February 20, 2016

Happy Saturday! I hope you guys enjoyed the end of The Best Thing (and by the responses, you guys did, I’m so glad!). As promised, the pink has gone. We have new colors, I fixed some long standing color issues and design kinks.  Here’s a status update so you can see where my head this 🙂

Site Status

Looking back to the August status update, I only managed to check off one of the items on that list of things I hoped to accomplish, namely I added the By Length feature. As far as I know, all stories that need to be have been tagged, so if you’re looking for stories based on how long they are, that’s the feature for you.

I did, however, overhaul the layout of the site and add more functionality and decluttered the page. Hopefully things are easier to find now. Let me know if they’re not.

What I want to concentrate on this year is mostly the ebooks. I introduced the idea but I’ve never put the time or effort into releasing one every month, which shouldn’t be that difficult. So that’s my plan to get on that schedule, beginning with The Best Thing this weekend.

Fiction Graveyard has not return because the stories that are left require heavy editing and it’s pretty annoying to do it, ha. I do plan to finish that section, but I’m not going to pretend I know what it’ll happen. It’s not a priority.

Just for a bit of fun, Crimson Glass has 893 posts, 98 pages, and 1,253 comments. We average anywhere from 200-900 views a day, which is pretty awesome. I’m pretty happy with the traffic and community that’s built up over the last two years.

Story Status

I’m going to try to be as comprehensive as I possibly can about all the projects on the table.

Bittersweet has nine chapters written, but I’m working on handful of scenes before I email the chapters to Cora. Once I finish those scenes, I will immediately start writing the next chunk of chapters, with the plan in my head that by the time Cora returns the first nine, I can send her the next nine. And then, with sixteen-eighteen chapters actually completed, I’ll start posting. I want to have a huge buffer because I don’t want to have long periods of time without posting.  The March date is not going to work, but if I can finish those six scenes this week, April might work better.

Damaged is being pulled off the March schedule as well. While I have the overarching Season 3 stories planned, actually finding time to write them has been very difficult. However, like Season 2, once I get into writing it, it will go much faster. I’ve been studying the structure of episodes written for television. Grey’s Anatomy has a similar structure with season long stories, bigger and broader storylines told over several seasons, and then smaller stories broken up. I think modeling that structure will make the story feel more satisfying. I’ll keep you updated.

After that, my schedule is a bit more fluid. I plan to do Mad World, which is outlined and storyboarded. I just haven’t written it yet. I’ve taken Feels Like Home and Burn in Heaven back to the outline stages–there were some pieces that just didn’t work for me, so before I try to work on chapters, I want to make sure the flow works better.

These Small Hours, Counting Stars, Fallen From Grace, and For the Broken Girl remain in outline status. They haven’t moved up in priority, but every once in a while when I want to work on something fresh, I pull them out.

So where does that leave us? No stories until April at the earliest? Maybe. I hope not. I’m working on some smaller short stories. I had some ideas for a collection of alternate universe stories set in different historical periods. Some of those are closer to being written than others. I know I promised more content this year, and I still want to do it. I could start posting Bittersweet tomorrow, but it’s not ready and I’m not satisfied with it yet.

I’ll keep you guys posted and hopefully will have some great short stories for you soon!

February 16, 2016

I’m not going to lie — I was pretty sure this day would never come. And admit it, there are some of you who wondered as well 😛

The Best Thing, Chapter 34 has been posted. The final chapter. It’s done. Wow. I wrote an author’s note at the end — if you’ve read the story at all ever, please drop me a brief line to let me know what you think. And if you’ve been waiting for it to be done before you started, ha — well, you’re good to go now. I should have the ebook up by the end of the week.

This is about the time I post the old plot sketches, but um, it turns out the plot sketches are long. The first one is about 25 pages long, and the second one is roughly 31, 32 pages. If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to upload them as .doc files to read in Microsoft Word, but they’re LONG. And DETAILED. There’s some great plot elements I cut out like a custody battle and a lot of the Carly/Courtney stuff was changed. But that’s up to you guys, let me know.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have plans for what’s next, but I haven’t been able to get to much of it this last week with the papers. Hopefully I’ve got the balance worked out and I’ll be able to get back to Bittersweet, finish the last few scenes for a revision of the first eight chapters and get them off to the beta. I don’t know what that’ll happen, so just watch this space. Now would be a good time to sign up for updates.

I will, however, be changing this layout to something much less…pink sometime this week.

Thanks again guys. I need a nap now 😛

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series The Best Thing: Salvation

They say it’s what you make
I say it’s up to fate
It’s woven in my soul
I need to let you go
Your eyes, they shine so bright
I wanna save that light
I can’t escape this now
Unless you show me how

Demons, Imagine Dragons


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Warehouse

Sonny stared at the gun in his hand, not entirely sure how it had come to this. How he could be standing in a room, pointing a gun at his best friend? At a man he’d considered his brother?

Didn’t it make sense? If Jason were gone, wouldn’t it be over?

“Sonny,” Jason said, his voice even. Calm. The same tone he always used. “You don’t want to do this.”

He didn’t, but he couldn’t quite make himself lower the gun. He’d changed his mind already, hadn’t he? “I came here,” Sonny said slowly, shaking his head slightly, trying to remember why he was standing here. Why the gun was pointed at Jason.

Jason had a gun, too. He had it in his hands, but the barrel faced the ground. Not at Sonny. Why couldn’t he think straight? “I came here,” he repeated. “Because this can’t keep happening.”

“I know that,” Jason said. “But we can stop it.”

“I can.” He remembered now. He remembered how this was supposed to happen. “I came here to get rid of you. Without you, I get my business back. I get my daughter. But—” Where had that gone? Why didn’t he feel like that anymore? “You weren’t in your office. Or any of the others.”

He’d gone into his own office, flipped on a light. Looked at the room where he’d made so many decisions, where he’d held the power.

And he had remembered.

“Elizabeth.”

Jason’s eyes sharpened slightly and the hands holding his gun raised just a little, maybe two inches. “What?” he demanded. “What about her?”

“I remembered her.” And that day she’d tried to save him. When she had convinced him he wasn’t okay. When she had convinced him he could be himself again. “I tried to be the man she thinks I was. I tried, Jason. I took pills.”

“I know you did.” Jason swallowed. “Sonny—”

“If I hurt you, if I killed you—” Sonny squinted. It had made so much sense before. He’d had an epiphany standing in his empty office, remembering that day in July when she’d come to him. Remembering all the other days she’d been there for him.

“I remembered how she was with Lucky,” Sonny continued. “She was like my mother; did I ever tell you that? Wrapped her life up in a man, couldn’t live without him. Turned herself inside out to keep him.”

“Sonny—”

That’s what I thought that day in my office. That she looked like my mother. I wished my mother could have had her courage, her backbone.” He swallowed, remembering the woman who had raised him. “I’m like him.”

“Like—” Jason frowned, shook his head. “Who?”

