To escape a world so great
Close your eyes now
We float away
Close to the brink
Oh it’s so colorful
Don’t be scared
Just take my hand
– Tomorrowland (All Fall Down), Leon Else
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
General Hospital: Sonny’s Room
Carly perched on the edge of her chair, her hands gripping the arms so tightly her knuckles were bone-white and aching from the exertion. She wanted to get up, she wanted to leave.
She wanted to find her boys, get out of Port Charles, and maybe, at this point, never come back.
But the way to the door was blocked. One burly man she’d never seen before stood in front of the door while another stranger was helping Sonny stand and get into some clothing. It was on the tip of her tongue to protest—it had only been days since Sonny was shot—he shouldn’t be out of bed.
A darker thought slid through her mind, poisoning her ability to react. If Sonny died, this would stop. It would go away. And maybe it would be for the best.
“I’m checking out of the hospital, and we’re going back to the penthouse,” Sonny said, finally addressing his wife. His dark eyes met hers and there was nothing there. No sign of man she’d battled, loved, despised. He was empty. “Where are the boys?”
Carly rose to her feet. “They’re with your sister,” she said, forcing the words through a closed throat. “Sonny—”
“Good, good. You should tell her to take them to New York for a few days,” he continued. He slid into a suit jacket, grimacing as he did so.
“I can do that.” She hesitated. “I should go with them—”
“You’re coming back to the penthouse.” Sonny looked at her. “Where I can see you.”
This was the man she’d married, that she had sacrificed her self-respect for, destroyed her friendship with Jason for. She had never been scared of him before, never worried he might hurt her.
“Let’s go.” Sonny nodded at the man who’d helped him dress. “Make sure she gets there. Don’t make a scene.”
“Sonny—” Carly began, but the man advancing on her strangled any protest she might have made. There was no choice here, no chance for escape.
She had made her choice long ago, and there was no turning back.
It was a twenty-minute ride from the Corinthos-Morgan warehouse to the estate Jason had bought on the outskirts of town, and for every one of those twenty minutes, Elizabeth bit her tongue and sat on her hands.
There was no word from the guards at the house, no word from Jason. And asking wouldn’t change that. Jason had segmented security for this very reason. Elizabeth’s guards would always keep her as a number one priority, while Cam and Evie were someone else’s top concern. She wanted it that way. She wanted Denny and Lyle to only be thinking about the babies.
“Elizabeth,” Nadine tried again. “Why—”
“Because they need to concentrate on the road, on making sure no one is following us,” Elizabeth said as they passed the last of the buildings in downtown Port Charles before the streets opened to the suburban sprawl on the outskirts of the city. “Once they call a lock down, there are no further attempts at communication until we reach our meeting place.”
And she understood that, she did. When Jason had described this to her only weeks ago, she’d thought it made sense.
Though at the moment, it was hard to remember why.
Nadine hands were trembling as they lay in her lap. “You sound like you’ve done this before. Is there some handbook I didn’t get?”
“Security is number one,” Elizabeth managed to force out, her eyes trained on the scenery outside her window. As soon as she could get into the house, she could find out what happened. She could make sure her babies were okay. She just had to wait. “We have two young children and a volatile situation on our hands. Jason and I have talked about security at length.”
All the talking in the world, all the experience in the world—it hadn’t prepared her for the sickening twisting in her belly, the conviction that no news was the worst news, that news of shots fired where her children were would only lead to heart break.
As they approached the wrought iron fence and the guard house at the edge of property, Elizabeth found herself—for the first time and only briefly—regretting the day she had ever met Jason Morgan.
“The kids are okay,” Johnny O’Brien was reassuring Jason from the front seat of the car as they sped down the road leading to the estate. “They’re in the car right behind us.”
Jason was trying not to think about Cam and Evie in the back seat, with their shell-shocked nanny, Denny, and Johnny Zacchara with Max Giambetti at the wheel. He was focused on the bleeding of Evie’s guard, Lyle.
He’d taken a bullet to the shoulder trying to keep Evie safe. Saving Jason’s family. Jason had a towel pressed to the wound, relieved nothing dangerous appeared to be hit. This time.
He couldn’t stand how close they’d come this time—how much they’d nearly lost.
