And how can I stand here with you,
And not be moved by you?
Would you tell me
How could it be
Any better than this?
– Everything, Lifehouse
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Harborview Towers: Penthouse Level
Hands in the pockets of his slacks, Sonny ambled around the corner of elevator to step in front of Jason’s penthouse. In front of him Cody stood like a sentinel, his hands at his side, looking straight ahead.
“Hey, Cody. Jason home?” Sonny asked. “I need to talk to him.” He was surprised when the normally stone-faced man opened his mouth, and then closed it. And…were the tips of his ears…turning red? “Cody?”
“Ah, Boss…” Cody hesitated. “Well, he and Miss Webber are home, but I, um…wouldn’t knock if I were you.” He coughed into his fist. “Sir.”
Sonny furrowed his brow. “Jason said no interruptions?”
“Ah…not exactly.” And now the guard’s cheeks were turning red. “They…were…arguing earlier…and…” The man actually looked up at the ceiling, as if to look to a higher power for answers. “Well, they stopped.”
“Okay…” Sonny drawled. “Then…I can…” He paused when Cody just shook his head. “C’mon, man…just say it.”
“Well…they stopped…arguing the way that you, and ah…the way you and Mrs. C do…sometimes,” Cody finished, refusing to meet Sonny’s eyes.
And then Sonny grinned. Because he knew exactly how he and Carly ended some of their arguments. “We should soundproof these doors, is that what you’re telling me?”
“It…wouldn’t hurt,” Cody admitted. “So…I don’t know…what you’d be…” He tugged on his year and looked like a man who desperately wished he were anywhere else. “I don’t know what you’d be interrupting. So to speak. Sir.”
“Fair point.” Sonny dipped his chin to his chest. “And whatever I have to say can hold for a bit. Don’t want them to…have setbacks in their…” He twirled his finger in the air. “Whatever.”
“Yes, sir. That is…yes.” Cody’s shoulders slumped. “And if you could never tell Jason or Miss Webber we had this conversation, it would be most appreciated.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Sonny called over his shoulder as he headed back to his penthouse.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
There was something to be said for silence. They hadn’t really spoken since she threatened to leave, and he’d kissed her. Jason had lifted her onto the edge of the pool table, and without removing much of their clothing, they’d had the kind of sex she’d only read about. Hard, fast…and god damn fantastic.
And then, he looked at her, with those beautiful eyes filled with mixture of tenderness and fear, as if she’d reject him now, and she’d kissed him again. He picked her up and then they’d moved to the sofa, and this time…Elizabeth was sure she’d remember this as the first time they’d made love. Slow, delicious, and almost lazy. Reverent. The kind of lovemaking that spread warmth and tingles down one’s spine and lingered in the fingers, the legs, and even the toes until long after it was over.
And now, lying here, her caftan blanket hastily thrown over them, they still lay in silence. She was draped over his chest, his fingers trailing up and down her back.
She just wanted to close her eyes and lay here forever.
But she knew that wasn’t realistic and she’d promised herself only that morning that she couldn’t live in a fantasy anymore.
Tracing a pattern on Jason’s chest, she finally spoke. “This…it doesn’t…fix anything.”
His fingers stilled, and then slid up to smooth her hair away her face. “I…I know.”
“But I also…” Elizabeth hesitated, wondering why she always had to be the brave one when it came to words. “I don’t regret it.”
“Me either.” Some of the tension she hadn’t even felt relaxed from his body. “I don’t…I don’t want you to leave.” She felt his chin dip, brush her hair as his lips found the top of her head. “I just…don’t know how to make you stay.”
Well, at least that was something. “Just…knowing you want me here…” She slid her hand up his chest until she was cradling his cheek, then raised her head to kiss him briefly. “That makes me want to stay. I didn’t…I felt like…not really an obligation, but maybe a burden…”
His hand cupped the back of her head, their eyes met. “The last thing I feel when I look at you is burdened or obligated. I just…want you safe. I want you happy.”
“And being right here…” Elizabeth closed her eyes and leaned until their foreheads touch. “I feel both. You always wanted to push me away, when I always knew…that being with you was the safest thing. For my heart,” she added when he saw his mouth tighten. “If we trust each other, Jason….that can be true for both us of us.” She curved her lips into a half-smile. “Do you…think we can try that…again?”
Remembering the question, his eyes were soft as he answered. “Yeah…we can try.” He covered her mouth with his own, deepening it as she pressed herself closer.
A familiar buzzing sound from behind the couch had Elizabeth drawing back, and sitting up. Jason sighed and followed suit. “Elizabeth…” He didn’t get up to find his jeans or answer the phone, and she knew why. She’d accused him of answering that phone and abandoning her for whoever was on the other line last summer.
