Title: ad astra per aspera

Rating: T – mentions of triggering situations – sexual assault, psychological and physical abuse and child death.

Pairing: Eventual Bo/Carly.

Summary: Finally free from Lawrence's controlling ways Carly finds herself back in Salem but what will she find waiting for her and why is she back.

AN: This was one of my very first ever forays into fanfiction – before I even knew it was a thing. I found it on an old drive and decide to polish it up a little and post it. I know it's been nearly 10 years since CC was last on DOOL but after spending almost 12 hours straight re-watching Carly's first stint – I relized how much I still disliked what they did to her character the second time around. How isolated, alone and just generally unhappy they made her so I decided to post it.

ad astra per aspera – roughly translates into through hardship to the stars.

.1.

The large building, with its centuries of history loomed before her like the mouth of hell, cautiously, as if her legs were made of lead she allowed herself to be guided into the building by two of his closest friends, her hands clasped so tightly in front of her that her circulation was almost non-existent.

She could hear the quiet murmurs, the hushed chatter and the gentle yet haunting melody of the piano.

She could feel their eyes on her, sense their stares and questioning glances as she allowed herself to be seated.

She could smell the history of the building, the grief of those around her and the carefully chosen flowers that in just a few days would also be gone.

And then the murmuring stopped, the glances moved in a different direction and all of her senses became paralyzed as the organ's melody stopped, just for a second though before it started up again, the doors at the back opening as his flag-draped coffin was carried through the center.

Her eyes never left the dark, sleek coffin until it was placed down in front of her and slowly, she closed her eyes, trying to remember a time when she felt different.

It wouldn't come to her though, instead the dizzying maelstrom of emotions spinning throughout her body were loud, confusing and left her gasping for breath.

For years she had prayed for this day to come, imagined it happening a million different ways, pictured it every night as she closed her eyes, wishing for a sleep free of nightmares and a few hours respite from the living ones she encountered every day. The ones brought down on her by his heavy hands, cruel words and sadistic behavior.

Now it was here, now he was gone she couldn't help but feel cheated at the normality of it all. At the way his life had ended not by gun, dagger or poison like she had imagined all those years. Instead it had all been so mundane, so normal – it happened on a Friday evening, after he arrived back from a few days in Paris, where he had no doubt been swindling some desperate business out of everything they had.

A headache he had said, jet-lag he had blamed, whiskey was what he professed would cure it as his eyes had drifted over her slim frame, pale face and haunted eyes, a twinkle gleaming behind his tired eyes. And then it was so textbook it was as if she was back in medical school learning about the intricacies of the human brain.

He'd dropped the glass, his hands clutching furiously at his head as it felt like he was struck repeatedly in the back of the head, he had looked at her, his eyes pleading with her as realization dawned and she became aware of what was happening; his brain was hemorrhaging.

For 4 minutes and 27 seconds she had stood there and watched as he became pale and sweaty before collapsing to the floor. With his last breath he had pleaded with her to help him, to show him mercy and then despite all of those nights she had spent dreaming of this moment, of being free of him she leapt into action putting him onto his side before calling for help.

As she had watched the ambulance take him away, she knew that when it had come down to it, she couldn't do it, she couldn't take a life. And not because of her fear of him, or because he had broken her but in fact it was just the opposite. Despite all of the pain and trauma; the broken bones, ruptured spleen, punctured lung and psychological warfare he had repeatedly subjected her to she couldn't do it, she couldn't break her oath to always do no harm.

Because before she was Mrs. Lawrence Alamain she was Dr. Carly Manning and it was that one truth that had kept her alive all these years, kept her fighting and stopped her from giving up on hope when it had seemed all was lost.

The doctors had tried, a neurosurgeon has been flown in from Sweden to try and repair the damage done but it was beyond repair and 48 hours after he had collapsed Lawrence Alamain was dead, bringing his wife's 16 years of captivity to an end.

"And afterwards remember, do not grieve. For if the darkness and corruption leave. A vestige of the thought that I once had, better by far that you should forget and smile than you should remember and be sad."

