Blurring and stirring the truth and the lies
So I don’t know what’s real
So I don’t know what’s real and what’s not
Don’t know what’s real and what’s not
Always confusing the thoughts in my head
So I can’t trust myself anymore
– Going Under, Evanescence
Monday, February 16, 2004
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason breathed a sigh of relief when he pushed open the door and made it inside without seeing or hearing Sonny. He just wanted to get Elizabeth settled before he went over to talk to his partner. Better to get it over with and remove the risk of Sonny coming to him.
He set their bags down by the stairs. “Do you want to take a nap before the appointment?” he asked. He crossed to the desk and picked up the phone to let Cody know they were back. The guard hadn’t been on the door when they’d returned, so Jason thought maybe he’d mistaken their return time.
“No, I’ll just stay down here. Closer to the door.” Elizabeth started to sort through the stack of mail. “It should be criminal to waste this much paper,” she muttered as she tossed the junk back on the desk. “Is Justus still coming over?”
“Yeah. Then we’ll go over to talk to Sonny.” He studied her critically. Her blood pressure and vitals had remained steady, but she’d felt dizzy a few times the day before, and the headaches were back. “Where do you want to get lunch?”
“Maybe the Grille. Edward said I have lifetime access to the kitchen,” she reminded him. “I only had to promise him our firstborn.”
Jason smirked lightly as he hung up the phone. “No, you didn’t. Edward likes you.”
“Well, better than he likes you,” she teased. “We should probably talk about what you want to do when the baby’s here. About the Quartermaines.”
“What about them?” Jason squinted.
“I know you’ll want Lila and Emily to have all the time they want, and I’m sure Monica’s on that list after these last few months.”
He stretched out to next to her, tossing her the menu for the hotel restaurant. “I guess you’re asking about Alan and Edward.”
“I know you and Edward are better after last fall, I just didn’t want to assume what that meant.”
“It doesn’t matter to me—”
“Jason.” She tipped her head when he looked at her. “I know how much you’ve struggled with them. You and I weren’t close when things went down with Michael, but I know that made everything worse. I know Edward and Alan were not kind, in particular, even when they thought Michael was yours. Emily only talked about it a few times, but it upset her that they used her.”
“That was a long time ago,” Jason said carefully. “Barely two years after the accident. I was still angry a lot of the time,” he admitted. “And they were still upset about me working for Sonny. Still trying to control me. I don’t doubt that they actually thought they were right—that I couldn’t raise Michael. That’s not true anymore.”
“I don’t want you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable because of me. You invited them to the wedding, and I appreciated that. But if we give an inch on letting them see Cameron, they’ll take it and run. I want you to know that I’m okay if you want to set boundaries or limits or even cut them out.”
Jason considered it for a long moment as she turned her attention to the menu. “When Edward found out that the pressure he’d put on Floyd had made Mac screw up your case, he was angry at himself.”
“I wanted to blame him when Ned told us. I wanted to blame them both because the Quartermaines have always put themselves first without thinking about anyone who might get crushed.” He paused. “But you didn’t.”
“They just wanted justice for Emily. I nearly ruined everything when I lost it at the trial. Instead of being angry at me, Edward tried to help. I wish I’d known that back then. It might have pushed Mac and Floyd to do the wrong thing, but it means a lot to me that he tried.”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at Edward—or Alan—and see them as family, but I don’t see them as the enemy anymore. I know family is important to you. I know the fact that yours isn’t around hurts.” He waited. “If you want them to be part of Cameron’s life, we can work that out.”
“Are you sure—”
Jason opened his mouth to reassure her again, but he heard some voices outside the door. He winced, recognizing his cousin—and Sonny. “Lunch is going to have to wait.” He helped Elizabeth stand, holding her elbow. Before she was even really on her feet, the door to the penthouse flew open, hitting the wall and bouncing back lightly.
“Nice of you to come back,” Sonny said with a snarl. “Have a good vacation?”
Without a word, Elizabeth started for the stairs, and he watched her go.
“Can’t you go faster?” Sonny snapped when Elizabeth paused once she’d reached the first landing.
“Let’s go across the hall,” Jason said in a clipped tone, relieved when Elizabeth ignored Sonny and continued up the second set of stairs.
“No! I want you to talk some goddamn sense into Carly! Do you know what she’s going to do? She’s going to keep my kids!”
“This isn’t—this is something you should be talking to Justus about—”
“He’s not being very helpful,” Sonny bit out, glaring at Justus, who had remained quiet. His cousin had closed the door, set his briefcase on the desk, then leaned against it. Patiently waiting.
