If I fall along the way
Pick me up and dust me off
And if I get too tired to make it
Be my breath so I can walk
If I need some other love
Give me more than I can stand
And when my smile gets old and faded
Wait around I’ll smile again
– Bent, Matchbox 20
Wednesday, January 12, 2000
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
The storm that had threatened to blanket Port Charles in several feet of snow weakened over Lake Ontario, and by the time it reached the shore, it was nothing more than a few inches coating the streets.
Jason looked out the window of the penthouse, high above the slush and nice, waiting while Sonny fixed himself a cup of coffee, stirring in milk and sugar. He didn’t think he’d ever be truly comfortable in the room again, he realized and took a conscious step backwards to the door. As soon as he ended this conversation, he was leaving and he was really hoping he didn’t have to come back.
“Max told me this was about Sorel,” Sonny said, raising the mug to his lips. “What’s going on?”
“He approached Elizabeth on the pier last night,” Jason said tightly, the image of Sorel holding Elizabeth’s arm and the anxious expression she’d worn flashing in his mind. “I told him if he did it again, he’d end up like Moreno.”
Sonny grunted. “Considering Moreno’s body was dumped by someone else and he’s never turned up—” He shrugged a shoulder. “Told you it wouldn’t work.”
Jason bristled. “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” And he didn’t care that Sonny had been right. It was still none of his business. Damn it.
“I’m just here to tell you that I’m putting a guard on her.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m giving her Francis, and I don’t want you to screw around and reassign him.”
Sonny stared at him, bewildered. “When have I ever—”
“Until Sorel is dealt with,” Jason cut in, feeling the sharp sting of what might be embarrassment. Sonny had never interfered with security arrangements, but Jason just—he didn’t trust that anymore. Didn’t trust Sonny not to think he knew better. “That’s just how it is.”
“Of course. I’m the one who told you that walking away from her wouldn’t work—”
No, walking away and staying in Port Charles and in the business—Jason shook his head. The only way to make Elizabeth truly safe and to escape all the other disasters in his life would be to leave.
He’d been thinking about it for days, since the bomb. Since that day at Kelly’s. He’d walked away from her, but he’d known it wouldn’t be long before he’d change his mind. Knew if she challenged him just one more time, he wouldn’t be able to turn her away again.
He couldn’t do the job anymore. Not without wanting to shove Sonny off a cliff which wasn’t good. He couldn’t walk down the street without running into Carly who was always going to start something—there was no relief, no escape, and the only person who made any of that go away was in danger as long as people knew she mattered.
“I don’t want to hear about how you always know best,” Jason bit out, cutting into Sonny’s response. “I’m just telling you what it is.”
“Wait a minute—” Sonny began but Jason had already turned and yanked the door open.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth emerged from the kitchen, an empty tub in her arms. She smiled tightly at the blonde seated at the counter before setting the tub down. “Laura. Hey. I don’t see you in here often.”
“No.” Laura flashed a smile, setting her purse down before flipping over the coffee cup. “It’s hard sometimes going to places where my memories are so vivid.”
Elizabeth exhaled, nodded. She poured coffee into the cup. “I know. It was hard to come back. This was the last—” She cleared her throat. “We were all here that last night.” And now, that short-lived family she’d thought she’d found—the best friend, the brother, the first love — they were all gone. Nikolas had twisted and turned into someone she didn’t recognize, Emily had left for New York—
And her sweet Lucky was six feet under.
“Luke came by last night,” Laura said. “He said something about wanting to stick around this time. Wanting to spend more time with Lulu. I hope that’s true,” she added, “but it made me think about not really checking in with you lately.”
“Oh, I’m fine—”
“You didn’t think you’d get rid of me that easily, did you?” Laura said with a gentle smile. “Lucky brought you to us, Elizabeth, but I love you. And you don’t have parents in Port Charles to look after you.” She paused. “I wondered if you were avoiding me because of the rumors I’d heard.”
