Honesty is a hard attribute to find
When we all want to seem like
We’ve got it all figured out
Well let me be the first to say that I don’t have a clue
I don’t have all the answers
Ain’t gonna to pretend like I do
– Trying, Lifehouse
Friday, August 5, 2003
This is what happened when you did the right thing, when you were supportive of your friends and a generally mature human being. You ended up sharing lunch with a woman you mostly didn’t like, bonding over pregnancy and trying to avoid the evil eye of said friend’s ex-girlfriend, who was well on her way to being your ex-friend, too.
“We could have gone to the Grille,” Elizabeth said after Courtney slammed the door behind her again. Her most recent sonogram picture sat on the table, so she reached out and covered it with her hand.
“No, my mother owns this place, damn it.” Carly scowled at the doorway. She’d only liked Courtney for about five minutes anyway, so the fight Courtney had picked with her the week before because Carly wasn’t shunning Jason’s whore (as Courtney had so delicately termed it) barely fazed her. Carly didn’t change for anyone. She was who she was, and anyone who didn’t like it could suck it.
“Besides,” Carly continued, brushing at Elizabeth’s hands. “I want to see the sonogram picture, and then you can see mine next week. This is how this works, Muffin.”
“Whatever.” Elizabeth removed her hand and Carly reached for the photo of Baby Girl Whatever, as she now called her in her head. She was sure that this kid would start out as a Morgan, but was no longer all that sanguine it would remain that way. She’d never met people who got in their own damn way as often as Jason Morgan and Elizabeth Webber. Bastards. If they couldn’t get it together on their own, she was going to have to meddle.
And if Carly meddled, odds would be that one of them would be arrested. Someone was always arrested when she tried to help.
“Blood pressure is good?” Carly asked, looking at the photo and wishing that she knew what the hell had crawled up Jason’s ass. It was one thing to be apprehensive about getting attached to the baby when things between the two were up in the air but they’d been sexing it up for weeks, she was sure of it. This baby was as good as Jason’s, if he could just be bothered to reach out and take her.
Men. Morons. Couldn’t do anything the easy way. They liked to think they were uncomplicated, that women were neurotic and insane, but fuckers. Women were neurotic and crazy because men were moronic, complicated pieces of—
“Kelly was really happy,” Elizabeth answered. “It’s normal, like it was last month. Baby’s in great shape, I’m at my target weight—” She frowned and glanced down at the baby bump that was quite a bit larger now, but still nowhere near as gargantuan as Carly felt on most days. “But, yeah, things are great.”
“Great.” Carly handed the photo back. “Like I said, I have mine next week.” She pursed her lips. “And if Sonny isn’t back yet, I guess…” She huffed. “And maybe my mother won’t be available, with her work schedule and Lucas, so if you wanted to come, that would be all right.”
“I’ll have to let you know,” Elizabeth answered, and Carly huffed again, because how did this become her life? She didn’t even dislike the Muffin anymore, which she had always figured might happen if she ever gave her chance, which is why she had never intended to do so. The last thing Carly needed was more people she liked. When she liked people, she tried to help them.
No good ever came from her help.
“I can’t wait until he’s born.” Carly patted her tummy, and her son kicked in response. “Morgan Stone Corinthos. I told Jason that last week, and he just did that scowling thing.” She snorted. “As if he’s not worthy of it. Whatever. He’s a dork. Sonny and I agreed on the boy’s name ages ago, so it’s good we didn’t have to worry about a girl’s name.”
“It’s a good name,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “It honors two men I know Sonny considered like brothers to him, and it keeps Stone’s memory alive.” A mischievous smile spread across her face. “You know Robin would love that.”
“Listen, Muffin, I don’t want to hear that kind of talk.” Carly grabbed her water and sipped it. “Honestly. So…names…” She eyed the brunette. “Thoughts?”
Elizabeth cast her eyes away, and Carly narrowed her eyes. “Oh, what? You can’t talk about the baby with Jason, fine whatever, but that means you can’t think about it?”
