(a/n) One last thing: In the first chapter I said Jimmy was a year older than Emily. Forget that. I've made him three years older than her. It may not seem like much but for the time they were together, I think the bigger age difference will better explain why Emily had/has such a dependency on him and why he was such a central part of life.

Shifting Paths


Chapter Three: Out with the Old…


The sun was out in full force, making her clothes—a simple yellow tank top and a worn denim skirt—cling to her lithe frame, and ride up her thighs in a way that Aunt Corrie would have told her looked 'indecent.' But, sitting there on the abandoned swing set, a cloudless 103 degree sky blazing mercilessly above her, Emily didn't much care. Actually no—that wasn't quite true; she hoped it did look indecent and managed to attract the 'wrong element', too. At least then she'd have something a little more interesting to do than sitting there sweating to death. But that in itself was pure wishful thinking; nothing interesting ever happened in Warren, and even less happened during a Warren summer. Emily sighed resignedly. She was doomed to rot on that swing set. Well, until dinner at least.

Crafting random patterns in the sand with her sneaker, Emily was contemplating the idea of crashing Ryan's shift at Hattie's Diner and forcing him to entertain her when a shadow fell across her masterpiece.

She stared at it. Hmm. She knew that shadow. A lump rose in her throat. Okay, she coached herself, be calm. Don't freak out. Maybe if she closed her eyes and opened them again, the shadow and its bearer would be gone. Taking an especially long blink, Emily popped an eye and chanced a peek.

Damn. Still there.

She calmly bit down on her tongue to keep from screaming out in panic. The aforementioned 'wrong element' in Warren she could more than handle. The people who thought they were the 'wrong element' were all pretty much harmless teenage boys trying everything in their pubescent power to get laid. No real crime in that. They were actually quite useful in the comic-relief department.

But this shadow was a different story. This shadow wasn't remotely funny and he didn't just try to get laid. He succeeded. And often. Very often. And lately he'd seen fit to place her smack dab in the crosshairs of his naughty, determined mind. A plaice she'd thought she'd wanted to be, had actually worked quite hard at to be, but now wasn't so sure about anymore. Truthfully, now that she knew a little better what this particular position entailed, the idea of filling it kinda scared the hell out of her. Like, a lot

The shadow shifted, arms crossing, and Emily was jolted back to reality. Probably speaking would be a good idea, she thought. Probably that's what Mr. Shadow was waiting for. Emily slumped down in the swing seat and chewed nervously at her lip. Probably she had no clue what to say and so he'd be waiting a while.

"Aren't you gonna say hello?" The voice was familiar and affecting; a rolling baritone that sent little sparks to all kinds of places.

Emily bit her lip again. She couldn't not say hello (that was just bad manners), but if she did that would only open the floodgates to, you know, actual conversation with him and that had a way of leading to…unique situations. Especially in their case. After a long moment though, good breeding, or at least what could pass for it, won out in the end.

"Hello." Ha! There, she thought. She'd said it and no chasms in the Earth had opened up to swallow her whole. No way in Hell was she going to look at him, though. That would be pushing her luck and would definitely lead to trouble. Big trouble.

Above her, the sound of a clucked tongue caught the warm summer breeze. "Come on, now. You know you can do better than that."

Oh, this one was tough. She knew he was baiting her on purpose and she didn't want to fall for it…again, but she hated when he used that tone. It just begged for her to smart-ass him back. "Would you have preferred 'Howdy?'" Clearly, her resolve in this department was lacking as well. Damn. She was 0 for 2.

Her quip was rewarded with a laugh. Low and deep and soft, just like his voice. There went the sparks again. Crap.

"No," he said slowly, his shadow inching ever closer to her. "What I'd prefer, is for you to look at me."

Ha! Like she was going to take that risk. Pfft. Emily kicked stubbornly at the sand. "Sorry. No can do."

Another laugh; more sparks. Goddamn hormones.

"And why not?"

