All day starin’ at the ceilin’ makin’
Friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices tellin’ me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for somethin’
Hold on, feelin’ like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why
– Unwell, Matchbox Twenty
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Elizabeth really wasn’t looking forward to this conversation, but she’d worried the people in her life long enough. Everyone knew she’d had tests six weeks ago and hadn’t revealed the results. By now, her breathing issues at the wedding would be just as well-known.
She’d tried so hard to pretend that this wasn’t happening to her but after that appointment—
“Thank you for coming over,” Elizabeth said, kissing Bobbie’s cheek and squeezing Nikolas’s hand. “I hope it wasn’t too much trouble—”
“No, no, I’ve reduced my hours at GH,” Bobbie reminded her, “with the boys living with me full-time, and—”
“I run my own empire,” Nikolas said with a casual, if forced, smile. “I don’t have a schedule.”
She knew that was only partially true and that Nikolas had shoved way too many things around this last year to help his mother. “Still, thanks.”
He placed his hand just her elbow, helping Elizabeth as she sat on the sofa. “I’m hoping you’re finally going to tell us what’s going on.”
“Nikolas,” Bobbie muttered, but he just shrugged.
“It’s all right. I know it’s been hard on Emily, not being able to tell saying anything to you, Nikolas. Jason is telling Carly today,” Elizabeth assured Bobbie, “so you don’t have to worry about that.” She took a quick, shallow breath, wincing at the tightness in her chest. “I’ve been having some breathing issues off and on since the hearing,” she told them. “At first, I really did just think they were anxiety attacks that were complicated by the embolism.”
“But that changed,” Bobbie murmured. “Around Christmas?”
“I was feeling run down and tired, and we were hoping it would get better once the hearing was over. You know, I’d been living in pretty much constant stress since I got out of the hospital in July.”
Bobbie’s face tightened. “But things with Sonny—”
“That happened the night of the hearing,” Elizabeth reminded her gently. “After that, things really were calm. I rested more, but it didn’t change anything. I was getting more and more tired. And then, at the Quartermaines, I had a really bad breathing attack without any clear stressors. Monica and Kelly were already going to order some tests,” she told them, “but based on what happened at Christmas, Monica ordered some extra ones.”
“How bad is it?” Nikolas asked, his hands tightening into fists. “Elizabeth—”
“At some point last fall, I had more clots in the blood vessels in my lungs,” Elizabeth said. “They dissolved on their own, but they left—well, basically, they left scar tissue.”
“Scar tissue,” Bobbie echoed. “In the vessels. That would explain the problem with breathing—”
“Yeah. My lungs can’t quite expand all the way, and my blood isn’t pumping as well as it should. It means—”
“It means oxygen isn’t getting everywhere it needs to,” Nikolas finished grimly. “Your lungs. Your heart. Your brain?”
“So far, there’s no organ damage, and my oxygen levels have remained mostly stable,” Elizabeth assured him. She rested a hand on her belly. “The baby and I are as healthy as we can be under the circumstances.”
“This is—” Bobbie closed her eyes, took a deep breath, bracing herself. “Okay. You’re all right today. But you still have months to go—the baby will put more stress on your body—What’s—how do we fix this? Can we?”
“I can get doctors from anywhere in the world—I have connections on every continent—”
“Thank you—” Elizabeth reached over and squeezed his hands. “Thank you,” she repeated. “What I have — it’s a condition that doctors know about. It’s called CTEPH, and it’s a rare complication that can follow pulmonary embolisms. It’s so rare,” she said with a wrinkle of her nose, “that there’s very little understanding of how to treat a pregnant woman with the condition. The few cases Monica and Kelly could find—well, most of them were diagnosed early and terminated. But we didn’t find out until I was too far along.”
Bobbie pursed her lips and gratefully remained silent. As a nurse, she likely knew that Elizabeth still could have terminated her pregnancy at twenty-three weeks for medical reasons.
“There’s a surgery I can have after the baby is here,” Elizabeth continued, “and it’s the closest thing to a cure. I should be a good candidate, and Monica and Alan are already working on getting General Hospital certified to perform the procedure so that I won’t have to travel.”
“Whatever money they need—whatever resources—”
“I know. I’m sure we’ll be okay, but I appreciate it.”
“Okay, so if things are under control and we’re just waiting on the baby—” Bobbie frowned. “What aren’t you telling us?”
Elizabeth braced herself, knowing that the next part of the conversation would be the hard part. Another person to answer to, another person who demanded Elizabeth put herself and not her child first.
“I’m all right today,” Elizabeth said slowly, “but my oxygen levels dropped at the last appointment. We have to be very careful that they don’t drop below a certain level, or it could trigger long-term organ damage.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “There’s a risk of heart or lung failure, which would mean that I would no longer be a candidate for the surgery.”
“Because of the baby,” Nikolas said. “How far along are you? Six months?”
“Thirty weeks,” Elizabeth said, “so a little more than that.”