“I think about it,” the other woman said, her eyes still not meeting Carly. “All the time. I just…I don’t talk about it.” After considering her nails for a bit, she raised her eyes and Carly sighed, because the guarded shield was still up. “I’ve been thinking about names, but…it’s hard because I want the last name to go well with it, and you know…” She shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t really know…how long the last name is going to be…”
“God save me.” Carly cast her eyes to the sky. “Fine. Let’s put that aside. Any specific thoughts?”
“I do like a few names.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ear. “I like Olivia Charlotte. My maternal grandmother was Charlotte, and I always thought it was pretty.”
“Olivia Charlotte Morgan.” Carly nodded. “There’s potential.” She nibbled on a fry. “Livvy Morgan. Liv. I don’t hate it.”
“But you’re not in love with it,” Elizabeth said. “That’s how I felt. So I thought…maybe Isla, because it’s pretty, but I’m not sure about a middle name…” She twisted her fingers. “There is a name I like, but…”
“Nope. Let’s hear it.”
“Cadence Audrey. I’d call…I’d call her Cady for short. It’s a little different, but—”
“That’s the name.” Carly liked it best anyway, but she saw the look on Elizabeth’s face, which proved it. “I like it. Cady is cute, but it’s not too cute, like Lulu, and Audrey is the perfect middle name. Everything works.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but she smiled. “Well, if you approve, then I guess it’s fine.”
“Cadence Audrey Morgan.” Carly nodded. “Good.” She leaned down and picked out one of the shopping bags from her large collection from Wyndhams. “Now you get your reward for making a decision.”
Elizabeth frowned at her. “Carly, did you buy me something?”
“No!” Carly scowled. “I don’t even like you.” She sniffed. “I bought Cady something. Here.” She wiggled the bag at her. “Take it.”
“Okay.” Elizabeth reached for the lime green bag and pulled out first, a miniature white sundress trimmed in red, orange and yellow, and then a delicate pink onesie that proclaimed I Love My Aunt. She arched her eyebrows at it. “Carly.”
“Listen, Muffin,” Carly said, feeling the heat in her cheeks and wishing she hadn’t given into the mad impulse. “Whether you and I like it or not, our kids are going to be cousins.” She hesitated. “Because of how close Jason is to us.”
“Right.” Elizabeth began to slide the clothes back in the bag, but they were startled when Courtney crossed the courtyard and slapped their check on the table. Frick. Carly hadn’t even noticed the blonde was out there. Her eyes were on the clothes, particularly the Aunt onesie.
“It’s not enough that you stole my boyfriend,” Courtney snarled at Elizabeth. “But you’re stealing my best friend, too?” She tossed a devastated look at Carly who raised an eyebrow. God, she hated people. “I can’t believe you, Carly. I knew you were going to take Jason’s side! You weren’t any happier than I was that this whore—”
“Courtney, I don’t think this is the place.” Carly glanced at the entrance to the courtyard where Rocco and Cody were standing. Cody had his hand in his suit jacket, as if fishing out his cell phone. She sent him the evil eye which had that hand sliding right back out. Damn right. The day Carly couldn’t handle a dimwit was the day she hung up her heels. “In fact, I know it’s not the place. I have every right come here and have lunch with Jason’s…” She eyed Elizabeth who looked at her with her own arched eyebrow. “With Elizabeth. We’re both having babies in a unique world, and Jason’s family to me. Why you think I’d pick your side after five minutes when Jason deserves my loyalty so much more…” She shook her head.
Courtney narrowed her eyes. “You were supposed to be my friend, you told me to go after Jason—” At that, Carly saw Elizabeth narrow her eyes at her, and she winced. That was going to be a thing later.
“Well, clearly, I didn’t know the whole situation. If I thought Jason would just use you and go back to Elizabeth, I wouldn’t have encouraged it.” Carly coughed. God, this sucked. “Anyway, it doesn’t even matter. You and Jason were together for all six seconds.” She waved her hand at the brunette. “This bitch has been annoying me for years when it comes to Jason. History wins, Courtney. Every day, all day.”
“This bitch?” Elizabeth smirked. “Didn’t know you cared so much.”
