I think I’m dyin’ nursing patience
It can wait one night
I’d give it all away if you give me one last try
We’ll live happily ever trapped if you just save my life
Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright
– Learn to Fly, Foo Fighters
Friday, April 28, 2000
Ocean Inn: Room
They stayed in Manzanita for a week, a choice that puzzled Elizabeth even as she repacked her duffel bag while Jason took a shower. The area was beautiful, and she liked that their suite felt like a small home — one of the ways to reassure Jason that they were just fine outside of Port Charles was to go to the grocery store and stock the kitchenette with fresh food. Jason knew how to cook better than she did, but she could heat up leftovers better than anyone else.
It had been like living together in the studio again with a bit more space, a better view, and an actual bathroom they didn’t share with the rest of the floor. But it wasn’t really like living together, Elizabeth thought. She folded a shirt and tucked it inside the bag, then reached for the art supplies. They’d slept in the same bed, but he hadn’t touched her. And she hadn’t pushed either, she reminded herself.
She probably could have. Just reached for him one night—hadn’t she made the first move in January? And last month? Elizabeth zipped the duffel closed. It was probably for the best that they weren’t—
“I was looking at the map—”
Elizabeth turned, startled. Jason stood in the doorway, between the bathroom and bedroom, a toothbrush in his hand. He wore a pair of jeans but hadn’t yet pulled on a shirt. Some of the drops from the shower still glistened on his chest. Her fingers tightened around the strap of the duffel. “The map?” she managed.
“Yeah.” Jason tossed the toothbrush into the sink and stepped into the bedroom—she saw then that he held an Oregon atlas in his hand. “I was thinking we could go to Tillamook.”
“Tillamook—” Elizabeth drew her brows together. She remembered the name from the planning she’d done in case Jason hadn’t been in Astoria. “That’s not too far away.”
“Only about an hour—” He stopped when she came closer and tugged the atlas from him. “What?”
She stared at the map, swallowing hard as she looked at the page. Tillamook wasn’t just an hour away from Manzanita. It was also still close to Portland. That didn’t have to mean anything, she told herself. Portland was huge and most places were within a few hours of it. But—
“Didn’t you say you wanted to go to California?” Elizabeth’s fingers dug into the edges of the book. “We’ll never make it if you only go thirty miles every week—” She flipped a page. “We could make Crescent City tonight—”
“That’s nearly eight hours—” Jason frowned. “What’s wrong with taking our time?”
“Nothing.” Elizabeth shoved the atlas back at him, already irritated with herself for picking the fight. Why did she keep doing that? Even after Sunday, when he’d walked on the beach, and they’d had that conversation about not pushing each other, about giving time. If Jason wanted to explore every little dinky town on the Oregon coast, it wasn’t her trip to criticize—she’d invited herself along.
But she didn’t know how to stop picking at him, how to stop analyzing every single thing he said and did, looking for a hint that he didn’t want her, that he was unhappy—just a few days ago, he’d suggested she try out some fish and she’d snapped at him that she could take care of the baby without him controlling her diet—
“Tillamook is fine,” she said finally. “I don’t remember reading a lot about it—”
“You’ve been getting nauseous if we’re on the bike for too long,” Jason said, and she looked at him. He had set the atlas on the dresser. “Twice this week, we were out longer than an hour. I just wanted to make it easier for you. And I’m not in a hurry to get to California.”
She sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about that—” She nearly retorted out that all he ever thought about was the baby, like she didn’t matter, but she bit that back before it spilled out. Tears pricked her eyes. What a terrible thing to think and nearly accuse him of—what was wrong with her?
She pressed her hands to her face, digging her palms into her eyes so hard she saw stars. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just a little…I don’t know. You’re right. We’d never make that kind of drive today.” Elizabeth looked at him. “Thank you. For thinking about it. I don’t know why I didn’t.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I just wish you’d tell me what’s really wrong.” With that, Jason tugged on a shirt and went back to the bathroom to pack his razor and anything else he’d left in there.
There was no way she was going to do that, Elizabeth thought darkly. Not when she had no bloody clue what was really wrong. Jason had been nothing but wonderful since that night on the beach, and she’d been a bitch. He’d ripped open a vein for her, and all Elizabeth could do was criticize everything he did and look for the worst-case scenario.
Maybe it really was the fear that he was subconsciously keeping them close to Portland, a few hours away from an airport. Maybe Jason didn’t even realize it. But was it because he thought she was going to leave? Or did he want her to go? And was she, like always, spinning fantasies in her own head?
