Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise
You’re not through with me yet
So if all of the trials bring me closer to you
Then I will go through the fire
If you want me to
– If You Want Me To, Ginny Owens
Monday, September 2, 2002
When Elizabeth saw Sonny sitting down in the courtyard, she sighed and thought about asking Penny to cover the table. A month ago, she had been telling Gia she didn’t know how to be happy. A week ago, she’d confessed those fears to Jason who had seemed to understand.
And two days ago, Jason had left her studio to talk to Carly again. He hadn’t called her since.
She should have known.
There would always be a second shoe. Always a disaster.
And somehow, even though Elizabeth couldn’t quite figure out why, she felt like the villain here.
She’d been honest with Jason—maybe too honest. And her timing had sucked. He’d just been drop kicked by Carly for maybe the eighth time in his life and she hadn’t waited more than a handful of days before giving him what must have felt like an ultimatum.
“Hey, Elizabeth.” Sonny tossed aside the menu and sat back as she poured him a cup of coffee. “How’s life?”
“Oh, fantastic,” she muttered. “You?”
Sonny sighed. “Can you sit?”
She didn’t want to, but she could tell Sonny had something on his mind and he’d timed his visit for the post-lunch rush. “Yeah.”
“I don’t intend to pry,” Sonny began. “I just…I’m worried. About Carly. And how Jason is handling this. He hasn’t talked to me—”
“Why do you think I would know anything?” Elizabeth demanded.
Sonny blinked at her short response. “Did you…did you have another run-in with Carly?” he repeated.
“Oh, my God.” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. This was going to be her life now. All Carly all the time. “No. She’s not going to bother with me. I made my position clear to her. The only the way she gets anything from me is to tell Jason what’s going on. She’s not going to do that, so I’m useless to her. Is that it?”
“I—” He held out a hand to stop her as she started to rise. “I get it. Carly’s not your favorite person right now, but she’s in trouble—”
“I just—I can’t.” She threw up her hands. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m a bad friend. A terrible girlfriend. Whatever label you want to slap on me. But I do not give a rat’s ass if she’s in trouble.”
Sonny’s lips formed a bit of an ‘oh’ as he took this tumble of words in. “Are…are you and Jason fighting? He hasn’t said—I mean, he wouldn’t. He’d rather chew off his own arm rather than talk to me about this stuff.” He looked away.
“I don’t know what we are.” Elizabeth shifted. “I tried to help. I waited at the Brownstone. I did exactly what Jason and I talked about. Trying to convince her to think about Michael. But she just—God, Sonny. She’s the same person she’s always been, and I just get don’t this obsession with getting her out of trouble. I don’t care what the hell happened—”
“Ah. She…” Sonny scratched the side of his nose. “She probably didn’t really like finding out you were dating Jason.”
“Yeah, because I was worried about her opinion. Jason got that look, too, when I told him I had mentioned it. That grimace like I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, are we protecting Carly? Was my relationship with Jason something I was supposed to lie about?” she bit out.
“No. Just…” Sonny sighed. “Antagonizing her—”
“I’m done with this—” Elizabeth shot to her feet. “Look. I get it. I’m not an idiot. Part of the reason you and Jason are treading so cautiously is because…where ever she’s been—it might be…connected to whatever. But you’re both kidding yourselves if you think that’s the only reason you’re both so goddamn concerned. You both have spent years bailing Carly out of her bullshit, and you’re apparently addicted to it. Well, I don’t have blinders where she’s concerned.”
“Jason doesn’t see her that way—”
“This is not jealousy you’re seeing and screw you, Sonny, for thinking that it’s that simple. It’s not a cat fight over a guy. This is about seeing Carly for who she is which I thought you had.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Like I said, I’m a terrible person, whatever you want to say. But I’m not going to spend my day thinking about her. And I’m not going to sit by and watch while you and Jason let her wreak havoc—”
“Elizabeth.” Sonny stood. “Let me just—I’m not helping, I can see that. And I’m sorry. I think—” He tilted his head. “You’re thinking about Robin. And that entire mess when Carly came home, and Jason had them both in the cottage—”
“I can remember their fights at the garage when I used to visit Lucky,” Elizabeth admitted. “And I know how Carly saw Robin. She was a threat. And I don’t know what she did, but it worked. Because Robin left. And Jason stayed with Carly. No matter what she did, he always—”
She closed her eyes. “It’s not about romantic feelings. I don’t…I don’t see her as a threat. Not like that. But he will always go running to help her, Sonny. I don’t understand it. And I’m not sure I want to. She’s planning something, and she’s going after Jason. But then he’s talking about this like it’s another scheme, something he can fix. You know better than anyone else how much damage Carly can do when she’s trying to help. What about when she’s actively trying to destroy someone? Bobbie and Tony are still picking up the pieces of their lives. And what about Lucas and Michael? Just collateral damage in whatever she cooks up.”