“You could deliver now,” Bobbie said. “Couldn’t you? I haven’t read much on premature births, but I remember Alexis last year. She was about this far along with Kristina—”
“I know. And Kristina nearly died. She needed surgery after surgery—Monica wanted me to deliver two weeks ago. I’ve read everything,” she said when Nikolas blinked, and Bobbie scowled. “Babies born at thirty weeks have an eighty to ninety percent survival rate, and there aren’t many complications.”
“If you know that—”
“Would you?” Elizabeth asked softly, and Bobbie closed her mouth. “Eighty percent survival still means that two in ten babies die. And the eight that live—complications could follow him for years. His entire life. Every day I give him is one more chance for a normal, healthy life—”
“I—” Bobbie exhaled slowly. “What does Jason think about this?”
“He’s not happy about it. No one is,” she clarified. “But as long as my vitals stay where they are, and my organs aren’t damaged, I’m determined to wait. Monica is monitoring me very closely,” she assured them. “I promise you. I just—I can’t risk it. I want my son—Cameron—” she corrected. “We’re naming him Cameron—I want him to have every chance. It’s my job as his mother to keep him safe. As long as my body can manage it, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Cellar: Carly’s Office
When Jason told her he needed to talk to her about Elizabeth and the baby, Carly knew he was finally going to reveal the mysterious test results that had been hanging over all of them like an ax.
And still, knowing it was terrible news, Carly was horrified when Jason finished explaining the condition.
“There’s nothing else they can do until the surgery?” Carly asked. Jason pushed himself to his feet and started to pace the room. “Nothing except inducing labor now?”
“The only thing that will make a difference,” Jason muttered. He dragged his hands over his face. “Sorry I didn’t say anything earlier—”
“Elizabeth said I could, but I was worried if you knew, but we didn’t tell Bobbie—”
“Jason.” Carly got to her feet and went over to him, taking his hands in his. “It’s okay. You both handled this however worked for you. You never have to apologize for that.” When he just arched a brow, she forced a smile for him. “Okay, a year or two ago, I would have thrown a tantrum, but I’ve come a long way.”
“Yeah. You have.”
“I guess I just—this sucks so bad. Everything else you’ve both been through—the baby seemed like such a blessing.” Carly folded her arms. “I remember when you found out Elizabeth was healthy enough to go through with the pregnancy. What changed? How did it go wrong?”
“Blood clots were always a possibility,” Jason reminded her. “And they dissolved on their own before Monica could detect them in a scan. Nothing changed. We just—we ended up with a rare complication.”
“Which is the last thing you need,” she murmured. She’d known they were dealing with something heavy, but this— “I’ll tell Alexis to stall the divorce.”
“I’ll—I’ll find a way to make it okay for a few more weeks or months,” Carly told him. “Maybe hold back on the adoption—”
“Carly, you told me you need this—”
“And I do,” she assured him. “But you need Sonny to give you a break over the next few weeks. He’s fighting with Justus already, he’s already come at you once. If he thinks you’re supporting me, it’ll make it worse. I’ve waited this long,” Carly said. “I’ll talk to AJ.”
“I wouldn’t ask—”
“No, you never would, and that’s why I love you. You have repeatedly sacrificed for me and my boys. It’s my turn to do the same for you.”
“It would be easier,” Jason admitted, somewhat painfully, “if this was one less thing to worry about with Sonny across the hall.”
“It’s just a few more weeks, anyway. You said Elizabeth is checking in at thirty-five weeks, right? I can handle that—” She stopped because something in his face changed, and she hadn’t noticed it the first time when he’d told her about the condition. “What?”
“It might—I don’t know. It might be sooner.” Jason exhaled slowly. “Her oxygen levels were low at the last appointment. If they don’t stabilize—”
“Then she has to deliver early. Oh, man, I’m sorry. But technology has come so far,” Carly said. “I mean, I had to deliver my son at twenty-four weeks, and there was no chance for him. That was just four years ago. Thirty weeks is such a difference—”
“Kelly said it was like eighty to ninety percent survival, and the long-term complications aren’t…there’s less of a chance.”
“It must be so scary.” Carly pressed a hand to her chest. “But Dr. Lee is a great doctor, right? Monica said she was the best in the state for high-risk.”
Carly hesitated. “Is there—” She tried to catch Jason’s eye, but he kept looking away. “Jason. Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“No. You know everything—”
“Is it—is Monica saying Elizabeth should deliver even earlier?” Carly asked. When Jason tensed, but refused to look at her, she knew she had it. “She wants her to deliver now?”
“She wanted it two weeks ago,” Jason said finally. “Every day she’s pregnant, the baby puts stress on her heart and her lungs. There’s no damage yet—”
“But that could change tomorrow,” Carly murmured. “And if there’s organ damage—”
“She’s not a candidate for the surgery anymore—” He sat down and stared at his hands. “And that would be the good news.”
She slowly sat next to him. “Then the bad news would be Elizabeth might die.” Jason didn’t answer her. “I’m so sorry,” Carly murmured. “I can understand Elizabeth wanting to wait, but I’m sure it’s hard for both of you. It couldn’t have been an easy decision.”
“There was no decision,” Jason said, his tone clipped. “Elizabeth never considered it. Thirty-five weeks was her compromise.”
