Chapter 23

This entry is part 23 of 37 in the Counting Stars

I know I can’t survive
Another night away from you
You’re the reason I go on
And now I need to live the truth

Right now, there’s no better time
From this fear I will break free
And I’ll live again with love
And no, they can’t take that away from me

I Surrender, Celine Dion

Friday, April 28, 2000

Cabin: Bedroom

Jason didn’t dream, so he didn’t have nightmares. But if he did, he imagined it might feel like this moment, standing in front of Elizabeth with his ridiculous collection of discarded postcards surrounding her.

How had she found them—why—

He should have just kept walking towards the pizzeria instead of coming back, frustrated by the continued tension between them—maybe she would have just put them back and never brought them up—

“Our bags look the same,” she said softly. She got to her feet, her cheeks flushed. She held one of the cards in her hand. “I didn’t mean to find them.”

“I—” Jason swallowed. “You told me to stop sending them,” he managed. “Not that I had to stop writing them.”

“Did you—” She stared down at the one she held, and he recognized one he’d written in South Dakota. The first one he’d grabbed after returning from Port Charles. “Did you mean what you wrote?”

He didn’t have to ask what she meant. “Yeah,” Jason managed, because maybe this wasn’t a disaster. “I—”

“‘I think about you every day’,” she read softly, her voice trembling. “‘What it felt like to hold you again, to wake up next to you. I wish I could give you more—'” Elizabeth looked at him. “You just stopped. In the middle of the sentence.”

“I couldn’t send it to you.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I told myself to stop. That it was just making it worse. I thought if I stopped, I wouldn’t think about you so much.” He managed a half smile. “It didn’t work.”

“You wrote…nearly every day—” Her voice trembled. “Every day.”

“I told you—”

“But—” She held the postcard against herself. “You really did it.”

Did she think he’d lied? “Yes—”

“I thought—” Elizabeth said, taking a step towards him. “When I didn’t hear from you, when it was just those few postcards—it hurt. Like you didn’t miss me—or maybe, if you did, it wasn’t the way I missed you.” She swallowed hard, her eyes locked on his. “Maybe you just missed your friend. And then those postcards came, and they didn’t say anything. Nothing real. So I didn’t know. And you came back, and it was like you hadn’t left—but you went away again. And everyone always leaves—”

“I had to go,” Jason forced out. “I didn’t want to—”

“You would have stayed,” she interrupted. “I didn’t believe you then. Not really. But—” Her fingers trembling, she looked at the postcard in her hands. “You would have. For me.”

“I’d do anything for you,” he confessed, and her head snapped back up, and there was something about the look in her eyes that made everything else easier to say. “Yeah, I missed my friend. I missed you. And everything we’d been together. And all the things we never got to be. I don’t want to go back to how things used to be. I want to go forward. With you.”

Elizabeth closed the distance between them and before he understood what she was going to do, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

He froze for a second—not understanding how any of this had happened—how he had left the room, sure that everything he did was completely wrong—and now she was in his arms—Jason dragged her closer, sliding his hands into hair—he’d missed how silky it felt in his fingers and how good she felt pressed against him—

The postcard she held in her hands fell to the ground as Jason backed her up to the wall, and she shoved his jacket off his shoulders, sliding her hands under his shirt, dragging it up and over his head. One of her legs wrapped around his waist—he cupped her thigh, urging it up so he could lift her. He nearly stumbled as he moved blindly towards the bed, but managed to get there, nearly unable to believe his good fortune that despite everything—

Everything he wanted in the world was right here in front of him—if he could just hold on to it.

“I’ll never leave you again,” he murmured, smoothing her hair away from her face. “I’m right where I want to be.”

She could hear the ocean gently crashing outside the window. The sun had begun to set in the horizon, casting the room into shadows. Elizabeth curled up next to Jason, the sheets twisted, and comforter pushed down towards the foot of the bed. Both their bags had been shoved off the bed, and the postcards were scattered on the bed and on the floor.

She slid in and out of a light doze, lulled into dreams by the soft stroke of Jason’s fingers against her skin, dancing up and down her spine. Whatever happened next, she knew they could handle anything.

“I think it’s because of my parents,” she said, then frowned, unsure where the words or thought had come from. His fingers stilled for a moment, then continued. “Mostly my mom.”

“What is?” he asked gently.

“Why I’m…” She bit her lip, then sat up, tugging the sheet under her arms. “Why I didn’t want you to just jump on a plane and come home.”