“It could be Sonny,” Elizabeth said. “I never cared that you answered your phone, Jason. Everyone does that.”
Still looking uncertain, Jason stood and rounded the sofa to drag on his briefs before reaching for his jeans and the phone in the back pocket. She peered at him over the back of the sofa, thinking it was almost adorable he didn’t want to be completely nude while speaking on the phone.
“Hey…Yeah?” She his eyes close and his face tense. “It can’t…no, okay. Yeah. Give me a few minutes. I’ll be over.” Jason sighed, closing his phone and setting it on the edge of the table. “I…have to go over to Sonny’s. I’m…” He just shook his head.
“Jason.” He didn’t answer right away, just pulled his jeans on and zipped up. “Jason, I’m not…angry you have to go to Sonny’s.” He looked at her, and she could see he wasn’t buying that. “I heard you ask him if it could wait. And if can’t, it can’t. That’s life. Just as long…” She bit her lip and tilted her head. “If you have to go out and you don’t know when you’ll be back, or even if you do, if you could…just let me know you’re going.”
“Yeah…” Jason exhaled slowly. He dragged his shirt over his head, and then sat on the sofa to put his socks and boots back on. “Yeah, I can do that.” He looked at her, and Elizabeth saw the regret in his eyes, so she held her breath until he spoke. “This isn’t…the way I would have planned for us to be together, Elizabeth…” Using one hand, he slid his hand through her hair and she closed her eyes, leaning into his touch. “But I’m not sorry,” he finished, his voice almost gravelly.
She grinned and opened her eyes. “Good. Then hurry up so you can come back.” She kissed him again, and then watched him open the door and close it before Cody could see her curled up on the sofa, wearing nothing but a blanket.
Elizabeth leaned her head, and had the insane urge to laugh. She had never seen this coming.
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Sonny looked when Jason entered, regret in his eyes. “Sorry man, I know you and Elizabeth were in the middle of…something, but…”
Jason hesitated and just blinked at his friend. Was he wearing a sign or something that broadcasted what he’d just been doing for the last hour? He cleared his throat. “It’s fine. What’s up?”
“Benny just called from the warehouse.” Sonny poured a tumbler of whiskey. “They opened the shipment from last night and…” He shook his head. “It was empty.”
Jason tensed, the last vestiges of his good mood evaporated. “Empty—it was fine last night. I checked it myself.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know that. It means we got someone in our own organization screwing with us.” Jason watched as Sonny tried to calmly sip the whiskey, but his hands were trembling…just a little. “We got a traitor.”
The last thing they needed. Jason exhaled slowly. “Do we know who was in and out of the warehouse between its arrival and finding it empty this afternoon?”
Sonny nodded and set the glass down. “Not yet. Benny and Stan are working on it. They think it’ll take a day or so to put it together. Jason, you know better than me, we don’t time for this shit.” He took a deep breath. “The Families might think our resources are stretched thin looking for Ric and Faith. One of them might think it’s a good time to screw with us.”
“Can’t overlook that.” Jason hesitated. “We…are investing a lot of our manpower in the search.” With great difficulty, he continued, “Do you think we should pull back?”
“I…” Sonny looked at the ceiling. “I want to say no. Because the quicker Ric Lansing gets out of our lives, the better off we’ll all be, but the point of involving the Families was to avoid this kind of nonsense. So that we wouldn’t have to put all our energy into Ric. The burden would be shared.”
“Sonny, we can’t protect Elizabeth if we’re fighting a war on another front without resources,” Jason pointed out. “At the end of the day, if Ric is going to come for Elizabeth and the baby, he’ll have to come near Port Charles to do that. We haven’t found any evidence that he’s in the area, not since the kidnapping attempt.”
“Yeah…” Sonny huffed. “And I can’t even say who’d be after us, because it could be any of those bastards. I want to go after Zacchara because of the connection between his lawyer and our scumbag, but how do I know Tagliatti didn’t set it up to make it look that way? I don’t…think it’s Ruiz or Vega because of the distance involved. They’re more likely to team up with Tagliatti or Zacchara rather than come for us directly.” He pressed his hand to his chest. “Jase, I got no easy answers here. I want Elizabeth to be safe, I want her pregnancy to go smoothly, but—”
“I know.” Jason rested his hands at his waist and looked at the floor. There was only one choice. They couldn’t divide their focus between searching for Ric and fighting a territorial dispute. “You have to pull back some of the men looking for Ric and Faith. We have Elizabeth as protected as she can be, and maybe…” He hesitated. “Maybe if Ric thinks he can get back here without tripping us up, he’ll get cocky. He’ll think he can get to her. And he’ll make a mistake then.” But everything in him fought against using Elizabeth as a lure, using her child as bait. He’d promised to protect her, and had made even deeper promises to her not more than twenty minutes ago.
