(A/N)Hey guys, it's me again. And before my faithful readers of my other fics get upset at me for starting yet another project, let me say that I'm sorry, but that I just can't help myself. It's a sickness and I am seeking help. :-p

Anyway, I got the idea for this story one day while watching that movie Sliding Doors. I just took the basic concept (the 'what-if' question) and went hog-wild with it. The plot doesn't mirror the movie at all, so don't worry. In fact, I'm not entirely sure that there even is a plot yet, lol.

Here's the basic set up:

The story is about Emily, duh. I don't really think I'm capable of writing anything else, lol. Anyway, it centers on her and what could have become of her life if Emily's mother hadn't been estranged from her sister Corrie, and if once Paige had passed, Corrie had been more than willing to take Emily. It's massively far-fetched, but bear with me here. This is fan fiction. Live a little.

Anyway, the story starts just as Emily gets some pretty crushing news and as a result embarks on a new chapter in her twenty-year-old life, bringing her to none other than Port Charles, everyone's favorite city. Now remember, in this fic, I'm removing any incidences where Emily may have met the Qs (aside from Monica) previously—since her mother's relationship with Emily's aunt was solid and she never moved to PC during Paige's last months—so that when she gets to town, she'll basically be anonymous—aside from Monica. She'll just be a girl making a fresh start and who inadvertently gets tangled up with all the people she would have known if things had been different. Again, I know, this is totally far-fetched. But I really like the idea and I think it'll be fun to play with. It'll give me a chance to take a stab at building relationships, instead of just drawing off existing bonds, like Jason and Em's for instance. Plus, I plan on making this story a nice break from my super angst-driven stories. This one will be lighter, maybe even have itty-bitty traces of gasp fluff later on down the road. I don't know yet. So yeah; I'll reveal as we go. It'll be more fun that way. Or at least I hope it will be. lol

Other notes, on the PC crew: Okay, since we won't get Emily into PC for a couple of chapters yet, I'll leave the summarizing of all that to a later date, since it'll probably take a while. Oy.

Shifting Paths


Chapter One: The Goodby Girl


I'm leaving today

I'm living it, leaving it to change –"Cruz" Christina Aguilera


It had to be a mistake. That was all a thunderstruck Emily Bowen could think. It just had to be some sort of mistake. She cocked her head to the side, not understanding, and focused her dark eyes on the man sitting on the couch in her living room.


The young man, a tanned twenty-something with messy dirty-blonde hair and cut-you-to-the-bone hazel eyes, gazed back up at her, his sharp-featured face set and determined. "I said, maybe we should take a break." He shrugged his leather-clad shoulders nonchalantly. "You know, give each other some space."

Emily still wasn't getting this. He couldn't mean what she thought he meant. He wouldn't dare… "Space?" she echoed him, saying the word as if she'd never hear of it before.

"Yeah, space," he answered. It was evident in the twitching of his jaw muscles that his patience was wearing thin. It made Emily want to slap him. "Breathing room."

Why that little bastard… Suddenly Emily wasn't confused anymore. Nope, she was pissed. Royally. "What—three thousand miles isn't enough? You've been living in L.A. for six months, Jimmy, how much more breathing room do you need?"

Jimmy sighed wearily. "I don't know, Emmie. More?"

"Any more 'breathing room' and you'll be living in the frickin' Pacific Ocean!" she exploded, and then closed her eyes and tried desperately to calm down; she didn't want to lose it right now. It was too easy to lose it when it came to him. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out…

For the past five years, Jimmy Stafford, an up-and-comer on the local rock circuit, had been her boyfriend. But they had been friends much longer, having gone to both one year of intermediate and most of high school together. In her senior year, Jimmy decided that their home—Warren County, Georgia—wasn't where he wanted to be to further his career, so he left and moved to Miami. Why there, she wasn't entirely sure. But it didn't matter. As soon as she could, Emily followed him, leaving everything that wouldn't come with her behind, and doing it without question. That had been two years ago. And though he had since relocated—again—she stayed because Jimmy made it clear that at the end of the day this was where he wanted to be. In Miami. With her. But Emily wasn't stupid; she knew Jimmy was a driven man and that his dreams of 'hitting it big' would take him away from Miami, maybe even for good one day—if his band ever got their big break. She saw that coming.

But she never saw this coming.

Sure, things had been rocky between them lately, but then that's just the way she and Jimmy were. They fought like hell and made up like bunnies. Their relationship had always resembled a really out-there rollercoaster ride; it went up and down and back and forth, had moments that made you so happy you could scream, turned your stomach in knots, and others that scared the hell out of you. But in the end it was always okay. They always ended up back on solid ground. Never fail. That was why she just didn't get where this was coming from….

