January 28, 2023

Update Link: Signs of Life – Chapter 3

Hope everyone had a great week. Things were absolutely insane literally from the moment the school week started. It was rotten luck that I got Covid the week before our NJHS induction ceremony — it’s the busiest week of the year in a normal school year but it also coincided with the end of the marking period and the full rotation turnover as I closed down three classes with 63 kids and prepped and met 65 new ones. Sooo I’m a bit tired, lol, and taking this weekend to rest and recharge.

I started doing writing sprints live on my Patreon last week, but I wasn’t able to get back to it this week with the craziness. That will start up again on Monday as I get back into the swing of things. I’m mostly recovered (there’s some lingering nasal congestion and fatigue but it’s already better than a few days ago) but things around me fell apart and I’m struggling to get the house back in order. Did a lot of work today and some last round of chores tomorrow, but we’re back on track.

I’m planning to have Flash Fiction tomorrow, but it will definitely be back next week for sure. Thanks for your patience as I worked through this rough month. 2023 is off to, uh, some kind of start. Let’s hope for a snow day on Tuesday (snow is forecasted, let’s goooo) because your girl needs a break.

This entry is part 3 of 41 in the Signs of Life

I’m falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I’ve held on to
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

I’m living for the only thing I know
I’m running and not quite sure where to go
And I don’t know what I’m diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you

Hanging by a Moment, Lifehouse

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Studio: Hallway

Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she was happy or irritated when she turned the corner and found Jason leaning against the wall next to her door. After the day she’d just had, she wondered if he’d say something that was supposed to reassure her. The last time he’d tried that, she’d just wanted to smack him with a baseball bat.

“Uh, hey.” Jason straightened as she approached and pulled out her keys. “We have a problem.”

She unlocked her door and shoved it open. “I hope we have the same problem or else my day is going to get worse.”

Jason frowned as he walked into the studio ahead of her. He reached the sofa and turned. “What do you mean?”

“You first. What’s wrong?” Elizabeth unzipped her jacket and tossed it over the back of the sofa. She unclipped her hair, letting it spill down around her shoulders. She blinked when she realized Jason hadn’t said anything, but was just staring at her. “Jason?”

“What—” He shook his head slightly. “I’m sorry — I — Sonny told me that Nikolas went to the PCPD to try to get me arrested for the Christmas party.”

“Of course he did.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Well, that’s funny because my problem is also about the—” She stopped when he winced. “Wait, is that why Taggert and Capelli stopped me on the pier?”

“They already questioned you?” Jason made a face when she nodded. “Damn it. I was hoping to get to you first. Look—I know you were just trying to help, but—” He scrubbed his hands down his face. “What’s the damage? How bad is it?”

Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment. Then it hit her. Why he looked so worried, why he was so irritated —

“The damage,” she repeated softly. “Because I’m a silly little girl who either told them the truth or lied my ass off, right? Either way, now you think I’m in trouble because I don’t know what’s going on. I’m too stupid to understand.”

Jason flinched, exhaled slowly. “No, that’s not—I just—”

A sharp knock on the door cut him off, and Elizabeth turned away from him, grateful for the interruption. She swiped at her eyes—she was not going to let him see that he’d upset her. First she’d throw him out and then she’d cry.

She peered through the window of the door, then growled. “What the hell—” Elizabeth yanked it open. “I told you, I have nothing to say—”

“Look, Elizabeth, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to—” Taggert froze, then tensed when he spied Jason over her shoulder. “What, did you call him to compare stories?” he demanded.

Elizabeth threw open the door and stood back so that both men were facing each other. “What story?” she asked coolly. She folded her arms. “Did I tell you any stories, Taggert?”

“Elizabeth—” Taggert began.

“Let me call Alexis,” Jason said at the same time. Both men stopped talking, then glared at each other.

“Just in case Taggert tries to tell you differently,” Elizabeth said to Jason, “he wanted to ask me a couple of questions. He asked me two. I answered one.”

“I’m sorry about Capelli,” Taggert continued.

“He asked me if I saw you on November 30, and I told him yes,” Elizabeth told Jason, ignoring the detective. Not taking her eyes from Jason, she continued, “Taggert, did I tell you anything else?”

“No,” Taggert bit out. “But—”

Jason’s expression didn’t change, but she knew it was because of the cop in the room, so Elizabeth turned back to Taggert. “I told you, I have nothing else to say to you. Or to anyone else at the PCPD. You got two questions. It’s not my fault Capelli wasted the second one. If you want to talk to me again, you better have an arrest warrant. Good bye.” She slammed the door in his face and stalked past Jason to sit on the sofa and tug off her boots.

“I’d wait a few minutes for him to leave,” Elizabeth said without looking at Jason. She tossed her boots with her other shoes. “And then you can get out, too.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason said after a long moment of silence. He sat on the sofa, careful to sit as far away from her as possible. “I just—”

“Didn’t trust me,” Elizabeth said. She jerked a shoulder. “It’s fine. You know they’re investigating you for Anthony Moreno, right?”

Jason winced. “Did they tell you that?”

“In a roundabout way. Capelli wasted his question trying to be cute,” Elizabeth said. She turned slightly, drawing her leg underneath. “He asked me how long I screwed you before you left to kill Moreno.”

Jason’s expression tensed, and his nostrils flared. “He what—”

“I told him that my personal life isn’t relevant, so I wasn’t answering the question and I walked away. I think Taggert came here trying good cop, bad cop again.” She rubbed her fist absently against her chest. “I’ll just stay away from them. I’ve already told them I won’t say anything without a lawyer, so we should be fine.”

“Yeah, I—” Jason pressed his lips together. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, his tone softer. “I should have trusted you. You’ve never let me down.”

“Give me time. I’m pretty good at disappointing people.” A lump rose in her throat and she swallowed hard, staring at her fingers. “And, you know, this is my fault anyway. I’m the one that told Nikolas—I’m the reason—”

“Hey—” Jason leaned forward, waiting for her to look up. “He came in and found me half-dressed on your sofa, Elizabeth and threw around accusations. He was already thinking it.”

“Yeah, I know, but I didn’t have to throw gasoline—” She sighed. “It’s just frustrating. Everyone’s looking at me like I’m doing something wrong. And before you say it’s about you—it’s not. It’s me. Because they all bring up Lucky. That was Nikolas’s problem. Lucky’s only been gone eight months—and my grandmother—” Elizabeth pressed her fingers to her lips. “I wonder if this would hurt even more if it were true.”

Jason frowned slightly, shaking his head. “What do you mean?”

“If—” Elizabeth felt her cheeks heat even as she continued, “if you and I were—if I was dating anyone—” she added, “and people were judging me for moving on. It’s been eight months.” She closed her eyes. “In a few weeks, it’ll be nine months. He’s dead. He’s gone. And I worked so hard to be okay with that.”

“Elizabeth, hey—”

“And I am okay with it. I am,” she insisted, when she could see the doubt in Jason’s expression. “It sucks, and it’s terrible, but I can breathe. I can see a future for myself without him, and that wasn’t true even a few months ago. And the people who love me—they don’t care. They’re not even happy—and if I were really moving on, I think—”

And maybe that was why this hurt so much. Because she was moving on. It didn’t matter that Jason wasn’t moving with her, that he was still just a friend. She knew what her feelings were, even if they didn’t matter. And maybe that’s what Nikolas, Emily, and her grandmother could see.

It hurt like hell that they didn’t want her to be happy, to date, to fall in love again.

“I really think it is because they think it’s me,” Jason told her softly. “When you do start to—” He paused and his expression almost looked pained, “when do you start to date again, they’ll be fine—”

“But they don’t know the truth,” Elizabeth said, “so for all they know, I’m happy with you, and that doesn’t matter to them—ugh, you don’t get it,” she muttered. She shoved herself off the sofa. “I know, to you, because it’s not true, it shouldn’t matter what they think because in a few weeks—” She wrapped one arm around her waist, and bit the thumb on her other hand. “That’ll be worse,” she muttered.

“How?” Jason asked. She heard him stand, but Elizabeth didn’t turn to face him. “Won’t this be better when everyone moves on to the next thing?”

Because everyone would think he’d broken up with her. No one would ever believe she’d leave him. And for Jason, it would be over, but Elizabeth would have to still deal with the smirks and the pitying looks. And because telling him that would be too close to admitting that she wanted this to be more, so she closed her eyes, swallowed hard, then turned around to smile at him.

“You’re right. Everything will be better when this is just a memory.”

Jason frowned at her, searching her eyes. “Don’t do that,” he said darkly. “Don’t lie to me.”

“Then don’t—” Elizabeth huffed. Men. Morons. “Don’t ask me stupid questions like that, Jason. You’re not a woman, so you don’t get it. This will be better for you when it’s over. But no one is going to forget. They’re just going to think we broke up, and—” She hissed. “I’m not doing this. This is the same stupid argument from last night, and I’m just tired. Can we just leave it at that?”

She walked over to the sink, wishing she had some brushes she could pretend to wash. Could she ask him to leave? How could she just get him to leave her alone and stop asking questions—

“Because of what they said about you,” Jason said slowly, “people are going to think I broke it off.”

Damn, she wished he wasn’t smart or didn’t know her so well. “I know it doesn’t matter what people think. Or that it shouldn’t,” she added. She bit her lip. “But it does. And none of this is your problem. It was my lie that started this, my friends and family who made it public knowledge—”

“You lied for me.” He was closer to her now, and she could almost feel his breath on her neck, shivers sliding across her skin.

Elizabeth slowly turned around—Jason was only a few inches away from her. She lifted her chin so that their eyes met and held. “You were hurt. And I wanted Nikolas to leave so I could make sure you were okay.”

He tucked an errant curl behind her ear, a finger tip sliding around the curve of her ear. “And I am. Because of you.” There was something different in his eyes—something she’d never seen before, and the way his breathing had changed.

“The things they said,” Elizabeth said, “they’re true. I know they’re the reasons you’d never look at me, and it’s going to hurt when people say it’s why—”

“They’re wrong,” Jason told her, his voice husky, his fingertip trailing down her cheek bone to sweep across her chin. “And they don’t know anything about you. Or me.” He dipped his head down, and just before their lips met, “They don’t know anything about us.”

Then he kissed her.

This had not been the plan.

Jason had intended to get to Elizabeth before the PCPD could, and tell her not to say anything without a lawyer. Then he was going to leave because all the gossip would go away faster if they weren’t seen together.

Then he’d been stupid and said something that had hurt her—then Taggert had showed up and proved to Jason that not only had he been stupid—he’d been arrogant to assume Elizabeth would leap at the chance to tell the PCPD they’d spent the night together.

Then she’d been pissed at him, and when she’d walked away from him, upset because he didn’t understand why it mattered what people thought about them because they weren’t technically a them

The truth had finally slammed into Jason like a freight train. It hurt Elizabeth that people didn’t think she was the kind of woman that would keep him because she wanted to be, and she thought they were right.

And he couldn’t stand for her to think that. To entertain it for even a second. So when she’d looked at him with her beautiful eyes, and that hair he’d just wanted to slide his hands through since the moment she’d removed the clip—

Jason stopped thinking.

And he kissed her.