Carly couldn't help open her eyes at the irony of the words. As the service came to an end and the organ's haunting music started up again as Lawrence's body was carried towards its final resting place; in the Alamain mausoleum.

Casting her eyes towards the ground she watched as almost without thinking one foot was placed in front of the other until the darkness started to become light as the sunshine flowed through the doors reminding her that life was carrying on, even in the face of death.

"Katerina," a strong yet familiar voice spoke as she felt a reassuring hand placed upon her shoulder.

Looking up she wanted to scream, yell and throw things at the sound of her birth name, a name that had brought her nothing but pain. But as she lifted her eyes from the ground, she found herself face-to-face with the one person she didn't mind using that name, the one person who Katerina shared happy memories with; her brother, Francois.

"Fr … Frankie," Carly stammered, practically falling into his arms, after 17 years of being separated by Lawrence's reign of terror being in his arms felt safe, more than that it felt like home.

"Let's get you out of here," Frankie whispered, taking in her far too pale face and shaking frame as he protectively wrapped his arm around her shoulders and lead her towards his waiting car.

Nodding Carly allowed him to help her into the back of the car before he closed the door and walked around to the other side, getting in next to her.

"Kat-"

Carly held up a hand. "Please. No. Katerina is … dead … I need her to be … Carly. I'm Dr. Carly Manning," she stammered.

"Ok," Frankie agreed, sensing the utter despair in his sister's voice, wondering what had happened to her in all the years she had been kept away from him, a virtual prisoner in the Alamain compound, cut off from everything and everyone she had ever known. "Where do you want to go?" he asked.

"Anywhere but here, take me away from here Frankie, take me far, far away," Carly pleaded.

Whilst Frankie wanted nothing more than to obey her every command, to take her away from the place that had destroyed her he had a million unanswered questions. "I can have the private jet ready in 30 minutes," he vowed, pausing for a few seconds before continuing. "But Carly, what about Nicky, we can't just-"

"Nicky's not here," Carly whispered.

"But it's his father's funeral?" Frankie questioned.

Carly shook her head, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "No. Frankie … Nicky he … he's not here … he's gone, Nicky's gone Frankie, my little-boy is gone."

"How? When? Why didn't you …"

Frankie stopped as he felt her body shake beside him, turning he gently held her face in his hands feeling the warmth of a low-grade fever beneath his hands, realizing just how pale, sick and barely holding on she looked he stopped his questioning, knowing that Carly would tell him when she was ready. He also knew that he would wait as long as she needed, because looking at his sister he knew that he needed to let her have the control over her story, when she told it and who she told because even without her saying a word, he could tell, just by looking in her eyes that control over her own story wasn't something she had been allowed in a long time.

"I'm here Carly, I'm sorry I stopped fighting … I'm sorry I let you go … sorry that I wasn't strong enough to … I should have fought harder, when Lawrence cut off contact I should have … I'm sorry, so, so sorry but I am here now and you will never be alone," Frankie vowed, holding his sister close as her body trembled with silent tears.

DOOL – DOOL – DOOL

Walking out onto the beach Frankie rolled up his trouser legs as he walked towards the edge of the ocean where his sister stood, her feet immersed in the clear blue water as she looked straight out ahead. It had been 48 hours since he had turned up at the funeral, 47 hours since the plane had left the country that had held her prisoner for the last 17 years and 41 hours since they had arrived on the un-spoilt shores of Kenya.

As they had arrived at the private airfield Frankie had asked Carly where she wanted to go, she had remained silent for a few minutes before asking him to take her somewhere she had never been before, somewhere isolated, peaceful and without any memories. After a lengthy discussion with the pilot they had settled on Kenya, Frankie had done some charity work there a few years ago and fallen in love with the peaceful beauty of its pure white sands, azure water and endless plains.

He'd rented a house right on the ocean, there was an outdoor patios where you could sit in the morning, drink coffee and watch the monkeys play in the trees, tall green trees hid a short rocky path that led down a small private beach, so peaceful that you could hear where the ocean met the sky.

