Today was gonna be the day, but they’ll never throw it back to you
And by now, you should’ve somehow realized what you’re not to do
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now
And all the roads that lead you there were winding
And all the lights that light the way are blinding
There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how
– Wonderwall, Oasis
Thursday, January 13, 2000
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
It was happening all over again, only somehow worse and the last time he’d been almost numb from the searing pain of being shot. There was nothing to erase the pain now.
He’d heard from the guys in the lobby that they’d sent Elizabeth upstairs to wait for him, and Jason had paced impatiently as the elevator climbed to the fifteenth floor. He’d forgotten thoughts of taking a shower or getting some sleep. He knew if he saw her, he’d feel better. They’d go for a ride and everything would make sense again.
At least for a little while.
But Elizabeth hadn’t been outside his place. Max had cheerfully told him Sonny had her waiting with him, and Jason had just—he’d blanked out. He didn’t even really understand it, but he’d closed down inside like a light switching off.
He’d shoved past the guard and pushed the door open without bothering to knock—and there they were—Elizabeth standing close to Sonny, looking up at him, and Sonny—Sonny had his goddamn hands on her.
“What the hell is going on?” Jason demanded as Sonny stepped back, his face flushing. Elizabeth blinked, and looked at Sonny with confusion, then back at Jason.
“Jason—” Sonny began. “This isn’t what it looks like—”
“No?” he retorted. “It looks like it did a month ago—”
“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth asked, looking back and forth between them. “What do you think it looks like—”
“She’s not Carly,” Sonny snapped.
“Is that the only thing stopping you?” Jason gestured at Elizabeth whose eyes were wide.
“What do you take me for?”
“Not a whole lot,” Jason growled. “Not after—”
“And apparently you don’t think very much of me either.”
Her quiet voice broke in, and Jason stopped, reality sinking in. He focused on Elizabeth, on the pallor of her skin, the flash in her eyes. If it had been just the anger, he might have had a chance, but it was the misery and embarrassment—hurt—he saw. “Elizabeth—wait—”
She shoved past him, pulling the door shut behind her, Jason nearly slamming into it as he went after her. Before he could get it open, Sonny had dragged him back.
“What the hell was that about?” he hissed, shoving Jason against the door. “Accuse me of whatever you want—but don’t you ever—”
Jason pushed Sonny away from him, his arms exploding out so fast that Sonny stumbled and fell. “What the hell am I supposed to think? She’s here, you’ve got your hands on her—”
“You want to be mad at the whole world because I slept with that whore,” Sonny thundered, “you go right ahead and do that—but you don’t get to take it out on a girl who’s done nothing but stand by you and risk everything for you—”
“Just shut up!” The horror of what he’d done was hitting him and the last thing Jason wanted to hear was Sonny grandstanding like he was some moral authority. “Shut up,” he repeated, dragging his hands through his hair. “It wasn’t about her.”
“No. No, it wasn’t.” Sonny got to his feet, his hair disheveled, his eyes burning. “But you think I’m low enough to seduce someone like Elizabeth Webber, don’t you?”
Jason closed his eyes, shook his head. He didn’t really think that, did he? “No,” he said, but his voice was quiet. “No—”
“Because I sure as hell didn’t have do much more than crook my finger at Carly,” Sonny snarled. “She was looking for a way to hurt you, Jason, and I was feeling crappy enough to let it be me—”
“Shut up—” Jason took a deep breath. “Just shut up,” he repeated. “I have to go.” He yanked open the door and slammed it behind him.
Quartermaine Estate: Family Room
“Mama—” Carly smiled as Reginald showed Bobbie in, and her mother closed the door behind her. “This is a surprise—” Her smile faded when she got a good look at her mother’s expression—the banked fury in her eyes and the grim set of her mouth. “What?’
“You’ve been showing Michael pictures of Jason,” Bobbie said, and Carly broke eye contact, looked away. “Encouraging him to call him Daddy. And then you forced yourself and Michael on Jason—”
Carly folded her arms, refusing to feel guilty, even though her cheeks felt hot. “I didn’t have a choice — he wouldn’t talk to me. You know how cold he’s been—”
“I don’t know what you did for Jason to cut you out this way, but it must have been something bad. Worse than accusing him of kidnapping,” Bobbie added, acidically, and Carly bit her lip. “You had no right to do that to him. To Michael.”
