I have never heard a silence quite so loud
I walk in the room and you don’t make a sound, make a sound
You’re good at making me feel small
If it doesn’t hurt me, why do I still cry?
If it didn’t kill me, then I’m half alive
– Something’s Gotta Give, Camila Cabello
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Lucky & Elizabeth’s Apartment: Bedroom
Elizabeth pressed her hand to Cameron’s forehead and sighed. He was still running a fever.
He’d been fine yesterday, until sometime after dinner when suddenly, his face had looked flushed. He’d spent the entire night throwing up or using a lot of diapers. She’d barely slept, trying to keep him clean and calm, but now she and her son were both exhausted as Cameron lay on his back, looking at her with sad eyes.
“Tummy hurts,” he managed.
“I know, sweetheart. But Mommy can’t stay home—” She’d already asked Epiphany to move the schedule around enough with her grandmother out of town. Some of the other surgical nurses had complained about favoritism, and Elizabeth just knew if she called out sick today, she’d never hear the end of it.
“He any better?” Lucky asked from the doorway as he sipped a glass of water. “I barely got any sleep last night.”
Elizabeth turned away from her husband and pressed her lips together. Lucky had complained from the sofa bed and had done nothing to help. But she couldn’t worry about that right now. “He’s not going to be able to go to the daycare. I’m not going to be the mother who makes other kids sick.” She braced herself. “Can you stay with him today?”
“I know, I know, but—” Elizabeth twisted to face him. “I’m sorry. I can’t miss another day.” Not after she’d ducked out on Friday’s shift early because he’d forgotten to pick Cameron up in the first place. “I might be able to get Epiphany to let me leave at four, but there’s no way I can miss the entire shift. We can’t afford it, and she’s already done me enough favors—”
Lucky scowled. “I only have a few more days to pass the physical—”
“I know that, but he’s sick, Lucky. Can’t you go tomorrow? Bobbie can watch him tomorrow during the day. I already called her—”
“Can’t you call someone else?”
“There’s no one else—” Elizabeth broke off as hysteria bubbled in her throat. “Lucky, please. I need this promotion to work out. As soon as I can start scrubbing into surgeries, I’ll have better hours. But I need to put in the grunt work first. We need this to work.”
“We need me to get back to active duty so you can stay home with him more.” Lucky shook his head. “I can’t miss therapy—”
“Lucky, I don’t ask you for a lot. I—I know better—”
“What does that mean?” Lucky demanded, narrowing his eyes and stepping towards her. She backed up a step. “What are you talking about?” He clenched his hands at his sides.
Her heart skipped a beat as Elizabeth swallowed hard. It was just a flicker she’d seen. It was gone now. “I mean, I know better than to ask you to give up time from your rehab. I don’t. Not after you made it clear when Gram decided to go to Memphis. I got that covered, didn’t I? Between Epiphany moving my schedule around and Bobbie—I haven’t asked you for much.”
“No, I—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “No, not really. I know how supportive you’ve tried to be. I know you’re in a tight spot, Elizabeth. I wish I could help—”
Help. Oh, God. She swallowed a sob. “Lucky, please don’t make me beg,” she said softly. “I’ll call in any favors I have left so that you can go to therapy tonight. I’ll do my best. But I need to go to work.”
Lucky sighed, rubbed the back of his neck. “All right,” he said finally. “I’ll figure something out about therapy. Maybe I can find someone who can watch him. But this is the last time. I need to pass that test on Friday, Elizabeth.”
“I know.” She managed a wobbly smile and didn’t even flinch when he kissed her cheek. “I know you need to pass the test.”
They all needed him to pass that test. If he didn’t get back to work soon, she was going to lose her mind. “Thank you,” she said. “This means a lot.”
When he smiled at her, she managed to keep her own expression upbeat. Even if everything inside her was screaming that something was terribly wrong with her marriage and this couldn’t keep happening.
“Anything for you,” Lucky said as he kissed her again. “I mean it.”
“I…need to get ready for work,” she managed as she ducked into the bathroom, closed the door, then pressed her head against the cool wood.
“Just a few more days,” she murmured. “I can do this a little longer. He’ll go back to work, and it’ll all be okay.”
Maybe if she said it enough, she would believe it.
General Hospital: Nurse’s Station
Elizabeth pressed a hand to her head and took a deep breath. She just…needed a nap. Maybe on her next break, she could manage twenty minutes.