“Deke.” The son of a bitch who broke his mother, who had killed her. Ruined everything. “I tried to be someone else. I tried to be better. I’m not. Carly.”

And now he remembered his wife, her tears. The look on her face as he’d thrown her across the room. The shatter of the mirror as her body had hit it. Then she’d slid to the floor, a cut on her face from the glass. He knew that look. That glazed primal fear.

“I hurt Carly. I broke her. If I—” His fingers flexed on the trigger as he struggled to ignore the small voice whispering in his ear. Pull it. Pull it. It all goes away. “If I do this, I break Elizabeth. Like I did Carly. Like Deke did to my mother. I can’t—” He swallowed. “I can’t do that. I can’t live with myself.”

“Then put down the gun,” Jason said, his voice quiet but firm. “And we’ll talk about this. I know you think it would make it easier—”

“I couldn’t save my mother,” Sonny interrupted. He wasn’t listening to Jason—those words weren’t important. Just the conviction creeping past the insidious voice trying to convince him that it was better to pull the trigger. “I couldn’t save Carly.”

“She’s okay, Sonny. She’s at the hospital—”

“I couldn’t help them,” Sonny whispered. “But I can help Elizabeth. The way she did for me. I can do that. I can be that man.”

“Sonny—”

“It has to be one of us.” Sonny looked at Jason, meeting his eyes. “We can’t keep doing this. It’s me or you, Jason. And it can’t be you.”

“Sonny—” Jason stepped forward, but Sonny had already changed the angle of the gun.

With the cool metal touching his temple, Sonny closed his eyes. It had to be him. It was the only way to make it all stop.

The gunshot was deafening, echoing into the room as the sound bounced against the walls before disappearing through the open roof.

A searing pain speared through Sonny’s hand as he sprawled to the ground, his gun flying across the room. He laid on his side, clutching his hand, watching almost with disinterest as one of his fingers seemed to just be…gone.

Voices—shouting—he could hear it from far away, but the only thing he could really bring into focus was Jason as he knelt next to Sonny.

“It should have been over,” Sonny managed, the pain traveling up his arm, spreading into his chest. He closed his eyes again. “It should have been over.”

“It will be,” he thought he heard Jason say, but he was already surrendering to the sweet darkness beckoning him.

Estate: Nursery

“Really, Miss Webber,” Nora said with a smile, her eyes a bit tired. “I’m feeling so much better, you know? I wasn’t hurt that much—”

“You had a concussion,” Elizabeth cut in. “Nora—”

“You don’t have to tip toe around me.” Nora lifted Evie into her arms and accepted a fierce hug and kiss from the toddler who’d recently discovered people liked it when she did that. “I took a job with Jason Morgan. I take Denny and Lyle with me every time I leave the house with the kids—”

Knowing and actually going through what happened are two different things,” Elizabeth said, folding her arms. She waited for Nora to set Evie back on her unsteady feet. Evie dropped into a crawl and scampered to the tower of blocks Cameron was building.

“Yeah.” Nora exhaled slowly. “It was scary. We were just—we were packing and Lyle was upstairs with us. The kids were playing just like they are now. I knew things were tense—I heard fighting downstairs and I—” She blinked. “I was terrified, to be honest. I was going to take the kids and take them into the closet with me—I was going to keep them quiet, to try and protect them—and then Lyle was shot and—”

Elizabeth put a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “I know you protected them, and God, it means the world to me.”

“They always tell you not to get attached, you know?” Nora bit her lip. “As a nanny. I mean, they’re not my kids, and when they go off to school, you won’t need a full-time nanny, which is fine, but—” She dipped her head. “I’ve been with Evie since the beginning almost, and I love her. And Cam is so much fun—we’re in a routine and they’re almost really like brother and sister, like they’ve always been…” She looked away, toward the kids, and smiled. “It was scary, but we’re okay. And I know Mr. Morgan will protect us. To be honest, if I’m with the kids, with the guards, I’m probably safer than I would be crossing the street.”

“Yeah, you’re not wrong there.”  The mob didn’t have a monopoly on danger and violence. “All right,” Elizabeth said. “I’m going to check on Nadine—” Her phone rang then and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the name on the caller screen. “I’ll be back.”

She hurried down the hall, answering the phone as she did. “Jason? Oh my God, are you okay?”

“Yeah.” His voice was quiet. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

She went into the master bedroom, closing the door behind her. “What happened?”

“Uh.” There was a long pause. “We…we got Sonny. He’s…he’s in the psych ward here at the hospital.”

She sat down hard on the bed, unsure what to say next. She really hadn’t expected to hear those words. Sonny was at the hospital. Which meant he was alive. “What does that mean? Jason—”

“I can’t…” He paused again, and she could hear the fatigue in his voice, the weariness. “He tried to—he tried to kill himself. It was—he had a fight with Carly, and he—he hit her. We just got to the hospital—they’re still waiting to talk to me about—” He stopped talking to her, and she could hear faint voices in the background. After another moment, he returned to her. “He’s under lock and key, Elizabeth. For now. They’re holding him for seventy-two hours. I’m not sure what’s going to happen after that.”

She closed her eyes. “But he’s talking to doctors—”

“Yeah, and he’s being held because he’s a danger to himself and others. I think—” He stopped again, and she could again hear faint conversation on his side of the line. Finally, he said, “I’d like you and the kids to stay out there until the seventy-two hours pass. Until I know what happens next—”

“And I guess you won’t be coming out here,” she murmured.

“I—”

“It’s fine, Jason. You’re right. It’s safer to stay where we’re out of the way.” She leaned against the bedroom door. “The kids miss you. Cam asked for you last night.”

“I miss them, too. I wish—” But he stopped and she could almost see him shaking his head, standing in a hallway at the hospital. “This is going to be over. One way or another. If they release him, Elizabeth, I promise—”

“I know.” She sighed, closing her eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She slid the phone back in her pocket, bit her lip, and then went downstairs.

Bernie was by himself in the office, murmuring to himself as he made a notation before going back to the computer and squinting. He looked up at her entrance and offered her a warm smile. “Miss Webber—”

“Have you heard from Jason or anyone in Port Charles?” she asked. She sat in a chair in front of the desk, twisting her fingers in her lap.

“I have. Jason called a bit ago, and I think he was going to call you next.” Bernie set his pen aside. “It’s good news, don’t you think?”

“I guess.” She looked down at her fingers, at the ring Jason had given her all those weeks ago. “Is it wrong that—” She sank her teeth into her bottom lip so hard she tasted blood. “God, Bernie, this sounds so horrible—”

“You’re not exactly relieved to learn that Sonny is in the hospital and alive,” the older man said gently. “After what happened to you, to your children, knowing everything you do about the situation—I’m not sure anyone could blame you.”

“I mean, it’s the better outcome,” Elizabeth said. She raised her eyes and looked past Bernie to the trees in the yard, focusing on the brilliants reds and orange of the coming autumn. “Jason doesn’t have to live with himself, and I wouldn’t wish it on him.”

