The Path to Power
Chapter Forty Four
Open Your Eyes
"Are we there yet?" Tasha asks. She has both hands hanging on to one of Zander's. Her steps are slow and hesitant over the uneven ground.
"Almost-- don't peek."
"I'm not peeking." Tasha says defensively but closes her eyes to reduce the temptation to peek around the blindfold that Zander had fashioned out of a scarf. "Are we there yet?"
"Almost. Almost there. Okay just wait a second." Brings Tasha to a halt and then comes around her and unties the blindfold after first saying. "Are your eyes closed?"
"They are! What's my surprise?!"
Zander takes away the blindfold. "Open your eyes!"
"Oh ZANDER! I love it." Tasha runs to the swing. She sits down on it and starts to push off with her feet. "Gimme a push?" She requests charmingly.
"Sure." Zander comes around behind Tasha and starts giving her a push to get her started on the swing. Soon Tasha is almost laying back on the swing stretching her toes out to reach the sky.
"Any higher and you'll be flying." Zander teases. He steps out of the way to watch Alexis swing on the swing. Getting the feeling that she isn't going to be stopping any time soon, he gets comfortable at the base of the tree, resting his back against the trunk.
"Okay, open your eyes." AJ hesitates wondering with dread what the reaction is going to be.
"It's a house." Monica looks at AJ blankly. "What's going on, AJ?"
AJ leans on the realtor sign that has a new sticker across it. SOLD
Monica looks at the sign and then looks at the house. "It's a house, AJ."
"It's my house, Mom."
"But you live at the mansion. You can't live here." Emily is in California. Jason might as well be on the other side of the planet. "AJ..." don't do this to me.
"Take a look at it, Mom." AJ goes up the stairs and with his own new set of keys he opens the door. Going to have to get the locks changed. I'm sure that Skye still has the number of that guy she used out at the lakehouse.
Monica walks up the steps as if she is walking the final mile. Dread in every step. She can tell how proud AJ is of his new purchase but she doesn't want this. "AJ, you don't have time for a house. Not really, not with your new job and all your new responsibilities." She trails after him as AJ walks to the back of the house and to the huge window that overlooks the backyard.
"See that, Mom? That's Queen of Angels."
Michael. Monica realizes. I've lost. He's not going to change his mind. I have to make the best of this or I'm going to lose him too. Monica turns around to look at the room and takes a deep breath. "It does seem to get a lot of light. Is it the whole thing?"
"When you count basement and attic about five floors. I'm going to have to have it inspected to see what the possibilities are as far as an elevator."
"Yes, you will if you want your grandmother to come visit you." Monica agrees. She sighs. "I suppose it has possibilities. And there is plenty of room for Rosie. I want to see the rest of it." Monica strings her hand thru AJ's arm and he proudly shows her the rest of the house.
"I need you to open your eyes." Alan's voice is kindly but firm as he addresses the patient that had just been brought in by ambulance. The woman's breathing is labored with a gasping element to it. Her lips are tinged blue from lack of oxygen.
Swallowing hard the woman opens her eyes. With a gasp. "Spider. Black Widow. Allergic. Need anti-venom."
"You're allergic to spider bites." Alan clarifies. He is already reaching for an oxygen mask. He wouldn't intubate unless he had to. Only if the patient started crashing. Now he needed to assist her breathing and send the nurse for anti-venom. "We don't get too many black widows around here. Too cold. Were you down in a basement or something?"
Alan takes the anti-venom shot from the nurse and injects it. "You're going to be fine."
"You need a phone." Alan has difficulty believing the wish of the patient.
Alan can't believe he's doing this but he hands the woman his cell phone. He watches as she stumbles thru the call having to start over more than once before finally getting thru. He makes no pretense of giving the woman privacy but instead examines the sight of the wound. It looks like a spider bite-- twin tiny red punctures, surrounded by white and then surrounded by red swollen flesh so it looks like a bullseye. He cleans it with antiseptic.
"It's Lydia. Helena made contact." Lydia's strength fades and her hand drops to her side.
