Title: To Live and Die in P.C.
Fandom: General Hospital
Rating/Classification: adult/R for language, character deaths (duh), gen, angst.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Summary: Five ways to die alone in Port Charles, N.Y. Five 250 word ficlets about five minor characters getting encephalitis and dying.
His ma cried when he told her Max was getting him a gig with the Corinthos Organization.
She put down her rolling pin -- there went any hope of a fresh batch of gnocchi -- and the tears burst out like when she was watching her soaps or that time she'd thrown herself on Uncle Franco's coffin and cried, "Why, God, why?"
Ma was a drama queen. No doubt about it.
She'd reminded him about his cousin Renaldo: "...and he had a wife and babies. Do you want to end up like that? Do you?" He tried to point out, "I ain't got a wife or babies, Ma," but that just made her cry harder, because, seriously, what nice Italian girl was going to marry a guy who was going to end up in a body bag? She wanted grandkids something awful.
He'd tried to tell her that Mr. Corinthos was a generous man, an honorable one, and he'd be making more money in a week than in a year of helping out Pop at the restaurant.
She spit at the floor, warding off the Devil, raising her hand and telling him, "Enough!" She'd heard enough. He was already dead.
When he's slumped in the guardhouse, too weak to dial his cell phone and sweating like a pig, he wonders if Ma accidentally cursed him. Sure, it ain't a bullet that's done it, but he's dying. He knows it.
And no amount of spitting is gonna keep the Devil from the door.
"Go," Mike had ordered her, even as she soaked dishcloths and insisted on staying and told him that he needed her. He'd sounded like her mother, sharp, and short and struggling with English. "Penny...get...go!"
He'd dropped an entire tray of dishes with a crash and she'd bent to pick up the shards and fragments. She'd gotten out the broom for the smallest pieces, sweeping them into a dustpan even as Mike kept waving at her to follow the customers out. What Mike didn't know was that she'd never bothered to listen to her mother.
"Penelope, go to college. Penelope, you finish school and find nice husband to take care of you."
So much for that. She's been working at Kelly's for years. Busing tables and dishing chili and standing still behind the counter while Mom's dreams rushed by her at 180 miles per hour. Lived by other people. Her sister Rebecca, her cousin Han. They made the family proud. She made...a mean grilled cheese sandwich and a passable Cobb salad.
She stays at the diner long after the EMTs have taken Mike away, flipping the 'Closed' sign on the door and sliding down to the floor, exhausted, as ambulances wail in the distance.
She doesn't listen to them either.
Why start now?
Maybe the virus will rush by her, too.
Maybe it won't slow down.
When she starts coughing, she knows it's too late. It's always been too late.
"So much for that," she whispers.
Her order's up.
"Thanks, Man," Jason says, leaving him with the sound of the dialtone.
Stan smiles a little as he stares at the cell, flips it closed. Jason's all right. He doesn't say much, but the man's cool. He's always appreciative of whatever you give him...unless it's an explanation of wi-fi networks and how tracking the Alcazar operation by intel downloads can be more efficient and cost-effective than electronic surveillance. Jason's old-fashioned. He'd rather make with the B&E and stash things in potted ferns and blow shit up on his way out the door.
Still, Jason's cool. He'll at least pretend to listen. He'll talk. He doesn't look over you or under you or around you like Sonny. You'd think, being the only brother in the Organization, it would make him more visible. Hey, I'm here, Mr. C. Nice day, isn't it, Mr. C? Who saved your files from a hacker last week, Mr. C? Yeah, that would be me.
Stan slides the phone across the desk as he slumps in front of his PC. The chair is comfortable. Not a bad place to die since he'd practically lived in it ever since this fucked-up virus hit town.
There's no point in going to the hospital. He knows they're maxed out at GH and Mercy and he'd rather kick it here than in a hallway shivering under some stank-ass blanket.
He's burning up.
Who's dying here, Mr. C.?
Yeah, that would be me.
Cook's name is actually "Cook." Maria Elise Cook. When she was twelve, baking tortes in her mother's oven and experimenting with cloves of garlic and game hens, it had seemed like an obvious, natural connection. Like the old days, when Cartwrights made carts and Wheelers made wheels. So, she went to cooking school. Cordon bleu. Top of her class.
Lila Quartermaine hired her right after graduation, sight unseen.
And she's been unseen ever since.
Mistress of her stainless steel domain, her industrial oven and her two refrigerators full of gourmet meats and fresh organic vegetables.
Sometimes, she'll pour herself just a little of the cooking sherry and sip, breathing it in while she remembers Stella and Jennings and that upstart Reginald...all those who came before and never stayed.
She is the last of the old guard. Holding down the fort.
She knows that no one will be home for dinner tonight but she juliennes carrots and preps green beans and sets some veal out to thaw. She's thinking some sort of wine reduction is in order. Maybe marsala. She does have mushrooms in the crisper. And creme brulee is a clear pick for dessert. She relishes any excuse to carmelize. Alice gave her the torch for Christmas two years ago and it's her favorite kitchen appliance.
Cooking is what she was born to do. An obvious, natural, connection.
So it seems equally obvious and natural that she should die doing it.
Cordon bleu. Top of her class.
Bobby, who likes his bottles of Bud and the occasional shot of Beam, used to be a medic in 'Nam. So, when the cats start fevering up, he shakes off twenty years of hard-drinking and starts throwing around orders like, "call 911" and "push those tables together," and "get some fucking gloves and don't touch anything you don't have to."
Yeah. Like 911 dispatch is going to give two shits about Jake's with a city on alert. He ain't stupid. And this is still his joint. So he growls at Bobby to say "please" even as he shoves chairs out of the way and lays Les -- gin and tonic -- out on a tabletop. Les looks two exits past death already and Coleman figures if there's dying on the schedule, gloves won't do shit. On the plus side, he won't croak with dishpan hands.
He starts shaking as he's pouring himself a stiff shot of Johnnie Walker Black. Bob's still playing MASH -- wait, that was Korea, wasn't it? -- making sure Les and Bear and Mickey ain't starting to stink yet and, hey, at least somebody found something worth living for, right?
All he's got is the Black. And this place. The juke and the neon and the pool table that he won't have a chance to put new felt down on. The upshot: He won't have to fudge the bottom line on his taxes this year.
He crawls up on the bar, presses his face against the wood, and announces, "Last call."
February 16, 2006.