Bernie looked at her lap, watched her twist her ring again and again. “Miss Webber—”

“Please, please—” She closed her eyes. “Call me Elizabeth. We’ve been shot at together, I know Jason left you and Tommy here for added protection.”

“Elizabeth,” Bernie said again. “We all respect you. We know how you’ve stood by Jason, and to be frank, many of the men who work with Jason were relieved by your presence. Your relationship with him, the children—they forced him to take control when in the past—”

“He’s patched Sonny up for the next time.” She nodded. “This isn’t me having doubts, Bernie. Not about Jason. It’s just—” She sighed and tilted her head up to look at the ceiling. “I think I really expected something final. A resolution that felt like the answer to our problem, and God, that’s so selfish of me. To wish that the man I love more than anything killed a man I know to be ill, to have a mental illness. But I’ve talked to Nora, and I saw the bullet wound Lyle’s recovering from. I can’t ignore what he did. I should. Because I know it wasn’t him—”

“It was the worst part of him,” Bernie corrected gently. “My brother and I have worked for Sonny for many years, and before him, Frank Smith. I watched him come up in this business and I’ve found a lot to respect about him. But he’s always had the capability to be cruel and violent. He’s no different than the other men who work with us. Not in that respect. But Sonny had honor. And he had a code.  Whatever is in his head—the man who sent armed thugs to take Evangeline by force—that man is inside of Sonny. He always has been.”

“I’m scared,” Elizabeth murmured, “that Sonny might find another treatment that works for a little while, and Jason’s loyalty will make him forget that—”

“—and put him back in charge. The way he always has.” Bernie nodded. “I can’t tell you that won’t happen or that Jason won’t consider it. I just—I don’t know. You know Jason—”

“He’s not one for opening up.” Elizabeth sighed and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, Bernie. I think I just—I needed to let myself…admit how scared I am that this isn’t the end. Because it’s something Jason and I need to discuss.”

Bernie looked as though he wanted to add something, but Tommy strode in then, followed by another guard leaving Elizabeth to excuse herself quietly.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

General Hospital: Carly’s Room

She couldn’t quite focus on the woman standing in her hospital room explaining Sonny’s course of treatment. Lainey Winters had been speaking for several minutes, she could hear her sister-in-law responding, even asking questions

But Carly couldn’t quite lift her head to look at the doctor. Couldn’t quite make herself focus. Hadn’t been able to in days. She would be released from the hospital this afternoon, but she didn’t think she’d leave.

This room, this bed—this was safe. Jason had a man on the door. No one could come in.

“Carly?” Courtney’s soft voice drifted into the haze. “Do you have any questions for Dr. Winters?”

Carly turned her head, blinking at Courtney before looking at the pretty young woman with the sober eyes standing at the foot of her bed. “Could I have stopped it?”

“Mrs. Corinthos…” Lainey Winters bit her lip. “I don’t think that’s a productive—”

“I knew he had dark moods,” Carly continued forcing the words through her raspy voice. “I knew it was getting worse. Could I have stopped it?”

“It’s hard to say…” She paused. “Maybe you could have reached out to health care professionals, but to be honest, Mrs. Corinthos? Based on my meetings with your husband so far, I don’t think he would have agreed to see us. To take any of this seriously unless he’d had a break. Until he had no choice.”

Carly closed her eyes. “I couldn’t have stopped it, then. But maybe…” A tear slid down her cheek, chilling the skin as it slid down to her jaw. “Maybe I still should have left.”

“Carly,” Courtney murmured. “You did the best you could.”

“Yeah…” She turned her head back. “And maybe if we both say that enough, we’ll believe it.”

“Mrs. Corinthos,” Lainey said, her voice closer and…kind? Carly opened her eyes to find the doctor perched at her bedside, her eyes open, warm. “Family members are often in the line of fire. You cannot force someone to get help. Not unless they present a clear and present danger. And walking away, leaving—is often just as difficult. When your sister-in-law says you likely did the best you could, I don’t think she’s being facetious.”

“Maybe.” Carly could feel her jaw tremble. “But she wasn’t there every day. I did things. And I made choices that were calculated. Maybe I couldn’t have stopped it, I’m willing to concede that. But I made it worse. I thought about myself.”

“Carly—”

“No!” Carly fisted her hand against the white blanket. “I told myself it was about making Sonny better. If he had Evie, if Jason would fix it, if he would just save the day—then Sonny would be okay. But that was a lie and I knew it then. I wanted my life to be okay. I tried to give him another child to preserve my life, not his.”

Lainey drew a card from her clipboard. “I know you might now agree, but I think you should consider talking to someone. Sonny didn’t go through this alone. You and your boys did as well.”

When Carly didn’t reach for the card, Courtney did. “I think that sounds like a good idea. Thanks, Dr. Winters.” The woman nodded and left the room.

“You heard Dr. Winters, didn’t you?” Courtney asked. “Sonny will be in Shadybrooke for a while. You should come with me to New York. With the boys. A fresh start—”

“You don’t even like me,” Carly said sullenly. She closed eyes, trying to drift away, trying to return the haze, but Courtney wasn’t having it.

“You think you made it worse?” Sonny’s sister demanded. “I knew what was going on. I knew Sonny was in a difficult place, I knew Jason was lying about Evie. I knew you and Sonny were torturing each other. But I left. I ran away and left it to you and Jason. I abandoned my brother when I should have stuck. You’re not the only one who feels guilty, Carly. I should have stuck by you, by my family.”

“So, now you want to make yourself feel better?” Carly retorted. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t helping. “I’m sorry.”

“Look, maybe we don’t like each other all that much,” Courtney admitted. “But this last year—these last two years have been stressful. Difficult. I think we both deserve a chance to do better. To be better. I love my nephews. I think they need a fresh start. If it doesn’t work out, then fine.” She squeezed Carly’s hand. “Like it or not, we’re family. I didn’t do right by my brother. Please.”

“Okay.” Carly nodded. “I can’t—I don’t want to be in Port Charles anymore, so maybe…you’re right. The boys and I could be okay in New York. Thank you.”

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hardy House: Living Room

Elizabeth stepped inside her home with Evie in her arms. She moved to one side as Cameron came barreling in, a laughing Nora following and Denny, Lyle, Milo, and Cody holding up the rear.

She hadn’t seen the wreckage—hadn’t seen the remnants of the fight, of the violence that had nearly seen the little girl in her arms lost to her. Despite Cody’s assurances, she’d been bracing herself to see her grandmother’s home in disarray.

“It looks the same,” she murmured as she sat Evie down—the squirming baby immediately crawling after her brother. She barely saw as Denny and Lyle started to help Nora up the stairs with their meager luggage, as Milo moved to take up position outside. “I thought—”

“With you coming back today, Jason wanted to make sure you…” Cody hesitated. “Well, that everything was okay. He wanted to be here—”

“I talked to him before I left the estate,” she murmured, stepping down into the living room. She drew off her light coat and set it on the sofa. “They’re moving Sonny to Shadybrooke today and he wanted to be there to make sure the paperwork was signed.” Sonny had agreed to commit himself after the seventy-two-hour hold, but there was always a chance it would fall through.