Alan can hear the voice at the other end of the phone and picks it up. "Hello?"
Nikolas is practically screaming in his ear. "What the hell is going on?!"
"This is Alan Quartermaine. The young woman was brought into the ER of General Hospital with a spider bite. I haven't seen the spider but she says it was a black widow."
"Is she going to be all right?"
"She's receiving prompt medical attention."
"Tell her I'll be right over."
"He's going to be right over." Alan says reassuringly. Every bone in his body is screaming and the hair is up on the back of his neck. Had the young woman said Helena?! There are plenty of Helena's in the world but it isn't a popular name in Port Charles. And not to anyone who could manage to dial the cell number of the Cassadine Prince while in shock. "I need you to rest and let the anti-venom work. Leave the oxygen on."
Lydia nods and closes her eyes. She felt like hell but she didn't feel like she was going to die. Which is an improvement over ten minutes ago.
Alan goes out and spots the rescue unit driver restocking his kit after the run. "She said you picked her up at a hotel?"
"Port Charles Hotel. She knew what was up and called us right after she was bitten. I've never seen anyone react like that to a spider bite, doc. Maybe if they were bitten on the neck or really small like a baby but..."
"She says she is allergic." But if this is the work of Helena Cassadine-- it might not be an ordinary spider either. "You might want to check your kit and clothes to make sure you don't bring it back to the fire station."
The driver shudders. "Yeah. I'll check, Doc."
Alan goes over to a private alcove and pulls out a small address book from his inside jacket pocket and then calls a number he should have preprogrammed. "Ned, It's Alan. We just had a patient admitted to GH with a spider bite."
"Was it Tracy?" It would be just the way that Faith could get around the promise to not lay a finger on his mother. Let a spider do the work instead. Should probably warn Tracy about searching her room for spiders and snakes.
Why would you ask that? "No, but it was a guest at the Hotel. And nobody has told me that they have killed the spider."
"Right. I'll take it from here. Thanks for the heads up."
"But I don't want you to go! You just got here!" Tasha protests.
"Sorry, Tasha." Zander smoothes Alexis' wind tousled hair. "I have to get back. I'm already way over my lunch hour and your brother wasn't too happy about me just showing up anyway."
Tasha sighs and pats Zander on the back. "He doesn't like it when Mr. Marc..." Tasha looks away sheepishly.
"It's okay. I know Taggart comes over here."
"Mr. Marcus' really nice, Zander." Tasha explains earnestly in a rush.
"I'm glad he's nice to you." Zander decides to bite his tongue. Tasha had to put up with his father and the supersized PCPD cop. If she could make lemonade out of those lemons more power to her. "I tell you what. You be good for your brother so he isn't pis... angry at me for stopping by and I'll bring you a present the next time I come."
"Better than my swing?"
Zander grins. "Don't know about that. Can't repeat myself. Something different."
"Tell me. Then I'll be really good." Tasha promises with a wheedle in her tone.
"You be really good and next time I'll show you." Tasha fakes a pout. Zander doesn't know why he does it but he taps her lower lip to get her to suck it in. "I had to get a new place in town... somewhere quieter. I have nothing on my walls." He hints at a distraction that works.
"I'll make you a picture." Tasha forgets that she is pouting as she offers.
"I'd like that." Zander twines his fingers in Tasha's. "You going to walk me to the steps so I can catch the launch?"
"Okay." Tasha starts swinging their joined hands as they make their way to the docks.
"This better not be the way the next three months go." Liz mutters. Gram had given her all the pamphlets about the early part of pregnancy. Liz'd moved her easel over closer to the window. All she wanted to do was paint... every thing was flowing it was totally working cept for the fumes from the paint making her want to hurl every five minutes. All the windows in the studio are open. The fan is going both here and in the bathroom but she was still going as long as she could and then hanging her head out the window and sucking in fresh air. If you could call what was coming up from the alley fresh.