Her compromise. Elizabeth never considered it. “Someone is missing from that equation, Jason. Did you—do you want her to deliver?”
“It’s not—” Jason got to his feet, restless. “It’s not my choice. It’s not my body—”
“No, but it is your family. And it will be your decision if she ends up unconscious.” Jason blinked at her. “She’s having these oxygen issues. She could pass out. A doctor is going to ask you who you want to save,” she pointed out. “Any doctor would. They asked Sonny. He had to choose. He chose me, and even though I knew it was the right decision, I hated him. There was almost no chance our son would survive, but I thought he should have taken it. Even a one percent chance was better than none.”
Jason closed his eyes. “Carly—”
“I get Elizabeth’s choice. I understand it, and I’d be making it, too. I’m just—” She spread out her hands. “If you’re not on board with it, she needs to know that. Because if it comes down to it, if you’re asked to make a choice — can you honestly tell me you won’t do exactly what Sonny did?”
“I can’t—I can’t have this conversation—”
“You’d choose Elizabeth, and she’d wake up without that little boy.” Carly’s voice broke at the thought of it, of the memory of that horror. “Everyone will tell her she can have another baby, that at least she’s alive to try again—”
Jason closed his eyes. “Carly—”
“I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear this. But I’m your family, too, and someone needs to say this to you. You know more than anyone else how much she wants this baby. But I know you, don’t I? You’d choose Elizabeth.”
“I would,” he finally said. “Thirty seconds.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “They lost her for thirty seconds.”
“Last summer, you mean.”
“The paramedics didn’t think she’d make it to the hospital. They didn’t even think—she was dead for thirty seconds.”
“She’s been through hell. I might have my own mental and emotional scars from Ric, but she’ll have to live with what he did to her physically for a very long time. You’ve had a front row seat to all of it—”
“I’m not going to do what Sonny did,” Jason snapped, making Carly widen her eyes. “He took what happened to you and made it about him—”
“Yes,” she said softly. “He did. And everything I needed to recover from what happened to me, he took it as a personal attack. It made it a lot harder to get through it. But we’re not talking about Sonny, Jason. We’re talking about you. You haven’t just been supporting Elizabeth through this, you’ve been there for me. You didn’t rest until I was home, and while I know you backed down on Ric because Elizabeth asked you to, you did it for me, too. At great personal and, I’m sure, business cost.”
“I did what had to be done. What you and Elizabeth needed,” Jason said. “It’s not complicated—”
“No, it’s not. You’ve always been there for me, even when I didn’t deserve it. That’s why I’m telling you, Jase, that I know how hard it’s been for you, and I think you need to give Elizabeth a chance to be there for you, too. You need to talk to her about this, and make sure she understands the position she’d be putting you in if the worst happens.”
“I can’t think about it—”
“You have to,” she insisted. “I hope it doesn’t. And I absolutely think, at the end of the day, it’s Elizabeth’s risk to take. But it’s your family, too, and what you think matters. What you’re dealing with matters. Sonny and I didn’t talk about the things that mattered. Not when we should have. Don’t make our mistakes, Jason. You deserve so much better.”
Port Charles Municipal Building: Conference Room
Ned squinted, trying to focus on Jax’s summary of his meeting with the police union, but he couldn’t help but keep one eye on his ex-wife.
Lois sat across from him at the long table, her eyes trained on the yellow pad in front of her, her fingers tapping a pencil rapidly against the table.
He’d known her long enough to be sure that something had pissed her off.
“I think we’re in good shape on the next round of contracts,” Jax said. Ned blinked at him, and his chief of staff arched a brow. “With the union,” he repeated. “We’re opening negotiations at the end of this next year, but—”
“They’re not going to draw out negotiations,” Alexis said with a shake of her head. “They’re still digging out of the bad press from last summer and—” She grimaced, glancing at Lois. “The union leaders know they don’t have the city behind them—”
“We couldn’t get Capelli fired,” Ned muttered. He cleared his throat. “And we couldn’t even keep Esposito off duty after Floyd suspended him—”
“Because, at the time Floyd suspended him,” Jax reminded him gently, “it was clearly a way to get the heat off himself. We didn’t have the evidence against him, and Capelli could argue that he had Mac’s approval to plant that story about Elizabeth. But Alexis is right—popular opinion is even more against the PCPD. They haven’t had a single success in a year. They didn’t even figure out it was Esposito until he’d already—”
“We don’t need to revisit history,” Lois said flatly, finally raising her head. “The PCPD is barely able to do the basics, and hiring Anna Devane was just a plaster job over the whole rotten lot of them. When the only officers worth a damn are the goddamn rookies—” She broke off. “They’re lucky we’re not dissolving the contract and going county. You make sure they know that, Jax. Ned and I could have sued the pants off this city, and Elizabeth Webber let that entire department off with a goddamn warning—”
“I know,” Jax said, his tone still quiet and even. Understanding. “This is why we’re already talking about contracts. The union leaders are putting out feelers to sign a deal early. They’re worried another scandal will put them even deeper in the hole.”