“You okay?” Epiphany asked as she set down some charts. “You look beat.” She hesitated. “If you’re not well—”
“Cameron has a stomach virus,” Elizabeth said. “I needed to—I was up with him most of the night. Lucky has him now, but I didn’t sleep a lot. I can work, I promise. I won’t ask for any more time off.”
“Okay.” Epiphany sighed, then scowled as Manny pushed the janitor cart past them. He stopped to offer Elizabeth a jaunty salute. Her stomach pitched, then rolled as bile rose in her throat. Oh, man. She did not need that today. “I really hate him.”
“I guess he didn’t follow Skye to Miami after all,” Elizabeth managed. Her hands trembled as she picked up a chart. Maybe he hadn’t been planning anything nefarious for Skye. Maybe Elizabeth had overreacted.
Or maybe Jason was right, and Manny was just playing games.
“I need to talk to Stan again,” Epiphany said with a shake of her head. “You know, I hate what my boy does for a living, but you look at a man like Manny Ruiz, and you think…”
“Maybe sometimes taking the law into your own hands isn’t such a terrible idea,” Elizabeth muttered. They both watched as the janitor disappeared down the hall—whistling. “Jason said they’re watching him closely.”
“I bet it’s still too high profile. Another month, if we’re lucky, and maybe we can get rid of him.” Epiphany shrugged. “Anyway, I’ll try to get you some downtime in the break room—”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said as the elevator doors slid open, and Jason stepped out of them. She winced as he headed straight for her. “Why does the universe hate me?”
“I ask myself that every day,” Epiphany said. “You want me to get rid of him?”
“No. If he’s here, it’s for a reason—” It had damn well better be.
Elizabeth stepped out of the nurse’s station and met Jason over in the waiting area. “Hey. What—um—why are you here?”
“I told you I had a meeting with Alan.” Jason glanced around. “Have you seen Manny today?”
“Yeah, just a few minutes ago. He—” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “He smiled at me and gave me a salute. So…you know, that was great.” She sighed. “What did Alan say?”
“Can we talk somewhere where Manny won’t see us together?”
Elizabeth scowled. “Why didn’t you think of that before you came to see me at my job—” She bit off the rest of her retort as the wheel of the custodian cart’s came into earshot. They both turned to see Manny rolling by again. He smiled at them both, a wide grin that did nothing to make Elizabeth feel any better.
“Oh. Good. That’s just—” She waited until the psycho had gone down another hall before grabbing Jason’s arm and dragging him towards an empty hospital room.
“Why? Why couldn’t you just call?” Elizabeth demanded. She dragged her hands through her hair. “Why? And he’s following me. You know he is. Because he just rolled that stupid cart by two minutes ago. It’s the third time he’s gone past the nurse’s station today—”
“I’ll tell Alan he needs to be reassigned—”
“I just don’t want any of this. I don’t want this—” She shoved down the hysteria that had been threatening to spill over since her argument with Lucky that morning. “I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said after a long moment and a deep breath. “I didn’t sleep well last night. Cam is sick. And I just—I know this Manny thing is something I brought on myself. I got involved. I’m not sorry I did, but I annoyed him on my own. That had nothing to do with you.”
“I just—I’m asking you not to make it worse.” She looked at him. “If you need to talk to me, call me. I don’t want Manny thinking anything stupid, okay? Maybe right now he hasn’t decided to do anything, but if he thinks—”
“If he thinks it’ll mess with me,” Jason said, “he might actually go after you. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I just—I wanted to tell you that Alan was on board with any extra security I wanted to add to make sure you were okay. To keep Manny from hurting anyone. He’s trying to get Manny let go, but he’s part of some community service program—”
“Right.” Elizabeth folded her arms. “Okay. I just—” She bit her lip, looked down. “I meant what I said yesterday, Jason. I can’t do this anymore.”
“So if it can be a phone call—”
“Yeah, okay. Hey—” He didn’t say anything else until Elizabeth lifted her eyes to meet his. “Is Cam okay? Can I do anything?”
Tears burned at the back of her eyes as she struggled to form words. Why did he have to ask the one thing she didn’t have a defense against? “He’s just—a stomach thing. It’s fine. But thanks.”
“Okay,” Jason repeated. “I don’t—” His voice was rough now. “I don’t mean to make anything harder. I just—” He looked away. “I just want to take care of—” He broke off abruptly. “I want to make sure you’re taken care of,” he said instead, even though Elizabeth knew what he’d nearly said.
I just want to take care of you.
“I can take care of myself, but I appreciate you looking out for me with Manny,” Elizabeth said. “I need to get back to work.”
