Chapter Nine

Carly’s House

She’d just finished showering and changing for bed when she heard a hesitant knock on her bedroom door.

Assuming it was Michael, she got into bed and pulled the comforter over her legs. “Come in.”

Jason pushed the door open. “Hey…sorry to bother you so late.”

Carly sat up. “No, it’s okay. What’s wrong? Where did you go earlier? Was it about Courtney?”

Jason sat down on the edge of her bed. “I don’t ask you for a lot of things, you know and I know you don’t get along with her–or at least you didn’t but I really need to ask you a favor.”

“Oh, it’s about Elizabeth. What do you need?”

“I got a call from Emily who had just talked to Elizabeth. Apparently, her building was condemned and her electricity went out. The heat’s never really worked correctly in her apartment so she can’t stay there tonight.”

“And for obvious reasons, she can’t go to the penthouse.” Carly folded her hands in her lap. “She’s downstairs isn’t she?”

“It’s just temporary,” Jason assured her. “It’s almost December and I just…I couldn’t leave her there.”

“Of course not. But surely, there’s other people she could go to. Emily, Nikolas, or Lucky…Jason, if you want to work this out with Courtney, you can’t go running to Elizabeth’s rescue all the time.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Jason demanded. “Leave her in a freezing studio? Emily and Nikolas are on the island with no way to get to the mainland at night and Lucky’s on night patrol. I already covered this with Emily.” He stood. “I had to argue with her just to accept my help. I thought I could come to you for help, but I guess I was wrong. I’ll just take her to a hotel.”

“Jason, wait, I didn’t say she couldn’t stay,” Carly argued. She swung her legs to the floor and stood. “I’m just asking you to be realistic. Your marriage is in serious trouble and if you want to make it work, you cannot go running to help Elizabeth every time she needs you–”

“She’s pregnant, Carly. We slept together and now she’s the one who’s got to deal with it. She’s the one whose entire life has to change–who has to face this hypocritical town. You of all people should know what she’s going through. Of course I’m going to be there when Elizabeth needs me. Because not only is she the mother of my child, but she’s my friend and that’s what friends do, Carly. They help each other out.”

“Look, she can stay in the guest room,” Carly sighed. “I just don’t think you’re thinking of Courtney’s feelings.” She frowned and pressed a hand to her chest much like she’d done the night she’d remembered her hatred for Robin. “She must be devastated and you didn’t even try to find her. You just ran to Elizabeth like you always did, completely disregarding your own wife.”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “You told me to give her time. You told me that she needed to work it out. What’s changed?”

“She loves you so much,” Carly argued, ignoring his question. “And what kind of sister-in-law would I be if I let the woman who’s wrecking her marriage stay in my home?”

“I guess you’re beginning to feel your connection to Courtney,” Jason said stiffly. “This was a mistake. I should have just taken her to a hotel.”

“Jason, I’m sorry–I want to support you but I did just…it’s coming back now,” Carly told him, tears in her eyes. “I can feel it and I refuse to ignore it. Things are coming back so fast for me I can hardly breathe. I remembered Robin, the boys, Courtney and I think some of the irritation I’ve always felt towards Elizabeth is coming back. Maybe I’m not being a really good friend to you right now but I can’t help it. I have to put myself first for once. I am through putting Sonny and you first. No, she can’t stay here.”

He exhaled slowly. “You’ve never put me first, Carly,” he said quietly. “You put Sonny first. You put Courtney and the kids first. But you have never put me first.”

“Jason, that’s just not true–”

“I have stood by you throughout our entire friendship–even when I knew I should turn you away. Even when I knew all you’d do is hurt me.” Jason put his hands on his waist and looked down. “You’ve screwed over just about everyone in your life at one time or another Carly, I think I’m just one of your favorite targets.”

Tears were sliding down her cheeks rapidly and she reached for him. “Jason, I love you. You’re my best friend–I don’t know who I am if you’re not in my life–”

“I have to go. It’s late and if I want to get a room for her at any hotel, I have to go now.”

