Written in 62 minutes. No time for spell check.
“Our theory is now that one of the Cassadines blew up the island to make their escape.” Robert grimaced as he cast his gaze over the crowd of WSB agents and researchers scouring the remains of the estate—there were construction crews removing piles of stone, hoping to excavate the tunnels beneath the foundation.
“When we looked at the distance between the cottage and where the bombs were set,” Elizabeth said, folding her arms, “Jason and I just don’t think Nikolas could have made it all the way here and detonated them. And if they’d been remote—”
“He would have escaped with you guys,” Robin said, kicking a loose piece of stone out of her way. “They’ve got a point, Dad. It’s a mile between them, and Nikolas wasn’t much of a runner.”
“No, his idea of playing sports was polo or fencing. Jason doesn’t think he’d be able to make that distance in less than twelve minutes.” Elizabeth looked at Jason. “Right?”
“I don’t know how that changes what we’re looking for,” Jason told Robert, “but if the Cassadines blew the place up—”
“Then there’s probably not much here to find. Or whatever is here doesn’t give us much of puzzle.” Robert put his hands at his waist, his scowl deepening. “Can I just tell you how much I hate the bloody Cassadines?” He looked to Laura. “Why didn’t we blow up the whole family when we had the chance?”
“Well, in our defense, we didn’t know Helena was part of Mikko’s schemes,” Laura said, “and the sons were mostly playboys. We thought they were like Tony, and you saw how dumb he ended up being—”
“Didn’t Tony end up getting himself frozen to death?” Elizabeth said.
“That’s what I’m saying—”
“If we could—” Robert pressed his lips together. “No sign of any messages in the cottage?” he asked her.
“No, just some of Jake’s things. I was hoping we could box them up and take them with us,” Elizabeth said. “He’s doing okay so far, but it’s early and he’s just—he’s excited by the changes. I want him to have some familiar things.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’ve swept the place, so take what you want.” Robert paused. “I’m sorry. It looks like this was a wasted trip.” He turned away to take a phone call.
“Maybe not,” Laura said. “Didn’t Jake say that his nanny brought him to the gardens to meet with Nikolas?” she asked Jason and Elizabeth.
“You think he’d leave something there?” Elizabeth asked doubtfully.
“If the cottage was worth checking,” Jason said, “then it wouldn’t hurt to try everything.” They glanced over as Robert muttered a curse under his breath, then shoved his phone back in his pocket.
“We’ve got a problem in Ukraine—” He dragged a hand over his eyes, digging the heel of his hand into his brow. “Luke apparently found one of our missing Cassadines, and used that one to get to the bitch herself.”
“Wait, what?” Elizabeth demanded. “Luke found Helena? Which one of the Cassadines—”
“Luke was apparently in contact with Stefan Cassadine during this whole operation—”
“I knew he wasn’t telling us everything—”
“What the hell—”
“Does he have Helena?” Jason said flatly, interrupting everyone else’s anger and exclamations. “When do we leave?”
“He has her. She’s dead.”
Elizabeth stared at the older man, then shook her head. “No, no I don’t believe that—” Not that easy. It couldn’t be that easy—could it—
“He wants me to come get her body. Seems like he doesn’t trust anyone else but me to dispose of her probably,” Robert said.
“Well, the last three times we killed Helena, she just came back,” Laura retorted. “And it was definitely Luke’s turn the last time to get rid of the body. But she’s dead? How? When?”
“Last night. He shot her in the head. She’s dead, Laura.”
“Why didn’t he tell us?” Elizabeth fisted her hands at her side. “He knew we wanted her—” She closed her eyes.
“You wanted to find her to kill her,” Robin reminded her gently. “And that’s done now. That’s good, right? Helena was the one that was putting you and the boys in danger, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, but—” Elizabeth looked at Jason, and knew he understood. It wasn’t enough that Helena was dead.
She’d wanted to be the one to do it.
“Robin, would you run this operation while I head to Ukraine? I want to get my hands on that body and make sure it’s really her,” Robert said. “And if you’d like, I can truss up Spencer and drag him back here you so can scream at him.”
“It’s not worth it,” Laura muttered. “He’d just tell us he was doing us a favor. That would be like Luke,” she said to Elizabeth. “He should have killed her when we learned what she’d done to Lucky, but no, now he has to do it when it’s not even—” She took a deep breath. “You know what, Robert? Bring my ex-husband to me. We need to have some words.”
“I need to get out of here,” Elizabeth muttered. She spun on her heel and stalked off towards the gardens. Jason glowered at Robert—as if any of this was his fault—then followed her because there was no way in hell he was going to let her walk around Cassadine Island alone.
