And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
– Iris, Goo Goo Dolls
Saturday, March 25, 2000
The moment he’d learned about her grandmother’s death, Jason had known he’d come back. He wasn’t even sure he meant to talk to her. He’d waited outside the building to get a glimpse, though he wasn’t even sure what he was really looking for.
He’d just wanted to see if she was all right. To see for himself that she was handling it. It had been two months since he’d stood in this hallway and said goodbye.
Bobbie had dropped her off, and he’d watched the nurse walk Elizabeth to the front of the building, holding her hands. Elizabeth had given that smile he knew so well — the one that didn’t reach her eyes — and he knew — he knew sitting back wouldn’t be enough. He couldn’t stand by when he knew she needed him.
Elizabeth’s slight frame finally stopped trembling and she stepped back, swiping her at her tears, forcing herself to laugh. “What a terrible way to say hello,” she managed. She stepped back, and flipped on a larger light in the studio. “Come in.”
Jason closed the door, grimacing at the flimsy lock and shaded window. Then looked back at Elizabeth, unsure what to say. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back for her service. I didn’t talk to Sonny until Thursday.”
She had wandered over to the wall, to a board where his postcards were pinned. “Were you still in Arizona?” she asked softly. She tapped the board, then turned to him. “That’s the last one I got.”
“No, I—I was in Texas.” Jason shoved his hands in his pockets, glancing around the room. There were more canvases, he realized. Smaller ones than she’d painted when he’d stayed here. Sketches lined all of the tables. “Sonny said you were doing something with your art. That you’re not at Kelly’s anymore.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes, her features tightening, and he wondered if he’d said something wrong. Maybe this was a mistake. He should have stayed away—
“I would have told you myself.” Elizabeth opened her eyes, looked at him. “But you never called.”
“You left messages for Emily. You called Sonny.” Her voice faltered. “But I got postcards.” She flicked the one from Arizona. “With just with a date and your name.”
He hunched his shoulders, and his stomach rolled. What could he say? How could he explain that for every postcard he managed to put in the mail, he’d collected maybe three or four more filled with words he could never send. “I’m sorry. I tried to call—”
“It’s fine.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, flashed him a bright smile that pinched at her eyes, and made him feel two feet tall. “Thank you for coming. I know you and my grandmother didn’t exactly get along, but I appreciate it. I have a lot to do before I head back to her place, so—”
She started for the door, reaching for the knob, to send him on his way, and he knew he should just go. That this was all wrong, and he never should have come, but he couldn’t stand — couldn’t bear to be one more person she couldn’t trust with the truth —
He grabbed her hand as she passed him, and she turned to him, the smile gone and the misery shimmering in her eyes. “I tried to call,” he repeated. “But I knew if I heard your voice, I’d come back.”
Elizabeth turned to face him, her eyes searching his. “And you’re not ready,” she murmured.
“No.” He wanted to be. And maybe he could make it work — maybe — “I tried to call, but I couldn’t do it. And I didn’t know what to write. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent anything. I just—” Jason reached for her other hand, drew her closer so that their bodies brushed. “I didn’t want you to think you didn’t matter. That I didn’t miss you.”
She sighed, but didn’t say anything. He continued, “Would it have been better not to send them?” he asked. “I’ll stop. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I don’t know the answer to that.” She dropped her forehead against his chest and they stood there for a long moment. “I just…I miss you. So much. I don’t want to, but I don’t know how to stop. And now—” Elizabeth raised her head so that their eyes met. Tears shimmering in her eyes, caught in her lashes, then slowly sliding down her cheeks. He let go of her hands to cup her face, using his thumbs to dry them. “I had to stay. I still do. And my grandmother—” Her shoulders started to tremble again, and he wrapped her in his arms again. “I haven’t really cried. Not since Bobbie called me. There was so much to do, and there still is—and I just don’t know how to make any of it stop.”
“I do,” he said. Elizabeth drew back, frowned at him. “For a little while,” Jason added. “I left my bike at the airport in Texas, but I rented one here.”
“You have a bike?” Elizabeth’s lips curved into a slight smile. “Can I drive?”
The night was cool, on the border between comfortable and chilly. Elizabeth’s cheeks felt a bit frozen from the wind rushing past as Jason had taken the turns too fast — just the way she liked. For the first time since Monday morning, she hadn’t had to think. Everything had gone away, and all she could think or feel about was the air, the engine, and how good it felt have to her arms wrapped Jason, laughing and losing her breath at the turns—
It was still cloudy, and the stars weren’t that visible, not even from this point. She stood at the railing, tilting her head up to the sky, her eyes closed.
“You can drive on the way back,” Jason offered. She smiled, but didn’t open her eyes.
“No, it’s okay. I like the way you take the turns.” She wanted the world to disappear, to stay gone, so that she could keep living in this moment.
Because a moment was all they would ever have.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and turned, leaning back against the railing. “You went to New Orleans.”
“Yeah.” He leaned back against the railing, too, their arm brushing. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“I saw the date was Mardi Gras. Were you really on Bourbon Street for that?” Elizabeth asked tipping her head.
