(a/n) Hey all! Just a quick heads up on this story's direction. This chapter is (mostly) a plot builder, lots of me setting up future events and sequences, with an introduction of another well know character from the GH canvas (I loved bringing this person in!). Lots of scheming and plotting Emily and no Jason or Nikolas or Dillon or Johnny at all. Sorry. Jase/Em will be back strong for the next two chapters though. Promise. Okay, since this is a long one I'll let you guys go. Oh, and if any of you read my other fic, SIB, the update for that one hit a snag (a horrific, late night, power surge incident. Bah.), but I just wanted any interested know that I haven't forgotten about posting the new chapter… I just have to rewrite the whole friggin' thing, now. Should be another week and a half at the least. I'm really sorry about this. Anyway, read on and I hope you like it. –Loke

Reviewers: (look at that… I actually had the time to write out replies this time!)

Joy: Aawwwww… thank you! I always love reading your reviews; you have such great insights into each chapter and what going on with the characters—they make me smile. :o) And, yeah, Johnny was a real horse's backside in the last chapter. (sorry 'bout that!) But he's not in this one so you can read now without getting angry. Promise. :-p Thanks again for the review and the ongoing support, it means tons! --Loke

Tamara: You're back!! Yay! [does happy dance] And I'm so happy you liked the Dillon/Johnny stuff. I almost scrapped the whole bantering bit because I was having trouble getting it to flow right, but it feels good to know it you didn't think it was a swing and miss! :o) Thanks for reviewing, hon, and I'm sorry this one took so long to get out! --Loke

Amy: Thank you! And you've got Em/Liz (Georgie) interaction coming up right below. It's not that much, but there'll be more later on. :o) Thanks for the review, sweetie! --Loke

EvenAngelsFall22: A new reader! Whoohooo! Wait—you read 7 chapters in ONE sitting?! You're not blind are you? God, I hope not. That's quite a lot to digest in one sitting, and I commend you for delving into the mega-angst head first like that. It's more than I could do. I may write this thing, but when it comes to actually reading characters I love (Emily and Jason, namely) go through really bad stuff, I'm a total wimp. I can't take it at all, lol. [-- You've taken the best parts of their personalities and formed them to create this absolutely amazing plotline that's so intricate incredible, that if General Hospital ever wants to do another spin-off show, they should definitely consider this as a guide to do so!—] OMG, that's a heavy compliment, hon. All I can say is thanks so much!! And on a side note, you have no idea how much I would love to be an actual writer for the show. OMG, the horrible fun I'd have! Hee-Hee. I'd being doing evil things all over the place. All the actors would quit! LOL. Thank you for having the patience to read through all 7 chapters of this (that still gets me), Nicole, and thank you for the review, it means a lot. :o) --Loke

Gabrielstar0135: This is the first GH story you've read? So… does that mean I've, like, devirginized you? [gasp] Whoa, okay, that was dirty, I'm sorry. Moving on… (Hee-Hee). Thank you so much for the review, hope I can keep you interested! --Loke

Steph: Thanks Steph!! And you've got two heavy Jason/Em chapters coming your way next update. :o) --Loke


Fettered Ties


Chapter Seven: Psycho Babble


Emily POV

The evening, so far, had been… quieter than I expected. The three of us—Liz, George, and I—started our girls' night Tuesday with dinner at Aurora, a small, elegant restaurant we'd come to think of as 'our place'. In truth, sitting across from the girls, I'd braced myself for some sort of lecture. I mean, the look in Georgie's eyes alone just screamed "what have you done?". Adding to that the scene both of them had come upon back at the penthouse… Well, let's just say I'd prepared myself for a quite different evening. But since that particular version of events never came to pass, I was left with something that, remarkably, held some semblance of normalcy. Or, at least, the normal I'd come to know.

We went about our usual idle chatter. Anything and everything. Though, if I had to put my finger on anything that was a bit… off, about the night, it would've been Liz and Georgie's conspicuous silence whenever I mentioned, however casually, my business. Now, these two are very opinionated women. In fact, I usually have a difficult time shutting them up when it comes to my work. Seldom have they ever been without a comment on the subject, even if it was just to make their staunch disapproval known in that special way only best friends can. But tonight? Nothing. Not a peep. I noticed it, but I opted to let it go because, well, frankly, I'd already been lectured enough for one evening. I wanted to relax, and I think they sensed that, or at least that was the impression I got.

But the dinner wasn't all tried and true routine. Somewhere between my third glass of wine and Elizabeth's second helping of Chicken Piccata, Georgie threw out a question that started out perfectly innocent, but that somehow managed to lead us to a place that… well, I'm not too sure what. All I know is that something about that particular bout of conversation struck me as odd, and also confused the holy hell out of me. Not easy to do nowadays unless your name happened to start with "Ja" and end in "son".

Sipping idly at her own glass of wine, Georgie purposefully drew her brown eyes away from mine, letting them linger on the slow flicker of our table's candle as she spoke. "So… how's Lulu doing?"

Now, the first thing that got my attention was the way she averted her gaze. Georgie never does that. She has something to say, to ask me, she's going to be looking at me while she does it. But, see, the nature of the question was just so benign that I completely wrote off the eye thing, and gave my answer careful thought instead. "Lulu?" I smiled into my wine. "Well, she's… nineteen. And ass over elbows in love. She's great."

Elizabeth chuckled lightly to my right, but Georgie didn't even crack a smile. In fact, she became even more serious than before, back straight and eyes still trained resolutely away from mine—oddity number two. "Yeah, but I mean how's she really handling this whole riff with her brothers?"

Whoa. Okay. Oddity number three, anyone?

I sat up a bit in my chair and glanced to my left, relieved to see Liz was looking just as interested as I was, and that I wasn't just imagining the sheen of nervousness to both Georgie's words and movements. "As well as can be expected," I answered her slowly, still not completely sure why Lulu and her fight with Nikolas and Lucky was worthy of Tuesday night convo. I mean, sure, we'd mentioned it before, but truthfully that whole mess was the boy's bag. I had enough Sibling Stress on my own plate. Don't borrow trouble, right?

Georgie's idle fingers grasped hold of an unused butter knife and began to fiddle with it. Oddity number four. When Georgie Jones-Quatermaine fiddles with silverware—especially butter knives—she's either 1) hiding something, or 2) uncomfortable as all hell. Again, Liz and I locked eyes for a split second, her Chicken Piccata completely forgotten by now. "It's just a temporary thing, Georgie," Liz threw in with wariness I wasn't entirely clear on. "It'll be resolved eventually. There's nothing to get worried about."