It's one of those moments when she's got her head between her knees fighting off a dizzy spell when she hears the sound of paper sliding under the door. She looks up and sees the envelope on the floor by the door. As soon as she is able she goes over to the front door and picks up the envelope. There is no return address. She opens up the door and looks down the hallway in both direction. Whoever dropped if off has already left. Liz goes back into the studio and shuts the door making sure she gives the deadbolt a turn. This is too weird. She opens up the envelope and even swallowing hard can't hold it back. She vomits in the sink. The pictures from the envelope fall to the floor-- black and white pictures of the father of her unborn child in bed with his brother's wife.
In an apartment across the alley from Liz's studio, A woman watches as Liz gets her eyes opened to the kind of man she's taken to her bed, to her heart.
"She open it yet?" The manservant asks from the door. He's out of breath from his run down the stairs of one building across the way and back up another couple flights of stairs. He looks both ways down the hallway. They'd have some explaining to do if the real occupant of the apartment showed up. Vacant apartments were always the first place the cops looked.
"Oh yeah." Faith puts down the binoculars. "Those negatives are paying for themselves. Ned won't let me take care of Tracy-- Fine. More time to take care of my business. Paybacks are a bitch. Ric Lansing, this is your miserable life and it's just getting started." Faith looks over her shoulder. "Welcome home, Bruno."
"Good to be back, Boss. What's next?"
"The Charity coughed up the first installment on my grandmother's estate. Dara's going to let them know it's not the last piece but the first one."
"The deed to the building where the Cellar is. And for a welcome home present I'll even let you drive." Faith extends the keys to the car.
Bruno's eyes light up. "The Porsche?!"
"I'll pay the speeding tickets." Faith offers generously. "And once we get there... drinks are on me."
Bruno grins. Faith had been in a funk about Ned spoiling her fun ever since he got back from The City. It had kinda been taking a page out of Fowler's book to remind her that Ric Lansing was still breathing. It had brought a real spring back to her step. He almost felt sorry for Lansing... that was until he remembered Fowler dumped in the garbage behind Kelly's with his head bashed in. "Hey Faith, maybe Lansing will be there. Isn't he the business partner or something there? You can give him the good news in person." Bruno holds the door for Faith and snags the car keys from her hand as she passes him. He carefully relocks the door behind him so no one would know they were there and it can be used again if necessary. Then he half runs to catch up with Faith by the time she reaches the stairs.
"... I was planning on redoing the West Wing this summer anyway. So if there is any furniture there you think you might want for your place." Monica offers to AJ as they are walking thru the doors of the ER of General Hospital.
"Thanks, Mom. That would really give me a head start. How do you think Dad is going to react to this?"
Monica shakes her head. "Better than me." She admits wryly. "But that is probably because it'll be another place he can go to break his diet."
"You know about that?"
"AJ-- I've been married to your father how long?"
"Which time?" AJ teases.
"Never you mind." Monica spots her husband charting orders at the nurse's station. "Alan!"
Alan looks up and his face lights up before he remembers that he is in the dog house with his wife and his expression grows guarded. "Monica, AJ? Is everything alright?"
"AJ has some news." Monica lets her son have the floor.
"I'm moving, Dad. Not out of Port Charles but into my own place."
Alan studies Monica's face before he carefully says. "I didn't know you were looking for your own place, Son."
AJ explains. "It kind of fell into my lap and I had to go for it." He glances past his father and frowns when he sees someone he knows through a break in the curtain of one of the examining rooms. "Lydia?" He moves past his parents to the examining room.
"What is going on? Did you know about this?" Alan demands of Monica as soon as AJ is out of hearing range.
Monica shakes her head. "It backs up to Queen of Angels. You can see Bobbie's front stoop from the front of it. Hell I think you can see the Harborview Towers from the attic dormer."
"Michael." Alan says softly. Monica just nods.
Inside the examining room, AJ pulls up one of the rolling stools and sits down next to Lydia's side. "I'd ask you if you're okay but most people don't hang out in hospitals. Were you in an accident?"
"Spider bite." Lydia pulls the mask away from her face. "I'm allergic so I called the emergency number."