“How do you even know?” Carly threw her hands up. “I sure as hell didn’t tell you, and there’s no way—”
“You did it in public,” Bobbie spat out. “Do you really imagine you weren’t seen?”
More than shame licked at Carly’s throat. Fear. “What—who saw?” She strode towards her mother. “Mama—”
“No one who is going to run to your husband. To Michael’s father,” Bobbie added. “You should be relieved that they only came to me. How dare you do this to that little boy—”
“You don’t understand, you can’t—” Carly’s throat burned. “I just needed him to understand that I’ve been protecting Michael. That I didn’t let him be forgotten—Mama—Jason loves him so much—”
“You had a chance last year,” Bobbie said, cutting in. “You could have simply let the truth out. AJ would have won some visitation. You and Jason could have been a family—but you were selfish. You wanted Michael all to yourself, didn’t you? That’s why you ran from Jason, came to this house, and told the world Jason forced you into it.”
“I was scared—”
“No. You were selfish. You panicked because your first thought was you. Just like it has been since the day I met you. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. And you proved that by taking that precious little boy to the docks and breaking Jason’s heart. He had no choice but to walk away—”
“I had a plan! Okay! I was just going to do this long enough to get rid of AJ, to make him go away—I was going to take Michael and bring him back to Jason—we just needed to find a way to make AJ give up his rights—”
“Because you couldn’t live in a world where you didn’t control everything.” Bobbie shook her head. “Well, Jason doesn’t want that future. And he’s done with you. If I ever hear that you used Michael this way again, I will go to AJ myself—”
“You’re supposed to be my mother—”
“And I am. But Michael is my grandchild who never asked for any of this,” Bobbie retorted. “Stop putting him in the middle of your messes. You made this bed, Carly. Now you have to sleep in it. Grow up and start putting your child first.”
Bobbie yanked the door open, and stormed out, leaving Carly to stare after her.
Elizabeth nearly fell into the room, slamming the door behind her and twisting the deadbolt, her hands shaking so badly that she nearly couldn’t manage it.
She squeezed her eyes shut, pressed the heels of her hands to the sockets so hard she nearly saw stars. What the absolute hell—
The whole, disastrous scene had taken no longer than a few minutes but it was like an earthquake had crashed through, blasting her foundation to jagged rocks. Jason had walked in, and looked at her like—had accused her of—
A lot of pieces were falling into place and Elizabeth didn’t think she liked the picture that was emerging.
She’s not Carly.
Sonny had thrown that out like a missile—and Jason—
Is that the only thing stopping you—
The shock was burning off, leaving raw waves of fury. She dropped her hand to her sides and turned at the knock on the door.
He’d come after her.
Slowly, deliberately, Elizabeth crossed back to the door, leaving the shade drawn. She untwisted the bolt and threw open the door.
He was there, tension and frustration radiating from his body as he seemed to tower over her. “Can I come in?”
She almost said no, but she pursed her lips and stepped back, leaving the doorway open. Keeping his eyes on hers, he entered then stood in the middle of the studio, the silence hanging like a bomb waiting to explode.
Elizabeth closed the door, took a deep breath. She could accept whatever apology he was about to give her, and part of her wanted that. Wanted to pretend nothing had ever happened. That it didn’t matter. That it wasn’t about her. It really wasn’t. Not all the way. But it wasn’t enough.
“No.” Elizabeth turned to face him, an eerie calm filling her senses. Suddenly, she knew exactly what to say. “Even if you’d walked in on exactly what you accused me of—”
“Even if it had been exactly what you thought it was,” Elizabeth said, speaking over him as if he’d said nothing. Jason closed his mouth, his lips forming an unhappy line, “you don’t own me.”
There was a bright stain of red in his cheeks now. “I didn’t—”
“I’m an adult. If I wanted to roll around naked with Sonny Corinthos on his living room floor, that’s my right.”
