Chapter 56

Rolling in the Deep

~ don’t underestimate the things that I will do ~


Ciarda found comfort in the ebb and flow of rolling waves. After a long discussion, Gina offered to let Ciarda spend a few days at her grandparents’ floating casino. Of course, the offer came with conditions, but Ciarda didn’t mind having to check in with her mom or having her aunt Shana as a watchdog. Anything was better than being under the unrelenting heat of her father’s scrutiny and her sister’s pity.

Finding solace at the Corinthos’ abode, Ciarda decided to lay low for awhile. It hurt to see Dominik so pale and still. The tension in the ICU only added to her anxiety about his illness and the changes in her life. How could she show her face at Port Charles High again? Worse, what would Seth think of her for not returning to Connecticut? Would he be mad at her? Would Buffy? As her aunt’s music started to blare from her room down the hall, Ciarda pulled out her iPad to re-install the PCH app. A few moments later, a message popped on her screen. It was from Buffy. Would she accept?

She touched "yes," and the FaceTime app opened to reveal Buffy’s concerned face.

"What the hell is going on?" Buffy asked immediately. "Are you mad at me?"

Ciarda frowned. "No, why?" She slid back against the wall and propped the iPad on her knees.

"Some fierce chick came in and had her minions pack up your stuff," Buffy said in a rush. "I tried to stop her, but she wasn’t having it. Besides, I think I saw a gun. Who was that?"

"Probably PK," she grunted. Her dad certainly didn’t waste anytime on following through with his threat. He really had kicked her out of boarding school.

"What’s a PK?"

"Phaedra Kelly…Jacks," Ciarda said. "She…um…she does work with my dad and my godfather."

"Work that requires a gun?" Buffy questioned. "The woman had a gun. She was wearing killer Jimmy Choos and packing heat. Why would they send her to pack up your stuff?"

"’Cause my dad is thorough," she mumbled, half to herself. "I’m sorry if she scared you. She’s pretty harmless. Unless you piss her off. I hope you didn’t mouth off to her."

"Not after I saw her piece!" Buffy’s eyes had grown large and her cheeks reddened. "All the girls wanted to know if you’re mad at me. Are you? When you didn’t answer my texts…"

"I turned my phone off. Of course I’m not mad at you. My folks want me back home." Ciarda couldn’t reveal the reasons why. It was bad enough that her family had seen the bruises. Confessing all to Buffy would only fill her with more shame.

"Okay. Well, at first, I thought it could be me and then I thought maybe Seth…" The other girl frowned. "I know my brother can be a butthead at times."

"It’s not him," Ciarda said quickly. "Don’t tell him that!"

"I won’t." Buffy moved out of camera range for a second and then she returned. "It looks like the heir apparent is still pretty sick."

"It looks like?" Ciarda repeated. "What do you mean? Nothing is allowed in Dom’s room. We have to wear scrubs just to sit with him."

Buffy pulled her laptop into view. "Well, someone took a camera in—"

"No!"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "It’s gone viral on YouTube. There’s a video of his mom singing to him. It’s a little grainy. The resolution sucks, but you know it’s Dawn Cassadine. You can’t mistake that voice. And everybody knows what Dominik looks like. He’s so hot, but he doesn’t look…I mean… Well, I know he’s your friend. I’m sorry."

Dinner suddenly sat like lead in Ciarda’s stomach. "I have to go."

"I’m sorry," Buffy apologized again. "I thought you should know."

"Thanks." Ciarda closed out the app and grabbed her phone.

She didn’t know whether to call her dad or Nikolas, but between the two of them, one of them had to know. As her phone powered to life, she tapped onto YouTube and watched the video for herself. Dawn sat with her back to the camera while Dominik lay frail and motionless. A gentle lullaby flowed from mother to son. The scene broke her heart. How could someone intrude on such a private moment? Who believed they had that right? No one had the right to do this. She was about to close out the screen when she decided to see if there were more clips of her family and friends.

There were several of Dawn and DJLS. Most of those came from their official website. She found a few references to Dawn and Lorenzo. Curiosity kicked in. She hesitated before clicking a link and then decided to go ahead. Maybe there was more that her dad would need to know about, she thought. The video showed them kidding around during rehearsals and practicing a dance routine. With Dominik’s parents separated, she felt a little weird watching a clip of his mom and his uncle, so she decided to do another search.

Jason Morgan-Quartermaine’s return from the dead had been discussed in hushed tones between her parents. No doubt his return would be gossip for YouTube, too. She conducted various searches, but most of them pertained to the Ward House, Keesha’s numerous philanthropy efforts, and then an image of familiar face caught her attention. She clicked the link and couldn’t believe her eyes.

Ciarda quickly thumbed through her contact list and made a call, but it wasn’t to her dad or to her godfather, Nikolas Cassadine. When she received no answer, she ended the call and was about to go to Shana’s room when her phone rang. The caller ID said "unavailable," but she answered anyway.

