"You can't stay long," Amy warned Felicia who was looking in at Lila. "In fact, if not for Ned's direct orders, you wouldn't be allowed in at all. Given her condition, allowing a non-family member access is against the rules. But, Ned seemed to think that she needs to speak with you, that it might make her rest easier."
"I'll be careful," Felicia promised, easing inside the room. Quietly, she approached the bed of the elderly woman, noting with sadness that the once vital woman lay hooked up to various life-support systems. Her every breath was recorded, as was each beat of her heart.
"Lila?" Felicia began gently. "Lila?"
"Felicia?" Lila wearily turned her head to face the younger woman. "I had hoped that you would come."
"I'll always come if you need me," Felicia promised, realizing that it was true. Though there had never been a close friendship between herself and Lila Quartermaine, Felicia had always admired the woman's fortitude, even when she had disagreed with her stance on an issue. "Ned said that you wanted to speak with me."
Lila's eyes teared suddenly, and she clasped her hands together, her eyes meeting Felicia's. "My darling child, I fear I've waited too long. There is so much to explain, and very little time remaining to me."
"No, Lila," Felicia argued. "You'll be all right. You'll..."
"No, Felicia. My time is very short, and I must right what wrongs I can in the time remaining for me." Felicia moved to speak again, but Lila held a finger to her lips. "Shhh." She closed her eyes, the opened them again, blinking the tears away. "My life has been full of good and bad, but my intentions….well, you know what they say about good intentions. The road to hell is paved with them. I just always thought I'd have more time."
"Let me speak. There are things that you must know. When I'm gone, they'll come after you, try to remake you into something other than the wonderful woman that you are."
"They? Who are they?"
"They'll want your children, too. I've kept it all hidden-hidden from almost everybody, but the truth will come out when I'm gone because of the legacy. The will."
"I'm not following you, Lila," Felicia said, wondering if the woman's mind had gone before the rest of her. "What legacy? What will? Why me?"
"Hand me the locket on the stand there. Yes, that one."
Felicia picked up the heavy gold locket, noting the apparent age of the piece the fine hand engraving. "It's beautiful."
"I want you to have it. It's for you."
"But shouldn't your children have this? It's an heirloom, isn't it?"
"It's going where it should go, Felicia. Now, open it."
Carefully, Felicia found the fastener and undid it, marveling as the locket swung open to reveal on one side a lock of hair twined around a tiny key, and on the other side, a picture of a couple with an infant. "Who is this? She looks like me-but from another age."
"She's…hide it quickly. Don't let her see it."
"Mother? Felicia Jones, no, Scorpio, isn't it? What the hell are you doing here bothering my mother?"
Slipping the locket into her pocket, Felicia stared down Tracy Quartermaine. "I came at her request."
"Then you can leave at mine. Mother, I came as soon as I heard you were ill. Mother? Mother!?!?! Nurse!! Come quickly!!!"
Felicia was glad for Ned's assistance in escaping the clamor of quarreling Quartermaines as doctors raced to Lila's room yet again. This time, however, they weren't as sanguine about her recovery.
"She's the only truly good thing left in our family," Ned told Felicia as he escorted her from the hospital. "She's seen the good in all of us, even when there was nothing but a glimmer of hope. I sometimes wonder why she stayed. Being the lone candle in the darkness has got to be wearing."
"But Edward loved her."
"In his own twisted way, yes," Ned agreed. "She was the best thing in his life, of more value than the riches that he sought, the quest that drove him for his entire life. In some ways, he took her love for granted, knowing that she'd always be there, always love him. She was, is, the stabilizing influence in his life."
"But she's so unlike the rest of you. I mean," she blushed, noting that she'd practically insulted Ned and the rest of the Qs. "She's so sweet. So kind."
"Iron fist in a velvet glove," Ned grinned. "She's all those things and more. I don't know why she stayed with Edward except that she loved him."
"But love isn't always enough," Felicia countered. "I know that."
"Sometimes, it's all you've got. Sometimes you do things you don't want to do in the name of love, things that you know are right, even when it hurts."
"You mean like Lois and Brook Lynne?"
Ned grimaced and nodded. "I know what I am, Felicia. And I know what sort of influence the Qs would have, did have, on Lois when she was here. She hated what she was becoming, but it was all she could become if she was going to stay here and survive my family."
"So she left. But you stayed." Meeting his eyes, she saw something she'd seen in Frisco's eyes, something that she understood all too well. "Don't bother to explain. It's in your blood, isn't it?"
"Lois thought so, and maybe she was right. Maybe it's just a personality quirk that makes me relish a fight, makes me get down and dirty with the rest of them."
"Or maybe there's something that you haven't found yet, something missing in your life."
Ned laughed ruefully. "Love, Felicia? I've had that. I loved Lois, love my daughter, but Lois doesn't trust me to be the kind of man that she needs, and she's probably right."
"How could you let her walk way with your daughter?"
"I was protecting her from me and my family. She saw how Jason and AJ have turned out, how Dylan is, how I am. She wants better for her daughter, and who am I to deny her that?"
"You're your daughter's father, Ned. Does she have one now? Mac is Maxie's and Georgie's father in all ways but one. Who is Brook Lynn's daddy? Who is going to teach her the things that she needs to learn from her daddy?"
Ned flushed from that hit. "I visit."
"That's not enough, and you know it."
"It's all I have to give right now."