Frankie watched as she took a few steps backwards before sitting down in the sand, leaning forward and resting her head on her knees as she continued to stare out in front of her. Since they had arrived, she had barely spoken a word, barely eaten and he knew she hardly slept instead she was existing on coffee, water and the odd piece of fruit he could convince her to try.

Sitting down next to her he took her hand in his, he didn't say anything instead he was just silently letting her know that he was there, that she wasn't alone. Watching as a silent tear fell down her face, he wished that he could hear what she was thinking, that he could help her fight the demons that she was battling but she was a closed book. He was picking up clues though, little pieces of the puzzle that were slowly starting to come together in his head and he didn't like the picture they were creating.

She had scars, he had seen them yesterday as she reached up to get the coffee pot from the shelf and her stomach was exposed; one small diagonal scar on her left-hand side and another on her right. Her body struggled more now, climbing a flight of stairs had left her breathless and she was so pale all the time he worried that she might be anemic, but when he had broached the subject her posture had changed so dramatically that he had feared she might collapse.

She had panic attacks, brought on by seemingly innocent actions, yesterday someone had arrived to drop off a delivery of fresh fruit and fish and the creaking of the door had triggered her, leaving her hyperventilating and vomiting until she eventually cried herself to sleep, a short, broken sleep that had barely lasted 20 minutes. He had tried to talk to her about it but she had looked at him with such pain and terror in her eyes that he stopped, not wanting to be the one that caused her to feel that way.

"Everything was ok at first," Carly whispered, her voice barely audible that Frankie wasn't even sure if she realized she was speaking out loud at first.

Not wanting her to stop he remained silent, both of then staring ahead as the tide started to come in and the waves got closer and closer to them, as the water frothed around the edges creating a layer of white bubbles just inches away from where they sat.

Carly bit her bottom lip before taking a long, deep breath. "In fact, it was more than ok, we were happy, we were a family Frankie, a real family and I would have given anything for it to stay like that but … Lawrence got sick, really, really sick and he nearly died. He got better though, well his body did, but his mind didn't. He became depressed and then he became angry at everything."

"I tried to hide it from him at first," Carly continued. "Because I knew how he would react but it got to the point where I couldn't, where I had to tell him that … tell him the … that the baby I was carrying wasn't his. He guessed straight away, that when I left Salem I had taken a piece of it with me, a piece of Bo with me," she whispered, suddenly realizing that this was the first time she had said his name out loud in over a decade."

Clenching her fist as her fingers started to tremble Carly leaned her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. Needing to feel the safety that she had when he had arrived at Lawrence's funeral. "It was like it wasn't happening, he wouldn't speak of it, wouldn't look at me and just carried on as if I wasn't having another man's child."

"Then I got sick. Eclampsia, I remember cuddling with Nicky in his bed and my head was pounding, the doctor in me knew something was wrong but I had nowhere to go, no one to call. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to Nicky's terrified screams, I was bleeding, just a little but my feet were so swollen I could barely walk," she explained, her voice breaking as she recounted one of the most terrifying times of her life.

"Nicky's nanny; Eleanor found me and called Lawrence, it all moved really quickly after that, there was a private jet, a hospital in Switzerland and a labor that I don't remember. I had a seizure so they had to perform a c-section, they said I arrested on the table because my blood pressure was so high it caused a cardiac arrest. They were concerned that I might have suffered a stroke but my MRI came back clear and once my blood pressure was stabilized, they allowed me to wake up," she recounted, not having the full story herself it was hard to explain that time in her life.

As the tide continued to come in Carly could feel the edges of it as it reached her toes. "She was perfect. 5 pounds 4 ounces of perfection; and healthy, despite the drama surrounding her birth she was so healthy. Lawrence cried and for the first time since he got sick, I remembered the man I fell in love with. He said that no one could ever know that he wasn't the father, that he would allow me to keep her but I had to follow the rules or he would … he … I had to be given permission by my husband to keep my own child."