“If you mean trying to file first claiming your traumatized wife is to blame because you haven’t had sex in almost a year, then no, I guess I’m not being very helpful.”
Jason blinked at that, then focused on Sonny. “What?”
“It’s grounds for divorce,” Sonny muttered. “Constructive abandonment.”
“I’m not doing it,” Justus said pleasantly as if they were discussing the weather. “For one thing, it hasn’t actually been a year. For another, your wife had a baby and was medically advised not to engage in sexual intercourse, and three, you’re an absolute piece of shit for considering it.”
Jason closed his eyes as Sonny absorbed their lawyer’s opinion. The older man’s eyes bulged, and a vein in his forehead throbbed. “What the hell did you just say to me?”
“Sonny,” Jason began.
“You’ll lose. It is my legal obligation to give you the best advice possible. Not only will you lose, but the judge will think you’re a terrible person, and it will make Carly’s case much easier to prove.”
Jason dragged his hands down his face. “Do when we know when she’s filing?”
“Not yet, but I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what will be in the petition. Cruel and inhumane treatment. She’s using December as the grounds. It’s a solid case, as I’ve told Sonny. The fact that Carly has a history of mental illness is actually going to work against Sonny, not for him—”
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!”
“Her mental health issues have been well documented. It does not matter that everyone suspects she faked her commitment to Ferncliffe to avoid jail. It’s legally true. She was diagnosed with acute stress disorder on the record, Sonny, and there are any number of witnesses to the struggles she’d had since. Everything you think helps you helps Carly.”
“Witnesses,” Sonny said sourly. “No one will testify, and I’ll deny it. You can’t say anything because you’re my lawyer, and Bernie and Jason know better.” He glared at Jason. “If you can keep your wife quiet, Carly can’t prove anything.”
Jason’s blood began to boil. “What makes you think I wouldn’t tell the truth?”
“Damn it, Jason—”
“You want this to go away, Sonny? You want Carly to back down?” Jason challenged. “Do what she wants. Go get some damn help. Justus is right. Carly has a good case. If she walks in there with this evidence, you’re going to lose everything. You’re out of options.”
“I am Sonny Corinthos,” Sonny hissed, jabbing a finger at Jason. “I don’t answer to you or anyone else.”
He stalked out of the penthouse, slamming the door so hard the frame shook.
“I’m sorry,” Justus said. “I shouldn’t have antagonized him, but he sprang that abandonment crap on me right before he stormed over here—” He took a deep breath. “Everything Carly has been through this year, and he wants to go into court to say it’s her fault because she wouldn’t have sex with him—I can’t do it, Jason.”
“No, I know—”
“I mean it. If he doesn’t drop this defense, I’m quitting. To hell with him.”
“You—” Jason felt the first tendrils of fear slide through him. If he lost Justus right now— “Okay. I get it. This is the worst possible thing to happen right now. I know you’re unhappy.”
“I’ve been this way for months. I’ve been sticking because of you, but—”
“I know. I know. And I can’t—getting away for two weeks—Elizabeth’s blood pressure is back to normal. She’s better,” Jason told him. “It was worth it. Thank you. I just—” He fisted his hands at his side. “I have no right to ask this, but—”
“I’m staying on until Elizabeth has the baby. After that—you need to find another sucker to put up with him.”
Justus left then without waiting for Jason to say anything. Not that there was anything to say.
He’d known Justus was miserable, he’d known that Carly’s divorce petition would make everything worse—
He just hadn’t expected to feel this helpless to do anything about it.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Dante followed his partner into the restaurant, then immediately scowled when he spied the blonde working behind the counter. “Damn it—”
“Look, she just wants to apologize—” Lucky snagged Dante’s sleeve before he could leave. “She’s been moping around for days—”
“Then she should have thought about that before she opened her mouth,” Dante retorted. “I don’t owe her anything—”
“No, you don’t, but you’re avoiding the diner, and this would resolve it, wouldn’t it? Come on. Just let her apologize for telling your mother whatever she told her—”
“I’m surprised she didn’t tell you,” he muttered. “If she’s been complaining—”
“I asked her what was going on. She just said she got into the middle of something with you and your mother that she shouldn’t have.” Lucky narrowed his eyes. “Why? Is there something I should know?”
“No,” he sighed. “Fine. I’ll let her apologize.”