The flush faded from his face and now he nodded, swallowing hard. “I know—”
“I am not Carly,” she said softly and saw him flinch. “I didn’t scheme for years to make you fall in love with me and then turn around and hurt you. That wasn’t me. And you have no right to take any of what you’re dealing with out on me.” She paused for a second. “That’s what she did, isn’t it? What they both did. It’s why you’re so angry at them.”
“I thought it might be something like that, but I didn’t ask. It was none of my business. It wasn’t. But you made it my business when you treated me like a slut for being alone in a room with another man—”
“I just need you to—”
“Unless I missed a memo,” Elizabeth continued, brutally, “you don’t get to have a say in who I talk to. You don’t own me,” she repeated. “You’re not my father or my brother—” She forced out the next words, “and you haven’t indicated you want any other relationship that might give you that right.”
“You just need to let me explain—”
“Explain what?” Elizabeth demanded. “Is there something I’ve misunderstood?”
“No.” Jason cleared his throat, dipped his chin to his chest. “No,” he repeated, more softly. “You’ve got it—all of it. It happened that night, and I walked in—” He scrubbed a hand over the side of his face, and some of her anger faded at the misery she saw reflected back, remembering why she’d gone to the penthouse in the first place. “I don’t know if either of them ever planned for me to know, but—” He looked away. “Sonny told me at the boxcar that now I know who both of them are. Like it was some kind of damn lesson he was teaching me—” He paused. “It hasn’t been right since. I’m trying to keep my distance, to get through it. But it’s not working.”
Elizabeth sighed, irritated that she no longer felt that same stirring of righteous fury. “Okay. That doesn’t really explain why you thought—” She should really just drop it. Jason didn’t need to be pushed by anyone else tonight. But she couldn’t quite make it all fit together. There was just one thing— “Why did it matter?” she asked softly. And he frowned at her. “Earlier. You were so angry when you came in. But it was just me. Why would you even care?”
He stared at her for a long moment, then looked away. “I can’t answer that,” he said finally. “I’m sorry—”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
Elizabeth took a step towards him, their eyes meeting. She took another step. Then another, until there was no space between them, the heat of his body drawing her like a moth to a flame. “Was it just because it was Sonny? Would you have acted that way if he’d been with someone else?”
He closed his eyes, dipping his head, resting against her forehead. Her heart was beating so fast that it echoed in her ears. “Elizabeth—”
“Tell me. Please.”
His thumb brushed her chin, then pressed against her bottom lip. Her tongue darted out to lick it and his body tightened, his hand curved around her neck and then he kissed her. Lightly. Just the touch of skin to skin. Lips to lips. She gripped the lapels of his jacket, tightening her grip as if she could hold him against her forever.
“I couldn’t stand to lose one more thing,” he murmured, and her eyes fluttered closed. “I couldn’t stand to lose you. You’re only the part of my life that makes sense. All that’s left.”
“You won’t,” she promised. She slid her hands up touch his face, to hold him the way she’d dreamed these last few weeks. “You tried to push me away and I wouldn’t go.”
“I don’t—I don’t have anything to give you.” Jason angled his face back, just a few inches so that their eyes met. “There’s nothing left.”
“You’re wrong about that.” Elizabeth leaned up on her toes to kiss him. Nothing quick or soft, but to remind him of everything she could give him. Too many people had taken from him for years. She wouldn’t be like them. She wouldn’t break him. If he could just trust her—just give her a chance—
She pressed herself closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, his hands tightening in her hair, tilting her head back, then his hands were at her hips, digging into the skin between the hem of her shirt and her pants. She fisted her hands in his t-shirt, trying to drag it up, a heat building and rising inside that was going to explode if she didn’t find some way to cool off, but she couldn’t find it—
And then there was too much cool air as Jason shoved her away—no, she thought with confusion—she hadn’t moved—he had, and he was by the window, his chest rapidly rising and falling, his face flushed, and the jacket she’d somehow stripped from his shoulders laying on the ground.
“I can’t—” Jason took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “I can’t.”
Elizabeth licked her lips, more from nerves than anything else, but when she saw the way his eyes dropped to her mouth, she perked up. He might not think it was a good idea, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want her.