Jason slid one hand under his head, the elbow cocked out on the pillow as he looked up at her, his expression still questioning. “Your mother.”

“I told you about the fellowship she turned down because she got pregnant with me. The thing is—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “She didn’t want me. Or Sarah. It was Dad who wanted more kids. They planned Sarah. I was an accident. Dad didn’t want her to have an abortion, so she kept me. And gave up the fellowship. I don’t think she ever thought I was worth the sacrifice.”

“She’s wrong—”

“She gets to feel however she wants, I guess. She was never cruel to me, and I had what I needed mostly. They were only supposed to be away a year. Mom got the invitation to join Doctors Without Borders, and she told Dad they could do it now. Sarah only had a year left of high school, and Steven had left for college. They were almost free. Dad didn’t want to go, but she said he’d promised her that he’d never make her give up her career again for the kids. So they left for Europe, sent Sarah to stay with Gram, and dropped me off at the neighbors.” Elizabeth met his eyes. “She changed her whole life for me, Jason. She gave up her dreams and what she wanted because she loved my dad. I guess I was scared you’d go home before you were ready, and you’d be unhappy again. Just like she was. I know that’s not fair to you—”

Jason reached up to tug her back down and drew her close, pressing his lips to her forehead. “You just wanted me to be sure. I’m sorry about your mother. It’s her loss.”

“I haven’t spoken to her since she left. Dad called a lot that first year. But not so much after…” She closed her eyes. “Gram told them about the rape. Dad wanted me to come to Europe, but I couldn’t. Then Sarah left for college—” She paused. “Anyway. I’m sorry. I kept picking fights because I was scared. I didn’t want you to come home because of the baby. And I didn’t really believe you could still want me.” She smiled. “But you did.”

They fell into silence again, the sun sinking lower and the room growing darker. She nearly slipped back into that space between dreams and waking, so warm and comfortable—and then her stomach rumbled.

“We should get something to eat,” he murmured, his voice drowsy. He slid his hand up to her belly, still flat. Gently, he pushed her onto her back so that he could press his mouth just above her belly button.

Elizabeth shivered from the sensation, and he propped himself up on his elbow. “It’s hard to believe,” she admitted, “that there’s a baby in there.” Though they’d talked about it before, it felt different this time. It felt real. Or maybe it was that they felt like a team. Like a couple who had just learned they were having a child.

“I know,” Jason said. He traced a pattern, his fingertips making her twitch. It was a little ticklish. “You look the same.”

“I feel mostly the same,” she said. “But I know that’ll start changing soon.”

Jason sat up all the way up. “I’ll go get a pizza or something. It’s better than nothing,” he said. “You need to eat.”

“I am hungry,” she admitted. She snagged his elbow as he started to move away. “I’ve been so scared this week,” Elizabeth said, “but I’m not anymore. This is—it’s so big, and I didn’t know if you’d feel trapped or obligated. I didn’t want that. But I think—” She bit her lip, and he waited for her to gather her thoughts. “I think I’m happy. Excited. And—I hope you are, too.”

“I am—” Jason leaned forward to brush his mouth against hers. “Terrified,” he murmured, stroking her cheek. “Overwhelmed. But happy. That you’re here, and that this—” His other hand covered her belly again. “This little grain of rice or poppy seed is with us. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I just know I want to spend it with you.”

Sunday, April 30, 2000

General Hospital: Conference Room

“I was hoping to catch you before you left—”

Nikolas shoved the last of the folders and paperwork into his briefcase, then closed it. He leveled a cool stare at his mother as Laura stood in the doorway. “I’m not sure we have anything else to say to each other—”

“You haven’t returned a single phone call since we spoke last week—” Laura held up her hands as Nikolas approached her. “Please.”

He stopped, then lifted a brow. “All right. Go ahead. Say what you came to say—”

“When you left last week, you seemed to think that neither Bobbie or I had considered the risks in Elizabeth pursuing a relationship with Jason,” Laura said. Nikolas’s jaw clenched, and he looked away. “I have. And it worries me, Nikolas. It does. I wasn’t here when you were injured, but when I learned of it later, it horrified me. I’d nearly lost Lucky to that life—”

“You did lose him—”

“I respect that you believe the fire was due to Sonny and Jason. I don’t, but I’m not going to talk you out of it,” Laura said, and he closed his mouth. “I’m speaking of what I do know. I lived the majority of my life under the threat of Frank Smith finding me. Or the Cassadines,” she admitted. “When I think of Elizabeth living that way—”

“Then how can you support her? How can you let her think this is okay?” he bit out.

