Title: "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "General Hospital"
Rating/Classification: PG-13, angst, Jax/Carly, AU.
Disclaimer: People who aren't me.
Summary: What if an amnesiac Carly didn't wander back to the church? What if she appeared somewhere else? Will a friend's steadfast shoulder help her remember...or convince her to keep forgetting?
Notes: I began writing this in May of 2002, after the evil Sexis sex and Carly's disappearance and it took me a year to get back to it and finish it.

Her hair is a wild tangle...and he combs through it, gently, with his fingers ...as if he can unknot the furrows on her troubled brow and the snarls in her memory with the rhythmic strokes.

She is finally asleep, whimpering faintly against the crisp, clean linens, twitching as if her waking nightmares are still following her into dreams.

The brandy burned when he made her drink it. She almost spit it out but he held her hand and whispered nonsense words and promised her "no doctor" when she began to panic.

The doors are locked, all the curtains drawn. He claimed "international business" to Skye over the phone, the lie choking him as he tasted her suspicion over the line, and added another on top of it. He told her the lake house was flooded.

And it is, he supposes.

Flooded with Carly's ghosts. With the mystery of her name, her past, the vague hint of children once carried in her body and husbands lost to the cruelties of man and fate and betrayal.

Things she cannot face.

Things she does not want to.

Because she looked up at him with clouded dark eyes. Recognized him but did not know from where. *"W-who are you?"* *"I'm your friend."* *"I-I b-believe you."* And he lifted her, easily, from the narrow foot bridge, carried her inside soaking wet and shivering. All he could offer was trust. And she took that fragile gift.

He gave it selfishly, of course. He has buried two women in five years. Two women he loved. Two women too many. And he will plunge beneath the waves and lift this one from her watery grave if it is the last thing he does.

That is, of course, if she'll let him.

For now, she seems content to drown.

For now, he must let her.

***

Back home in Australia, he and Mac used to frequently dive the reefs. Swim with dolphins. See who could touch the coral walls and make it back to shore first.

That was, of course, *before*.

In simpler times.

Before all the loss.

He hasn't gone diving in years. Not until now.

***

When she awakens, seven hours later, he starts to say her name...and she stops him. "No," she hisses, eyes bright and teeth bared. "Don't. Please. Call me something else...anything," she demands, turning her face into the pillows.

His intuition tells her that she harbors her name somewhere deep inside, is holding it too close so she can't focus on it. He offers her a cracked smile, forced dimples, and agrees. "Fine. How about 'Lethe'? It was a river in ancient Greece, in Hell, the river of forgetfulness."

"In Hell!" Her abrupt laughter is nearly a bark. Full of warning and pain and fangs and claws. And then, "a river in Hell...perfect," she says, softer.

"'Lethe' it is, then." He hands her a steaming cup of chamomile tea, pulling the sheets up around her with one hand, making her comfortable even though the fatigue and the bruises on her lovely face speak, solely, of discomfort.

She made no protests, earlier, when he handed her one of his t-shirts. Much too large on her slender frame, it looks almost like a Victorian nightgown, now, in the dimness of the bedroom. She cocks her head as she drinks the weak tea, wrinkling her nose, slightly, at a concoction that must not be to her liking. But she doesn't tell him so. Instead, she asks, "So, who are you to me?"

He thinks she knows this, too.

"D'you want the real answer?" he wonders, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Or should I make up a name, a history?"

Something familiar glitters brown-black in her gaze. Challenge. "Doesn't matter."

He chooses his words with care. He does everything with care these days. Where he once was wild, reckless, he is now the soul of caution. "I suppose you can call me 'Jasper'. Only my parents call me that," he admits, making a face. "We're friends. Business partners. But only recently, though we've known each other for a long time."

She arches a skeptical brow. Another achingly familiar gesture where she insists upon pretending there are none. "Did we hate each other before...'Jasper'? Did I break up your marriage or something?"

It is his turn to laugh, sharp and slicing like a blade. "No...no, you didn't break up my marriage." Possibly the only damaged thing in Port Charles that Carly Corinthos didn't have a hand in creating. Because the pain pre-dated her. As few things do in this world that seems to revolve around her and her drama.