The car stopped by the guard house, and a newer guard stepped out. He looked in the car, and got the code word from Johnny. The gates opened, and the car sped up the drive to the portico entrance. The tires squealed as Johnny braked. Doors were thrown open, Jason and Johnny got Lyle out of the car just as the dark sedan with everyone else screeched to a halt, Max nearly clipping the first car.
There was a mad rush as everyone hurried inside, eager to be away from any eyes. They’d taken a circuitous route from downtown Port Charles to be sure no one could follow them, and at some point the car with the kids had been separated from them briefly. The two minutes before the cars met up again as the approached the house were the longest of Jason’s life.
He handed Lyle to Max, and watched as Tommy and Bernie rushed out of the house. Denny and Tommy took charge of the kids and Nora, but Jason didn’t go inside until he knew everyone was out of the cars and safe.
When he went through the entrance, he saw one of the medically trained guards stationed at the house examining Lyle’s gunshot wound, Bernie looking at Nora’s bruised cheek and calling for an ice pack.
And Elizabeth on the floor, embracing both of the children. When she saw him, she leapt up and ran to him. He swallowed her in his arms for just a moment—he couldn’t afford more than that. Until he’d seen Tommy and Bernie, he hadn’t been sure they’d arrived from the warehouse safely. He’d known there were shots fired—but he couldn’t be sure, couldn’t let himself believe Elizabeth had survived it unscathed.
Then he stepped back and leaned down to touch Cam’s face, to brush away the tears the toddler was sniffling. “You guys okay?” he asked Elizabeth, then looking again at Cam and Evie. There were no marks, no signs of injury anywhere.
“Looks like it,” Elizabeth managed. She picked Evie up, pressing her cheek to the top of the little girl’s dark hair, Cameron clinging to her black dress. She looked at Nora, then back at Jason. “What happened?”
He hesitated, looking back at the cluster of men, at Johnny Zacchara who was talking in low tones to Nadine across the room. He had to take a few moments to calm the children, to speak to Elizabeth. He also had to start making some sense of this disaster—he had to take action to fix it.
“Tommy, I need you and Bernie to get a hold of the other guys. Make sure things are okay on their front. Lift the lockdown, everyone’s safe and they need to get back to business to keep everyone calm.” He rubbed his head, then looked at Max and Johnny. “Not that I don’t trust Frankie, but can you get our doctor out here to look at Lyle?” To Nora, he asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she managed, pressing ice to her cheek, but her face was still pale, her pupils dilated.
“Denny, I need you to take Nora to her room and make sure she has anything she needs.” He picked Cameron up. “We’re taking the kids upstairs.”
Elizabeth silently followed him out of the living room into the foyer, then up the stairs.
Elizabeth was relieved to see that Jason had reproduced the children’s nursery from the penthouse, down to the furniture and the types of toys they’d used. Familiar surroundings would help them feel safe, and already Evie was squirming to get down, to investigate the pack of stuffed animals in the corner.
Cam and Evie were released, and they both took off—Evie crawling frantically after the toddling Cameron. “Nora’s hurt,” Elizabeth said softly. “But the kids don’t have a scratch on them.”
She turned back to Jason, who looked as pale as Nora had downstairs. “They said there were shots fired at the house—”
“Nora was already packing for the kids,” Jason said, rubbing his neck. “She was upstairs with them, with Lyle, and Denny was downstairs, Cody was outside.”
Which made sense, Elizabeth thought. A guard for each floor, one outside. It was part of the security design.
“Six men burst through the door,” he said.
Six. “Two for each guard,” she murmured, her blood chilling. Because Sonny knew their security. Jason had created similar protocols for Michael and Morgan.
“And a seventh came in after the guards took on Denny and Lyle,” Jason continued, his eyes stark because he’d made that connection, too. “Max and Johnny came then—because I’d sent them to get the kids out sooner. They were trying to deal with the mess downstairs.”
“You came together,” Elizabeth said. “Did you—”
“I’d had a voicemail from Courtney. She’d seen men meeting with Sonny, going into his room. She was worried. She picked the boys up from the nanny and she took them to New York.” He sank onto the small sofa in the room, because he knew he’d have to tell her how close it had come, how precarious the safety of the children really was. “But Monica called after I’d picked up Johnny Zacchara. Sonny had checked himself out of the hospital, and she was concerned—men were with him she’d never seen before and she didn’t like the way they were…escorting Carly into the elevator.”
