There was stillness in the air around her. As she stood outside the church and rubbed her bare arms absently, she found herself staring up at the stars in the dark night sky.
The more she thought about it, the more she wondered if he was happy. He’d done the right thing, he’d proposed, dressed accordingly and he seemed okay with the whole ordeal.
But okay was a far cry from happy, and for the first time, she had a second thought about one of her plans and she wondered if she’d forced this on him.
He’d never really understand her reasons for pushing this marriage. He’d just shake his head and think she was silly. He’d never say the word silly, but he’d think it.
The truth was that Carly Corinthos had found her first female friend since Carly Roberts in high school. And she wanted to make sure that Courtney would always be around. She wanted to be sure that she wouldn’t lose another friend.
She sighed and glanced towards the doors of the church. As usual, she’d been so absorbed in her own emotions—her own plans, she hadn’t stopped to think about the person this plan effected. Yes, Courtney wanted it but did Jason?
It was too late to second guess that decision now, she decided. She stared up at the sky once more.
“Carly?” Jason asked, touching her shoulder. “Are you going to come inside?”
“Yeah, I’m coming. Just wanted a minute to myself.” She turned and they only took one step towards the church before it exploded.
Elizabeth Webber Lansing moaned and moved her head a little to the side. It felt so heavy. She finally lifted it from the couch and slid into a seated position, clutching her afghan to her chest.
The sunlight was streaming through the windows, making her head hurt. She pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. Drinking wine had never made her feel like this before.
She wrapped the blanket around her more securely, tucking one end inside to keep it wrapped as she stood and stumbled into the bathroom.
After a long hot shower and a strong cup of coffee, she felt a little bit more human. She hated coffee, but she found it was the best thing to wake her up in the morning.
She started to straighten up the living room, but it was only when she noticed Ric’s practically untouched champagne glass that it dawned on her husband was absent.
“That’s strange,” she murmured. Ric was taking the summer off before he opened a law practice in Port Charles. He was rarely gone when she woke up and when it did happen, he always left some sort of note.
“I wonder where he went…”
For a second, Carly panicked. She opened her eyes and saw nothing. Pure white light, blinding almost. She blinked rapidly and tried to take a deep breath, only to feel a choking sensation from the tube in her throat.
“Carly, Carly, calm down!” a familiar voice called. “Honey, deep breaths, deep breaths.”
Sonny, she tried to say. She opened her mouth to form the word over and over again and started to actually choke on the word. Where was Sonny? Why wasn’t he here? Why couldn’t she see anything?
“Carly, calm down!”
After another moment, Carly stopped struggling and slipped back into sleep.
Bobbie Spencer exited her daughter’s hospital room and started to cry. The tears were a slow trickle at first but soon the sobs racked her body and she slipped to the floor, wrapping her arms around her side.
“Aunt Bobbie?” Lucky’s voice broke through her misery. He crouched and drew his shaking aunt into a tight embrace. “Are you okay? Is Carly okay?”
“She’s out again,” Bobbie choked out. “But all I can think about is the fact that I’ll have to tell her that her family is gone!”
“It’s okay,” Lucky murmured, “it’s okay.”
Emily Quartermaine stared blankly ahead, not feeling the warm arm Nikolas had around her shoulder. She didn’t realize that he’d guided her to a chair or that he’d sat next to her. She didn’t see her shaken grandfather sitting across from her and she didn’t even realize just how close she and her family had come to death.
“That poor girl,” Edward murmured. He shook his head. “That poor, poor girl.”
Monica and Alan emerged from the trauma room where Jason Morgan was being prepped for surgery. Edward lunged to his feet, followed by Nikolas. Emily didn’t move—she couldn’t move.
“We stopped the worst of the bleeding,” Monica said in relief. “He’s going up for surgery, but he’s stable.”
Edward let out the breath he hadn’t even known he was holding. Jason had been in surgery most of the night and his heart had stopped twice, but now he was stable and they were just going to try and correct some of the damage done to his arm.
Nikolas turned to crouch in front of his friend and took her cold hand in his. “He’s okay, Em,” he murmured softly. “He’s okay.”
“Somebody has to call AJ,” Emily said. Her voice was empty, her face was blank. “He needs to know about Michael.”