"Oh, I know," Georgie said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "But, well, I mean, I guess I just wanted to know…" The rambling question died on her lips with a frustrated sigh.

This time I chimed in. "Just wanted to know what, Georgie?"

At this, Georgie set down the butter knife with a clatter while heaving an even louder sigh and mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like "fuck it". I don't think I even have to say it, but, what the hell? Georgie and swearing just don't mix. Ever. Finally she looked up at both of us, tense all the way through. "Look, the only reason I even mentioned it was because Lucky asked me to, all right?"

To my right, Liz let out a sharp "What?!", and I… I was completely lost. Something had just changed, only I had no idea what. Suddenly Elizabeth wasn't looking at Georgie like she had sprouted a nifty green horn in the center of her head (which, by the way, was how I was looking at her), but, instead, like Georgie had just stripped off all her clothes and had started doing the merengue on the tabletop. Liz was horrified. And I was… still clueless.

"Lucky?" Elizabeth hissed. "Georgie, I thought we settled this!"

Georgie tensed, brow furling guilty. "I couldn't help it," she fired back. "He was just so upset—"

To my right, Liz snorted. "Oh, I just bet he was."

"Oh, come on, Elizabeth, please be reasonable," Georgie half pleaded, looking for all the world like a teenager trying to talk herself out of a grounding. "It was—"

"No big deal, right?" Liz leaned forward on the table, eyes narrowed and… disappointed? Why would Liz be disappointed? Okay, now I was really lost. Like, different Time Zone lost. "Where you going to say that this was just no big deal?" Elizabeth continued, a knife-edged clip to her words. "Is that the new reasoning of the day, Georgie?"

Georgie looked flabbergasted. I mean, flat-out staggered, right through to the bone. Her mouth opened, and then closed a few times, whatever she intended to say, or wanted to say never making it past her lips.

So they stared at each other. Well, to be accurate, Georgie stared; Liz glared. And this oddball standoff that had me straight up befuddled went on for nearly two ghastly minutes before it became quite clear that if I wanted the meal to progress at all, I'd have to be the one doing the moving along. Screwing etiquette, I leaned across the tabletop on my elbows, glancing surreptitiously between my friends as I did so.

"Okay, well…" I ventured carefully, noting that my voice seemed all Georgie needed to break eye-contact again, the jumpy orbs floating to the napkin she was torturing in her lap. "How 'bout I start by asking if there's a reason why I feel like I just walked into a movie midway?"

Silence. Perfect.

I turned to Elizabeth, who was still staring fixedly at Georgie and her bowed head. "Come on, Liz," I said to her, it really sounding more like a plea. Hey, sue me, okay? Not knowing was killing me. "It's, like, painfully obvious that something's going on here. Spill, already."

Elizabeth managed to flick her eyes to mine. And they were brimming with apology, strained apology. She only held my gaze a moment before directing it pointedly at Georgie, as if to say "ask her".

And so I did.

"Georgie?" I got a slight twitch of eye-contact, but that was it. I sighed and pushed on. "Look, one second we're talking about Liz's new showing, the conversation lulled and you brought up Lulu and her fight with Nikolas and Lucky, and from there we spiraled into the freakin' Twilight Zone. I just don't understand what in the heck is going—"

There. She was looking at me. With shimmering eyes. The sight stopped me cold. I reached across and put a hand over hers, confused anew. "Oh, Georgie, honey, what on Earth is going on here?"

"Nothing," she croaked unevenly, practically tearing her hands away from mine to dab furiously at her eyes, quickly clearing away what blinking could not. "It's… nothing, okay? Nothing you need to worry about."

That—that kinda pissed me off. Just a bit. Sure, I'm freakishly busy, but I haven't forgotten that my friends need me. I would never do that. Never. "Hey, that's not fair," I shot back. "I know I have a lot on my plate, but I'm always available to you. You know that."

She sighed. "That's not what I meant, Em. It's just that…" She seemed to be searching herself again for the right words to explain. And, after a long moment, it appeared they weren't ready to reveal themselves to her. She looked up, cast Elizabeth a glance that I'm sure meant something, though I couldn't tell you what, and then looked back to me, a small, forced smile on her lips. "Can we please just not talk about this right now? Just forget I even brought any of it up? Please?"

You have no idea how badly I wanted to hold her down and force her to tell me what was wrong, to make her and Liz just come clean with whatever it was that had Georgie crying. But, feeling the plea in her voice literally squeeze my heart, I swallowed the urge and returned her tiny smile. "Okay," I said with a nod. "We'll forget it."

And that's exactly what we did. We forgot and I forced my curiosity and concern surrounding the frustratingly odd moment to take a backseat to another bout of idle conversation, no matter how much it killed me to do so.

The rest of dinner passed quickly and before I knew it we were in the cab Liz had charmed away from some yuppie college kid, and pulling up curbside to Elizabeth's building, which happened to be just across the street form Georgie's. I peered out the frosted window at the imposing building known as The Waterside, PC's newest—and priciest—apartments in town. The apartment she shared with the husband nobody saw coming. The one, the only (thank God), Jasper Jacks. I shook my head, hiding a smile. Of all the woman out there who I ever imagined might one day get the notorious jet-setting playboy that was the Jax of yore to actually settle down, and give up his tried and true accommodations at The Port Charles Hotel for something as permanent and binding as a three year lease, Elizabeth hadn't exactly been on the list. Or anywhere near it, for that matter. Yet, here she was, married to the guy, sharing a life with him… two months pregnant with his kid. It really made you wonder sometimes, made you think of just how different life can turn out from what you originally had planned. I'm just happy that, for her, that unexpected turn of events in her life-plan managed to end up pretty decent. She was happy, truly content with her life now. I wish I could've said the same.

"We'll see you on Sunday for sure, right?" Elizabeth's voice rocked me from my thoughts and I look at the seat next to me, only to find that its two occupants already outside, smiling gently at me from the sidewalk. I climbed out of the cab and stood beside them, wrapping my coat around me tightly.

"Sunday?" I asked, a little confused. What the heck was on Sunday…?

Georgie rolled her eyes and half-heartedly glared at me. "Yes, Em. Sunday. 'Drea's First Holy Communion. It's at St. Anthony's at nine. She's expecting you… everyone is."