It was probably neither of those things. Jason was right. She’d had some trouble with longer bike rides, and if they didn’t take things slowly, she’d get sick. It was perfectly rational to accept that as an explanation.
Determined to do exactly that, Elizabeth got to her feet and finished packing.
Port Charles, New York
The interior of the club was gaudy and overdone, but Sonny still loved the hell out of it. He remembered the first time he’d stepped inside, just before opening night. Luke had been proud of the design—it had looked exactly like his vision.
Sonny had pulled out of the club a year earlier after Lucky’s death, but he missed it like he missed Luke’s friendship. There were few people more loyal than Luke Spencer.
Sonny had a way of shoving loyal people out the door. Today—today was going to try to at least return the loyalty Jason had showed him over and over again by creating a safe place to return.
Carly scowled as she sat down. “Why the hell did you pick this spot?” she demanded.
Sonny leaned forward. “Because I didn’t think you’d want your husband to overhear this conversation.” He nodded to Claude. “A bourbon for me. She’s not staying.”
Carly waited for the bartender to serve the drink and disappear into the back. “You got a lot of nerve summoning me like I belong to you,” she began.
Sonny picked up the tumbler with one hand and with the other, he slid a sheaf of papers across the bar. “Take a look at these.”
“What—” Carly’s mouth fell open as she snatched the papers up, her fingers digging in, wrinkling the pages. “How the hell did you get this? This is confidential—”
“That’s not the question you should be asking.” Sonny sipped the liquor. “You should be asking me,” he continued, “What do I intend to do with them?”
Carly’s brown eyes seared into him. “All right. What are you going to do?” she bit out.
“Nothing.” She scoffed and Sonny shrugged. “As long as you do exactly as I say, I’ll forget I ever saw them.”
“Why the hell should I believe you?”
Sonny dismissed that question. “It’s simple, Carly. Jason will be returning at some point in the next few months.” Maybe sooner. Maybe later. But eventually, Jason would come back with Elizabeth. “And when he does, you’re going to steer clear of him. You’ll leave the room when he comes in. You’ll make sure he never has to hear your voice again.”
Carly’s glare was scathing. “You have no right—”
“If you bother him, if you so much as cause him an ounce of distress—” Sonny paused to slide over a manila envelope. “I’ll have these delivered to your husband.”
Carly’s face went white, and she grabbed the envelope. She ripped it open and dumped out the photos. “What—” They were black and white, a bit grainy. But clear. A photograph of her entering Sonny’s penthouse, time stamped November 30, 1999. Another of an open door as Jason, with Carly in the edge of the frame—just enough of her figure to see that she was scantily clad. It was timestamped almost an hour after she’d gone in. Her fingers started to tremble as she went to the last photo — her exit nearly ten minutes later, her hair disheveled and she was rushing.
“It’s not perfect proof,” Sonny said, “but I think it’ll be enough. AJ’s keeping you around because you’re not a terrible mother, but he knew you’d cheat. He thought it’d be with his brother, but you were smart. You knew about this clause.” Sonny tapped the page of the prenuptial agreement he’d had Benny dig up. “Evidence of infidelity means AJ gets to walk away with primary custody of Michael, and you don’t get a single cent.”
Carly exhaled slowly. “You wouldn’t do this. It would upset Michael, and Jason would hate that—”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take. But I don’t think you are.” Sonny sipped the bourbon. “It’s a simple deal, Carly. Keep your country club life, your son, and your access to the Quartermaines. Leave Jason alone. He doesn’t want you. I don’t know how much clearer he can make it than he did on the day on the docks when you used Michael against him for the last time.”
Carly looked at the photographs again, then up at Sonny. “A bit of a security risk to have a camera on your own door. It’d be a shame if someone used that against you.”
“I want you to remember something,” Sonny said, leaning in, his voice going very quiet. Carly’s eyes widened. “I am a dangerous man. If you think to go against me, then I’ll make AJ’s life even easier. You’ll simply disappear. One day, it’ll be like you were never here.”
Carly swallowed hard. “You wouldn’t hurt a woman—”
“Not personally, no.” He grinned, his dimples winking, but his eyes remained cold. “But you can hire people for that sort of thing.”
“Is already at her limits with you. And you know that, don’t you? Bobbie’s already had to forgive so much. Those photos hit the tabloids—” Sonny nodded at them. “Do you really think anyone will question why you disappear? Do you think anyone will really care?”
Carly exhaled slowly. “I stay away from Jason, and you keep your mouth shut. That’s the deal?”