“Rumors?” Elizabeth repeated, then she winced. “Oh. Right. Um, what Nikolas said at the Christmas party.”
“Exactly.” Laura tipped her head. “I hope you didn’t feel like you had to hide that from me. Lucky would want you to move on. To be happy. I want that.”
“And he thought the world of Jason.” Laura’s face tightened. “I blamed him,” she murmured. “And Sonny. For a long time. Maybe part of me still does.”
“They said it was an accident—”
“I know. And if it hadn’t been—Luke or Sonny would have done something. It was comforting to have someone to blame,” Laura admitted. “To have a place to put all that anger. Someone to scream at. And Sonny would have let me keep blaming him, I think. Jason, too.” She paused again. “How long have you been seeing each other?”
“It’s not—” Elizabeth bit her lip. It wasn’t like that, she’d wanted to say, but it didn’t feel like the right answer anymore. Something had shifted in the last few weeks, though she really couldn’t pinpoint exactly how or when. When Jason had told her that they couldn’t see each other anymore, it had felt like he’d taken a dagger to her, slicing her open so that all of her nerve endings were on display. Would it feel that way if Nikolas or Emily had said the same?
And then there had been that conversation yesterday, when she’d begged him to admit he missed her, and he’d looked at her—and it hadn’t felt like friends then, either. He’d nearly kissed her, too. Elizabeth didn’t have a lot of experience, but she knew that much. It was all a mess and insane inside her head. She didn’t know how to talk about it, how to feel.
“I’m sorry, that’s an awfully personal question to ask, and you certainly don’t owe me any answers.”
“No, I—” Elizabeth hesitated. “We’ve been friends for a few months,” she managed. “I don’t really know when it changed. Or how. Or what any of it means. It’s—I didn’t even realize that it had.” She’d asked Jason to dance that night before he’d been shot, and she’d been trying to pretend he was Lucky. But it hadn’t worked. Had she felt it even then? “I’m not sure when I stopped feeling like I’d died, too.”
“Oh, baby.” Laura squeezed her hand. “I’m so sorry. I wish I could have been there for you—”
“You lost your son, Laura. I didn’t expect you to take care of me, too.” Elizabeth busied herself refilling a sugar canister. “It’s confusing,” she continued, “because I still feel like part of me is betraying Lucky. Or not betraying. That doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s just—I don’t know. I feel like there’s still part of me that’s locked up in who I used to be. And the rest of me is figuring out what’s next, and it’s all fighting inside my head. I sound insane,” she finished with a roll of her eyes.
“Grief is complicated,” Laura told her. “And I’m happy to see you coming out the other side. Even if it’s not with Jason, it’ll be someone else. Some day. Lucky loved you, Elizabeth. And I’m so glad my little boy got to have that kind of love—” Her voice faltered. “I’m so grateful you had one another. But you didn’t die in that fire, sweetheart. You have the rest of your life to live.”
“It took a long time to figure that out,” Elizabeth admitted. “But I got there. Thank you. For making me feel like it’s okay. There’s not a lot of people who have.”
“No one else matters but you. Your heart will tell you when it’s ready.”
Thursday, January 13, 2000
Elm Street Pier
Jason shoved his hands in his pockets, crossing from Pier 52 towards Elm Street and Kelly’s. Elizabeth’s shift was supposed to start soon, and he thought he might stop in for some coffee. Or just to see her. The only part of his day that didn’t feel like a battle was when he was with her.
Jason stopped short when Carly stepped from around a corner, Michael in her arms. He expected to see AJ lurking somewhere, but no. Carly was holding Michael out to him. The little boy was twisting, his beloved face screwed up in confusion. Jason instinctively took a step back, keeping his hands in his pockets.
“What are you doing?” he demanded roughly, but Carly ignored him and set Michael on his feet.
“Mommy?” the toddler sniffled, then looked at Jason. “Daddy?”
His breath caught in his throat. “What?”