"Things were strained when we got home. Nicky was confused but excited to be a big brother and she was such an easy baby that everything seemed to come naturally; breastfeeding, sleeping patterns, learning to sit, crawl, walk and talk but Lawrence … he never held her. Never even really acknowledged her existence; we weren't allowed to celebrate her birthday, she didn't get presents at Christmas but she didn't know any different so she was happy, despite it all she was happy," Carly cried, as she closed her eyes picturing her perfect little girl, the little girl with her eyes and Bo's smile.

Frankie wasn't sure how long passed before Carly finally composed herself enough to start speaking again. But in the silent interim the tide had finally reached them, soaking their trousers and forcing them to move back further up the beach.

"Then it all changed again; just like it did when Lawrence got sick only this time it was Nicky that was sick. It started with little things like not wanting to get up in the morning, but he was entering the teenage years so I didn't think anything of it at first. Then came the bruises and the nosebleeds and as a doctor I knew even if as a mother I didn't want to believe it, to believe that life really could be that cruel," Carly picked up a handful of sand, opening her fingers as the tiny grains slipped through the cracks until her hand was empty again.

"AML, er acute myeloid leukemia and it was aggressive. We took him to a specialist in Germany and he was started on chemotherapy but it proved resistant, the abnormal cells just kept multiplying and multiplying. So, we took him to London where another specialist tried a tougher regime and with each dose of chemotherapy, I watched his body fading before my very eyes. Nicky was so strong though, so, so strong through it all … he always believed that he would be ok," Carly was sobbing now, a loud, heartbreaking sob that caused her whole body to shake as she forced herself to take slow, steady breaths.

It took until the sun began to set for her to steady her breathing enough to keep going. "It all ended in Milan; we took him to a specialist there who said that a bone marrow transplant was his only hope. Lawrence and I were not a match, after all only 50% of each of us his him but she was … Nicky's specialist said it was a miracle because they were only half-siblings but she was a perfect match. Nicky didn't want her to donate, she was only 4-years-old and his little-sister, he was protective of her, proud of her, he loved her more than he loved the idea of beating cancer but she was happy to do it, we told her that they were going to take her blood, because it was really, really clever blood and it was going to help mend Nicky's blood and she understood, my tiny little 4-year-old embraced the idea of fixing her big brother so the transplant went ahead."

"At first it looked like everything was going to be ok; Nicky went into remission and he became 100% engrafted with her stem cells. But before he even had the chance to leave hospital he relapsed, they wanted to do another transplant but he knew … my beautiful brave boy knew instead he begged us to take him out of the hospital, to take him some place magical just the 4 of us so he could just … let it end on his terms … 2 days before he officially became a teenager he died, in my arms as we watched the sun set over the Mediterranean from this beautiful beach house in Marseille," Carly told him, her eyes red and swollen from crying as a small, heartbroken, ghost of a smile danced across her lips as she remembered his final moments; just her and her two children.

"Lawrence wasn't there at the end," Carl started to explain. "He was in Saudi Arabia finalizing some big deal whilst trying to pretend that it wasn't happening, that our son wasn't dying. After Nicky's funeral … he … he blamed her … she was only 4-years-old and he blamed her, said that it was the 'Brady Blood' in her that had killed him. He was someone I didn't even recognize and 2 weeks after I buried my son he hit me for the first time, he hated her existence, but at the same time he wouldn't let me leave, wouldn't let me take her away because I was all he had left of Nicky," she said, not really sure how you explain the unexplainable.

Carly was exhausted both emotionally and physically but now she had started to she felt like she owed it not just to Frankie, but to her children that she tells their story, her story. "The taunting was almost worse than the physical attacks. The broken ribs, concussions, ruptured spleen and punctured lung I could deal with … because it kept him away from her, it kept her safe, but then one night on what would have been Nicky's 18th birthday he tried to … he went for her she was 9-years-old and despite it all, despite all of the weirdness, isolation and control of her childhood she loved him, he was her Papa, she believed that he hung the sun, moon and stars … she was devastated … she started to believe him, believe that her blood was evil, that it had killed Nicky."