“Have them draw up the contract,” Ned said, “but I want concessions on suspensions and terminations. It needs to be easier to get rid of bad cops. Capelli shouldn’t be wearing the badge.”
Jax collected his paperwork and got to his feet. “You wanna be able to swing that? We might need another scandal.”
As Jax, Alexis, and some of the others filed out of the room, Ned snagged Lois by the elbow. She clenched her jaw and glared at him. “I have a meeting—”
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she said before he had even finished his question. “I don’t like talking about the PCPD. Do you?”
“And I didn’t even get the satisfaction of firing Mac Scorpio to help me sleep at night. Must be nice.”
Ned blinked at the harsh words. “Are you—did I do something?”
“I don’t have time for this.” Lois stacked her papers on top of the legal pad. “I’m not your babysitter or your mother, and I don’t have to tell you everything—”
“No, you don’t—”
“Then just leave me alone.”
She stalked out before he could catch his breath. He nearly went after her, but he knew that look in her eyes. Better to let Lois just calm down. He’d catch up to her later.
Luke dropped his feet from the desk to the floor when Jason appeared in the doorway. “Wondered when I’d see you,” he said. “Figured it’d be sooner.”
“I only got back yesterday.” Jason closed the door behind him, then folded his arms. “What are you doing down at the Blue Moon asking Tommy questions?”
Luke snorted. He reached across his desk and picked out a cigar. Jason clenched his jaw waiting for the other man to light the cigar, then take a long puff. Luke leaned back in his desk chair. “Because I can.”
“Damn it, Luke—”
“You asked me to keep an eye on the situation,” Luke replied. “I checked the security at the Brownstone, gave Barbara and Caroline some advice, then dropped in on Sonny. What I heard there worried me, so I used some contacts.”
“Well, you can stop now. I’m back—”
“Uh huh.” Luke tapped the ash into a ceramic tray on the desk. “And you got a plan for the mutiny on your hands?”
“There’s no mutiny!”
“Today, no.” Luke tilted his head. “And maybe Tommy’s not lying. Maybe he can keep things quiet for a few more months. But that depends on whether or not Sonny stays under control. You get one more strange Lansing sighting, and Sonny will lose his damn mind—”
Jason scowled. “I don’t have time for this—”
“Then you better make it.” Luke got to his feet. “Don’t walk out on me, kid. You might be in charge now, and I might be rusty, but I’ve been in this life longer than you’ve been alive. I know how to keep me and mine breathing. You might want to listen.”
Jason turned back from the door with a hot, angry glare at Sonny’s former partner. “You wanted out of this—”
“You know better. There is no out. There’s no such thing as retired. You tried it, didn’t you? You almost made it. Maybe you would have. But Sonny came home and dragged you back, and now it’s too late. The men don’t follow Sonny. They follow you. You’re not thick or stupid, Morgan. You know that’s true.”
Jason pressed his lips together. “What do you expect me to do?” he bit out. “Take the business from Sonny?”
“You’ve already done that in everything but name. You were the right-hand man. You gave the orders to the men below you, but those orders used to come from Sonny.” Luke arched a brow. “When was the last time you got an order from Sonny you could actually follow?” Jason said nothing. “That’s what I thought. You need to make Sonny back down.”
“And that’s so easy,” the younger man replied caustically.
“Don’t act like I don’t know what I’m talking about—”
“I don’t have the time for this,” Jason repeated. “Elizabeth—” He curled his hand into a fist. “She could—things could go wrong in an hour. Tomorrow. At any minute. I don’t have time to fight a war with Sonny.”
“Does he know how bad it is with her?” Luke asked. “Does he know how sick she is? How fatal this condition is?”
Jason hesitated, looked away. “No,” he admitted. “I told you what was going on because I had to leave town. We only started telling people today.”
“Then you need to tell Sonny today,” Luke said. “And I know you told Tommy that Elizabeth wasn’t well. You need to clarify with him. He’s old school, and he’s going to work harder to keep a lid on his end until Elizabeth’s out of the woods. No one wants this to blow up.”
“I—” Jason exhaled slowly. “I was planning to tell him—” He cleared his throat. “I just—I don’t know if it will actually change anything.”
Luke took that in, then nodded. “Then you need to know that,” he said gently. “You need to know what you’re dealing with. If Sonny hears that you’re struggling, that you need him to step up so you can focus on your family, and he doesn’t do a damn thing to make it better for you—”
“And what am I supposed to do if that happens?” Jason retorted. “What if it changes nothing?”
“Then you’ll know, and we’ll go from there. I’m not leaving you to deal with this bullshit by yourself,” Luke added. “Bernie told me that this Lansing crap is off the walls. The only people who’ve seen this asshole are on the inside? That doesn’t wash for me.”
“No, me either,” Jason admitted. “But it doesn’t mean Ric isn’t out there.”
“It doesn’t mean he is. If you got someone trying to play mind games with you—” Luke arched a brow. “That’s not good.”
“Why the hell would they want to?”
“Because they can. Someone out there knows that Sonny has lost his mind since Lansing jumped bail, and that you’re distracted. Why wouldn’t someone try to take advantage of that? You and Sonny have made a lot of enemies in the last decade. Any one of them could be coming for you through the Lansing stuff. We need to get Sonny under control, get Elizabeth through this baby business, and then we can deal with whatever else is coming.”
