Title: "The Fool's Parade" 1/2
Author: monimala
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: SAC, AU, Skye/various, Ric/Evangeline, (non-ship), crossover, humor, angst.
Disclaimer: Nope. I do not own these characters.
Summary: What if? What if? What if? Skye confesses to killing Ross and Ric has addictions to kick.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.
-"The Ballad of Reading Gaol", Oscar Wilde.

Prison is hell on her manicure.

She doesn't know why she's noticed that...maybe because her ragged cuticles catch on her teeth when she chews on her fingers at night. Because she counts off the days with tiny pieces of skin and nail.

"I woke up next to a dead man," she told Ric Lansing, sobbing. The second man in less than three years who has died after sleeping with her. It's enough to give a girl a complex. So, this time, she simply filled in the black spots with the confession she withheld the first time around. "I must've done it." She must have killed Ross Duncan with an ice pick. Like her life is a live action game of Clue.

"Must have" is a capital crime...and now she's awaiting trial, where the State of New York will pursue the death penalty...as they do in most cases where a law enforcement officer dies.

"You're insane, Blaze," Luke had shouted when she left for the police station, waving his hand, dismissively, as he wrote her off.

Yes. Insane. And maybe she could plead that. Insane ...drunk ...Chandler ... Quartermaine. Could you plead thirty-five years worth of vodka in your veins? Bad breeding?

"You're a killer like I'm an underwear model," Coleman chuckles, his voice husky and pornographic even through the tinny speaker.

The guard watching them probably thinks their roles ought to be reversed. The scruffy man slouching in the plastic visitor's chair and her, sitting perfectly straight. If not for the orange jumpsuit, she would look like a bothered wife, coming to tell her loser husband that she's getting a divorce.

But she's wearing a jumpsuit. And her loser not-husband, not *anything*, came to tell her that he believes in her.

Prison is hell on her faith, too.

"Why are you here?" she wonders, wearily, staring down at her chipped thumbnail. She'll have to chew it even after lights out, feel the contours of her thumb with her front teeth.

"Got elected," he shrugs. "Spencer wasn't about to set foot in the joint. Gives him the willies. Ain't no way we were letting Jaxy Boy do it. He's too pretty. Five minutes and somebody would grab him. He'd be Big Bertha's bitch." She can't help but laugh at the completely accurate estimation.

Jax wouldn't last two minutes in prison. Not even a women's prison.

He needs to fly.

There's no place here to spread your wings.

She's lucky hers were clipped a long time ago.

"And is there something your unholy coalition wants me to know?" She fiddles with the patched-over sleeve of her coveralls. Orange has never been her color. It washes her out, makes her hair look like a rotten carrot exploded. "Yeah." Coleman leans forward, and her eyes are drawn to the St. Christopher's medal swinging at his neck, against the open collar of his shirt. "We're not letting you go down for this, Babe. We're gonna find the cop killer and get you off."

She has to close her eyes. She has to close them so she doesn't start crying. Years ago, all she had wanted was one man...one man who could see fit to care about her and make her life livable. Now...now she had three. Working together. "G-get me off..." she chuckles, lamely. "Well, all of you were certainly good at *that*."

"Skye." There is a creaking sound of the chair being moved. His palm is flat against the plexiglass...as close to touching her as they'll allow. He sounds so serious. Almost severe. "Skye, you don't have it in you to shove an icepick in a man. You're cold, but you ain't that cold."

His hands are large. She remembers that. His fingers are inches longer than hers and she can almost feel their heat as she spreads her hand on the other side of the barrier. "How do you know?" she demands, thickly.

The smile is gentle, caring. Like the man that held her in the mornings when she was too hungover to move. "Cause you broke my heart, Babe..." he reminds, without any judgment. "But you didn't rip it out. You left me alive."

She didn't cry for Ross. Definitely not for Luis Alcazar. She's selfish that way. She only cries for herself. She'll cry all the way to the chair. She'll cry when the three injections go in. One for each of them. Jax. Luke. Coleman. She left him alive...and he'll finish her off.

***

Ric Lansing's first few months as the District Attorney have not been easy. And when the amiable din of the busy PCPD is over-ridden by the sound of Jasper Jacks bellowing to one of the desk sergeants, he know things are about to get considerably stickier.

He wonders if he can turn out his office lights and hide under his desk until the pompous Australian goes away. Or...maybe he can convince Carly to lock him in a Panic Room. It's been nearly a year, but it's never too late for revenge. He'll gladly take a chain to the ankle over this.

In the two weeks since Skye Quartermaine's arrest and arraignment, there hasn't been a day without a visit from one of her champions. Or her counsel... the imminently capable Evangeline Williamson--lately of Llanview, Pennsylvania.

