Part Four: Salvation
Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are.
– Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother
Cross your heart and say you’ve never given up
That you carried on when every door was shut
That you live, you live with no regret
We wear a smile to hide that we’ve been hurt before
Keep our disasters in a suitcase by the door
Cause you know, you know we’re only human
– Broken Ones, Jacquie Mitchell
Saturday, September 3, 2005
General Hospital: Emergency Room
She looked so small, standing outside the hospital curtain in a pair of cotton shorts and t-shirt, a coat thrown hastily over her pajamas. Jason thanked the nurse who had helped him fill out the admission form before joining his fiancée.
“Did the doctor say anything yet?” he asked, putting an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. She leaned her head against his shoulders.
“She’s still in there—did you call Nora?”
“I did. She knows we’re not there.” Jason drew her away from the curtain, away from the jumble of voices and their medical jargon. “I called Steven. He’s on his way. And I called my sister.”
“No, Jason—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Emily’s working so much, and she’s pregnant—”
Jason nodded. “I know, but you know she’d be annoyed with you if you didn’t call her. She and Nikolas are on their way.”
“Why?” Elizabeth turned to him, her eyes red, exhausted, her cheeks stained with tears. “Because you think this is it? You think my grandmother is going to die tonight?”
“I—” Jason sighed. “I don’t know. I just—I just want to make sure you have everything you need. I’m sorry, maybe we should have waited for the doctor before I called Emily, but with the launch always taking so long—”
And the annoyance in her eyes died out, like an extinguished candle. “No, no. I know—I do. I want Emily here. I want her to tell me it’ll be okay, and Nikolas and Steven are friends. I want you all here—”
“Elizabeth—I came as soon as I got the call—” Bobbie touched her shoulder, stepping up to them. “Honey, do we know anything yet?”
“No, no, not yet.” Elizabeth turned from Jason’s embrace to hug her old friend. “Thank you for being here, Bobbie.”
“Of course.” Bobbie reached out to squeeze Jason’s hand. “We need to talk, Jason, when you have a moment.” She drew Elizabeth away for a moment. “Is Monica in with her?”
“I called her from the car, she got here at the same time we did,” Jason told her. “We’re just waiting to hear—”
There was an explosion of movement, of shouting just before the door to the emergency room swung open and a stretcher was rolled in, with several paramedics surrounding it—and behind them, Carly rushed in.
Jason blinked and then focused on the gurney. Sonny. Sonny had been shot. He had already taken a step towards the scene when Carly saw him and rushed over.
“You’re here already! Oh, you always come through!” She threw her arms around him and burst into tears. “I don’t know what happened. The police called me—they found Sonny in some dirty warehouse, someone called 911 but didn’t stick around—”
And then Carly drew away, tears glistening on her cheeks as she took in Elizabeth and Bobbie at his side. “Jase? What’s going on? Mama? Elizabeth?”
“My grandmother,” Elizabeth said faintly. “She’s…” She folded her arms across her chest and took a deep breath. “She’s in with the doctors.”
He should stay with her—he had a bad feeling about this, and he wanted to be with her when the worst happened.
But Sonny had been found in a warehouse, left alone. Not Johnny Zacchara. Had he escaped? Had Ruiz’s men deserted him there to die? Had they taken a body with them?
“You should check on Sonny,” Elizabeth said.
Her eyes were tired, her tone resigned. And when Jason looked at her, her expression was unreadable. As if this was merely the first in the long line of disappointments she could expect at his side. God, he hated himself for even considering leaving her with her grandmother on her deathbed.
“The doctors are with him—”
“Jason—” Carly protested.
“—so, I just need to call someone to—” Jason continued.
“But you’ll be thinking about it and worrying.” Elizabeth nodded to the doors of the emergency room. Steven was there, his hair disheveled. “Steven is here. Emily and Nikolas are on their way. I have Bobbie, your mother is taking care of her.” She attempted a smile but failed. “You have a job, Jason. I get it. Go take care of it. I’ll be fine.”
He hesitated, but now wasn’t the time for this conversation. He did have to take care of this, and it should be done personally, but it didn’t make it any easier.
This would be the last time she’d have to make this kind of sacrifice, Jason told himself as he offered a brief greeting to Steven before taking Carly’s arm and directing her away.
Elizabeth deserved better, and he was going to figure out how to give it to her. As soon as he could locate Johnny Zacchara, get Sonny the treatment he needed, he was going make some changes.
