Sticks and stones they may break these bones
But then I’ll be ready, are you ready?
It’s the start of us, waking up, come on
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
I don’t want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
Cause now it’s time to let them know
We are ready
– What About Us, P!nk
Monday, December 16, 2002
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
“So, we’re nowhere.” Sonny sighed, fisting his hands at his waist and dipping his head.
“We’re not nowhere,” Jason said a bit impatiently. “We’ll watch Zander and the Ruizes more closely. Knowing that Zander Smith has old ties to the Jerome crime family explains why Nico went out of his way—”
“I’d forgotten that Nico made his bones under old Victor,” Benny murmured, rubbing his chin. “I always think of him running numbers with you for Frank Smith, but yeah—I guess there was some leftover connections. I should have found Zander’s birth certificate before this.”
Sonny waved that away. “What about allies? Who does Hector depend on? Who would he go to the mat before?” He huffed, poured himself a bourbon. “Someone came after us last summer, Jason. It’s not enough to say we can’t find him.”
“The family does business with a lot of South American cartels,” Jason said, flatly. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Sonny. I watched Hector, I watched the sons. I talked to all our guys. We had Benny tracing all their financial transactions, Stan was monitoring their internet activity—there’s nothing there. Someone called in a favor. I don’t think it’s more than that.”
“So, I’m just waiting for this someone to come at me again.” Sonny hissed. “And that’s good enough for you?”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “But I’ve already given you two more weeks than I agreed to. I’m handing this off to Benny and Johnny.”
Sonny swallowed. “So, you’re really going. Just like that.”
“Elizabeth graduated on Saturday, Sonny. You knew that I was going to go when she was done. She’s handing over Kelly’s today.” He paused. “Yeah. I’m really going. There’s nothing else for me to do here.”
“There’s nothing we can’t handle,” Benny said quietly. He looked at Jason. “You’ll be in Italy at first?”
“I’ll keep in touch about where we are. I don’t want you to have to search a week or more like last spring.” Jason shrugged. “We’re starting in Italy. I don’t know if we’ll stay long, but I’ll stop in on Maximus Giambetti. Make the rounds.”
“Miss Webber will enjoy the winter in Venice, I’m sure.” Benny flashed a smile. “It’s a beautiful city for art. And she’s worked very hard.”
“Yeah.” Sonny sighed. “Yeah, I know Elizabeth has wanted to go to Italy for a long time—I’m glad—” He looked at Jason. “It’s never going to be the same, is it?”
“No.” Jason shifted. “I don’t know if we’ll come back. I mean, maybe eventually. Elizabeth will miss her family and friends—and there’s Michael.” He sighed. “And I’m worried what Carly might do. She’s been too quiet.” He met his friend’s eyes. “I need to go away, Sonny.”
“Okay.” Sonny extended a hand. “I don’t have to tell you to take care of Elizabeth. You’ll do that without trying. Show her world, Jase. You two have waited long enough.”
“Thanks.” Jason shook his hand, then extended a shake to Benny, who gave him a warm smile.
When he was gone, Sonny sat on the sofa, his head in his chin. “Well, you warned me.”
“He’ll be back, Boss.” Benny said as Max knocked and let them know that Sonny’s lawyer was there to sign paperwork for the expansion plans in Las Vegas.
“Yeah, yeah. Come on in, Ric.”
Courtney made a great show of dangling the gold keys on the hot flamingo key chain over her head. “The power is mine, all mine!” she said with a cackle. “No more morning shifts ever!”
Gia rolled her eyes as she flicked their best friend. “Stop acting so happy that we’re being abandoned.” She huffed to Elizabeth. “You know you’re breaking the lease.”
Elizabeth snorted, sliding her house keys towards Gia and nodded to Bobbie. “Bobbie doesn’t care, why should you?”
“I’m just happy that my girls are happy,” Bobbie told them. She stood up from the table and dropped a kiss on the top of Elizabeth’s head. “And that you at least trained your replacement.”
“Besides, I’ll pay my portion of the rent until May,” Elizabeth told her former roommate.
“What happens in May?”
“Emily comes home, and she said she’d be willing to take over my part of the lease.” Elizabeth batted her eyes as Gia scowled. “This way, when I get back, you and Emily will be the best of friends.”
“Listen, if we can keep ourselves from killing each other, I’ll be shocked,” Gia said dryly.
“So, you are planning to come back,” Courtney said, leaning forward. “Because you packed everything. And you’ve been all final and weeping these last few weeks. Like we’re never going to see you again.”
“I don’t know,” Elizabeth admitted. “I never intended to stay in Port Charles forever. And I’m excited to travel. But I also know that Jason is going to be paying, and that makes me less than thrilled—”
“He could care less—”
“And for a while, I’m not going to care either.” Elizabeth shrugged. “To be honest, I’m going because Jason needs to be gone. When he’s ready to come back…”
“She’s breaking up the band,” Gia muttered.
Elizabeth ignored her and joined Bobbie at the doorway where the redhead was peering through into the restaurant. “Thank you,” she told her.
Bobbie smiled, put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m so happy for you both.” She looked back through the restaurant where Carly was sitting with a sullen Michael. “I wish that things could have worked out as well for everyone else, but you’ve had a tough year.” She turned to embrace Elizabeth, squeezing her tight. “You may not be the daughter of my blood, but you’re like my BJ. The daughter of my heart. And I love Jason like he was my own. It gives me great happiness to know that you’ll be taking care of each other.”