“Good.” Lucky turned to face the counter where Lulu watched them apprehensively. “Let’s go.”
“Lucky, what did you do?” Lulu demanded before her brother even took a seat. “I never told him anything—” she said to Dante.
“Yeah, he said that.” He paused, then made a face. “Can you take your break? We’ll go out into the alley.”
“Sure,” Lulu said warily. She flagged down another waitress, and then Dante followed her through the kitchen into the brick alleyway that ran behind the diner.
“Go ahead and apologize so I can tell you I don’t care.”
She flinched. “I am sorry—”
“You had no right to get between me and my mother. It was none of your business—”
“I know that, and I was sorry as soon as I said it,” Lulu cut in. “But I just couldn’t stand how upset she looked, and I knew it wasn’t about her—”
“You don’t know anything!” Dante exploded. “You have no idea what I’m going through!”
“Okay, okay, I know that—” Lulu swallowed hard. “But—”
“I told you I didn’t want to talk about it. It’s no one’s damn business. I’m sorry your life is so boring you have to screw with mine—”
“Excuse me?” Lulu said hotly. “That is not—”
“It’s exactly what’s going on. Your brother’s a goddamn prince—you’ve never had a problem in your life—”
His jaw exploded in pain as Lulu’s fist connected with it, and Dante stumbled back.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said through clenched teeth, her eyes bright with tears. “I’m sorry I thought you were worth the trouble.” She untied her apron, threw it at him, then stalked away, disappearing down the alley.
Dante winced as he wiggled his jaw. She had a hell of a left hook, he acknowledged, rubbing it again, but he’d had that coming. He’d meant to just let her apologize so this could go away, but he’d just—
He’d lost it. His patience and his damn mind, obviously.
“Just checking to make sure you’re both alive—” Lucky shoved open the metal door, then blinked at Dante standing alone in the alley, holding his sister’s apron. “What happened? He squinted. “Shit, did she slug you?”
“Yeah.” Dante exhaled slowly. “I lost my temper,” he muttered. “She just—she gets under my skin.”
“Uh huh. What did you say? Lu’s not really violent.”
“I just—look, she just doesn’t get what I’m dealing with—”
“No one does, man, you’ve been all over the place since Christmas.” Lucky crossed his arms. “I’d blame it on your cousin, but you were mostly okay until the hearing. Are you still off because you had to testify? That crap with your family? Because if that’s it, Lu does get it—”
“You did the right thing, Dante, but you feel like you screwed up your whole damn family and made them feel like they had to take sides. You think that’s impossible for people to understand?” Lucky snorted. “It’s literally the story of my sister’s life. She’s only alive today because of Nikolas, and his showing screwed up our entire family.”
Dante stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“Lu got really sick when she was a kid. None of us were bone marrow matches, so Mom reached out to Nikolas’s uncle in Greece. We didn’t know he existed. He came here, and me and my dad—” Lucky looked away. “We didn’t handle it well. Nikolas being in Port Charles, saving Lu’s life—the fact that my mother had lied about him all her life—my parents never really got over that. They ended up getting divorced. Nikolas and I always put Lu in the middle, and she’s blamed herself. If Mom hadn’t called Nikolas, she might have been able to keep protecting herself from facing what Nikolas’s father did to her. Instead, the Cassadines came to town, I ended up getting kidnapped, and Mom was catatonic for a year.”
“I—” Dante cleared his throat. “I didn’t realize—”
“Whatever Lu did or said to your mother, I promise you, she meant well.” Lucky waited a minute. “You don’t have to accept her apology, that’s on you, but she’s not a bad person.”
“I know that.” He sighed and looked down the alley where Lulu had disappeared. “I know.”
Jason scrubbed his hands over his face and took a deep breath before asking the question his brain was screaming. “AJ was the only way? The only way?”
Carly made a face, then tapped her fingers against the table. “No, but Alexis convinced me he was the best option. Justus is a good lawyer. He might win supervised visits. I can’t take the chance.” She scowled. “You’re really not mad that I did this, are you?”
“I’m—” Jason paused. He wasn’t, of course. Michael was Carly’s son, and she had every right to do whatever she needed to. “It’s just—it’s AJ. You’ve spent so many years running away from him. I go away for two weeks, and that’s all gone now.”
“That was a long time ago, and I just—” Carly lifted her hands. “I went to see him first. We had a good conversation, and I think he wants what’s best for Michael. You know I didn’t always believe that. Or maybe I didn’t want to. Michael is scared of Sonny. If he isn’t going to get help—” She pressed her lips together. “Would you want him around your son? The way he is now?”