He turned and walked out of her bedroom door without once looking back. “Jason!” she called. “Jason, please!”

Downstairs

Elizabeth was standing at the door when he came down the steps. She’d heard most of the argument upstairs and she felt just sick for him–Carly had shown her true colors once again and not for the first time, she wondered how Jason could put up with her.

She was destroying his life, Elizabeth realized as she watched Jason come towards her. Not Carly, but her. Telling him the truth about the baby had probably destroyed his marriage but apparently was causing strain in his other friendships.

The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him but how could she really fix this? How could she go back in time and make this right?

“I think we could probably still get you a room at the PC Hotel,” Jason told her, pulling the front door open.

“I’m sorry,” she told him as she followed him out the door to where his bike was parked in the driveway. “I heard parts of…what happened upstairs.”

Jason shook his head and fished out his car keys. “It’s just Carly being Carly. I thought…since she couldn’t feel the same about Courtney or you…that this would work but I was wrong.”

“But it’s good that she’s remembering,” Elizabeth tried to tell him. “I remember when Lucky was trying so hard to remember his love for me…how just…sad it was looking into his eyes and not seeing it anymore.”

He handed her a helmet. “Lucky and Carly’s situations are completely different. Carly couldn’t remember anyone and all Lucky didn’t remember was…” he trailed off, not wanting to bring it up further.

“Lucky just didn’t remember me,” Elizabeth finished. “That doesn’t make it any less painful for the people involved.” She tugged the helmet over her head and slid onto the back of the back. “I’m sure Carly didn’t mean to hurt you–it must be so confusing when emotions just swamp you suddenly.”

“Yeah.” He said nothing more and just started the bike. She wrapped her arms around his waist.

She’d made her decision. She knew what she had to do now.

— Port Charles Hotel —

Jason set her bag just inside the door. “Until we figure out what’s next, you can just stay here. I’m going to set you up with that night guard we talked about.”

Elizabeth sighed and pushed the heavy curtains back to see the view of the harbor. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said quietly.

He frowned and stepped towards her. “What are you talking about?”

She took a deep breath. “I mean, I can’t keep…keep lying.”

Jason frowned. “Who’re you lying to?”

“You.” She wouldn’t look at him–couldn’t do this if she were looking at him. All she had to do was tell him that she’d lied, he’d go back to his marriage because surely Courtney would forgive him if she weren’t pregnant. And Elizabeth would…she’d figure out something.

She always did.

“I lied,” Elizabeth said firmly. She cleared her throat. “I told you the baby was yours because that’s what I wanted it to be.”

His throat dry all of sudden. Very dry. He almost couldn’t breathe. “Excuse me?”

“It was stupid a-a-and it was wrong. But I knew you’d be the best father. But I can’t keep lying anymore. It’s…too much.” She blinked back tears. This was the right decision.

“You wouldn’t do that,” Jason said quietly. “You wouldn’t tell me something like that and not mean it. You wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

“I’m not perfect, Jason. I just…I wanted to create a good life for my child and I really thought I could do it. But it’s…too much. It’s costing you too much and it’s costing me. I’m sorry, Jason.”

She was lying. He knew her well enough to recognize that. It was in her tense shoulders–the ways she refused to look at him. The baby was his–he was sure of that. She’d never deliberately lie about this. Not when it would be too easy to prove.

So it just left him to wonder what her motivations were for actually trying this. Was she trying to pull away from the life again? Or was she trying to protect him after hearing about Courtney’s reaction and overhearing his argument with Carly?

“Elizabeth, I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work. If you’re going to continue to deny this, then we’ll just have to get a paternity test,” Jason told her firmly. “You can do those during pregnancy now.”

“Jason, come on…” she turned suddenly, her eyes red and swollen, her cheeks stained with tears. “I’m giving you an out here. Take it.”

“I won’t,” he refused. “I won’t be a coward and walk away from you and the baby just because it’s causing problems in my life. Carly and I will work it out. We always do. And Courtney and I…you don’t have to worry about that.”