He forced himself to keep it light, to keep it soft—because if he showed her how much he actually wanted her, she might run screaming from the building—

Or maybe Jason wasn’t ready to find out Elizabeth really did feel the same.

Her lips was soft, sweet, and trembled slightly underneath his—then they parted and he dipped his tongue in to taste her, to see if she was sweet all over—

With a sound that might have been a purr, Elizabeth slid her arms around his neck and tipped her head, pressed herself closer to him. Jason’s hands dove into her hair, sliding through the soft, silky strands.

Elizabeth’s hands slid down from his neck to his chest, and then she gently pushed. Jason stepped back, ending the kiss as they stared at each other, their faces flushed, breathing shallow.

“I—” Elizabeth began, but before either of them could say a word, there was another knock at the door. A pounding. She winced, then went over to the door. “It’s Taggert again,” she said with a mutter.

Jason swore, then yanked the door open. “She told you—” he began, but then stopped as Taggert, with a few other officers behind him, held up a piece of paper.

A search warrant.

Elizabeth stared at the search warrant that Taggert dangled in front of her, struggling to process not only what was happening in front of her but what had happened less than two minutes ago.

Jason had kissed her.

Jason had kissed her.

Jason Morgan had kissed her.

She knew she should be focusing on the search warrant and the police officers standing behind the irritated detective, but her brain was screaming at her that she needed to shut the door on him, turn around and ask Jason what the hell that had meant before they lost the moment—

“Last chance,” Taggert said, drawing Elizabeth’s attention back to him. She frowned. “Answer my questions—”

Behind her, she heard Jason make a sound that might have been a mixture of a growl and a hiss, and she knew that he never ever showed Taggert any reaction — except when Taggert was harassing her.

Because she didn’t want to explain to anyone why Jason was arrested for committing assault against an officer, Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Do you mind if I read it?”

“Excuse me?” Taggert frowned, letting his hand fall slightly. “Read it?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said. “I’d like to read it so I know what you’re looking for and so that I can make sure you don’t touch anything or take anything you’re not supposed to.” She held out her hand.

Taggert squinted. “Did you go to law school this semester or something?” he demanded. “Or is Morgan giving you lessons?”

“Uh, this is the state of New York and I watch Law & Order,” Elizabeth said with a roll of her eyes. “Reruns are on, like, all the time. So I know that if I request a copy of the search warrant before you come in, you have to give it to me. I’m not allowed to stop you, but I am—”

Taggert glowered but shoved the paper at her. She unfolded the paper and frowned at it. “You’re looking for bloody clothing, firearms, and any other evidence that suggests involvement in a crime.” She wrinkled her nose. “That seems really vague, doesn’t it?”


“Oh. You have a mistake on your warrant.” Elizabeth beamed at him. “My studio is on the fourth floor. You have it listed as the fifth.” She handed it back to him. “You need to correct that or anything you find might be thrown out of court.”

Taggert stared at her. “Who are you?”

“You heard her—” Jason began but Elizabeth waved him off. She could handle this.

“I mean, if you execute this search now with incorrect paperwork,” Elizabeth explained to Taggert, “I’m just going to tell the lawyer I hire to sue the PCPD that you knew it was incorrect and that you verbally, in front of witnesses that include your fellow officers, made it clear that you were planning to illegally search my studio for vague evidence because I was exercising my constitutional right to remain silent. It’s your choice.”

Taggert pressed his lips together. “I will be back with corrected paperwork,” he told her. “And the officers are standing right outside to make sure you don’t throw anything out—”

“I would think you’d want me to throw things out,” Elizabeth said, opening her eyes wide with feigned innocence. “Because then I’ve abandoned the property and you don’t need a warrant. Isn’t that why they’re staying?”

He stared at her for a long moment, then turned to the officers. “Let’s go,” he muttered, snapping his fingers. Elizabeth watched them go down the hall and head into the service stairs. She closed the door, letting all of the air out of her chest at once. She felt slightly dizzy and light headed.

“How—” Jason paused. “How did you know to do that?” he asked.

She turned. “What? Oh. I meant what I told him. They have reruns on Law & Order on one of those cable networks all the time, and I spent like half the spring watching them over and over again.” She folded her arms. Elizabeth squinted at him. “Do you think he’ll be back with corrected paperwork? I wonder if he thinks the canvas knives count as evidence.”

“I’ll call Alexis,” Jason said, still staring at her as if he’d never seen her before. “Elizabeth—”

“I know it must come as shock to you, and clearly to the rest of the world, but I know how to take care of myself. I’m not helpless,” she told him. “I’m sorry if that’s a problem—”

“It’s not.” Jason gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry,” he added. “I just—I hate that you’re being dragged into this. Alexis will make it go away. You’ve told Taggert you’re not answering questions, and I know she could get a search warrant thrown out.”

“Thanks.” She bit her lip, then tucked her hair behind her ears. “I don’t think they can force me to answer their questions, right?”

“You mean Law & Order didn’t cover this?” he asked with half a grin. She rolled her eyes. “No. Unless he decides to be really stupid and make it seem like you’re an accomplice—but that’s not going to happen. No one knows I was shot or that you took care of me.” He hesitated. “Except Sonny and Bobbie.” He sighed. “And Carly.”

“Oh. Well, Carly’s not going to do anything that would get you arrested,” Elizabeth said. Then winced, remember what had happened earlier that year when Carly had accidentally had Jason briefly accused of kidnapping Michael. “Not again, right?”

“Probably not on purpose, but Carly isn’t predictable. Let’s not—” Jason took out his phone as it rang in his pocket. He grimaced at whatever was showing up on the screen. “It’s Sonny. I have—I have to go.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth rubbed a finger against her lips and watched his eyes drop to her mouth. Feeling a bit bolstered by that, she decided not to get mad they couldn’t talk about it right now. It had still happened, and it wasn’t like they could forget it entirely.


“I’ll see you later, then,” she said.

“I’ll see you later.” Jason waited a minute, then walked past her, and with another look over his shoulder, left.

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Kelly’s: Diner

Elizabeth hummed to herself as she refilled sugar canisters behind the counter and kept an eye on the door to Kelly’s, wondering if Jason would come by at closing like he used to before the shooting. He knew she was working the closing shift because she had met her new guard, Francis, who had walked her to work from the studio that morning. She wasn’t sure how she felt about having a guard but it also wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Bobbie smiled at her as she sat down with the evening’s receipts in her hand as well as the ledger for the diner. “You’re in a better mood than the last time I saw you.”

“Oh, well, that was at the Christmas Party,” Elizabeth reminded her as she finished the last canister and started to refill the ketchup. “Nikolas made things a little annoying for a while, but it’s starting to get better.”

Maybe if Jason came by, they’d go on a ride and he’d kiss her again. Or could she kiss him? She grinned to herself. It was so silly to think about something like that, but she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt silly—

“I am so sorry,” Bobbie was saying when Elizabeth tuned back into the redhead. “That I didn’t realize earlier. I should have talked to Jason before.”

Elizabeth frowned, tipping her head. “Before?”

“Well, I suppose I didn’t know that Nikolas or Audrey had been by,” Bobbie continued, “or that they knew about Jason. I never imagined anyone would actually believe you and Jason were dating.”

Elizabeth’s stomach rolled slightly as she swallowed hard. “Well, Nikolas can be impulsive,” she said faintly.

“I know. But it wasn’t until the party when I realized that it would be a problem. It didn’t help that you left with Jason and Sonny,” Bobbie said with a shake of her head. “Everyone believed it then.”

“I was supposed to stay at the party with Nikolas and my grandmother? After he’d humiliated me?”

“Well, no, I suppose not. I guess I just wish I had anticipated how messy it would be. And it’s dying down, just like you said. I should have talked to Jason before the party, when I realized he was probably well enough to leave.” Bobbie smiled at her, a warm smile that still felt slightly wrong. “I feel guilty, Elizabeth. I should have seen that you were getting a bit of a crush.”

“A crush,” Elizabeth repeated. “I—”

“When I realized it, I went over to talk to Jason, and he realized it was awkward, too—”

Oh God. “Did you—” Elizabeth swallowed, horrified. “Did you tell him I had a crush on him?”

“Of course not, sweetheart.” Bobbie squeezed Elizabeth’s chilled hand. “I just told him it wasn’t a good idea for you to be known as Jason Morgan’s girlfriend, and he agreed.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “You did this the day after Christmas.” The day when everything had seemed fine one moment, and then the next, Jason had been moving out and not speaking to her for nearly twenty-four hours.

“Yes. It’s all right, Elizabeth. Jason’s a good man, and I can see how you could get your head turned a bit. With you at college now, you’ll meet someone who will make you forget all about this little crush.” Bobbie beamed at her, then looked down at the receipts. “Oh, damn, I forgot to carry the one.”

“I need to go—” Elizabeth forced a smile. “I need to go in the back for a minute.”

Leaving the smiling woman at the counter, Elizabeth ignored DJ behind the stove and went over to the walk fridge.

“Lizzie, don’t go falling asleep in there—”

Elizabeth turned to him, her hand on the metal handle of the door with a sigh. “DJ, what was after locusts again?”

“Darkness, Lizzie,” the cook offered. “But I told you, you don’t want to be tempting none of that.”

“Maybe I do,” she muttered and went inside to let the cold air hit her cheeks and force some common sense into her silly little brain.

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Jason shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling strangely anxious as he walked towards the double doors of the diner, seeing the closed sign on the door. He knew she was still here—he’d called the new guard just to make sure.

But he couldn’t see her through the window, only Bobbie talking to Francis and putting on her coat. A moment later, the redhead emerged and smiled at him. “Jason! We’re closed. I just sent DJ home—”

“I’m here to pick Elizabeth up,” Jason said. “She’s still here, right?”

“Oh, she’s in the back with that guard you sent her. I guess you’re more worried about those rumors than I thought.” Bobbie hitched the strap of her purse higher on her shoulder. “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” she told him.

Jason frowned, shook his head. “What’s not a good idea?”

“Spending all this time alone with Elizabeth,” Bobbie said, stressing the last word. “I mean, we talked about this, didn’t we? Elizabeth didn’t need a reputation that isn’t true, and well—” Bobbie pursed her lips. “I really shouldn’t say anything, but you’re a nice man. And you don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

Baffled, Jason shook his head again. “No, I don’t—”

“She has a bit of a crush on you,” Bobbie told him. “Now, she knows it’s not going anywhere. She and I talked about it—she knows you and I talked after Christmas, but I think—”

Jason put a hand up. “Bobbie,” he said, cutting her off. “What do you mean, Elizabeth knows it’s not going anywhere?”

Bobbie pursed her lips, squinted her eyes. “Well, I told her what we talked about after the party. About how you agreed she didn’t need to be known as your girlfriend—”

For the life of him, he would never, ever understand women. “Bobbie, did you tell Elizabeth that I don’t have feelings for her?”

A bit taken aback, Bobbie hesitated. “Not in those words, exactly,” she said, drawing the words slowly, “but I’d be surprised if she didn’t take that view.” Her mouth formed a little circle. “Oh. Oh, dear. I was trying to help, but—”

“But you did the exact opposite,” Jason muttered, dragging his hand over his face. First all the dumb customers in her face about how she wasn’t his type, and the idiot warehouse workers, and Nikolas and her grandmother—the cops—

Not to mention Jason couldn’t have handled any of this worse than he had.