The simple question stung, and Jason swallowed hard, then shook his head. “No. No, I wouldn’t.”
“Okay. Alexis told me that AJ was coming back to Port Charles anyway because of Ned and ELQ, so it’s just good timing. I know this is crazy, Jase. I was right where you were a week ago, but I also—” Carly paused. “I needed to apologize to AJ.”
Jason scowled. “Apologize—”
“Don’t pretend that he doesn’t have good reasons to hate me,” Carly interrupted. “You have your own issues with him, but those are your problems. Not mine. I did a lot of damage to AJ and blamed him for things that I can’t—” She clenched her fist. “A lot of things that were my fault.”
“I needed to apologize and put it behind me. So that’s what I did. I did it because I needed the peace of mind and because I want my boys away from Sonny as quickly as possible.”
Jason blinked because that was the second time Carly had said that. “Is there some kind of deadline?”
“Jason—” Carly exchanged a look with her mother, who sighed. “Jason, I know about April.”
“April?” he repeated, mystified. “What—”
“Luke took your words to heart,” Bobbie said, sitting next to her daughter. “He’s been checking in on the situation, maybe more than you’d want. He still has his old connections, and he’s been talking to some people.”
“Who?” Jason demanded.
“I don’t know. Some guy who works in one of the clubs near the waterfront. He said he’d worked with Smith back in the day.” Bobbie shuddered, likely remembering her own connections to Frank Smith and the mob more than twenty years ago. “Luke was in this business for a long time, Jason.”
“I know.” He’d been a mentor when Jason had been left alone to handle things, but it still made Jason uncomfortable now to trust someone else. “Okay, Luke’s talked to people. So what?”
“I’m not asking for details. Please believe me. I don’t want them. I never have,” Carly said. “But I know you understand that I deserve to know the things that affect me and my boys. Luke said there’s going to be—God, it sounds stupid to say it — but he made it sound like there was a lot of violence coming.”
Jason paused, took a deep breath, and thought about how to answer the question. “I’m doing everything I can to keep that from happening,” he said finally. “Sonny hasn’t been showing up, and I—I took a risk leaving for so long. I’ve been distracted.”
“What’s going on?” Bobbie wanted to know. “Is it Elizabeth and the baby?”
“We’re—we’re working on that, and I know she wants to talk to you. We both do,” Jason said as Carly scowled. “I’m just—we’re not ready—there’s a doctor’s appointment later, and we’ll—” His skin felt tight. “I can’t.”
Bobbie sighed, sat back. “Okay. So Sonny’s not doing his job as the local godfather, and there are some morons who think you’re weak.”
“Yeah. I’ve got it handled, Bobbie.”
“Until April,” Carly said, and Jason looked at her. “That’s what Luke said. You’re getting a break because people respect you and feel bad for Elizabeth. And I also think you’re getting it because they want you to deal with Sonny yourself. Is that it?”
“Yeah.” He hated this. He hated bringing any of this home to his family, to the people he loved. “I don’t want you to worry about any of this, Carly.”
“I know you’ve done everything to keep me and the boys safe. You’ve always done that,” she continued. “But my boys are not safe around Sonny. All it takes is one person to get impatient and go after him. There are people who don’t care about me and Elizabeth or our children. They’re not going to wait.” She smiled grimly. “You know I’m right. I’ve been in this life long enough to see the signs. He won’t go down without a fight, and I’m not putting my boys in the middle. I love you, and I will always want you to be part of my life and theirs, but I can’t take that risk with Sonny anymore. I’m not brave enough.”
He wanted to argue with her, he wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about, but of course, she did. Carly had seen this internal power struggle before when Sonny had been shot outside the police station a few years earlier. She’d gone nuclear and tried to get Sonny a deal with the FBI, to get him out herself.
But she’d learned a valuable lesson. There was no Sonny without the power. So she was going nuclear again—only this time, she didn’t plan to take Sonny with her. That was why AJ was needed. To burn the final bridges.
“I’m trying to stop this from happening—”
“And I love you for that,” Carly said softly. “I love you for never giving up on him. If he were in his right mind, he wouldn’t give up on you, either. But he’s not, and he hasn’t been in months, Jason. We get days and weeks, but something’s tipped inside, and he won’t fix it. I tried to do it, but I can’t.”
“And you’ll get there, too.” She paused, met his eyes. “Because if you don’t do something about it, someone else will. Sonny’s done, Jason. You’re the only one who doesn’t see it.”
