Chapter Twenty-Two

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series The Best Thing: Mercy

Everyone’s got an agenda, don’t stop
Keep that chin up, you’ll be all right
Can you believe what a year it’s been
Are you still the same?
Has your opinion changed?
‘Cause I don’t know you anymore
I don’t recognize this place

I Don’t Know You Anymore, Savage Garden


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Warehouse: Sonny’s Office

It had been years since Sonny had felt this good about his life. Despite his failing marriage and the difficult custody issues regarding his children he knew to be in his future, despite the minor business problems that had been plaguing his organization for months…

Sonny was in control. He rose every morning knowing that he was in full possession of his own destiny—of his words and his emotions.

He had conquered the demon inside him and now that his illness was under control, he knew he could take anything else coming his way.

“The minor issues seem to be resolving themselves.” Sonny leaned back in his chair and studied his business partner. “Jordan got Frankie and Ollie released—they’re laying low. No shipment disruptions. Maybe nothing to worry about after all.”

“Maybe.” Jason allowed. “But no point in laying down our guard just yet.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Can’t risk someone just playing with us.”

“Sure, sure.” But Sonny thought Jason was just being cautious—no problems there, it was what he was paid to do. Sonny knew the worst was over.

They could turn their attentions to other matters. Time for Sonny to prove to Jason things had really changed. It wasn’t all about him, after all.

“I, ah, wanted to ask about Elizabeth.” Sonny shifted. “How’s her grandmother?”

Jason blinked at the change in topic but followed it. “Okay. She’s checking into the hospital to run some tests today, check the stress on her heart.” He shifted in his seat. “Elizabeth is there now.”

It was a shame if Audrey Hardy’s health was failing as her granddaughter’s world was coming together, but life did that sometimes. “If she needs anything—” Sonny gestured. “It goes without saying.”

“Of course—”

Jason looked as though he have something more to say on the subject, but Sonny continued. “I talked to Jordan about Carly. About custody and the best time to file for divorce.”

Jason blinked. “Ah, Sonny…” He shifted again. “It’s…you’ve only been doing better a month—I thought you wanted to wait a bit more—”

“Why wait?” Sonny asked. “I used to think I didn’t lose it around Carly because I could see her clearly. You know, I’d only explode on you. Or unfortunately, Elizabeth. But not with Carly. Not since we reconciled. But I can see it now. She’s the trigger. I just never seem to be aimed at her.”

Jason’s brow furrowed. “Still—”

“Jordan thinks Carly has a good case to keep me away from the boys,” Sonny continued. “With the depression.”

“Depression?” Jason repeated. “Is—” He hesitated. “Is that what you’re being treated for?”

Sonny narrowed his eyes, not caring for the tone in his friend’s voice. “Yeah. And it makes sense. I’ve been better since I’m on the meds, since I started therapy.” He paused. “Why? You think you know better?”

And they both blinked at that—at the snappish tone, at the clipped question. Sonny swallowed. Where had that come from?

He was better. He was good.

He was in control.

Sonny reached for a glass of water. “Sorry.” He sipped it slowly. Deep breaths. “I just—it was hard for me to accept, too. I wasn’t expecting it, but he looked at all the evidence, all the things I told him. And that’s what he came up with.”

“Fair enough.” But Jason’s face had changed, just slightly. He was back on his guard.

Sonny told himself that was okay, that he could understand Jason’s defensiveness. He had put his best friend and his family through hell for the last year, probably even more. Jason had Sonny’s best interests in heart, had Evie in his head.

Sonny had to regain Jason’s trust, it couldn’t happen overnight.

“Listen.” Sonny rose to his feet. “I’m taking it seriously, Jason. I am. I wasn’t ready to deal with Carly, with the end of my marriage before. Because I thought—I thought maybe I didn’t deserve better.” He cleared his throat and forced the words out. “But I know the depression, the darkness, it’s not her fault, but she’s…she’s not good for me. Because being with her, and then seeing you with Elizabeth, it makes me envious. Angry.”

“Okay.” Jason also rose to his feet. “And I guess that makes sense. I want you to be okay, Sonny. And if you think leaving Carly is the right way to do it, I can’t blame you. But be careful. Carly’s—” He hesitated. “She won’t take it well.”

“I have to tell her about my condition,” Sonny replied. “I haven’t yet. And my not talking is only making matters worse. I have to be honest with her. To a point. I don’t think telling her our marriage is toxic to my mental health would be good for any of us.”