“Jason, are you telling me you are interested in Elizabeth?” Bobbie asked skeptically. “She’s eighteen—”

“And technically I’m twenty-five,” he bit out. “I know that. But I don’t exactly remember all twenty-five of those years, do I? Why does that matter?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Bobbie said. “And she’s been through more in the last two years than most adults deal with in a lifetime.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. I just—I love her so much. I want her to be happy. I just don’t see how this—I mean, can you imagine what Carly is going to do?”

He didn’t have to imagine—he knew exactly what Carly would do if Jason publicly showed interest in another woman. “It’s my life, Bobbie. And it’s Elizabeth’s choice. Not anyone else’s.”

“Of course, of course. Well, she’s in the back. I’m sorry,” Bobbie said again, but Jason ignored her and went into the diner.

Kelly’s: Kitchen

Elizabeth emerged from the pantry, the last of her closing responsibilities completed and walked out into the front of the diner—stopping when she saw that Francis was gone and Jason was standing at the counter. “Oh.” Nervous, she tucked her hair behind her ear. “I wasn’t sure if you—”

“I thought you might want a ride home,” Jason said. He paused. “If that’s okay.”

“Sure. Um—”

“I parked the bike in the alley.” He gestured towards the back of the diner. “I’ll get the lights and the door.”

“Okay.” Flustered and not really sure she was comfortable with any of this, Elizabeth went behind the counter to get her purse and coat. Jason flipped the locks and turned off the light.

In the alley, Jason went out first, and Elizabeth followed letting the heavy security door fall shut. She started towards the bike, but then he turned to her and Elizabeth barely had a minute to register what was happening before his mouth was on hers and she was pressed against him, his hands in her hair.

Elizabeth’s purse dropped to the ground and her arms went around his neck. She leaned up on the tips of her toes, returning his kiss with everything she could manage in her limited experience.

“I’ve been thinking about that all day,” he murmured as he drew back. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared at him, not really trusting her own ears. “Since yesterday. Longer.”

“Really?” Elizabeth said, a bit breathless, her heart pounding. “You’re not…” She licked her lips. “But Bobbie—”

“She was wrong.” He dipped his head to kiss her again and Elizabeth decided not to argue anymore.

January 25, 2023

Update Link: Signs of Life – Chapter 2

Hello 🙂 Busy exhausting week for me but things really slow down — tonight is the NJHS induction ceremony and tomorrow is the end of the marking period, then Friday, I swap out my 60 students for 64 new ones — but next week, I should have things under control again.

See you later!

This entry is part 2 of 41 in the Signs of Life

I think I’m dyin’ nursing patience
It can wait one night
I’d give it all away if you give me one last try
We’ll live happily ever trapped if you just save my life
Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright

Learn to Fly, Foo Fighters

Monday, December 27, 1999

Vista Point

Jason had planned to put more distance between himself and Elizabeth after he’d left the studio the day before. In fact, he’d planned to go back to way it had been before she’d found him that morning in the snow — two people who occasionally ran into each other and were friendly.

He wasn’t sure what made him think that was a possibility after the last four weeks, but he knew once he’d listened to his sister’s angry voice mail that day at the warehouse, there was no point in pretending.

The whole world knew Elizabeth Webber was important to him, even if they had no idea what they were talking about.

He pulled over at the Vista Point observation deck, and Elizabeth hopped off the bike, pulling the helmet over her head, her hair cascading down over the leather jacket he’d given her for Christmas.

“That was just what I needed,” Elizabeth told him with bright eyes and a wide smile. He returned the smile, and stowed the helmet on the back of the bike. “Where are we?”

“You’ve never been up here?” Jason asked as he led her from the parking lot over to the observation deck where benches had been installed.

“No—” Elizabeth leaned over the guard rail, looking over the cliffs encircling Lake Ontario. “I bet there’s a good view of Spoon Island when the sky is clear,” she said.

“Probably. I’ve never been up here during the day.” He leaned against the railing, watched for a minute. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, looking at him. “No.” She huffed. “I was going to tell Emily the truth,” she muttered. “But she showed up at the end of my shift after I’d already dealt with customers smirking at me, Carly, and my grandmother. And—” Elizabeth eyed him. “Obviously, I can’t tell my grandmother why she found you at the studio.”

Jason accepted that with a nod. Audrey Hardy would not appreciate knowing that her granddaughter had been taking care of a gunshot victim and hiding him from the police. “No, that would not be a good idea.” He winced. “Carly?”

“I can take Carly,” Elizabeth assured him. “In fact, if my grandmother hadn’t shown up—” She sighed. “Never mind. I’ll talk to Emily tomorrow. She was just annoying me. Like I’d committed some horrible crime by not telling her we knew each other.”

Jason furrowed his brow. “She knows that. You asked for me help when she was trying to sneak off to Puerto Rico.”

“But she thinks there’s more now. She has a nasty habit of always taking Nikolas’s side,” Elizabeth admitted. “It’s always been that way. She assumed what he said at the party was true, and didn’t even stop to think there might be anything else going on.” She lifted herself up to sit on the railing. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to help you, and literally everyone in my life made it worse.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Jason told her. “I’m sorry it made trouble for you—”

“Only with the people who don’t think I can make my own decisions.” Elizabeth hesitated. “I’ll talk to Emily,” she repeated, “but I’m not talking to Nikolas right now after what he pulled, and he’d be harder to explain things to. He can’t be trusted with the truth.” She sighed, looked away. “He couldn’t even be trusted with a lie.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason repeated.

“It’ll be something people talk about for a minute, and then it’ll go away,” Elizabeth assured him. “Someone will do something insane at New Year’s, and it’ll be old news.” She met his eyes, searched them for a long moment. “Unless you think there’s another way to handle it.”

Jason hesitated. Until the call from Emily, Jason’s plan had been to avoid Elizabeth entirely. If they weren’t seen together, no one would take the fight at the party seriously — but — “You said customers were talking about it?”

“Yeah, I had a packed section,” Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes. “And would you believe half of them didn’t even bother to tip? Cheap bitches,” she muttered. She stared at her hands. “Just a few snickers. I overheard a couple of people saying some things—”

When she stopped talking, Jason’s stomach tightened and he stepped closer. “Saying what?” he demanded in a low voice. Damn it, Bobbie was right — he should have left long ago. He could have managed on his own after the first week. “Elizabeth—”

“Nothing worth repeating,” Elizabeth said. “Don’t worry about it. Really—”

“Who was it?” he pressed. “Was it college kids or—”

“Some workers from the docks,” Elizabeth admitted. She hopped off the railing and walked a few steps in the opposite direction. “Um, a few of them I think I recognized from the warehouse. I got your meds from Sonny there once. And then a few of the others—I think—” She turned to look at him finally. “There was a table of guys I know work for Moreno.”

Jason hissed, looking away. “Moreno,” he muttered. He hadn’t been seen since the shootout, and Jason thought he was probably dead. He couldn’t be sure, but— “What did they say?”

His tone had shifted, become harder and flatter and she flinched. He dragged a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, I—”

“One of the guys told me when I got bored with you, I should look him up—” Elizabeth slid her hands in her pockets. “And I—” Her cheeks flushed, and she stared at the ground. “That’s really all that table said.”

That table. “What about Sonny’s guys?” Jason bit out. How were they treating a woman that was clearly linked to him?

“Jason, it’s really not a big deal—”


She looked up and when she met his eyes this time, he could see the confusion in her expression. “Jason, it’s not like we’re dating. It doesn’t matter what they say—”

“They don’t know that,” Jason retorted. “So it matters. What did they say?”

“Just that I didn’t seem like your type,” Elizabeth said finally. “Apparently, they think you got the good girl out of your system when you broke up with Robin, and I didn’t even have her ass to make up for my lack of—Can we drop it now?” she demanded. “Or do you also want to talk about the women who came in and decided I wasn’t built enough to—” She clenched her jaw, turned around, and started towards the parking lot.

Jason winced, then went after her, his longer legs overtaking hers just as she reached the parking lot and the bike. “Elizabeth—”

“I told you,” Elizabeth said, tossing her hair back. “I didn’t want to talk about it. So can you just take me home?”

Jason exhaled slowly, then handed her the helmet. “I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. “They shouldn’t be talking about you that way—”

“They’re guys,” she said, pulling the helmet, and fastening the strap. “That’s what they do—”

“No, I mean—” He cleared his throat, unsure what to do with any of this. He could see that the way her customers had talked about her had hurt her feelings—and worse—he could see in the flush of her cheeks and the look in her eyes that she agreed with what they said.

And he didn’t know if either of them would be better off if Jason liked the way her body just the way it was, so he remained silent and started the bike. He waited for her to climb behind him, then took her home.

He’d been insane to think that just by leaving the studio he could put their friendship back the way it had been.

Nothing was going to be the way it had been before the night he’d been shot and the morning she’d dragged him back to the world of the living.

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Elm Street Pier

Elizabeth’s second day back at work after the party didn’t go much better than the first, though she noted that no one from the Corinthos-Morgan coffee warehouse sat in her section and the few guys that did come into the diner studiously avoided looking at her.

She wasn’t really sure how to take that—wondering how Jason had made that happen and what’d he had to say to them. He’d been so angry at the idea that people were talking about her, but Elizabeth didn’t know what good it did either of them for her to spell out the reasons in great detail why no one believed he’d look twice at her.

And it was worse because Elizabeth knew that he wouldn’t, so she really didn’t need to have those reasons in her head or have to say them out loud to Jason.

But thankfully, Emily and her grandmother stayed away—Elizabeth wasn’t looking forward to setting Emily straight since she was still annoyed, and she didn’t want another round of her grandmother’s disapproval. The only problems Elizabeth had were Moreno’s guys returning to ogle her and more women who came to smirk at the silly girl with no boobs trying to get their hooks into an older man who couldn’t possibly be satisfied—

And she still got screwed on tips.

She left work and decided to have an early night at the studio, curled up on her sofa with the secondhand television that she’d given herself for Christmas—with her door locked and the ringer on her phone turned off.

But a quiet night at home wasn’t going to happen. At least not before Elizabeth ran one more gauntlet.

Waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs on the pier were Detectives Marcus Taggert and Andy Capelli. She hissed, drew up in front of them, and wrinkled her nose. She should have taken the long way round to the studio.

“Are you going to move,” Elizabeth began, “or are you standing there for a reason?”

“We have a couple of questions,” Taggert began with a smooth smile that she recognized, “if you have a minute.”

“What if I said I didn’t?” Elizabeth said. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket, irritated with herself for leaving her gloves behind at Kelly’s in her haste to leave the diner.

“Then we’d arrange to talk at the station with an attorney,” Capelli said. “What’s it gonna be?”

So he was going to be the bad cop. Fantastic. Elizabeth pursed her lips. “What’s the question?”

“November 30,” Taggert said, meeting her eyes. “You happen to see Jason Morgan that night?”

November 30. The night she’d received that terrible art grade and danced with Jason at Kelly’s.

It was also the night Jason had been shot. They were asking her if she could alibi Jason on a night she knew he’d been out committing crimes.