"I had to get her away from that environment, from him. I started to make plans, with the help of the only person I could trust, a lawyer called Omer whose life I had saved when he suffered a heart attack at one of Lawrence's parties. We had it all planned, the car, the plane, the passports … all of it. We were so close to being free but the night it was supposed to happen Lawrence, he got drunk, really, really drunk and … that night was the worst yet … he beat me until I was unconscious and then he … he … I was unconscious and he … I came too and Omer was there, I couldn't leave, I could barely breath … it was then that I realized there no way out, but there was for her … I begged him to take her, begged her to go … she sobbed the whole time but they left and that was the last time I ever saw my precious, beautiful, brave girl," Carly whimpered, remembering the last time she had held her daughter.

"When Lawrence found out he had Omer killed, all he was doing was trying to help me and he died because of it. My little girl is out there somewhere and the only person who knows, the only one who could take me to her is dead … everything is gone Frankie. My little boy, my little girl, my career. Who I am? I don't even know anymore," she sobbed falling into him as he held her close underneath the beautiful multicolored sunset.

Frankie held her face in his hands just like he had after the funeral. "You are Carly Manning. Dr. Carly Manning. My sister. You are a mother, doctor, sister. You are brave, smart and the strongest person I know and you will get through this. We have money Carly, we have power and contacts and I will not rest until your daughter is where she belongs, until you have your little girl back," he vowed.

"She's not a little girl anymore," Carly whispered. "Last week was her sixteenth birthday. Sweet Sixteen and I wasn't there … what if she's forgotten how much I loved her, how everything I did from the moment I held her in my arms was for her and for Nicky. What if she doesn't want me to find her," she worried, all of her fears she had been holding onto bubbling to the surface like lava tumbling from a volcano.

When he had seen his sister walking out of the church at Lawrence's funeral, he had known something had changed, that the woman walking towards him was not the same person that had left Salem. But he had never, in a million moments of imagining what his sister's life had become thought it would have been this cruel. Carly was goodness and light, she was positivity and joy, she healed people, she believed in all things fair and kind so for the universe to turn around and destroy her like this, he was mad. Mad at Lawrence, mad at everyone who turned a blind eye but mostly he was mad at himself for not fighting hard enough, for believing Lawrence when he told him that Carly wanted nothing more to do with him.

As he held her trembling body, he silently promised her that no one would ever hurt her again, that he would spend every breath he had left making sure she was protected. And that he would do everything in his power to help her find herself again and to find his niece.

Frankie smiled as he tried to imagine what she would look like now, would she have her mother's eyes? Her father's smile? Carly's cheekbones? Bo's dark hair? As he tried to picture what she might look like he suddenly realized that whilst telling her story not once, in all of her pain and sorrow had Carly mentioned her name, instead always referring to her as my little girl, my daughter, her or she.

"Carly?" he asked, when her body had finally stilled. "Your little girl; what did you call her?"

Carly smiled as she pictured dark brown, almost black ringlets, sparkling green eyes and a smile so wide it almost reached her ears. "Eden. When she was born, I called her Eden Isabelle but … it very quickly became Edie. Edie Boo I called her … my little Edie Boo."

"Edie," Frankie repeated. "I love it."

"7 years Frankie … it's been 7 years and every time I close my eyes; I try to imagine what she would look like now, what she would sound like. Nicky's first years were stolen from me and then cancer took him away just a few short years later. And not it's been 7 years without her, I'll never get those 7 years back Frankie, so much has been taken that I will never get it back," Carly mourned, allowing herself to get lost in the pain and guilt that she had been keeping to herself all of these years whilst locked alone and isolated away from human contact.

Placing a gentle kiss atop her head Frankie allowed her a few moments with her grief before speaking. "Tell me what you need me to do K … Carly … tell me where you want to go from here."

"Salem," Carly whispered, barely daring to speak but ever since she left, she knew that after a while she would need to go back there and face him. That even though she had no idea where her daughter was, or where he was in his life that he deserved to know and perhaps together, along with Frankie they could find her. "I need to go back to Salem."