“I’ll call him,” Nikolas promised. “Do you need anything? Are you feeling all right?”
She shook her head. “This was supposed to be the happiest day of his life,” she whispered. “And a broken gas pipe has killed everyone he loves.”
“Not everyone,” Nikolas reminded her, firmly. “He’s still got Carly, he’s got you. He’s got Monica and Alan, Lila. Not everyone was in that church.”
“He loved Michael so much,” Emily whispered brokenly. “And Sonny was his brother, he loved them both so much. Oh, God and Courtney…he was going to marry her…”
“Em,” Monica said gently. “Maybe you should let Nikolas take you home.”
Emily’s eyes snapped up and there was signs of life for the first time. “What? No. I can’t.”
Nikolas hesitated and looked up at Monica. “Elizabeth’s husband was injured as well. Do you know anything his condition?”
“He was pronounced dead at the scene, I believe,” Alan remarked sadly. “The poor young girl. She just lost her child.”
“Ric was there?” Emily asked, surprised. “What was Ric doing there?”
“I don’t know,” Nikolas answered. “I’m just surprised no one’s heard from Elizabeth. Did anyone even call her?”
“Someone should,” Emily decided quietly.
“I’ll do it,” Nikolas promised. “Do you have her new number?”
Emily’s eyes filled with tears for the first time. “No…oh, God, I don’t.” She buried her head in her hands and started to sob.
Elizabeth switched the television on as she folded up the afghan. She had a knot in her back from sleeping on the sofa—they spent too many nights on that piece of furniture for her liking.
“The number of dead is still far from confirmed,” a reporter was saying, “but nearly everyone in the wedding party was killed with the exception of Jason Morgan and Carly Corinthos who were outside the church when the explosion occurred.”
Elizabeth stared at the screen in shock as the cameras were panning the destruction of the church.
“Authorities don’t believe there was any connection between Sonny Corinthos’ alleged ties to organized crime. All preliminary investigation points a faulty gas mane in the church basement.”
The church had exploded. Wedding party dead. Courtney. Sonny. Suddenly frantic, Elizabeth was dialing the hospital line. Nikolas and Emily were supposed to attend the wedding. Oh, God, what if something had happened to them?
“The Quartermaine family was lucky to just be arriving as the explosion occurred. Other than some minor burns and some bruising, the family is said to be in good condition. European prince Nikolas Cassadine was a guest of Emily Quartermaine and he is said to be fine as well.”
Elizabeth started crying in relief as she realized that meant Nikolas and Emily were okay. She hung up the phone, slipped into a pair of sandals and flew out the door, leaving the television on.
“Authorities have confirmed that Richard Lansing, Sonny Corinthos’ half brother, was pronounced dead at the scene. That brings the total number of confirmed dead to six.”
Elizabeth didn’t even wait for the elevator doors to open all the way before she slipped through them and rushed down the hall to the surgical waiting room. She’d been told in the lobby that the Quartermaines were waiting for news on their grandson.
“Thank god you’re all right!” she cried, pushing herself into Emily’s arms. “I heard it on the news!”
“The news?” Nikolas asked, confused. “You mean…the police didn’t call you?”
Elizabeth frowned. “The police?”
Emily started to cry again. “Oh, God, you don’t know.”
“I don’t know what?” Elizabeth demanded frantically.
“Elizabeth,” Ned Ashton said, putting his hands on her shoulders and tried to guide her to a chair. “You might want to sit down.”
“Why?” Elizabeth asked fearfully. “What’s wrong?”
“Ric was found at the scene,” Emily whispered painfully.
“R-Ric?” Elizabeth sputtered. “He wasn’t invited. Sonny hates him. What was he…” Suddenly it clicked. Found. “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. He’s dead, isn’t he? Oh my God.”
She clutched her trembling hand to her lips, muffling the moans. “Oh, God.”
“Nikolas, get her some water or something,” Ned directed. “Here, Elizabeth, sit down. Take deep breaths.”
When Carly woke for the second time, the blinding white was still there, but the breathing tube had been removed. “Mama? Sonny?” she moaned.
“Honey, honey, I’m here,” Bobbie murmured.