They’d no sooner stepped back out into the hallway when Elizabeth heard a screaming child—her screaming child. She and Jason both turned to look as Lucky rounded the corner, a wailing Cameron in his arms.
“What the hell—” Elizabeth started. She darted forward. “Is he okay? Did his fever go higher—”
Lucky didn’t seem to notice Jason following Elizabeth until after he’d shoved Cameron into her arms. The force of it nearly knocked Elizabeth back as Cameron buried her face in her shoulder. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her shaking son. “Mommy!”
“Hey, it’s okay, baby—Lucky, what’s wrong?” she asked him again.
“Nothing,” Lucky said. He finally seemed to notice the other man, then narrowed his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“Why are you here?” Elizabeth demanded before Lucky could pick a fight with Jason. “Why is Cameron—”
“I watched him like I was supposed to. But I told you—I can’t miss another session, and I couldn’t find anyone to watch him—”
“What the hell is all this noise?” Epiphany demanded as she stalked towards them. She glared at the three of them. “Why is that child crying?”
Elizabeth pushed Cameron’s sweaty curls off his forehead as her son started to quiet down to just sniffles and occasional hiccups. “He still has a fever—and oh, God—” She found herself looking at Jason instead of Lucky as panic seeped in. “It’s worse than it was before.” She looked at Lucky now. “When did it get higher? Did you take his temperature?”
“I don’t know,” Lucky shrugged. “But you’ve got doctors here. I have to go, or I’ll be late.” He frowned at her for a moment, swayed slightly, his eyes glassy as if he’d been the one to stay up all night. “I’ll see you at home—”
“Wait, I have to work—”
But Lucky had already gone, with a wave of his hand over his shoulder as he left, turning the corner like he hadn’t just dumped Elizabeth’s sick son on her like a sack of potatoes.
“Mommy, my tummy hurts,” Cameron whimpered.
“Elizabeth,” Epiphany began.
But then Cameron coughed, and then—
Then he vomited, the mixture of mucus, food, and stomach juices violently launching out of his mouth and all over Elizabeth’s scrubs, her arms, and onto the floor. Elizabeth gasped as Cameron continued to heave.
Epiphany went across the hall to grab a phone to page a doctor, then passed Jason a plastic tub and towel from a linen cart. Jason wrapped the towel around Cameron and held the tub near his mouth as the toddler continued to retch.
“Oh, my God,” Elizabeth managed to choke out as her son started to cry again, scared by everyone’s reactions and his own pain and discomfort. Her cheeks were flaming with embarrassment as Jason used the towel to mop at Cameron’s face and her scrub top, some of her son’s vomit getting on him.
“Oh, God, I’m sorry—” she babbled as Patrick jogged up, his handsome face frowning at the sight.
“Elizabeth, what’s wrong—” He shuddered. “Oh, ew. What—”
Epiphany smacked him in the arm. “I swear to God, boy, if you don’t get yourself together—”
“Yeah, yeah, grab us an examining room. Ow,” he muttered as he approached Elizabeth and Jason. “What’s wrong with Cam?”
“It’s—it’s a stomach thing, and he was supposed to be at home, but—” Her throat closed up, and she couldn’t force a single word out. Her baby should have been resting at home, comfortable in his bed, but instead, Lucky had dragged him out of the house and probably hadn’t been too gentle about it.
Jason accepted another towel from Epiphany and gently lifted Cameron from Elizabeth’s arms, wrapped the toddler in it, and held him in his arms. “It’s okay,” he told her as tears slid down her cheeks. “Let’s go get him checked out and you can clean up—”
“You don’t have to—” But she couldn’t finish that sentence as Epiphany herded them into an empty patient room. Jason set Cameron on the bed, and Patrick gave Epiphany a few things he’d need.
“I’ll bring back a fresh set of scrubs, too,” Epiphany promised Elizabeth. She eyed Jason’s stained t-shirt. “And I’ll steal Drake Junior’s extra shirt from his locker.”
“I’d argue with her,” Patrick said as the other nurse left, “but she’d just hit me again.”
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth apologized again. “You’re not a pediatrician, and—”
“But I did my time in that ward, so let’s just take a look.” Patrick shrugged. “You’re right about the stomach thing. It’s ripping through the hospital. And—” He pressed his hand to Cameron’s forehead. “I’m concerned about the fever. I’ll want to prescribe him something to bring that down. He needs rest—”
“He was—” Elizabeth swallowed down a sob. “He was supposed to be at home. Resting. B-But Lucky—” She shook her head, closing her eyes. Jason put an arm around her shoulder, and she couldn’t stop herself from curling into his embrace for just a moment.