“Yes, I do,” she sighed. “Jason…I lied to you. That’s the end of it! Why can’t you just take it for what it’s worth and go?” she demanded.

“Because the only lie I’m hearing is the one you’re telling me right now.” He stepped towards her. “Elizabeth, you can’t…you can’t take this away from me. Not when I’ve gotten used to the idea of being a father again–of having a child that no one can take from me.”

She sank onto the nearby sofa and put her head in her hands. “I’m sorry, Jason. I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

He kneeled in front of her. “I know. I know you are but the only person you can do right by is yourself.”

“I can’t stay here forever. And once I scale back my shifts at Kelly’s…I won’t be able to meet even half the rent on a good enough apartment. And when I have to stop working–”

“We don’t have to think about any of that right now,” Jason told her. “Just…for once…let me take care of this.”

“I don’t like depending on people,” she told him. “I learned the hard way not to do that so I’m sorry if I seem stubborn sometimes.”

He stood. “I should get going. I have to be at the warehouse early. If you need anything, you’ve got my number right?”

“Yeah. I have a shift at Kelly’s anyway. Thanks, Jason. I’m sorry…about before.”

He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I know what you were trying to do and I even appreciate it. I’ll stop by after your shift tomorrow and we can try and talk about this.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

November 22, 2003

Haye’s Landing

Brian set a coffee cup in front of her and then sat down at the adjacent seat at the kitchen table. “Are you sure you don’t want something to eat?”

Courtney shook her head. “I don’t think I’d be able to keep it down.” She rubbed her forehead. “I just took off when he told me. I have the kids’ luggage still in my car for Christ’s sake. I just couldn’t deal with it.”

“You will have to…deal with it, that is,” Brian told her. “I mean, I don’t mind having you here. You’re a good tenant and all, but you can’t hide here forever.”

“I thought I might call Carly. Just to gauge the situation. He didn’t even come after me.” She bit her lip. “I want to know if he did it before the wedding.”

“What can that possibly matter?” Brian questioned. “Either way, he cheated on you.”

“Yes, but if he slept with her and then took his vows…it means he kind of chose me,” Courtney said, “and maybe then we could work through this–”

“Don’t. Don’t do that. Don’t make this okay for him just because he went back to you,” Brian argued immediately. “That’s what cheaters do. They go back to the relationship. But he did it once. He’ll do it again.”

“I just wish…I wish it had been anyone but Elizabeth. I might have understood someone else. We were having a lot of problems this fall and late summer…if it’d been some nameless woman in a bar…I could have dealt with it.”

“But it wasn’t. It was a woman that you’ve said yourself–he loved her once. And just because you were having problems–that doesn’t give him an excuse. Did he ever cheat on Elizabeth?”

“No. Not that I’m aware of,” Courtney murmured. “They have this huge history, Brian. A very long one, a very close one. She saved his life once. More than once. They’ve known each other since she was at least fifteen. She’s his little sister’s best friend. How can I possibly compete with something like that?”

“You shouldn’t have to. Okay, long history for them. Doesn’t matter. He proposed to you. He married you. He didn’t marry her so he doesn’t get an out because they were together for a long time.”

“No, they were actually together for a very short time,” Courtney protested. “He was in love with her for three years. He says he wasn’t but I know. I saw him that summer. She was kidnapped and I don’t think he ate or slept the whole time she was gone. She was shot–grazed really in the arm–and he freaked out so bad he tried to push her away. You didn’t see him, Brian. He practically pined after her that summer and I’m sure it started longer before that.”

“Still doesn’t matter,” Brian said, shaking his head. “Stop trying to give yourself excuses to forgive him. Work it out, get past it but don’t let him think for one minute it’s okay because he slept with an old girlfriend.”

“I just…I don’t know I’m supposed to handle this,” she said softly. “I mean…is there some kind of code or plan one has to follow? I mean…he didn’t just cheat on me…she’s pregnant and Jason…he’s not someone who runs from confrontations or mistakes. He’ll be a father to that child and I don’t know if I can handle that.”