“Where’s Sonny? Where’s Michael?” Carly begged. “Jason…”
“Shh…just rest. Rest, darling.”
Carly slipped back into sleep and Bobbie rested her head on the edge of the bed. Jesus Christ. How was she supposed to tell her that Sonny and Michael were dead?
Elizabeth was still seated in the same chair Ned had pushed her into an hour earlier. Nikolas had pressed a cup of coffee into her hands and she’d drank it, even though she hated the taste.
Logically, she knew there were things to be done. Paperwork, Ric’s body…but she couldn’t will herself to move for the moment.
Dimly, she head Monica report to the rest of the family that Jason was out of surgery. He’d been thrown back by the force of the blast, his body had covered Carly’s, shielding her from the worst of the debris.
She heard the Quartermaines talk to each other in relieved tones when it became clear their prodigal relative would be just fine.
She knew that Emily was still sitting next to her and at some point and time, Lucky had found her. But she wasn’t aware of much right then.
“Someone needs to take her home,” Monica told Emily, pulling her aside.. “But she shouldn’t be alone.”
Dillon, who could never resist a chance to eavesdrop, spoke up. “Why doesn’t Em just bring her back to the house?”
“That’s a great idea,” Emily decided. “Thanks, Dillon.” She kissed his cheek and went back to her friend.
Monica patted Dillon affably on the shoulder. “You’ve got a good heart,” she told him. “Don’t let this family suck it out of you.”
“Honey, you’re going to come with me tonight, okay?” Emily said softly.
“Okay,” Elizabeth said dully.
“I’m just going to go see Jason before we go. Do you want to come with me?” Emily asked.
Elizabeth blinked. “Jason? What?” She cleared her throat and rubbed her temple. “I’m sorry, Emily. I forgot that…Jesus, is he okay? I didn’t even think about it.”
“It’s okay. Come with me. I’ll fill you in on the way to the room.”
Elizabeth sighed. “Poor Carly. To wake up and find out that your husband, your son, your sister-in-law, your father-in-law…I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”
“I think you can a little,” Emily said softly. She stopped in front of Jason’s intensive care room. “Besides, I don’t even think she knows yet. Bobbie told us she’s been in and out most of the night and day. But she’s alive and so is Jason. And that’s something to be thankful for.”
“Yes, it is,” Elizabeth said. She frowned. “I can’t even imagine why Ric would have been there last night. He and Sonny didn’t get along, we weren’t invited or anything…”
“I didn’t see him there,” Emily replied. “Maybe he was just driving by and stopped or something.”
“No…what I mean is…” Elizabeth frowned and searched for something. “We were together last night. We drank some wine and when I woke up this morning, well, it was obvious Ric and I had made love. So at what point last night did he get up and leave? And why?”
“I guess you….” Emily stopped. “Wait, you don’t remember if you and he made love?”
“Well, we were drinking wine,” Elizabeth explained. “And I guess…”
“Elizabeth, how can you not remember? You’ve never been a heavy drinker and you’re not the type to pass out.”
“I know, but…”
“But nothing,” Emily told her. “Something’s not right, Elizabeth.”
“What does it matter or anything?” Elizabeth sighed. “He’s dead. Whether he went for a midnight drive or he had something more…horrible plan to get revenge on Sonny again…it doesn’t matter. He’s dead. I’ve been married less than a month and my husband is dead. I don’t care how horrible he was to other people and what he might have done on the last night of his life!” Her voice had risen and now there was a desperate, almost hysterical tone to it. “In the span of three weeks, I lost a child and a husband. You’re right, Emily. Something’s not right.”
Elizabeth broke off and shook her head. “I…I’m sorry…I-I didn’t mean—”
“It’s okay,” Emily said, enveloping her friend in a quick hug. “It’s okay. You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s just go check on Jason and we’ll go back to my house.”
She pushed the door open and blanched at the sight of her strong brother covered in burns, bruises and cuts. He had a breathing tube and other various tubes in different spots of his body.
“I’m scared,” Emily whispered. “I’m scared that when he wakes up and finds out what’s happened, he won’t want to live.”