Elizabeth lifted her chin. “Yes,” she said simply. When she said nothing else, Taggert’s smile turned into a scowl.

“Is that all you want to say?” he demanded. “Just yes?”

“I see we’re abandoning good cop already. You asked me a question, Detective. I answered it—”

“I see Morgan’s trained you well,” Taggert snapped as Elizabeth attempted to walk past them. “Fine. Where did you see him? What time did you see him? And for how long did you see him?”

Elizabeth stared at him for a long time. “That’s three questions. You said you had a couple. Which is two. I’ve answered one. You get one more. I’ll be nice. I’ll even let you choose.”

“Fine,” Capelli interrupted as Taggert opened his mouth. “How long did you spend screwing Morgan before he went off to kill Anthony Moreno?”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Jason braced himself as Johnny O’Brien pushed the door open and he went into the penthouse for the first time since the night he’d been shot. Since the night Carly had waltzed down the stairs in nothing more than Sonny’s shirt. The shirt Sonny had been wearing before Jason had taken the meeting that nearly killed him.

He stayed near the doorway, watching Sonny carefully as his boss poured himself a tumbler of bourbon. “You wanted me to come by?” he said evenly.

“Yeah.” Sonny sipped the liquor. “We got a call from our guy in the PCPD. Anthony Moreno’s body was pulled from the harbor over Christmas. Shot twice. Once in the chest, and once in the head. Took a few days to identify him.”

Jason nodded, taking in the information. “I thought Sorel would do a better job at making him disappear,” he said, “but that tracks. I got off a shot as I left—that’s probably the chest wound. No way I managed a shot to the head.” Not in that condition. “Sorel probably finished the job.”

“That’s what I figure.”

“Then what’s the problem? Why am I here?”

“Our guy at the PCPD called. Nikolas Cassadine tried to file assault charges,” Sonny continued, “for the Christmas party. He was laughed out of the station, but not before Taggert got the details.”

Jason stared at Sonny for a long moment, then drew his brows together. “I don’t—What—”

“Nikolas essentially told the entire town that you and Elizabeth were sleeping together,” Sonny reminded him. “And, in the report at the PCPD, he stated that he knew that was true because he’d found you at her studio in December. You disappeared for most of the month, around the same time Moreno did. And now Taggert knows exactly where you were for some of that time.”

Jason growled, pulled out his cell phone as he yanked open the door, already dialing Alexis Davis’s number. “Jason—” Sonny said, following him into the hallway. “Listen—”

“He’s going to ask Elizabeth for my alibi,” Jason cut in. “And—” God, Elizabeth would probably do it, trying to help. It would go into an official report that she’d been with him that night for everyone to see and speculate about.

“It’s not the worst idea,” Sonny began, but Jason whirled around at the elevator. “She’s solid as a rock—”

“She doesn’t need to be in the middle of this.” He muttered a swear when he only got Alexis’s voice mail.

“She’s already there—”

“Moreno’s guys are going to Kelly’s,” Jason told him Sonny bluntly. “Making comments. They already know who she is. And you think it’s a good idea for her to alibi me for an entire night? That just confirms what everyone is saying. Damn it—”

He jabbed the elevator button. “I need to get to her. To tell her not to talk to the PCPD without a lawyer—”


But Jason was done talking to him, and the doors closed on Sonny’s face.

Elm Street Pier

Elizabeth could see from Taggert’s murderous expression that Capelli’s question had not been the plan. He glared at his partner. “That’s not what I wanted to ask—”

“Too late,” Elizabeth said coolly. “So, you’re interested in my sex life, Detective Capelli?”

“Damn it,” Taggert muttered. He dragged his hands over his face. “Elizabeth—”

“I mean, that’s the question,” Elizabeth said, widening her eyes. “You wanted to know how long Jason and I were having sex before he left that night. What—like how many times or—”

“That’s not—” Capelli threw his hands up. “You’re deliberately misunderstanding me—”

“No,” Elizabeth said slowly, “I am merely clarifying your question. You asked me how long I spent screwing Jason before he left to go kill someone. The second part of that isn’t a question. It was a statement. So it sounds like you’re interested in my sex life. You’ll have to take a number, Detective.”

She turned and walked in the opposite direction. She’d take the long way around Bannister’s Wharf.

“Elizabeth—damn it!” Taggert rushed after her, grabbed her arm. “Wait a second. Just—”

“Don’t put your hands on me—” She backed up a few steps, and the detective grimaced. “You don’t get to be pissed with me because your partner didn’t follow the script.”

“I’m sorry—”

“You should be. Because I have no intention of answering any questions from either of you or anyone else at the PCPD about the details of my personal life. Not without a lawyer or a judge telling me I have to. Am I under arrest?”

Taggert pressed his lips together. “No.”

“Then get out of my way and let me go home.”

January 22, 2023

Update Link: Chapter 1 | Signs of Life Story Page

I finished this Flash Fiction series back in the summer, but haven’t had a chance to edit and repost here and at the archives where I post, Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own. I’m going to be posting new chapters a few times a week. I do plan on adding a scene or two as I move through the edit, so feel free to reread 🙂 This should hold you guys over for a few weeks as I get back into a regular writing routine.

I’m mostly recovered from Covid — I’m really lucky that the worst of it only lasted a few days — I was really bad last Saturday with aches and chills and the fever. The congestion has lingered, as has the fatigue, but I’m grateful that I got vaccinated and boosted. I’m sure that helped it from getting worse. I remember when I ended up on my first quarantine back in the fall of 2020 — the level of anxiety was absolutely insane, and then going back into the classroom full time — oof. Now cut to a few years later, and it really was just a pretty bad flu.

But I literally did nothing for six days, and I’m absolutely slammed at work and tons of things around the house piled up, so I couldn’t get back to Flash Fiction this week. The plan is to be back on schedule next or week, or definitely by the first weekend in February.

I started to write at night last week, and did pretty good. I finished a Chapter of Fool Me Twice (will be posted tomorrow for Patreon perks), but I had a pretty bad headache and sinus congestion all day on Saturday that put me behind again. Frustrating, but working through it.

This entry is part 1 of 41 in the Signs of Life

‘Cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh, I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes
Oh, I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh, I’ve had it up to here
Just a Girl, No Doubt

Monday, December 27, 1999

Kelly’s: Kitchen

“I will not get arrested, I will not get arrested,” Elizabeth Webber muttered, leaning against the brick wall, her eyes closed, counting to ten.

She opened her eyes to see DJ, the cook, staring at her with one dark brow lifted. “You got problems, Lizzie?”

“Problems. Do I got problems?” she repeated. Elizabeth huffed, then straightened. “Do you want to know what my problem is?”

“Am I going to be sorry I asked?”

“Do you see that crowd of people out there?” She gestured out the serving window where Kelly’s was uncharacteristically crowded for a pre-dinner rush hour. Kids were still on their holiday breaks and most of the warehouses were shutdown for the holidays. Kelly’s was usually dead this time of day.

But not today.

Today, someone must have told someone else who told the world that Elizabeth Webber, town harlot, was back at work because her shift had started with a stampede of people who wanted to look at her. Whisper. Giggle and wonder what Jason Morgan saw in her.

“I see them,” DJ said. “You should take their orders—”

“Do you think people are lining up to snicker at Jason?” she demanded. “No. Because I’m the woman. He can do whatever he wants—”

—including moving out of the studio abruptly with no warning or explanation that made a lick of sense, then not bothering to even call her today, the first day in almost a month they hadn’t seen each other, bastard couldn’t wait to shake her loose—

“Well, I don’t know, Lizzie, if Jason Morgan worked at a diner, maybe people would be—”

“Oh, don’t try to help, DJ,” she muttered. She grabbed her order pad and stalked out into the dining room, hoping that some of these gawkers would at least tip her well.

They did not. In fact, some of them didn’t tip at all. Maybe, she thought nastily as she bussed a table because Gavin had flaked again, maybe those beach blonde bimbos thought Jason paid for everything because that’s how they would handle dating a sexy, rich—

“You are an idiot,” she muttered to herself. She dumped the tub in the kitchen, then went back out into the diner, wincing when she saw Carly Quartermaine seated at the counter. Because of course she was.

“Are locusts next?” she asked the ceiling.

“Now, don’t you be tempting the Good Lord, Lizzie,” DJ admonished her. “He’ll strike you down for it.”

“He’ll have to get in line,” she retorted.

“Having a bad day, Lizzie?” Carly asked as she picked up a menu, doing her best nonchalant expression. “I guess it hurts to know Jason couldn’t wait to get away as soon as everyone knew he was slumming it with you.”

“I actually think I’d be an upgrade,” Elizabeth said with a sweet smile. “But I’ll take your word for it since no one knows trailer trash better than you.”

Carly slapped the menu on the counter, her brown eyes sparking. “You wanna go a round?”

“Today? I absolutely do.” Elizabeth held up a finger. “But I’m warning you—I fight dirty. I pull hair, and I bite. And you can ask my brother Steven to show you the scar I gave him when I was six. Served him right for cutting my doll’s hair for a pretend surgery.”

Carly’s scowl deepened, and Elizabeth thought she might actually take her up on the offer — until another figure approached them. Elizabeth winced as she locked eyes with her disapproving grandmother and Audrey’s thin, tight smile.

Carly twisted on the stool. “Oh. Mrs. Hardy. Here to pick Lizzie up for her Girl Scouts meeting?”

“Carly,” Audrey said, carefully. She stepped around the blonde. “Would you mind if I spoke with my granddaughter alone?”

Elizabeth sighed as Carly shrugged and picked up her coat. She’d rather get into a fistfight in the back alley than go another round with her grandmother, but Carly slid off the stool.

“See you around, Lizzie,” Carly tossed over her shoulder.

“Say hi to your husband for me!” Elizabeth called after her. Then turned her eyes on Audrey. “Gram, let’s save us both some time. You’re disappointed in me. Very disappointed. What would my parents think —” She waved her hand in the air. “And so on.”

“Actually, I was wondering what Lucky would think.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together as she took that in, the tightness in her chest beginning to ache. “I think,” she said softly, “that Lucky loved me very much. And that he would want me to get on with my life. I’m only eighteen, Gram. I didn’t die with Lucky. No matter how much I wished I had.”

“Oh—” Audrey closed her eyes, shook her head. “Of course that’s not what I meant. But it was such a shameful display at the hospital—how could you—”

I didn’t do anything, and you know it. I was there to work the party. Jason and I were just talking, and Nikolas started that fight. Jason and I didn’t do anything wrong—”

“When did this start?” Audrey demanded. “Before or after November?”

“Wondering if you have a case at the PCPD? Gonna try to get him on statutory rape?” Elizabeth said, biting out the final word. “Go ahead. Give it your best shot.” She sighed. “There’s nothing to tell before November—”

“But there is something to tell?”

Another anguished voice came from behind Elizabeth, and she turned, surprised to find her best friend, Emily Bowen-Quartermaine, standing there. She must have come in the back alley. “Emily—”

“How could you keep this a secret from me? I’m your best friend. He’s my brother!”

Elizabeth was nearly at the end of her rope with this damn day. “I was right, DJ. It’s the locusts—”

“Locusts? Elizabeth, will you never be serious?” Audrey sighed.