“That’s the deal.”
“What if Jason doesn’t want it that way?” she demanded. “What if he comes home and he’s forgiven me—”
“In the extremely unlikely event that Jason goes insane and decides to let you back into his life, that’ll be his problem. But as long as he doesn’t want you around, Carly, you stay out. That’s the deal.”
“Fine.” Carly shoved off the stool. “You’ll see. He always forgives me. He just went away to think. He’ll come back and remember that he loves me. That he loves Michael. And I’ll tell him about this. He’ll never forgive you.”
Sonny watched her stomp out, then picked up his drink again. “Another risk I’m willing to take.”
“Well, I see you’ve made my niece very unhappy,” Luke said dryly as he appeared from the door behind the bar. He came forward and looked at the pages, the photos Carly had left behind. His quick mind put it all together, and he looked at Sonny. “This why Morgan left?”
“No. Not why. But it’s at the root of how it all went wrong.” Sonny slid it all back into the torn envelope. “You hear from Elizabeth or Jason?”
“No, but Laura has.” Luke poured himself a whiskey. “They’re still in Oregon. Doing a tourist thing, I guess. Laura said Elizabeth sounded all right. Don’t know if or when they’re coming back.” He nodded at the papers. “That part of your plan to smooth the way?”
“Carly’s entire worldview is built around Jason coming back and forgiving her because he loves Michael. She’s not going to like that Jason is creating a new family. One that actually belongs to him and can’t be taken away on a whim,” Sonny bit out. “When that foundation crumbles, Carly is going to lash out. I don’t know if Jason and Elizabeth are coming back soon, but Elizabeth loves Laura too much to stay gone forever. And Jason’s grandmother and sister are still here. I plan to do what I can to make that possible.”
“Well, let’s hope you’ve got Caroline on a leash.” Luke lifted the whiskey to his lips. “I’ve seen her destruction before, and Barbara’s still picking up those pieces. I don’t want to see Liz get hurt.”
“Carly knows the deal. She breaks it, I’ll destroy her world.”
Oceanside Ocean Front Cabins: Cabin 22
Jason made some calls once they arrived in town, and he was relieved to find another place to stay with a kitchen. He made a note to look into other places along Highway 101 — if Elizabeth wanted to take more time before they returned to Port Charles, he wanted to be sure that anywhere they went, they wouldn’t be relying on fast food or convenience stores.
He carried their duffel bags into the room, setting them both on the bed, then looked back as Elizabeth came in behind him to look at the view. It wasn’t as close to the beach or nearly as good a view as they’d had before, but it was still close to the water.
He saw Elizabeth turn away from the window to look at the bed. The single double bed. The room wasn’t very large, but now it felt like it was dominated by the bed between them. When he’d made his calls, he hadn’t asked about two beds. He hadn’t done that in Manzanita, either.
Was that why she’d been prickly all week? Why there had been that strange tension that hadn’t dissipated even after they’d cleared some of the air on Sunday? Was Elizabeth angry or uncomfortable that he’d assumed a relationship that she didn’t want—Jason swallowed hard, his fingers falling away from the strap on his duffel. He realized now he’d never considered the fact that maybe Elizabeth didn’t want a future that included him as more than a father to their child.
He’d just assumed—
Jason cleared his throat. “I—I didn’t—I’m sorry. I should have asked for a place with another bed.”
Elizabeth drew her brows together. “What?”
“It’s just—at the last hotel, it didn’t seem to matter—” He needed to stop the words falling out of his mouth. What was he doing? “I just— I thought—”
“You thought what?” Elizabeth asked when he stopped talking. She tipped her head, her eyes quizzical. “I told you, Jason. I’m fine. If I wanted another bed, I’d have asked for—” Some of the color faded from her cheeks “Did you—I mean, do you want another—”
“No!” Jason wanted to cut out his own tongue. Why did everything he said these days feel like the wrong thing? “No. This is fine. I just—”
“This is insane,” Elizabeth muttered, dragging her hands down her cheeks, then through her hair. “We’re just tip-toeing around each other, and every time we talk about anything more than the scenery for more than five minutes, we start arguing. Why?” He saw a shimmer of tears in her eyes. “Why can’t we just go back to how things used to be?”
He nearly told her he didn’t know, but it was a lie. “Because there’s no going back.” Their eyes met. “Because things used to be that we ran into each other sometimes at Kelly’s or on the docks, and we talked. I’d give you a ride home sometimes.”