Oh, man, I can't believe I forgot about that. Dillon never would have forgiven me if I'd missed his daughter's first communion. But, as my mind suddenly clamps on to the last itty-bitty part of Georgie's sentence, a Dillon tirade is no longer my concern. "Everyone?" I croaked, knowing, just knowing that I must look like deer caught in the headlights to my friends. Everyone—Family—Grandfather. Me. Trapped together in a church, of all places. Could anybody say 'Oy Vei'?

Georgie smile gently at me. "I know it's going to, well, suck having to deal with the Quatermaines—God knows I hate it, but everything will be okay, Em. I guarantee it."

I laughed at that. The only person who could coral those maniacs was grandmother, and lately she hadn't been feeling well enough to attend family events. Georgie could try all she wanted to keep grandfather at bay and the hell away from me and my son, but she wouldn't succeed. I shot her a pleading look. "Can't you just tell them to go to hell? I mean, do they really need to be there?"

"Emily, they're her family… however unfortunate that is—"

I couldn't help it, t he snort just sort of happened. Georgie's eyes went from sympathetic to full of warning.

"Don't be like this, okay?" she snapped. "I know it's going to be difficult for you, but you're not just Andrea's cousin, you're her godmother, and whether any of us like it our not, she is a Quatermaine, and they are going to be at the church on Sunday. Case closed. If you feel you can't handle it, then that's your decision. But just know that it'll be 'Drea who ends up being hurt in the end." Georgie's gaze narrowed on me. "Do you think that's fair, Emily? That my little girl should have to pay for the adults in her life not being able to suck it up and deal for one damn hour? Hmm?"

Oh, hell. How the heck was I suppose to argue with that and not come out looking like a total villain? "No," I sighed wearily. "Of course not. I'll… I'll be there, okay? Bright and early. Smiling and everything."

Elizabeth, ever the skeptic, drew up on perfectly shaped eyebrow. "Promise?" she asked me.

I rolled my eyes. "Yes," I said. "Girl Scout's honor." I held up three fingers for the pledge, stealing a page from the Lucky Spencer Smartass Guide Book. "I will attend the First Holy Communion services of one Andrea-Marie Quatermaine, and I herby swear not to get into a screaming match with any member of my deranged family and/or allow Edward—the insufferable blowhard—to aggravate me into early departure from the gathering. And while in attendance, I promise that I will behave myself completely and utterly." Finishing, I smirked at them. "Is that good enough for you two?"

"Sure… if you'd actually been a Girl Scout, but—" Georgie held up a hand to prevent me from peeling off another smartass retort, a smile on her face. "I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, here. If you say you'll behave yourself, then I believe you. And if it starts getting too… much for you, just keep thinking 'for 'Drea, for 'Drea' over and over and you should be tip-top in there, Em."

"Plus," Liz added to her left, brown eyes twinkling just so. "She's having Dillon wrangle a few of your guys to help keep the old man in line. If Edward wants to get anywhere near you or Demetri, he'll have to go through 650lbs of combined, suit-wearing muscle first. The situation will be contained—on all fronts."

I nodded my approval, opting not to share the doubt I had niggling at the edges of my mind. Sure, you could physically control my grandfather, but there would always be the glances, the longing, repenting looks he'd float at me. Not to mention the way he'd be looking at my son. Michael had slipped through grandfather's controlling fingertips once upon a time, and my little Demetri, though his heart didn't pump true Quatermaine blood, was the next best thing as far as the heir hungry Edward was concerned. I suppose a part of me—that little scrap left of who I used to be, felt sorry for him, for the fact that he'd managed in his life to drive away every one of his grandchildren… in some form or fashion. Yes, I did feel sorry for him. But not sorry enough. My son already had one torrid and unforgiving family legacy to overcome once he came of age, he didn't need another, especially not that of man that had shown just what disgusting depths he'd sink to in the name of the 'family business'. No, my son was clean and innocent, and the only way I'd ever let the Quatermaine or the Cassadine ugliness touch him, would be over my dead body.

"Well, it's settled then," I said, forcing a smile. "Barring an unforeseen catastrophic event, Nikolas, Demetri and I will all be there on Sunday."

Her face lit up and she stepped forward to wrap me up in a brief, careful hug. "Great. We'll see you there."

"You can count on it."

"Okay, well, that being settled, I better get going," Elizabeth broke in, flashing her watch a glance. "Jax should be home from is dinner with Alexis in a little bit." She paused to smile at me. "You wanna come up and have a drink, Em? Jax would love to see you."

Oh, I bet he would. See, Jax, affectionately known to me as Outdoorsman Ken, had recently taken my poor city girl Liz on a trek through Nepal. Nepal! And ever since their return, had been trying everything in his power to get me to come with them on their next big adventure. He was convinced that a getaway of Jacks proportions was all I needed to speed along the healing process, and, in typical Jax fashion was being relentless in his pimpage of the idea. It wasn't that I didn't like Jax, because I did—really. It was just that, well… I'm his wife's best friend. I know what kind of weird and wacky stuff he gets up to on those gallivants of his, and I already considered my day-to-day enough of a hazard without adding globe trotting with Jasper Jacks, the well-intentioned corporate raider and part-time explorer, who almost always manages to piss off the locals, and come about this close to sparking an international incident, to my list of activities. Needless to say, I'd been artfully dodging the tenacious Aussie for a good week now, and I had no intention of breaking the streak tonight, even if a nice, stiff drink sounded like heaven after the day I'd had.

I smiled demurely and shook my head. "Thanks, babe, but no thanks. There's no way I'm going up there where that husband of yours will have full opportunity to use his boyish good looks to trap and coerce me into grandiose vacation plans. You ain't getting this girl up there until he finds himself another pet-project."

"Have you met my husband?" Elizabeth laughed. "That man won't rest until he's got you, Nikolas, and Demetri all sitting in a row on that jet of his. Depriving the poor dear of your company is only going to make the guy try even harder, Em."

"Well, Sweetie," I smiled back, drifting forward to give her a hug goodnight. "Then that's just the chance I'll have to take. Besides," I said as I pulled back and flashed my own watch a glance. "My evening isn't over yet. I have one more stop to make."

Georgie let out a dramatic sigh. "More business, Em? Haven't you put yourself through enough for one day?"

What a mother hen. I may have capped the girl by five years, but that did nothing to stave her protective nature. A person would think the over-protectiveness would have started to wear thin by now, as with any mother's doting attentions, but, somehow, with Georgie it was just downright adorable. She cared, and she made no show of veiling it. The simplicity of her concern was something I treasured—but never missed the opportunity to mock, good-naturedly, of course. It was too much fun not to. "Don't worry, mommy," I smirked. "It's just a quick stop over at my attorney's and then right on back home like a good little mobster."