“I show him your picture,” Carly said, her eyes damp. “And he remembers you, Jason. We can still be a family. You just have to let us—here—hold him—” She lifted Michael and pushed him at Jason, almost forcing him into holding the boy he loved more than anything in the world.
His stomach rolled even as his arms reflexively tightened around the familiar body. Michael was so much larger than the last time he’d seen him, since he’d held him—
Jason had to stop himself—this wasn’t his son. He wasn’t Michael’s father. And what Carly was doing was so goddamn damaging—
“Daddy?” Michael said again.
Jason exhaled slowly, kissed Michael on the forehead. “Go with your mother,” he said, his voice faltering as he returned him to Carly.
“Don’t ever do this again,” Jason said, even as her tears slid down her face. “I’m not his father, and this—” He looked at Michael and the confused blue eyes, the hands reaching for him. “This is the last time I’m going to warn you. Leave me alone.”
He turned and bounded up the nearest set of stairs, not caring where he went as long as it was as far away from Carly as possible.
But maybe there was nowhere he could go, no escape to be had. Carly and all the terrible mistakes he’d made because of her would haunt his steps. As long as he stayed in Port Charles.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth’s hands were shaking as she pushed through the door, grateful that her shift was starting in the slow period between breakfast and lunch. The dining room was nearly deserted, the only sounds from the back were the cook and bus boy cleaning dishes.
Bobbie was sitting by the counter, looking over the books. She smiled at Elizabeth. “Hey—” Then the smile faded. “Are you all right?”
“I—” She bit her lip. Bobbie was Carly’s mother, it seemed unfair to drag her into any of this, but— “I was on the docks. And—and I saw Carly.”
“Oh.” Bobbie closed her eyes. “What did my daughter say?”
“It wasn’t about—I didn’t talk to her. But I overheard—” She took a deep breath. “Carly brought Michael to the docks to run into Jason—and that would be bad enough, except that she’s been showing him pictures of Michael, and he called Jason daddy, and Jason had to walk away—”
“Oh my—” Bobbie dropped the pencil. “What did Jason say? Is he all right?”
“I don’t know,” Elizabeth admitted. “I—I was just—I saw it. But they didn’t see me. I—” She’d stayed hidden, wanting to see how Jason acted with Carly. She hadn’t been able to stop thinking about that night on the docks, when he’d looked at her, and then he’d looked at her mouth—Elizabeth thought he was going to kiss her—which seemed insane—except she’d been there.
Now she wished she’d said something, stepped out of the shadows, anything to stop what had happened.
“She just never learns,” Bobbie said. She put her head in her hands. “I thought she was doing better about this Jason thing. Letting go—”
Elizabeth frowned in her direction, and Bobbie stopped, sighed. “Okay, I knew she wasn’t. That stunt she pulled last month, using me to get in to see Jason at your studio—”
Elizabeth really didn’t want to think about how Carly had waltzed in and out of the studio, pulling fire alarms, driving Jason insane—not that it mattered. Jason had been putting up with Carly for years—
Bobbie took a deep breath. “But she wasn’t getting a choice anymore. Jason’s been cutting the ties. Finally. For both their sakes. I know he put up with things longer because of Michael, but I really thought he was starting to see clearly.” She met Elizabeth’s eyes. “I thought maybe you were part of it.”
“I have nothing to do with Jason and Carly,” Elizabeth said, “and I don’t want to.” She’d pushed back against Carly when Jason had needed his space but he was an adult and could handle himself. At least, she thought he could. But what kind of defense could he muster against an attack like today?
“She was so angry when Jason gave up visitation last year,” Bobbie continued, more to herself. “Hurt, too, I think, because Jason staying in Michael’s life kept the hope alive. But it was upsetting Michael and it was just—Jason realized he was never going to be Michael’s father again.” She scowled. “And now you’re telling me she’s showing Michael pictures— Keeping the memory alive. Oh, AJ is going to be livid if he finds out—”
“Carly’s my daughter, and I love her, but sometimes—” Bobbie closed her eyes, exhaled slowly, and gathered herself. “Sometimes,” she repeated, “it feels like a lot of work. Which is a terrible thing to say and no mother should ever say it about their child—”
“It’d be different if you’d raised her,” Elizabeth assured her. “It just would. It’s only been, what, two years since you even found out she was yours? You’ve been so good to her, Bobbie. She’s lucky to have you.”
