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
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.”
“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
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.
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.
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.”
“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.