Georgie grimaced like a fiend. She just hated it when I mob referenced. "Cute," she said dryly. "Real cute, Em."

"Wait," Liz broke in, her eyebrows drown together as she looked at me. "It told you that Alexis is out with Jax. How are you going to have legal council if she's being wined and dined by my husband?"

"Well," I said, smiling in that way Nikolas told me almost always meant trouble. Big Trouble. "Alexis wasn't quite the attorney I had in mind."


Five minutes, two more hugs goodbye, and an elevator ride later, I was walking purposefully down the hallway of my attorney's building, stilettos clicking merrily in my wake, with Max trailing dutifully behind.

This felt good, productive, like an offensive maneuver, doing what I was doing. Like I was taking a step toward something instead of gutlessly backing down from it, as I had done countless times that day. Granted what I was moving toward wasn't exactly Faith Rosco's head on a platter, but it was something that would appease me until such wonderful fantasies could be realized.

See, I couldn't off the bitch—I had made that pesky promise, after all. But I could begin laying the ground work for my pledge of taking every godforsaken thing she held dear away from her. Starting with her hold on the docks. And to do that… well, let's just say I needed to think outside of the box for that one. And the person I was going to see knew all about dabbling in the unconventional… and the underhanded. He was reformed now, a real stand-up guy, but there are some things, like being a conniving worm, that a man just never forgets how to do. He may have been above reproach in the present, but that evil knowledge still lurked somewhere in his stunning mind, and I intended to plunder it for all it was worth. Plus, the man had an intimate knowledge of my target… both of them, their strengths—apparent as well as unperceived, their cleverly-concealed weaknesses, and how to deftly beat past one to manipulate the other. On the whole, this man was in the position to do me an invaluable service. And I knew he would; he still loved to flex his muscles of evil genius from time to time, even if it was only vicariously through me, the bad seed he didn't think was all that bad.

Finally, my destination was reached as I came to a halt at the end of a ridiculously long hallway and on the other side of a large maple door, adorned with a gleaming 'PH3'. I knocked twice, settled my weight against the frame, and waited.

I didn't have to wait long.

The door swung slowly open to reveal a perfectly framed picture of arrogance made flesh. Lovable arrogance, in his special case.

"Well, if it isn't my favorite mobster."

Okay, so maybe not so lovable. More…mildly likable, when he wasn't being extremely irritating. "Hello to you, too, Ric. I see you still know how to make a girl feel welcome."

And out came that brilliant smile, the one I'm sure he was certain had the power to turn bone into jelly. Wolfish grin intact, he reached across the threshold and grabbed my hand. He tugged me inside and then poked his head into the hall, seeking out my devoted guard with his persuasive gaze.

"This might be a while, Max. Why don't you go see what the guys are doing? I think Artie's got a replay of the Rangers game going in there."

Max, loyal as the sunrise, looked to me, and I gave him an encouraging nod. Eyes lighting in a tiny smile, Max threw me a "thanks Emily", turned and made for the 'guard post' down the hall. It was a studio unit Ric had converted into a lounge like for his own security to spend their downtime. With as much as I frequented Alexis and Ric's place, Max and even Johnny had become pretty tight with Artie and the boys. And that room sure did help in keeping them out from underfoot during times like these.

"Now," Ric's voice rebounded off the open air of his penthouse and brought me sharply back to the task at hand. "A part of me feels I don't even have to ask what this visit is in regard to, but another…"

"Is curious as all hell?" I offered, making myself comfortable on the settee in the middle of the spacious living room.

Ric eyed me shrewdly, as he was known to do with people, dissecting my demeanor, and using its nuances to carefully evaluate his response. Good God, he was such a lawyer sometimes. A beat passed before he finally answered, and when he did, I almost felt like giving the man a gold star for cutting through the bullshit.

"I hear you tried to burn Faith alive tonight."

I didn't flinch, not that he'd expected me to. He knew better than that by now. "Looks like good news travels fast," I said. "I'm happy. Having you up to speed is gonna save us loads of time, here."

It was small, some would even say miniscule, but there, in the darting depths of his brown eyes, I saw a tell-tale glint that told me I had successfully piqued the lawyer's interest. "Time for what, exactly?" he asked, voice smooth and calculating; in a word: Ric.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe the dismantling of a certain blonde, with a first name that's an absolute gem of irony."

Ric cocked an eyebrow. "And by dismantling, you mean…" A wedding-band adorned hand gestured at the air coaxingly.

I sighed. Like I said, I liked the guy, loved him even, but damned if he didn't have an annoying flare for dramatics. "Ric, you're not clueless, so if you could please stop acting like it…"

"Pardon me, dear niece-in-law, if I seem a tad confused here," he shot back at me, not snapped, mind you, but the austerity in his voice was obvious. "But not four hours ago, you were prepared to turn Faith Rosco into kindling. But then, you, in a move even more shocking than actually attempting to burn a woman alive, stood down at the last possible second, leaving her trapped inside a MW Sands & Co. Warehouse on Pier 48 in an epic flap, but otherwise unharmed. Perhaps, if you were to look at it from my standpoint, Emily, you could begin to understand why I'm just a little bit unclear about your intentions for Faith." He paused and looked at me, seriousness staving off his inner smartass for just a moment. "That was quite the mixed signal you just sent."

"To whom?"

"Faith, for starters. The newly reinstated five families. Your family… Jason."

I laughed at that one. "Jason? Why the hell would I care about what Jason thinks anymore?"

Ric, who had meandered over to the bar, looked back at me, leveling me with another one of his trademark, X-Ray glances. Sometimes, and oh how he would hate to hear this one, Ric really rather reminded me of Jason. He too possessed that uncanny ability to peer straight past my deflective rhetoric and general bullshit to the truth. I really hated that. "That's just the problem," he said, filling a simple rocks glass with clear liquor. Vodka. Straight up. No ice. No fancy glass. Ric's 'things are about to get heavy' drink. Shit. "You care entirely too much about what Jason thinks. And I'm willing to bet that's precisely why Faith is still breathing. Because your reformed brother managed to throw a big fat monkey wrench in your plans this evening."

See what I mean? Annoying as fu—

"Don't bother glaring at me, Emily. We both know Jason is the only person on this planet who could have ever gotten you to step away from a sure thing like that. You had the woman locked in a doused warehouse, for Christ's sake. A toss of a match and Faith would have been but an unpleasant memory."