Elizabeth squeezed her friend’s shoulder soothingly. “Jason’s strong, Em. He still has Carly. And you. And Lila. That’s enough for him. All we have to do is remind him that Carly needs him. He likes to be needed.”
“Maybe that’s why the two of you never worked out,” Emily mused almost absent-mindedly. “Jason wants to be needed and you don’t really need anyone. You’ve always been strong and independent—”
“I did need him,” Elizabeth murmured. She moved into the room a little further and stepped next to the hospital bed. She smoothed his hair from his forehead. “He just never needed me.” She started to cry. “I’m never enough, Em. Not for Lucky to stay away from Sarah, not for Jason to need me, or for Ric to give up his stupid plans!”
She sank into a nearby chair and buried her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking from the force of her sobs. “Why? Why am I doomed to be alone?”
“Oh, honey.” Emily crouched in front of her. “You’re not. Men just suck. And when you do find the right guy, you go and break their hearts. Look at me and Zander. He loves me and I pushed him away, making him think I love Nikolas. What kind of person does that make me?”
“A confused one,” Elizabeth said, laughing through her tears. “Someone who thinks she should still want the person she loved at seventeen when the girl who loved him grew up.”
Emily frowned. “Elizabeth—”
“You can try and fit yourself into a mold, be what you think someone needs. You can try and be the person you once were when you loved them, but in the end you make yourself miserable. You push away someone you really love and a result you lose them forever because that moment was your chance, and even when you think you have another one, you really don’t because they don’t love you anymore.”
“So, Emily, if you love Zander, just be with him. If you don’t love him the same way, with the same passion and intensity, if it’s just faded into a comfortable love and you’re almost sure there’s someone who makes you feel like you’re on top of the world when they look at you…you have to grab it, Em. Grab it before it walks away and leaves you dangling in the wind, waiting for a chance that’ll never come again.” Elizabeth broke off her long diatribe and sucked in a shuddering breath. “I don’t know what made me say all of that—”
“I do,” Emily said softly. “Your world has been spinning out of control for so long that I think that tonight was the last straw. And you’re right. I need to make a decision. But so do you.” She stood and pulled Elizabeth into a standing position. “If I’ve learned anything from my crazy life is that if it’s meant to be, it usually ends up that way. No matter how hard you try to fight it. Let’s say goodbye to my brother and go home to talk some more, okay?”
She turned to find Jason’s eyes open and unblinking. “Emily. What’s…” he stopped and tried to clear his dry throat. Emily reached for a pitcher of water and poured it into a glass Elizabeth found in a drawer. She brought it to Jason’s lips and he sipped. “What’s going on?”
“There was an accident,” Emily told him softly. “You were hurt.”
He glanced around and his eyes focused on Elizabeth. “Elizabeth…”
“Jason, are you awake or kind of in between?” Emily asked.
He frowned. “Kind of both I think…”
“Get some sleep,” Emily advised. “I’ll be back later today.”
His eyes were trained on Elizabeth’s tearstained face. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“I’m fine,” Elizabeth murmured.
He focused on his sister then. “Where’s Carly? Sonny? Where’s Courtney?”
“Emily, don’t try to appease me. Where are they? What’s going on?”
“A gas line at the church exploded,” Emily admitted softly. “You and Carly were outside, so you’re okay. The family and I were just arriving, so the most we had were some cuts. But…”
He closed his eyes. “Everyone else is dead,” he finished emotionless.
“Yes,” Emily whispered painfully. “I’m sorry, Jason. I’m so sorry.” After a moment, she realized her brother had slid back into a drug-induced sleep and she turned to her friend. “Oh, God, Elizabeth…”
“He’ll be okay,” Elizabeth said, drawing her friend into an embrace. “He’ll be okay.”
It was a week before any of the funerals took place. And only Michael Corinthos had more than five people at his funeral. Some of his teachers attended, some friends from school. AJ Quartermaine was in the back, keeping out of sight of his son’s mother.
Carly, who’d been told the news a few days ago, was in a wheel chair, staring at the cold ground where her little boy was going to be spending his days. She was being taken back to the hospital after the service, but all she wanted to do was throw herself in with her son.