General Hospital: Emergency Room
“Bits, where’s Jason going?”
Elizabeth sighed and turned to her brother. “Something came up at work and it can’t be put off.” She took his arm, winding her own through it. “It’s okay. I have you and Bobbie. Jason called Em and Nikolas—”
Steven looked as though he wanted to argue, but what was the point? Elizabeth had fallen in love with someone who could never make her his first priority one hundred percent of the time. She would have to make do with ninety percent.
And she would. This was a unique situation, she told herself, as she, Steven, and Bobbie sat in the hard plastic chairs of the waiting room, waiting desperately for some good news from Monica.
There would always be problems, always be rivals—she’d been around long enough to know that, but not like this. Not with Sonny putting them in danger, not with so much at stake. Maybe the next time, Jason would be able to delegate it. If he was in charge, he’d need someone to fill the position Jason had once held for Sonny.
It would be okay. They would get through this.
“Bobbie—” Elizabeth looked her suddenly. “You should be with Carly—I didn’t even think—”
“She has Jason,” Bobbie said. “I’m right where I need to be.” Her mouth was set in a thin line. “If I thought Jason would be here, I’d go with her. Elizabeth, I don’t understand—”
“But I do,” Elizabeth cut in gently. “And I don’t love it, but I made my choices. They’re hard, and right now, I hate them. But I made them. There are things only Jason can take care of.”
Steven grunted from her side, but there was nothing either them could say. It was bad timing that things with Sonny would blow up at the same time her grandmother had a health crisis, but this would pass.
Monica stepped out of the curtain, her expression grave. “Steven, Elizabeth.”
Oh, God. Oh, God.
Elizabeth rose, and Bobbie’s hand remained tight in hers as the older man also stood. “Monica—”
“I’m sorry…” Jason’s mother strode forward. “She’s not gone, but…”
“It won’t be long,” Steven said roughly. “A few hours?”
“Maybe.” Monica swiped at her eyes. “We’re moving her to a room and I promise you, we’ll make her as comfortable as possible.” She looked around, and probably wanted to ask about Jason, but mercifully, said nothing.
Elizabeth’s grandmother would be gone by morning, and the last thing she wanted to talk about was Jason.
“I should call Mom and Dad, Sarah.” Steven cleared his throat. “We won’t be able to see her right away, you know.”
“I’ll go to the house,” Bobbie offered. “Get you a change of clothes. Maybe pick up coffee on the way back?” She patted Elizabeth’s shoulder. “What do you think?”
“That sounds fine.” Elizabeth nodded. She sank back into a chair. “I’ll—I’ll wait here for Gram to be moved—”
Steven hesitated. “I can wait to call—”
“I’ll go in a bit,” Bobbie started, but Elizabeth waved them both off. She was fine. She was sad, of course, she told them, but they’d expected this, and Jason would be back in a few minutes.
They accepted her lies, and they both separated, leaving the ER through different doors, leaving Elizabeth alone in the plastic chair, twisting her engagement ring on her finger.
She loved him. She’d made the right choice, but she couldn’t stand it right now.
Emily strode into the ER then, Nikolas on her heels. And it was the concern, the worry in her best friend’s face that did it. Elizabeth took one look at her and crumpled into tears.
She could fall apart now, because Emily and Nikolas would understand. She didn’t need to be strong for them.
Warehouse: Jason’s Office
Carly had been annoyed when Jason didn’t do more than make sure she had a guard before leaving the hospital. He wanted to put the things he needed to take care of in motion so he could get back to the hospital.
He didn’t think Audrey had a lot of time left, and he wanted to be with Elizabeth. He needed to be there for her, to make sure she understood that he would be there for her the way she’d supported him all these months. She wasn’t making a mistake to be with him and he wanted her to believe that.
“What do we know about the shooting?” Jason demanded. “Bernie?”
“911 call came in, reporting shots fired,” Bernie responded. “By the time paramedics arrived, Sonny was alone, but there were signs of a struggle. Our guy at the PCPD gave me the preliminary police report. A chair was broken, some rope, some cloth that may have been used as a gag—”
“He must have been keeping Junior there,” Max said. “As soon as the cops clear the area, we’ll start our own search. There was some blood on the floor, two casings — one went into Sonny, so maybe the other went wild or Junior was hit.”