Jason hadn’t even given her the go ahead to come home until two hours earlier—he’d been worried it would fall apart at the end. She’d been horribly jealous when Johnny Zacchara had shown up at the estate the day before and Nadine had been allowed to leave. To return the world.

But she was home now. All of that was behind her.

“I’ll be outside with Milo if you need anything,” Cody began, but Milo opened the door, revealing Nikolas Cassadine on her front porch.

“Nikolas!” Elizabeth smiled, genuinely pleased at the first normal face she’d seen in days. When he embraced her tightly, she let herself relax for a moment, knowing that with him, she didn’t have to put on a facade, didn’t have to pretend.

“We’ll be outside, Ms. Webber,” Cody said.

“I know Emily said you were okay,” Nikolas said, drawing back and kissing her forehead, “but you’ll forgive me if I couldn’t let myself believe it until I could see you.”

“I know, I’m so glad to be home.” They sat on the sofa and Elizabeth kicked off her shoes. “Emily is trying to get tomorrow off so she can come over, and my brother is hoping to come by after his shift.”

“But you and the kids are okay?” Nikolas asked, squeezing her hand. “I don’t have to tell you how worried we were—”

“We’re okay.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “And I think it’s going to be okay moving forward. Sonny’s…he’s going to be in Shadybrooke until the doctors let him out.”

“And after?” Nikolas prompted, his eyes dark with concern.

“We haven’t ironed everything out yet—”

“Elizabeth—” The exasperation in his tone wasn’t particularly surprising, but she tensed anyway. “They might release Sonny in a week. A month. As soon as his medication is working. And then what? Do you know how often mentally ill people stop taking—”

“Nikolas…” She took his hands in hers. “There’s nothing you’re saying that I’m not thinking. That I haven’t considered.  I don’t have the answers. I just know my children and I can’t stay locked away forever.  What happens when Sonny is released—Jason and I will cross that bridge when we come it.” She bit her lip. “When I first heard that Sonny was in the psych ward—that Jason had stopped him from killing himself, I wanted to scream. Because it could have been over. Definitely. Without reservation.”

“Exactly—”

“And I know that Jason wouldn’t blame me for feeling that way initially.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “But having Sonny dead, having it be either Jason do it or stand by while Sonny killed himself—the man I love would have had to live with that for the rest of his life—our lives. You know the burden of having someone in your family that others wish dead—” She offered a wry smile. “And yet, your grandmother keeps breathing.”

“You’re not playing fair when you involve the Cassadine crazy.” Nikolas waited a moment. “I just—I worry, Elizabeth. It’s who I am.” He took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll try not to harass you—”

“Hey, I need someone who will call me out.” She squeezed his hands. “We used to be that for each other. Before it all got messed up. I will never resent you for worrying about me, about my family. I only get annoyed when you don’t accept my decisions. I love Jason, and yes—what happened this week was terrifying and I had to reexamine my choices again. Do you think Jason hasn’t tried to give me an out? That he didn’t try to pull away?”

She hesitated. “But I know what I’m getting myself into. Even better now. There are dangers, yes. I rationalize it by saying that life isn’t really all that safe. Maybe I’m increasing the odds, I don’t know. I can’t know that.”

“Elizabeth—”

“But I’ve tried it the other way. I’ve left him. I’ve built lives with other men, and you know what? Here I am again. I have a responsibility to myself and to my son to give him a good family. To be the best mother I know how to be. And I think Jason and I are better together than we are apart.”

“You sound very sure.” Nikolas tilted his head. “I can remember when you would tell me you loved Lucky. That you were committed to that life, to that dream and I don’t think I realized until now that you were trying to convince yourself, too. Because I can hear the difference now.” He laughed. “When you came home last year, that day you found Jason on the docks—Emily came to me. She was sure that this was the future—that it should be.”

“Yeah, she wasn’t that subtle.” Elizabeth snorted. “Opportunity creator, she called herself.”

“But she was.” Nikolas rose to his feet and Elizabeth followed suit. “She just made sure you and Jason were in the same room together, because she saw what I ignored for so long. What you and Jason tried to forget. Some things…the best things…they’re just meant to be.”

Hardy House: Elizabeth’s Bedroom

It wasn’t that late when Jason finally managed to return to the house—but it was past dinner and the time Evie and Cam would be fast asleep in their cribs, so he went straight upstairs.

It was the first time he’d been back in the house since Wednesday, and it was hard for him to walk down the hall, to look at the door to the kids’ bedroom, remembering the last time he’d stood in this position.

A man had been rushing towards him, a screaming Evie in his arms. There had been shouting—he’d arrived to the sound of gunshots from the upstairs.

If he had been even a minute later—

“Jason?”

He looked to the right, to the doorway where Elizabeth stood, swathed in blue silk that looked flimsy to his tired eyes, and held up by thin, nearly invisible straps. She reached out a hand to him, and he took it, drawing her into a tight embrace. He hadn’t seen her since that day—since he’d left to meet with Anthony Zacchara, and part of him hadn’t expected to ever look at her again. To hold her, to feel her skin warm beneath his.

“Hey,” he murmured into her hair. “I’m sorry I wasn’t home earlier—”

“It’s okay, you called.” She drew away, framing his face with her hands, her skin warm against his cheeks. “I wish you’d tell me what happened that day—”

Jason shook his head. He didn’t want to think about any of that anymore. He wouldn’t. There was still some clean up to be dealt with, some issues to be resolved, but for all intents and purposes—the crisis had passed.

And she was still here, their children asleep down the hall.

“I don’t want to talk about any of that,” he told her softly, backing her slowly into her bedroom and closing the door behind them. “Or anything at all.”

He took her hands in his, lacing his fingers with hers before pinning them behind her own back. He kissed her, her lips soft and open at his touch. He wanted to be in this moment, to drink it in, to immerse himself into her taste, her scent, her soft skin.

When she tugged slightly at his grip on her wrists, he released her hands. She reached for the hem of his shirt, her breathing shallow and coming faster. “I’ve missed you,” Elizabeth murmured as she dragged the fabric up and over his head, tossing it behind her.

He hooked his fingers under those flimsy straps and slid them down her warm shoulders. “Elizabeth—”

She shook her head, offering him a wicked smile. “Don’t tell me,” she murmured, pressing her lips under his jaw. “Show me.”


 

“Did you go to Shadybrooke with Sonny?” she asked, her voice drawing him back from a light doze. The moonlight drifted through the window, touching her bare shoulders as she propped her head up on an elbow, her eyes still in shadows.

“Yeah.” He slid a hand under his head, looking up at the ceiling. “I wanted to make sure the room—that it was big. And I wanted them to use some of the furniture from the penthouse so he’d feel more comfortable.” What pieces that hadn’t been destroyed. “The doctor thought it might help.” He looked at her. “I met with him. He was…he was better.”