The bell over the door jangled, and Lulu glanced out the cut-through window to see her brother and his partner walking in. They headed for a table where Cruz and Nikolas were already sitting, so Lu put them out of her mind. That was Penny’s section, not hers.
She returned to loading the dishwasher, and wiping down the counters. It was all hands on deck during the lunch rush, and with it winding down, she was happy to have a reason to avoid the dining room.
“Do you have a minute?”
Lulu gritted her teeth when she heard Dante’s voice in the doorway, but didn’t look up. “Why? So you can just be an asshole again? No thanks, I’m not taking applications for that right now. Check back in the next life.”
She grabbed the last tub of dirty dishes and started to load them in the nearly full dishwater, the ceramic plates jostling against each other, drowning out whatever response he was going to make.
It didn’t matter if he had a right be angry with her, she reminded herself. She’d tried to apologize, and he didn’t want to hear it. Fine. That didn’t mean she had to listen while he screamed at her all the things she already knew about herself—
“Lu—” Dante’s larger hand settled over one of hers, and she stilled, finally meeting his gaze. “Let me apologize.”
His eyes were dark with regret and concern, and she nearly broke then, her throat burning. “No. I don’t want to hear it. I did what I did and it was awful, but I did it because I wanted to help, but you wanted to hurt me, and I can’t have that in my life, okay—”
“I know. I’m sorry—”
“No!” Lulu repeated. She jerked her hand back, and the plate went flying, crashing into the sink and shattering. She stared at it blindly, then glanced up to find a few people in the dining room staring at her, including both of her brothers and Cruz.
Lulu hissed, spun on her heel, and headed for the back door.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Nikolas heard a plate crash not long after Dante had disappeared into the kitchen and half-rose out of his seat. “Should I—”
“No, either she’ll forgive him or she’ll slug him.” Lucky grimaced. “Either way, it’s not our business. Not yet.”
Nikolas sat back down, still ruffled. “I don’t know him,” he muttered. “Is he good enough for Lu? I know he’s your partner—”
“Dante’s as good as they come,” Lucky assured him. “But you know—”
“The Vinnie stuff really messed him up,” the other man at their table—the second of Lucky’s new group of friends, Cruz Rodriguez—spoke up. “I think more than he realized. Or wants to admit.”
“Well,” Nikolas said, “since most of my family are homicidal maniacs, I can understand that.” He cleared his throat and looked at his brother. “Anyway, I need to talk to you about Elizabeth. Do you remember the test results Emily mentioned a few weeks ago?”
“Oh, man.” Lucky stilled. “How bad is it?”
“Right now, she’s all right, but she’s got this condition that puts extra stress on her heart and lungs. The longer she’s pregnant, the worse that’ll get. She has to deliver the baby before the due date.”
“It doesn’t seem fair,” Cruz muttered, drawing both their attention. He colored slightly. “I just mean—I know how sick she was last summer.”
“You were there during the kidnapping,” Nikolas remembered. That day had been such a blur—but now Nikolas remembered the cop being there the day they’d found Carly and Elizabeth had nearly died.
“Yeah, Cruz took point on that case because he was shadowing Taggert.” Lucky picked up a napkin and started shredding it. “This sucks. She’s been through so much this year.”
“I know we’ve grown distant from her—and from each other,” he added, “over the last year or so. Since—”
“The wedding, the accident, Mom—” Lucky sat back. “Yeah, I know. A lot of things put us on separate paths. But it doesn’t mean I don’t care about her.”
“I know that. That’s why I’m keeping you in the loop.”
“This condition—does it, um, track back to what Lansing did to her? With the pills?” Cruz wanted to know.
“Yeah. It’s a complication of the embolism. Why?”
“Just—I know this doesn’t matter,” Cruz continued, “but it just feels like everything going wrong with Elizabeth Webber—Morgan—” he corrected, “—can be blamed on us. The PCPD, I mean. We screwed up the rape case, the kidnapping, and she had to clean up after all of it. How much worse was her health because of Capelli and after what Vinnie did to her?”
“You can’t take that on,” Lucky told Cruz. “Not you, me, or Dante. We didn’t do any of it—”
“But we carry the badge, don’t we? Capelli’s still at the PCPD, and if Vinnie didn’t get caught—” Cruz paused. “All I ever wanted to be was a cop so I could help people and protect them. Now it just feels like I’m part of the problem.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. This—this isn’t about me. Or the PCPD—”
“No—” Nikolas studied the other man with new respect, and nodded. “You’re right. A lot of what Elizabeth is dealing with can be laid at the PCPD’s feet, and they let Lansing slip out of their fingers. It’s still happening because of them. I can’t fix Elizabeth or make her better. None of us can.”
“We’re trying to do better,” Lucky reminded Cruz. “Elizabeth knows that. She doesn’t blame you or me. Or Dante—”
“I blame me. I was there that night,” Cruz argued. “When Carly went missing, and I saw that Elizabeth was under the influence of something.” He swallowed hard. “Taggert and Capelli—they left me with Jason and Sonny to go search the house. Emily—she tried to tell me that Jason was gonna take Elizabeth away, but I made them stay.”