"Hello?"

"Ciarda."

"Ben?" Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of his voice. "Ben!"

"Yeah," he said. "You just called me, right?"

"Where the hell are you?" She rose from her bed and started to pace. "What have you done?"

"Slow down. You’re throwing too many questions at me."

"Stop playing," she said, quietly. "You know what I’m asking you."

"What do you know?" He sounded uncertain. She could imagine his eyes narrowing and his mouth straightening into a firm line as he brushed his dark bangs from his eyes.

"I saw the video—"

"What video?" he snapped.

"The video of you beating up Seth! What were you thinking?"

"Dammit," he muttered. "A video? Where?"

"It’s on YouTube."

"Oh, shit."

"You know George and Marissa are looking for you. They emailed me—"

"I know they called, but I haven’t called them back—"

"Why not?"

"It’s complicated," he said.

"Are you in jail?" she asked, stopping still in the middle of the room. "Oh, my God, Ben…why would you do that? I told you to leave it alone."

"Don’t ever underestimate what I’ll do for you."

"Ben."

"He put his hands on you, Ciarda!" Ben said. "He hurt you. He never should have done that."

"It was my fault—"

"Ciarda, don’t," he cut in. "Don’t say that. Real men don’t hurt women. Ever."

"Are you in trouble?"

"I’m okay," he said, his breathing even and controlled. "Don’t worry about me. If you see George and the others, tell them I’m fine. Take care of yourself."

A shudder went through her. "That sounds like goodbye."

Silence echoed from the other end of the call.

Ciarda choked down a sob. "Are you coming back?"

He hesitated before answering. "I hope so."

~ the scars of your love, they leave me breathless ~

Late night at the Ward House was always an interesting time. Keesha never knew when she’d get a call from child services, asking if she could had room for one or five more. Even when her oldest kids were still at home, she rarely turned anyone away. Somehow everyone managed to fit. Now with George and Grace gone, Ben in his own place and Marissa and JE the only two under her roof, the quiet felt strange. It made sleep difficult. Keesha kept waiting for the sound of Marissa’s footsteps on the stairs or Ben’s response to her messages. None came. Out of desperation, she left her bed, pulled on a robe and headed to JE’s room just to make sure that at least her youngest was where he should be.

Just as she was closing the door on JE’s sleeping form, faint noises sounded from the end of the hall. Morgan’s room. She had half a mind to turn around, but she couldn’t. Curiosity got the best of her. Smoothing her robe over her hips, she squared her shoulders as her steps took her closer to his room. Low groans came through the closed door. Maybe he was sick? Keesha wrapped her hand around the doorknob and pulled.

The comforter lay in a heap at the foot of the bed. Sweat darkened the gray sheets to black as the cover tangled around his bare torso. Keesha almost backed out of the room, but the sight of him unaware held her transfixed. She’d seen the scars that covered his hands, but not ones that disfigured his back and chest. Perspiration made his upper body slick. He rolled onto his back and moaned.

Leave now, her mind ordered, but her legs refused to budge. Instead, they drew her into the room. Before she knew it, she was tugging the sheet from around his waist. Maybe if he was comfortable, he’d rest more peacefully, she thought.

"Keesha…"

She clutched the sheet. Her heart pounded her chest like a locomotive. Morgan had no right to say her name like that. With wariness weighing her down, she looked down into the blue eyes staring up at her. For the briefest moment, she almost recognized him, but then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep. She ran back to her room and watched the sun rise.

In the morning, she felt like hell. The smell of coffee greeted her as she entered the kitchen. JE stood beside Morgan at the counter. With their backs to her, she recognized how closely her little boy was growing into the image of his father. Then JE turned and smiled.

"Good morning, Mama."

"Good morning."

"We’re making breakfast," he said. "Omelets and French toast."

"That’s nice." She headed to the cabinet for a box of Kashi and a bowl. Their morning rituals did not ever include others. Morgan made sure that was understood from the beginning.

Morgan reached up and closed the cabinet. "What do you like in your omelet?"

The question left her speechless. JE laughed and immediately answered for her. While the boy spoke, Morgan stared at Keesha and she found herself unable to look away. What was going on here?

"All that, huh?" Morgan said in a low, gravelly tone. He nodded toward the cutting board. "Looks like my guess was on the mark."

Sure enough, everything JE rattled off—bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions—was already chopped and ready for the skillet. Keesha swallowed down the unease that had risen in her chest.

"Good guess," she commented, moving away to get her caffeine fix. After a sleepless night, her thoughts couldn’t be trusted. Coffee would set her straight, but then he said…

"Sure thing, Slugger."*

The mug in Keesha’s hand fell to the tile floor in a crash. Hot coffee splattered everywhere, as did pieces of the ceramic mug. Morgan moved quickly to shield JE and Keesha headed to the back closet for the broom and mop. In silence, the man took the items from her and cleaned the mess.

"Sit down," he said to both of them.