And what an incredible feeling that was, she thought, with the strangest desire to laugh and smile. To know that someone like Jason wanted her and that she could want, too. She’d been so worried that part of her would never really come back, not all the way. And now it was here, and she wasn’t even scared or worried about what might happen next—
“It’s not you,” Jason said, pained. “It’s not—”
“I know it’s not,” she said softly.
He raked his hands through his hair, leaving it disheveled and—she needed to focus and not think about how she wanted to be the one doing that—
“I’m sorry about earlier,” Jason said. He stooped down to pick up his jacket, breaking eye contact. “You’re right. I don’t have the right to be…” He trailed off. “And even if I did,” he forced out, “I know I can trust you. I do trust you. It was just—”
“The last thing you needed to see today,” Elizabeth said, tilting her head. “I saw you today on the docks with Carly and Michael.” His eyes snapped back to hers. “I’m sorry.”
Jason exhaled slowly, then cleared his throat. “I thought it was hard walking away last year. But today—” He stopped, looked away. He didn’t need to say anything.
“That’s why I came over. To see you.” She stepped towards him, but he circled around her, towards the door, dragging on his jacket. “Jason—”
“I meant what I said. I can’t—” Their eyes met. “I don’t have anything to give you. I don’t have the—” His hand reflexively curled into a fist at his side, his voice roughened. “I can’t.”
And this time, she could believe it. “All right. If that’s what you need from me, we’ll put it away.”
The corner of his mouth quirked up, but it wasn’t a smile. She didn’t know how to describe the mixture of amusement, misery, and irritation in his face, only that it broke her heart. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I can do any of this anymore.”
And then he was gone.
Friday, January 14, 2000
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth thumbed through her receipts, trying to find a breakfast order where she was pretty sure she’d given the wrong amount of change. Her brain had felt fuzzy for most of the morning shift—
Since Jason had walked out the the day before, she’d trying to understand what the hell she was supposed to do with any of this. She wanted desperately to be there for him, to help him, but it sounded like not being around him would help, but how could that be the answer?
“You look like you’re deep in thought,” Bobbie said, emerging from the kitchen. “Is everything all right?”
“I think I messed up an order earlier,” Elizabeth said, but she tossed the receipts aside. She couldn’t find what she was looking for, and even if she did— “How are you?”
“I went to see Carly yesterday—I left your name out of it,” Bobbie added. “I was pretty ruthless with her, so now—” She looked at her cell phone. “I’m avoiding her calls.” She poured herself a cup of coffee. “So, you know, taking the mature route.”
“Sometimes avoiding something or someone is the best way—” Elizabeth returned the receipts to the drawer and decided to count the drawer again. Maybe she’d messed up the count, not the receipts.
“I suppose. Did you catch up with Jason yesterday? I’m worried about him, but I don’t feel like the right person—”
“No—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I mean, I did. But he didn’t really want to talk about it. He was upset, but I can’t fix it. Nothing can.”
“Nothing except time. And distance.” Bobbie leaned against the counter, studying her. “Maybe he just needs a break from all of this. I don’t know. I think sometimes we all forget it’s only been four years. He’s lived a thousand lifetimes in that amount of time.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”
“So have you,” Bobbie pointed out. “Since you moved to Port Charles. I think that’s why you suit each other so well—”
Elizabeth blinked, looked at her confusion. “What?”
“You and I both know Nikolas wasn’t telling the truth at the Christmas party, but I’m not blind, Elizabeth. I can tell you care about one another. I encouraged Jason to move out of the studio. Did he tell you that?”
“I—” Elizabeth dropped her eyes back to the cash drawer. “I don’t understand. If you—”
“Because it was a lovely little bubble you’d created in that room.” Bobbie stroked a comforting hand down Elizabeth’s back. “But bubbles don’t last. And I knew he was running from something. Reality had to crash in sometime, and sooner would be better than later.”
“I suppose. I just—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. What did Bobbie know? Was it her business to tell her? “I know what’s going on. At least part of it.”
“I have my suspicions,” Bobbie said. “After all, I know my daughter. And while you and I might have saved his life, we shouldn’t have been his first choice. But you don’t have to say anything.”
