before we were even friends. I don’t get to pull it out as a cheap shot when I know you’re worried about me.”

“It wasn’t a cheap shot,” Jason said. He slid closer and part of her body unclenched when he put his arm around her shoulders and drew her against him. “You never say anything, and I guess I don’t think about how you feel when I go to work—”

“It’s not all the time—”

“But it’s sometimes,” he finished. “And when I get called in the middle of the night—” He hesitated. “You never say anything,” he repeated. “You’re right. What you’re going through, if we’re lucky, the surgery will correct it and we’ll be able to put this behind us. Mostly. What I do—it isn’t going to change.” And was likely going to get worse if Sonny didn’t step up again and take control.

“Jason—”

“It’s not fair of me to keep reminding you of what happened last summer,” he continued over her protest. “I left you in that house to take care of Carly, and you nearly died.” He closed his eyes. “When I came back and you were laying on the floor—you were barely breathing and—” He held up her hand, tracing her palm with his fingertips. “You could barely hold my hand.”

“I don’t really remember,” Elizabeth admitted. “I remember pressing the button, hearing Carly screaming, and then it kind of fades in and out.” She laid a hand on his cheek. “I remember your voice. I remember thinking how much I just wanted you to say my name one more time. And then it just—” He took her hand from his face and pressed it against his lips. “It’s all gone until I woke up in the hospital and saw you.”

“I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and watch you breathe,” he forced out. “And I try not to leave you alone for long. Even with someone else. It was hell when you were living at the condo and I couldn’t be with you all the time to make sure—”

“I know. I know,” she repeated. “And I hate that we’re dealing with this—”

“I didn’t even realize how much I was pushing you,” he added. “You never complain. Not when I take your pulse every five minutes or I—” He exhaled harshly, looking away. “I didn’t even let you be in charge of your own medicine—”

“Jason, I didn’t complain about any of that because I didn’t care. It cost me nothing to let you take my pulse, and you dealing with the pills means I don’t have to. You have a better memory for that kind of thing. I knew it was helping you feel better,” Elizabeth said. “And after that first night with the oxygen tank, I wanted that.”

“But you were right earlier. You’ve never lied to me about your health. When you’re not feeling well, you tell me. You know your body. You didn’t need that this morning.”

“No, I didn’t. But I also know I’m stubborn. I could have just sucked it up—”

“I need to listen to you,” Jason said. “And I will. I promise. If you tell me you don’t need it, I won’t force it.”

“All right.” She laid her head on his shoulder. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“Thanks for the assist,” Lulu said to Dante as he stacked the last set of chairs inside the diner. “Penny’s having boyfriend troubles again.”

“No problem,” he muttered. He stooped down to pick up a newspaper that had partially slid underneath the jukebox. He stilled.

“What is it?” Lulu came up behind him and scowled. “Oh, man. Not that story again. The Sun is being even more bitchy about the lack of charges.” She took the paper from him. “At least the Herald is pretending to be objective. This headline makes it sound like Sonny was foaming at the mouth.”

“Not far off,” Dante said. “You about done? I’ll give you a ride home.”

“I still have to close down the kitchen—” Lulu tipped her head. “You okay? Lucky said he went to see Sonny, and I guess you went with him since you’re partners.”

“I hate these domestic cases,” Dante said, brushing past her and heading into the kitchen. “What do you need in here?”

“I just need to wipe down the stove and finish loading the dishwasher. Dante, can I make an observation?”

“Can I stop you?”

When she didn’t say anything, not even a smart remark in return, Dante turned back from the load of dishes he was sorting to stack in the dishwasher. “Lu—”

“I know I’m pushy and opinionated,” she said. “I usually say it’s part of my charm, but I say it because if I don’t, everyone else will. And they don’t say it nicely, you know?”

“I didn’t mean anything—”

“I know you didn’t.” She started to wipe down the stove. “Dillon hated it which is funny since it’s what he used to like about me. He always said I never took shit from anyone and he could always depend on me to tell him the truth.”

Dante hesitated, knowing that while Lulu had done the breaking up in that situation, it was still a sore subject even six weeks later. “Is that what went wrong? You never said.”

“It was part of it,” she admitted. “He was always complaining about his screenplays not getting any respect, and I might have pointed out some critiques he didn’t want to hear.” She bit her lip and looked back at him. “But actually, I think it was an excuse. You ever date anyone and it just fades away? Like there’s no reason for it, you just wake up one day and you like that person a little less? Or maybe the things you used to love are just annoying now?”