“No,” Jason agreed. “Just—” He exhaled slowly. “Don’t ever forget when Carly’s hurt, when she’s angry, she’ll try to punish someone. You and I both know what she’s capable of when she’s just trying to help. When she actively seeks to destroy you?” He shook his head and looked past Sonny. “I’ve never been the target of it, Sonny, but I’ve seen her. Hurricanes do less damage.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” Sonny told him. “And I promise you, somehow, we’re going to get out of this. I’m okay, Jason, but I want to be better.”

General Hospital: Cardiology Waiting Room

“Stop tapping your feet, Bits.”

Elizabeth scowled at her brother. “Why are you so calm? I hate you.” Never failed. The man never broke a sweat.

Steven just leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in his lap. “Is there a benefit to being anxious?”

“No, but…” She huffed and folded her arms. “Did you talk to Sarah last night?”

“I did,” Steven confirmed. “She’s planning to fly out in about a week to check on her, even though Gram doesn’t want her to.” At Elizabeth’s eye roll, “She doesn’t choose her own hours, little sister. She’s a resident. She can only stay a day.”

“It was her choice to change programs,” Elizabeth muttered, but rolled her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I’m being bitchy because I just…”

“There’s nothing we can do now,” Steven said, his eternal patience never wavering. “The cardiology staff here are some of the best in the country, and you know Monica will take care of her like she was family.” He paused. “She is family.”

“I know, I just…” Elizabeth rose to her feet and crossed to the window overlooking the parking lot. “I know Gram has done the best she can, and I even understand why she waited to tell me, even if I wish she hadn’t.”

“Hey, she told me about five minutes before she told you, but yeah.” Steven pressed his lips together. “But whatever happens going forward, we’re in this together.”

The door opened then, and Monica stepped in. “Elizabeth, Steven.”

Steven rose, falling in line next to Elizabeth as they crossed the room. “Where’s Gram?” Elizabeth asked.

“Resting.” Monica crossed her arms over the chart in her arms. “How much do you know about your grandmother’s treatment so far? I get the sense Audrey left the two of you out of it until now.”

“She didn’t want us to know she’d been ill.” Steven rose. “I know that she was suffering from a mitral stenosis, but I didn’t know for how long, what the treatment plan was—”

Monica gestured to the seats. “Audrey came to me late last year. Before you moved home, Elizabeth.” She flicked open her chart. “She’d been feeling tired, a bit run down for some time, but when she started to have fainting spells accompanied by chest pain, she wanted to have some tests.”

“How did she hide that from us?” she asked Steven. “I lived with her—”

“She had the tests before you came home,” Monica clarified. “She already knew when you brought the baby home. We ran the usual tests—an ECG, some X-rays, and confirmed the diagnosis. Initially, it seemed to be a mild case. We decided to control it with a combination of drugs.”

“But that’s not working anymore,” Steven said, reaching for Elizabeth’s hand.

“It doesn’t always,” Monica admitted. “Audrey has calcium deposits in her heart—they’re keeping it from pumping correctly. The meds were to control the symptoms with the hope they didn’t worsen. Unfortunately, due to the test results…”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “She needs surgery.”

“Aren’t there a few types of procedures?” Steven asked. “It’s not my specialty, but—”

“There are,” Monica replied. “But she’s not a candidate for the less invasive one, the balloon valvuloplasty. At this point, her best option is to either replace the valve or perform surgery to remove the calcium deposits. Both of these procedures are incredibly risky, particularly for a woman of Audrey’s age.”

“Does Gram know this?” Elizabeth asked. “She seemed to—” She hesitated. “She seemed to have ruled it out before—”

“She’s not particularly interested in surgical options, no.” Monica shifted the chart on her lap. “I had hoped the less invasive one would be an option, but that won’t be the case.”

“How did this even happen?” Steven demanded. “People in this country don’t get mitral stenosis.” At Elizabeth’s blank look, he clarified. “It’s mostly caused by untreated strep throat or rheumatic fever—”

“Well, Audrey has some calcium deposits due to her age, but she worked in Vietnam for several years while she was young.” Monica hesitated. “She suffered from rheumatic fever at that point, but recovered. The damage to her heart was probably minimal while she was younger since your grandmother has been in relatively good health, but as she grew older, it became more noticeable.”

“Okay, so what now?” Elizabeth said, not giving a damn about how her grandmother had developed this disease. “She needs to have the surgery. You told her that, didn’t you?”

“I explained this to her, yes.” Monica hesitated. “But she was a surgical nurse herself once, Elizabeth. She knows the odds with open-heart surgery at her age. The recovery time is several months, with no guarantees her condition wouldn’t redevelop.”

“Without the surgery, what are her odds?” Steven asked. “I mean…” He swallowed. “How long could we expect?”