“Yeah?” Her finger lightly traced a pattern on his chest. “The new medication is helping?”

“So far. He was lucid. Like when he came home from New York that first time.” He hesitated. “But I’m not…I don’t trust it. I can’t trust it.”

“Jason—”

“I’m glad he’s going to get better. For his sake. For Michael and Morgan. And maybe one day, he can have a relationship with Evie.”

“Okay—”

“But I can’t ever put him in charge again. I can’t risk it.” He exhaled slowly. “This—this is going to be permanent, Elizabeth. I’m going to stay in charge. I know it might have started as a temporary—”

She brushed her lips against his. “I never thought that, Jason. And I know you didn’t either. Even if Sonny were cured, he wouldn’t get back the loyalty. The respect. He’d have to use terror and fear to make people follow him. Like Anthony Zacchara. He wouldn’t want that. And you don’t.” Elizabeth tucked her head in crook of his shoulder. “So what happens after he’s released from Shadybrooke?”

“He’s thinking of going to the island for a while. Of running the casino there. With a doctor.” He closed his eyes, turning his head slightly so his lips rested against her hair. “I don’t know. Whatever he does, it won’t be here.”

“Okay.”

“I—I wish I had done something,” he admitted. He opened his eyes, looking out into the darkness of the room. “Years ago. When it started. If we had…”

“You know better, Jason.” She raised her head slightly. “You can’t think about what ifs. We all could have done a thousand things differently. We didn’t.”

“I know. I know that. I—” He hesitated. “He was angry at first. When he woke in the hospital. Because I stopped him from killing himself. He wanted to die. To make it stop.”

“Jason…” Elizabeth looked down, looking at her hand on his chest. “At first, part of me wished that you had. Because, God, it would be easier. And I’m sorry for that. And I’m sorry you were ever in that position.”

“I couldn’t—”

“If you had,” she cut in, her voice hushed but forceful. “We both would have had to live with it. If you had, we both know it wouldn’t have been for him, it would have been for us. To make our lives easier. And I think it might have destroyed us in the end. I’m glad you’ve given him this second chance.  Letting him pull that trigger? Letting him end it—” She shook her head. “That’s not who you are, and it’s not the man I love.”

He said nothing, because he didn’t know what to say to her. Her unconditional support, her belief in him—there were no words to tell her what it meant to him to know that she accepted him, had understood his choice—

“We’re going to help Sonny rebuild his life because that’s who we are,” Elizabeth continued. “We’re going to raise Evie to know Sonny, to know about Sam. And we’re going to do it together. You did the right thing, Jason. The best thing. I don’t know that anyone else would have. Or could have. I am so proud to be a part of your life, to raise my son with you.”

“Elizabeth—”

“It’s over,” she told him gently. “The worst of it. That’s the first time I’ve said it and truly believed it. We made it to the other side.”

He rolled over, tucking her beneath him so he could look in her eyes. “I love you,” Jason told her, hoping she would hear everything in those words that he could never quite manage to say. Everything that those words could never possibly encompass.

“I love you, too,” she murmured. Elizabeth laced her fingers in his hair and drew him down to her.

THE END


So here we are at the end. Nearly twelve years since I thought about what would happen if Sam died and Jason ended up with her daughter. Two years since I started actually writing it.

It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve really tested myself by telling this story from Jason and Sonny’s POV more than Elizabeth. I tried to make Sonny sympathetic, tried to make Courtney and Carly interesting characters you could sympathize with. I had initially planned to have Jason kill Sonny, but for me, this ending works better.

Thank you for your patience as I wrote this. I couldn’t have done this without your support, without Cora’s great feedback.

I’m not sure where I go from here. I’ve started graduate school this semester and haven’t quite worked out the balance of work yet, so I’ll keep you posted. Sign up at my site (linked in my profile if you’re reading this at Fanfiction.net) for updates on what’s to come.

If you’ve read this story at any point, if you’ve followed for the last two years, please drop me a line to let me know what you think after all of this.

<3 Melissa

February 8, 2016

So as I sit here in Macroeconomics, which I had hoped would offer me space to write since the lectures are relatively useless because all the material and assignments are online — I’m struck by how difficult it is to write fanfiction when there’s someone sitting behind me and someone less than a foot away from me on either side. Ha. I can get some plotting done, but it’s been difficult to find time to actually write. (Plus, I have a Macro exam and two papers to write, one 5-7 pages on America’s new empire at the turn of the century and 8-10 on the influence of post-colonial thought on writing global history all due by next Tuesday.)

So I may not have as much this month particularly to devote to long chapter stories. But maybe I can carve out some smaller short stories.  Anyone have something they’d like to see in a story? This is a call to inspire me 🙂

The Best Thing’s final chapter is still scheduled by posted on Friday, so stay tuned for that 🙂

February 5, 2016

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series The Best Thing: Salvation

When darkness turns to light
It ends tonight
It ends tonight
Just a little insight won’t make this right
It’s too late to fight
It ends tonight,
It ends tonight

It Ends Tonight, All-American Rejects


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Nothing was going right. Nothing was going the way he had planned.

“Where’s my daughter?” he demanded of the man standing in front of him—this moron, this useless piece of trash that he’d depended on.

The man—what the fuck was his name? Fuck it, it didn’t matter. He was a number. A piece of flesh. One as useless as the next. No one could get him results. His fucking kid should be back where she belonged—where she should have been the moment her whore of a mother took her last breath.

“The team we sent to get her ran into a few issues,” the man—Ricky? Diego? Oscar?— replied. Was he smirking? Was this bastard standing in his living room, smirking at him? Who the fuck did he think he was talking to?

“Two days ago?” Sonny demanded. He’d woken this morning and looked at a newspaper—he’d been startled to learn it was Thursday. Hadn’t it just been Tuesday? Hadn’t he just left the hospital? He’d thought…he’d lost track of time, was all. He had a lot on his mind.

“Morgan’s gone underground,” RickyDiegoOscar told him. “And taken the woman and children with him. We’re looking, but we should shift our focus—”

“I want my kid back,” Sonny said, his teeth clenched, his jaw aching. Why couldn’t anyone fucking understand how it worked? Once he had Evie, once he had physical possession, Jason would crawl out of the fucking ground and he’d deal then. That’s how it had to happen.

“Let me take this,” RickyDiegoOscar told him, already removing his ringing cell phone from the inside of his suit jacket. He stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind him.

And something clicked in Sonny’s head then. He could remember now—watching this fucker step in and out of the penthouse on phone calls. He was one of the men Hector Ruiz had loaned him when Sonny’s own crew had betrayed him.

If he and Ruiz were on the same wave length—if they were after the same goal—then why the hell did this son of a bitch need to take his calls in private?

Sonny stepped closer to the door, knowing that no one but he and Jason knew that this door—this one door was thinner than it was supposed to be. After the man on the door before Max had betrayed them to Alcazar, Sonny had wanted closer supervision. Had wanted to be sure no one could step out and do exactly what this shithead was doing.