To her horror she actually answered him. The smart thing to do would have been to shrug and keep on swingin', but, well, hello. This was her. The Smart Thing was often times railroaded and crushed to death by the Impulsive Thing. Standard Bowen trait, or so she'd been told. Your lips start moving before your brain does. And that's just what happened. "Because," she huffed. "As long as I don't initiate eye-contact, I'm safe." The second the words were out, Emily was left to marvel at her own stupidity. Safe? Jeez Louise, did that just come out of my mouth? She couldn't have done more to encourage the big jerk if she'd lunged at him and rammed her tongue down his throat.

An evil smile, one she couldn't see (though, the shadow's cheeks did seem fuller), pulled at his mouth. "That's bullshit."

Well, yeah. But it wasn't like she wasn't going to admit it. Another standard Bowen trait. Instead she gritted her teeth and stood her ground, no matter how shaky. "It's a very valid theory," she snapped, and then paused. "And it is not bullshit. Out of sight, out of mind."

A pair of hands came down on top of hers and brought her swinging to a halt. He stroked gentle circles on the backs of her hands with his ring fingers. "I'm not so sure that's true, Babe," he whispered, and Emily's heart stuttered in her chest. Ever the daring one, he stepped closer, nudging her foot to the side with his, making room for himself to stand between her legs. His head was lowered and close; his breath warm on her overheated skin. "But if you don't believe me…I could always prove it to you."

That lump in her throat quadrupled in size and Emily felt her mouth go dry. "Stop it."

He dragged his thumbs slowly over her pulse points. "Stop what?"

Ahh! That was it. He could play this game all damn day and never (never!) get tired of it. He lived for the Cat and Mouse thing, thrived off it even, but Emily on the other hand was pretty fed up with it. Incensed she looked up at him and was immediately struck by the wicked smirk he wore. Her look gave way to a glare. "You know exactly what I'm talking about! You have to stop this, Jimmy. Travis is gonna murder you if you don't."

His eyes, pale hazel, narrowed slightly like he was considering something, but only for an instant. "You're overreacting," he told her finally.

"Overreacting! You got caught, by my uncle, with your hand up my skirt. In church!" Emily squinted at his unaffected demeanor in disbelief. "How can you possibly be so calm about this?"

"First off, sweetheart, we got caught. And second, I'm calm because I'm totally innocent."

"Innocent…?" She blinked at him. "Are—are you high?"

"No, I'm not," he said. "I'm tellin' ya, Babe—I'm a perfectly innocent man."

She reined in a guffaw. "Oh, riiiiiight. So, that was some other Jimmy Stafford getting all acquainted with my undies in the back pew of St. Anne's?"

Jimmy grinned, wide and utterly sinful. "Oh, no, that was definitely me. But I was just doing my sacred duty as a Christian."

Lord, she was afraid to ask. But she did anyway. "And that would be…?"

His eyes got dark, gleaming wickedly, and before she knew what was happening, Jimmy was kneeling in front of her and had a hand on each of her thighs. Fingertips, calloused from football and guitar, trailed upward, teasing the hem of her skirt. "Showing appreciation for one of God's most…precious creations."

Holy shit! For a good ten seconds that was all she could think. But then reality came crashing back, and Emily realized that Jimmy Stafford was trying, for the second time in four days, to get into her panties. And he was using God as a wing man. She glared at him again. "You are twisted."

Jimmy shrugged and leaned back on his heels. "Probably. But you like me anyway."

Her eyes popped indignantly. "I do not!"





Jimmy grinned at her. "Methinks the Lady doth protest too much."

Emily crossed her arms. "Methinks you're an ass."

And at that moment Jimmy's grin did something very dangerous. It lost its arrogance, and turned warm and soft and…genuine. He reached out and touched the side of her face, just a gentle touch. Nothing sinister or sexual. Just a touch. But they both felt its power. It was raw and frighteningly real. And, God help her, it was everything.


Emily blinked her eyes to clear away the memory. But it wasn't nearly that simple and she had a feeling it never would be. She sighed, pushing a little deeper into the confines of her seat and stared, not really seeing, out the plane's window.


The way Jimmy had touched her face that day, so gentle and telling, it had been everything. And, at least in her eyes, it had continued to be. Up until two weeks ago. Then Everything turned into Nothing.