“You should have told me!” Emily said, very nearly stomping her foot. Elizabeth looked at the watch on her wrist and sighed in relief.

Four-thirty. It was over.

“I didn’t tell you, Emily, because I don’t owe you the details of my life. I choose to share them, but you don’t get to demand anything from me.” Elizabeth untied her apron and shoved it on the counter. “My sex life is my business. Not yours—”

Audrey moaned slightly as she pressed a hand to her head. “Oh, dear God, what would your grandfather say if he were here?”

“Sex life!” Emily repeated, her eyes bulging. “You’re having sex—”

“That’s it. Party’s over,” Elizabeth decided. She stalked past Emily to the kitchen where she’d stowed her coat and purse for a quick get away out the back. “Hey, DJ, what comes after locusts?”

“Darkness,” the cook said with a sad shake of his head. “But don’t you go temping that, Lizzie. There are bad things in the dark.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Tell me about it,” she murmured, then she pushed open the security door and left the diner.

Elm Street Pier

For half a minute, Elizabeth thought about staking out a position on the pier to see if she could run into Jason. She should probably warn him that she hadn’t set Emily straight on the platonic nature of their relationship—

But then she realized that if Emily went over to scream at Jason about something that wasn’t any of her business, he’d get a small taste of the nonsense Elizabeth had lived through that day —

And if she found some perverse pleasure in that, Elizabeth wasn’t going to complain.

Besides, as soon as she came to the top of the stairs, she saw Nikolas Cassadine, her former best friend, sitting on one of the benches.

And her ire only grew.

All of this was because Nikolas couldn’t mind his own business. Couldn’t respect her boundaries. Thought he had a right to tell her what to do—

She sauntered down the steps, and he turned at the sound. He drew his brows together. “Elizabeth,” he said warily. He got to his feet.

Good, he should be worried.

“At what point did I give you the impression that you had any right to tell me what to do?” she asked coolly.

“I know you’re angry—”

“Angry? You humiliated me in front of half of the town,” Elizabeth snapped. “I don’t want you, Nikolas. Get over it.”

His cheeks flushed as he lifted his chin. “That’s not what this was about—”

“No? Could have fooled me. We were friends. Until you tried to kiss me, and I didn’t want it. I don’t want you,” she said flatly. “And I felt really bad about hurting you. But you don’t have that same problem. You didn’t care that you were hurting me, that you were making my life more difficult—”

“If you’re ashamed of your affair,” Nikolas sneered.

“Affair? I’m single, Nikolas. I didn’t die last April, and I am not going to spend the rest of my life alone! If it wasn’t Jason, it was always going to be someone. Just admit it, Nikolas! You’re not mad that it’s Jason, you’re mad that it’s not you—”

Nikolas glowered. “He’ll just hurt you. The way he did Robin—”

“And that would be my business. Not yours. You and I are done, Nikolas. The Cassadine in you really jumped out,” she said. “We’re not friends. Maybe we never were—”

“You know that’s not true—”

“When we first met, you didn’t like me,” Elizabeth reminded him. “And I didn’t like you. Let’s go back to that. I think our first impressions were correct.”

She turned and stalked up the stairs, leaving Nikolas behind.

For good this time.

PCPD: Squad Room

Marcus Taggert was not having a great first day back after a holiday break. He grimaced as he listened to the irritating hold music on the other line. All he wanted was a John Doe floater to be fingerprinted.

Why the hell did everyone keep acting like it was so damn hard? It wasn’t his fault the body had been dumped in the harbor and so bloated and decomposed that it couldn’t be identified visually. Did anyone think Taggert wanted to look at those damn photos first thing in the morning?

He scowled at the phone receiver in his hand as if the pathologist on the other line could see him. “Well, can’t you just run the prints? No, no. Don’t give me this bullshit about it being a holiday. That was yesterday. Pick up the stiff’s fingers, roll them in some fucking ink—don’t give me attitude, Carson, or the next person you talk to will be the Commissioner.”

He snorted. “Yeah, I’ll wait.” Never failed. As he waited for the pathologist to return to the phone, he scanned the squad room and noted his partner, Andy Capelli, taking a statement from an increasingly irate Nikolas Cassadine.

When the younger man stormed out of the room, Taggert lifted his brows. “What’s his damage?”

“Oh, he wants me to file assault charges against Jason Morgan,” Capelli said. “Can you believe Elizabeth Webber has gotten mixed up with that asshole?” he snorted.

“Mixed up with? Like—” Taggert winced. “Sleeping together?” No. Not possible.

“Says Elizabeth confirmed it. He found Morgan with her in a studio her grandmother rented for her birthday a few weeks ago.”

“Well, she’s not the first good woman to see something worthwhile in an asshole,” Taggert said. The pathologist came back on the line finally, and the name had him clenching his teeth. “You’re sure—hey, cut the sarcasm, asshole—yeah, okay, send me over the full autopsy when you’re done.”

He set the receiver down gently in the cradle. Digested the news and let it roll around in his head.  “When did Cassadine say he saw Morgan at Elizabeth’s place?”

Capelli glanced at his notes. “Ah, around mid-December. Maybe the 13th. He didn’t remember for sure. Why?”

Taggert pursed his lips and tapped his pen against his desk blotter. “You said there was a fight. Was it that day?”

“Yeah—Cassadine wasn’t talking about that one though. Apparently they got into it at the GH Christmas party, too.” Capelli leaned forward, his dark eyes focused. “You think there’s something to the assault charge?”

“No, I’m thinking about timing. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Morgan around for a while, and usually I do. We both go to Kelly’s for coffee almost every day, but I didn’t see him around much in December.”

“So, then I guess he was holed up with the Webber girl then—”

“Or,” Taggert said slowly, “she’s been covering for him. The guy at the morgue printed my floater. Anthony Moreno.”

“Anthony—” Capelli closed his mouth and just stared at him. “Moreno. Corinthos and Morgan’s rival. But Morgan’s too smart to dump a body like this—”

“I’m not saying I have all the details worked out. I’m saying that it’s all very interesting, and I’m not sure I buy that Jason Morgan is sleeping with Elizabeth Webber. Not—not like this.” Taggert hesitated. “I mean, everything she’s been through—Morgan—” How did he phrase this so that Capelli would understand?

“Morgan’s protective of her. I could see that the one time I saw them together. I don’t know why she’d be covering for him, but I also don’t believe it’s what Cassadine thinks it is. It’s…it’s worth finding out exactly how long its been since anyone saw Moreno and if Morgan has an alibi for that time period.”

“All right, let’s go check it out.”

Studio: Back Alley

Elizabeth turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the motorcycle parked by the door to her building—and the man leaning against it. Jason Morgan arched a brow at her as she stood there like an idiot. “Hey.”

“Um, hey.” She approached him, folding her arms nervously. “What—why—”

“I was wondering,” Jason said with a light grin that made something in her chest flutter, “why I got a voice mail from my sister demanding to know why I hadn’t told her about us. Apparently, you wouldn’t tell her because our sex life isn’t any of her business.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips, deciding she needed to answer that question very carefully because truth be told, she was pretty sure she just figured out what it meant to be turned on by someone just speaking.

Because Jason referring their sex life—even fictionally—was making everything inside her feel sparkly and fluttering—and stupid.

And if she opened her mouth right now she might do something insane like ask him to repeat our sex life on a loop for the next fifty years.

“In my defense,” Elizabeth said, “I’m not wrong.”

Jason tipped his head. “Yeah?” His grin stretched even further. “How so?”

“The fact we, uh, don’t have a sex life isn’t relevant.” She met his eyes, then arched her own brows. “It still doesn’t make it her business. Or do you tell your sister about every woman you sleep with?”

Well, that was wildly inappropriate, Elizabeth decided as she watched Jason’s eyes widen slightly. She was nearly ready to apologize and stop this ridiculous attempt to flirt—

Oh my God, was she trying to flirt with Jason Morgan?

But then Jason just nodded. He held out the helmet, and Elizabeth took it from him. “You’re right. And if she was half as irritated with you in person as she was in the message—well, I guess you deserve to have a little fun.”

“That’s what I thought.” Elizabeth fastened the helmet, climbed on the back of the bike. “This has been the absolutely worst day.”

“Cliff road?”


January 16, 2023

Update link: Begin with Chapter 33

Counting Stars Main Site | Chapter Listing

Well, it took almost three years but I finally got Covid. I definitely got it from school because it’s the only place I’ve been in the last two weeks, so the kids keep on giving. Never fails — every single short break from school, I get sick. I’m out of work until at least Thursday, and Saturday was the worst (so far). Literally slept most of the day. Feeling a bit better today — the aches aren’t as bad, and it’s just my throat now that’s really sore with some chest cough.

I did manage to get these final chapters posted — grateful that the editing was already done and just needed to be put into WordPress. With this update, Counting Stars comes to an end. I really hope you enjoyed this rewrite of Jason’s 2000 exit. I’d hoped to have some firm plans for the next project, but it’s been hard to write over the last month — I had a head cold right before Christmas, and now Covid.

Anyway, hopefully it remains a mostly mild case and I’ll be back next weekend with Flash Fiction. Let me know what you thought of Counting Stars 🙂

This entry is part 37 of 37 in the Counting Stars

Forever, we will be
Together, a family
The more I get to know ya, nothin’ can compare
With all of my heart you know I’ll always be
Right there

I’ll Always Be Right There, Bryan Adams

Monday, December 11, 2000

General Hospital: Waiting Room

“You know what would happen if I went home now, don’t you?” Emily said to Bobbie on her third lap around the room. “I’d get to the parking lot, and she’d have the baby.”

“That’s probably true—” Luke checked his watch. “But I don’t have a choice. I promised Felicia I’d grab Lu from her by eight, baby or no baby.” He grimaced. “Barbara Jean—”

“I’ll call you as soon as we know anything,” Bobbie said, flipping a page. She glanced up. “I told you all not to come this early. She only went into labor two hours ago. We’ll probably be here all night.”

“Well, then I better go restock the coffee.” Sonny got to his feet. “Bobbie, you in?”

“Is it your blend or the cafeteria?”


“Me, too. I’m staying until the bitter end. I will not be at home when my niece or nephew is born.” Emily flopped into a chair next to Bobbie, eyed the television mounted in the corner with some suspicion. “Who picks the channels on these things anyway?”

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

Bobbie was right. Elizabeth’s labor lasted through the night and into the next morning, but with the support of Laura and Jason and an excellently timed epidural, it wasn’t the nightmare she’d been worried about. It was a bit mortifying in some parts, but then a nurse placed the baby in Elizabeth’s arms, and it all seemed to slide away.

“She barely weighs anything,” Elizabeth murmured. Jason bent in close to peer at their daughter, and Elizabeth rested her forehead briefly against his cheek. “She’s perfect. They said she was perfect, didn’t they?”

“They did.” Jason kissed her forehead. “Full points on everything.” He’d watched as they’d cleaned her up, counting her fingers, her toes—

“Look at all that hair,” Laura said, leaning over the other side. “She’s going to have your color,” she told Elizabeth. “She’s beautiful. Absolutely incredible.”

“Do you want to hold her?” Elizabeth asked Jason. “I’ve been holding her for nine months.” Gingerly, Jason took the baby—she felt like a bundle of feathers in his arms. He’d thought about this in Greece, about this moment, holding his child. Watching her being born.