Nikolas exhaled slowly as that sank in. If Elizabeth had left the house that first night, she couldn’t have gone back. She wouldn’t have ingested the Valium that nearly killed her the next morning or the birth control in the ice—
“And Ric probably would have killed Carly that first night,” Lucky broke into Nikolas’s thoughts. He looked at his brother, at Lucky’s grim face. “Elizabeth might have been safe, but Ric would have had no reason to keep Carly. He wanted to give that baby to Elizabeth. If there’s no Elizabeth, he doesn’t need Carly. He could have called his father, and Carly would be dead.”
“You kept Jason and Sonny there because Taggert would just have hunted them down, and Jason was free the next day to find Elizabeth before she overdosed. We can’t do everything perfectly, Cruz. You think I don’t beat myself up all the time? I didn’t remember Vinnie was a regular at Kelly’s. Even after I knew that Elizabeth was the first attack. I knew we were looking for a strange guy in her past, and I didn’t remember.”
“Lucky—” Nikolas put a hand out.
“The what ifs nearly broke me,” Lucky continued, keeping his eyes on Cruz. “If I’d gone looking for Elizabeth sooner that night, if I hadn’t broken the date, if I’d heard the guy in the park—you did the best you could on your first day on the job. What’s happening to Elizabeth now sucks. It sucks hard, and I wish like hell it wasn’t happening. She deserves the best.” He took a deep breath. “But if I know Jason—and his family—and you—” Lucky said, looking at Nikolas, “the hospital is ready with whatever she might need. That’s all we can do now.”
“I know. Sorry,” Cruz added. “It’s not about me,” he repeated. “Or even the PCPD—”
“But it is,” Nikolas said simply. “The PCPD is responsible. Both of you need to remember that. You need to do better than the assholes that came before. But, that’s it. There’s nothing else you can do.”
Harborview Towers: Hallway
“How is he today?” Jason asked Max as he approached the door.
“Uh, better than yesterday, I think. He was up and around this morning. Didn’t hear much yelling,” Max continued. “Might be a good day if you wanna talk to him.” He paused. “Do you want to?”
“All right.” The guard knocked lightly. “Yo, Boss, it’s Jason.”
The door swung open and Sonny stood there, dressed in a dark dress shirt and pants, his curls disheveled and falling on his face. “Sonny.”
“Did I know you were coming?” Sonny asked. But before Jason could answer, Sonny wandered away, towards the window. His attention seemed to be slightly unfocused, his demeanor was shaky. Jason exhaled slowly, not sure what version of his partner he was dealing with. He went inside, and Max pulled the door shut, leaving them alone.
“You here about Carly?” Sonny demanded, though there was no real harshness in his voice. More of a resigned tone.
“Because I know—I know it’s gotten off track. All of it,” Sonny added as if Jason had asked a question. “I’m trying— it’s just—I just need everyone to be safe,” he muttered. He gripped the back of a chair, his fingers digging into the leather. “I need my family to be safe. Couldn’t make them safe before. I failed them.”
“I know that’s what it feels like,” Jason said slowly, “but—”
“Failed Lily,” Sonny muttered. “She’s dead. So’s my son. And Carly. Carly could have died. I should have dealt with Ric when we had the chance. Before the kidnapping. I was weak.” He looked at Jason, the whites of his eye stark against his olive-toned skin. “I can’t be weak.”
“Sonny—” Jason hesitated.
Sonny closed his eyes, took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” he said, his voice a bit more even. A bit more normal. “I’m okay,” he repeated. “I’m just not sleeping well. I’ll be fine if I can sleep.”
“Okay,” Jason said. “Look, I just came by—” He sighed, rubbed the back of his neck. “I should have maybe told you before we left. The reason I was insisting on the wedding, on going away for two weeks—Elizabeth—” He clenched his jaw. It didn’t matter how many times he said this.
It never got easier.
“She has this…condition,” Jason told him. “It’s—it’s serious. It could be fatal. We needed—” His chest was tight. “I needed her to be away from everything. To rest.”
“Fatal,” Sonny repeated. He looked around as if just realizing where they were. “Uh, sit down, sit down. Let’s—let’s talk about this. Tell me everything.”
Dante charged after Lulu, not even entirely sure what he’d say, only that he had to say something.
“No!” She whirled around and jabbed a finger at him. “This is where I leave you? I’m sorry for what I did. I took advantage of our friendship, and I shouldn’t have. But I’m not interested in—” Her voice broke slightly. “I can’t do this again, okay? I can’t be around someone who pretends they like the things that make me who I am, and then use them later as a reason to hate me.”
“That’s not—” Dante swallowed hard. “I don’t hate you.”
“Give it time. Everyone usually manages it.” She scrubbed at her face, digging the heels of her hands into her eyes. “I told you, didn’t I? Dillon said he liked my no bullshit, no filter approach, and then later, he said it made me a bitch—he said I didn’t have any problems and you don’t think I do either—and maybe I don’t compared to you—”
“Stop—” Dante wrapped his fingers around her wrists, pulling her hands away from her face, startled to see the dark circles under her eyes. “Lu. I’m sorry.”