For just one moment, she didn’t want to feel so damned alone. Even if Jason Morgan was the last person she should lean on for comfort.
Mercifully, Patrick let it drop as Epiphany returned with clothes and the thermometer Patrick had asked for. He did a quick exam on Cameron, who had grown a bit listless and laid on the bed with a glazed expression.
“I’ll write the prescription for something to bring down the fever,” Patrick told her. “I wouldn’t normally on a kid this age, but I’m worried. And he looks like he hasn’t kept much down—”
“Some juice and applesauce mostly. I tried but—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I had to go to work. Lucky—he was—”
“Well, get some of that Pedialyte stuff,” Patrick told her. He looked away, uncomfortable as if he wanted to say more.
“But I—” She looked at Epiphany. “I have to work, and my grandmother is still in Memphis—”
“You go on home and take care of your baby,” Epiphany told her. “I’ll clear it. I know you don’t want to use any more of your sick time, but—”
“I don’t have a choice,” she murmured. “Oh. Oh, God. Lucky probably didn’t leave me the car seat. We only have one, and I left it in his car because he was supposed to be with him—”
How was she supposed to—
Jason spoke up. “I’ll take you home,” he told her. “I have the SUV, so you can sit in the back with him and hold him. You don’t live that far.”
“I’ll have someone take your car home—”
“I can’t ask you—”
“It seems like a good idea to me,” Epiphany said briskly. “Now, Jason, go into the bathroom there and change. Elizabeth, go take a shower and change in the locker room. I’ll look after your boy.”
“I—” Elizabeth sighed. “Thank you. Epiphany, Jason, and Patrick. Thank you. I just—” She sighed. “I’ll go wash up.”
When she’d left, Patrick scowled. “How the hell did Cameron end up here?” he demanded. “This kid is sick and shouldn’t be outside—”
“Lucky brought him here,” Jason said, a bit unnerved with the way Lucky had dumped the screaming child on his mother, clearly unconcerned with Cameron or his health. Anyone could see the kid was sick. And it killed him to see Elizabeth looking so lost, so fragile.
“He’s an asshole,” Epiphany muttered. “You make sure she has the medicine this kid needs, Morgan. You make sure she gets home and has everything she needs.” She turned her fish eye on Patrick Drake, who put his hands up in surrender. “And you make sure whatever prescription you gave her is covered by our insurance here.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay. But she’d be better off losing the husband.” He hesitated, shook his head. Jason frowned at him.
“That is something none of us can fix. All I can do is take care of her here at work.” She looked at Jason again. “And we’d all be better off if that psycho Manny Ruiz wasn’t breathing down our necks.”
“I’m trying,” Jason said, finding himself feeling oddly defensive. “I have people watching him. I’m not going to let him hurt anyone else.”
“See that you don’t. Now go change out of that shirt before Elizabeth comes in here and gets upset all over again that you’re covered in her kid’s throw-up.”
Lucky & Elizabeth’s Apartment: Street
By the time Elizabeth pushed open her apartment door an hour later, she’d become numb. The mixture of humiliation, fury, and sheer exhaustion had rendered her incapable of feeling. She’d sat in the backseat of the SUV Jason had driven to the hospital, cuddling her sick baby while he’d gone into the pharmacy to get whatever Patrick had told him to get.
She probably should have offered to pay, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak. Instead, as Jason pulled out of the parking lot, she found herself dozing off slightly, her head slumping against Cameron’s.
She didn’t know how much time passed before there was a gentle touch on her elbow. Elizabeth opened her eyes and realized Jason was standing in the street, the door open. “Hey, let me get you upstairs, and you can both get some sleep.”
Elizabeth sighed, closed her eyes, then nodded. “Okay.”
“Here, let me take him up.” Jason reached in and easily lifted the dozing toddler into his arms. The bag from the pharmacy was looped around one of his wrists. She should offer to take it from him.
But it took everything she could muster to get herself out of the car and upstairs. She must have been running at the hospital on sheer willpower because the moment she’d left, taking a single step had become the hardest thing.
“Is his bedroom through there?” Jason asked quietly as he stood with Elizabeth in the doorway, taking in the shambles of her apartment. Lucky had left laundry strewn all over the place, and breakfast dishes were still sitting on the end table, his sofa bed still pulled out.