"I didn't know you were licensed to practice in this state," had been the first thing out of his mouth when she set her briefcase down on the table in the interrogation room.

Her first battle all ready won, she'd smiled at him in that slow, Cheshire Cat, way that spelled imminent doom. "Scared, Mr. Lansing?"

Scared? Ha. No. Growing up with Trevor Lansing had taken care of that. But severely annoyed? Debating crawling into bed until 2024? Yes.

All in all, if he has to choose between members of the Free Skye movement, Ms. Williamson is the most preferable. At least there are legal issues to discuss. Luke Spencer just likes to call him names like "Slick" and "Curly" and shirk breathalizer tests. The unsavory character known only as 'Coleman' makes the entire staff of the PD clutch their valuables.

And Jax likes to throw his weight around.

"Ric...? Jasper Jacks is here again."

Lucky raps on his door and he bites back a sound that might be a whimper. "I'm not here!" isn't the proper response for a DA. Although, his predecessor, Scott Baldwin used it quite a bit.

As if sensing his hesitation, Officer Spencer -- considerably more of an asset than his obnoxious father-- knocks once more.

"I'm coming," he calls, even as his knees starting bending in the hopes that hiding under his desk is still an option. He draws in a deep breath, thinks of Elizabeth--wherever she is--and the baby they're going to raise together. Because he's still crazy enough to believe she'll be back. If he's crazy enough to believe his wife will forgive him his millionth trespass ... he's surely deranged enough to put up with the likes of Jax.

By the time he's out in the hall, following Lucky into the squad room, he has the perfect politician's smile pasted on his face.

"I want to know why Skye is still behind bars!" The businessman was raging as they walked up. Poor Sergeant Dixon was desperately looking for the answer somewhere between his shoes and having no luck finding it.

"You were at the hearing, Mr. Jacks," he interrupts, smoothly. "As this is a capital crime, the judge agreed with the state on the matter of bail." He wants to pat himself on the back. Not a single trace of aggravation. Just smug professionalism. *Very* smug. He's good at smug. "There is also the fact that Skye pled guilty. They tend to take that sort of thing seriously."

"You smug bastard!"

See? Even Jax agrees.

He wonders if a lunatic giggle would be out of place. There are, after all, several people in Port Charles who would testify that he's a lunatic. His esteemed asshole of a brother leading the pack.

Damn. He'd almost gone ten whole minutes. Ric snaps the rubber band on his wrist, discreetly. He's trying to train himself to stop obsessing over Sonny. For real, this time. But it's worse than when he quit smoking his second year of law school.

"Lansing!"

Jax is the one who sounds aggravated. And, for the first time, Ric really looks at him, sees the dark circles under his pretty-boy blue eyes. The pricey suit is wrinkled. The perpetual suntan looks sallow.

He has no doubt that Skye looks even worse. Prison water is rough. They don't let you have an array of moisturizers and sweet-smelling creams. The beds are hard. And somebody, inevitably, sees you naked.

"Can't you do anything? Lansing, *please*."

It kills the other man to use that word. He senses that. And he also senses what's left in Jax's arsenal. Pleas like, "What if this was Elizabeth?" and "Wouldn't you do whatever it took to free her?"

He snaps the rubber band again, sighs.

"I'll call Evangeline Williamson...we'll see if the district attorney's office and the PCPD can assist her in investigating her client's case."

His concession doesn't garner a "thank you." Not that he expects one. Jax just glowers. It's better than bellowing. Well...only a fraction better than bellowing since Jax doesn't do either particularly well.

He and Lucky exchange a look of law enforcement solidarity as the overgrown surfer stalks out, satisfied for the moment.

"Twenty bucks says tomorrow we get my dad," Lucky offers, with a grin.

The carpet space beneath his desk is beginning to look more and more appealing.

"You're on." Ric shakes his head, wearily. "In fact...make it 25."

***

She always thought cinderblock walls were just something of legend. Entirely too stereotypical to really be part of jail decor. Not that she hasn't seen the inside of a cell in her plaid past...but, still, she'd somehow thought that, by now, Martha Stewart's influence had made it to the state pen.

There are three cinderblock walls. Four if you count the ceiling. And the bars. More like a steel gate that opens and closes on the whim of somebody down the hall who flips a switch three times a day.

Three.

Everything is in threes.

Her trial date is three weeks from now.

Unusual, but she *was* a Chandler and a Quartermaine. Her names have pull.

The system wants to be rid of the reporters at the prison fences clamoring for statements and bits of gossip.