Every syllable was true—of-bloody-course—but I wasn't about to admit it. I didn't even want to admit it to myself. I'd spent the last few years telling anyone who'd listen, that Jason Morgan didn't mean a damn thing to me. How the hell was I supposed to explain that all it took for me to crumble like some spineless dolt was for him to look at me with those godforsaken blue eyes and utter one tiny buzzword? How could I ever explain the unnatural power Jason still had over me when I didn't even understand it? So, once again, I chose aversion, my new best friend.

"How do you even know all this stuff, anyway" I snapped at him, exasperated. And it was a completely valid question, aside from being a diversion tactic. This had all gone down on a secluded section of the docks, under pitch black cover of night. The fact that he knew so many details of my unfortunate evening raised more than a few red flags.

He shrugged off the question, gently swirling the colorless liquid that filled his glass. "I have my ways."

"You mean your spies?" I countered.

And he only looked at me, something that said far more than words ever could. Goddamnit. I should have known. "Which one?" I asked. "Which one of my guys have you turned Canary."

Ric laughed and made his way back to the couch, handing me my own drink as he sat. "Calm, down, Emily. I swear I haven't turned any of your thugs into songbirds... yet"

Seizing the glass—a stout tumbler that was all but brimming—I eyed his smug smirk with evident distaste. "That is not amusing. We're talking about my life, here, Mr. District Attorney."

Ric sighed and pressed back into the cushions. "Not that I think it really needs to be said, seeing as though I always believed this to be a sort of unspoken understanding between us, but my position as DA has no bearing on my relationship with you, Emily, nor will it ever. I wish you could just accept that already."

I took a hearty swill of my drink to hide an eye-roll. Did he honestly think I didn't remember his epic battles with Sonny? Sonny was Ric's brother, and I was just his relation by marriage and sort of, kind of friend, and part-time drinking buddy; what chance did I possibly stand against the great District Attorney Richard Lansing?

"That's a nice fantasy, Ric, but get real. In the eyes of everyone in this town you're the good guy and I'm the bad guy; you're expected to spend every waking moment of your existence doggedly pursuing my lifetime incarceration. There's gonna come a day, Ric, despite what you may want, where turning a blind eye for the sake of friendship won't be an option any longer."

"That will never happen, Emily." I looked at him disbelievingly, and his eyes softened just a bit. "Look," he said softly. "I'll be honest with you. Yes, it is my job to lock up the 'bad guys', but you, dearie, are not one of them. Not by a long shot."

"Oh, gimmie a break…" I mumbled into my glass. "You know what I am. What I do."

"That's exactly my point—I do know you," he protested, swiveling in his seat to face me fully. "You may walk the walk, talk the talk and, hell, cross more than the occasional line, but deep down you're still just—"

"If you say 'the sweet, caring girl you used to be', I'm going to slap you. Hard. Right across the nose."

"Well, then wind up, sweetheart, because it's the truth. You're not your brother, and you're certainly not mine, and you never could be, Emily." He smiled softly at me, genuinely, and I felt my heart melt just a little. He really wasn't all that bad, I guess. "You're far too good for that."

Aw, man. He just had to go and ruin it, didn't he?

Good? I was about as far removed from good as you could get. Nope, Saint Emily no longer lived here. She and her precious 'virtue' hit the bricks eons ago. And they weren't coming back. Ever. I took a long drink of the waning liquid in my glass, let it sting its way down my throat, welcoming the burn. Why did everything, everything, have to come back around to something that I'd lost? Why couldn't I have one fucking conversation that didn't end in me pining after something or someone that could never be mine again? Sometimes… sometimes I really just wanted to cry. Nice, huh? Big Bad Emily Morgan-Cassadine, Mob Momma Extraordinaire, just wanted to ball her eyes out sometimes, just wanted to let some of it go, any of it, so that maybe… maybe it wouldn't hurt so much anymore. Maybe. Maybe. God, there was another word I was really starting to hate, and I mean with a righteous passion. Maybe. These days my life was all nevers, maybes, and probably nots. I remember when it used to be full of always, anythings, and forevers. I remember when it used to be a lot of things it isn't now. And with that final thought, I screwed my eyes shut in disgust. See what I mean? Constantly wanting now. Constantly reaching for things that aren't there any more. Things that can never be there again. Fucking pathetic.

Silence had weaved its crafty way around us, a fact that I became oblivious to in my self-loathing haze. That was, until I felt a warm arm settle on my shoulders.

"Believe it or not, Emily," he said in a low vice that may have actually passed as soothing, if he hadn't been him and I hadn't been me. "I know… how you feel."

I hadn't expected him to say that, but now that he'd gotten the words out, the statement struck me right in the chest, because, well, I guess he actually did. Not many people, many people I could still look at anyway, could say that. Ric did know how I felt. He'd been there… here, in this… space. This void that was dark and scary, and at the same time felt so much like home it made you sick inside. He'd walked this path, even teetered on that same precipice of madness that I'd been known to. Except the only difference was that he'd it made through the other side, he kept himself from falling over the edge completely, and I… I couldn't be sure if I'd ever be able to make that claim. Couldn't be sure if I hadn't already fallen more times than I could ever get up.

"You're hurting," he went on, and though part of me really wanted to stop him, probably the same part that couldn't handle talking to Jason anymore, another, more tired part, let him speak. "I can see it your eyes," he said. "In the way you move. Everything from your smiles to your scowls. It's just… pain. Plain and simple, and oh god, Em, I've been there. I've been right where you are."

His hand that had been stroking a gentle rhythm on my arm, tensed now, and I knew the memories were coming back. The darkness of his time with Elizabeth. The depths to which he'd allowed himself to sink in the name of revenge.

"At my lowest point I stood over Elizabeth with a pillow poised above her face. I was actually going to kill her, Emily, until something, maybe the last flickers of humanity that were left in me at that time, maybe even God himself, gave me the strength to realize what insanity I had slipped into, allowed me to stop myself before it was too late." It wasn't a shock; he'd revealed this horror to me before. But it still made me wince, and not just because Elizabeth was my best friend, but because, well… I could actually understand it. I mean, I would never harm Nikolas, I had no reason, insane or otherwise, to do so, but still… I was disturbingly familiar with that kind of desperation. I'd lived and breathed an irrational need for destruction the whole year after Courtney's death. Some say I still do.