Neither objected. JE’s chatter about spending the day with Adrik filled the room. Keesha responded in the appropriate places, grateful for the little boy’s innocence. Soon the two males returned to making breakfast and Keesha couldn’t stop herself from watching Morgan and wondering if Jason was still in there somewhere.

~ throw your soul through every open door ~

Noelle had returned to the farmhouse with a mixture of relief and trepidation. With Dominik still in the hospital, the family still didn’t feel whole. Adrik had questions about their big brother, but she wasn’t sure how to answer them. Their parents hadn’t lied about Dominik’s condition, but she wasn’t sure they had been totally honest with Adrik either. No one knew what the hell was going on.

Besides, Dom was always the smart and steady one, especially when it came to reading their parents. Now that they were all back under one roof—minus her dear big brother—what did it all mean? Was the separation really over? Despite her grandmother Carrie’s claims, Noelle’s investigation into her mother’s past with her uncle still left many unanswered questions. Truly only two things made sense. Wanting Dominik to get better and being with George.

With the sun beaming through her curtains, Noelle quickly dressed and left her room. Usually the sounds of movement greeted her from the kitchen or the music studio, but not this morning. She checked on her brother and found him still asleep. Peter the Great ambled at the foot of his bed. She grabbed the turtle and set him back inside his case. Her little brother owed her one. Their mom had already invoked strike one last night when the turtle was discovered in her studio.

Things were so quiet that Noelle became nervous. What if something had happened to Dominik overnight? She headed to her parents’ bedroom and didn’t bother knocking. The sight of them in bed together was nothing new, but in light of the recent discord, she was more than shocked to see them entangled. To her relief, everything was covered and it was left to her imagination to fill in the rest…but still.

How could they have sex when everything was so weird and strange and uncertain? As they began to stir, she backed out of the room and closed the door. She had to get out of there. Being around her parents today was out of the question. Noelle grabbed her phone, jacket and bag. Dodging the guards was easy, as she and Dom had learned the trick years ago.

In a flurry of movement, she reached the dock. The launch guide would only rat her out so she slipped behind Kelly’s. An old dinghy was hidden in the weeds under the pier. She got in and rowed across to the west side of Spoon Island, away from Wyndemere. Her favorite hiding spot, the cabin, beckoned and she sought its solace as if her life depended on it.

Once there, she dug out her phone. His number was on speed dial. When he answered, the sound of his voice was almost enough.

"Noelle… Look, I can’t do this—"

"George, please," she begged. "Don’t hang up. Please don’t."

"What’s wrong?" he asked quietly. Concern made him sound softer, somehow.

"Everything. Can you come?" Noelle asked. "Please."

"Are you in trouble?"

"Yes."

"Where are you?"

~ turn my sorrow into treasured gold ~

Sonny hated nothing more than keeping secrets from Simone. After her ordeal, he had known it would take nothing but pure, unadulterated trust for her to let her guard down around him. Despite her immediate repulsion of him upon their first encounters, he had fallen for her hard. By the time the sentiment was returned, he’d already decided he would let nothing ruin them or their family. It was that thought that guided him. It had guided him a few days ago when their granddaughter’s injuries became evident and it guided him now when he asked her to join him on the deck.

Dark, brown curls bounced against her caramel skin so enticingly. The reflection of the sun as it shimmered on the waves of the lake had nothing on his wife’s natural beauty. Sonny moved in close and wrapped his arms around her waist. She sunk back against him with a sigh.

"I’ve been waiting for you."

"I know," he murmured against her ear.

"The girls’ rooms are quiet," Simone said. "I’ll let them sleep another hour."

"Hmm…"

"Sonny?"

"Yeah?" He moved to stand beside her at the railing. His gaze drifted across the water before he turned back to her inquisitive stare. "What is it?"

"That was my question. You leave for a day and you come back very mysterious and quiet."

He nodded. "Yeah."

"You’re as bad as Tommy," she commented. "Please tell me you didn’t bring harm to that Stevens boy."

A frown marked his brow as he hesitated. "I didn’t…"

"Oh, Sonny—"

"Simone, wait—"

"Just tell me the damage." She folded her arms under her chest and waited. "How bad is it?"

"Ben and I went to Connecticut to talk—"

"Talk." she cut in. "Talk? Really?"

"Will you let me finish?"

"Go ahead," she muttered.

"We had to pull Ben off him," Sonny said quickly. "It was bad. The kid isn’t dead, but he’s banged up."

Simone pressed her hand to her mouth, but she remained quiet. Her eyes said more than enough. Sonny answered those questions.

"I have it covered, but just in case, Ben’s staying at our place."

"He’s on the island," she said.

He nodded. "He’s clearing his head."

"Sonny… Seriously, is it as bad as Juan?"

He took her hands and pulled her to him. "No, it’s not that bad, but the kid is hurting."

"Which kid?"

"Both."

(*Slugger refers to Chapter 104 of Life After Dark.)

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