She stared at it, wishing that she could just close her eyes and make it all disappear. Without waiting for an answer, Jason opened the door. Dimly she could hear his voice, soothing as Cameron stirred, then he must have fallen back asleep as Jason came out and gently closed the door.
The humiliation fought its way past the paralyzing exhaustion as Jason began to fold up the sofa bed. She stepped forward and touched his arm. “No, let me—”
“I don’t mind.” Jason looked at her for a long moment, a touch of worry in his light blue eyes. “I can’t make Cameron feel better, but I can do this. You look so tired, Elizabeth.”
“I just—” Couldn’t let herself depend on anyone. But she also didn’t quite have the strength to stop him, so Jason closed up the sofa bed, steered her to sit down, and then took the dishes into the kitchen.
Elizabeth scrubbed her hands over her face. Almost from the moment Cameron had thrown up, Jason had stuck. Hadn’t flinched when he’d been splashed with vomit or been confronted with her dingy, shabby apartment left a mess by the man who was supposed to love Cameron as his own.
When the water stopped running, Jason came back out and sat on the other end of the sofa. “You should get some sleep—”
“Thank you.” She cleared her throat, made eye contact with him. “I should—I should have said that before.”
“Yeah, of course.” They stared at one another for a long time before Jason pushed himself to his feet. “Do you need anything else? I put Cam’s medicine and the stuff Patrick told me to get him in the fridge.”
“Thank you,” she repeated. She stood up. “I—I had a moment at the hospital where I think I was going to fall apart. I didn’t. I think part of me knew you wouldn’t leave until I was okay. And…” Her voice broke. “There are just some days when you need that.”
“It’s none of my business,” Jason said slowly, “but I don’t…understand what happened. Or why Lucky—”
“Didn’t seem to care or notice how sick Cameron was?” Elizabeth finished. She shook her head. “I don’t know. I could make a list of excuses. I probably will before he gets home. I’ve always been good at that.” She offered a humorless smile. “I guess old habits never really die.”
“Why?” Jason scowled. “Why put yourself through it?”
“Maybe you might not understand this,” Elizabeth said slowly, “but there are just—there some things I can’t think about. Not right now. I know that doesn’t make the problems go away, but—”
“Elizabeth, I just—” He lifted both his hands. “You deserve better.”
“Maybe.” She could feel the tears sliding down her cheeks, the cool tracks they made on her skin. “But I can’t do this right now.”
“Don’t—” She pressed her hands to her face. “Don’t ask me that. Please.”
“Okay.” Jason crossed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms, wrapping his strong arms around her for the second time that day. She let herself have ten seconds of that before she pulled away.
But she didn’t step away. Elizabeth glanced up at him to find him already looking at her, their faces close. With one of his hands, he cupped her cheek and wiped away a tear with his thumb.
“It kills me to see you like this. Let me help.”
“You did,” Elizabeth told him. “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but—” Impulse had her leaning forward slightly, tilting her head up just a bit to press her lips to his cheek. Stupid. Stupid.
Their breath mingled as she started to pull back, and instead of taking a giant step away from him—she leaned in. His lips brushed hers gently, and the soft touch sent a shock down her spine. She so badly just wanted to sink into him, to lose herself—
She nearly did—nearly forgot everything—until his hand cupped her jaw. The feel of his fingers on her skin jolted her back.
Elizabeth jerked away, putting half the room between them. “No. We—No.” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I think—I think you should go.”
“Yeah.” Looking as stunned as she was, Jason swallowed hard. Nodded. “But if you need anything—”
“I’ll figure it out. You should go before Lucky comes home.”
With a sigh, Jason nodded. “Yeah, okay. But get some sleep. I’ll—” He fisted his hand at his side. “I’ll see you around,” he said finally.
And then he was gone.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, pressed her fingers to her lips, and, this time, didn’t fight the tears as the sobs wracked her body. Oh, God. What was she going to do now?
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason was still a bit shaken when he went home after leaving Elizabeth’s apartment. He hadn’t—He’d never planned to—
He didn’t even know how it had happened, and he knew it shouldn’t happen again. She was married. He was engaged. And Elizabeth was right—they couldn’t be friends.
He dropped his keys on the desk and scrubbed his hands over his face.
“Since when do you wear dress shirts to work?” Sam asked from the top of the stairs. He looked up to find her on the landing, a duffel bag at her feet.
“I—I thought you’d left for the airport.”
“Not yet.” She came down to the bottom of the stairs, gestured at the blue shirt Jason wore. “Did I miss a party?”