“Not after dark,” Jason said with a shake of his head. “I knew it’d be crowded but it was worse than Luke’s on a busy night.” He folded his arms. “But the city was nice. I liked the buildings.”
“Yeah, part of the city is really old,” she murmured. “The French Quarter, especially.” She thought about what he’d written. “You said you wished I was there so I could explain the drawings. Tell me about them.”
“Oh.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “There was this street artist. She was, um, drawing their heads really big, and their bodies small. I didn’t—I didn’t know why anyone would want that—”
“Caricatures,” she told him. “They’re supposed to be exaggerated. You see them a lot in political cartoons, but they can be really quick to draw. A lot of street artists specialize in them.” Her smile was wistful. “I wish I’d been there with you. To see them. What was it like? Mardi Gras?”
“Everything smelled like vomit,” he said, his expression dark and she laughed. They fell into silence for a long moment.
“Where are you going next?” she asked finally.
Jason didn’t answer at first. Then — “I don’t know. I thought I’d…I can stay for a few days.”
A few days. Wouldn’t that be nice? Elizabeth turned around to look at the lake, though the water was almost impossible to see at this time of night. They could take a few rides, spend the nights together—
And then he’d go.
“You came back to check on me,” Elizabeth said softly. “Is that why you’d stay?”
“I—” Jason grimaced. “Yeah,” he admitted. “And to see my grandmother. But—”
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea,” she found herself saying, hating herself for it. “Because if you’re not ready to be back—” She cleared her throat. “I just—”
“Yeah. I know.” He stepped away from the railing, held out his hand. “I’ll take the long way back. There are more turns.”
“Sounds good. Um, I’m staying at my grandmother’s right now at night,” she said as they returned to the parking lot. He handed her the helmet. “You remember where she lives—lived,” she correctly softly.
“Yeah, I do.” He switched on the engine, then waited for her to climb on behind him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, wishing she could be foolish and run away with him. Wishing it could be different.
Hardy House: Porch
He shouldn’t have come.
It had been selfish to just show up and reopen all those wounds, and why had he offered to stay? He knew he couldn’t. He could barely bring himself to speak to Sonny on the phone, and still flinched at the thought of another showdown with Carly — or worse, walking away from Michael.
Nothing had changed in the last two months. He’d had to go, and Elizabeth still had her reasons for staying.
He followed her to the front door and waited as she took out the keys.
But instead of unlocking the door, she held them in her hand and turned to face him, her features just barely visible in the dim porch light that had switched on as they approached. Another doorway, another goodbye.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said. She smiled, and he liked that it was real. That it was genuine. He’d done that at least. “For coming. Especially because I know why you left. I really—” Her smile faltered, and her voice faded. “I really needed you.”
And she hadn’t been able to tell him. To ask for him. He was selfish—controlling the communication, not giving her any way to get in touch with him. He didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to promise he’d always come when she needed him. How could he keep it?
And maybe they shouldn’t be making promises to each other.
Elizabeth bit down on her bottom lip, then turned back to the door, sliding in her key and turning it. He heard the tumblers slip and slide—and then the door was open, the living room shadowed. No one was home.
She faced him again, opened her mouth, then closed it, staring down at the ground. What was left to say? What could he offer her that wouldn’t hurt? Even goodbye—
“I think about you all the time,” he found himself saying, the words just falling out of his mouth without permission. But once he’d started— “In New Orleans. And in Miami, that postcard—it had these colors that made me think about you. In Arizona, I was hiking up this mountain and I remember you were talking about light and how it hit things differently—and how you had to change the way you painted—”
“And the caves. The way the sound echoed when the tour guide spoke — I wanted to hear your voice—” He swallowed hard. “I told myself I was being stupid. That the next time I thought about you I should just call you.”
“But you didn’t.” Elizabeth’s hand clenched around the keys she still held. “Why? Why couldn’t you just—”
“Because I’d get angry,” Jason admitted. He closed his eyes. “Because I can’t come back. I want to. But then I start thinking about going back to work, and I can’t do it—And I don’t want to ask you to come with me again. Because I know you can’t.”
Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment, and he wondered if he’d made another mistake. If he should have just stayed silent. Then she tucked the keys into her purse, then tossed it inside the empty house.
She closed the distance between them—less than two feet——fisted her hands in his shirt, then kissed him, stretching up on the tips of her toes. He hadn’t been expecting it—couldn’t have seen it coming—but that was what he’d missed most about her—the way she’d say or do something unexpected and turn everything upside down—
She’d done that when she’d told him to go, asking him for a night before he went. And now—he left his hands clenched into fists at his side for just a moment, not wanting to give in because, oh, it would hurt so much when he had to let her go, but—
He lost the internal battle before it had really begun—dragging her up against him, his hands lost in her hair—he’d missed everything about her, the way she felt against him, how every curve and line fit his, the scent and taste, the way her hair felt like silk sliding through his fingers—
Panting, gasping for breath, Jason drew back after a long moment, their lips still close enough to share the same air. “It’s a mistake,” he murmured.
“I’ll worry about it tomorrow,” Elizabeth breathed, and they dove back in. Jason lifted her in his arms, walked into the house, and kicked the door closed behind them.