Still not trusting herself to look at him, Emily thought it was best to sit before gravity took care of that problem for her. "Jimmy… Jim, I don't understand…"

"What's there to understand?" he barked, his voice finding an edge that only served to confuse Emily further. "We knew going into this it wasn't going to be easy. Or have you already forgotten the fight we had when I left Miami?"

She shook her head sadly. No, she hadn't forgotten. The fight had been epic, more screaming and yelling and crying than she'd ever partaken in. Aunt Corrie and Uncle Travis had spent hours on the phone with her, trying to calm her down. Emily had been livid, she felt so hurt, so abandoned. But, again, that had been a whole six months ago. And they'd survived it, they'd come out alive. Slowly, Emily met his eyes. And then instantly wished she hadn't. Staring back at her was the face of a man who wanted out. She couldn't see anything in them but impatience. No conflicting emotions. No sadness. No remorse. No hint of the person she'd fallen in love with when she was fifteen-years-old. Nothing. It made her stomach roll over.

"Look, I should probably go," he said, bouncing to his feet in one fluid motion. "My flight leaves in an hour."

Instantly, Emily, torn from her lamentations, and was on her own feet. She reached out and grabbed his arm as he tried to move past her. "Wait—you're just going to leave? Just like that?"

Hazel boring into chestnut, he sighed again, but this time, to her relief, she heard traces of sadness in it. "It's for the best, Emmie. You may not see that now, but you will. Eventually."

"Eventually? Five goddamn years together, Jimmy, and all you can give me is 'eventually'?" Emily's fingers dug deeper into his arm, tears filling her eyes. How could this be happening? They were supposed to be forever. "I can't believe you…"

"Look, I'm sorry. I know it doesn't count for anything and that you probably hate me right now, but this is the way it has to be. It's over." Jimmy ducked his head for a moment and then looked back at her, his eyes devoid of the impatience she saw before. They were filled with what looked almost like pity to her now. He raised a calloused hand to her face and gently ran his thumb over her cheek.

"Goodbye, Emily."

Two Weeks Later…

The city buzzed around her, in all its urban glory. The night sky was deep ebony which should have been midnight blue, had it not been for the street lamps and neon glare of a lit-up Miami. The city was in full effect around her, burning bright and flashy, as always, while the fresh breeze off the water swirled around it all, doing little to cool the frenzy that was Miami at night. And Emily watched all this from a window in her apartment, deep in contemplation.

Yes, the city was an epicenter of energy and life, and while she'd lived here she'd loved it. But the reason she came here—and stayed here—to begin with just up and took off, glided out of town two weeks ago on a United flight bound for the West Coast. And where did that leave her?

As Emily's brown eyes skimmed the fluorescent jumble before her, and then out to the water that stretched forever, she couldn't help but feel out of place. Miami was a wonderful city and a great place to live. But it wasn't hers, and it never had been. It had all been some borrowed dream, a life built upon someone else's ambition.

But what did she want? What did she, Emily Bowen, want to make of her life?

Funny, she thought, she'd never asked herself that question before. Follow blindly, that was more how she worked, at least when it came to Jimmy. But now Jimmy was gone and Emily didn't know what to do next.

And then it hit her.

Anything she wanted.

She didn't have to move in-step to what would make Jimmy Stafford's life easier anymore, to what would help him go that extra mile. She didn't have to think about anyone else. She was an adult and now she was free. For the first time since she was fifteen her life could be just that—hers. Her ideas, her desires, her dreams, and her decisions. Just her.

A tiny smile broke over Emily's face. This had started out an ending, but now she knew better. It was a beginning. It was her chance to start over.

And that was exactly what she'd do.

The Next Day…

"What's with the suitcase?"

Emily looked up. Standing in the doorway of her bedroom was someone she'd spent nearly all her adolescent years getting into unbelievable trouble with, her certified partner-in-crime, Ryan Hewitt—one of the things that 'came with her' when she left Warren County. But unlike her, Ryan had actually set down roots here, came because he wanted to, not because he felt he had to.

Sighing, Emily let her eyes rove over her friend fondly: his roguishly handsome face was muted by a sullen frown and a pair of concerned eyes. It reminded Emily that she still had things worth holding onto here. But as quickly as it turned up, she pushed the thought down and became determined not to let it change her mind. She looked away from him and set about folding a peach-colored blouse.

"I'm leaving," she said simply.

She expected him to surge over to her and dump the suitcase on the ground, all while yelling "don't be an idiot!" at her. But it never happened. Instead, after a few very long moments, Ryan, tall-framed, broad-shouldered, and raven-haired, broke the threshold and lazily crossed the room to Emily. Peering over her shoulder he raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at the open suitcase and strewn about clothing that littered her made bed. "This about Jimmy?"

She almost laughed then because as valid as his question was, he couldn't have been further off the mark. "No, Ryan," she said glancing up at him. "For once this isn't about Jimmy. It's about me."