He clasped his hands between his knees and looked down at the carpet. “So we went to the house, and by that time—Lyle had taken a bullet to the shoulder, and Nora was unconscious on the floor. She’d tried to keep that seventh man from taking Evie, but he’d hit her. He was halfway down the stairs when I got there.”
“Oh, God—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. If Courtney hadn’t put Jason on his guard, if Monica hadn’t tipped them off—Evie might be gone to them, taken by men with guns. What assurance did they have that these men who worked for another family would even deliver her safely to Sonny?
And Sonny had sent men to their home, to the place where their children lived—men with guns, ready to kill to carry out their task.
“I got her away,” Jason said simply, and she knew he’d never tell her the rest. What he’d had to do to guarantee Evie’s safety. “Max, Johnny, and Denny overpowered the men that were left. We tied them up, put Nora and the kids in the car and left. We left Cody to deal with the cleanup.”
“Oh, God,” she repeated. She looked at the kids, to reassure herself that they were okay—Evie was climbing over a humongous pink and orange striped unicorn while Cameron had discovered the stack of blocks. “Oh, God.”
“I can’t—” He stopped, and her head snapped back at him when she heard his voice falter, even break. “I can’t protect them. I can’t protect you. I thought I could, but—”
“I would send you away if I could figure out a place Sonny wouldn’t think to look,” he continued. “I’ll get Bernie working on that. We need a place out of the country or far away from Port Charles where I know you’ll be safe. This house—it’s not in my name—but Sonny has to know we have a safe house.”
And wasn’t that the real terror? There was little Jason could do that Sonny wouldn’t figure out. They’d worked together so closely—Sonny knew all of Jason’s tricks and secrets to keep people. He’d taught Jason some, had put them to work for himself.
“Whose name is it in?” Elizabeth asked. “How long before he thinks to look for it?”
“It’s in Jason Quartermaine’s name,” Jason finally said. “I’ve legally changed my name, but I can still go by my birth name on documents dealing in property. I’ve never used it before, Sonny might not think of it.” He rubbed his face. “But it’s not far away enough. Maybe somewhere in Europe, where Sonny doesn’t know the language. Germany. Poland. I can sign guardianship to you—”
“Jason—” She sank onto the sofa beside him, reaching for his hand. “You’re not talking about sending me away temporarily.”
“You didn’t sign up for this. They—” Jason looked up, watched the children giggling and laughing for a moment before continuing, “—deserve a better choice.”
She hesitated, knowing how important it was to be brutally honest with him in this moment. “I can see now that part of me honestly believed whatever Sonny might try to hurt you or me, he wouldn’t go after the children,” she said quietly. “I still believed in his honor, in his innate kindness. But this illness—this disease that’s inside him—it’s taken every flaw Sonny ever possessed and amplified it. He doesn’t see Evie as her own person, as a sweet little baby with shy smiles and a curious nature. He doesn’t know her. She’s property to him.”
“You should know there is a part of me that is tempted to tell you yes,” Elizabeth cut in. He looked at her then, his expression guarded, his mouth set in a tense line as if he were bracing himself for what was coming next. “Because it’s one thing to sign up for this on my own behalf. I love you, and I want the life we planned together. I’m willing to take that chance for myself. But it is another to sign the kids up for this, to sign Cam up for this.”
His shoulders slumped and he nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I know—”
“But if I walk away now,” she interrupted. “If I give you back this ring…” She looked at her fingers where the gem rested. “What does that say about the promises I made? There’s nothing happening that we haven’t talked about. I’ve always known the danger involved here. I was there when Nikolas was shot for standing near you. I know what happened to Sonny’s first wife and child. We’ve known for weeks that Sonny was going to do something against Evie. We’ve done what we can to take protect them, and they’re safe. Look at them, Jason—”
“They almost weren’t,” he argued. “He had Evie, he was almost out of the house—”
“And that’s terrifying,” Elizabeth admitted. “Because I don’t know if I trust the men Sonny hired to take care of her. And I know it easily could have been Cam he’d taken in order to force you to surrender Evie. But I have to concentrate on what went right. Sonny doesn’t have our advantages—”
“Advantages—” Jason scoffed.