“Laura, at the end of the day—”
“At the end of the day, I wanted to rip her eyes out and shove them down her throat so she’d choke on them. Now I don’t even get to be in the room to watch her breath her last.” Laura took a deep breath. “I’ll have to find a way to be okay with that, but I will never forgive Luke for doing this. For any of this.”
They found the garden bench that Jake had described but Elizabeth didn’t know what she’d expected to find. She sat down, trying to picture her son sitting here with Nikolas —asking to go home.
“I’m sorry,” Jason said. “I know this isn’t how we wanted this to end.”
“We could still go after Mikkos and Valentin,” Elizabeth murmured, “but it’s not the same. They didn’t take Jake from me. They haven’t haunted me most of my life. They’re not even the ones that went after Laura or Lucky. They’re not the Cassadines I want to see rotting in hell.” She paused. “I mean, I’m sure they deserve it—but going after them personally when the WSB can handle it—”
She tilted her head back to look at the sky, at sun sinking beneath the horizon. “Helena took my son from me and made me live in hell for two years. And Nikolas found out the truth at some point. Luke—and Lucky—knew for months. And no one told us. No one told Laura or me. And now Luke just went—” She sighed. “I don’t have anywhere to put all of this anger. I just want to scream at him, but Laura’s right. He’ll have worked this out in his head that he was sparing us.”
“Maybe he has a point,” Jason said slowly. She frowned at him. “I wanted her blood, too. I wanted revenge. And I agree with you. Something about this feels different knowing she’s off the table. It doesn’t feel the same. I also—” He paused. “I’ve taken lives. You know that. My hands aren’t clean.”
“Neither are mine—”
Jason shook his head. “You shot a man going after Jake, and you made a mistake at the hospital,” he added. “It’s not the same. I’ve—” He paused. “I’ve killed for Sonny.”
She blinked at him. He’d never spoken about his job so plainly to her before. “I know that—”
“It stays with you,” he told her. “Helena might have deserved it—and I think you might have been okay with living with it, but part of me is glad you don’t have to.” He paused. “I know that’s selfish, and it doesn’t make what Luke did right—but I think he was trying to protect you.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe in a few months I’ll even be glad—but right now, I just feel angry—” She gripped the edge of the bench, then frowned as her fingers slid over something. “What’s this—”
Elizabeth reached under the bench and pulled out a picture. She ran her finger over it — it was a picture of her and Jake from just before the accident. Her precious baby was alive and home with his brothers, learning to play video games and get into trouble—he’d go back to school and he’d grow up and get to all the things she dreamed about—
She turned it over, then sucked in a sharp breath. “Nikolas.”
“What is it?” Jason slid closer to look over her shoulder. “Is it from him?”
“If you’re reading this, then something has gone wrong. I’m sorry. I should have told you, but I wanted to bring him back to you myself. I wanted to save him. I wanted you to forgive me.
I can’t come home until I’ve fixed this. Until they’re all gone. I have to make sure this never touches our children again. Take care of Spencer for me. Tell him I love him.
I kept this photo for Jake to always remind him that you were out there, waiting for him to come home. I leave it to you to remember what matters. I know you. You’ll want revenge, and you deserve it.
But you also deserve a life away from this. Go home to Jake and love him. Be happy.
Elizabeth hissed. “That infuriating piece—” She nearly crumbled up the photograph. “How many men today are going to tell me what I deserve? What I should feel? How I should live my life?” She launched herself off the bench, the photo falling to the ground. She whirled around on Jason. “Even you. You’re happier knowing that I’m not going to have Helena on my conscience—”
“That’s not what I said—”
“I would have burned her alive, buried the ashes, and danced on her grave,” Elizabeth shot back. “And I would have gone to sleep happy about it—better for having done it! Because I would have made sure my boys were safe—and you, Nikolas, Luke—” She growled. “You all think I’m some sort of fragile hothouse flower that can’t do both!”
“Again, not what I said,” Jason said, but since the other two men she was ready to set on fire weren’t there, he let it go.
“The nerve of telling me that I should give up revenge so I can go home and love my son! Have a life away from this! I can do both! I would have done both!”
“I know that—”
“He had no right—none of them—” Her chest started to heave as it all set in—as it crashed in who she was screaming at. Her sobs were ragged as she sank to the ground. She stared at the photo in her hands. “Two years, she had him. Two years, and I never knew—and I thought—I thought if I could just make it over—if I could be the one to make the world safe from her—maybe I could forgive myself.”