“I never could have gotten this far if you hadn’t given me and Gia that first leg up.” Elizabeth’s voice broke. “You took on your family—you took my side—and you gave me a place to sleep. I love you, Bobbie. You’ve been more of a mother to me than my own ever was.” She stepped back as she heard a motorcycle rumble in the parking lot.
A few minutes later, Jason came through the archway. Bobbie smiled wanly at him. “You might want to stay there—Carly’s inside.”
Jason grimaced, then nodded. He looked to Elizabeth. “You ready?”
“Yeah, I just need to say goodbye to Gia and Courtney.” Elizabeth looked at her best friends—the two people who knew her better than anyone else in the world.
“Nope.” Gia shook her head. “You’re not getting rid of me so easy. Goodbyes are for other people.” She poked Elizabeth lightly in the chest. “We’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, we still need to win a bar fight,” Courtney said with a grin even as her eyes filled with tears.
Bobbie joined Jason as the three women hugged each other. “I’m so excited for you both,” she murmured, as she touched his arm. “This was a great idea, even if you are taking away the best manager I ever had. She was never meant to stay here. You take her where the light is beautiful and make sure she has all the art supplies she can handle.”
“I rented a studio for her in Venice,” Jason said, his eyes on Elizabeth. “It’s already stocked with the basics. I’m going to surprise her when we get there.”
“You’ll do fine.” She kissed his cheek. “Take care of each other.”
With a few more hugs and tears, Elizabeth grabbed her carry-on bag and purse—everything else had either been put into storage or had already been shipped to Venice.
She waved to the trio of women as she and Jason went to the parking lot. He stowed her carry-on and then handed her the helmet. “You ready?” he asked.
Elizabeth grinned. “I was born ready.”
Zander arched his brows as he was led through the labyrinth hallways of Luis Alcazar’s estate in Caracas. It had taken weeks for Alcazar to make contact again—Hector had started to lose hope that Zander would be able to get on the inside.
And then Alcazar had asked for Zander to join him for the holidays—to talk about the next step. Zander wasn’t really sure what he planned to do once he arrived. He knew he was playing a dangerous game—that if he betrayed either Alcazar or Hector his life was forfeit.
But he knew he was on the edge of something great—if he was just careful enough to select the right side and align himself with the victors—
People were going to remember Zander Smith’s name.
“Ah, Senor Smith.” Luis stood with a smile. “You’ve arrived. The trip was not too difficult, I trust.”
“No. I was surprised to hear from you.”
“Well, we’ve allowed the chips to fall and settle.” Luis gestured for Zander to take a seat. “I’m sure the Ruiz family is none too pleased with how things worked out.”
“Sonny’s not dead, so you’re not happy either.”
“Well, I will admit a bit of disappointment.” Luis sat behind the desk, took a cigar from a box on his desk and extended it to Zander. “The Carly business—it fell into my lap, but I was happy with the tension it created. You were correct—Nico and Roscoe were not worthy allies.”
“Morgan’s leaving town,” Zander told him as he leaned forward for Luis to light the cigar. “I still know some of the crew—he waited for Elizabeth to finish school. If they’re not gone now, they will be soon.”
“Interesting,” Luis murmured. “So, we managed to divide them at least. And I know that Sonny no longer has his normal trusted attorney at his side.”
“How—” Zander squinted. “How did you know about that?”
“I know everything, my friend. It’s time we discussed exactly how to destroy Sonny Corinthos.”
Out on the veranda, just outside the windows of the study, a woman closed her eyes. A single tear slid down her cheek.
She was never going to be able to stop him. She would never be able to escape and leave this nightmare behind.
Brenda Barrett just wanted to go home.
I’m sure a lot of you expected me to deal with Brenda when I brought up Alcazar, and in the initial drafts of the story, I had planned to do that. But as I continued to draft and plan, I just realized that in order to set all the pieces up, I was going to need to tell this longer story between Jason and Elizabeth. Bittersweet ended up being almost 10 chapters longer than I had envisioned, actually.
While drafting, I realized I could really rewrite the summer and fall of 2002, particularly the story that derailed the Liason buildup. I wanted to hit a lot of the same beats (a death is faked, Liz gets lied to, Carly is part of it) while doing something more interesting with Carly’s accident earlier in the year other than just using it as a method to push Sonny/Carly back together. In fact, Jason gets shot and returned on the exact dates that Sonny did the same thing in 2002. I also ended up doing more with AJ/drinking and Lucky/Elizabeth closure than I had foreseen. Even Zander had a bigger role.
All of that meant that to continue dealing with Alcazar and Brenda would mean Bittersweet would probably be another 20-30 chapters, and I’m not a huge fan of telling stories that long without good reason. Stories should have a narrative that begins and concludes, and Bittersweet is Jason and Elizabeth’s story.
They’re going to go and have their trip to Italy and return to deal with all the baggage they left behind at some point. Alcazar is also going to regroup and lick his wounds, while Zander is going to have to decide exactly where he stands and where his loyalties lie. The sequel (tentatively titled With Malice) will be a choice in the April Camp NaNoWriMo poll, so keep that in mind.
I really loved returning to this early time period and digging into everyone’s stories at this point in their lives. Thank you all for giving Gia and Courtney a chance to earn your love and support. This is the Courtney I used to love and the one I miss, and it’s a pleasure to discover her again through writing. I have more planned for both of them as well.
Thank you for your patience and continued support. You guys make all of this worth it. Thank you to Cora and Angela for doing the beta reading, as well as my Patreon supporters who sent over copy edits as well. I literally have the best readers in the universe 🙂