And he’d nearly lost it. It had almost been stolen from them. It would have been so easy for Elizabeth to give up, to think Jason had disappeared willingly or one of his own enemies had come for him. But she’d believed in him and had fought for him. She’d rescued him.

“You decided to be surprised,” Laura said to Elizabeth. “But you had names picked out, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. She’s Paige Audrey Morgan.” Elizabeth rested her head against the pillow and smiled faintly at Jason as he swayed slightly, soothing their newborn daughter.

“That’s a good name. I should go tell everyone. I think Luke came back after dropping Lu at school. Are you ready for everyone or do you want some more time?”

“They can come back for a little while.”

Laura kissed her forehead. “You did so good, honey. Congratulations.”

Spencer House: Living Room

“I swear I’m going to sleep for a month.” Laura collapsed on the sofa. “Bobbie and I should have pulled shifts or something.”

Luke smiled, sat on the coffee table and leaned down to help remove her shoes. “No, Liz wanted you in there with her, and Bobbie understood. Cute kid. She’s gonna grow up to be something special.”

“Are you all right?” Laura opened her eyes, peered at him. “You’ve been quiet since we left the hospital.”

“I’m—” Luke paused. “I had a moment when I was holding the baby—just a moment—where I wanted it to be Lucky. I’m happy Liz has moved on. That she’s found happiness and that she’s building her family. Grateful that she’s open to letting us both stay in her life. But it’s so hard sometimes—”

“I know.”

“It’ll pass. We’re going on two years since we lost our Cowboy, and it’s getting easier. I don’t think about him every day. It’s not the first thought when I wake up.”

“You’ve done good this year, Luke. Stepping up for Lulu, coming back to the club. Being there for Elizabeth.”

“Yeah, well, I wanted to be the man my boy always thought I was. Better late than never.” He got to his feet. “I’ll head out, let you get some rest.”

Laura watched him go, then curled up on the sofa, closing her eyes. She understood Luke’s fleeting desire for Lucky was to be the one in that room, that it had been handing his daughter to Luke to hold for the first time instead of Jason. Eight months since they’d left Greece, since Laura had turned her back on her last living son, and the pain could still make her chest ache and steal her breath.

She’d lost her boys, but she still had Lulu, and God willing, she’d have Elizabeth. It would be enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2000

Cassadine Estate: Terrace

The moon had risen over the water, but Nikolas hadn’t yet gone inside. It was the first time in months that he was alone on the estate. His father had remained to enforce the house arrest, but finally, Stefan had gone to the mainland for a series of meetings.

The house was as silent as a tomb. As empty as his own life. He let his head fall forward, contemplating his future. He could likely negotiate the ability to travel freely as long as he kept his promise to stay out of Port Charles. Beyond his sister, who had likely been fed lies about Nikolas’s supposed crimes, there was little left for him there anyway.

“I always enjoyed the way the moon shimmered over the water from this side of the island.”

Nikolas lunged off the chair, whirling around as a figure glided out of the house, her silver hair carefully coiffed, silver and diamonds glinting at her wrists and on her figure. “Grandmother,” he said warily. “I thought you were wintering in St. Petersburg.”

“I was, but then I learned that you had finally been left alone. My dear boy, this is no life for you.” Helena smiled as she approached. “You only honored the blood of your grandfather, of your uncle. You sought justice in a world that hadn’t offered it. And you’ve been punished for it.”

“I don’t know what you want from me,” Nikolas began. “There’s nothing I can do for you—”

“No, no, darling. I’m here to give something to you. An opportunity.” Helena tilted her head. “To finally make the women who abandoned and betrayed you pay. Are you interested?”

Friday, December 14, 2000

Hardy House: Elizabeth’s Bedroom

Elizabeth smiled as Jason entered the room, clad only in a pair of sweatpants. “Hey, she’s almost asleep.” The gentle back and forth rhythm of the rocking chair had lulled Paige into a light doze, and if they were very careful, that doze would turn into at least two solid hours of sleep before her next feeding.  Hopefully. It had worked the night before, their first full night at home.

“I can’t believe she’s finally here,” Elizabeth said, keeping her voice soft but not whispering. “I feel like we’ve been planning so long, and now—” She brushed her knuckles down Paige’s soft cheek.

“Now she’s here.”

“Do you want to try putting her in the bassinet? I think she’s ready to move.”

Jason leaned down to take the baby and soon enough Paige was fast asleep, her tiny fists raised up above her head. Elizabeth remained in the chair, watching him, her own body relaxing and sliding into sleep.

She felt herself being lifted from the chair, but there was no panic, no worry, just the comfort of being in the arms of the man she loved. “Mmm…I could sleep for an eternity,” she muttered, pressing her face into the pillow when he laid her down. She felt the bed dip next to her as he climbed in. “I’ve never been so tired, and we’re just getting started.”

“Yeah, we are.”

She felt his gaze on her, and opened her eyes, her lips curving into a smile. “Hey. You’re looking at me.”

“I’m looking at you.” He brushed some strands off her head, gently. “You’re so beautiful.”

“You have to say that,” Elizabeth said with a yawn. “I’m the mother of your child.”

“Maybe, but it’s not why. And you’re more than that.”

She smiled again. “More than friends. I remember.” Elizabeth opened her eyes again when he didn’t respond. His gaze was so serious, somber. “What?”

“I love you,” he murmured, bringing her hand to his mouth. “For never giving up on me.  You dragged me out of the snow, and you gave me back my life.”

“And you showed me I didn’t have to keep living in nothing. That there was still a life out there worth living. I love you, too.” He leaned down, and she threaded her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck to hold him close, as he kissed her, lingering.

“We’re going to have the best life,” she said. Jason opened his mouth, likely to agree, but then Paige started to cry because there was no such thing a routine with babies.

Somewhere in Russia

Nikolas blew warmth into his hands as he followed his grandmother down another twisting corridor. She’d dragged him from the warmth of Greece to the tundra of Russia, and then to this building that looked like a basic, bland building left over from the days of the Soviet Union.

“How much further—”

“Right here.” Helena stopped by a door. “In here you’ll find what you need for revenge. To make your mother, the Spencers—”

“Morgan and Corinthos,” Nikolas growled. “You promised.”

“Ah, yes. All those who hurt you, my love—” Helena punched a number into a keypad. “Tell me what you think, my darling.”

Nikolas pushed the door open, then simply stared open-mouthed as a lean young man stumbled to his feet. “What is going on?”

“What are you doing here?” Blue eyes flicked to Helena, questioning. “You said it wasn’t time yet.”

“No, not quite yet, pet.” Helena went into the room, her tone soothing. “But I thought it might be amusing to hold a family reunion.”

Nikolas swallowed hard, looked at Helena, then back at his brother. Lucky was alive. And in complete thrall to his grandmother.


This entry is part 36 of 37 in the Counting Stars

From this moment, as long as I live
I will love you, I promise you this
There is nothing I wouldn’t give
From this moment, I will love you
As long as I live, from this moment on

From This Moment On, Shania Twain

Monday, May 14, 2000

Hardy House: Living Room

Bobbie checked Jason’s vitals one last time before removing her stethoscope and smiling. “It all looks good. Your pulse is strong, the heartbeat is regular, and most importantly, your blood pressure is normal.” She patted his arm. “You’re in the clear. You might still need a few days before you feel like yourself all the way, so take it easy.”

“I don’t think I’ll have much of a choice in that,” Jason said, eying Elizabeth across the room who was talking with Luke and Laura. After the airport, he’d expected everyone to go home, but instead they’d all come here. Bobbie had insisted on one more medical checkup, Sonny and Alexis were in the kitchen, and Laura was hovering near Elizabeth.

Beside him, Emily beamed. “I’m so glad you’re home,” she told him. “Grandmother is so excited for the baby and for Elizabeth, and now you get to be here for all of it—” She paused. “And you really want us all to get out of here, don’t you?”

“I do, yeah,” Jason admitted. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate everything—” He looked to Bobbie. “I really do. But—”

“But we’re smothering you.” Bobbie rose from the sofa. “I’ll talk to Sonny and Alexis. They’ll be easier to hurry along.”

“It’s hard for me to go anywhere,” Emily admitted as Bobbie disappeared into the kitchen, the door swinging lightly. “To let you out of my sight.” Her smile faded, and now Jason could see the shadows lingering. “What if…what if Nikolas doesn’t give up?”

“He will,” Jason promised. He squeezed his sister’s hand. “And even if he doesn’t, this time we’ll see him coming. I’m sorry. I know how much you cared about him—”

“I cared about a man who clearly didn’t exist. Someone who never, in a million years, have hurt you or Elizabeth this way.” Emily took a bracing breath. “But you’re right. We know there’s a threat now. I trust you to look out for yourself. You have too much to lose.”

“I won’t let anything happen to her, either,” Jason assured his sister. “I’m glad to be back.”

Across the room, Elizabeth hugged Laura one more time. “Thank you,” she said, then drew back to look at Luke. “For both of you. For the last month, it’s been a roller coaster, but you’ve both been there when I needed you.”

“And we always will be,” Laura reminded her. “I told you, you won’t be getting rid of us that easily.” She glanced at Jason and Emily on the sofa, then saw Bobbie leaving the kitchen followed by Sonny and Alexis. “But I think we’re overstaying our welcome. It’s time for us to go, and for you to get some rest.” She hugged Elizabeth. “I love you, honey.”

“I love you, too.”

It took another ten minutes and a promise from Sonny to make sure the fridge was stocked, and meals would be delivered before the house had finally emptied. Elizabeth curled up on the sofa next to Jason, laying her head down on his shoulder. “We’re home,” he murmured, tightening his arm around her.

“How does it feel to be back in Port Charles?” Elizabeth looked up at him. “I mean, I know you haven’t been here long—”

“When I came back in March…” Jason exhaled. “It wasn’t right then. It is now. I know where I want to be, and it’s right here with you.”

Spencer House: Living Room

“I’ll get Lu from Felicia in the morning,” Laura said, switching on the light as she came in. “We should have dinner with her. Together. We’ve been gone a while—”

“Sounds like a plan.” Luke set down her suitcase. “Felt a bit like old times for minute there, didn’t it?”

Laura turned and her smile deepened. “It did, didn’t it? It’s been a long time since I felt like I could make something good happen.” Her eye caught the mantel and a photograph of Elizabeth and Lucky from their last—their only—Christmas together. She crossed the room to pick it up. “I wonder what Lucky would have thought about all of this. About Nikolas—” The wave of grief, of anger came so quickly it nearly brought her to her knees. “I’ve lost them both.”


“It seems obscene, doesn’t it?” she murmured, setting it back on the mantel and looked at the photo next to it — the only one that existed of Lucky and Nikolas together, taken at Christmas in his garage apartment. Emily had given it to her after the funeral, and Laura had cherished it — this small piece of evidence that her boys loved one another. “He’d have been horrified.”

“There aren’t words for any of it, Angel.”

“No, I suppose not.” She picked up the stack of mail that Felicia had left on the table during the check on the house and on Gatsby. There was an envelope from the state — Laura opened it, skimmed the contents, then looked at Luke. “I…the divorce.” She passed the letter to him. “It’s finalized.”