Olivia Falconieri’s Apartment: Hallway
Olivia brightened when she saw her son on her doorstep. He hadn’t returned any of her calls since that terrible day at the diner, but finally, he was reaching out.
“Dante!” Pleased, she stepped back. “Come in, come in. You caught me on my way to work—”
“I can go.” He turned, and her smile dimmed a bit. His eyes were shadowed, and there was some stubble on his chin. He looked as if he hadn’t been sleeping. “I just—I need to talk you.”
“What’s wrong?” Olivia closed the door, focusing on him. “I mean, other than the—I don’t know—do you want to talk about it yet—”
He exhaled slowly, tipped his head back to look at the ceiling. “I should have said something when I found out,” Dante admitted. “But I couldn’t—I couldn’t face it.”
“Baby—” Guilt swamped her, her throat tightening. “I should have said something when you moved here, but I just—I’d put it away so long ago—”
“He doesn’t know, does he?” Dante asked. “No one does?”
“No one except your grandma and your uncle Frankie. It was their idea that I hide it,” Olivia told him. “Sonny—we all knew he was running numbers for Joe Scully, but, uh, we thought it was neighborhood crap.” She shifted. “And then there was Connie.”
Dante dragged one hand down his cheek. “Aunt Connie? I mean—” He cleared his throat. “Aunt Kate,” he corrected. “I didn’t realize—”
“We didn’t talk for ages,” Olivia murmured, “when they started going together behind my back. Years,” she admitted. “I found out about you not long after I discovered them, and keeping the secret—well, it was petty at first. Then we started to hear more things about the kind of jobs Scully was having him do. Uncle Frankie found me throwing up, and he and Ma arranged for me to go away. To stay away. I got lucky,” Olivia continued, “because Sonny left after his ma died, and then I could come home with you.”
“No one suspected?” Dante asked suspiciously.
“Sonny wasn’t popular by then,” Olivia said. “If anyone in the neighborhood thought you looked like him, they kept their mouth shut. No one ever said a thing to me or you. He’s been out of my life longer than he was ever in it, and he got what he deserved when Connie broke his heart and left him for college and changed her whole life.”
Dante wandered into her living room and sat down on the sofa. Olivia followed. “I’m sorry, baby. I never dreamed Ma would say anything to you—”
“She said I was like him because I’d turned on family,” Dante murmured. “I remember the old rumors about Sonny. People thought he’d hurt his ma.”
“Not me,” Olivia said, “but plenty did. Ma and Uncle Frankie did. And maybe that’s another reason no one said anything. Dante—”
“I did turn on family,” Dante said. He looked up at her. “I was right to,” he added, “but I wasn’t gonna tell anyone about that tape unless I was forced to. I was gonna let it go. Let him just get away with all the things he’d said and done—”
“That is not—”
“He was going down for just the Webber case,” Dante said, “and maybe one day, no one would even remember the rest of it. No one would ever know what he’d done to Brooke. And then they told us about that hearing—I couldn’t stand it. Couldn’t face him getting off clean when I knew how rotten he was—” He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “I turned on him. I didn’t wanna, Ma. I didn’t want it to be him.”
“Of course not, baby.”
“He’s in me. That blood,” Dante continued as Olivia just blinked at him. “Whatever made him twisted — it’s in my DNA, and Sonny—” He stared off into the distance. “Sonny’s in me, too. I tried to let it go. I tried to forget it.”
“You should. You’re nothing like them—you’re better—”
“No? You should have seen the way I talked to Lu after what she said to you.” Dante got to his feet. “She just wanted to help me, and I slapped her down for it.”
“Then you apologize for it—for whatever you said—”
Dante shook his head. “I don’t deserve it—”
“That’s not up to you,” Olivia said stubbornly. “You offer the apology, and you let her decide whether to accept it. She cared enough about you to try to help, you ought to care enough to try to make it right.”
General Hospital: Kelly Lee’s Office
By the time Monica joined them, Kelly had already completed Elizabeth’s physical, including an ultrasound. It was exciting to see how much the baby had grown since the last one.
“You can see his legs and arms,” Elizabeth told Jason, beaming as she studied the printout in Kelly’s office while their doctor was organizing her blood work results and waiting for Monica. “See?” She pointed it out on the grainy photo, and Jason nodded.