“In the studio then. When I was taking care of you. We were practically living together—”
“I was hurt,” Jason told her gently. “And you were fighting everyone who walked through the door. Elizabeth—” He paused, but he’d promised himself he wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t hold back. “You wanted to give us both time to let this sit — but it’s been a week. And every time I bring up the baby, you start an argument.”
She closed her eyes. “I know I do that. I don’t mean to—”
“Even right now you want to turn back the clock to when things were easier. That’s never going to happen. Because it was easier when you were just my friend.” His chest seized. “Or maybe that’s what you want us to do. To just be friends.”
“I didn’t say that—” Her mouth trembled. “I don’t—I don’t know. It’s all so hard. And I just want it to stop. You keep pushing me, and I keep telling you I’m not ready—”
“Fine.” Jason put up a hand and she closed her mouth. “I’ll stop pushing. No matter what I do, I’m wrong.” He raked his hand through his hair. “I’ll go out and find something for dinner.”
“I’ll be back.”
He left her standing in the bedroom, tears staining her cheeks. He was tired of always being wrong, of always feeling like he was going too fast or asking too much. What was the point of her being here if she didn’t want to talk about anything important for more than a few minutes?
She’d done it again. Jason had even given her a perfect opening to talk about their relationship — and Elizabeth had completely blown it and sent him away.
Of course she didn’t want to go back to being just friends. She wanted so much more—she wanted to be with him—just like that night at the penthouse or at the house—she wanted to curl up in his arms and let herself believe it was real—
But it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. Because as amazing as those nights were, Jason had still left. She’d told him to go—but he’d stayed gone. Had she thought he’d never come back? What had she expected that night in January? She’d all but begged him for a night together like he was going off to war and might never come home.
He’d left her. It didn’t matter that she’d known it was a good idea, or that he’d needed to go. He’d gone. Just like Lucky. Her grandparents. Her parents. Both her siblings. Everyone left her, eventually. Willingly or unwillingly.
And sure, he’d thought about her a few times. Had sent a few postcards. But he’d called Sonny and Emily. He’d found the willpower to stay away and not hear her voice for two months. And he’d still be gone if she hadn’t tracked him down.
The tears slid down her cheeks as she sank onto the bed. He was excited about being a father, but Elizabeth couldn’t trust—couldn’t let herself believe that he was also excited about being back with her, too. This was such a mistake. This entire trip. What had she expected—a few days and he’d declare his undying love?
Elizabeth scrubbed at her face. When he came back, she’d throw in the towel. There was no point in dragging this out. They might as well go back to Port Charles and reality. If he was going to end up resenting her, better to get it over with.
But first she was going to wash her face. She looked at the nearly identical black duffel bags and unzipped the side pouch of the closest to her, expecting to find her toiletry bag—but instead found a stash of postcards. She snatched her hand back, realizing this was Jason’s bag, not hers—but—
She glanced over her shoulder like a guilty child, then pulled the stack out, sitting on the bed as she sorted through them.
Elizabeth frowned at the one on top — from Cannon Beach, a place they’d passed earlier. He’d written her address, but nothing else. There were two other blank ones from the same place. Then from Astoria—where she knew he’d sent that last card.
But here were more from the same place, half written.
I don’t want it to be like this. I don’t want to stop. If I let you go—
But I have to. You deserve more than this. And maybe I do, too. I miss you. I will never stop missing you.
But there’s nothing left to say. I can’t stay, and you can’t go. Nothing has changed in three months.
Her breath caught at the card he hadn’t sent her, then at the rest of the stack. There were cards from South Dakota and Texas, all dated after that trip he’d made to Port Charles. After she’d asked him to stop sending them.
And before that—the cards from Arizona and New Orleans and Miami—for every card he’d sent, there were three or four more he hadn’t. And cards dated from places she hadn’t known about. Two from Alabama, three from Utah—
Most had some sort of message, all variations of how much he missed her, and wished he could come back—
So many places. So many of them half-scribbled one, others with nothing more than her name and a date. Elizabeth tried to put them in order, but she couldn’t—there were three or four for each date—the tears spilling down her cheeks as she realized what these postcards meant.
He’d left Port Charles, but he’d meant it when he said thought about her all the time. Nearly every day. Everywhere he went. Her fingers were shaking as she found another postcard where he’d written about missing her. Thinking about that night and how he’d never wanted it to end.
She heard the door open, and she tried to gather them back in a stack to shove them back into the bag, but Jason was already through the door, in mid-sentence by the time she realized it.
“Hey, I think we need—” He stopped, stared at her. At the postcards in her lap and over the bed. Then back at her.