“What’s the alternative?” Laura wanted to know. “Audrey tried to give her an ultimatum, and Elizabeth moved out. She’s not speaking to you, Nikolas, because you didn’t support her. Am I supposed to cut her out, too?” She paused. “I’ve already lost Lucky. I may not have chosen this life for Elizabeth, but all I can do now is love her and make sure she has what she needs to be happy.”

“It’s not enough—” Nikolas gritted his teeth. “It’s not—”

“You’re only making yourself miserable if you continue to be antagonistic—”

“You and Bobbie and Emily can sit around and let Elizabeth make the same choices that you did. As Lucky did. You’ve chosen to think that Jason and Sonny are good men—”

“Nothing is black and white—” Laura stopped when Nikolas walked past her. “Nikolas—”

“I won’t stand by and blindly support Elizabeth as she betrays everything my brother died for. You and Bobbie can do what you want. Don’t expect me to play nice.”

Monday, May 1, 2000

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

“I told you it would be worth it,” Elizabeth said, leaning over the edge of the guardrail. He winced and braced a hand at the small of her back. “I wish we had binoculars. The guide said we could see gray whales—” She looked down at the brochure, studying it.

“We can always come back,” Jason offered, amused by her enthusiasm. “Or check the gift shop—” He paused when her jacket began to ring.

“Maybe.” She fished in her pocket for the cell phone Luke had left her, grimacing. “It’s Laura.”

“You can take the call—”

“No, I’ll let it go to voicemail. I’ll call her when we get to the hotel tonight.” She put the phone back in her pocket, but the expression she’d made when she’d seen Laura’s name stayed with him.

“Why didn’t you want to talk to her now?”

“Nothing—” Elizabeth sighed. “The last time I talked to her, she asked about putting my mail on hold. Right now, she’s picking it up for me. And she’s watching my grandmother’s cat.”

Jason exhaled, looked back out over the water. Elizabeth had put her entire life on hold to come out here, to tell him about the baby. And while they were finally on the same page in most ways, they still hadn’t really tackled the decision to return to Port Charles. She had to go back. Of course she did.

“It’s fine,” Elizabeth said. “I’ll ask her to take care of the mail, and Gatsby is fine at her place—”

“Or we could go back,” he cut in. “We can’t keep putting this off,” Jason pressed when she just looked at him. “I know you wanted time—”

“You needed it, too,” she argued. “Or have you changed your mind? Are you ready to go home?”

Jason put his hand at her elbow to keep her facing him. “I don’t know. Maybe. If we go back and it’s not okay—if things are still tense with Sonny or—” He paused. “I don’t know. I know Carly’s still an issue. But I don’t think she can hurt me the way she did before.”

Elizabeth still looked torn, and while he wanted to be frustrated by her hesitation, he knew she was only thinking of how bad it had been before he left and how he’d talked about it on the beach earlier that week. She wanted to protect him and was trying to put him first.

That didn’t happen to him very often. Or ever. He held out his hand. “Let me see the phone.”

Elizabeth frowned but handed it over. “Why?”

“I’m going to call Sonny.” He had a plan. Or at least the beginning of a plan. If he could handle Sonny, that meant he could handle the job. And Elizabeth could be in Port Charles where she was happy. She’d be near the hospital with doctors—

Carly was a different kind of hurdle to deal with, and he really wouldn’t know until he was face to face with her what to expect.

“You really don’t have to do this—”


“Sonny,” Jason said, squeezing Elizabeth’s hand to show her he was okay. He could see the worry in her eyes, the lines in her forehead crinkling. “It’s me.”

“Jason. Uh, hey. How are you? Is—are you okay?”

“I’m good. Elizabeth and I are still in Oregon.” He looked out over the ocean, thought about how to really fix this. “She said you helped track me down. Thank you.”

“Oh, well, I didn’t do much, but I’m glad it worked out. Hope she’s having a good time.”

“Yeah, she is. We both are. Uh—” Jason winced. “Listen. There are things. We should talk about them.”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course.”

“I—I’m not coming to Port Charles yet. I thought maybe you could come out here. Meet us in Portland for a few days. So we could talk.”

There was a long pause, and then Sonny answered. “Sure. Let me move some things around. Can—maybe there’s a number I could call.”

“Yeah, hold on—” He held the phone out to her. “Can you give him the number of this phone? I don’t know it.”