“But no evidence that anyone was dragged or removed from the scene,” Bernie continued. “There was a bit of a blood trail leading out the back door, but the cops lost it. Someone walked out of there, bleeding. Maybe it was Junior.”
Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay. Okay. Sonny is under wraps for the moment. I want a guard stationed at the hospital, but he’ll have an officer on the door so work around that. I want to reach out to Ramon—ask what the hell Diego Lopez is doing in my territory without an invitation. We can afford to be confrontational now. We have to be. We have to make Ruiz the bad guy if Junior goes home to Anthony.”
“We have the girlfriend under surveillance, but there’s been no contact. If Junior’s hurt, he didn’t go to any of the area hospitals. He still might go to her. She’s a nurse. If we can intercept him there, maybe we can stop him from going to Anthony.” Max shifted. “Jason—”
Jason held up his hand. “Bernie, what’s the status on the new house? I want it up and running by the end of the week.” It would be unlikely they would be moving there any time soon with Audrey’s status, but he wanted it as a backup just in case.
“We’re finishing it up, it’ll be done.” Bernie exchanged a glance with Max. “Ah, Jase, Cody told us Mrs. Hardy is in the hospital—”
“I’m getting back there shortly. I had to deal with this.” He took a deep breath. “Max, stay on the girlfriend and put men in the field to look at the route between the warehouse and the girlfriend’s. He’ll go there first—she hasn’t seen or heard from him in three weeks, we know it was relatively serious—he’d be an idiot not to check in with her first. Our best chance to hold off Anthony’s wrath is to intercept him there. Bernie, get a hold of Ramon, and get us answers on Diego. And I won’t be needing that meeting after all. I’m not traveling to Miami when Hector Ruiz disrespected me by sending his man into my town without a word. Make that clear.”
He tried to look for another angle—had he covered it all? Was there anything left? “Bernie, get Tommy on the phone with Stefano. Tell him we have a line on Junior’s status. We’re going to throw Ruiz under the bus. Make it look like a frame job. Make sure Zacchara thinks we’re doing all we can up here, but that Ruiz is the culprit. I don’t want him throwing any more support at Sonny.”
“Shouldn’t we wait until we actually know where Junior is?” Bernie asked. “It seems risky—”
“It’s preventative. We don’t know if we’ll be able to intercept the kid. I want Zacchara to know we’re on his side. We might make it through this unscathed if Junior gets home alive.”
“Jason,” Max said. “Johnny and I got this. We can make the necessary moves.” Jason just looked at him. “We’ve been talking about it—you need some guys to step up. Be your lieutenants. To delegate to. We know your big picture. We can take care of the details. You should be with Elizabeth.”
“That’s right,” Bernie told Jason. “Cody is taking point on security. The kids are safe at the house, Carly’s boys are secure at the Brownstone. We know the priorities. You can trust us.”
“Call me if you find the kid or when Ramon gets back to us about Lopez.” Jason tucked his cell phone in the pocket of his jeans. “I’ll be at the hospital.”
General Hospital: Audrey’s Room
It was unlikely, Monica had told them, that Audrey would regain consciousness—she wasn’t receiving enough oxygen from her lungs due to the heart problems. Audrey had requested that no measures be taken at this point—no machines to breathe for her—they would never be able to turn them off.
So Audrey would slip away from them at some point, and all they could do was wait.
It had been an hour since Jason had left when Steven roused himself to look at his quiet sister. Emily and Nikolas were outside with Bobbie and Monica. Nikolas had taken on the responsibility of transporting the Hardy-Webber clan from their various points around the planet—if they could get away, Nikolas would make sure they got here.
Only family was allowed to visit in the ICU, and truthfully, Steven wanted a moment alone with his sister.
“You know that I like Jason,” Steven said, breaking the silence. Elizabeth just looked at him before looking at her grandmother. “I do, Bits. I know how happy you’ve been, and how much he loves you. I can see that. I just—” He dipped his head. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right.”
“I wish he were here,” Elizabeth murmured, “but if I dwell on it, I’ll start to resent him for things I know he can’t change. Things I told him I could handle. And I can. Jason has been honest with me about the problems he’s having. It’s not his fault Gram’s health suffered at the same time.”