“You’re not wrong, Elizabeth—”
“Yeah, Jason said that, too. Except I’m the one getting the silent treatment because I had the nerve to be honest—” Her voice broke, and she had to look away. “I told you, Sonny. I wasn’t going to do this again. And here I am, all over again. Giving pieces of myself away I will never get back. I’ve already been sacrificed on the altar of the Spencer/Cassadine feud. Excuse me if I’m not really interested in signing up to be a piece of roadkill Carly leaves behind.”
Sonny exhaled slowly. “You don’t want to sit back like Robin did, and wait for Carly to destroy Jason’s life. Again. She can’t take Michael away from him again—the only thing he gives a damn about now is you. So you know—”
“Oh, don’t—” Elizabeth stabbed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare play that card. I get to be angry about this. Because I’ve been here picking up the pieces of Carly’s life for years. You think I don’t know exactly why Jason went to the boxcar that night and nearly killed himself laying in the snow?”
Sonny ducked his head. “Elizabeth—”
“I can count, Sonny. Jason cut you and Carly out at the same time. And then she was pregnant. So yeah, I know exactly how much damage she can do. He nearly died.”
“It’s not—” Sonny took a deep breath. “She saw him dancing with you, and I taunted her. I told her that he was moving on. And you know, he was, Elizabeth. You had to know he cared about you—”
“Not enough to stay.” Her eyes burned. “I know why he left that first time. Because of her. Because she made it clear she would keep using Michael against him. So, he gave in. And he left.” She swiped at her tears. “I’m—I’m tired, Sonny. I’m tired of being a runner-up in a contest I never entered—”
“You and Jason made a lot of mistakes,” Sonny said carefully. “You know that’s true. But it’s not like that now. I know he loves you, Elizabeth. He has to have told you that by now.”
“He has.” Elizabeth tilted her head back and tried to catch her breath. “But he loved Robin. And he was with her longer.”
“Fair enough.” Sonny waited a moment. “I hear what you’re saying, Elizabeth. I really do, and you know, I-I agree with you. I don’t want to watch Jason chase after Carly, solving all her problems, either. But…what exactly are you asking for him…for either us to do?”
“Stop playing her games,” she said, then sighed. “I blew up at him this weekend, he hasn’t—we haven’t—talked. I told him I wouldn’t sit back and watch him run after Carly every time she called. But…”
“Okay.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize—have you thought about talking to him again?”
“Why bother? If I were any other girl he was dating, it wouldn’t even be—I don’t know. Maybe if I hadn’t had the year I’ve had, I could swallow it. But I—I just—I’m broken. I tried to tell him—”
“Stop it.” Sonny took a step towards her, as if he wanted to do something but he left the space between them. “You’ve been through hell. And God knows, you’re not wrong about what she’s capable of. Look, let’s just… let this lie for now, okay? Do…do you feel any better for having yelled at me? Because you can keep doing that if you don’t want to talk to Jason. I can listen.”
Elizabeth sat back down, exhausted. “I don’t know anymore, Sonny. I guess…you know they said love isn’t supposed to be easy. And I believe that. If it’s worth having—and I believe Jason loves me. But it’s like it always is. We do really well inside our own bubble. When the rest of the world gets involved…” She stared at the coffee pot. “Don’t tell him. He’s dealing with enough, and you know, I know that this isn’t easy for him. I know it would be better if I swallowed all of this and just…sucked it up. Held his hand—”
“The last thing Jason wants you to do is be anyone other than who you are. And you know what?” He dipped his head down so their eyes met. “I’m proud of you, you know. A year ago, you folded in on yourself. You weren’t honest with yourself and now you can’t hold back.”
“Yeah. Whoopee.” Elizabeth rose. “Thanks, Sonny. It did—it did help to just…admit how angry I am. And to realize that it’s not even about Jason. It’s about me. It usually is. It’s like he’s doomed to pay for the mistakes of others—”
“To be fair,” Sonny said as he held the door open for her to go back inside. “This time it looks like he’s actually paying for his own mistakes.”