But she didn't want to think about that now; because if she did she'd just drive herself crazy trying to pin down a reason why, to pick out a specific moment in time when it all shifted and they lost their Everything. And she didn't want to do that. It hurt too much. And in her heart she knew that she'd never really find the answers she wanted. It's a little difficult to find things that don't exist.

They didn't end because of any one thing; they ended because it was time. They'd been together for five years, an eternity to someone their age. They'd loved each other with ferocity and passion she thought reserved only for the movies, but that was the whole problem. You can only burn so bright, for so long. Eventually, even the hottest of flames die out. It was a tired cliché but it was true. It wouldn't be a cliché if it didn't apply at least some of the time. She and Jimmy had finally run their tumultuous course. It was sad, confusing even, but it happens. That simply had to be good enough for her.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our final descent into Port Charles; if you'd please make sure your safety belts are securely fastened..." The Stewardess' kind voice chirped through the cabin and Emily, pulled from her thoughts again, tugged reflexively on her seatbelt just to check. And then peered—this time with focused eyes—at the approaching skyline.

She'd never been to Port Charles. She'd heard of it. In fact, she even knew someone who lived there. A woman she'd met in a different life. She'd been kind and genuine. A tender soul who, to this day, despite how difficult it was to look back on that time in her life, still sprung to Emily's mind ever so often. Funny how such a brief encounter with a person can sometimes affect you so deeply, especially when you're a kid. But then a lot of things from her childhood had affected her deeply. Not nearly enough in a positive manner.

So, then maybe the memory of that woman, with her bright blue eyes and endearing smile, had played some part, however small, in her decision to come here. But Emily was convinced that's all it was. Just the feeling she got when she thought of the city. That there, somewhere in that jumble of sprawling estates and high rise buildings, was one of the last people on Earth who her mother ever considered a friend. It wasn't like Emily intended to contact her or anything, but the knowledge that she was there made the endeavor in front of her just a little less daunting. And, in some strange way, it made her feel just a little closer to her mother, something Emily had been striving to feel for almost ten years now, and had always managed to fall short of.

But even though, inwardly, she was grappling with the idea of seeking out Monica Quartermaine, she kept telling herself it would be a mistake. It was enough that she'd let such a vague memory be her compass for such a hugely important decision, she didn't need to further complicate things by trying to meet the woman. And besides, what would they have to talk about? Her mother was dead, and Monica was alive. Call her crazy, but Emily just couldn't envision the cheery conversation in that.

No, she thought, forcing herself to swallow the idea, she had her own memories of Paige. She didn't need some woman, Paige's friend or not, to tell her anything more about her mother. And that wasn't even what all this was about. It was about carving a way for herself and finding out who in the hell she really was. The last thing she needed, especially now, was to get wrapped up in the world of a bunch of people she barely knew. It just wouldn't be a good idea.

The runway began to draw nearer and Emily let the finality of the plane's descent wash over her. This was it. In a few short minutes they'd be on the ground and the doors would open and she'd be stepping into a new existence, one where Georgia summer days filled with smirking boys and wandering hands, were far, far behind her. Out there was a new beginning, and this time she'd be the one in control, the one calling the shots. The idea sent a giddy thrill down her spine. Her. Just little Emmie. And sure as Hell not some drop dead gorgeous, pale-eyed blond.

Yeah, right. Like she'd ever let that happen again.



Next Chapter: Wherein Jason and Sonny come across a problem, Emily rents a room, does some apartment hunting, and happens upon an attempted murder in progress. Welcome to Port Charles.

(a/n) Its super short I know, but I think I'm going to take a different approach with this story. I'm going to keep the chapters all pretty short; I think that may help me with getting them out quickly. But anyway, hoped you guys like it, and I promise this will be the last "she's heading out on her own" chapter; I know how boring that can be. Starting with the next chapter things will pick up speed a lot, not so many internals (only when we need background). The good stuff is on its way! Promise! Also, because I'm frightfully lazy, the PC setup, as in the current goings on, will come NEXT chapter. There's a lot I need to get straight, lol.

Oh, and don't forget to review! Thanks!

Laters! –Loke :o)