Ryan rocked back on his heels and pocketed his hands, nodding easily. Like he was absorbing it all in stride. Nice and easy-like. "Where are you goin'?"

She shrugged her shoulders, looking anywhere but at him. If she looked at him during this interrogation, she'd chicken out. And that was the last thing she wanted. "I was thinking New York, maybe. Any place that isn't here or L.A., basically."

"What about home? Corrie? I'm sure she'd be glad to see you."

Emily shook her head sternly. Home wasn't a viable choice, either. Besides, it wasn't really home. It was Aunt Corrie's home. She'd never felt that connection to it that Corrie did. It was just another place to her. A nice place, same as Miami, but still just a place. "No," she said. "I don't want to burden Corrie and Travis again. Besides, it wouldn't feel right, you know? Not after the way I left."

She heard Ryan cluck his tongue to the side of her. "Riiiiiight," he drawled in that southern accent he was utterly convinced he didn't have. "And this wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you hated it there?"

"I didn't hate it there."

"Oh, come on. You could hardly wait to skip town."

She looked up at him them, giving him a pointed glare. "Neither could you," she shot back.

He didn't pale or budge, just held his ground as usual, face firm and unmovable. "I'm gay, Em. That wasn't skipping town. That was being smart. Call it survivor's instinct."

Emily waved her hand dismissively and went back to packing. "Nonsense," she tutted. "Nothing would have happened to you there. Everybody loved you."

"Because everybody didn't know," he snapped. Sighing wearily, he raked a hand through his hair. "Look, this isn't about me, Emily. I'm glad I left Warren County, and I'm glad I came here. I'm not the one looking to up and leave again. That would be you."

For what seemed like the hundredth time since he'd shown up, Emily paused from her packing and stared blankly at the clothes on her bed while she spoke, not really seeing. "Ryan… there isn't anything here for me anymore."

"Not anything?" She heard the climb to his tone, the pinch of hurt there. It made her look at him. "What about me?" he asked her, his pale green eyes reflecting the hurt in his voice.

Emily crumbled a bit inside, just as she knew she would. "Don't be silly," she said softly, abandoning her suitcase and crossing over toward him. She snuck her arms around his waist in a familiar hug, and buried her face in his shoulder. "You know I love you, Ry."

Emily felt Ryan's hand curve up her back and hold her there, and she knew he was trying to keep her from leaving, and in more ways than one. "Yeah, I know," he replied sadly. "But just not enough to stick around, right?"

She cringed at his words and pulled back enough to look straight into his eyes, the eyes that had seen right through her from the time she was eleven years old, ever since her first day in Warren County. She knew that part of him got what she was doing, but that another part just didn't want to let go of his best friend. She felt the same way. She would miss him, but she had to take this step, and before she did, she wanted him to understand why this so important.

"You were right before," she said. "This isn't about you or about how much I care for you—which you know damn well is a hell of a lot. It's about what's right for me, about what I want. And this town isn't what I want. It never was. It was Jimmy's stepping stone, the path to his future. And now that he's moved on without me…" She shrugged her shoulders, a sadness that broke Ryan's heart creeping into her eyes. "Ryan, I need to find out that there's more to me than just what existed for him. And that's not going to happen here or in Warren. I need to find my own way, Ry. I need to do this for myself. Please understand that."

Ryan let a sad smile curve his lips as he looked down at her beautiful face. He could see the determination in it, the same look she'd had when they were twelve and Billy Walters said she was just a 'stupid girl', and that she couldn't climb to the top of the water tower like he could. Well, after she'd given him a black eye, she proved Billy Walters wrong that day and did it with that same stone-faced determination. And something told Ryan that this would be no different. Sure, there wasn't any battered-up Billy Walters heckling her from the ground, but there still was a tower of sorts, an obstacle. One she would conquer. And this time she wouldn't be proving something to Billy or to anyone else, for that matter. She'd be proving it to herself.

Ryan had the sudden urge to laugh. Wherever this girl ended up had better be prepared for one hell of a storm, because Emily Bowen was coming their way.

And she was a woman on a mission.


Next Chap: In which Emily hops a plane, bids farewell to her old life, and hello to her new one.

P.S: So… intrigued so far, repulsed… bored to tears? Let me know either way. I know this first chap was slow but it was a builder that needed to be done before I shipped her off to PC. And a few days have passed since my top note so I now have tons of things planned for this story, especially for Emily's interactions with PC folk. I'm actually kinda excited about it (I'm such a dork). So, anyway, please take a minute to review and let me know if I should green-light this or not.

Oh, and yes, Emily will be getting her romance on once she gets acclimated in PC, I just haven't decided with whom yet. I'm totally open to suggestions… as long as they don't include Nikolas. ;)