“I get the problem.” Sonny rubbed his chin. “I just…I don’t know what else to do. If this escalates into an outright war, everyone is in danger. With Carly and Elizabeth pregnant at the same time, I just can’t…I can’t risk it. Their immediate safety has to come first. We have to work with what we know. And we know that someone is coming for us, whether it’s one of the Families or someone else. We don’t know why Faith Roscoe sent the soldiers after Elizabeth. We can assume it was on Ric’s behalf, but you know…maybe Ric is obsessing about the situation, and Faith wanted to eliminate her like she threatened to on those docks. Maybe Faith is the threat, and Ric’s planning another move on us.”
“If this is Ric coming for us from another angle, then we’d find him either way.” Jason nodded. “It’s possible. Let’s…let’s cut the men outside Port Charles looking for Ric in half. Just to start. If we have more problems, we can reduce it further. I don’t…want to give up the search just yet.”
“Jason, I wouldn’t ask you do to this if we had any other choice,” Sonny told him even as he headed for the phone to make the call to Johnny.
“I know that. But you’re right. We can’t ignore an actual threat because we’re not sure Ric hasn’t given up. Elizabeth’s safety is my top priority,” Jason said. “Regardless of the source of the threat.” He took a deep breath. “I should go to the warehouse, help Benny and Stan. The quicker we find out what’s going on, the better off we’ll all be.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Several hours after Jason had regretfully told her he had to go to the warehouse, Marco knocked and pushed open the door. “Miss Crowell is here, Elizabeth.”
From her vantage point at by the pool table, Elizabeth waved Nadine and her bags from Eli’s in. “Thanks, Marco. Hey, Nadine.”
“Hey!” Nadine smiled brightly and followed Elizabeth into the kitchen where a folding table was set up. “No dining table?”
“We usually eat takeout on the sofa,” Elizabeth replied. “Thanks for understanding I couldn’t go out tonight. Jason….he’s just asked that I stay in at night for a while.” She reached into a cabinet and drew out paper plates.
“Not a problem. Besides, we can talk more in private.” Nadine arched an eyebrow. “For example, Miss Webber, that is mighty fine hickey on your collarbone.”
Elizabeth flushed and pressed a hand to the area. “I…I didn’t notice or I would have changed.” She set down some bottles of water and took a seat. “Um…so I guess you know how I spent the day.”
“Do I!” Nadine dug into her ribs and gestured for her to continue. “He’s gorgeous, by the way. You see his picture in the paper sometimes, but I don’t think I’d ever met him in person.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I can understand why you threw over the Harvard lawyer.”
Elizabeth laughed and opened her own Styrofoam container. “Well, hands off. I’ve had enough of blondes going after my boyfriends.” When her friend widened her eyes, Elizabeth shrugged. “My ex-boyfriend Lucky liked my blonde sister first, and then long after we had broken up, he ended up dating her for a while. And then Jason’s best friend is blonde. She was always calling and nagging him to leave me. And of course, you know about Courtney. And then Ric…” she hesitated. “Well, I would say one of the reasons we didn’t work out is he was sleeping with a blonde on the side.”
“Ugh. Skanks.” Nadine twisted off the cap of her water. “So I guess Kelly was right. Finding out the gender does it every time.”
“No…” Elizabeth leaned back in her chair. “No, it wasn’t that. We still…we still have to work out a lot of things, the baby being one of them.” She hesitated. “There’s…the situation is really more complicated than I can explain, Nadine. It’s not because I don’t trust you—”
“It’s because we’ve known each other five seconds,” Nadine said. “I get it, Elizabeth. And sometimes I see you pause, searching for a lie. I’d rather you just gloss over the details you can’t share. Don’t feel bad.”
“Well…” Elizabeth licked some of the barbecue sauce off her finger. “Let’s just say…Jason stepping up to be involved with the baby was not something I expected, mostly because of how we broke up and that he was dating his best friend’s sister. We’ve talked a lot about why we stopped seeing one another, but we haven’t…we’re not really talking about the future beyond…the immediate.”
“Still doing the one day at a time shtick guys cling to?” Nadine grimaced. “I get it. Johnny always said maybe someday we’d move in together, but any time you tried to put a date on that someday, he’d get this look and…” She shook her head. “I don’t know, maybe for them it’s just too scary to think about something that far in the future, about making a commitment. Me? It’s scarier not to make it. Because today could be amazing, and so could tomorrow. But I want…some assurance, I guess, that next week, next month, next year…that it’s going to be just as amazing.”
“Yeah…” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I know. And if you can’t talk about anything beyond tomorrow, then how do you know they see it as a possibility? What if they don’t see a place for you next month?” She bit her lip. “Well, I tried to bring it up today. I asked him about the future, about how we were going to handle it, and it turned into an argument about our past. I think…Jason has this idea…that I won’t stay forever.”