“Well, I’m going to hope Audrey changes her mind, but we’re going to change the combination of meds and try to control it for as long as we can.” Monica leaned forward. “I want to concentrate on making her comfortable as well. I don’t want her in any pain.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “You didn’t answer the question.”

“If the new combination of medication doesn’t ease the symptoms, if we can’t improve the pumping in her heart…” Monica sighed. “We’re looking at weeks. Maybe eight. Maybe more, maybe less. It’s hard to predict until we start the new treatment.” She hesitated. “I’m sorry, Steven, Elizabeth. This is the last thing I wanted to learn this morning.”

“Thank you, Monica.” Steven looked to his sister. “It’ll be okay, Bits. We’re in this together.”

He squeezed her hand, and Elizabeth returned his half-hearted smile. She only wished she shared his optimism.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“Michael’s just gathering his things together,” Carly said as she took a seat on the sofa.

Courtney nodded, tightening her grip on the strap of her purse. “I think he’ll like the amusement park,” she said.

“He usually loves Aunt Courtney day.” Her sister-in-law leaned back, but her casual pose did nothing to disguise the tension in her shoulders. “I’m glad you’ve decided to keep doing it despite our differences.”

Differences.  What a way to describe it. They hadn’t spoken since Sonny’s trip to New York, and Courtney knew Carly believed she was covering for her brother. Covering up what exactly, Carly didn’t care clearly.

“I love Michael and Morgan,” Courtney said. She shifted. “And I love you and my brother. It’s why I hate seeing you all so unhappy. Carly—”

“He’s going to divorce me,” Carly said flatly. “Nothing I’ve done has changed that. It’s just a matter of when.”

“Has—” Courtney hesitated. “Has he said something?”

“No, but he’s better. In control of himself. I don’t know if he’s having an affair or what, but whatever’s going on, he’s not talking to me.” Carly twisted her mouth. “I overplayed my hand.”

It disturbed Courtney to see Carly looking so defeated. She didn’t have a great deal of firsthand experience of watching Carly in action when she felt betrayed or threatened, but she knew enough to suspect Carly was just laying low.

Licking her wounds.

“Maybe it’s for the best,” Courtney offered. “It’s not as though you two have been happy the last few years. You’ve both tried—” When Carly scoffed, Courtney corrected herself. “I know you’ve tried, Carly. No one can say differently.  He shot you in the head and you forgave him. He had an affair, and you forgave him. You were willing to bring an illegitimate daughter into the family, he stopped you. Carly, maybe I don’t agree with all your methods or decisions—”

“Few rarely do,” Carly remarked dryly, but her interest was engaged now.

“But I know your marriage means a lot to you. I don’t think my brother gave you a chance.” Courtney hesitated. “I don’t think either he or Jason ever gave you the chance to deal with Evie and Sam fairly. They lied to you from the start, and now they’ve got themselves wrapped up in this hideous custody tangle. It’s not fair to anyone.”

“I just—I did try.” Carly’s voice broke. “You know me. I try for the easy solutions. Do you think I want Sonny to take Evie away from Jason? I never asked them to do this to themselves. After Michael, I never would have suggested Jason take custody of Evie.” She pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead. “But once it was done, I thought it might be okay. Jason is an amazing father and he’d love her so much. And then he fell in love with Elizabeth.”

And those words didn’t do more than pang Courtney’s heart—for what might have been and for what never should have been. “I know. I saw him last spring. There’s a tension in him, but it’s lightened. She was always good for him, Carly.”

“But Sonny is falling apart and it’s not my fault.” Carly shook her head. “It’s not. There’s a darkness in him that I can’t touch, I never could. He always refused help, and Jason used to be able to solve it—” She pressed her lips together. “I knew the guilt of leaving his daughter was eating him alive. I tried to come clean with him, to bring it into the open but now Jason doesn’t think Sonny is stable enough to have custody—” She laughed, a harsh and twisted sound that nearly made Courtney wince.

“And they’re blaming me again for it. They don’t think I’ll love Evie enough.” She rose, to pace in front of the fireplace. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I am a horrible mother who only loves my sons because they’re mine. And I used to think that I could never look at Evie and not see that whore.”

“Carly—” Courtney cast her eyes to the stairs, hoping Michael was taking his time.

“But I saw her at their engagement party, and—” Carly looked at her. “She’s starting to grow up, like the way babies do. She has her own features. God, Courtney, she has these beautiful dark eyes—she has Sonny’s eyes. Like Morgan. She’s Morgan’s sister.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “I could love Morgan’s sister. I could love that little girl for her sweet laugh.”