“Yeah, Boss? Sorry about the delay. We have a few leads, we’re hoping to put the kid on a plane tonight.” Another long pause before he spoke again. “What about Zacchara? Yeah? When he’s coming around? That doesn’t give us much—okay, okay. I hear ya. Yeah. Got it.”

Sonny stumbled back from door, his pulse racing, his head aching. He couldn’t focus. Couldn’t put the puzzle pieces together. Ruiz was supposed to get Evie back so Sonny could negotiate from a place of power. He’d promised Ruiz access to the territory, a cut on the tariffs Sonny usually imposed. But—he swallowed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. She shouldn’t be on a plane anywhere except—

Oh, God.

RickyDiegoOscar stepped back inside and strode past Sonny without looking at him, without speaking. Fucking dismissing him. “Senor Ruiz has informed me the deal is off.” He picked up a bag from near the coffee table. “I’ll be returning to Miami, and if I were you, Corinthos, I’d clear out. Morgan made a deal with Anthony Zacchara.”

“A deal with…” Sonny grabbed his arm. “What the hell are you talking about? Ruiz is supposed to get me my daughter so I can get my territory back—”

“You’re a fucking lunatic—” He shook off Sonny’s arm and sneered at him. “I had orders to put your kid on a plane so Ruiz could deal with Morgan directly. Did you really think you could come to us from a sign of strength? Your own men turned on you, your partner fucked your woman and who the hell knows who the brat belongs to? You’re nothing, Corinthos. You’re the only one who doesn’t seem to know it.”

And he was gone before Sonny could even digest half of what he’d said. Evie to Miami? What…

He stumbled up the stairs. He needed Carly. Carly had stood by him. She came with him to the hospital, had come back to the penthouse. She hadn’t left him. She was the only one who’d stuck.

He heard her voice before he flung the master bedroom open. It wasn’t until she spun around, the cell sliding from her hand to fall silently against the plush carpet that he even registered the words she’d been saying.

“Jason, he’s still planning to come after the kids. Are they safe?”

His mind went blank as he stared at the phone at the ground, the small screen clearly showing the name Jason Morgan. He raised his foot and stomped on it again and again, feeling delicious pleasure in hearing plastic snap.

“Sonny, wait—” His wife’s terrified cries broke into the cloud of pleasure. He looked at her then as she backed away from him and started to slide to the door.

She’d betrayed him. They’d all turned their backs on him. Didn’t they know who the fuck he was? He was Sonny GODDAMN Corinthos, and it was time they started to show him the respect he damned well deserved.

“Sonny—” Carly began, but he didn’t hear her. He couldn’t hear her. He was done listening to her lies, to her poison.

Warehouse: Conference Room

Jason swallowed hard as the connection went dead. He’d barely had a moment to speak to Carly, to assess the situation and figure out how to get her out of there before the interruption.

“Jase?” Johnny O’Brien said. “What happened?”

“She—” Jason set his phone down. “She was interrupted.” Damn it. If Sonny had overheard her calling, reporting in—

Carly had called him for the first time the day before as he driven back from a tense but successful meeting in Crimson Pointe. She’d been frantic for hours, worried about her boys, about Jason and his family—but Sonny had locked her in their penthouse—confined her to the upstairs while men came and went.

She had told him that she wasn’t sure what was going on, but that Sonny was worse than ever. He was losing track of time, losing track of hours and days. His moods were swinging back and forth violently—she knew that glass shattering was a common sound now, she’d even heard the thudding and snapping of wood. She couldn’t imagine what was left of their furniture. The terror had bled through her words, but he’d been powerless in the moment to make it stop.

Jason had assured Carly the boys were safe with Courtney—he’d spoken with his ex-wife and both boys just that morning. Evie and Cam were safe, so was Elizabeth. He was going to get Carly out just as soon as he could.

They’d been planning that for most of the morning—trying to design a lure to get Sonny out of the penthouse, knowing that if Anthony was successful with his threats to Hector Ruiz, the men should be clearing out of the building sometime today or tomorrow. But there wasn’t time to wait now.

“Interrupted how?” Max demanded. “Jason—”

“I don’t know. Do we have eyes and ears at Harborview?” He looked to Francis. “Can you find out what the hell is going on?” But he had to act. Carly had risked her life to warn him about Sonny—even if Jason had already known of the continued threat—she had still reached out to him.

But Francis’ phone was already ringing. He answered it, spoke briefly, then hung up. “Ruiz’s men have cleared out. And Sonny—Sonny just left the building. They put a tail on him—”

“But Sonny lost it.” Jason sighed, wishing that something would go his way. “He’s been ditching tails since he was a teenager. I guess he hasn’t lost his touch. Ah. Okay. Okay. Let’s…let’s try to track him down. Someone call Zacchara to confirm Ruiz’s men are clearing out permanently. Max, Johnny—”

“Let’s go check on Mrs. C,” Johnny said, getting to his feet.

Estate: Living Room

Elizabeth sighed and curled up on the sofa with the view out the large bay windows. It had been two days since Jason had left. Cody had arrived to take over security detail, and Tommy and Bernie were in and out of the office across the hall—but no one was keeping her in the loop and she knew better than to ask.

“I’m not sure if I’m cut out for this,” Nadine said from the other end of the sofa. She didn’t look away from the daytime soap on the television in front of her, though Elizabeth doubted she knew what she’d watched. Daytime television had been playing mindlessly since their arrival—Nadine wasn’t one for silence.

She thought she should say something to support Nadine, to make the other woman feel better, but she couldn’t. There weren’t any words she could dredge up at the moment to reassure herself, much less someone else.

“It’s easy to be strong,” Elizabeth said finally, “when the man you love is with you. You can look into their eyes; you can justify the sacrifice more easily when they’re in the room. When I’m with Jason, when we’re with the kids, I can tell myself this is a family worth fighting for. That Jason is the best father for my son, that I am the best mother for his daughter. That together, we’re going to raise two beautiful and amazing children. And maybe we’ll have more because Jason deserves that.”

“But when they’re gone,” Nadine said quietly, “when they’re missing, when you don’t know where they are, if they’re okay—”

“The doubts creep back in,” Elizabeth admitted. “I’m not proud of it. I’m not proud that I only feel strong when Jason’s here. That I’m only certain when he’s with me. I keep telling myself that it’s all worth it. That this is just a bump in the road. That we’ll get through this and come out on the other side.” She rubbed her face. “I walked into this with both eyes open, without any dishonesty, but I think—even after everything I’ve been there—I’m still naive about the men who lead this life.”

Nadine bit her lip. “I’m not sure Johnny is going to be able to stay out of his father’s business forever, which means I have a decision to make.” She looked at Elizabeth. “Are you changing your mind?”

“No,” Elizabeth said after a long pause. “No, I can’t—I’ve tried to be with other people. To live a different life. To be a different person. But I—”

She looked down at the ring on her finger, remembering the promise she’d made him, the pure joy she’d felt that night he’d asked her to marry him.