This morning, they let her out to take an international call. It was Rae, calling from a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean. "I'm sorry," she'd apologized, over the sound of children laughing... maybe just the water..."We're nowhere near a port, Honey. As soon as we dock, John and I are getting on a plane and coming back there."

She was torn between saying "Yes, please, come hold my hand" and "No, it's all right. Don't bother." She picked the second option, imbuing the words with hurt and rejection. Mommy hadn't been there for her growing up. Why would she want to be there now? Especially when they barely liked each other?

Rae is a psychologist. She saw right through it, murmured, "I love you" and promised she'd be there for trial.

Luke hasn't visited. "He's jittery, Babe," Coleman said on his fourth consecutive trip to the sterile visiting room.

By now, Riker and Jameson, the guards there, think she should ask for a conjugal visit.

"We're not married," she points out.

"Don't matter, Red...take it where you can before all you got is the showers."

"Or the laundry...whole lotta action in the laundry. Or so we hear."

She shudders, turning towards the wall, pulling the threadbare grey blanket over herself.

There is still nothing but blankness in between bringing Ross home and his rapidly cooling body. She'll have that. She'll have that for the rest of her life. However long that is. And then...then Will Cortlandt will greet her in Hell. She knows he's saved her a seat. Luis will be there, too. And Jonathan. She can't forget Jonathan, her least favorite ex-husband. She'll see them all.

But, for now, all she has is blankness.

And one or two visits from Alan. A call from Adam... she's surprised he even took the time out of his busy schedule. Brooke and Stuart probably held him at gunpoint.

Evangeline comes to see her, of course. And the woman is so beautiful, so put-together, that Skye wants to pound on the glass and plead for one jar of Shea butter. She'd die for Shea butter. She'd die for a thousand shallow things... but she's going to die for drinks, for sex, for an ice pick.

"I've never lost a case," her lawyer assured, her dark eyes radiating confidence. "We *will* beat this. I even have a few detectives from the PCPD chasing down leads. The DA is being very cooperative."

"Jax has been camped out at their doorstep, hasn't he?" she'd laughed, dryly.

As if the honorable Ric Lansing isn't tied up enough with his weekly busts on Sonny and Jason. Skye is faintly entertained by the thought of her favorite ex-husband strong-arming that smarmy weasel.

Jax has been to see her once.

"Conjugal THAT fine ass, too, Red," Riker had advised.

Shouldn't that be "conjugate"?

She told him not to come back.

It's too painful. Coleman was right. He's too pretty for this place. Even looking sleep-deprived and spouting words of comfort, Jasper Jacks is too golden to be real. Like he always was.

And now...now she really doesn't have the energy to dream.

He said what the others have. "We'll get you out." "I know you didn't do this."

"Where was your belief in me two years ago?" she wanted to ask.

If he hadn't dumped her for Brenda, there never would have been a mistake like Ross.

If. If. If.

If she hadn't left Llanview...

If she hadn't left Pine Valley...

If she hadn't been born...

Even her might-have-beens are a trio.

***

Five days. He hasn't seen "rhymes with laundered money" in five days. No threats. No sniping. No attempts to kill Lorenzo Alcazar.

The world, he thinks, is on the verge of ending.

At least...that's what the Free Skye brigade would have him believe. The Quartermaines have fallen in line, begrudgingly, behind Jax...and now he gets two haranguing phone calls a day from Edward, e-mails from Emily (who can't be torn away from her search for Nikolas long enough to actually campaign in person), and beeps on his pager from Alan.

The boys in blue actually have a pool on how many people will show up next week. They're thinking of printing up "Free Skye" t-shirts, too, with the proceeds going to the Widows & Orphans fund. Dillon Quartermaine, he's heard, launched "freeskye.org" two days ago. Probably beat them to the merchandising punch, too.

His life is rapidly spiralling out of control.

He thought his wife leaving him at eight months pregnant was bad. At least for this year. Last year...well...there was the Panic Room. It merits capital letters. And the drugging. And the pillow. But, yes, for this year...getting dumped by Elizabeth seemed to be the big ouch. (Railroading Zander and causing his death was comparatively small potatoes)

Right now, he can't imagine having to make late night ice cream runs and rubbing swollen feet on top of everything else. He's a terrible person (which he all ready knew), but he's actually thankful Elizabeth is away.

Maybe she'll come back when Audrey or Jeffrey is potty-trained. Better yet, when she/he is ready for college? By then, he should be sufficiently over his job issues and his Sonny issues.

"Ow!" The rubber band has made a permanent pink groove on his wrist.

He wonders if there's a Patch.

RICOderm CQ. The gradual three-step process to stop obsessing over family members affiliated with the Mafia.