“Well, that’s kind of you to say—”
“It’s just the truth. I’d—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Look, I know I just said it would be different if Carly had grown up with you, and that’s true. But sometimes you just can’t love the person you’re supposed to. My mother didn’t love me.”
“And it’s not because I didn’t want to be a doctor or I wasn’t a good student.” Elizabeth turned away, returned to adjusting and moving chairs, resetting table places. “She didn’t want kids. Dad already had Steven, and they compromised because he wanted another kid. So there was Sarah. I was an accident, and my mom had to give up this huge fellowship that would have been amazing for her career.”
“Sweetheart, that doesn’t mean—”
“I overheard her when I was maybe eight or nine,” Elizabeth said. “Telling Gramps that it was a shame that I couldn’t just come live with them. She said they knew how to handle me better. And she said if it wasn’t for Lizzie, who knows where I’d be in medicine? Lizzie came along and ruined everything.”
Bobbie scowled. “I hope Steve ripped her a good one—”
“In his way. He convinced her to let me stay for the summers, but then he died and Gram didn’t feel much differently than my parents.”
“Audrey loves you—”
“I know. I know she does,” Elizabeth repeated when Bobbie looked worried. “Which is more than my mother. I think my father did, too, but you know—he’s not here either. He didn’t know what to do with me. And neither does Gram most of the time. So they gave up. Anyway, this isn’t my pity party. I’m just saying blood doesn’t create a family. It’s not automatic. You and Carly are still working on it, and I know she loves you.” Her stomach twisted as she said it. Carly just couldn’t see how lucky she was. “But you’re not always going to like everything she does, Bobbie.”
“I just—I see her making so many of the same mistakes I did. I lied to keep a man who I thought was supposed to love me. I made myself miserable so many times, and I was too scared to take the chances I should have—” She shook her head. “I lied, I cheated, I schemed, I stole, and I didn’t always care who I hurt. Carly comes by it naturally, Elizabeth, which is why I’m trying to do better by her. It hurts to see her going down the same road.”
“You should tell her that the next time you see one another.” Elizabeth made a face. “I may not understand Carly most the time—” All of the time. “But I know she loves Michael, and I don’t doubt she honestly believes Jason is better for him. But she made decisions last year that made all of that harder.”
“She certainly did, and she didn’t ever truly understand that Jason’s affection for her was always tied to Michael. He was in love with the idea of that family.” Bobbie sipped her coffee, her eyes clouding over. “And how much it must have hurt for Michael to call out to him and Jason to walk away.”
She hadn’t been able to see his face, but it must have killed him, Elizabeth thought, flashing to the way he’d looked that day on the docks when he’d watched Michael with AJ, and he’d held on to the hat Michael had dropped.
“Maybe you should check on him,” Bobbie suggested.
“I—” Jason was so closed off about these kinds of things—he’d only ever opened up when she’d accidentally forced it. But she was worried about him. She knew there were issues with Sonny, that something had happened with Carly—how much worse would he be feeling right now? “Maybe, I guess. But I have to work—”
“I’ll call Penny to cover,” Bobbie said. “She was asking for more shifts anyway.”
“All right, then I will.”
It had been at least a year since Jason had come to this place. More than, he realized as he stepped to the middle and looked out over the horizon. It had been Stone and Robin’s place originally, he remembered, but he’d never forget seeing the quiet, lovely Robin standing here with her tragic eyes.