She closed her eyes. “Fine. You’re sorry. Whatever. Go away.”
“No. I want things to be like they were before—”
“They can’t. Because I did what I did, and now you know who I am, okay? You saw what everyone else always sees, and—”
“You saw that I was in pain, that my mother was hurting, and you wanted to make it better,” Dante interrupted, and she stumbled to a stop, blinking at him. “You knew I was holding something back from her, and she knew it, too. But I couldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t have. Maybe ever, and it would have just eaten me up inside. You saw it, Lu, and you wanted to help. No, you shouldn’t have done it, but I’m glad you did.”
“You—” She cleared her throat, stared at him as if he were an alien, her eyes wide. “What did you say?”
“I needed to talk to my mom. I needed to tell her—” Dante looked around the alley, and when he was satisfied that they were alone, he stepped closer. “The day of the hearing, my grandmother told me that I was just like my father. Just like Sonny Corinthos.”
“Sonny—” Lulu’s face drained of color. “Oh, God. Dante. That’s—”
“I can’t—I can’t go into everything,” he continued. “I’m still working it through in my head, but I couldn’t say anything to my mom. Until you made me. Thank you.”
“You’re—” She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“You have absolutely no filter or patience for people who lie,” Dante said. “And you’re too impulsive for your own good.” When she flinched, he hurried to continue. “But you’re also kind and you care about people. You listen,” he added. “And you hear more than people say. You heard more than I told you. I need you in my life, Lu. I need you to forgive me.”
“You—” Her eyes searched his. “After what I did, you’re actually begging me for my forgiveness? Did you hit your head?”
“No. You were right. I said what I did to hurt you, and I hate myself for it.”
“You’ve been through a lot—”
“It’s not an excuse—”
“No, but you need to shut up and let me accept your apology,” Lulu said with a roll of her eyes. “Because I really am sorry about what I did. Even if you’re glad it happened, it doesn’t change the fact that I messed up. I won’t tell anyone about Sonny. I promise.”
“I know you won’t.” He reached out and rubbed his hands up and down her arms, her skin nearly frozen through the thin shirt she wore. “We’re good?”
“Yeah. We’re good.” She smiled up at him, and the tightness in his chest finally eased. “Let’s go in before I turn into an icicle.”
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Jason furrowed his brow as he reached the doorway. “Who carried you up?” he wanted to know.
Elizabeth reached for the remote at her side and muted the television. “Cody. You weren’t sure when you’d be home, and I was feeling tired.” She rested a hand on her belly. “I can’t exactly sleep on the sofa anymore. I’m afraid I’ll roll off.”
He smiled faintly as he crossed the room to sit next to her, reaching for her wrist without thinking. “It feels normal,” he said after a moment, then winced. “Sorry—”
Elizabeth covered his hand with hers and waited for him to look up. “It’s the blood pressure and oxygen mask I don’t want you to decide for me. This? Never bothered me, and I know it makes you feel better.” She curled her hand in his shirt and drew him in for a long, lingering kiss. “And that makes me feel better, so we’re even.”
He rested his forehead against hers. “Me, too.”
“Double win.” She kissed him again. “Long day?”
“Yeah.” He sighed, then drew away. “Did you eat?”
“Mmm, ordered pizza. And a side salad,” she called as he went to the dresser to retrieve a pair of sweats to change. “So covered all the bases.” Elizabeth paused. “I told Bobbie and Nikolas. It went okay.”
“Good. Good.” He crawled into bed next to her, helped her sit up, then sat behind her to massage her back and shoulders. “I told Carly. And Luke already knew.” He waited a beat. “I told Sonny.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Elizabeth asked when he didn’t continue.
“Not much to say. He was having a good day, I guess, so he listened. Said all the right things.”
It broke her heart to hear the doubt in his words, the worry. Because Sonny had known for months that she wasn’t well, and it hadn’t stopped him. Would knowing how potentially dangerous her condition was change anything? For Jason’s sake, she prayed it would.
“Carly told me she’s going to stall the divorce. Until the baby is born.”
“She doesn’t have to—”
“I told her, but she insisted. She’s got a restraining order right now, so—”
Restraining orders were only good if they were obeyed, but neither mentioned it. What was the point? Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “But didn’t she ask AJ to help her? Is he going to want to wait for the adoption to be revoked?”
“I don’t know—”
“I can have Monica talk to him if you think it would help—”
“I don’t want you to worry about it—”
She reached behind her to snag one of his hands, stilling it. “Jason. I’m going to worry about it because Carly’s your family.” Grimacing, bracing one hand on her belly, she turned slightly to see him. “And this is about Sonny. He lives across the hall. You said you wanted things to be as calm as possible until the baby is born. Sonny not finding out AJ is involved helps with that, doesn’t it?”