And she smiled.

“All roads have always led me back here. There’s no turning back. I’ve loved him since I was eighteen years old. That’s not going to change and I’ve stopped trying to make it.”

At the entrance to the room, Bernie cleared his throat. “Ms. Webber, Ms. Crowell—”

“Bernie,” Elizabeth said with exhaustion. “We’ve been shot at together. I think we can be upgraded to first name basis, don’t you?”

The older man flushed a bit. “Ah, yes, well, be that as it may—we thought you’d like to know. Johnny Zacchara called. The Ruiz family pulled their men today.”  He paused. “We haven’t…dealt with Sonny yet, so Jason—”

“He won’t be here until it’s over,” Elizabeth finished for him, but some of the tension coiled in her belly had dissipated. Sonny didn’t have armed men behind him—he was alone. This was better. Wasn’t it? “Okay. Okay. Thank you, Bernie.”

“I should be relieved, right?” Nadine said. “Johnny’s dad did what he was supposed to do. But—”

“Whatever’s happening is just going to get worse before it gets better,” Elizabeth murmured. “We’re just in the thick of it now.” She met Nadine’s troubled blue eyes. “No, I don’t think relief is the right emotion. Maybe—”

Sonny was alone now, likely feeling betrayed on all sides. Maybe dread would be the better answer, but that was something else better left unsaid.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

The room was dark but they could see the remnants of the mini bar and the broken wood of the coffee table. The dining table and its chairs were strewn across the room. Though Sonny had often shattered the mini bar, the broken furniture was different. A new sign of rage that made Jason all too aware of the deafening quiet.

Just an hour ago, Carly had been speaking to him on the phone before she’d been caught.

They crept up the stairs and down the dim hallway, bypassing rooms Jason knew to belong to the boys, to the nanny before arriving at the master bedroom. With a glance behind him to be sure that the trio of guards were still with him, he gently pushed the ajar door.

The room was destroyed—clothes strewn from open drawers, the closet gaped open, the mirror of Carly’s vanity table shattered, the various powders, tubs and pots cracked and broken on the floor around it.

And in the corner, in the small space between the wall and night stand, a figure sat, her knees drawn up, forehead resting against them. The fingers that dug into her legs were scraped and bleeding, a thin line of blood seeped from a cut near her temple, her limp blonde hair was stained with blood.

Jason swore, tucked his gun back into the small of his back and rushed forward. “Carly!”

Her head snapped up, the fear in her eyes almost feral. “No! Stop! I won’t go! Don’t—”

Then her eyes focused as Jason knelt in front her, tilting her chin. “J-Jason?”

He checked the wound at her temple—a deep and nasty cut that looked worse than it likely was. There was another cut on her cheekbone and her fingernails were bitten down to the quick. Jesus Christ. “Carly. We need to get you out of here.”

“N-No, if I leave, if he finds out—” She closed her eyes. “No, I have to stay. He told me I can’t go. He’ll kill me if I go.”

“Holy shit,” he heard someone say behind him, but he didn’t look to see who.

“He’ll kill you if you stay,” Jason said, for the first time believing down to his depths that Sonny Corinthos had shattered inside—that what had made his former mentor the man he’d been had vanished somehow. “Carly—”

“I deserve this,” she said softly. “I did this.”

“No,” Jason said forcefully. He gently pulled her to her feet, leaning her slight weight against him. “No, you didn’t.” She may have exacerbated some of the issues—maybe she hadn’t been much help—but none of this was truly her fault. Not alone.

They’d all ignored the signs that Sonny’s issues weren’t just superficial—they’d spent years compensating for his problems, keeping them hidden. How many times that Jason rationalized Sonny’s dark moods? He’d learned how to use them, to work around them.

He’d never bothered to question their existence, to try to and resolve them. Carly had followed his lead. They both shared some of the blame for allowing Sonny to drift so close to the edge all those times without once learning how to keep the edge from appearing.

He motioned for Johnny to come forward. “Johnny is going to take you down to the car, okay?” he told Carly whose initial protest had dissipated. She leaned against the guard, her eyes closed, her face ashen. “I’m calling ahead to the hospital. As soon as they discharge you, I’ll send you to New York. To Courtney and the boys.”

“I tried to stop it,” she told him. “I was calling you. I was going to warn you, but he—” A tear slid down her cheek. “He caught me. He thought I was betraying him.” And then her eyes snapped into focus. “The kids, they’re safe? They’re okay? He was—”

“They’re safe,” he told her, touching her shoulder. “Elizabeth and the kids are safe.  Your boys are safe. Courtney and your mother are safe. Let me make sure you’re safe.”

“Okay.” She nodded. “Okay.”

Jason watched as Johnny gently led the broken blonde from the room. “Francis, I want someone with Carly at all times from now on.” He drew out his cell phone and dialed.

“Jason?” his mother’s voice, surprised and a bit worried came on the line. “Jason, oh, I’m so glad to hear from you. We’re so worried. We haven’t heard from you in days—there were gun shots at the house—”

“Everyone is okay,” Jason said, taking a moment to reassure a woman he knew cared for his family, for him. “I promise. I’m coming to the hospital with Carly. Can you—” he hesitated. “I know it’s not your area, but she needs someone—”

“I’ll meet you in the lobby,” Monica said. “Bobbie’s working today, should I call her with us? Is Carly okay?”

“No,” Jason said honestly. “No, but she will be. Thanks.”

General Hospital: Conference Room

“Hey,” Steven said as he entered the room. “You paged me here?”

“Yeah.” Emily faced him, twisting her fingers together. “Jason just called me. He brought Carly to see my mother and he wants to talk to us.”

Steven’s fatigued eyes sharpened. “It’s about damn time. The house was shot up two days ago, Elizabeth isn’t answering her phone—”

“I know, I know.” Emily sighed, pressing her hands to her face. “But we’d know if anything – if it was bad. The fact Jason has waited so long—”

“I wish I had your confidence,” he muttered, collapsing into one of the chairs. “I encouraged her to go for things with Jason. Was I wrong? Should I have told her to run?”

“Others have tried,” she said simply. “She’s tried. You don’t always get to choose the path you take in life. You can shape it, but you don’t pick it. She tried to live a different life, to love a different man. My brother’s life may not be safe, but—”

“When I saw her in California, after Cameron was born…” Steven dipped his head, focused on the table. “She wasn’t the little sister I remembered. She’d lost a piece of herself. I know she was better after therapy, because when she came home, she’d grown up so much.” He looked at Emily. “Ric, Lucky, the son of a bitch who raped her—they broke something inside. I guess I have to decide if that’s worse than the external danger Jason brings to the table.”

“Elizabeth is the only one that can answer that,” Emily said quietly, but she’d be lying to herself if she hadn’t asked herself that question. As much as she loved the idea of her best friend forming a family with her brother—could she live with herself if something happened to Elizabeth and the kids?