“Sure, if that’s what those are—”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and beamed as Kelly and Monica finally came back in. “Did you see the ultrasound?” she asked her mother-in-law. “Kelly’s getting a video so we can show everyone—”
“I did,” Monica took a seat next to Elizabeth and Jason, in the third chair set in front of Kelly’s desk. “He looks great.”
Elizabeth turned to Kelly, expecting confirmation. Their pretty, dark-haired doctor nodded in agreement. “The baby is in great health. I’ve got your fetal kick count chart here, and that’s right on target. The baby is developing just as we’d expected.” She hesitated, and some of Elizabeth’s excitement dimmed.
Jason’s hand tightened around hers. “But?” he said, and she looked at him, grateful that he was willing to say what she couldn’t.
“When I conducted the physical, I could see that you weren’t taking deep, full breaths without being directed to do so.” Kelly looked at Monica, who continued.
“I know that you’ve been taking your pulse and checking your blood pressure as directed,” Monica said. “I know they’re within the range we discussed, and I’m glad to see for the most part, your vitals have stabilized. I was a bit concerned, however, with the oxygen levels in your blood work.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked down. “They’re low, aren’t they?” she murmured.
“Not dangerously low,” Kelly cautioned. “The normal range is 95 to 100. Anything below 90 is a sign of hypoxemia and will drive your blood pressure up. Hypoxemia can lead to organ damage, so we must prevent it.” She tilted her head to the side. “How is your breathing?”
“Um, mostly okay, I think. I’ve been trying to avoid stairs unless necessary. The lake house was one floor—”
They waited, but Elizabeth didn’t continue speaking. Jason sighed. “You know about the oxygen she needed on our wedding day,” he said to Monica, then looked at Elizabeth. “And you’re not taking a lot of deep breaths. That’s not new. It’s been like that for a few weeks. Maybe even longer. Even when you sleep. You’ve been compensating with more shallow ones.”
Elizabeth frowned, and the corner of his mouth turned up. “I’m not even sure if you noticed,” he admitted. “You’re…it’s been…I think you’re just used to doing it. Before the embolism, then after—”
“I—” Elizabeth sighed. “Maybe. I haven’t noticed it, but if Jason says so, he’s probably right. I get tired easily. The good days—they’re a little less, and the bad days feel worse. I had a really few rough days while we were away.”
She put a hand protectively over her belly. “But I bounced back, and I feel better now. I rested just like I was supposed to do, and I feel almost normal. Except for the headaches,” Elizabeth insisted. “I can still walk a-and I could make it up the stairs if I tried. I just don’t because you said not to—and I can still breathe. I—the wedding was—there were outside things—” She closed her mouth, realizing that no one was fighting with her. No one was saying anything.
“What are her oxygen levels?” Jason asked.
“94,” Monica answered. “Which means we need to treat it now before it gets worse. You could suffer organ damage.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “And how are we going to treat it?” she asked flatly.
“I’m not suggesting we induce labor,” Kelly told her, and Elizabeth opened her eyes, looked at her with suspicion. “You’ve already told me that it’s a last resort, and I respect that, Elizabeth. I really do. You’re right. Every day we can wait is better for the baby. But—”
“But it’s also our responsibility to make sure that you deliver safely,” Monica said, her voice a bit tougher. “That you survive delivery. If your organs shut down—with a condition that already puts stress on your heart and lungs—that’s not something we can guarantee you’ll come back from. You could end up needing a double transplant. I’m the one recommending you deliver as soon as possible. Honestly, I’d like you to check in now. Today.”
Elizabeth dipped her head and stared at her belly, at her hand resting over her son. As if sensing his mother’s distress, she felt a heel press against her palm. A tear splashed the back of her hand.
“Elizabeth—” Monica began.
“What else can be done?” Jason asked. He covered her hand with his, the wedding ring she’d put on his finger glinting dully. She looked up to find him studying his mother. “Elizabeth wants to wait as long as we can, and you said her oxygen levels aren’t too low yet. Is there anything that can stabilize them? To give us a few more weeks? She’s right. The rest of her vitals are normal, and her energy has come back.”
Elizabeth smiled at him gratefully, and Monica sighed. “More structured oxygen therapy,” she said, her tone clipped. “I’d like you on oxygen while you sleep to start. I’ll ask you to check your oxygen levels every few hours. If it dips below 90, you come to the hospital immediately, do you understand?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth looked at her, gratefully. “I know you want me to deliver sooner—”
“I want you to survive,” Monica cut in. “But I also know—” She sighed. “I also know that I would probably be making a similar choice in your position,” she muttered. “I’m coming over every day,” she warned Jason and Elizabeth.