"And I don't know if you'll ever reach that kind of a low," he said. "Since wanting to exact revenge on the woman who took a wrecking ball to you and your family's lives, and being prepared to sacrifice someone you love in order to keep a reprehensible secret from being exposed are two entirely different things, but I just want you to know that if it you ever do find yourself at that junction again, like tonight, where you feel like your something, everything inside you is hinging on a single decision…" Words tapered as he met my eyes, a sad, but comforting smile shading his face. "I'm here." He set his glass aside and covered my hand with his own in a movement that was uncharacteristically tender for our relationship. "I just want you to understand that, no matter how bleak it may seem, if I, the original irredeemable psychopath, can step back and turn that pain and anger and hate into this…" his eyes roved fondly over the place he called home with Alexis and Kristina, his wife of seven years and the step-daughter/niece that positively adored him. "Then you, Emily…you can definitely be okay again."

Damn. What… what on Earth do you say to something like that? And, secondly, what was that? A declaration of loyalty is what I wanted to call it, but that may have only been the mob-side of my brain talking. A promise of friendship, unwavering friendship, seemed to fit all Ric had just said so much better, and, to tell you the truth I wasn't sure what to do with it. I just didn't understand. Nikolas, Johnny, Lucky, Elizabeth, Dillon, Georgie, Jax, Alexis, even Jason, in his strained way, and now Ric… how in the hell could someone as royally fucked up as me possibly deserve such blind devotion from so many people? I just… I didn't get it. Didn't they know I wasn't worth it? Couldn't they see that they were putting their faith and encouragement behind someone who just wasn't there anymore? How could they not see that?

Gazing lost at my lap and gripping onto the almost-empty glass in my hand like it was some kind of a lifeline, I struggled with what to say. Ric had just poured his heart out to me and tried to do the older brother thing—which still puzzled me—I couldn't just leave him hanging. I had to say something, however inadequate it ended up sounding…

"I, uh…I…" Okay, so not the most articulate response in history, but, come on. This was quite the load to process here. Ric was already looking down my Road of Recovery, or whatever the hell people called it, planning my 'She Made It' party at the finish line. And me? Ha. I don't think I'd even started down it yet. Hell, I was probably still stuck on some abandoned stretch of back-road, miles and miles away, with a flat tire and a cracked engine block. Who knew if I'd even get there at all? I couldn't think that far ahead. I had a hard time with thinking ten minutes ahead, and my inability to finish my sentence only seemed to illustrate that fact perfectly. After a moment of opening and closing my mouth like some beached tuna, I finally gave up and let my head fall back on Ric's arm with a defeated sigh.

Whatever reaction I'd anticipated out of my 'uncle-in-law', the one I got sure wasn't it. Ric, with a gentleness that nearly startled me, swept my hair back from my face and pressed a simple, chaste kiss to my forehead. "I know, kiddo. I know," he whispered reassuringly. "There's a lot of hurt to work through. Especially in your case. But, eventually, despite how impossible or how appallingly corny it sounds, especially coming from me, you'll get past this. It'll be okay. Trust me, Em."

It'll be okay. Trust me, Em. God, how could two little sentences make you want to take a flying leap of a rooftop… again? It'll be okay. Trust me, Em. The statement, the reassurance, it floated teasingly through my mind, but not in Ric's voice… but in Jason's. So many times, more than I could ever count, my brother, during a time when he was like a god in my eyes, had said those very words to me, softly and with so much conviction I could actually feel it, while he stared deeply into my eyes, always deeply. While I sat cradled in the warm nest of his arms. While he gently stoked my hair and tried to lull me into dreamless sleep. While I still believed he meant it. While I still believed it could be true.

And I guess that was where I hit that infamous wall of mine, because, in a flash, I had opened my eyes, lifted my head, and straightened my back.

Ric was right, partly at least. I would get past this, 'this' being Faith and the immense problem she represented. I would most definitely get past it, and I would start tonight. Like I said, it may not be nearly as satisfying as seeing her take her last, gasping breath, as Jason put it, but it would have to do. For now. My mental track righted and refocused, I looked up at Ric.

"I appreciate the pep talk, Ric, but I didn't come here for a counseling session. I came here to talk strategy. With you."

He looked at me for a long, measured moment, and then carefully withdrew his arm and turned forward. With what looked a hell of a lot like a brood, he took up his glass again and stared blankly ahead. "What do you have in mind?"

By the beaten edge to his words, I knew that I'd gone and done it again. Screwed up a good moment and pushed someone away who was only trying to help. It sent a pang through my gut, but I couldn't afford to dwell right now. Time wasn't on my side, and, with any luck, after tonight it wouldn't be on Faith's either.

"Lorenzo Alcazar," I said.

And this seemed to catch his attention pretty well. Damn well, actually. Ric looked at me, brows furrowed, a tiny smile pulling at his lips. "You're going straight for the heart, aren't you?" Was that pride I heard in his voice? Wouldn't have surprised me one bit, not if the giddy glint in his eyes was any indication.

"The knees, actually," I smiled. "Everybody and their brother—pardon the phase—know that Faith is only the presence she is because Alcazar's in her corner."

"And you mean to change that?"

I smirked at him. This was what I needed from Ric right now. The calculating brilliance that lurked beneath the charming, 'I'm-a-good-guy-now-honest' grin. "I most certainly do. But," I poked at his bicep with a finger. "I can't do it without you."

He shook his head. "Oh, no you don't. I may pretend not to be listening when your name comes up in legal matters, but there's no way I'm letting you drag me into a plot against Lorenzo Alcazar. That's not a line I'm going to cross again. No way."

I let his speech go on uninterrupted because I knew he needed to get it out. He may have still possessed a healthy appreciation for my wicked ways, but he really was flying straight now. I didn't blame him for wanting to make that clear. But hell if I'd let him know that. "If you're finished now, Ric," I said teasingly. "Do you think maybe you could let me?

He rolled his eyes and motioned dramatically for me to go on. "By all means."

"Thank you," I said, turning a bit in my seat so I could face him more fully. "Now, as I was saying. I need you." His eyebrows went up and I waved him off. "Don't get yourself in a twist. I need your advice. That's all."

"My advice?"