The door opened then, and Jason entered. He looked as tired as Steven did, his shoulders a bit slumped. “Emily—”

She rushed across the room to embrace him tightly. “I’ve been so worried since you sent the guards to the mansion, since I heard about the shooting at the house, at the warehouse—”

“Everyone is fine,” Jason told her. He drew back, rubbing her upper arms and looking at Steven. “The kids and Elizabeth are safe. I can’t tell you where they are until…” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Until I figure out how to keep them safe permanently.”

“Until Sonny Corinthos is no longer a threat,” Steven said evenly. “You promise me my sister is okay? That Cam and Evie are safe?”

“I do,” Jason said. “No one was hurt, but I need them out of the public eye for now.” He looked back at his sister. “Will you and Nikolas stay at the mansion until this is over? With my men and the security Edward has there, you should be safe. I don’t think you or Steven are in danger, but—”

“The guy can stay at the apartment,” Steven cut in. “I don’t want to be someone you worry about. Someone Elizabeth worries about. We should both be okay at the hospital.” Emily shot him a grateful look. Steven might not be on board with all of this, but he knew how be a team player when it mattered.

Jason took a deep breath and continued. “I talked to Monica and Alan to make sure things are good here. I’m satisfied with the security.”

“How’s Carly?” Emily asked. “Mom said she’d been hurt. Did—” she swallowed hard. “Did Sonny—”

“She tried to call me, to warn me Sonny was still planning something,” Jason admitted. He stepped away from her, letting his hands fall to his side. “He caught her while we were talking.  He—” He stopped, swallowing as if the words were stuck. “He hit her, he threw her into her vanity table—it’s mostly cuts and bruises. Bobbie’s with her now, and I’m having one of my men take her to New York where Courtney has the boys.”

“Jesus,” Steven murmured. “What the hell happened to him? I thought he had some sort of code—”

“A psychotic break,” Emily supplied when Jason had nothing to offer. “It happens sometimes with bipolar disorder. I talked to Lainey, and she said that one of the side effects of someone with a bipolar disorder being treated with anti-depressants is that it helps them remain level during the low points of the cycle, but when they’re going to have a manic episode—”

“It makes it worse,” Steven supplied.

“It amplifies everything that’s bad inside you, every flaw you have, and makes it the worst thing about you. Sonny’s always been paranoid, always sure someone’s coming after him—especially since Brenda.” Emily bit her lip, looking at her brother. “Jason, if you come across Sonny like this—”

“I know it might be bad. I know—” Jason looked away, the words unsaid but they all knew what action he was preparing himself for.

“You might still be able to reach him,” Emily said. “I’ve been trying to read about this—I want everyone to come out of this okay—”

“Emily—”

“And if okay isn’t an option,” she continued, “I’ll settle for alive. This isn’t Sonny’s fault. Not really. He isn’t himself, and I don’t want you to have to live with yourself if you have to—” She stopped. “Look, if it’s severe—which it clearly is—Lainey said the best thing you can do is to talk to him calmly, but don’t play along if he’s delusional. As soon as you find him, you need to call the authorities.” She fished in her lab coat for the card she’d been holding. “Lainey is ready for you to call. Sonny needs help.”

Jason accepted the card. “I can’t make any promises, Em—” His phone rang. He answered it, turning away from them. When he returned, the fatigue had disappeared, his shoulders were tight with tension. “I have to go.”

“Be careful.” She leaned up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “Take care of yourself.”

She watched him go, conscious of the fact that it might be the last time she saw her beloved brother alive. “Em?” Steven asked, his hands on her shoulder. “How are you feeling? Should I call Nikolas?”

“I’m fine,” she murmured, pressing her hand to her abdomen, thinking about the child she was going to bring into this world. “We should get back to work.”

Warehouse: Offices

“He got here just after you left for the penthouse,” Francis told Jason as they walked from the back of the building towards the charred coffee storage rooms and packing areas. “We did what you wanted—we hung back, made sure he was alone. I don’t think he knew we were here.”

They stopped before the double doors into the primary storage room, a bit charred from the fire. Jason reached behind him and pulled his gun from his waistband, checking the ammunition. “What was his mood like?”

“He was rushing when he first arrived,” the other man answered. “Breathing hard, gun out—he went right for your offices. Looking for you, I would imagine. He was inside his office for a long time. I was going to call then—no one showed up to back him up. He’s been here almost an hour. Nothing.”

Francis caught his arm just as Jason started to ease the door open. “Jase, he was quiet when he came out, but you and I both know Sonny. Quiet isn’t always better. I think I prefer him in a pissed off rage.”

“Yeah.” Jason handed him the card his sister had given him. “You come in with me, but stay behind. I’ll give you a sign—you leave, you call this number and you tell this woman to send an ambulance.”

“Jase—”

“I don’t want to kill him,” Jason said, his throat tight. “I don’t. He’s sick. You know that, Francis. He’s always been paranoid, always been selfish, reckless. But he’s sick. And if there’s a chance—”

“No one wants this to go down like that,” the older man told him, his voice rough with a mixture of anger and despair. “We all came up under Sonny, we all promised him loyalty. But, God, do not make me go to that safe house and tell Elizabeth—”

“Francis—” Jason hesitated, before exhaling slowly. “Let’s just…let’s just get this over with.”

When the guard nodded, Jason eased the door open and crept into the large room, with its ceiling still a series of gaping holes, the only light coming from the fading streaks of sunlight as the day slid into twilight, wind rustling through.

Sonny was across the room, near the open door to the loading dock, sitting on a discarded crate. The light spilling in from the moon and the faint lights in the truck yard beyond the next room only revealed his presence—Jason couldn’t quite discern his facial expression.

His foot scuffled over a broken plank from the fire as Jason neared him. He stopped as Sonny started. The older man turned towards him, his face dimly lit by a shaft of moonlight. “Jason?”

His voice sounded weak, even tired. The anger that been so prevalent these last few weeks was absent. Had the psychotic break cleared? Had he returned to himself?

“Sonny…” Jason lowered his weapon, but didn’t put it away. If this was just a ploy, just an act—if something happened to him—Elizabeth and the kids would still be in danger.

“I hurt her,” Sonny said, his voice so weak it almost disappeared in the sounds of the lake behind them. “I never thought—”

“Who?” Jason asked, stopping roughly fifteen feet away, conscious that Francis still stood behind in the shadows where Sonny couldn’t see.  “Who did you hurt, Sonny?”

“Carly,” he sighed the word. “You ever step outside yourself, Jase? Rise above your body and watch yourself do things? Commit horrible acts? Say terrible things?”

“Is that what’s been happening to you, Sonny?” Jason asked. Be calm, Emily had told him. He could do that. He’d done that for years.

“I don’t know, maybe…” Sonny closed his eyes. “She wanted to leave.”

Jason frowned, stepped closer. “Sonny—”

Sonny raised the gun Jason hadn’t seen until then. Jason froze in his tracks as his former friend pointed the barrel at him, the aim at point-blank range. “But then I thought…maybe you should be the one to go.”