“If Courtney hadn’t taken the time to call you, if Monica hadn’t alerted you, Evie would be gone now,” Elizabeth told him. “We have friends and family on our side. There’s no one Sonny has left. He had to hire men to help him, and God knows what he’s promised them or the man they really work for. He doesn’t have the loyalty you do. Lyle took a bullet for Nora and the kids.”
“Next time, we don’t hesitate. We move the kids at the first sign of a threat.” She took both of his hands in hers. “I could take the kids and go to Germany. We could build a life there. And then I could be hit by a bus. One of us could get sick. There could be a car accident—” She swallowed. “It breaks my heart that Sonny has used everything he knows about you to go after the kids. That he’s exploiting the same security that protected his children. I know that’s not easy for you.”
“It’s not—” Jason hesitated. “That was our rule. The code we lived by. Other men had no honor—they went after women and children, but not us. He’s taken everything he taught me and destroyed it.”
“Well, that’s him. We’re choosing a different path.” Feeling a bit sturdier now, a bit more resolute, she rose to her feet. “We’re safe here for now. I’ll stay with the kids—you go downstairs and figure out what’s next.”
“Cops are crawling over the warehouse,” Tommy reported when Jason entered the room, moving toward the desk. “The drive by was called in. Luckily, Francis got the message we left him and was on the scene. He’s at the PCPD, but we weren’t sure who to call for him.”
Francis had gone to the warehouse because Elizabeth and Nadine’s presence had necessitated Tommy and Bernie evacuating with them. They never could have gone to the safe house with only Milo for protection. While at times their security protocols could feel byzantine and the men Francis trained in them often groaned—Jason was relieved. They had built contingencies into contingencies, and today—they’d lost no lives. A bullet wound and a minor head injury—he could live with those.
They would take apart, at another time, what had gone wrong, but for now, they had to move forward.
“Call Diane,” he said, referring to the attorney who handled his custody issues. He’d noticed she had a penchant for designer clothes and shoes. “Tell her to draw up a retainer agreement and get Francis out of there. What about Cody?”
“Cody says things are clear at the house. What men we left alive have been picked up and moved elsewhere for questioning. So far, all we’ve gotten from them is information we’d already knew. They’re from Miami. They were to take Evie to Sonny, but we did find out—” Tommy hesitated and looked at Johnny O’Brien.
“They were going to put her on a plane to Miami, to Hector Ruiz,” Johnny admitted. ““They thought it would be easier to keep Sonny under their thumb.”
He couldn’t let that information terrify him, but he had to take a moment and swallow. “Okay. What about everyone else?”
“Running smoothly. They hit the warehouse to slow you down,” Max said. “They had trailed you there, but apparently left before you did. They shot into your office and hit your house at the same time, I guess, figuring it wouldn’t be as heavily guarded. You had three men there, which slowed them down.”
Because though Sonny had sent two men for every guard they had, he hadn’t known the change in the security protocol. One man upstairs who had time to be on guard. To lock Nora and the kids in the room, which slowed them down even more. A man outside, which meant only a few men entered—
“We talked to your guys at the Harborview,” Bernie said, picking up the thread. “Sonny and Carly arrived—Carly hasn’t left the building. We contacted Courtney. They’ve just arrived at her place and we’re sending her two guards. The boys are safe. Bobbie has been informed, but we don’t see any danger to her with the boys gone. Sonny is still at the penthouse, for now.”
“Junior,” Johnny said, with his usual grimace, “has offered to broker a deal with Zacchara. Anthony hates the Ruiz family. He thinks Anthony will leap at the chance to take on Ruiz and Sonny, and Junior plans to make sure his daddy knows you saved his ass.”
He hadn’t though—Johnny Zacchara had rescued himself. They were just giving him safe passage out of town, but he supposed not telling Sonny much information about Nadine Crowell had allowed Johnny some security. If he wanted to play up Jason’s actions to his father as something a bit more heroic, it could only help them.
“I’ll go to Crimson Pointe and meet with Anthony and Trevor,” Jason said. “Tommy, Bernie, I want you to work out of this office. The warehouse is going to be off limits, and I don’t want too many people coming and going from here. Lyle and Milo are staying here with Elizabeth and the kids. Nadine can come with us if Junior wants, but I’ll suggest she stays here. Get Francis to send us one or two more guys.”