"You were bitten by a spider in the Port Charles Hotel?" AJ says with more than a little disbelief.
"You've been very kind and... straight forward with me, AJ." Lydia begins. "There are things you don't know about me."
"An allergy to spiders for one thing. Which is a good thing to know. How do you feel about shellfish?" AJ teases.
"Love it. It's not just spiders, AJ. Or I should be more specific and say I've an aversion to black widows."
"Who doesn't?" AJ takes Lydia's hand and squeezes it. He smiles reassuringly. But he is distracted by the curtain being pulled aside abruptly.
"I got here as quickly as I could." Nik tells Lydia. "Helena did this?"
Lydia nods. "It's the only thing that makes sense. Gentle reminder that time is running out. The doctor seemed to believe it was particularly potent bite. Not that it would have to be with me-- I'm allergic anyway."
"I will make arrangements for your protection." Nik says grimly.
"That doesn't work for me." Lydia counters. "If I don't... I might as well be dead."
"What the hell is going on?!" AJ interrupts. "Why would Helena Cassadine attack you?"
"Nikolas believes she killed my grandfather. Or at least hastened his demise. I haven't been cooperative with her plans."
"Neither of us have." Nik reminds. "Lydia..."
Lydia interrupts. "There is only one thing that will eliminate the problem and you aren't willing to do it."
"Kill Helena?" AJ offers helpfully.
"Make that two things." Lydia sighs. "You wanted me to call you first thing, Nikolas. You were the second call I made... after 911. I don't think Helena is in Monaco. Just leave me out of it. I can't go into hiding."
"I'll redouble my efforts to find Helena." Nikolas swears.
"Yeah, you do that." Lydia falls back against the pillow and closes her eyes. Nik takes the hint and leaves. AJ is about to get up and leave as well thinking that Lydia needs her rest but her grip on his hand tightens. He sits back down. Lydia doesn't open her eyes but just starts talking. "My parents were killed in a boating accident when I was a teenager. They never did have much luck with boats. I met Nikolas when I was a child and the boat ran aground on the Cassadine island. After my parents died, my grandfather raised me... or at least provided a place to go on school holidays. It wasn't a particularly warm relationship but I had no reason to believe that things would ever be different from what he'd brought me up to believe."
"Two months after a visit from Helena, I buried my grandfather. At the time I believed it was natural causes... he wasn't a young man. He'd changed his will. And left a video that strongly suggested that I marry Nikolas Cassadine and combine our families resources."
AJ thinks over the conversation. "The one thing Nikolas won't do?"
"He wants to be in love. And I'm sure being handpicked for him by Helena isn't exactly the..."
"Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval?" AJ suggests wryly.
Lydia looks at him funny and rolls her eyes before closing them again. "Whatever that means. I think Grandfather was actually trying to protect me -- maybe he knew what Helena was doing to him. If I'm single one year from the reading of the will-- control is out of my hands. If I marry, I inherit. The video suggested I marry Nikolas but the will doesn't require it."
"How much time have you spent with the Cassadines?"
Lydia shakes her head. "Not much that holiday with Nikolas on the island when we were children-- a dinner with Helena and grandfather in Monaco."
"Have you ever heard the phrase Cassadines don't divorce?"
"Our set generally doesn't-- it's too complicated and too expensive." Lydia wonders where AJ is going with it. "Why?"
"You have no idea what you're saying." Lydia says dismissively
"Sure I do." AJ shrugs. "It would satisfy your grandfather's will and get Helena off your back at the same time. You were willing to marry Nikolas. Marry me instead."
"You're trying to get your son back."
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"No, I think it's admirable but..." Lydia shakes her head. "I've never been around children. I don't know anything about them."
"Me either." AJ reminds. "That's the whole problem."
"Why? Why would you do this for me?" Lydia asks.
"How are you feeling, young lady?" Alan interrupts as he comes into the curtained room. Standing by Lydia's bedside he takes her pulse and makes a so-so motion with one hand. It could be better. Perhaps AJ is upsetting his new patient.