Sunday, March 26, 2000
Hardy House: Elizabeth’s Bedroom
Elizabeth curled up next to Jason, tucking her head in the crook of his shoulder and he tightened his arms around her. They lay there in silence, but she knew he was awake. She hadn’t done more than doze as the night crawled towards dawn. It was still early, maybe four.
She wasn’t sorry. This couldn’t be a mistake. She wouldn’t let it be.
His fingers traced her bare shoulder lightly, sliding up and down, the movement comforting. Elizabeth could imagine a lifetime of nights like these, spending hours in bed, catching naps in between, sleepy and sated as the sun rose—
But there wasn’t a lifetime. There couldn’t be.
“Where else do you want to travel?” she asked softly. He didn’t answer for a long time, and she wondered if he just wouldn’t. Maybe he didn’t want to talk about where he was going. Or where he’d been.
“Mexico,” he said after a long moment. “And California, I think. I like the sun.”
She smiled, tilting her head, resting her chin on his chest so their eyes could meet. “I bet your hair would get streaked in the sun. You’d pass for a surfer.”
“I’d try it,” Jason said, with a slight shrug. “It looks like fun.”
“No thanks. I have the grace of a barnyard animal.” Her smile turned wistful and she turned her face away, remembering too late it wouldn’t matter. She wouldn’t be there to watch him surf. She’d made that decision. It was the right one. She knew it.
“Lucy Coe asked me to help design the Nurse’s Ball — the color scheme, and decorations. To make the poster and the t-shirt,” she continued. She closed her eyes. “It’ll be a lot of fun, I think. And I finished my first freelance contract. They already gave me a second one—”
“Hey—” Jason sat up, and Elizabeth reluctantly followed suit. He touched her face, his eyes barely visible in the darkness. “You don’t have to justify why you’re staying, Elizabeth.”
“I—” She sucked in a harsh breath. “I wasn’t—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I was reminding myself,” she said softly. “Of why I can’t go with you and learn how to surf.”
Jason sighed. They laid back down, and he drew her close again, this time stroking her hair. “I’m still figuring myself out,” she continued. “I want a home. I have one here, and even when it hurts, it’s more than I ever had before. I never belonged back in Colorado. With my parents. Sarah and Steven. I belong here. Laura and Bobbie and Emily — and—”
“I’m glad you have that,” Jason told her. “Finding a place—that wasn’t ever a problem for me,” he continued. “I never needed much. I had the boxcar, and I stayed on the docks, too. And then Sonny gave me a place to stay. I—” He was quiet for a long moment. “After the accident, I just kept moving forward. It was hard, but I didn’t care about the Quartermaines. They couldn’t hurt me because their opinions didn’t matter.”
Elizabeth smiled faintly. “I wish I could say the same about my family.”
“It’s different now,” he murmured. “It hurts to breathe here. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense. Port Charles is just a place. But just driving inside the city limits—”
“And that’s why you still have to go.” She traced her fingers over his chest. “I know. But not yet. We still have a little time.”
Jason tugged her across him, slid his fingers in her hair and drew her down for another kiss. “Then let’s not waste it.”
Hardy House: Porch
Jason stepped out onto the porch, the sun already tucked behind some clouds. Elizabeth came out behind him, a thin long-sleeved shirt that didn’t offer much warmth. She folded her arms tightly.
He could stay longer, he knew. But she didn’t want him to. Or more correctly — she knew he was uncomfortable here. And it was delaying the inevitable.
“Jason—” Elizabeth bit her lip and peered up at him, her eyes shadowed. “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you, too,” he said, cocking his head to the side, unsure where she was going.
“But,” she continued, softly, “it got easier. A little bit,” she added. “And then another postcard would come, and I’d remember all over again.” She swallowed hard. “It was a mistake, I think, not to say goodbye the first time.”
His breath caught and he looked away, blindly out over the street. Was she right? Had her refusal to close the door in January kept them both tied to one another? Was that why he couldn’t stop thinking of her?
“You don’t want me to write.”
“It’s not that—I want you to write. I want you to call—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I want you to stay.”
“And I want you to go,” he finished, understanding what she meant. What they wanted was different than what they needed. “Okay. I won’t—I won’t write.”
“Okay. Okay.” Elizabeth opened her eyes, and he was sorry to see them swimming with tears again. “But I’m so glad you came back.” She stepped forward, clasping the sides of his jacket and leaning up to kiss him again. He held her lightly, wishing it could be forever. “I didn’t even know how much I needed you until you showed up.” She touched his cheeks, then smiled, even as tears continued to fall. “I want you to be happy, Jason. You give so much of yourself to everyone else. Promise me you’ll try to find happiness.”
“I promise,” he murmured. He rested his forehead against hers. “As long as you make me the same one.”
With great reluctance and effort, Jason stepped back. He needed to say it. They needed to say it this time. But he couldn’t.
“Goodbye,” Elizabeth managed. She closed her hands into fists, then folded her arms. “Take care of yourself.”
“You, too. Goodbye.”
They stared at each for another long moment, but somewhere, Jason found the strength to turn, to walk down the steps and go towards his bike. By the time he reached it and looked back, she was gone.