Elizabeth nodded tightly. “It’s messed him up. Like deep down. It’s shaken who he thought he was and what he knew, and it’s not gonna matter how many times we go out on the bike or talk, or—” She closed the cash drawer. “I don’t want to be someone who uses him, Bobbie. Or takes him for granted.”
“It would be so easy. Because he’s looking for something to make it better, and I could do it for a little while,” Elizabeth murmured. “For moments. Here and there. I can make it go away when we’re together. And I think I can convince him to let me try. I almost did last night.”
“And it might be what I need, you know? It would make me happy to give him that peace. Or those moments. And I want to—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I want to be with him. I want to be selfish and push for it, but it’s not what he needs.”
“What does he need?”
“You already said it. Distance,” Elizabeth murmured. “Every time he sees Sonny, every time he sees Carly, they slice at him. They make him feel like he’s the unreasonable one, like he’s the crazy one. And it’s killing him.” Her voice faltered. “And it’s going to break him eventually. Turn him into someone he’s not. Someone that isn’t Jason anymore. I don’t want that for him, Bobbie. But I don’t see any other way.”
Bobbie opened her mouth, but the bell over the door jangled and both women turned to see Nikolas Cassadine striding in. Bobbie grimaced, and Elizabeth just sighed.
“Hello,” Nikolas said warily. He sat at the counter, flipped over the coffee mug. “I was hoping you were working.” He flicked his eyes to Bobbie before focusing on Elizabeth. “We haven’t really talked since Christmas.”
“You mean since you tried to slut shame me in front of the entire town? You’d think you’d take the hint when I didn’t return your calls.” Elizabeth stepped back. “Bobbie, you mind if I take off early—”
“No, wait—” Nikolas held out a hand. “Please—”
“You know—” Elizabeth glared at him. “When I first moved to town, we didn’t like each other. You thought I was Sarah’s bitchy little sister, and I thought you were an an arrogant dismissive prick who deserved to be punched repeatedly. I think we had the right idea. Lucky and Emily aren’t here anymore to give us common ground. Let’s just stop pretending.”
“I wasn’t pretending—”
“No, you just liked me better when I was a fragile little damsel that your brother had to take care of, and you thought you could step in.” Elizabeth sneered as he flinched. “You got screwed over by Katherine, and I’m sorry for it, Nikolas, but what about any of that made you think I was going to be waiting in the wings? The second I rejected you on my birthday, you’ve treated me like dirt. And when you found out that I’d chosen someone else to move on with, you decided I was a whore. You broke into my studio, assaulted Jason, and insulted me. And then you humiliated me in front of everyone we know. Why the hell would I ever accept an apology from you?”
Nikolas exhaled slowly. “I didn’t handle things well—”
“Handle what?” Elizabeth demanded. “I don’t want you. I have no obligation to you. You don’t own me.” She flattened her hand against her chest. “I own me. I get to make my own choices. What is there to handle, huh? You tried to kiss me, and I said no. Get over it. I did.”
“Yeah, it’s easy for you to get over things, huh?” Nikolas tossed back, jerking to his feet. “You got over Lucky real fast—”
“How dare you—” Bobbie snarled.
“And I guess Jason was man enough to handle you, huh? We know Lucky wasn’t—” Nikolas broke off abruptly.
“What the hell does that mean?” Elizabeth bit out. “What are you even saying to me—”
“You claimed to love my brother,” Nikolas retorted, “but I know you couldn’t let him touch you—then Jason comes along—”
Elizabeth was too stunned to react, but Bobbie wasn’t. The nurse was already coming around the corner as Nikolas spoke, and grabbed his arm, propelling him towards the door.
“Get out,” Bobbie said, putting herself between Nikolas and the counter. “Get out right now and don’t come back.”
“No problem.” The door slammed shut behind him. Bobbie turned back to Elizabeth.
“It’s not—” She closed her eyes. “It’s not true. What he said. It’s not.”
“I loved Lucky. I did—”
“I know you did.”
“And we would have—it would have happened. I just wasn’t there yet—”
“Elizabeth—” Bobbie came back around the counter. “Of course not. Nikolas—he’s just—I don’t know. But you have nothing to explain to me, to him, or anyone else. Lucky would never, ever be upset that you’d moved on. Anyone thinking he would didn’t know my nephew. He loved you.”