She’d already been to Sonny’s, Courtney’s and Mike’s services earlier. She would have gone to the guards’ services, but the doctor had forbidden it. She was still badly injured. A broken leg, a concussion and three broken ribs. She’d suffered a miscarriage while she was out cold, so she didn’t even have Sonny’s baby to live for.
Jason had gotten out of the hospital the day before, the worst of his injuries was a cut on his forehead. He pushed his friend’s wheelchair on the path back to the limo, preparing to take her back to the hospital.
“Wait,” Carly said, suddenly. “That’s Ric’s service over there, isn’t it?” she asked, gesturing across the cemetery where another funeral was set up. A casket was waiting to be lowered into the ground and the widow sat in a chair, surrounded by empty chairs. Emily had gotten sick, so Nikolas had taken her home and Elizabeth had insisted that Lucky and Summer go with them.
“Yeah, it is,” Jason said quietly.
“Let’s go,” Carly said. “I don’t think she should be alone today.”
“Did anyone find out why Ric was there in the first place?” Jason, speaking in the same emotionless tone he’d adopted in the hospital. It was easier that way. If he buried the emotions so deep inside himself, he wouldn’t have to feel them. His fiancée, the woman he’d expected to spend the rest of his life with, she was gone. The man he’d thought of like a brother, who’d taught him everything he knew about love, loyalty and honor, he was gone.
The little boy he’d considered a son was gone. It was almost too much and his only way of dealing was to shut it out.
“No,” Carly answered. “No one knows.”
Elizabeth didn’t acknowledge them as Jason wheeled Carly’s chair next to an empty one and he sat next to her.
“I know that everyone hated him,” she said a few moments later. “But he was my husband and I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.” She glanced at Carly, her eyes filled with tears. “All he wanted was a family. You know that? The morning after we were married, when we still had our baby to look forward to, he bought me a stuffed teddy bear. For the baby.” She looked to the casket again. “Baby’s first toy,” she whispered brokenly.
“Losing the baby devastated him more than me, I think. Maybe if I hadn’t miscarried, maybe he really would have given up his hatred for Sonny. If he’d had a future to look forward to, a child.” She stood and stepped toward the casket. “But I wasn’t enough for him. Not without our child. I wasn’t enough. My love just…didn’t mean enough to him.” She reached inside her jacket and withdrew a soft yellow teddy bear. “Thank you for stopping by,” she said a moment later, her voice clear and without emotion. “It’s been such a horrible day for you both and it means a lot that you’d just…pretend to care for a moment.”
She placed the bear on the casket, like one would place a rose. “I guess this is my chance to bury my dreams of being someone’s wife, someone’s mother.”
Elizabeth stepped back and walked towards Carly, surprising the blonde when she leaned down to hug her. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry for yours,” Carly whispered back as Elizabeth straightened. “I am, Elizabeth. Losing a child and your husband at the same time, there’s no pain greater.”
“I know.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Jason’s neck and hugged him tightly. “One day at a time,” she advised him. “The pain will fade, I promise. It did for me when I thought Lucky was dead.”
“I remember,” Jason said, meeting her eyes as she pulled away.
Despite the warmth of the day, Elizabeth pulled her coat more tightly around her. “I’m not sure what he was doing there that night, but I don’t think it was anything good. I found a room in the house today,” she admitted. “A panic room of some sorts. He had maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins…a crib.” She closed her eyes. “It doesn’t take much to realize what he had in mind.” She opened her eyes and looked at Carly. “How terrible am I to be glad he never had the chance to do go through with it? I’m glad he’s dead, just so he never had the chance to hurt anyone else.”
“He did hurt someone else,” Carly told her. “He hurt you.”
Elizabeth shrugged and looked away. “Nothing I’m not used to.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “I’m moving. Out of town. I’m going home to Colorado for a while. I don’t know when or if I’m coming back.”
“When you’re in town,” Carly said, “You…should…come by.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth managed a weak smile. She walked away then, leaving the two behind.
The yellow teddy bear slipped and fell from the casket. Jason stepped forward as if to pick it up and place it back on top, but Carly stopped him. “Give it to me,” she told him.
He handed it to her and she stared at it. “We both lost our dreams,” she murmured. “To have the perfect family.” She glanced up at him. “Kind of ironic that the muffin and I finally have something in common, huh?”