“Uh—” Jason had forgotten he wore Patrick Drake’s borrowed shirt. “I—” He looked at Sam and realized he didn’t want to tell her. He wanted to lie to her, to make her stop looking at him, and asking questions. And if he didn’t tell her the truth, didn’t that mean something about their relationship?
Didn’t that mean something about how much he trusted Sam? He’d just kissed another woman—a woman he would have sworn a month ago he had put in his past.
“Jason,” Sam pressed when he didn’t answer. “What happened to your shirt?”
“I was at the hospital,” Jason said after a long moment, “arranging security at the hospital for Elizabeth. With Skye gone, I’m worried Manny will target her.”
“I know, but that doesn’t explain the shirt—”
“It’s Cameron’s,” Jason said finally. “I went to tell Elizabeth what Alan and I talked about, and he threw up. He’s sick.”
“I—” Sam frowned. “What was Cameron even doing there? And why—” She took a deep breath. “Why did you have to go and tell her in person?”
“I probably should have called,” Jason admitted. “But Lucky showed up and just—” He broke off. It felt wrong to describe that scene for anyone who hadn’t been there. As if he were betraying some secret Elizabeth would have rather kept to herself. “I didn’t want to leave her alone with a sick kid, so I stayed with her until I knew Cameron was okay.”
Sam exhaled slowly. “You know, I wasn’t going—I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to say anything because I didn’t think I’d want the answers. But I was on the docks. Yesterday.”
Jason blinked. “Yesterday.”
“I heard your conversation with Elizabeth. The entire conversation,” Sam clarified. “From the part where you told her Skye had left Port Charles straight on through to where Elizabeth told you couldn’t be friends anymore because it hurt too much—”
“And you should know—” With a quiet dignity he hadn’t expected, Sam lifted her chin. “You should know that from someone who was just listening, it sounded like two people who’d never really moved on—”
“That’s not—” He shook his head. “That’s not how it was—” Except he was starting to think maybe that was exactly what it was, and Jason couldn’t begin to understand what to do with that.
“I listened to you all but beg her to tell you why she left. As if the reason could possibly matter after all this time.”
“I don’t need you to reassure me. I don’t know if you could. I just—” She took a deep breath. “I need you to figure out what the hell is going on in your head. A month ago, Elizabeth Spencer wasn’t so much as a blip on either of our radars. And now, it’s like ever since you found out she thought you cheated on her, you’ve been obsessed with finding out why she left you. How do you think that makes me feel?”
He didn’t have an answer for that. He knew Sam was right. He’d gone from not even thinking about Elizabeth to only worrying about her. He’d just kissed her. Despite the promises he’d made to Sam, Jason hadn’t been thinking about his fiancée while standing in that apartment. And he didn’t think Sam would be comforted by the idea that this…situation with Elizabeth hadn’t started with the fight with Emily.
That he’d already been thinking about her.
And what kind of man did that make him?
“Don’t be sorry. Because I think we both need to—” Sam looked away. “It’s like we keep bashing our heads together having the same arguments. But neither one of us is saying anything. You hate the fact that I’m going on this job, but you refuse to tell me why. How is what I’m doing any different than what you do?”
This was something he could explain. Because he’d always known what his issue was with her returning to work as a con artist.
“The life I live…” Jason hesitated. “It’s violent, and I commit crimes. I break laws. But the people who get hurt sign up for this life. The people I go after—they choose to be part of this. The people you pull these tricks on—they didn’t.”
“Oh, so what you do is honest, and what I do is a lie? Are you serious—”
“I didn’t say it makes sense,” Jason interrupted. “I said that’s how I see it. Manny Ruiz chose this life. His brother and their father—made that choice. But this woman you’re going to steal money from—she thinks the guy she’s dealing with is legit. You’re stealing from people who never asked to play the game. So, yeah, I think what you do is worse.”
Sam flinched, almost as if she’d been hit, then glared at him. “So you think a man who’s killed people and beaten people up for a living is somehow better than me? That’s what we’re getting to. You’re an honorable criminal, and I’m trash—”
“I never said that—”
“But somehow, my crimes are dirtier and more wrong.” Sam nodded. “Thanks. Thanks for clearing that up.” She pursed her lips, nodded again. “And while we’re being honest, I think you’re still in love with Elizabeth Spencer. I think that’s what Courtney meant when she told me I was a cheap substitute for you and for Sonny. She was talking about Elizabeth.”