“I need—can I—”
“Go. Go. I’ll cover until Penny gets here for the lunch shift.” Bobbie embraced Elizabeth swiftly. “Go.”
Quartermaine Estate: Family Room
Jason had timed the visit to the minute, waiting for the signal from Reginald on the terrace that the coast was clear.
“Everyone is out of the house,” Lila’s devoted butler and servant told Jason as he opened the doors to the room. “But Carly will probably be back in an hour. I’ll let you know if she comes sooner and keep her out.”
“Thanks. I won’t be long.” Jason managed a smile for his grandmother and waited for Reginald to leave, closing the door behind him. “How are you?”
“I’m well, my darling.” Lila squeezed his hands and offered him a warm smile. “Reggie said you sounded quite urgent on the phone. I would have come to you—”
“No, this is fine.” Jason perched on the edge of the sofa, his shoulders tightening just at the thought of this room. Of the terrible memories of trying to exist in this house for as long as he’d managed it after the accident.
Was there any corner of Port Charles didn’t feel like it was choking him?
“How are you?” Lila asked. “I had hoped to see you after Christmas.” She arched her brows. “I’ve heard some lovely rumors.”
Jason exhaled. “That’s—” He drew back. “That’s not why I’m here.” But her face fell and he found himself irritated. Why couldn’t he ever say the right thing? And why couldn’t he go back to not giving a damn? “Elizabeth—she’s important. I just—it’s just—it’s hard to explain.”
“You don’t owe me anything, darling,” Lila said softly. “I just want you to be happy, and I know you haven’t been in so long. I wish I knew what I could do to help.”
“You help just by being who you are,” Jason promised. He squeezed her hand, relieved when she brightened. “The hospital party—it was annoying. Nikolas Cassadine upset Elizabeth, I know he did. And we weren’t—I mean—it wasn’t what everyone said, but—”
“I don’t care about everyone, Jason dear. I only care about you. I mentioned the party because I consider Elizabeth a lovely young woman. I’m sorry she was hurt by what happened. And now I’ve upset you and distracted you from your purpose—”
“You could never upset me,” Jason reassured her. “I know you mean well, and Elizabeth likes you, too. It’s just—” He could say this to her. She might understand. “I came because I’m thinking of leaving. Port Charles, I mean. For good.”
Lila stared at him for a long moment, her blue eyes that everyone said he’d inherited, digging into him. “Is that you need, my darling? Will it make you happy?”
“I—” Jason shook his head. “No,” he admitted. “But it will make everything else stop. I need it to stop.” And because she was Lila, she didn’t ask for explanations. Or justifications. She nodded.
“All right. You’ll stay in touch? Reggie will make sure no one knows,” Lila told him, and he nodded. “Then you’ll go traveling. That sounds marvelous, darling. I haven’t been able to since I—” She tapped the wheel chair. “Edward always offers, but I’m not quite up to it the way I was once. You’ll have to do the exploring for me and tell me everything.”
“I will.” Jason paused. “Can I—I need you to do something for me.”
“She doesn’t need it, and she’d never ask for anything. But Elizabeth—” He hesitated. “She doesn’t have a lot of family. And I just—I’d feel better if I knew—” He shook his head.
“Jason, dear—” Lila reached out and he took her hand. “I will, of course, look out for her. Emily asked me the same, you know. To invite her for tea once in a while. But if you care for her so, do you think leaving is best?”
“I—” The thought of not seeing her, not even in passing, of not being able to sit on the bench and listen to her rambles or ask about her art, to watch her smile, or listen to her laugh— “If I could stay, it would be for her,” he managed. “But I can’t.”
“All right then. I love you, Jason. And I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“I’m not looking for anything,” Jason said and got to his feet. Nothing except a little bit of peace and quiet. A minute away without worrying what Sonny or Carly would do to him next.
He just wanted to be away from it, and if he stayed—he’d be angry all the time. The way he’d been after the accident. The way he’d been at the penthouse last night, lashing out at Elizabeth. She might think she could handle it, and maybe she could—but he never, ever wanted to put that look on her face again.