“Don’t start,” Carly retorted, fighting a grin. “Courtney—”
“Oh, this is just great. I’m already humiliated every time she comes in here with that bastard showing—”
“Courtney,” Elizabeth said flatly. “I have had absolutely enough of this. I am sorry that you got hurt. It was never my intention, but in my defense…” A martial gleam lit in her eyes. “He was mine first. You were supposed to be my friend, too. The way you feel about Carly right now, having the nerve to talk to me? That is exactly how I felt when I found out you were seeing him. You knew I wasn’t over him. You knew how hurt I was, and you used everything I told you in confidence to go after him.”
Courtney clenched her fists. “You think you’re the victim in all this? I got dumped in front of a crowd of people—”
“Point of order.” Carly stuck her finger in the air. “You were informed Elizabeth was knocked up in front of a crowd of people. You broke up with Jason in a room with only me as a witness.” Oh…this should not be this much fun. God damn it all to hell. Sonny was going to set her on fire when he heard of this.
“Again, Courtney, I didn’t tell you to break up with Jason.” Elizabeth sat back and tilted her head to the left. “But…thanks for making it much easier for us to work things out. He really did feel so guilty about the whole thing. No telling how long it would have taken him to sort through that.”
Oh, shit. That should not be hysterical, but Carly watched as Courtney realized that Elizabeth was, in fact, correct. Had Courtney not broken up with him, tried to work it out, Jason would have attempted to continue his relationship with the blonde, even if was only for Sonny and Courtney’s sake.
“So…this whole martyr thing you’ve got going…really isn’t my fault.” Elizabeth casually sipped her water. “I let you guilt me for months because I truly felt sorry but it’s been four months. And I’m over it. I was wrong, but so were you. Suck it up, Courtney.”
“You are such a goddamn bitch. Everything Emily ever said about you was right,” Courtney hissed, and Carly saw Elizabeth’s smirk fade slightly. “You are a manipulative whore who only goes after what she can’t have. You think you’ve won, Elizabeth? You thought you had it all last summer, too, didn’t you? But he walked away from you then, and he’s going to do it again. You know it. You’re just an obligation.”
“Courtney,” Carly began, struggling to her feet. “That is enough—”
“It is not!” Courtney growled. Her eyes fixed on Elizabeth who didn’t look so confident now. “I know that Jason doesn’t give a damn about you or that baby. You’re never together, Emily told me you’re always alone at the hospital unless that dumb nurse is taking pity on you. He went to one appointment and then split. Maybe you’re screwing him now, but you can ask Carly—that never lasts. If Jason loved you, Elizabeth, he wouldn’t look so god damned pained every time I see him.”
“Listen here, you self-righteous pain in the ass,” Carly began, in the awkward position of having to defend the Muffin who looked pale. Damn her life. “Talk about using someone for sex? What the hell do you think you were? He screwed you, realized you weren’t what he wanted and went back to her. He always goes back to her—”
“Carly,” Elizabeth said softly. “It’s not worth it—”
“The hell with that. No one talks about Jason like that. No one.” She jabbed her finger at Courtney, who looked a little startled by the venom in her voice. Fucking twit. “You don’t know a damn thing about him, Elizabeth or this baby. This baby is loved by every single member of her family. How the hell would Emily know anything when she hasn’t spoken to either of them in nearly two months? You need to knock this shit off, Courtney, or you’re going to find out what I do to people who fuck with my family.” She yanked a bill out of her pocket. “Let’s go, Muffin. I’ve had enough of the scenery.”
“Since when does she rate as family? You don’t even like her!” Courtney cried as Carly gathered her bags and Elizabeth got to her feet.
Carly cast a look at Elizabeth, who just looked resigned. She looked back at Courtney, with a smirk. “Since when do you have to like family? Jason picked her, that’s good enough for me.”
Rocco came forward and took Carly’s bags, and they started out of the courtyard. Courtney’s last shot echoed after them. “Sure, you’re family now, Elizabeth, but just wait until Jason drops you, too. You’ll see how fast Carly changes her goddamn mind!”
Sonny’s Penthouse: Living Room
Carly lounged on the sofa, enjoying the bowl of ice cream she’d filched from the other penthouse. Courtney might not understand why Carly had softened towards Elizabeth, but on hot days like this—when Sonny was out of town—and Carly could indulge in all the junk Elizabeth could smuggle past the guards, she thought the world would understand.