“Sure.” Elizabeth reeled off the numbers, then hung up the phone. “You really didn’t have to—”

“It’s better if we do this on neutral ground,” Jason told her. “Maybe away from Port Charles, it’ll be easier.” He paused, looked out over the horizon again, then met her eyes. “If it’s okay, we’ll go back—”

“I have a counter offer. Sonny comes here and you guys can sort things out. And then—” Elizabeth grasped the lapels of his jacket, leaned up to kiss him. “You wanted to go to California, right? I was looking at the brochures last night. I saw one for the Pacific Coast Highway. We could do it in two, maybe three weeks.”

He kissed her again, lingering. “Are you sure?”

“It’ll be fun. You’ll talk to Sonny, and then we’ll go. By the end of it, you might feel even better about going home. You might feel sort of okay now, and maybe seeing Sonny will help. But I still think we should wait a bit longer.” She laid her hand against his chest. “I heard you on the beach, Jason. I listened to you. You didn’t feel ready to go back.”

“That was before—” He took one of her curls, wrapped it around his finger. “I didn’t know I still had you.”

She softened. “You always had me. Still, I want to take this trip. It’ll be fun. Plus, we won’t be able to just take off on these kinds of things after the baby, you know? So we should do it while we can.”

“When you put it that way.” He laced his fingers through hers. “Come on, let’s go to the gift shop and see if we can get some binoculars. Now that you mentioned the whales, I want to see them, too.”

Lincoln City, Oregon

Starfish Manor Hotel

“Oh, this is so much better than last night,” Elizabeth said, breathing a sigh of relief as she came into the room with the large picture window overlooking the ocean. “Did you know there was a Jacuzzi?”

Jason tossed their bags on the bed and eyed the tub at the end the room by the window. “No—” But he was definitely interested.

Elizabeth started to dig through her bag, wincing. “We need to find a laundromat,” she said. “I’m almost out of clothes.”

“I’ll ask the lobby tomorrow.” Jason picked up the room service menu. “We’re only two hours out of Portland,” he told her, “so I was thinking we’d stay in the area. When Sonny can come, we won’t have to backtrack.”

Elizabeth was already inspecting the controls on the hot tub. “Sounds good. Oh—” She dug in her pocket for the phone vibrating against her hip. “Hey, Laura. No, I saw your call earlier. We just got to the hotel.” She grinned. “Oh, hey, this isn’t a window—it’s a door to the balcony,” she called back to Jason.

He watched her go out and curl up on the chairs, continuing the phone conversation. He ordered some dinner, then called down to the lobby to ask about the laundromat. She’d been with him more than a week, and Jason already couldn’t fathom how he’d filled his days before she’d joined him. Now that they were finally on the same page—that they were actually together—he couldn’t imagine going on without her.

Everything was better now that she was here, and he was determined to keep it that way. He’d make sure this visit with Sonny went well so that it would be one less obstacle to return to Port Charles.

Carly would always be a thorn in his side, but it didn’t sting the way it had even a few weeks ago. Would that change when he got to Port Charles? Maybe. But—

“Hey.” Elizabeth came back in, leaning against the door frame. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” He hung up the phone. “I am. How’s Laura?”

“Good. I told her I was going to be gone longer, and she said she’d take care of my mail. She wanted to know if it was okay to give Em the number, so I did.” Elizabeth tipped her head to the side. “Is it okay? You left without giving us any way to reach you, and I’ve basically ruined that—”

“I thought it had to be that way,” he told her. He reached for her hand, drew her against him, still marveling at the way they fit together. “That if I cut the ties, it would make it easier.” He brushed the back of his knuckles down her cheek, and she smiled. “I was wrong.”

“I wish I’d come with you back then,” she said with a sigh. “But maybe it was supposed to be this way. I was able to find some peace with Gram. And I got this job—”

“I thought I’d be better off alone. I’m not. I wouldn’t have known that if you’d come with me in January. Or even last month. Things happen for a reason.” He kissed her, tightening his hold on her. “I ordered room service,” he murmured. “We can try out the hot tub later.”

“Sounds like an excellent plan.”


  • I am so excited that Jason and Elizabeth are together. I hope the meeting with Sonny goes well.

    According to Carla P on December 26, 2022
  • You need a LOVE button for this not just a Like!

    According to Golden Girl on December 26, 2022
  • FInally a real connection. I was about to give up on these two dough heads

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on December 31, 2022