“Yeah, sure. Sometimes the spark goes out. Lu—”

“Dillon used to love how I stood up for myself and called him on things, but it was different after the election, I think. We all started softening towards Georgie, and he was still really angry with her.” Lulu tossed the used rag into the sink. “I mean, it makes sense. They were dating, and he felt like she didn’t have his back. But Georgie was just handling it the best she could. Her stepfather did this, like, massively terrible thing, and everyone expected her—and Maxie—to just hate him.”

“It was hard,” Dante admitted, “thinking about what Mac and Floyd did. Knowing it made it harder to catch Vinnie. If they’d run that DNA back then, maybe Vinnie wouldn’t have kept going.”

Maybe Brooke would still be here.

“Anyway, Maxie and all of us started inviting Georgie to stuff again. We realized we were just holding her accountable for how guilty we all felt about what happened to Brooke. But Dillon—I guess he can’t forgive her.” Lulu pursed her lips. “Anyway. That’s part of the reason we were arguing. The other was that the spark was gone, and we didn’t want to admit it. He was really pissed about you.”

Dante scowled as Lulu handed him the last tub full of dishes. “What about me?”

“I don’t know. You texted me a few times and he saw it. He knew we were friends.” She jerked a shoulder. “He figured there was something going on.”

“There wasn’t—” He winced. “I mean, you knew that. But—”

Lulu smiled at him. “It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m glad we got to be friends. I don’t regret it.” She went in the pantry and Dante stared after her, confused. How the hell had they gotten on that topic in the first place? He didn’t want to be the reason Lulu had broken up with her boyfriend—

Did he?

“What was the thing?” he asked when she returned. He flicked on the dishwasher. “You said you wanted to make an observation.”

“Not if you’re going to be cranky with me about it.”

“I won’t.” When she still looked hesitant, he flattened his hand against his chest. “Scout’s Honor.”

“Okay. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I feel like you get weird when Sonny Corinthos comes up.”

The hit him like a bullet, and he flinched. He turned away, stared out at the window that opened up into the rest of the dining room. “You’re not imagining it,” he finally said. “But I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay. But, like, I know I seem stupid. And silly. But I’m a good listener, so if you change your mind—”

“I know who to come to.” He tipped his head. “Come on. Let me give you a ride home.”

Luke’s: Bar

“Caroline.” Luke stepped up to his niece, edging Claude out of the way. “You slumming at the competition?”

“Hey.” Carly attempted a smile. “Sorry, I know you’re closing up soon.”

“Which makes me wonder what brings my sister’s kid out at one in the morning.” Luke said. He set tumbler in front of him and poured himself whiskey. “You want some?”

“I shouldn’t. I’m driving.” Carly sighed. “I don’t even know why I’m here. I just didn’t want to go home after I was done at the club.”

“Have a drink, Caroline. I’ll get you home.” He nodded at Claude who headed over to the phone to call up one of Morgan’s guards. He handed her the whiskey and poured himself another glass. “What’s going on?”

“You’ve done terrible things, haven’t you?” Carly asked. “I mean, things that people shouldn’t forgive you for?”

“Hasn’t everyone?” Luke said easily. He arched a brow. “You being haunted by old ghosts or something? My ex doc bro-in-law come by?”

“No, but he’d be right to haunt me. He’s just someone else I chewed up and spit out.” Carly sipped the whiskey. “I’m not a good person, Uncle Luke. I never wanted to be. I didn’t care if I was a good or moral. I just wanted what I was owed.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “What I deserved. And I didn’t care who I hurt.”

“I remember.” Luke tipped his head. “We all go through selfish phases, niece. And no one gets out of this life without drawing some blood. You drew more than your fair share,” he granted, “but that don’t make you more evil than the next person.”

“After what I did to my mother, to Tony, to AJ, and Jason, and whoever else I can claim as a victim—” Carly smirked, then stared into her drink. “Mama forgave me. She shouldn’t have, but she did.”

“She loves you.”

“And I’m lucky. I know that. And Tony has mostly…I don’t know. We ignore each other, which is the best I could hope for. Lucas has kind of gotten past what I did which is another minor miracle.”

“And clearly, Morgan has moved on.”

“Yeah. Yeah. I guess I should be grateful to Elizabeth,” Carly admitted. “She kind of came around the time I was really drawing blood with Jason, and maybe she helped him deal with it faster. I didn’t feel all that happy about it at the time,” she admitted, “but you know, I can be now.”

“So that just leaves AJ.” Luke folded his arms on the bar. “Has Junior showed up or something?”

“No, but Alexis wants me to contact him. To help with revoking Michael’s adoption.” Carly’s eyes were wet as she met his eyes. “How can I ask him for help, Luke? How can I turn to this man that I’ve repeatedly hurt and humiliated and ask him to take my side? What right do I have?”