Jake’s: Jason’s Room
Jason grimaced as he studied his cell phone, his finger hesitating over Elizabeth’s name. This wasn’t like him.
He was decisive. He didn’t have second thoughts.
But he hadn’t spoken to Elizabeth in two days. Hadn’t seen her. And after four months of being with her—of spending nearly every night together—this silence sucked.
But he didn’t know how to make it stop. How to convince her that it wasn’t like all the times with Carly and Robin. That it was different.
Because Jason was almost convinced Elizabeth was right. That Carly wasn’t manipulating him. He’d gone to the hotel, and Carly had just cried. Told him that Sonny came to see her, said all kinds of awful things to her. If she had Michael back—
So he’d told her he wouldn’t come the next time she called. He was done waiting for her to come clean. And then he’d ignored her phone calls.
He just wished he hadn’t left Elizabeth at the studio on the Friday. That she hadn’t had to force him to see what Carly was up to.
A sharp knock drew him out of his thoughts and he closed his phone, standing.
“I know you’re in there,” Carly snarled. “Open up.”
Jason took a moment to take a deep breath and braced himself for another round with Carly. She was coming to him this time, so that had to be…a good sign.
He opened the door to find her scowling at him. “Why the hell didn’t you answer your phone?” she demanded as she stalked past him. She narrowed her eyes at the scattering of cosmetics on his dresser—Elizabeth had started to leave things here to make it easier and he liked it.
“I still cannot believe you’re dating that little twit,” Carly muttered as she whirled to face him. “What do you see in these mealy mouthed little girls, Jase?”
Jason just stared at her. “Are you serious, Carly? What did I tell you—”
Carly’s lip trembled. “If I could just see Michael, if I could—just hold him, I could…I could start to get past it. It’s hard to think about what happened when I’m so worried about him.” One solo tear slid down her cheek. “Please, Jason. Just…let me see my little boy. We can talk about anything you want after that—”
“I—” He knew his line. He knew what she expected. But Jason stopped himself.
Because Elizabeth was right. This wasn’t about Michael. This was about Carly, and all the reasons he kept bailing her out.
And it had to end.
“When you left me guardianship,” Jason said slowly, “I didn’t immediately—I tried to keep him away from AJ. I talked to Alexis. I looked at my options. But she made it clear that I faced an uphill battle.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake. You pay a judge—”
Jason shook his head. “AJ has the Quartermaines behind him. Even if he isn’t asking them for help. Any judge I tried to bribe Carly, Edward would have just given him more money. And we would have dragged Michael through all of that for nothing because I was never—” He swallowed hard. “I was never going to win.”
“She got to you, didn’t she?” Carly demanded. She picked up a tube of lipstick and sneered at it. “Little Miss Muffin Face. She’s all buddy buddy with Sonny’s stupid sister. AJ’s cheerleader. I bet Elizabeth couldn’t wait to bad mouth me and tell you to give Michael to AJ—”
There was so much…wrong in what she’d said that Jason couldn’t even take it all in. “Elizabeth didn’t tell me anything. I saw for myself. He’s sober, Carly. And he’s been good to Michael. That’s what I wanted for him—”
“You promised me,” Carly said as she tossed the lipstick down. It rolled off the bureau, across the floor. “You promised me you’d keep him away—”
“I couldn’t keep that promise—”
“So you take Michael and go,” she snapped. “There are a lot of countries without extradition—”
Jason took a moment, tried to keep himself calm. “Michael’s life is here. My life is here—”
“Oh, Elizabeth, right?” Carly rolled her eyes. Dismissive. “For the next five minutes. She’ll be running soon enough.” She smirked. “Isn’t she already avoiding you?”
“Are—” Jason sucked in a breath. Damn it. “Are you watching me?”
“So I’m right. Trouble in paradise.” And a glint ignited in her eyes—something he hadn’t seen in more than two years. Something he’d thought was dead and buried.
So this was how it was gonna be, Jason thought, with a surprising amount of bitterness. “It’s that simple for you, isn’t it? You think you can do what you did before. I’ll come running because you crook your finger. What, you think I’ll take Michael away from AJ so we can be a family?” he demanded.
She blinked at his harsh tone. “Look, Jase, we’ve both—we’ve both gone down different roads, and I guess maybe you like the hero worship, but Elizabeth Webber can’t give you what I can—”
Jason took her wrist as she reached out to slide her hand down his chest and held it between them, his grip tight. “We haven’t been together that way in five years, Carly.”