“If you being there to watch over me and the baby means I can wait until thirty-five weeks, I might just ask you to move in,” Elizabeth replied, trying to smile.
“Don’t joke. That’s literally the next step,” Monica warned.
“Is there anything else?” Jason asked Kelly.
“No, the baby—”
“Cameron,” Elizabeth corrected. “We—we picked a name, and I want to use it now. Cameron Hardy Morgan. For my grandparents.”
“Cameron,” Kelly said, “is developing just fine. Whatever you’re doing—with the addition of whatever Monica prescribes—keep it up.” She got to her feet. “I’ll go get the video of the ultrasound for you.”
“I’ll go with you. I wanted to ask you one more thing,” Elizabeth offered. She flashed a smile at Jason. “I’ll be right back.”
Jason watched her go, then looked at his mother. “She shouldn’t wait, should he?” he asked roughly.
Monica shook her head. “I can’t say that, Jason.” When he stood with a scowl, she returned it. “I can’t. She’s not wrong—babies born this early can face all kinds of complications. Every day you can give him is a better outlook—”
“But?” Jason raised a brow.
“But pregnancy often pushes even a healthy woman to her limits. She’s supporting a second life, and Elizabeth’s body wasn’t entirely one hundred percent before she got pregnant. Every day, her heart and lungs are supporting two people, and they’re not quite up to the job.”
“Every day she gives Cameron is another day she might be taking from herself,” he finished with a hard swallow. “She knows it. Do you know why she wants to use the name now? Why she’s insisting on it?”
“Because she might not live to use it once he’s born,” Monica said. She exhaled slowly. “Have the two of you talked about that?”
“A little.” Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “This oxygen therapy—this will work?”
“It will give her more time,” Monica replied. “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and if luck is on our side, we can get her through the next few weeks.” She touched his arm. “We’re doing everything we can.”
“I know.” He managed a smile, then hugged her, grateful for the support. “Thanks.”
Elizabeth and Kelly emerged from the back room, Elizabeth tucking a slim DVD case into her purse. “Ready to go?” she asked him with a brightness that was clearly forced. He held out his hand, and she laced her fingers through his.
He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Yeah, let’s go home.”
Ward Home: Kitchen
“Part of me wants you to just say to hell with it and quit,” Tamika told him as Justus loaded the dishwater. He grimaced. “I know you can’t tell me what you argued about, but—”
“I wanted to quit in December,” Justus muttered, “but I stayed on. The ink on the mortgage was barely dry.” He sighed, crossed to their wine rack, and took down a bottle. “I dragged you up here—”
“We were already considering expanding the store,” Tamika cut in. “And you wanted to reconnect with your family. You could quit this job tomorrow, and I wouldn’t care. Go into private practice. Hell, go into the public defender’s office. Keep Scott Baldwin honest.” She accepted the glass of wine he handed her. “You don’t have to stay with Sonny and Jason just because the job is why we moved here.”
“If I were to quit now,” Justus said, slowly, “when things are so unresolved and chaotic, I’d feel like I was abandoning Jason. He doesn’t need that right now.”
“Because Elizabeth is sick, and you wanna stick with him until it’s fixed. If you go, Bernie is handling things by himself.” Tamika sipped her wine. “So, you stay until the baby is born or until you feel comfortable enough to go—”
“If it were just Jason,” Justus said. He stopped, staring down into the dark red wine.
“You like the job,” Tamika said. “We talked about this, Justus, and I told you as long as you stay safe and be smart, I just want you to be happy. I mean, Portia’s dating a cop, but he went to Jason’s wedding. Port Charles has a lot of gray areas.”
“Yeah, that’s true. I don’t know. I can’t get into it,” he repeated, “but I think everyone can see how tense things are between Jason and Sonny. Something is going to break it open, and I guess—I don’t know. I don’t want Jason standing alone when it does.”
Municipal Building: Mayor’s Office
Olivia knocked hesitantly on Ned’s door and flashed him a faint smile when he gestured for her to come in. “I was really looking for Lois,” she admitted as she sat down in front of his desk. “She wasn’t at her place.”
“She had a late meeting,” Ned said, “but she’s supposed to stop by if you want to wait for her.”
“Thanks.” Olivia bit her lip and twisted her hands in her lap. “Um, how are things going? As the mayor?”
“It’s interesting. A lot of paperwork,” he admitted, “but I feel like I’m making a difference.” He paused. “It’s filling the empty time and gives me something to concentrate on.”