Robin might have broken him into little pieces the year before, but Jason could see now all the ways he’d done the same to her over the years. Every minute he allowed Carly into their lives—when he’d chosen Michael over Robin, and she’d felt like there was no choice. He’d been furious with her—and still was, he admitted to himself. Even if she had ultimately been right, it should have been Jason’s mistake to make.
He rested his hands on the edge of the bridge, his fingers curling into the stones, staring into the darkness. Walking away from Michael today had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. Even more than last spring. He loved that little boy, but Jason would never be his father.
And he wanted to be as far away from Carly as he could get. How was he supposed to shut her down, to make her stop? The only time she’d ever truly left him alone was when she’d been more worried about Tony Jones and keeping him on a string. She didn’t have anyone to distract her this time.
Which meant she was going to make being in Port Charles miserable for the foreseeable future. How was he supposed to handle that?
He pushed away from the bridge and headed back to his bike. He needed to get some sleep, to take a shower. To just put this away and not think about it anymore.
Harborview Towers: Hallway
It felt almost intrusive to come to Jason’s penthouse without an invitation, but just like the last time, the men at the security desk gave her access to the penthouse level without questions. The doors opened and she stepped out, unsure.
How was this any different than Jason stopping by the studio? He’d done that a few times before the bombing incident, and he’d walked her home the other night. So what if she’d never been to his place?
“I’m a moron,” she muttered, making the turn to Jason’s penthouse. She knocked, then waited.
She turned and found the dark-haired guard, Max something or other. “Yes?”
“Dougie was supposed to tell you to come over here when he sent you up.” Max craned his neck to the other penthouse. To Sonny’s. “Jason’s not here, but Sonny said you could wait with him.”
Elizabeth hesitated. That didn’t feel like such a good idea. There had been a strange tension with Jason and Sonny since the shooting. Jason had refused to let Sonny help him and had referred to not being sure he could go back to the way things were. Either way, she wasn’t sure it was a good idea.
She knew that something had happened with Carly, too—and she wondered if those events were related.
But maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about. Jason had returned to work for Sonny, hadn’t he? She followed the guard into Sonny’s darkly decorated living room. The man in question was sipping a bourbon at the minibar.
“Hey, Elizabeth.” He nodded at the bar. “You want something? Water, maybe?”
“Uh, no, I was just—” She glanced over her shoulder but Max was already closing the door. “I was just dropping by. I thought Jason was home—I don’t know why they let me upstairs if he wasn’t—”
“I said you could wait with me. He should be home soon.” Sonny sat, relaxed in a chair. “Have a seat.”
“I don’t know—we didn’t have plans—he’s not expecting me, I mean—” She licked her lips. “I just thought—anyway—”
“It’s all right. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Elizabeth frowned, folded her arms. “I don’t know about that,” she said slowly. “You’re Jason’s friend. And you—” She cleared her throat. “We’re friendly,” she said finally. “I don’t think it’s the same thing.”
“Fair enough.” Sonny sipped his drink. “I’m glad Jason changed his mind. About you,” he added. “I know things were tense after the bomb on New Year’s, and he got a little scared. He’s backing down, isn’t he?”
“I—” She nearly said yes, but then didn’t finish. “I should just call him—”
“I told him he should,” Sonny continued. “You’ve been good for him. Better than Carly.” His mouth twisted and he got to his feet. “You don’t like her either, do you?”
“I don’t know a lot of people who do,” Elizabeth said, slowly, “but I really—”
“You’re exactly what he needs,” Sonny cut in. He set the tumbler on the minibar and put a hand on her shoulder, sliding it down to her elbow. “I hope you’ll be patient while he figures that out—”
Elizabeth opened her mouth, but she had no idea what she was supposed to say. How to understand why Sonny had pulled her into his home—and why it felt so wrong—like he was pumping her for information.
The door opened, and they both turned, surprised at the interruption, Sonny’s hand sliding from her elbow. Jason stood there, a terrible look flashing in his eyes before the iron wall slid down.
“What,” he said, in that cold tone she’d never heard directed at her before, “the hell is going on?”