He took it, read it for himself, then nodded and refolded the paper. “So it is.” Luke looked at her. “Time for a fresh start. For all of us. Wherever it takes us.”

Friday, May 18, 2000

Hardy House: Kitchen

“I got a call from my agent,” Elizabeth said, breezing into the room that morning. She headed for the fridge and poured a glass of orange juice. “I have a new contract, so I’m going to head to the studio to get some work done.”

Jason set down the newspaper he’d been perusing and picked up his coffee mug. “Okay. I have to go see Sonny anyway. And stop by the dealership — the new bike is ready.” He raised his brows. “You wanna go on a ride tonight?”

“Do you even have to ask?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes lighting up. She leaned over to kiss him. “Maybe I could—”


“Come on.”

“You’re not driving.”

Elizabeth pouted and sat at the table. “I’ll wear you down eventually,” she muttered, but her eyes were still sparkling.

He’d spent most of the week resting — Bobbie was right. It had taken until yesterday before he felt like himself again. This morning, Jason had jogged down the steps and hadn’t felt even a little winded.

It was time to get back to both their lives — or to rebuild one together. And it started with going back to work and taking Elizabeth out on the cliff roads, where he just might let her steer for a while. Not that he’d tell her now. It was much more fun to tease her.

Elm Street Pier

Jason jogged down the steps to the pier, halfway to the warehouse that sat on the adjoining wharf when he heard a voice call out his name. An unwelcome one.

He knew it would happen eventually — that it was just a matter of when, not if—he came face to face with Carly. He’d just wanted a few more days, maybe even weeks. But the choice had been taken out of his hands. That always seemed to be the problem with Carly — she acted and left him no choice but to deal with her.

He stopped and turned around, watching as Carly hurried across Bannister’s Wharf, keeping his hands at his side and his expression empty. Carly paused a few feet away from him, her own features unsure. “What do you want?”

“I—” She took a deep breath, her brown eyes shimmering. “I don’t know. I just—I saw you and I reacted—wait—” Carly called out as Jason turned away. “Please. Just let me have a minute—”

“I’ve given you too many minutes—”

“I know. I know you have.” Carly swallowed hard. “A-and I know I made my choice. I did this to myself. I just—I never meant to hurt you—”

“Yes, you did,” Jason said, and she closed her mouth. “You meant to hurt me. That night. And with Michael on the docks. You used him to hurt me. Don’t lie, Carly. You wanted me to be hurt and to remember how much I loved him — as if I’d forgotten.” He looked at her, at the woman who had driven him to the worst mistakes of the last four years. “Michael is happy where he is. AJ’s a—” He paused. “AJ is a good father. Stop screwing that up for him.”

“I’m not trying to—”

“You never try to do anything, Carly.” He waited another minute. “You and I are done. We’ve been done for a long time. I just didn’t see it. Now you have to accept it and leave me alone.”

“We can’t even be friends—wait, please don’t just—” Carly’s voice went up a pitch as he turned away. “Jason—”

He left, striding across the pier and down to the wharf, walking away from Carly just as he should have done a lifetime ago. He’d once thought anything she’d done to him was worth the pain because she’d brought Michael into his life — now, he just wanted to put her in the past and move on.

She couldn’t hurt him anymore.

Vista Point

The sun was still setting when he picked Elizabeth up that night and drove up to the cliff roads, taking the turns just a little too fast so that she’d have to hold him tighter. He’d missed the sound of her screaming, the way it whipped into the wind roaring past their faces.

“Do you remember the last time we were here?” Elizabeth asked, turning her back on the view of Spoon Island.

“The night I came home,” Jason said. He rested his arms on the railing, taking in the Gothic mansion in the middle of the harbor, wandering if it would ever be inhabited by Cassadines again. If Nikolas Cassadine would stay locked up in Greece or if he’d shake loose and come after them again—

“I think about it sometimes,” Elizabeth continued and he looked at her. “When you took me home—if you hadn’t stopped me from going inside—”

If he hadn’t blurted out how much he thought about her and missed her, she might not have kissed him. He wouldn’t have stayed the night. And she wouldn’t be pregnant. Where would they be right now if he’d kept his mouth shut?

“I never told you how much I thought about you,” she continued, and he straightened. “When you were gone. I tried not to, but I’d stand on the pier and think about it. It was hard to work in the studio for a while because I kept turning around to look for you…” Elizabeth turned so that they were facing each other, their bodies brushing against one another. “I wanted you to stay so much. I wanted to be selfish. But I’m glad I wasn’t. That you’re here because you want to be.”

He kissed her, softly, lingering—a hand against her throat, feeling the flutter of her pulse. “You know how much I thought about you. You found those postcards.”

“That was Nikolas’s mistake,” Elizabeth said, her eyes still closed. “The man he sent after you — he left those behind. But I knew you wouldn’t have done that. I was already sure by then, but those—I found them in a drawer.” She opened her eyes, met his. “You were so embarrassed— you’d have burned them, not left them behind. He thought that you’d disappear, and I’d believe you left me. That I’d go back to Port Charles and forget about you. But he didn’t know me at all.” Her voice trembled. “I would have searched for you to the ends of the earth.”

He kissed her again, then pressed his forehead against hers. “You read them, didn’t you?”

“Every single one. When I was supposed to be sleeping, I stayed up and I read every single word you never sent—” Her lips curved into a wicked smile. “And I’m holding you to the promises you made.”

“It doesn’t count—”

“It absolutely does.” She danced away from him, then lifted her hand where he saw his keys dangling from her fingers. “You said if you got the chance, you’d let me drive.”

He grinned despite himself. Those damned postcards. “You better not close your eyes.”

“I promise.” Elizabeth laughed, then wound her arms around his neck. “I wouldn’t want to miss a moment.”

Cassadine Island: Dungeons

Stefan slid the key into the lock, then turned it, listening to the click of the tumblers. Behind the bars, his son sat on the cot, his hair disheveled, eyes bloodshot, and clothing rumpled.

“It’s been a week since they left,” Stefan said, pushing the door open and stepping back, forcing himself not to hold his breath. “I waited longer to be sure they would not return.”

Nikolas’s eyes burned as he rose to his feet. “And what promises did you make in exchange for my life?” he demanded.

“You are to be confined to the island for a period of time. And then you will stay away from Port Charles.” Stefan pocketed the key. “I had no choice, Nikolas. Not if I wanted to save your life.”

“You had a choice,” his son said flatly as he limped past Stefan and started down the hallway. “You made yours—”


“Now it’s my turn.”

This entry is part 35 of 37 in the Counting Stars

This year’s love had better last
Heaven knows it’s high time
I’ve been waiting on my own too long
And when ya hold me like you do
It feels so right oh now
I start to forget how my heart gets torn
When that hurt gets thrown
Feeling like you can’t go on

This Year’s Love, David Gray

Saturday, May 13, 2000

Private Jet: Bedroom

Jason leaned back against the pillow, irritated with how tired he already felt. He’d done nothing more than climb the steps to board the plane and sit down. Once the plane had taken off and reached cruising altitude, he’d walked down the hallway with Luke’s help to lay in bed. Bobbie hooked up another bag of fluids and Elizabeth was watching closely, as if taking notes.

Now Jason’s chest felt sore, and he was tired again — it was like being back at the hospital after the accident with everyone working or talking around him, and he could do nothing but lay there.

“All right,” Bobbie said, spreading the tape over Jason’s arm to secure the IV. “The doctor said that this should be the last fluids he needs,” she told Elizabeth. “After that, it’s just rest—”

“I’m right here,” Jason interrupted sharply, and they both looked at him. “I can hear you.”

“I—” Bobbie’s hand fluttered up in front of her, and her cheeks flushed. “I know that—”

“And the doctors already told me that,” Jason continued, struggling to sit up against the pillows. “I heard them—”

“She was reassuring me.” They both looked at Elizabeth. “I wasn’t there when they talked to you,” she reminded Jason. “Plus, you are right there, but you’re still recovering. And Bobbie’s been up with you all night. She’s going to sleep—”

“Elizabeth—” Bobbie began.

“You are,” Elizabeth told her, before looking back at Jason who was starting to feel like an idiot. “So she was telling me what was going on and showing me how to change the IV in case you were sleeping, too.” She looked at Bobbie. “Thank you. I’ve got it from here.”

“Uh—” Bobbie nodded. “All right. I’ll check in later.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason said when Bobbie had closed the door behind them. “I just—”

“Hate people taking care of you and talking about you,” Elizabeth said. “I know.”

He held out a hand and was grateful when she took it and laid down next to him. Everything inside of him settled when she was back where she belonged, curled up in his arms, her hand resting over his heart. “You found me,” he murmured. “I didn’t know if anyone would.”

“Sonny was the one who brought Alexis to Portland,” Elizabeth corrected. “If she hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have known about the Cassadine servant.” She exhaled slowly, and when she spoke again, her voice was shaky. “It was so close, Jason. Another day, another few hours, and you wouldn’t have been there.”

He knew it — as he’d laid on that cell floor, listening to Nikolas taunt him, praying for a chance to choke the life out of him — Jason hadn’t expected to live. He’d felt himself slipping away and just wanted to make sure Nikolas went with him — to protect Elizabeth. “I’m okay.”

“Yeah. You are. We made it.” She tightened her arms around him. “We’re going to have to stay in Port Charles for a little while when we get back. Just until you’re given the all clear, then we can go anywhere you want—” she paused. “I’m sorry. Your bike—it was—we never found it. It was taken out of the parking garage, and we couldn’t track it. We didn’t really try, though, so maybe—”

“It’s just a bike,” he said, though there was a small pang at losing it. He’d driven it across the country — had taken Robin on it, and it had been the first thing he and Elizabeth had shared. The bike had given Jason freedom, and while he could—and would—get another—it wouldn’t be quite the same. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not—he did this because of me, and I’m so sorry—”

“This isn’t your fault,” Jason told her, stroking her hair, sliding his fingers down the curve of her spine, grateful for the sensation, for the feeling of having her back in his arms. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this. Neither of us did.”

“Maybe,” she murmured. “But if this is the way you felt after New Year’s, after the bomb, then I get why you tried to walk away. I’d have done anything to keep you safe. To stop this from happening.”

“When I was laying on that cold floor,” Jason said, “all I could think about was you and the baby. That I wasn’t going to be able hold my child or protect you from whatever Nikolas would do next—” He exhaled slowly. “That we’d never get to take that trip to California. Or learn how to surf together.” He looked at her, then tilted her chin up so their eyes met. “That day before you left, I nearly stopped you as you started to board. Do you remember?”


“I wanted to tell you that I love you,” he said, and her lips curved. “I thought, laying in that cell, that I’d never get the chance to say it. I love you,” he told her again.

“I wanted to say it to you a thousand times,” Elizabeth told him. She raised herself up on her elbow. “I love you, too.”

He tugged her down so he could kiss her and taste her smile and happiness on her lips. “I love you,” he whispered again, and he’d never get tired of saying it.

“How are you, sweetheart?”

