Part Twenty-four

Dara glanced at Lucky as he shuffled a deck of cards he'd found in a kitchen drawer. She appreciated his willingness to stay, but felt bad about how long he'd been there.

"You don't have to stay," she said to him.

He nodded. "I'd like to if you don't mind. Just until we know something. Is that okay?"

Dara shrugged. He gave her a faint smile and began to deal cards to her, Lois, Justus and Mac. They had decided on a game of Spades. Dara wasn't sure if she remembered the rules. Her mind refused to focus. And her gaze kept drifting to the closed front door.

Then, as if on cue, the door swung open. Johnny's face tight with concern appeared. "We got word."

The cards fell from Dara's hands as she stood. She felt Lois move behind her, placing her arm around Dara's shoulder. Lucky moved to stand on the other side. Justus and Mac brought up the rear.

"What is it?" Dara asked, in a choked voice. "How are they?"

Johnny spoke to all, but gazed only at Dara. "They're at General Hospital. I'm to take you and Mrs. Corinthos there immediately."

Dara's knees wobbled as she followed Johnny from the penthouse. Lucky and Dara's close friends moved behind her. She was dimly aware of their conversation. Mac and Justus mumbled their concern. Lois offered to drive Lucky to GH; he accepted.

When they reached the elevator, Carly and Mike were already there. Mike's light eyes were filled with worry and he tried to give Dara an encouraging smile. In turn, Carly glared at Dara. Accusation and fear shone vividly in her brown eyes. Dara turned her head.

# # #

"NO! I need to be with him!"

Keesha tried to wrestle from Marcus' hold around her waist. The paramedics had just wheeled Jason into the ER. She wanted to follow them, to be with Jason, but they refused. And Marcus helped them by holding her back.

"Marcus!" her voice lashed wildly like a leather whip. "Let go of me!"

"Not until you calm down!" Marcus easily carried her down the hall to the waiting area. His strong hands cupped her face. His thumbs wiped away the tears that coursed down her cheeks. "Keesha, there is nothing you can do to help him. Let the doctors do their job!"

"B-but," she stammered through her tears. "He shouldn't be alone!"

"He's not."

"But he doesn't know..." She hiccuped and tried again. "He doesn't know I love him. I have to tell him..."

Marcus slipped his arms around her and hugged her. "He knows. Trust me, he knows."

Keesha returned his embrace. When it was over, she wrapped her arms around her waist and stared toward the examining room. "I hope you're right."

A moment later, Alex and Frank rushed to them. Alex spoke quietly to Marcus while Frank went to Keesha. He closed a hand over her shoulder.

"Are you okay?"

"Not a nick or a scratch," she said, her voice hoarse from her tears.

"That man you were crying over...the one with the buzz cut," he said. "That's Jason Morgan, isn't it?"


"You care about him?" Frank asked, his expression unreadable.

"Yeah. I love him."

# # #

"What happened back there?" Alex questioned Marcus. "We have Jason Morgan with a shot in the back, Luigi Petrillo with a shot to his chest, and Joseph Sorel dead. I need answers, Marcus."

Marcus gave his good friend a hard look. "What do you think happened? You and Charles came in seconds after the fall out. I'll give you a statement, but now isn't the right time."

Marcus moved to leave. Alex grabbed his arm and pulled him back. "You can do better than that. The South Side looks like a Mack truck went through it. You were there. Who do I arrest?"

"For what?!" Marcus barked. "For taking out Sorel and bringing down his empire? Or for abducting a young girl and terrorizing her?" He gestured toward Sonny and Hope. The girl sat on her father's lap. Her head still buried in the curve of his neck and shoulders. Even a few feet from them, Marcus could see that she still trembled. He prayed that she wouldn't be traumatized for life.

"Look at Dara's daughter, man! And you tell me what's more important." Marcus inhaled a sharp breath. He rubbed his hands over his face and slowly released the air. "I have to call Dara. She needs to know that Hope is safe. We'll talk about this later."

# # #

Another first, Sonny thought. His daughter on his lap, clinging to him. If the reason didn't have such sick origins, he could have enjoyed the moment.

His hands stroked circles on her small, shaking back. Every sob that tore from her body shook him. But not physically. His heart was ripping apart. If Hope didn't recover from this, he'd only have himself to blame.

"Hope," he said quietly. "It's over, sweetheart. You don't have to be afraid anymore."

"The bl-blood... It's everywhere," she cried.

He glanced at her shirt. It was dark with Jason's blood. Sonny's chest tightened. Jason laid down his life to protect Sonny's child. If Jason died...