“Have you told Sonny any of this?” Courtney asked, rising to her feet. “What does he think?”

“Do you honestly think he’d believe me?” Carly murmured, wrapping her arms around herself. “He and Jason think they know me inside and out. And maybe they do know me better than I know myself. They think I’m a selfish, twisted, narcissist who only loves things I think belong to me.”

“They don’t—” Courtney stopped, because she didn’t know about Jason, but she could believe that of her brother.

“I’ve been fighting for so long to save my marriage, to save my place and position as Sonny Corinthos’ wife, and you know what Courtney?” She turned to her, Carly’s dark eyes hollow.  “I can’t remember why I ever loved him.”

“Then why not stop?” Courtney said gently. “Carly—”

“Because if I’m not Sonny’s wife and the mother of his children, then who am I?” Carly spread her arms at her sound, gesturing the penthouse. “This is all I know. All I’ve wanted for years. And now I just want to burn it to the ground.”

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason frowned when he came into the bedroom that night, after checking on both sleeping children. Elizabeth was seated at her vanity table, which served as both a storage for her jewelry and makeup as well as a makeshift desk. He had offered her space downstairs, but she had put him off.

The disorganization of her business files ruffled his own orderly tendencies, but maybe when they moved, he could convince her to set up a proper office.

“Is that a new contract?” he asked, as he sat on the bed to remove his boots.

“Mmm….” Elizabeth nodded. “I talked to the business manager Nikolas suggested, but I wasn’t thrilled with him. If my name is going to be on this building, then I want to feel like I can be involved. He seemed to think I was going to sit back and let him do it all. So I called your custody lawyer…” She looked at him. “Diane? She has a general law practice, so she’s been doing the contracts with me.”

“I didn’t realize you’d called Diane—” Jason hesitated, but Diane only represented him when it came to Evie. Jordan Baines handled the rest of their business, so Elizabeth was still unconnected. “She’s a good lawyer. She’ll take care of you.”

“Yeah, she’s already managed to break down the Jerome Gallery. It’ll be a sixty-forty split, and I get the sixty.” Elizabeth set the contract aside and turned to him. “I thought looking over her notes would take my mind off things, but it’s not.”

“Yeah.” Jason exhaled. “I can guess your grandmother’s tests didn’t go well.”

“God.” She closed her eyes. “No. They went about as badly as they could have. She needs major open heart surgery. Your mother—” Elizabeth hesitated. “Monica said if she doesn’t have it, it’s a matter of months, maybe less.”

He wasn’t surprised. At Audrey’s age, heart problems could precipitate a fast decline. “I’m sorry, Elizabeth.”

“Steven’s going to stay with her for a while.” Elizabeth rose to her feet, crossed the room to open a drawer in her dresser, and removed a t-shirt. “To make sure she’s not alone.”

“Elizabeth—”

“I brought an infant into her home.” She turned to face him, her face pale, eyes wide and dark with pain. “And I still have boxes and crap all over the house because we didn’t move everything—I complicated her life. How much stress did I cause her? How much have I done over the years?”

“Hey.” Jason stood, and drew her towards him, his hands on her elbows. “You know better than that. Your grandmother loves Cameron. And I’ve read about this—they actually recommend light exercise and normal routines. You did not make her condition worse—”

“I just—” Elizabeth dipped her head down, rested it against his chest. “I feel like she and I have really connected this last year. And she’s so essential to me. I had plans. She was going—” He felt tears dampen his shirt. “She was going to walk me down the aisle when we got married. A-and she was going to be so amazing with Cameron, with Evie. I need her to be here.”

“I know.” He slid his arms around her waist, resting his chin on the top of her head. “I wish there was something we could do. If it was a matter of money—”

“But it’s just her own stubbornness.” Elizabeth drew back. “She’s afraid of the recovery, afraid of the surgery, even though Monica is one of the cardiologists in the state. She wants to go out on her own terms, she told us. I’d rather she stand and fight—”

“You might convince her,” Jason told her. “I doubt you’ll give up and let her go without a fight.” He tucked her hair behind her ear. “I know for a fact that you’re pretty bossy when you’re taking care of someone.”

The reminder of their time in the studio drew the faint smile he’d hoped for. “Steven and I are putting together some research. I just—” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth and bit down. “I just thought we were due for a break, Jason. I mean, this last year, for the both of us, has been stressful. My new career, the problems with Sonny—I thought we were finally in a place to be happy for five minutes. I mean…” She looked at him, met his eyes. “We fell in love, we’re planning a life together. Sonny’s turned a corner, why can’t the world leave us alone?”