"So, we're not lovers," she murmurs, setting the empty china cup on the bedside table with shaking fingers.

"N-no. No, we're not."

She seems unaffected by the quaver of surprise in his voice, the embarrassed flush on his cheeks, and simply nods, coming to some silent conclusion that she refuses to share. And then she sinks backs under the waves...her hair fanning out like Ophelia amongst the leaves.

He reaches out...but her fingers slip away.

She is not ready to come up to the surface.

She is not ready to breathe.

Not quite yet.

***

In the fog of half-sleep, his head resting on his arms, he hears her speaking. To herself, to him, he doesn't know. He hears all the damp words she will not say when his eyes are pinning her down like searchlights. "Sonny." "Michael." "Mama." "Jax."

He feels the tentative waves of her fingers smoothing his hair.

And he chokes on the sea filling his lungs.

***

In the morning, when he comes in bearing a tray of tea and toast, she turns her back to him. She looks like a mermaid, wrapped up in a blue silk robe of Skye's that he found in the wardrobe. She gives no indication of knowing where it came from, although he's fairly certain she must know somewhere deep in her bones.

She wants to rip it off. Wouldn't want to touch anything belonging to someone she loathes with such passion. But she is too busy fighting for survival on the gritty beach of his bed for such petty displays...too busy fighting or too busy pretending to.

"Carl-Lethe." He catches himself just in time, watching her shoulders stiffen. "I've brought breakfast."

"Why?"

"Because you need to keep up your strength," he reminds with false cheer, settling the tray on the bedside table.

"No." Slowly, she rolls over, eyes huge and lucid in her too-pale face. "Why did you bring me here? Why did you rescue me?"

"Because you needed my help," he says, automatically...and then wants to bite it back as her eyebrows rise with disbelief. Suddenly, he pictures himself on a lifeguard tower, a whistle hanging from around his neck...staring out at the stormy ocean just in case someone swims out too far. He swallows seawater, chokes, and looks away from her knowing expression. "Because it's what I do," he corrects, quietly. "I can't help it."

She sits up halfway, wincing at whatever aches as she makes the effort. "You should've left me out there, Jax--Jasper." She catches herself in time, watching *his* shoulders stiffen.

"Would you have left *me* there?" he counters, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

"No," she says, immediately, eyes flashing with the most serious kind of humor. "I would've dragged your sorry butt somewhere and gotten you better."

"Why?" He turns her own query back around on her deftly. "Why me and not yourself?"

"Because I don't need saving." She places her palm against his cheek, holding him still so he can't flinch back from whatever truth she's going to impart. "Do you really know how to swim, Prince Charming?" she wonders in a low whisper...barely audible..."'Cause from where I'm sitting, it looks like you're the one drowning."

Mouth-to-mouth. Hand over his heart. Pushing. Resuscitation with her soft lips and insistent tongue and her fingers curling into the soft material of his shirt.

"This is..." he gasps, chokes, as the fluid flushes from his lungs, "This is wrong..."

"Then let it be...let it be wrong..." The tide is in her tears...and she sounds so tired, so broken, as she settles him between her thighs. "It's been too long... too long...since I was really a bad little girl."

"How do you remember?" he wonders, kissing the hollow behind her ear, the curve of her jaw, the slope of her throat. Kissing when he know he shouldn't... the places that don't belong to him.

"Some things? You never forget."

She whispers "JaxJaxJax" as they come together.

He doesn't call her "Carly." He can't.

Back home in Australia, he and Mac used to frequently dive the reefs. Swim with dolphins. See who could touch the coral walls and make it back to shore first.

That was, of course, *before*.

In simpler times.

Before she lost her memory.

Before he lost his heart.

***

He sees her three weeks later on the docks, holding little Michael's hand like it is her lifeline and he murmurs a polite "hello" through clenched teeth.

"How are you, Jasper?" she asks, tilting her head and smiling... smiling sadly...as the midday sun makes the jewel in her wedding ring glint and sparkle.

"Surfacing, Mrs. Corinthos," he lies. "I'm surfacing."

 

--end--

August 24, 2003.



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