Jason exhaled slowly, then slid off the bench, crossing over to sit next to her on the ground. “I know. Because that’s what I wanted.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes, rested her head against his shoulder. “The accident—it was my fault—”
“And Helena coming after him—that was my fault. She must have thought he was Lucky’s son. That was my lie, Jason. I put Jake in her cross-hairs by lying about who he was—”
“And then for two years, she had him here, and we can only pray he’ll be okay after all of that—and I just—I thought if I stopped it—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “But now I think nothing is going to take that away. Even if I’d killed her—if you’d killed her—it’s never going to make those years go away.”
“No, it won’t.” He kissed her forehead, then reached for the photo. “You did what you thought was best for Jake. We both did. And we were wrong. We have a chance to make it right. I thought—” He paused. “Last fall, I thought I was just getting a second chance to love you. To have a family. I never dreamed I’d get another chance with my son.”
“I want to go home. I want to be with our boys. I need to be with them.”
“Me, too.” Jason got to his feet, then pulled her up. “Remind me not to piss you off,” he said as they started back to the house and he put an arm around her shoulder. “You’re scarier than you used to be.”
Elizabeth smirked, snaking an arm around his waist, leaning into his embrace. “Damn right.”
When their voices faded, and he knew they were gone, Nikolas stepped out the shadows, his face twisted in a grimace. “That wasn’t the way I wanted that to go,” he muttered. “But at least she’s going home.” He looked at the man standing next to him. “Did you have to stab her?”
“I didn’t hit anything vital,” Lucky muttered. “She only almost died because she refused to stay home. And I got my ass kicked, you know! Morgan almost killed me this time!”
Nikolas rolled his eyes. “Come on, we need to go meet up with your dad and my uncle. We’ve got work to do.”
Laura was elated to receive news that her son was alive, but was as irritated by Nikolas’s note as Elizabeth was.
“I’m beginning to think it’s not just Spencer men who need to be set on fire,” was all she’d say before stomping off to go talk to Robin.
Jason and Elizabeth took the first boat to the mainland and were on their way home to Port Charles by the time the sun dipped below the horizon.
She was done hunting Cassadines.
Jason called ahead to Greystone to ask if Sonny would bring the boys to the house, and when his SUV pulled into the driveway the next day, Sonny’s car was parked at the curb.
“I am going to sleep for a week,” Elizabeth said. She closed her eyes, resting her head against the headrest. “But when I get up, I’m going to remember that my baby is home, my boys are together, my best friend is alive, and—” She twisted her head to look at him. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“You know I had my doubts about all of this,” she said softly. “When you moved in, you didn’t want to do that. You wanted to get married.”
“I wanted you,” he said with a shake of his head. “And you wanted time.”
“Time.” Elizabeth sighed. “You know, before all this started, I told Laura I was scared we were together now because of what happened before. We were in love before. We felt guilty about Jake. We were lonely…”
“Now I know I just was too scared to trust that we’d get it right. We never have before,” she continued, “and every time, it hurt so much more. I think if we messed it up this time—” Elizabeth paused. “But we’re not going to.”
“It’s not my plan,” Jason said. “But I’m not proposing anymore,” he added. “When you’re ready, you’ll tell me.”
“And if I never am?”
“Then we’re just going to live together forever, raise the boys, have grandchildren—” He shrugged. “And we’ll need more paperwork to file taxes.”
Elizaeth laughed. “Okay. Fair enough.” She pushed her door open and stepped out of the SUV. She could hear laughter and voices inside—the beautiful new voice of Jake mixed with Cameron and Aiden—and she could hear Morgan and Joss, too.
Jason frowned when she didn’t move. “Elizabeth?”
“I don’t want a big wedding,” she said, meeting his eyes. “And I want it soon.”
“Waiting time is three days,” Jason said slowly, walking towards her. His arms encircled her waist as he dipped his down to kiss her. “You want to get married on Friday?”
“I thought you said you weren’t proposing anymore,” she teased.
“Hey, this time, you proposed to me,” he said. Elizabeth laughed, then took his hand and they went inside to be with their boys. There was laughs, and hugs, and kisses—and when Elizabeth told them all about Friday—
Sonny grinned, Joss demanded to be a flower girl—and Cameron hugged her hard while Jake cheered, and Aiden smiled.
Elizabeth met Jason’s eyes over Cameron’s head and smiled at him. This was better than revenge, she decided. She’d been given a second chance, and she wasn’t going to waste it on hatred and bitterness, but on loving her boys, her future husband, and her friends.
But she still hoped Helena Cassadine was roasting in hell.
THE END FOR NOW