“The beauty of the situation is that you don’t have to,” Brian replied. “You have the control in this right now.”

“But I love him, Brian. And he’s talked a little about the pain he felt when he lost custody of Michael–he raised him for the first year of his life, did I tell you that?”

Brian shook his head. “No. Is he Jason’s son?”

“No, he’s actually AJ’s son but Sonny adopted him. Anyway, I wasn’t in Port Charles when he lost custody, but it’s still such a painful subject for him. How can I tell him that he has to walk away from his own child just because he cheated on me?”

He stared at her. “Courtney, you’ve got to be kidding me. He cheated on you. So what if the girl’s pregnant? That does not negate what he did to you.”

“I just…” She ran her hands through her hair. “The reason I wanted to go home–the real reason–was because this life was becoming something I wanted and I needed to get away from that.”

Brian frowned and leaned forward. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, that living in Haye’s Landing, in this house…being around you…it was starting to sound good to me and I just couldn’t deal with that.” She sipped her now lukewarm coffee. “I live in a bullet proof penthouse in Port Charles. Most of the time, I get driven around by a guard whose name I don’t know and I can’t go out unless I tell at least three different people where I’m going.”

“Sounds restrictive,” Brian said.

“The other day when I was getting Michael ready to go sledding, I told him you were a cop and he was disappointed.” Courtney shook her head. “Most kids would that thought that was cool but he’s been brought up not to trust the police. I mean…can you believe that?”

“Well…with the line of work your brother and husband are in…trusting the police is probably but a good thing.”

“But Michael’s just a little boy, Brian. He’s not part of that life and he deserves to have a normal childhood.”

“It sounds like it’s not a life you’re happy in,” he said.

She hesitated. “It’s not that I’m not happy. I love my brother and Carly and god, of course I love Jason. I just wish…” She chewed on her lip. “I wish they were just coffee importers.”

“Maybe you just need some more time,” Brian told her. “You don’t need to figure it out right this minute.”

“I just…I need to ask him why. I have to know why. If I know why, then I can go from there. I have to know.”

“Then ask him.”

Warehouse

Carly knocked hesitantly on Jason’s ajar office door. He glanced up and sighed. “What is it, Carly?”

She entered and shut it behind her. “I came to apologize for last night. I…the emotions about Courtney and Elizabeth came back so quickly–so unexpectedly, they were just swirling around in my head and I couldn’t think.”

He nodded. “Fine. Is that it?”

“No, it’s not it,” Carly argued. She sat down. “Look…you were right. I don’t put you first and I’m going to try to be a better friend. You don’t ask me for favors and last night you did and I wish I’d been in a better frame of mind but Jason, you have to realize the position you were putting me in. Courtney is my sister-in-law and my best friend. Even without the connection, she feels that way about me and I am trying so hard not to hurt anyone. How could I agree to let Elizabeth stay there?”

“It doesn’t matter. I took her to a hotel.” Jason shoved some files aside and sighed. “She overheard the argument and she already knew Courtney’s reaction. I guess she felt guilty because the next thing I know, she’s telling me that she lied to me about the baby.”

Carly frowned. “What?”

“She was lying then of course. Not about me being the father but about me not being the father. It is my child, Carly, but she felt so guilty about what I was going through, she tried to give me an out. So I want you to know that. Just because you don’t like her, I’m not going to hide my friendship with her. I don’t argue with you about Alcazar, don’t argue with me on this. Just…be my friend for once and not Courtney’s sister-in-law.”

“Okay, okay. I just…I feel sorry for Courtney. Because I know what she’s going through a little. After I saw Sonny kiss Brenda last winter–” Carly broke off abruptly and frowned. “I was devastated,” she said softly. “I thought…I thought he was going to leave me for her–and from the moment I found out she was alive, I thought that’s what he’d do. I mean…Brenda…she was so important to him–so much of his life…how could I ever compete with that?”

“Carly?” Jason frowned. “Are…are you remembering Sonny?”

Carly looked at him, her eyes wide in her face. “Yeah. I-I think I am.”

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