“It would be different if Sonny weren’t ill.” She shot him a dark glance. “And I’m not talking about tonight. I’m talking about his mental health. He’s dangerously unstable, and the problem has just gotten worse this last month. It’s not Jason’s fault, and I’m not going to hold it against him. He can’t be everything to everyone, and I won’t be one more person making demands on him—”
“You’re not one more person—” Steven huffed. “You’re his fiancée. He wants you to marry him—”
“I love you, Steven, I do, but you don’t know what Jason and I have been through these last few years. I hate that he’s not here, okay? I hate it. But I know he hates it, too. And I know he’s doing everything he can to be back here. What do you want me to do? Tell him it’s over because he’s not here? I love him. I know what he’s going through. His life is falling apart, too, Steven. I’m not going to make him feel bad about how he has to handle it.”
Steven sighed. “All right. All right, you’re right. You know your situation. I just—” He shook his head. “I’ve never been there for you the way I should have. I just kept my head down when Mom and Dad harped on you about your grades, about your behavior. I headed out when I went to college, and I never came home. We weren’t as close as we should have been. I wasn’t here for Lucky, for Ric. For the things you’ve been through.”
“I never held it against you,” she said dully. “We do what we have to do. And you’ve been great this last year. I know you love me, that you want the best for me.” She shifted in her chair. “I know what I’m doing, Steven. Jason may not be the choice you would make, that Mom or Dad, or even Gram would make for me, but he’s my choice and I know he’s the right one. I love him.”
“Okay.” And Steven let the conversation drop. There was no point in harping on it, because there was no right answer. Not everything in life was black and white. And while a mobster had never his dream for his baby sister, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried guys who’d walked the straight and narrow. Lucky had been a disaster and Ric—Ric had damaged her self-esteem, her dignity, her soul.
He’d never particularly enjoy having a criminal in the family, but if he treated Elizabeth right, well, Steven could overlook it.
Twenty minutes later, Jason slipped into the room to sit next to Elizabeth. Steven saw the tension in her expression ease—she hadn’t expected him back so fast, or maybe at all. But there he was, holding her hand.
Another hour passed in silence—Bobbie and Emily came in to change out the coffee, to press some food on all of them. Monica said Audrey’s situation hadn’t changed—it wouldn’t be long now, and Nikolas reported that the Webbers were prepared to leave Africa for a few days, that Sarah would be able to fly out for a memorial service if they held it on Tuesday or Wednesday. Uncle Tom would fly in from Georgia, and TJ would be in from Washington.
Just before dawn, Audrey March Hardy drew in her last breath.
Elizabeth rose, her face as pale as chalk, and reached for her grandmother’s limp hand. She pressed a kiss to it before pressing it against her heart. “Be at peace, Gram, and be with Gramps. He’s been waiting for you—and I know he’ll take care of you.” She turned into Jason’s embrace, and started to cry.
Nadine’s Apartment: Living Room
Nadine set her cell phone down for the seventh time. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and had barely been able to draw in a decent breath since the news had broken the night before.
Sonny Corinthos had been shot and taken to the hospital. The news reported that sources in the PCPD said it had been a struggle, and that another man was believed to have been shot but was currently on the run.
And while Nadine had no reason to believe it, she knew in her heart that Sonny Corinthos had taken Johnny all those weeks ago—and that he’d been the other man.
He’d been shot and he’d disappeared.
What if he’d fallen into the lake? What if he passed out? What if he had died? Oh, God, would anyone even bother to come tell her? Would she never know?
She should call Johnny’s father. He would know. He could tell her. She could trust him now. Johnny told her that if anything happened to him, if Nadine knew for certain, then she should call Anthony Zacchara. Anthony was ruthless, but he would protect her.
But maybe she could try Jason Morgan. She’d read the papers—she knew the gossip. Jason had taken over for Sonny, though no one could say how they knew it. Maybe Jason could tell her where Johnny was.
Her cell lit up with an unidentified number, but she scrambled to answer it. “Hello?”
Oh, God. His voice. “Johnny, thank God, thank God. Where are you? I’ll come to you. I’m so glad you’re okay, I was scared, I didn’t call your father, but I was going to, but I just didn’t know if I should—where are you?”
And like always, Johnny patiently waited out her rambles. “I’m at a payphone near Van Ness and Courtland. I need—” He coughed. “I need you to come get me. I was afraid to show up at your place, I thought they’d be watching, but maybe you could come here and I could sneak in your car.”
“We’ll make it work. I’m coming to get you. Stay right there.”
She hung up the phone and burst into tears. He was okay. She could do anything now she knew he was okay.
Nadine wiped at her eyes after a moment and reached for her keys. She had a rescue operation to put into action.