"Like I'll live. Thank you, Doctor."
"Dad, This is Lydia Karenin. Lydia, this is my father, Dr. Alan Quartermaine."
"Ah!" The light goes on exactly where he remembered Lydia from-- out with AJ the night that Tracy had dropped her stink bomb on the family about Skye. "Here's to meeting under better circumstances next time."
"I'd drink to that." Lydia agrees.
Alan sits down on the other side of Lydia's bed so she can make eye contact with him without straining her neck. "You received the anti-venom in plenty of time. You could be having flu-ish symptoms for the next few days to a week. But that is normal for a spider bite vs. life threatening which is where you were when you were brought in." Alan sees Lydia's nod. "Not unexpected I see. I'm not comfortable with you staying at the hotel. Even with room service. So I'm going to admit you."
"That won't be necessary, Dad. I'll take care of Lydia. In fact, I think it would be best to get her out of her as soon as possible. And if you could... lose her records."
Striking a pose, Faith pauses in the doorway of The Cellar and sniffs dismissively. "Dead."
"It is Tuesday, Faith." Bruno reminds. He gives a look at a couple of different tables that has the couples looking for their checks and gathering their belongings.
"Hell! That's half way to hump day." Faith drawls. She strides across the intimate redo of a twenties speakeasy. Doesn't even pause at the pass thru just goes behind the bar.
"Hey you can't be back here." The bartender protests.
Faith just stares at him letting the silence grow while the bartender shifts uneasily from foot to foot. Finally when the moment is right Faith says "BOO!" And hops in the direction of the bartender both hands extended like claws.
The bartender retreats back into the office. Carly didn't pay him enough for this shit.
"What's everyone drinking? I'm buying." Faith calls out. She grabs one of the bottles from the well and tosses back a shot. She grimaces. "Oh that's terrible!" She tosses the bottle over her shoulder knocking bottles behind the bar to the floor.
The few remaining patrons leave.
"Pour me something, Faith." I want to play too. Bruno requests. Faith does and looks at him questioningly. Bruno tosses it back.
"Well?" Faith asks.
"It's crap, Faith."
"Can't have that." Faith tosses that bottle behind her shattering the mirror.
"That's seven years bad luck." Ric says from the office door.
"Sucks to be you then." Faith pours herself and Bruno another round.
"I don't think you want trouble with Sonny, Mrs. Ashton."
"Over a few bottles of booze?! That isn't going to be a problem. Your problem is going to be explaining to Sonny's Slut why she doesn't have a club since she doesn't own this place."
"Her lawyer should have found out about that. Right Faith?" Bruno asks. This straight man gig is pretty good. Course Faith got all the punch lines.
Faith grins at Ric. "You'd think. But maybe they don't teach split deeds at that fancy pants law school he went to."
Faith grabs another bottle and hurls it cross the bar aiming for mirrors as she goes one after another. "Mine. Mine. Mine. And you're trespassing."
"Listen you psychotic bitch..." Ric takes step toward Faith to stop her from destroying the club.
Bruno reaches out and slaps Ric to the floor.
"Now Bruno-- what did you do that for?" Faith asks with mock bewilderment.
"Figured he could use some manners." You can't have all the fun.
"There is that." Faith nods thoughtfully. "But it seems so mean considering all the trouble Lil Ric here seems to be having lately and did you hear?"
"What's that, Faith?"
"His girlfriend dumped him. Guess she's a sucker for an old flame in uniform. Or maybe it's just the toys."
"I've read a few thing but cuffs but never seemed too much fun to me." Bruno shrugs. "Course it could have been who was putting them on."
"There is that but really, Bruno-- I have to be honest...." Faith drops her voice as if to whisper but there is no missing what she says. "...for us girls it's all about riding that stick. That Cadet Spencer-- he looks like the creative sort."
"Elizabeth would never..." Rick protests wiping away blood from the corner of his mouth as he rises to his feet. He doesn't make the mistake of getting within swinging range of Faith's bruiser again.