He looked at Max and Johnny. “I need you guy to get Diane on board and get Francis back to his guys. Get the warehouse secured, relieve Cody. I want him here with Elizabeth and the kids. I don’t want the kids have too many new faces.” He looked down for a moment, the events of the last few hours began to sink in.
“Jason, the men were loyal to you before,” Bernie said gently, “but after this? After Sonny went after the kids? There’s not a man in this organization who wouldn’t lay their lives down to protect your family.”
“I don’t want them to have to, but I appreciate it.” He rubbed his eyebrow lightly. “I need to tell Elizabeth I’m leaving. I—I won’t be back here until it’s resolved. I don’t think anyone trailed us here, but if I come and go—”
“It’s less safe. We can take care of things from here,” Bernie said.
Elizabeth stepped into the sparsely furnished master bedroom, intending to change from the dress she’d worn to her grandmother’s funeral that morning—then realized…
She likely had no clothes. There’d been no time to pack. She was stuck in this black dress until other arrangements could be made.
She sank onto the bed, the black stark against the beige comforter. Had she only buried her grandmother that morning? Had things changed so much just in a day?
The door opened, and Jason stepped over the threshold. “I stopped in the nursery and saw the kids are napping.”
“I fed them and we cuddled a bit on the sofa,” Elizabeth said. “They were both overdue for naps and conked out.” She raised the monitor in her hand. “I just wanted to change, but—”
Jason nodded and moved to the bureau. “I asked Max’s wife to do some shopping for you and the kids. I thought we might have to come here in a hurry, but—” He hesitated, then looked at her. “I should have told you it was a possibility, let you put some things here—”
Relieved, she crossed to him and tugged out a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. “Remind me to send her a very large Christmas present this year.” Elizabeth hesitated then. “You have to go, don’t you?”
“I do,” he confirmed, taking the change of clothes from her and tossing them on the bed. “I’m sorry, but—”
“There’s a lot of things to be done,” she cut in. She returned to the bed. “Can you talk to Steven and Emily? I don’t want them to worry.”
“I will.” He paused. “I’m going to Anthony Zacchara to get his help. And then I’ll be going back to Port Charles. But not here. I don’t want anyone to know you guys are here. The guards aren’t going to come and go, except Cody will be coming soon. The place is stocked with food. I tried to put some sort of studio in for you, but—”
“It’s safer if you don’t come back, I know.” But God, what if he didn’t come home? He was going to take on Sonny, and Sonny no longer cared enough to hold back. “Jason, I—”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He leaned against the bureau. “I’ve made arrangements with Max and Johnny. I’ve talked to Diane. If anything happens to me—”
She wanted to stop him—she didn’t want to know, to prepare herself for the worst, but she knew he needed to get this out, to know she was safe. That the kids were.
So Elizabeth said nothing as Jason continued after a momentary pause, “I’ve left a will. Any property I have is to be dissolved unless you want to keep it. I divided everything in three. Cam and Evie have a trust, you’ll oversee it. I left guardianship for you. If something happens, Max and Johnny will come here, and they’ll take you somewhere. I don’t know where yet. Bernie’s working on getting property somewhere, but they’ll get you out of Port Charles. Cody, Milo, Denny, and Lyle are at the house now. They’ll stay with you guys until Tommy says it’s safe.”
She nodded, but she’d never doubted that he’d see to their safety, that he’d see the kids were taken care of. “Okay. I—I know how hard what you’re going to do is. That going against Sonny…” She stood. “And the last thing I want is for anything to happen to either of you. I don’t want this to be Sonny’s legacy. I know that with treatment, with medication, we can get some semblance of the man we both care about—we could get some of it back. But Jason?”
She stepped over to him and rested her hand against his chest, over his heart. “If it comes down to you or him, you come home to me. Do you understand?”
“The man you talk about, who took you in and gave you a purpose in life?” she continued. “He’d want you to come home to your family. To be with your children. And you know that Sonny would understand. As much as I want him to be well, to be a part of our lives, we can’t wait for it to happen that way. Whatever you have to do, you come home.”
He covered her hand with his, dipped his head, and took a deep breath. “I promise you,” he said, his voice low but steady, “that I will do whatever I have to do to keep you and the kids safe.”
Which wasn’t exactly the promise she’d wanted, but she knew it was the promise he felt comfortable making, so she nodded, lifted up on her toes and pressed her lips to his. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”