"Yes," I said. "You worked for Luis Alcazar, and you had direct dealings with Lorenzo—"

Ric's eyes filled with warning. "Emily, we've gone over this. That was a time in my life that I'm not particularly proud—"

Not even breaking stride I spoke over him. "—and I know you don't like talking about it, Ric, but your past with the Alcazars can offer me insight no one else can, here." The skeptical look he gave me made it apparent that a little persuasion would be in order. "Look," I sighed. "You think my brother is the reason I didn't kill Faith. Fine. You're right. It was Jason. Initially. And then, somehow, me getting…scared turned into a vow of restraint that literally makes me sick, but what I'm trying to say is that regardless of why, as of tonight, Faith's death has been postponed indefinitely. But that doesn't make it the end. Not by a long shot. There's a hell of a lot of legal things that I can do to her, Ric, that'll make her wish she were dead. And number one on that list is taking away her power. And that power is directly connected to Alcazar's backing of her. You know how this guys work, Ric, because once upon a time you were in with that miserable family, and because just how it's your job to shadow me, it's also your job to shadow them." I paused and let a grave look pass between us. "As much as it kills me, I made a promise to my husband, my brother, my cousin, and one of my dearest friends not to kill her, and I may be many things, but I'm no liar. I gave my word and I intend keep it. But I can't just sit by while she taunts me. I need to do something, Ric. And I know we really shouldn't even be having this conversation, but I'm here now and I'm asking, as your friend, will you please help me do this."

Over the past few years of my friendship with Ric, awkward and adversarial at the onset, we'd somehow reached a point where the awkwardness slipped away and made room for something that I supposed would forever remain unnamed. He could never explain the closeness between us, and I certainly couldn't, not even on a good day. I could call it the lacing together of two wounded souls, but that was far too poetic for me. I just knew that when push came to shove, that tie, that anomalous bond we'd forged, would win out over anything. Even Ric's pride.

Even his better judgment.

With closed eyes and a defeated sigh, Ric gave me exactly what I'd been wishing for:

"What do you want to know?"


An hour and a half later.

Our positions were much the same as they were when my little exploration of Ric's vaulted 'early years' began. I was still on the couch, only Ric was now sitting on the coffee table next to what had been a fairly full bottle of quality vodka, looking an interesting mixture between appalled and… blurry.

"Emily, you—you can't be serious. Please tell me you're joking. Please." Oh, and he kinda sounded like he was underwater, too. Heh. "Emily. Emily, did you hear me?"

The slight bark in Ric's tone proved sobering. Well, okay, maybe not so much sobering as… attention grabbing. I straightened and looked straight at him, doing my best to ignore how he seemed to be flaring out at the edges. "Of course I heard you, silly. You're sitting right in front of me."

That didn't appear to amuse him in any measure because his eyes got all narrowed and squinty. "Emily, don't be cute. It doesn't suit you."

"It used to."

"Emily." Now that, that sounded like a growl. Why the hell was he being so uptight? It wasn't like I was suggesting unleashing the dogs of Mob-War on Alcazar. My method wasn't anything like that. No, in fact, it was, in my humble opinion, all very… civilized, in a really sneaky, somewhat icky kind of way. But I could deal with the icky. Honest, I could. But, apparently, Mr. Legal Eagle across from me was having a slightly more difficult time swallowing my—our new idea. He was my inspiration, after all.

"Oh, unclench, would ya?" I said wearily, reaching for the not-quite-empty bottle of Belvedere to his right. "I don't know what bug crawled up you're a—"

"Give me that," he snapped, ripping the both the bottle and the tumbler from my hands. "I'm officially cutting you off. I have no idea what I was thinking, letting you down practically half a bottle of premium vodka. When Alexis gets home, she's going to absolutely hit the roof…"

As Ric droned on, I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the couch cushions. God, I had no idea what time it was, but I knew it had to be late, like almost midnight late. If I wanted to still be married in the morning I knew I'd better get my butt off that couch, collect my guard, and get the hell home. With a sigh, and way more effort than it probably would have taken had I not just gotten all free with the Spirits, I sat up again and tried to stand.

Operative word being tried.

I swayed on my feet and Ric's arms jutted out to steady me. He was scowling like a madman. "Alright, this is exactly why I refuse to believe that you are serious about this new 'plan' for Alcazar. You're just drunk and—"

"And what Ric," I said from the protective halo of his arms. "Taking out of my ass?"

Ric rolled his eyes. "Geez, Em, I forgot how getting tanked brings out your eloquent side. The heiress lives."

"Bite me."

"Oh, and the lady's got a silver tongue to boot. Watch out, folks, no one's safe from this girl's witty repartee."

I glared so hard it made my head hurt. Okay, well, to be fair that throbbing pain was probably from something else… like seven (or was it eight?) shots I'd just had. That being said, the room started to spin like a record. I pressed a hand over my eyes and held onto Ric for dear life. "Holy shit, this is New York. We're not supposed to have earthquakes…" I mumbled into his chest.

Ric covered the back of my head with a steady hand. "Okay, I think its time for someone to go home." With a sigh, he gently lowered me back onto the couch. "Stay here while I go get Max, and don't… throw up on anything, okay?"

I wanted to toss a biting comment back, but to be honest most of my energy was focused on keeping Ric's living room from resembling a demented theme park ride. Note to Self: Hard liquor in exorbitant doses—NOT GOOD.

A few minutes later I heard the front door fly open and then: "Christ, Lansing! What the hell did you do?"

"Do? Max, I didn't do anything."

"You know Emily can't hold her booze. A couple of shots and she's—Belvedere?! Straight?! Are you outta your fuckin' mind? Jesus. Why didn't you just brain her upside the head with the bottle and be done with it."

"Relax, Giambetti. Your boss is a big girl; I didn't force the stuff down her throat."

I popped open an eye and looked up at my bodyguard. Whoa. He so didn't look happy. He looked like he wanted to pistol whip Ric where he stood. But then his gaze shifted to me and it softened considerably. He ducked down to my level and gave me a wan smile. "You okay, Em?" Gently he brushed my hair back from my face. "You set to go home now?"

Home. Oh, God, yes. I nodded and began sitting up, but the effort was impeded by a strong pair of arms clad in a Brooks Brothers jacket. "Easy does it," Max said softly, pulling me to my feet. I tried to shrug off the help—I wasn't that drunk. I sure as hell didn't need to be carried around like some—

Son of a bitch, I freakin' swayed again. Damnit. And the Ric laughter? Yeah, didn't exactly need that. Glaring at my secret legal council, Max looped an arm around my waist and led us toward the door. "That's right, yuck it up, chucklehead," Max snapped. "She ralphs in the beamer and I'm gonna make you clean it up."

Ric moved past us to open the door. "She's not that drunk, Max. She may be a little tipsy on her feet but other than that she's perfectly fine. Oh, and, btw," Ric's hand came to rest on my shoulder. "Put that nonsense plan out of your head, Emily. It's too risky, and too insane."

"What plan?" Max asked.

I ignored Max's question and answered Ric instead. "You're just nervous because you helped me come up with it. Mr. Squeaky Clean DA got his hands a little dirty and helped hatch a plot for a takedown."