“And it was fine when you thought she’d left you because of your job. You could live with that. You could settle for me. But now you know she left because you hurt her and treated her like garbage. And it’s killing you. Because now settling doesn’t seem like it makes you happy anymore.”
Jason said nothing, and Sam nodded. “Thank you for not denying it.”
“I don’t know if anything you said is right, I just know—I know it’s not wrong,” Jason admitted painfully. “Sam—”
“She doesn’t want you, Jason. She has a husband and a new life. So you need to figure out if you can let her go. Because if you can’t, then I don’t know how I can stay.” She lifted up her duffel bag. “All I ask you is to just…stop having these heart to hearts where people can see you. Or hear you. I don’t deserve to be humiliated on top of everything else.”
“Sam—” he said again.
“I’m going to Florida. Let’s…both take this time to regroup. Because I deserve more than this. And so does she.”
Sam pushed past him, and Jason let her go. He didn’t even know what he could say to her, except she was right. Everyone deserved better than the way he was treating them, and he just—he needed to get things under control again.
Elizabeth wanted him to stay away if it wasn’t about Manny, and this time, he thought that was a good idea. Until he got his head on straight.
Lucky & Elizabeth’s Apartment: Living Room
By the time Lucky came home from therapy around seven that night, Elizabeth had slept and felt slightly more human. She had decided to ignore the entire…incident with Jason and explain it to her brain as stress and hysteria. She’d lost her mind for a few minutes, but she was okay now.
Whatever had happened with Jason, no matter how guilty she felt about it—it didn’t change what Lucky had done. Lucky had promised her to look after Cameron, and instead, he’d put his health at risk by dragging him out with a fever.
She gave Cameron another small glass of the Pedialyte juice Jason had purchased at the pharmacy. It was his second dose since he’d woken up from his earlier nap, and already he looked more comfortable. With Cameron feeling better, and a few hours of sleep behind her, Elizabeth felt ready to at least attempt to figure things out with Lucky.
Lucky dropped his keys on the coffee table and offered a sheepish grin. “Hey. Look, I know you’re angry—”
“Angry isn’t really the word.” She took a deep breath. “I lost half my shift at work, and it would have been more if Epiphany didn’t cover for me. You left me without a car seat, and Cameron had a fever. Did you even give a damn—”
“Of course I did!” Lucky’s cheeks flushed. “Did you? I told you I couldn’t miss another session—”
“And I—” She closed her eyes. “You agreed. Don’t pretend you didn’t. I had to beg you, but you agreed—”
“I only have three days before I lose my spot on the squad!” Lucky shot back. “Damn it, isn’t that supposed to be the most important thing? Get back on active duty and full pay so you can take off a fucking day work to take care of your kid?”
Your kid. God, she’d seen it for months, but she’d ignored it. After a year, Cameron was her kid. Not theirs. Not his. But he was Elizabeth’s responsibility, and Lucky had made it clear every time he put himself above what Cameron needed.
“No, the most important thing to me is my son. And he had a fever. Five seconds after you walked away, Lucky, Cameron threw up all over me and Jason. Epiphany had to call Patrick. He had a fever,” she repeated. “And you left me without his car seat. How the hell did you think I’d get home?”
“I—I forgot.” Lucky grimaced. “I’m sorry. I just—I figured if I left him with you, Epiphany would cover for you. She likes you.”
“But she has a job to do, and she can’t keep covering—” Elizabeth shook her head. “What is wrong with you, Lucky? You promised me—you swore we’d be a family—and every time I ask you to do something for Cameron, it’s like I’m asking you to commit a crime. He was sick, and he’s just a baby! How could you drag him all the way to the hospital and leave him like that? He was crying—”
“Oh, come on! This isn’t fair! He was crying here, too. And hey, it looks like he needed to go to the hospital if he’s still sick—”
Elizabeth could scarcely breathe as her throat closed, and the tears burned. “You said you wanted to adopt Cameron. You wanted us to be family. But Cameron doesn’t matter to you at all, does he?”
“Oh, calm down. It’s not that serious.” Lucky rolled his eyes. He stalked to the kitchen and yanked open the fridge to pull out a beer. He shoved aside Cameron’s orange Pedialyte and frowned at it. “What is this?”
“It’s for Cameron. He can’t keep a lot of food down.” Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair. “Lucky—”
Lucky’s voice was quiet, almost contemplative, and she didn’t know what to think about that. “How did you get home? Did Emily drive you? Did you call a cab?”
When Elizabeth didn’t answer, Lucky frowned and turned away from the fridge, the Pedialyte still in his hand. “How much did the fucking cab cost? And what about this? Didn’t the pharmacy have their own brand? How much money did you spend today?”
