Author's note: Yes, this is still going! Sorry it's been so long since I've updated. Might be awhile before the next chapter as well, but hopefully not quite as long. ;) Should start moving faster in the next few chapters, storywise (not posting unfortunately). I'm estimating the big revelation will come in about 4 chapters and with about 12/13 chapters to go total. :) Rach, Teri, Jaclyn, Icey, and fairieangel- Thanks!
Carly had learned a yet another of life's lessons the hard way. Dating your boss was not a good idea. Especially when the job was your only option left.
Andrew had hardly said two words to her when she got into the office. Then he had, of course, scuttled off to another meeting. Good riddance. She didn't want to deal with him anyway.
On the positive side, he looked like hell, as if he hadn't slept in two days. He was wearing the same rumpled clothes as he had the day before and he hadn't shaved. She found a little satisfaction in that.
Especially after he handed her a stack of budgets to do.
She absolutely hated doing the budgets. End of the month pain in the butt that fell on her shoulders to make sure everything was right. Easy enough, at least it should be. In her short time at the WSB, she found that field agents were the worst. Reports turned in late, incomplete and usually full of errors anyone with a high school education would catch. Unfortunately, Andrew's department included a large number of field agents and he never bothered to insist on accuracy or timeliness amongst his agents. Mainly because he was just as bad.
That left Carly to fix all the errors and curse his name for the rest of the day.
In the middle of typing, a flashing red message box popped up on her computer screen. The WSB had this nice little messaging system. A color-coded box pops up with instructions, on top of everything else that may be running. Code Red was the most urgent of the alerts. The message system basically took over the affected computer until the message was canceled by whoever had issued it.
Carly hadn't been around long enough to know what to do. Although Andrew had received these alerts before, she hadn't.
The phone rang, just as she reached to pick it up. "Yes?"
Andrew's voice came across the line, cold and hard. "I need the files for West Africa from my office. Operations cabinet, top drawer. Get the current op phone list, as well. I'm in the operations center conference room."
The line went dead and she put the phone back. She quickly put away her budget files and headed into Andrew's office to get the files.
The WSB operations center was nothing short of chaotic when Carly arrived. DC was the largest of the five centers spread throughout the world. A bank of televisions with one large projection TV in the middle covered one wall, groups of small cubicles were spread all over the room. At the back was the glass wall separating the conference room from the rest of the operation.
An armed guard sat next to the door, standing when Carly approached. "I need to see your identification," he said sternly.
ID, yeah. Her arms were full of files and her ID was attached to her blouse. She should've expected to show it.
The doors slid open and Faith appeared, smiling. "Let me take those," she said, reaching for the files.
"Thanks," Carly replied, gladly handing the pile over. She flashed her ID at the guard. He glanced at the computer screen in front of him, then nodded. She followed Faith into the conference room.
The room was fairly large, with a mirrored window on one end and a large computer projection screen on the other. She assumed that like most of the conference rooms around headquarters, the mirror was to the room with recording devices. On the computer screen were maps of West Africa and positions, of what she wasn't sure.
Agents were engaged in conversation at several computer terminals around the large conference table. Sarah had taken the stack of files and was beginning to hurriedly search through them. Andrew stood along the back wall, rubbing his temples as he listened to Mike talk to an African-American woman in an expensive tailored suit. She recognized the woman immediately as the director of the WSB, Denise Markham.
"You haven't been through one of these before have you?" Faith whispered.
Carly just shook her head. "What's going on?"
"Mission blew up big time yesterday," the blonde replied with a sigh. "First rule of thumb, do what they ask, no matter how stupid it seems. Just don't argue."
She'd forgotten that Andrew had said something like that the night before. "Okay."
"We're basically gophers. We get whatever they need, whether it be a phone number, a file, coffee, wipe their asses..."
"What about my phone, my work? I'm up to my neck in budget reports."
"Mrs. Milner has sent someone to cover the phones. Of course, your work will still be waiting for you when you get back."
Carly could hear some of what was being said. Andrew was updating Mike and Director Markham on the mission. A team was stuck at an airfield. Rebels were getting closer and they had a plane full of weapons of mass destruction. An engine had been damaged by the fighting; they could fix it well enough to take off, but they couldn't get far safely. The choice was between having the team fight while waiting for an extraction team to show up, which could take up to a day, or they could take off and get the plane as far off land as possible, guaranteeing death for the entire team. They were in contact with the US Navy in an attempt to get an aircraft carrier close enough for the plane to land, but it wasn't looking good.
"Call SecNav again, Faith," Andrew ordered.
The blonde did as he requested. "I've got the number burned into my brain now, I've called it so many times today," she told Carly in a low voice. "I'm almost on a first name basis with Admiral Cartwright."