Jason hesitated, because he wanted to talk to her about Sonny’s revelations earlier that day—that he was being treated only for depression. But he closed his mouth. There was time for that. Another time, another day.

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Jason? I know that look.”

“It’s not important.” He turned away from her and reached for his sweat pants. He would not burden her with his suspicions, with his worries.

“Jason—” She sighed. “Don’t—don’t protect me. I can deal with it—”

“You shouldn’t have to.” He faced her again, annoyed with himself. “That’s all you’ve done for the better part of a year. You convinced Sonny to see a doctor when no one else could. I’m not going to—” Jason stopped and shook his head.

“Hey…” Elizabeth stepped towards him. “That’s the deal, remember? I mean, I love you. For better or worse, remember? I know we’re not married yet, but do we really need to say the words to know they’re supposed to be true all the time and not just after some ceremony?” She tilted her head. “Jason. If Sonny’s having issues again—”

“I don’t know that he is.” He stripped off his shirt and his jeans and drew on the gray sweatpants. “I just—I’ve talked to you and to Emily. I read about bipolar disorder, and I thought it made sense. But Sonny told me he wasn’t diagnosed with that.”

“He wasn’t?”

“No.” Jason sat on the bed and drew her down next to him. “He’s being treated for depression.”

Her eyes bulged. “Oh, God. He’s on anti-depressants. Nikolas—we talked about this. This very thing. God.” Elizabeth squeezed his hand. “Depression doesn’t explain the rages. The mood changes.”

“No,” Jason agreed, his chest tight. “But I think he talked to the doctor during one of the low points, and you know Sonny. He was probably trying to protect himself. Trying to protect the business.” He looked down at their joined hands. “If he’s actually bipolar—”

“Anti-depressants are only going to make it worse when he cycles back up again,” she murmured.

“I mean, maybe we’re wrong,” Jason said after a moment of tense silence. “We’re not psychiatrists—”

“But we know Sonny,” Elizabeth challenged. “And this doctor only has Sonny’s side of things. I just—yeah, Sonny was depressed when I saw him—”

“I need to do more reading,” he told her. “Elizabeth, I’m going to be on top of this. I promise—”

“Jason—”

“I’m not going to sit back like I did last year,” he interrupted. “It’s not just about custody of Evie. When Sonny has these moments, when he loses it, it affects everyone. Carly and the boys. You and the kids. The guys at work don’t trust him the way they used to. They’re still looking at me to confirm his orders, which Sonny is tolerating now, but it won’t last. He—” Jason cut off his irritated tirade. So much for not burdening Elizabeth.

“Jason, Carly needs to be brought into this.”

He frowned at her, started to shake his head, but she pressed her lips in a mutinous line. “Listen to me. Carly lives with him, she has children with him. I’m not thrilled with the ways she’s dealt with this situation, but you know you haven’t been fair to her. You lied to her, Sonny treats her with such disdain—”

“Elizabeth—”

“You know I’m right. Carly deserves the chance to deal with this the way we are.” Elizabeth touched his cheek. “You are not alone, Jason. You are not the only person who can look out for Sonny. I’m here. Carly should be, too. We need to start working together. I’m scared of what might happen if we keep holding her out of this.”

Jason sighed. “She and I—we’re so far apart—”

“I’ll talk to her,” Elizabeth said. He winced, but she forged on. “I know we have our issues, but we both have children in this world. Jason, let me do this for you. If nothing else…” She sighed. “It’ll distract me from my grandmother.”

He would never understand this woman, never comprehend the generosity of her heart, the fact that she loved him and was willing to raise her son in his life—

“I love you,” he told her. Elizabeth blinked at that. “I don’t say it enough—”

“You don’t have to…” She leaned forward, brushed her lips against his. “I can see it in your eyes, I can feel it when you touch me. Maybe I needed the words once, but I don’t—”

“You deserve them.” He returned her kisses, deeper now. “For all the times I didn’t say it.”

“Well…” She slid her arms around his neck, her fingers lightly dancing across the nape of his neck. “Then why don’t you show me?”

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Comments

  • Liz’s plan to include Carly is a much better plan, IMO. Letting Sonny get away with the depression diagnosis is a coward’s way out, but understandable. And I’m glad you included the factum regarding treating the depression only making the bipolar issue worse; I’ve seen the aftermath of this personally and describing it in terms of hurricane damage is most accurate. Great update. Thank you for all you are doing at CG.

    According to Carla on July 15, 2015
  • amazing. poor audry. sonny needs some serious help

    According to Nicole on July 15, 2015
  • Yes Carly needs to know. What if Sonny flips out when the kids give him a had time. One never know when meds are involved

    According to leasmom on July 15, 2015