“That’s why I stayed after—” Olivia paused. “After,” she finished. “I couldn’t go back. I knew I couldn’t walk those streets anymore. I needed the distraction of something else. Somewhere else.”
“Yeah, I can understand that. The grief for me—” He shook his head. “It’s overwhelming at times, but I can see the weight is different for Lois. Not just because she did most of the heavy lifting with Brooke—although that’s part of it—it’s knowing.”
“They ran together, growing up. Vinnie was a little older,” Olivia said, “but he was one of the neighborhood kids. Brooke used to—” Her throat tightened. “She used to tease him about dating. She’d see him leave in his Camaro—I’m sorry. I don’t—”
“It’s okay. Brooke was yours, too.”
“My godbaby. I looked after her the way Lois looked after Dante. Single moms—” Olivia shook her head. “I didn’t mean—”
“Yeah, you did. And Lois was a single mom. I didn’t spend enough time with my daughter.” Ned glanced over at the picture on his desk of a pretty baby with dark hair. “I’m trying to make up for it with Kristina, but I’ll never rid myself of the guilt.” He exhaled slowly. “How’s Dante handling all of this?”
“I thought he was doing okay with it. The hearing was hard on him. He knew it had to be done, but it still hurt to turn on family. My mother—” Olivia pressed her lips together. “She can’t forgive him.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t understand—with what kind of monster he was—”
“Ma doesn’t—can’t—see it that way. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t fond of Frannie, and she never liked the husband. She didn’t much like Vinnie, either. But blood—you don’t mess with it. You don’t snitch on family.” Her fingers tightened in her lap. “I should have done better by him.”
“Dante’s a good kid, Olivia—”
“I should have told him,” she blurted out. She closed her eyes when Ned blinked at her. “If I’d told him, you see, he couldn’t be blindsided that way. Ma couldn’t have hurt him with the truth if he’d already known it.”
“The truth?” Ned echoed.
“Christ.” Olivia shoved to her feet and paced to the door. “Never mind. I’m sorry. I need to go.”
“Olivia—” Ned stood. “I hope you know that whatever you say to me—it’s in confidence.” She turned back to him. “I know Lois would have fallen apart a thousand times without you these last few months. If you want to wait for her—”
“She doesn’t know. No one knew. Just Ma and Frankie. My brother,” she added absently when he frowned. “As soon as Dante told me he was coming to the academy in Port Charles, I should have just found a way—but I didn’t—I hoped it wouldn’t matter.” She rubbed her chest. “He looks like him,” she murmured. She met Ned’s eyes. “I was just a girl, you know, and he broke my heart, so I didn’t tell him about Dante. At first. Then later, well, all the stories and the papers, I knew he’d end up no good—”
“Lois said a few months ago that you and Sonny had dated as kids,” Ned said when Olivia stopped talking. “That’s who you’re talking about. Dante—Sonny is his father.”
“I never wanted him to know. It was selfish of me—”
“You never told Lois?”
“I thought about it. I thought she might have even suspected,” Olivia admitted. “But she’s never said. Dante found out, and he’s been—well, it was a one-two punch. First Vinnie, then Sonny.”
“Yeah, I can only imagine.”
“He doesn’t want anyone to know, and it’ll ruin his career if it gets out,” Olivia said. “No one will care that Dante doesn’t want him in his life.”
“He’s better off,” Ned assured her. “I promise you that. I don’t—” He hesitated. “I don’t ever plan to tell Kristina.”
Olivia blinked at him, then her eyes widened. “Kristina isn’t—she’s—” She exhaled slowly. “Oh. But why are you—”
“A secret for a secret,” Ned said with a wry smile. “I promised Alexis we would protect her daughter from Sonny, and after we lost her sister—my fiancée—I knew I would go to my grave keeping it. You did the right thing,” he told her again. “And if there’s anything I can do to help you and Dante protect this secret, I’ll do it. I can’t help Brooke anymore, but I can help the boy who put away the monster who broke her.”
Olivia squeezed his hand, smiling through her tears. “If I can think of something that will help, I’ll tell you. And thank you. For trusting me with your secret. I’ll take it to the grave.”
“I know you will.”
Outside Ned’s office, the door slightly ajar, Lois stood there, her hand on the wall, bracing herself as her brain swirled. Ned had lied about Kristina.
He’d ignored their daughter, cast her to the wolves, all so he could take care of someone else’s kid.
Her blood boiled.