Carly sighed halfheartedly and took a seat near the wall.
"So you must be Caroline Benson," the director said, approaching her. Denise Markham was a tall woman with shoulder length curly hair, and although she was a little on the large side, Carly doubted she had an ounce of fat on her. She had a commanding presence, there was no doubt she was in charge. She was relatively new in the job, only promoted to director the previous year. Many in the WSB were happy with her; she had been a field agent for many years herself and wasn't the bureaucrat her predecessor was. Her exploits had her name spoken in the same awed breath as Robert Scorpio around headquarters.
"It's nice to meet you Director Markham," Carly replied, standing and smiling politely. She hadn't had an opportunity to meet the director before. She was the one who had approved Carly's employment and had offered her a safe place to live. "I appreciate the chance you gave me."
"No problem. I'm happy you've been able to settle into a position here. I've heard nothing but good things since you started with Jones."
She briefly wondered if the woman would think the same thing if she knew about their relationship, not that it really mattered now it was over. "Thank you."
"I'm very happy someone managed to tame the beast," she said, glancing towards Andrew. "I think poor Faith had resigned herself to nagging him about every piece of paperwork for eternity."
Carly chuckled as the director walked back across the room and sat at the conference table near Mike. For a moment, her eyes met Andrew's. His stone cold expression didn't change, but for that moment, the look in his eyes softened and hers responded likewise.
She looked away. She didn't want to see that. She didn't want to feel anything for him right now. She was still mad.
Carly studied the map. The team was in Mali, close to the Algerian border. She vaguely remembered processing the paperwork on this operation. The mission had involved getting stolen nuclear weapons away from an arms dealer that was negotiating to sell them to a nearby rebel group. The mission had gone badly, but would ultimately be considered a success, despite the current situation; the weapons had been recovered.
It was fairly quiet at the moment. She and Faith had been rushing around most of the day, getting whatever the agents in the room needed and making numerous phone calls to various military offices. She finally had a chance to sit and take a break.
Most of the agents had stopped working as well. They had done everything they could do; it was now a waiting game.
"Yeah, I understand. I'll let 'em know." Faith put down the phone. "Carriers are still too far out. ETA won't be in time."
Andrew closed his eyes and Mike ran her hands through her hair. Getting a carrier in range was their best option. The fighting was too heavy to get a team to the airfield; the rebels had already shot down two rescue planes.
"Well, Jones, this is your op," Director Markham said. "What is your opinion?"
All eyes were on Andrew. He paused thoughtfully, considering his answer. "Fly," he said decidedly. "At least the weapons won't be usable at the bottom of the Atlantic."
Carly looked at Faith, uncertain. Surely Andrew hadn't just ordered the deaths of several agents. There had to be another option.
She looked closer at the map. The area they were talking about, some of the names sounded familiar to her, and it wasn't because she was good at geography. "Hold on a moment, I've got an idea!" she said, practically jumping out of her chair.
She rushed back to her office, running as fast as she could. She grabbed the files Mac had sent her and ran back to the operations center. She was right, Sonny had a few holdings in West Africa. He was involved in smuggling of conflict diamonds out of that area and had a deserted makeshift airstrip in Cape Verde, not far from Mali.
"Can they get to São Vicente, Cape Verde?" she asked, dropping the files down on the table.
Andrew looked at her, confused. "Why?"
"My ex-husband has a private airstrip on São Vicente."
Sarah punched in a few keys and the map zoomed in on Cape Verde. "There are no airstrips on São Vicente."
Faith looked over Carly's shoulder at the file. "Hey, I know that airstrip. Joe flew down there a couple times. It's an old hotel driveway or somethin'. Just a long strip of concrete." The blonde went over to Sarah's computer and typed in the coordinates. Another screen appeared on the projector, this time a satellite photo of the area.
Andrew studied the photo, Mike next to him. "It'd be tight for a cargo plane," she said, glancing at her subordinate.
"They can crash land." He turned to look at Carly. "How well guarded is it?"
Carly skimmed through the few pages on Sonny's smuggling. "Not very. He only uses it a few times a year, not enough to attract attention to its existence. Constant guards aren't needed."
He picked up the headset and Mike reached for the phone. "Take off," he told the team as his boss arranged for another plane. "Head towards Cape Verde. We'll give you the coordinates en route."
Director Markham smiled. "Good work, Caroline."
Carly couldn't help but smile. It felt good to actually do something right for a change.
"I can't believe you remembered that!" Faith said as they walked down the hallway, back to their respective offices, their arms full of files. "I can't believe I didn't!"