Carly yanked her hand back. “I want my son, Jason. You know what I’m capable of—”
“And you know what I’m capable of,” he said, flatly. “The terms haven’t changed. You’re not getting near Michael until you tell me where the hell you’ve been for five months and why you left.”
“We’ll see about that.” Carly snapped. “I’ll get my son back, and then you’re going to pay for keeping him from me. All of you will.”
General Hospital: Cafeteria
Bobbie sighed when Alan set his coffee on the table and took the seat across from her. “Hey.” His tone was kind, his eyes were concerned. And she wanted to throw herself out the window. She was sick of people looking at her that way.
“I don’t know what Carly is planning,” she said abruptly. “She came to my home in the middle of the night, screamed at me, and only came back once since then. I didn’t even see her.”
And wasn’t sure she wanted to.
“I’m not—” Alan took a deep breath. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wondering what Carly had in mind. But that’s not—I’m just…I’m worried. And I thought we could be worried together.”
She closed her eyes. “I’m not…sure I have the energy left to be worried. I feel…empty. I love my daughter, but…” Bobbie looked at her old friend. “I love her the way a mother loves a child. I gave birth to her. I supported her. And I’m glad she’s alive. But at the same time—”
“You don’t know what direction to go.” He sipped his coffee. “How is Lucas handling all of this?”
“Lucas…is worried about Michael. He’s been hanging out with him, keeping him company at AJ’s. Helping the transition. He’s so good to that little boy, Alan. But he hates Carly. And that will probably never change. Not after this stunt.”
She hesitated. “I meant what I said. Carly hasn’t sought me out since that first night. When she came back to the house the next day, I was at work, and Elizabeth was there to run interference. To try to get answers. But she and Carly argued. Mostly about Jason, I’m sure.”
Bobbie stared down into her coffee, likely cold by now. “For months, I walked around in a fog, trying to do the best by her memory. By her son. And when she came home—when she walked through that door—I think I would have forgiven her anything if she’d only told me what happened. But she refuses, Alan. All she wants is Michael. There’s no room in her head for me, for what she put me or Jason through by being gone for five months.”
“Do you think it was willingly?” Alan asked curiously. “Carly is a lot of things, but I never—I never pictured her leaving Michael.”
“I don’t want to think that,” Bobbie admitted. “But it’s been more than a week, Alan. If she’d been kidnapped, if she’d lost her memory—why wasn’t that the first words out of her mouth? What reason does she have to come back here like she’s the victim? Like we did something to her—all we did was love Michael. And do our best by him. She won’t—she won’t slow down long enough for anyone to tell her about the custody issues.”
“I wanted to tell Jason how much I appreciated him giving AJ a chance, but I knew he wasn’t interested in my opinion,” Alan admitted. “And the fact that he’s stood by that—that AJ still has Michael even though Carly is home—”
“I would have told you that there was nothing Carly could do to make Jason cut her off. She destroyed his life over Michael. Married AJ. Slept with Sonny. Nearly got Sonny arrested twice. And still—he called her a friend.”
Alan’s lips thinned in displeasure. “I certainly never understood either of my sons when it came to Carly.”
“But this?” Bobbie shook his head. “Whatever my daughter is planning on, he’s not going to bail her out.” She sighed. “Or maybe I hope not. Because I don’t see Elizabeth putting up with it for long.”
He just tipped his head in silent inquiry, so Bobbie elaborated. “Playing second fiddle to Carly. Which is what tends to happen to anyone in Jason’s life when Carly is a factor. Carly has a way of convincing Jason to help her—and I used to be grateful for that. Because he kept her from going too far. But it’s too much to ask for him be that for another person. I don’t want him to destroy his life for her. Not again.”
She sipped her coffee, then grimaced. It was ice cold and not in a good way. “I know you’re concerned about AJ losing custody of Michael again, but you know…I’m not sure my daughter has even faced the possibility that a judge is going to look at the two of them and leave the situation as it is. She’s so used to getting her way with Michael that…I fear for us all when she realizes that this time…she might lose him.”
As Elizabeth folded up a chair to stack it with the others, her toe caught the edge of another chair and she tripped, sending the whole stack sliding across the courtyard.
“What the fuck,” she muttered, kicking the chair. It clattered against the rest of them. “God I hate this world—”
Elizabeth turned to find Jason at the entrance. “Hey.” She sighed and then started to pull the chairs back into formation.