Emily blinked up in surprise as Laura sat next to her on the small loveseat tucked into a corner of the private jet’s main cabin. “Uh, fine. I mean—” She sat up, dropping her legs to the floor. “I should be asking you that. You’re Nikolas’s mother—”

“Taking care of other people is how I cope,” Laura told her, “and of all of us, I think you might be the most hurt—”

“What? No. I mean, you and Jason—and Elizabeth—”

“I was not blind to my son’s faults,” Laura said. “But you had a relationship with both Jason and Nikolas. Elizabeth had already closed that door months ago.” Her eyes were soft, considering. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that your best friend hated your brother enough to nearly kill him.”

“It’s going to be…” Emily considered the best word for the situation, but even her imagination failed her. “It’s going to be weird for a long time. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel real. None of this has felt real since the fire.” She absently wiped a tear clinging to her lashes. “Like a long, strange nightmare I’m not waking up from. I miss Lucky so much, you know. He’d know what to do or say.” She sucked in a breath. “But then I feel guilty for wishing he was here because Jason is so happy, and Elizabeth is happy, and they’re having a baby, which wouldn’t be happening if he were here—God, this is all so stupid, and it doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

“There’s nothing wrong wish wishing some things could go back and others could stay the same. I’m so proud of how Elizabeth handled this. There are women older than her that couldn’t have held on to faith the way she did. Nikolas did everything he could to make her believe Jason had left her, but Elizabeth never wavered. But that maturity comes from her life experience, and I would give anything to take away the pain she’s suffered.”

“I just…it’s scary, I think, to realize that someone you thought you knew could do something so terrible. Nikolas helped me track down Tom Baker last fall, you know? He didn’t hesitate to throw himself into danger — he didn’t even blink. I turned to him even before I’d told Lucky. I keep trying to square that with the man we saw these last few days—” Emily stared at her hands. “Was there something else I could have done? Some way I could have stopped him—”

“He wasn’t listening to any of us,” Laura reminded her gently. “I know from Elizabeth that you both tried to talk to him about Lucky. Bobbie and I wasted so many words. He couldn’t be shaken from his view of the world.” She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. “To admit that you were unable to save your child from death and destruction is paralyzing,” she murmured. “I couldn’t save Lucky, and I’ve lost Nikolas.”

“I’m sorry, Laura. This sucks. For all of us.”

Sonny knocked lightly on the slightly open door and stepped inside with a mug of coffee. “Hey.”

Jason set aside the book he’d been reading and pulled himself up against the pillows. “Hey—is—” He craned his head to look behind Sonny. “Is Elizabeth okay? She went to get something to eat—”

“She’s fine. Laura and Bobbie have her, and they started talking about the baby.” Sonny’s smile was faint as he handed the mug to Jason. “Thought I’d smuggle you some. They think you should wait longer since caffeine isn’t good for you—”

Jason was already sipping the coffee so Sonny stopped talking. “Thanks.”

“Good.” Sonny slid his hands into his pockets. “Uh, Liz said you guys were going to stay in town for a few days until you’re back on your feet.” He rocked back on his heels. “I wanted to let you know the jet is at your disposal if you go back to Portland or you wanna go somewhere else—”

“I’ve been thinking about that.” Jason gestured with the hand that held his coffee, indicating that Sonny should sit in the armchair near the bed. “Thanks. For everything you did. Uh, Elizabeth said you came immediately when she called—”

“I shouldn’t have sent her back alone,” Sonny muttered, even as he sat in the chair, leaning back. He put one leg over the other. “I didn’t know she hadn’t heard from you, but I still thought it didn’t feel right. I was just…I didn’t want to meddle,” he admitted. “Or push where I wasn’t wanted. I’m not in a hurry to make that mistake again.”

“She said that you…you were one of the only people who didn’t think I’d left her,” Jason said, and Sonny hesitated. “Or that I’d left her because I didn’t want the baby. You thought because of Brenda—”

“I wondered,” Sonny said with a nod, “but I never seriously entertained it. It’s just—the hours were drifting by, and the evidence wasn’t giving us anything, and Christ, thinking you were gone to protect her was so much better than the alternative which was that you were in trouble, and we might not be able to fix it.” He dragged a hand down his face. “When I think about the fact that I nearly didn’t ask Alexis to come with us, it’s gonna haunt me for the rest of my life.”

“Since that night,” Jason said, and this time when he said it, there was no lingering bitterness, no sadness — he was merely stating a fact— “I’ve struggled with trusting you. Even after you came to Portland, I still thought I couldn’t come back and do the job like I did before.” He paused, looking for the right words. “I want to come home,” he said finally. “I stood on the waterfront in Astoria last month, and it was almost…it was nearly physically painful to be away from Port Charles. To wish I was there, standing on the pier at Elm Street, or taking the cliff roads too fast—”

He looked down at his coffee. “I’m ready to come home and go back to the job. I never stopped trusting you, Sonny. That’s what I realized, laying on that stone floor thinking I’d die. I told myself that no matter what happened, you’d make sure Elizabeth had everything she needed. That she was safe. That our child was safe. And if I could trust you with them, then I can trust you with my life, too.”

Sonny swallowed hard. “That’s…” He bowed his head, took a quick breath. “That’s a hell of a thing to say to me right now.”

“I stopped trusting myself,” Jason said. “To set boundaries and make the right choices — because I’d done nothing but make mistakes for more than a year. I hurt and humiliated Robin because I was desperate to keep Michael in my life. I let Carly manipulate me for a year because I thought I might get him back. You destroyed my life that night in December, Sonny, and while I can’t be happy about it, I can’t ignore that you also shoved me out of the dark and forced me to see the truth.” Jason sighed. “I just didn’t much like what I saw, and I wanted to dive back into the pretense. To cling to the false hope I could have my son back.”


“I wish you hadn’t done it. That I could have figured it out for myself. I think I would have,” Jason continued, and Sonny closed his mouth. “I knew…my feelings for Elizabeth were changing—it happened faster than it would have because of the studio—but it was happening.”

“I know. I could see that. And I’m sorry. I will always be sorry for it.”

Jason nodded, then brought the mug back to his lips. “Elizabeth and I haven’t talked about it, but I know she’ll understand. I’m ready. I want to go home.”

“Hey, sweetheart. Do you have a minute?” Luke touched Elizabeth’s elbow as she started down the hallway towards the back bedroom. She hesitated, then turned back to him.

“Yeah. What’s up? Did you need to talk to Jason or—”

“No, I was just—” He glanced over at the main cabin, watching Laura and Emily in deep conversation with one another, Alexis reading over some paperwork in another corner. He looked back at Elizabeth. “I was thinking back to Portland, and how I was sure Jason left on his own—”

She tipped her head. “Were you? Sure,” she clarified when he frowned. “Because, yeah, you were questioning it pretty hard, but I don’t seem to remember a lot of certainty about it.”

“Ah, well, then I hid it pretty well.” Luke nodded. “I thought he’d gone on his own,” he told her, and she drew her brows together. “Because that’s how I handle threats. It’s how I’ve handled it since the day Laura came home from that damned island. For a decade, we went on the run to hide from the Cassadines and from Frank Smith. And even when we stood our ground, I always stood on someone else’s shoulders. Robert Scorpio back in the day, and then Sonny. I didn’t know why he’d left, but I was sure he had.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Uh, well—”

“And I’m sorry for it. For not believing you. For making this harder on you that it had to be. It seems to be my main fatal flaw,” he murmured. He looked back at Laura. “Making life harder for the people that matter.”

“It all worked out, Luke, and even though you didn’t believe, you listened to me. And you realized the handwriting didn’t match. I don’t care that you had your doubts. You stayed and you helped save his life. You don’t owe me any apologies.” Elizabeth disappeared down the hall, and Luke looked back his estranged wife.

Maybe he didn’t owe an apology to Elizabeth, but he sure as hell owed that and more to Laura. He’d never be able to make up for the damage he’d caused.

Cassadine Estate: Study

“Madame has arrived.”

Stefan exhaled slowly, then raised his eyes to the house manager, then set down his pen. There was no asking who Madame was or how she’d managed to gain access to the island without Stefan’s knowledge.

His mother was impossible to predict or control. All you could do was grab on and hope you survived the storm. “Where is she?”

“Right here.”

Helena Cassadine swept in, her hair elegantly coiffed, her eyes ice cold. She sniffed at Arturo. “You may go,” she commanded with a sweep of her hand, dismissing the longtime servant without a second glance.

“Mother—” Stefan rose to his feet. “I was unaware that you were planning to visit—”

“Did you think no one would tell me?” Helena sneered. “Not everyone on this island has forgotten their loyalty to me and to your father. How dare you allow that woman to come here and imprison my grandson?”

“Which woman would that be?” Stefan asked coolly. “His mother, Laura, whom you kidnapped and imprisoned for Stavros? My sister, whose mother you brutally murdered? Miss Webber, whose child Nikolas planned to leave fatherless? I hardly know—”

“That woman has done nothing to raise Nikolas, and yet you bow to her whims,” Helena retorted. “Imprisoning him for the smallest of infractions—”

“Keeping an innocent man and attempting to starve him to death is no petty infraction—even your damaged moral compass should see that.” Stefan fisted his hands at his side. “I had little choice in the matter, Mother. I was outnumbered and outgunned. I had little with which to negotiate. Be glad that Nikolas continues to breathe.”

“Your father should have strangled you in the nursery,” Helena hissed. “I have failed us all by allowing you to retain any control—”

“My father,” Stefan said evenly, “left his state to his eldest surviving son or heir. Stavros himself left me guardianship of his children. Despite everything, no man in this family has ever trusted you, Mother. You have no control here—”

“We will see about that. I will not allow you to cage my grandson like an animal.”  Helena swept out of the study, and Stefan exhaled slowly. He should have known she’d learn of the incident — he’d merely hoped for more time.

Private Jet: Bedroom

“Hey…” Jason gently shook Elizabeth and she blinked blearily, rolling over to see that the door to the hallway had opened.

“We’re going to be approaching the airport in about thirty minutes,” Sonny said. “So you need to come up and get belted in for landing in about twenty.”

“Thanks—” Jason said, and Sonny pulled the door closed again, dropping the bedroom back into dim shadows.

Elizabeth sat up slowly, but her stomach still rolled. She pressed a hand to her stomach, but Jason had already leaned over to the nightstand and handed her a cracker and a bottle of ginger ale. It was warm, but carbonated —

She leaned back against the headboard, her eyes closed, sipped, and nibbled until the feeling passed. “A few more weeks,” she muttered. She looked over at him, smiling. “But I’ve missed this. Waking up with you, having you be ready with the crackers.”

“I’ve missed it, too.” He drew her head down against her shoulder, stroking her hair as her eyes drifted closed. “We’ll be home before you know it,” he murmured.

“Home.” She snuggled closer, draping her arm across his chest. “Until you’re steady again.”

“No, I’m ready to go home. To be there.”

She had nearly slid back into a light doze, but those words startled her, and she sat back up, trying to find his eyes in the shadows. “What?”

“I’m ready.” Jason brought her hand to his mouth, kissed her palm. “To go home with you. To start our life together. I want you to have your family around you, and I want mine with us. Emily, Lila—” He paused. “And Sonny. We can travel later, when the baby’s born.”

“If you’re sure—” Elizabeth nodded. “All right. Let’s go home.”