“Probably none.”

Carly nodded, taking another sip of whiskey. “I had a chance to make a life with him. He was kind to me when I didn’t deserve it, and he offered me the world. All he wanted was my loyalty and to be Michael’s father.” Her breath hitched. “Why couldn’t I take it? Why couldn’t I let myself be satisfied with that?”

Luke said nothing. Carly’s breath was shaky as she exhaled. “I knew Jason didn’t love me. Not enough. And I didn’t love him. I thought I did. But we didn’t trust each other, and love without trust isn’t real. I know that.”

“Did you know it then?” Luke asked gently. Surprised, she met his eyes. “You did terrible things, Carly. Everyone does. Are you sorry for it?”

“Yes. What I did to Mama and Tony—that was terrible—but what I did to AJ—” Carly closed her eyes. “It was evil. He thought we were friends, but friends don’t do what I did. He told me if he started drinking again, he’d leave Port Charles. So I used that. I made him think he was drinking. I took his sobriety from him, and I knew—I knew what it meant to him. And then I cheated on him repeatedly, humiliated him, and drove him to burn down that warehouse.”

Luke arched a brow but Carly was on a roll. “And Jason helped me out of my marriage. Helped me get Michael away from AJ when AJ—he was a good father. Michael loved him, but I didn’t care, I didn’t care—” She pressed her hands to her face. “And then I blamed him for falling, I said he pushed me, but I knew he didn’t, I always knew it—”

“Caroline—”

“I ruined his life, Luke. And I never once apologized for it. I never once admitted it was wrong. And I don’t know that I ever thought it was.”

“Do you now?”

“So what?” Carly demanded. “Does it matter that I know now? Why couldn’t I know it then and not do it?” She threw back the last of the whiskey, and Luke winced. “If I go ask that man for help to keep my son away from Sonny, he’ll just laugh in my face and then he’ll use it to take Michael away, and I’m not sure he’d be wrong after everything I’ve done.”

Luke nodded. “That’s possible. He could also decide that he can put it behind him for the sake of the kid. You won’t know if you don’t ask, Caroline.”

“I shouldn’t have had to be kidnapped and tormented to be a better person,” Carly said softly. “Sonny locked me in that room, and I finally understood what it meant to be betrayed by someone you loved. Sonny’s fear is to be locked up, and he did it to me. My biggest fear? Someone taking my baby from me. And to keep Michael to myself, I stole him from AJ. I had no right.”

“No, you didn’t, darlin’. You can’t change the past. Believe me, if it could be done, I’d have traveled back in time already. All you can do is face the future. AJ might not help you, kid. But maybe you still need to talk to him. Maybe you still need to lay this ghost to rest.”

Carly held his eyes for a long moment, then nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I think I have to. I’ll tell Alexis to set it up. God help us all.”

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Comments

  • Amazing.
    Glad that Liz and Jason talked about things and hope aj has changed and will help carly

    According to Nicole Barnes on April 27, 2022
  • Kimi is hilarious and an absolute doll. I’m still liking Taggart and much to my surprise Lulu as well. You also script a likable Carly, she isn’t perfect and I’ll probably wonder what comes out of her mouth again at some point, but she is trying and that counts. Loved the Elizabeth and Jason talk, it was much needed and well done. But, Elizabeth is well and truly stubborn so I hope that it doesn’t come to a point that she waits too long and Jason is literally in the back of an ambulance praying for her and the baby. Fantastic update.

    According to nanci on April 27, 2022
  • Justice asked has hell frozen over. Taggert is warning Justice of possible trouble; Carly and Alexis are working together; Carly is regretting the hell she brought to Port Charles; Luke is lending a sympathetic ear and offering advice; and Carly is going to take it. If it hasn’t frozen over, I think there’s at least a chill. I loved Jason and Elizabeth’s talk; I’m glad they can always find their way back to each other. Great chapter. And great writing as usual. Thanks for sharing.

    According to Felicia on April 27, 2022
  • I’m liking Taggert. I really like how you have people owning up to their mistakes like Carly and Taggert. I’m not a Carly fan but I’m loving your Carly. Luke was quite helpful. Jason really understands what Elizabeth is feeling and he will do better. I don’t like when our couple is at odds but love how they talked it out. I don’t know how I feel about Lulu. Justus and Kimi are so cute and she just knew her father would be the one in trouble. My great niece would always say “you’re in big trouble”. Lol. This story is so good!

    According to arcoiris0502 on April 27, 2022