“Can we talk—”
“Jason—” She closed her mouth. “Fine. Go ahead. I’ve said what I need to say, except—” She set a chair down and looked at him. “I know you’re dealing with a lot. And I’m not—I’m not a bitch. I can see you’re struggling. I just—”
“You’ve been around Carly long enough to know what she’s capable of.” Jason slid his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I don’t—I don’t want this to be like it was with Robin. I didn’t do right by her. And she was right about Carly. You’re right.”
“Not sure that gives me a lot of comfort, Jason.” Elizabeth walked back towards the diner, opening the door. “I knew I was right. You knew I was right. But you still went.”
“You told me to go—” He stopped talking as the door swung shut behind them and he watched her go behind the counter. “But you were right. I wanted to go. I thought—I thought I could find the right thing to say. That there had to be something I hadn’t tried.
“Carly…” Jason hesitated. “After the accident, everyone looked at me like I was…a problem to fix. Even Robin and Sonny. They both thought they knew better than me—”
“You told me once you grew up in Sonny’s eyes, but not in Robin’s.” Elizabeth studied him. “But that was before that night at the boxcar.”
“Sonny thought I needed to be free from Carly. And he knew—he knew how to play her.” Jason looked away. “So he slept with her.”
“I did the math when she got pregnant. I’m sorry. But that doesn’t explain—”
“Why I let Carly get away with so much.” He exhaled slowly. “Carly never thought I was damaged.”
Elizabeth tilted her head. “So…fixing her problems, what…proves it?”
“I guess. I don’t know. I just…I see her in trouble, and something in me tells me to fix it. I never really thought about why before. I should have. I could have saved Robin a lot of pain if I could—” Jason shook his head. “That doesn’t matter.”
“Great. So now you know why you jump when she calls. Doesn’t change it.” Elizabeth slid some paperwork in her tote. “I’m surprised she hasn’t called you yet. We’ve been here ten minutes—”
“You were right about that, too. She is—she knows when we’re together. Because she knew you hadn’t been at Jake’s.”
“Oh, I bet she did.” Elizabeth’s smile felt as sour as her stomach. “And she came to see you, right? Probably finally played her trump card.”
“Yeah. Promised to tell me whatever I wanted if she could see Michael.”
“Smart. Didn’t ask for Michael outright, just to see him. You must have been tempted.”
“I—” Jason hesitated. “I would have been.”
“Don’t do anything because you don’t want to upset me.” Elizabeth came out from behind the corner as she untied her apron. “You want to give in to her, that’s your problem—”
“Hey—” Jason took her by the elbow. “Just—just stop. Can you just listen to me? Or are you going to—”
“Be bitchy?” Elizabeth demanded. “What, do you want a cookie because you saw Carly was manipulating you before you gave in? We’re all out, but maybe I can dig up a lollipop—”
She stepped back away from him. “I’m sorry. What do you want from me?”
“I—” He dragged his hands through his hair. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, Elizabeth. Whatever Carly is up to, she had help. How the hell do I know it’s not someone coming after us? What if she’s part of it?”
Elizabeth looked down at her feet. “Jason—”
“She thought I would just—” His hands dropped to his side. “She thought I would bring her Michael and we’d—we’d just be a family. Like nothing happened.”
She rolled her eyes. “I saw that coming, too, didn’t I?”
“There’s nothing—” Jason paused. “You don’t have to feel threatened by Carly, Elizabeth. I told you. I love you.”
“I’m not threatened by Carly,” Elizabeth said with a touch of disgust. “I’m just—I told you. I’m not interested in letting her play you like a piano while I stand by and wring my hands. Carly’s not going to run my life.”
“I don’t plan on letting Carly run my life either,” Jason said, his eyes flashing with impatience. “It’s been a week—”
“No one ever plans for Carly,” she shot back. “That’s how she gets you. Great, Jason. You know she’s manipulating you. I’m thrilled for you.”
“I don’t want to fight anymore. I really don’t.” She rubbed her eyes. “I’m tired. I’m tired of watching Bobbie kill herself trying to understand her daughter. Of worrying about you and Michael. I’m just…I’m tired of Carly, Jason.”
“I know.” He swallowed hard. “This is—it’s gonna be over soon, okay? She’ll screw up. Or she’ll realize I’m not coming through for her. And she’ll have to tell us what’s going on. Just…” He held his hand out to her on the table, his palm facing up. “Just give me a chance, okay?”
Against her better judgment, Elizabeth took his hand. For all the times she hadn’t stood by him the year before—she owed him this. Even if everything inside of her was screaming at her to get out before it all fell apart.
Jason had never let her down, so she had to trust that he wouldn’t this time.