The team had reached the airstrip with only minimal injuries and was extracted without incident. The weapons were now safely in the hands of the Navy. The blonde had been singing Carly's praises since they'd left the operations center.
Carly shrugged. "I've read over Sonny's FBI file a few times."
"A few times? I bet you've got that thing memorized to find that little detail!"
"Maybe, my butt!" Faith shook her head. "Joe even told me he'd take me on one of those runs once! Romantic getaway!"
Carly snickered. "You found smuggling romantic?"
"No, he talked about how beautiful that island was..." Faith trailed off, sadness on her face.
Carly shifted her files to one arm and put her hand on her friend's shoulder. "Hey, you wanna go for a drink or something after work?"
Faith nodded towards Carly's desk. Andrew had somehow beat them back to the office and was looking at something on her desk. "I think he probably has other ideas."
Carly glared at him. "That's his problem," she said coldly.
"Trouble in paradise, darlin'?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"First round's on me. I want details. All of them."
The two women crossed the short distance to the desk and set the files down in the chair. Andrew gave them a half-smile, remaining silent.
"I'm going to be gettin' back to my office now," Faith said uncertainly. "Call me when you're ready to go, Caroline."
Carly never took her eyes off Andrew. "Sure."
"That was quick thinking in there today," Andrew said as Faith walked out of earshot. "You did good."
He looked down at a piece of paper on her desk. It was a message for her left by the substitute secretary. Mac had called about the latest additions to Sonny's file, presumably in the folder marked confidential underneath the note. She grabbed the note, crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. She grabbed the operational files off the chair, taking them back to his office.
He followed her. "So why is Mac Scorpio calling you?"
She snuck a glance at him. His face was stone. "What's it to you?"
"Just wondering what a police commissioner would want with a secretary."
She wanted to deck him. How dare he judge who she speaks to! "He was passing on information," she told him as put the files back in the cabinet, leaving out the details.
"That's all? Just information?"
She glared at him, slamming the file drawer shut. "Why are you interrogating me on this?" she snapped.
Andrew plopped tiredly down in his chair. "I was just curious, Caroline," he said, defeated.
"Well, don't be."
Carly stormed out of his office. She grabbed her purse and the files on Sonny. She headed for Faith's office, pulling out her phone and dialing Sarah's number. She definitely was in the mood to vent now.
Carly couldn't sleep. It was the middle of the night and the house felt practically empty with Michael sound asleep in bed. She found herself wandering around the quiet house and thinking. About Sonny, about Andrew, about herself. She went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. She pulled her robe tighter around herself, a combination of the chilliness of the dark room and her general unhappiness getting to her.
She spotted the sealed file on the counter. It was the FBI surveillance reports from the last few days, verifying Sonny's presence in Port Charles. Even better yet, his presence at the penthouse was punctuated by a nice, long visit from Faith Rosco.
To hell with both of them, she was going back to bed.
She slowly walked down the hallway to the stairs. As she passed the front door, she heard something moving outside.
Her heart jumped in her throat. She stepped to the door as quietly as possible. She looked through the peephole, unprepared for what she saw.
Andrew was pacing on the front walk, as if he were debating to see her or not.
She disabled the alarm and opened the door, unsurely. "Andrew?" she said softly.
He stopped and looked guiltily at her. His hands were in his pockets. "Hi," he replied timidly.
"What are you doing here?"
"I missed you."
"How nice for you," she replied with all the obviously false sincerity she could muster.
He ran a hand through his short hair nervously and took a deep breath. "Look, what I said last night..."
She didn't need to hear it, she knew what he was going to say. "You didn't mean it."
"Well, sort of. I didn't mean it in the way it came out. I was stressed out and I shouldn't have taken it out on you. I'm sorry."
She leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms. She remained silent.
"I love you, Caroline. My day's brighter every time I walk into the office and see your beautiful smile. For the first time in years, I see a future outside of my career. A future with you and Michael."
She still said nothing.
"I'm sorry I ever opened my mouth. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you needed me. I'm sorry I hurt you."
The faintest hint of a smile appeared on her lips.
"I love you."
She sighed, unable to stop the full smile.
He looked hopefully at her. "Does this mean I'm forgiven?"
"I'll see you in the morning, Andrew." She turned around and closed the door behind her.
That was something Sonny had never done. He had never paced outside her door in the middle of the night or apologized for anything he'd said. He certainly never looked like he'd been eaten up with guilt either.
As mad as she was, she couldn't help but forgive him. Things wouldn't, couldn't, just go back to the way they were before, but she knew they could work through this.
Through the door she could hear him singing. "Ohhh, sweet Caroline, good times never seem so good..."
Carly grinned. Andrew was definitely a keeper.