"Sure. Sure." Faith waves a hand around. "Yeah, little Bo Peep did strike me as the type that would stick where you put her. Not like Sonny's slut." Faith refers to Ric's boss at The Cellar. "She just can't seem to keep her knees together. First she was with Morgan and then she married his brother, AJ."
"And then she went back to Morgan, Boss."
"Right. And then she was grinding away on the guy that Jason loves like a brother."
"Seems to have a thing for brothers. I read about chicks like that-- oh wait it was a movie. All in the Family starring Arch N Bangher." Bruno offers helpfully.
"I did noticed that. It's a good thing Sonny doesn't have any brothers." Faith lies with a smile. Her eyes are ice cold.
"He's got a sister though, Faith. That Courtney is hot and she knows how to shake them." Bruno shimmies his shoulders and raises his brows a few times significantly.
"That's true." Faith nods consideringly. "And aren't Daisy Mae and Bo Peep just thick as thieves? I bet they share everything." Faith watches Ric retreat not to the office but up the stairs at a run to check on Elizabeth. "And away he goes. What's next?"
"This music kinda sucks, Faith." Bruno says honestly.
"You not a jazz baby?" Faith shrugs. "If you put on country music I'm going to have to shoot ya, Bruno." Faith moves from table to table tossing things on the floor. She'd take the place over... maybe cement it shut again in memory of her Grandmother's treachery. It could just stay that way for another seventy years.
Bruno goes behind the bar and finds the stereo system. The CD that he likes must have been left by the cleaning crew. He drops in the arena rock of Jock Rock. These songs weren't chart toppers but anyone that had been to a basketball game had heard them. Clicking thru the National Anthem. Looks at Faith for the Queen version of We will Rock you. When she shakes her head no and wrinkles her nose he goes on to the next song. He pulls out the jewel case to find the perfect song and FF to number eight. "Oh yeah."
Faith does a little shimmy as the intro to Shotgun by jr. Walker and the All Stars starts. She blows out one of the candles and then drips hot wax all over the tablecloth.
Bruno starts doing a white man shuffle behind the bar complete with biting his lower lip and a John Travolta twirl of his fisted hands in front of his body. When he turns toward the doorway again. "uh oh." He stops in his tracks. "Um Faith?"
"Yeah?" Faith asks.
"Yeah?!" Faith says impatiently. She turns around and sees Ned standing in the doorway. She grimaces and goes back to dripping wax all over everything.
"Bruno, wait upstairs and make sure nobody comes in."
"I don't know if that is such a good idea..." Bruno reads Ned's face. "Okay. I'm going. I'm going."
"Candyass." Faith mutters under her breath.
"Saw your car outside when I was driving by." Ned announces.
"We need to talk."
"I'm all talked out."
"Yeah, me too." Ned says grimly. Going over to where Faith is he turns her around and lifting her by the waist to sit her ass on the table. He reaches under her skirt and pulls her undergarments down and out of his way. Faith plants a four inch heel in the middle of his chest holding him back and glaring at him but she makes no effort to roll off the table or reach for her purse which is within point blank range. Ned covers the top of her foot with his hand and then running his hand along the back of her ankle to the shivery spot behind her knee and then brings his other hand in to slide it between her thighs.
"I'm still ticked at you." Faith wraps her legs around Ned's thighs bringing him in-- her perfectly manicured red nails reaching for his zipper.
"Yeah, well you're no picnic either." Ned rips open Faith's blouse. The demi cup bra she is wearing offers plenty of support but not much coverage.
"Looks like I'm not the only one with an appetite for destruction tonight." Faith taunts. It's as much warning as she gets and any additional bitching is cut off as without further foreplay Ned slams into her. Kinda reminded her of the time down at the Harrison Pier. Ned hadn't wasted any time then either. Course he hadn't just left her hanging then either.
"Now that I have your attention." Ned's tone is half way between a grunt and a growl. He just waits and doesn't move letting Faith adjust to his presence.
Wishing she had spurs on her heels to get him moving, Faith glares at her husband and digs her heels in anyway. Two could play this game.
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