He looked over his shoulder at Keesha. A young cop stood beside her, but she didn't seem to notice. Her entire self was focused on Jason and the doctors working on him. Jason had given up Sonny's world for Keesha. Now, it seemed that his best friend might have given his life for Sonny's daughter...

"I'll get you something else to wear," Sonny murmured against his daughter's ear. "You're okay, Hope. Everything will be fine now."

With Hope snug and secure in his arms, Sonny stood and called out to a passing nurse. "Do you have something my daughter can change into? Could you help her wash up?"

The nurse nodded. "Follow me."

# # #

During the drive from the penthouse to the hospital, Carly pushed worry and fear to the back of her mind. Anger burned inside her. Rage at the silent woman beside her in the back of the limo and fury at her husband for putting his life at risk.

Yes. She knew Sonny would do anything to protect his child. To protect the people he loved. There was nothing he wouldn't do, including pushing loved ones away if he thought it would save them. But this...

If he had just told her about Dara and their child from the beginning, she could have been able to handle this. They were husband and wife. They were supposed to share everything. He knew everything about her. Her life in Florida with the Bensons, the transformation into Carly Roberts...what she did to ruin Bobbie's family. She told him everything there was to know about her, the good and the bad. Why couldn't he have done the same with her? Why?

Mike's voice interrupted the rapid stream of questions inside Carly's mind. "We're almost there."

The older man sounded afraid. She glanced across at him. Unshed tears watered his eyes. His hands trembled. Carly glanced at Dara. The older woman wouldn't look at her. That was fine with Carly because as far as she was concerned, if anything happened to Sonny, Dara would pay. And she'd pay big.

# # #

The doctors decided that Jason needed surgery. Marcus offered to go upstairs with Keesha, but she told him to stay and wait for Dara. She tried to convince Frank to stay in the ER, but he refused. They went up together.

As soon as they stepped off the elevator, Monica was there. She grabbed Keesha's upper arms in a tight grip as she asked, "Keesha, what happened? Amy told me that Jason was rushed here and that you were with him. She said he was shot."

Keesha nodded. "They just took him to surgery. They won't tell me how he is. Could you find out for me? Please?"

Monica stared intently into Keesha's eyes. "Why were you with him? Was this mob-related?"

"Not in the way you think," Keesha said. "You may as well know now. Jason and I are together again. I... Please, Monica. Just find out how he's doing."

The older woman nodded. "I'll join them in surgery. Use my office to wait. I'll let you know as soon as I know anything."


# # #

The first person Dara saw as she and the others rushed inside the hospital was Marcus. It was like he knew she'd be there in that precise moment and he was right there waiting for. He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tight.

"Hope?!" Dara asked. "Where is my baby?!"

"She's okay," Marcus said, ending the hug. "She's really shaken up."

"Where is she?" Dara repeated.

"She's with Corinthos," he answered. "I saw them follow a nurse."

Dara squeezed Marcus' hand in appreciation.

"Want me to come with you?"

She shook her head. "No, I just need to see that she's okay."

Dara practically ran to the Nurse's station. Carly was already there. The two women ignored each other.

"Can you tell me where my daughter is?" Dara asked. "Her name is Hope. She's fifteen and she was involved with tonight's shooting."

"There is a girl fitting that description with Sonny Corinthos. Is she your daughter?"

"Yes. Where are they?"

"They're with Gaby," the nurse said. "Follow me."

The nurse began to lead Dara away. Carly joined them. The nurse stopped and said to Carly, "I'm sorry but only family is allowed inside."

"I am family!" Carly informed the nurse. "Sonny is my husband!"

"I'm sorry," the nurse said, standing her ground, "but those are the rules." She turned back to Dara and said, "This way, ma'am."

# # #

Hope hated herself for acting like a baby, but she couldn't let go of Sonny. What if she did and the bad men came back? The nurse...did she say her name was Gaby? Gaby spoke gently to Hope and promised that her father didn't have to leave the room. Just let go for a little while so that Gaby could check her and make sure she was okay. When Sonny promised that he'd stay, Hope let go and allowed Gaby tend to her.

Bandages were applied to her wrists from where the rope had dug into her. Then, Gaby helped her change into a pair of sweats. They were a little loose on Hope, but comfortable. Gaby explained that the sweats were hers but that Hope could keep them if she wanted. That's when Dara burst inside the examining room.

As her mother's arms closed around her, fresh tears overtook Hope. Sonny went to them and wrapped his arms around both of them.

Her family. Their love.

Hope felt their love enveloping her and she decided that she would never, ever run away from it again.

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