"That's bull and you know it. Think it over, Ned and ask yourself what the real reason you're not being Brook Lynn's daddy is, what the real reason you let Lois walk away from you is. Be honest with yourself."
With that, Felicia turned and walked away, one hand in her pocket where it was tightly clutching the gold locket, wondering why she hadn't asked Ned about it, wondering for a few seconds if he was part of the mysterious 'they' that Lila feared. But why, and who was the woman she so closely resembled, and what was she doing in Lila's locket?
The doctor sat by Carly's bedside, smiling as he looked down at his patient. "Carly? Or, would you prefer to be known as Caroline?" He smiled, his accent becoming more pronounced as he continued. "Let's be honest, you and I. You are here because you have created numerous problems with your tendency to prevaricate and shoot people, in particular, your ex-lovers. I speak of Tony Jones and AJ Quartermaine."
Seeing the answering flicker of an eyelash, the doctor continued. "Ah, I thought so. Your condition is less one of nervous breakdown than it is fear of discovery. But, you did not think of that when you collapsed initially, did you? You simply reacted to the news that the man you shot was dead. Understandable, since you had not prepared for that eventuality. It isn't that you mind his being dead, only that you mind being responsible for his demise. Or, perhaps that you mind being discovered to be responsible for his demise. That's it, isn't it?"
Carly barely flinched, but the doctor, skilled at reading the most subtle of expressions, smiled. "Yes, that's it. Fortunately for you, the truth can be kept between the two of us."
Again, noting the most minute change in her expression, he continued. "I can pronounce you fit, suffering from stress alone, or I can have you confined here indefinitely. You see, I hold your future in my hands."
Slowly, Carly turned to face him, her nose wrinkling at the acrid smell of cigar smoke that clung to him. Staring into the most evil eyes she'd ever seen, she shuddered. "Why me?"
"Why indeed?" He laughed, a sound that sent shivers of fear coursing down her spine. "Because I recognize a kindred soul when I see one. Life has not always been kind to you, yet you persist in taking what you want from it. You demand it as your due. I admire that tenacity in a woman. Yet, you are scorned by those whose respect you crave." He watched as she flinched, and continued to speak. "The circumstances of your birth are not your fault, yet you are penalized for them, for the sins of your parents, much as AJ Quartermaine was rewarded for the good fortune of having been born to wealthy parents. Yet, who is alive and who lies dead?"
"It was an accident." Carly's voice was flat, pained.
"I know that. It won't matter, though, to his family. To them your sole value is that you bore a child that they had thought was theirs. Now that the truth is known, you have less value than a stray cat. They will work to have you destroyed for your part in the deception that resulted in the death of one of them."
"I didn't even know," Carly muttered. "I believed what they told me. I didn't know that the tests were faked. Jason and Bobbie didn't trust me with the truth."
"But you will pay, nevertheless, won't you? You'll pay for their deception, just like you have since the day you were born. Life isn't fair to those who are, shall we say, less than well connected, is it?"
"Life sucks," Carly agreed, her dark eyes flashing as she met the eyes of the doctor. "Life sucks and then you die. And in between, you do the best you can with what you have. I tried, you know? I tried. But those damned Quartermaines-they think that they're god or something, and they had my son's life all mapped out for him. AJ thought that he was going to get control of ELQ because he fathered a son. And, you know what? That probably would have been enough for Edward Quartermaine. It didn't matter if AJ had any brains, or any decency at all. Just that he had a son so that the old buzzard could see that ELQ would stay in the family, no, make that in the male controlled family. And Jason was as bad. Oh, I could do whatever I wanted with Jason, at least almost anything I wanted, because he was obsessed with my son."
"But now? Now that the truth is out and AJ is dead, I'm just tossed aside like so much trash. Trash! Tony has my son and I'll never see him again."
"And you want to?"
Carly shrugged, dashing tears from her face. "Like it would matter what I want. I hate it, you know? I hate being powerless. Dr. Tony Prudish Jones has my son, and what I want will never matter again. Never. I'll be here for the rest of my miserable life if he has his way."
"Forget about him. What do you want?"
"I want to get out of here, to get away from this place. I want to start over..."
"I can help you, Carly," the doctor said, his voice dropping into a soothing, monotonous drone. "Just relax and let me help you. Yes, close your eyes and let your anger slip away. Now, visualize a lake, the water smooth and calm. Yes, that's it. You are floating on the water, floating, silently, easily, with nothing to bother you. You are weightless, completely at ease."
He watched as Carly drifted into a trance-like state, receptive to his voice. "Listen to me, Carly, I want you to listen carefully: Your will is mine, your life is mine."
"Yours," she whispered, grateful on some distant level to abdicate responsibility for her the problems she had created.
"Your actions are mine."
"And because of that, I will help you. And you will do as I ask, when I ask."
"When you hear me say, 'Little ripples in the water', you will do whatever I ask."
"And after that, you will remember nothing of that time or of me."
"Now, sleep. And, when you awake, you will recall nothing of this conversation. Your regular doctor will return, and you will have no memory of ever having met me."
Cesar Faison smiled as he slipped from the room, and out of the hospital. The drug he had arranged to have administered earlier had taken full effect, and his newest tool was ready for his use as soon as he could arrange her release. A few days, he decided. After all, one needn't rush when one knew the outcome of the game. One should, after all, enjoy one's life.