He'd love to ask somebody who's kicked the habit... but no such person exists. Everybody affiliated with "not so funny" is still firmly entrenched in his life.

His pager vibrates, signalling the daily irate message from Dr. Quartermaine. And Eudora's chirpy alert sound tells him he has Viagra spam and inter-office memos and probably something from ConstanceVigilance@pc.freeservers.net .

To the tune of...

"Dear Ric,

I still haven't found my one true love (Zander who?), Nikolas. I am drowning in the salt of my tears.
You're a meanie and I'm glad Elizabeth left you.

--Emily soon-to-be Cassadine.

P.S. Free Skye!"


Oh, wait. The real Emily would have considerably more spelling errors.

Ric slides down off his chair, leaning against the desk. Not quite under it. He thunks his head, rhythmically, on the wood for a bit...making a mental note to go home and play his guitar. He's getting rusty. He's forgotten half the chords to "Free Bird."

Of course, he didn't know the other half to begin with.

He'd be a mean addition to a Mariachi band, though.

Quite possibly his next gainful employment opportunity after they throw him out of office for sending a gorgeous heiress to Death Row.

"It's my job to prepare the state's best possible case," he'd told Evangeline, apologetically. The suspect waived her right to have counsel present, confessed, and signed a full confession. As far as the People Versus are concerned, they have it in the bag and the jury trial is just a formality.

The fact that they still have a dead detective whose aging Irish mother will never know exactly how he died...well...that isn't what his technical duties involve.

"Help out Luke," he told Lucky. "If Jax and Coleman want some boys on the beat, check the rotation and assign a few uniforms."

It's all he can do.

It isn't enough.

***

She's learned the most important lesson of prison survival... never admitting you're guilty, just accepting it. If only for the bigger women in the cafeteria line or the group of scary Neo Nazis in the yard, she stands up straight, sticks out her hip, and tells them, "Yeah, they say I killed a cop."

"You, Red? What'd you do? Poison his fucking souffle?"

"They *say* I killed a cop," she repeats with a cold smile. "Don't you know everybody's innocent in here?"

There's begrudging respect. At least enough for her showers to still be uninterrupted. She knows what they all think. They all think she'll go to trial and her fancy lawyer will get her off. She's not a lifer.

But her hands are all ready chapped.

It doesn't matter if she spends a weekend at a day spa, drowning in paraffin wax, her fingers will never be soft again.

"We got a lead," Coleman says, shortly, not allowing for extraneous hope and comfort. "Luke's putting the screws to that psycho partner of yours... Faith Rosco."

"Are you sure he's not just screwing her?" she responds, wondering why he's back again. Why he seems to be here every day.

Personally, if she hadn't counted herself as the chief suspect, Faith would've been numero uno. Mutinously, wearily, she thinks it shouldn't have taken Luke a month to come to the conclusion. But, then again, Luke Spencer isn't one who trades in "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts."

Now, neither is she.

She shouldn't blame him for his absence. She does.

"That bother you? Spencer boffing the Black Widow?" Coleman leans back in the chair. The plastic matches her jumpsuit. She thinks, maybe, the prison is taking cues from Martha Stewart after all.

"I'm behind *bars*," she reminds, tapping her knuckles on the plexiglass. Sex lives are the least of her worries. Especially since her own, inevitably, seems to lead to stupid choices and the occasional death.

Sometimes, after the lights have gone out in the block, she spins fantasies about Russell Crowe. Her hands, now alien, feel like someone else's. That's as close as she gets to the edge.

"The cops have the Haunted Star wired," Coleman continues. "They're hoping to snag Faith on racketeering if they can't get her on Murder One."

"How wonderfully self-serving of them." Skye finds herself amused by the strangest things these days. At noon, she started laughing because the lime jello slopped onto her lunch tray looked vaguely like the Virgin Mary. "The cell next to mine is empty. Maybe she'll my new best friend. Or Big Bertha's bitch."

The look on Coleman's face speaks plainly of X-rated "Cellblock Tango" thoughts. At least until he camouflages it with his trademark smooth non-expression. "The bitch hates you," he points out. "And she's our best bet for somebody who's watched 'Basic Instinct' too many times."

"A lot of people hate me, Coleman. Maybe it was Edward?" she suggests. "Better yet...Dobson the butler. Alexis can fake another personality to avoid conviction." She goes on for a few minutes, suggesting everybody from Myrtle Fargate to the Easter Bunny.

Because she'll never admit she's guilty...she's just accepted it.

Coleman murmurs something that might be "hang in there"...but could be "I love you" before he leaves.

That's as close as he'll get to the edge.

***

The Fool's Parade 2/Conclusion.