I felt Max's fingertips cut into my side a little. "Whoa—takedown? What Takedown, Emily?"

"It's nothing, Max," Ric said, eyes narrowed on me warningly. "Or at least it better be nothing." I might have been three sheets to the friggin' wind, but I knew a Daddy Tactic when I heard one. I rolled my eyes.

"Don't even pull that eye-rolling crap with me, Em," Ric snapped, all I have to say, it took quite a bit of effort not to pale at his tone. "Lorenzo may have a soft spot for leggy women who carry a sidearm, but I don't want this little Carly-esque plot to ever—and I do mean ever—see the light of day. You hear me?"

In Ric's gaze, hell, even right through the man's fingers, I could feel the utter conviction with which he spoke. He did not want me to go through with this. And maybe I didn't either, but, right then, it was one of the only solutions I could see. Yes, it was dirty and underhanded, but desperate times, right? You work with what you got, and what I had then was limited. And limited options to choose from usually meant that any decision you did make, was bound to upset somebody. It just so happened that this decision was going to upset everybody. Even my not-quite lawyer. Even me.

But unpleasantness aside, and even in my almost tanked state, I could still recognize the necessity in this new course of action I'd set before myself and my organization. And in my new life, the life I'd been living for the past six years, necessity of action, no matter how ugly, how brutal, or how twisted, would always win out in the end. Simply put, you do what you have to do to survive. And the rest? The emotional consequences? You buck up and find a way to just deal… or you go crazy trying. And I wasn't about to lose my marbles over Mob Barbie and her slick-talking sidekick. I'd endure anything to finally put an end to Faith's reign of terror in PC. Anything. Even this. And that was a truth Ric would just have to come to terms with. A truth they'd all have to come to terms with. Like it or not.

A tiny standoff had erupted in the doorway between myself and Ric, and I suppose the infusion of anger and resentment that always went hand in hand with thinking about Faith, had somehow managed to water down the effect of those drinks I'd downed, because suddenly Ric wasn't so blurry anymore, and I found myself pushing out of Max's hold and moving purposefully into the hall, and all by my lonesome, too. Ric's voice sounded out behind me.

"Emily, don't go through with this. You asked me for something before, as your friend, and now it's my turn. Do not go at Alcazar this way. Find some other avenue. Please."

I turned to him from the hall and quirked an eyebrow. "And do you honestly believe that any other 'avenue' has the same potential as this one, Ric? Even comes close at all?"

For a few tense seconds he tried to stare me down, but eventually truth triumphed and Ric looked away. He knew I was right. This was it, the key to dismantling Faith the legal way, and there wasn't a damn thing he could say to the contrary. His way of thinking wouldn't allow it. Ric was a strategist to his very core and, though one of the oldest tricks in the book, my method of attack here was golden and he damn well knew it.

Not really one to gloat, I moved forward and gave the older man a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for the council, Ric," I said softly, and then smirked. "And for the drinks. I'll see you later."

But before I could get too far away, a hand locked tightly around my wrist and drew me back. Though firm, there was gentleness to his grip; a slight brushing of his thumb across my pulse point that echoed softness and caring. It urged me without words to look at him. The raw concern I saw in his eyes made my breath catch. "Just… be careful," he whispered.

Two words, so simple, but somehow they meant more to me than I could even say. So I smiled my gratitude instead. "Goodnight, Ric."

And with that, I turned and left him there, standing alone in the hall while Max trailed closely after me.


Ten minutes later…

The glow from passing streetlamps and headlights flooded the dark cab of the Beamer every few seconds, and in the stillness Max's voice broke in, soft and tentative. "Emily, if you don't mind me asking, what—what were you and Ric talking about up there?"

I sighed and pulled my eyes forward from the scenery. "A turning point," I said.

The car gave a tiny lurch as we met a stoplight. Max glanced at me through the rearview. "You mean like a new strategy? For taking Faith out?"

"Something like that."

"And this new strategy or whatever—it has you going through Alcazar to get to her?" I nodded and my bodyguard's brow furrowed. "Far be it from me to side with Lansing, but, well, are you sure about this? Alcazar… he's…"

"A different animal, I know. God help me, I know." Closing my eyes, I dragged hand through my hair. My head was killing me, and I'd just suffered through one of the worst days in history. I didn't really want to talk or think about anything—especially this—anymore tonight. "Look, Max, you think you can do me a favor?"

"Name it."

"I know you're curious, and I promise I'll let you in on everything in the morning. But right now, do you think you could just get us home. I don't know how much more of this day I can take."

"Sure thing, Em," he said, eyes retraining on the slick streets ahead of him as we began to move again. "Anything you need."



Next Chap: Confined Spaces—Jason POV: Emily may want the night finished, but, dearie, it's far from it. -- A guilty conscience sends Jason on a mission to reconnect with his sister, and a twist of Fate sees to it that he gets just that—no matter how painful the journey.

(a/n) Just a tiny heads up for those of you I threw completely off during that awkward argument in the first segment (the Liz/Georgie thing). It's a builder for a future GQ story; a companion piece for Fettered that I may begin writing after this one is completed (that is if the stupid writers for the show don't kill my GQ love once and for all with Georgie's recent antic. (stop mauling your cousin!) And don't even get me started on Dillon's limp noodle fiasco or this new To Wong Foo crap. [grumbles] I hate Guza and Pratt. I truly do. They keep this up, and I'll be left with no other options but to become an Astrid/Dillon shipper. Idiots.). It won't have any bearing on this story's plot so, until I use it down the line in my GQ story, don't even worry about it, okay? It just needed to plug it in there for my plotline in the GQ story to have legitimacy.

Also, I know there was no Em/Jase interaction this chapter, but the next two chapters will only involve them, so I think that'll sufficiently make up for it. :o) Oh, and how did you guys like the Emily/Ric stuff? If you read my stuff you know that I just love the reformed nut, so I just had to put him in this. Plus, I think Ric meshes well with this Emily, friendship wise. He's been in her place, felt that desperation and loss. I think having him as a friend and confidant may be good for her.

Liz/Jax: I stressed over this one but I really had no clue who else to put her with. It couldn't be lucky. I have plans for him... So, anyway, I know its kinda out there, but I think it could be good. :o)

Tiny note: I mentioned Em never being a girl scout and then I had a thought—she wasn't, right? I mean, did I forget something from her youth? Call me crazy, but this little fact is totally bugging me. I'm such a dork that way.

Well, I'm outta here for now. Don't forget to review, and I'll see you all next update! Bye!! --Loke