“There’s a chance AJ might not want to wait. If there’s anyone who could do it, it would be Lila, but you and I agreed we’re not going to tell her, so Monica is our best option. Or Emily.” She stroked his arm, leaning against his chest. “We might not have to worry. AJ might agree to wait. Or Alexis might come up with a really good reason for him to be okay with it. I’m just saying—it’s there if we need it.”
She waited a long moment, but he said nothing. “I know this is more your decision than mine,” she forced out painfully. “And you’re supporting it even though you don’t really want to—”
“Let me do what I can to make this okay. Please.”
“All right.” He sighed, his breath warm against her temples. “All right. If we need it.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Port Charles Municipal Building: Lobby
Ned managed to corner his ex-wife picking up a late cappuccino. “Hey.” He slid into the chair across from her and saw her face carefully blank. “See—that’s why I had to chase you down. What gives?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lois murmured. She got to her feet and started out of the shop. Ned rolled his eyes and followed her as she moved towards the elevator. She jabbed at the button.
“You were upset this morning, and you sent your assistant to our meeting this afternoon—”
“I’ve been busy—”
“Leave it alone, Ned,” Lois warned him as the elevator doors opened. She stepped into the car and growled as he followed her. “I’m serious—”
“So, there is something—”
Lois glared at him from the corner of her eye. “You really don’t want to do this with me.”
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t—”
“I heard you and Olivia.” When Ned blinked at her, Lois continued. “Last night.”
“Heard us?” Ned shook his head. They stepped off the elevator on the floor where his offices were located. Lois started for her office, but he stopped her just before she was able to storm inside. The floor was mostly deserted at this time of the day, particularly in her department. “What do you mean you heard us?”
“I heard her tell you about Dante’s father,” Lois said through gritted teeth. “And I know!”
“You know,” Ned repeated. “Lois—”
“You know, I tried not to blame you—I convinced myself that it really wasn’t your fault—but I was wrong.” Lois’s fingers clenched hard around her cappuccino, until the top burst off and the hot liquid spilled out over her fingers. She cried out, and Ned grabbed a napkin from a nearby table to take it from her.
The tears were rushing down her face as she continued—the dam had been broken. “You were so worried about Dante, so worried about everyone else—you cared more about protecting Sonny’s kids—what about ours? What about our little girl?”
“Lois—” Ned spread his hands at his side. “What are you talking about? Everything I’m doing—I’m working hard for her—I’m worried about Dante because of what he did for Brooke—not because he’s Sonny’s son—”
“What about Kristina, then?” Lois shot back. “You’re lying about her, aren’t you? Protecting Alexis from Sonny—why couldn’t you care that much about our daughter?” She shoved at him, her sobs ripping from her chest, from soul. He grabbed her hands to stop her— to just—
“Lois, it’s not like that—I loved Brooke—”
“Not—as much—” Lois’s breaths were heaving sobs as she forced the words out— “Oh, God. Not enough. You didn’t love her enough.”
“Lois—” He didn’t have the words—didn’t have a defense. He’d adored his daughter, had loved every inch of her—but he hadn’t been there.
He hadn’t done enough.
Ned squeezed her hands. “I will take those regrets to my grave,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t there for her. I didn’t do enough. I thought I’d have more time to get it right, Lois. I thought—”
“I hung up on her.” The rush of tears had ended and now Lois was looking at him blankly. “The last time we talked before the attack. I was in a hurry, and I rushed her off the phone. I think I—I think I hung up before she even said goodbye.”
“It’s been months. Months. And I thought—” Lois closed her eyes. “I thought I was over it. I was past it, but every morning, I wake up, and I have to remember all over again that she’s gone. I’m not a mother anymore. You get to keep being a father, but there’s nothing left for me—and now—”
“Now you find out that the only daughter I have left is one I stole from another man,” Ned said roughly. “I should have told you, but there was never a good time, and I told Liv because—”
“A secret for a secret.” Lois exhaled, her breath shaky and still sounded as if it was on the edge of a sob. She leaned her head against his chest. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve been so jealous of you, I’ve hated you for Kristina, and Olivia for having Dante, and I have nothing—”
He kissed the top of her head. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not. It’s not—”
“It’s okay,” he repeated. He stepped back, cradling her jaw in his hands. “There’s no right way to do any of this, Lois. We take every day as it comes. Some days I can breathe. And some days, I have to force it. You can scream at me any time. I’ve earned it. Twice over. Maybe a hundred times.”
“I’ll remember that.” She managed a shaky smile. “I won’t say anything. I mean, I’ll tell Liv I know, and you can tell Alexis, but I won’t—I don’t want to do anything to hurt you. Or Liv. And Kristina’s just a baby. And God, if the world knew Dante was Sonny’s son—if they knew about Kristina—”
“His career would be over. The boy that did so much for our daughter deserves better from us,” Ned told her. “We need to protect him.”
“It’s what Brooke would have wanted. What she would have done.”
Ned helped Lois into her office, and neither of them saw the man who had ducked behind the planter when the mayor and his ex-wife had stormed off the elevators.
But he’d seen them, and he’d heard everything. He waited to make sure they were gone, then hurried to the service stairs.
He needed a phone. He could think of a dozen people who’d pay for this story.