She looked at Nadine. “And I can’t… I can’t blame him for not trusting me. With the exception of the first time we were friends, before he left town a few years ago, I’ve always walked away from him. Last fall, I walked out and then refused to talk to him. I was just so angry and hurt…but he didn’t come after me. So he’s accusing me of never staying, and I told him that…”
She hesitated. “I told him that I felt like he pushed me out the door last time, and that he was doing it again. Every time he looked uncomfortable talking about the baby or we talked about the future. So I told him that he’s never given me a reason to stay, so the next time I walk away, I won’t come back.”
“And…this turned into a day of sex?” Nadine frowned. Her eyes widened. “Oh, oh. I get it. You told him that and then he kissed you to stop you from leaving!”
“Yeah…” And Elizabeth dipped her head down, unable to stop herself from smiling. “The first time…it was on the pool table.”
“Well, hello…” Nadine craned her head to look out the door way. “That’s reason enough to keep it around.” She turned back. “So…?”
“And after we…on the sofa…he told me he didn’t want me to go, he just didn’t know to make me stay.”
“That is…” Nadine shook her head. “I am so freaking jealous. First, this gorgeous man sexes you up on a pool table like a scene right out of a hot romance novel, and then he lays a line like that on you, except I’ve seen him—he does not look like the type to drop a line, so he means it.” She scowled. “I hate you so much right now.”
“I guess…I’m just nervous,” Elizabeth admitted. “Because I don’t…there’s so much still up in the air. We’re still not talking about the baby. There’s still a ton of tension with his family because of the baby, particularly his sister who used to be my best friend, and his job…” She shrugged. “It’s not like it ever leaves us in peace. Before we could really…resolve anything….he had to go down to the warehouse.”
“Well…my aunt Rayleen used to say that when you’re too scared to do something, you should go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is,” Nadine said. “You’re already better off then you were when we met, right?”
“We are,” Elizabeth said, with a smile. “So nothing worth having is easy to get, huh?”
“That’s what I’m told.” Nadine picked up a rib and gestured to her with it. “Don’t get in your own way, Liz. It’s usually the best way to make yourself miserable.”
“Hm…” Elizabeth leaned forward. “Nadine, have you thought about calling Johnny?”
“Pfft…” Nadine shook her head. “Absolutely not. Would you believe he sent those CDs anyway? How’d he get my address, I’d like to know? And now I’m mad because I forgot I left some of them with him, and turns out I really missed one or two of them and I’m glad he didn’t throw them out. Which just makes me angrier, because he’s a turd.” After she swallowed a bite, she continued. “Our situation is completely different, Liz.”
“What makes it so different? We both walked away from men who were hurting us.”
“True.” Nadine sighed, wistfully, and propped her chin on her fist. “But my guy didn’t have crazy sex with me on a pool table to keep me from leaving.”
“Well, there is that.”
Morgan Penthouse: Jason’s Bedroom
It was nearly midnight when Jason finally climbed the stairs to the second floor. It had been a long day, beginning with the morning appointment at the hospital and then the fight with Elizabeth…and then everything else that came afterward. He hated fighting with her, hated making her cry, but if it meant they could…get back to where they’d been last year before everything fell apart, maybe it was worth it.
But before they could really fix anything, his damn phone had rung, nearly screwing it up. But she hadn’t looked angry, and he didn’t think Elizabeth would lie about that when they were trying so hard to be painfully honest.
The evening at the warehouse had been a bust, and he would have rather been here, watching Elizabeth sketch or just sitting in the living room, watching ridiculous television. Except maybe they would have gone back to the conversation they’d been having before they’d been sidetracked…and Jason did not want to talk about her pregnancy or the daughter she was going to have. The daughter he knew would never really be his, no matter how much he wanted her to be. Elizabeth said she wanted to stay, but what did that really mean?
He stopped in front of the guest room where Elizabeth had slept since moving in, the same one she had slept in last fall. He raised his hand as if to knock, but then let it fall to his side. Maybe tomorrow…
Jason pushed open his door, and stopped short. In his bed, her dark hair spread across the white pillow, and in the shirt he’d given her the first night…Elizabeth lay curled up, under a thin sheet.
Slowly, not wanting to wake her, he stripped down to his briefs and hesitantly slid the sheet back to slide underneath, but she was a lighter sleeper than he remembered, because her eyes slid open, shadowed in the darkness of the room. “Hey.”
“Hey,” he replied softly.
“Hope you don’t mind I’m here,” Elizabeth said, her voice hesitant and quiet. “I just…”
He reached out and drew her closer, until she was tucked into his side. “I was hoping you would be.”