“Jason drove us home,” Elizabeth said finally, and swallowed hard as Lucky stared at her, the color draining from his face. “He was there—you know that. And he was worried after Cameron threw up on me, on him—” She jumped as Lucky threw the plastic bottle in the sink, the flush returning to his cheeks. “He did me a favor, okay? I didn’t have a car seat, and—he went into the pharmacy for me. To get Cam’s prescription and anything else Patrick told him to—”
“Patrick Drake? That doctor who likes to screw all the nurses? You sleeping with him, too?” Lucky demanded. “Screwing the doctor, taking favors from criminals—anything else you want to tell me, Elizabeth?”
“It’s not—he—” She took a step back before she even realized it, holding her hands up. “He just wanted to help, okay?”
“Because he’s so much better than me, isn’t he?” Lucky growled. He stalked over to the sink and grabbed the Pedialyte, twisting the cap off. “My wife isn’t going to owe any fucking mobster a goddamn favor—”
“No, don’t!” Elizabeth sprang forward as Lucky started to dump the Pedialyte in the sink. Cameron needed that, and they couldn’t get any more at this hour—the pharmacy had already closed. She grabbed his arms, trying to get a grip on the bottle so she could wrench it away. Her baby needed that to get better—
“Let me go, you goddamn whore—” Lucky shoved his elbow back, putting the full force of his body into it as Elizabeth went flying back towards the arch that divided the kitchen from the living room.
Her temple slammed into the doorway, and pain exploded in her head, her vision dimming, filled with stars—were her ears ringing?
Elizabeth slumped to the ground, clutching the side of her head, not even sure what had just happened. Had…had Lucky actually pushed her? Oh, God, why couldn’t she focus?
“Oh my God, Elizabeth—” His voice sounded like it was coming from very far away. As she felt his hands on her shoulders, she managed to swat them away.
“Get—” She choked. “Get away from me—” She crawled a few feet as her head ached. Her vision finally righted itself even as her head continued to throb. She leaned against the sofa, facing the kitchen, taking in Lucky’s stricken face. “Get away,” she managed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—” He stopped his advance as she feebly kicked at him. “Let me get you an ice pack—”
“Stay away from me—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, swallowed the sobs. Oh, God. What did she do now?
“It was an accident. Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I would never hurt you. Please.”
Her Lucky was in those words, his voice, the boy she’d fallen in love with. She could hear him, but when she opened her eyes, she still didn’t know if she could see him. Lucky looked upset, but she didn’t—
She didn’t know what to do. What to think. Had he meant to hurt her? Send her flying like that? Or had he just reacted? And did it even matter?
“Cameron needs that…” Elizabeth finally managed. “Don’t…please don’t.”
“I’m sorry. I was mad.” Lucky got up and hurried to the sink. He showed her the bottle, half its contents gone. He screwed the cap back on and shoved it back in the fridge. “I was mad that Jason did something for you, and you’re right. I’m sorry. I never should have—I just—” He was crying now. “I’m sorry.”
“You should—” Everything hurt, and her head felt like she was swimming against a very rough tide. “You should go.”
“No, you need to believe me. I need to make this okay.” He knelt down, offering her hand. “Let me help you up—”
“D-Don’t touch me.” She slapped his hand away, and he backed away again. “Don’t—go away.”
“I can’t. If I leave, you’ll never forgive me. Please. It’s just—God, Elizabeth, I’m sorry. I just—I don’t know. I feel like if I could just get back on active duty, everything will be okay again, you know? You can stop working so much, and we can get a house. And we can be happy again. I’m sorry. Please. Please. I’d rather cut off my arm than hurt you.”
She wasn’t sure if she believed him because she needed to or if she thought he was sincere, Elizabeth finally allowed Lucky to pull her to feet and help her sit on the sofa. He hurried over with an ice pack that she pressed to the side of her face.
“Sorry doesn’t change anything,” Elizabeth murmured. “I just…I’m tired, Lucky. And I don’t want to argue anymore.”
“We won’t. I’m sorry. I won’t—I’m sorry,” he said again.
“I’m going to bed. I’m going to sleep in Cameron’s room. I just—” She shook her head as he started to follow her. “No, I just—God, I need some space.”
“Right, right. And he needs you, too.”
Elizabeth closed the door on Lucky’s eager, apologetic face, flipping the lock. She slid down the door, closing her eyes, and silently continued to cry.