The door opened and Jason entered in, narrowing his eyes at the bowl. “If Sonny finds out—”
Carly licked her spoon. “You gonna tell him? Because I will dime Elizabeth out so fast…” She set her bowl on the coffee table and lurched to her feet. “Thanks for coming over.”
“Well, your call said it was important.” Jason crossed his arms. “You feeling okay? Michael good?”
“Everything’s fine on this side of the building.” Carly hesitated. “Listen, I’m not sure exactly how to say what I want to say, but trust me, it’s important and my promises to Sonny, be damned, I’m going to—” She scowled when she saw Jason sigh. “Hey! This is me being a good person. You’re gonna want to mark it on the calendar and take notice.”
“What is it?”
Because now he looked like he was actually listening, even if he hated the idea, Carly sniffed and nodded. “Elizabeth and I are…we are not friends, but we are getting along because it’s just easier—”
“Do not interrupt me.” Carly wiggled her finger at him. “Anyway. Plus, we’re both pregnant and cooped up a lot, so we’ve just…reached a truce type situation.”
Jason raised an eyebrow, and the simmering impatience in his eyes told her to step this up because he was going to stop listening pretty soon and just leave. “We went to Kelly’s today for lunch and we had a pretty nasty run-in with Courtney.”
Some of the tension bled out his shoulders and he sighed, rubbing his eyes. “Yeah. I know she’s…still having a difficult time—”
“Oh, whatever.” Carly rolled her eyes. “I could give two craps about Courtney. She makes my teeth hurt, you know. People call me a drama queen, but that one is just holding on to the grudge because she can see how guilty Elizabeth feels. Anything to hurt the other woman.”
“Elizabeth is not the—” Jason pressed his lips together and shook his head. “Carly, I’m not having this conversation with you.”
“No, I get it. Courtney was the other woman. It’s pretty clear to anyone who lives on this floor.” When Jason just glared at her, Carly wanted to throw her shoe at him. Damn it. This is why she wasn’t a nicer person more often. It was goddamn exhausting and no one let you get a word out. “But,” she drawled, “it is not obvious to anyone who lives outside this building, and you are making Elizabeth miserable.”
And just like that, his face changed. The mask slid over it, and that was just the absolute last straw. No more tip toeing around this. “Jason, I know you and the Muffin are trying to work things out, or whatever, I get it. It’s clear to me that she’s your lobster, so I’m trying to be okay with that—”
“My lobster…?” The impassive look faded and now he just looked downright bewildered. “Carly, have you been drinking?”
“No!” Carly huffed. “Your lobster. Damn it, I wish you watched Friends. It’s the only thing I can do cooped up in these damn penthouses all summer. The Muffin and I got tired of court television and daytime television, so we’ve been binging on Friends and The West Wing. That’s not the point. Lobsters. They mate for life.” It still didn’t clear up the confusion in his eyes. Carly wished she could have a drink.
Being nice was a pain in the ass.
“Fine, forget the lobsters.” Carly waved a hand. “Whatever. I get it. You want Elizabeth in your life. She would like to be in your life, but you are making it impossible.”
“I am not,” Jason snapped, before he could remember he wasn’t going to have this conversation, because he put his hands at his waist and glared at her. “Carly, stay out of it.”
“I tried that. All summer. Sonny told me don’t help, Carly, you’ll only wreck it, Carly.” She snorted. “Well, see what me not helping has done? You bastards are screwing it up all by yourself. Jason, if you want her to walk away when this is all over, you’re doing a damn fine job of holding the door open.”
He cast his eyes away, but not before Carly saw the truth. God damn it he was an idiot. “Oh, you dumb son of a bitch. You already think she’s going to. That’s why…” She braced one hand at her back, clenched the other in a fist and smacked herself in the forehead. “Oh, you two are going to be the death of me. This is it. This is my last foray into the world of being nice.”
“I’m going to go now, Carly, but this has been…disturbing.” Jason turned, his hand was on the door knob.
“No, damn it. I didn’t make my point,” Carly protested. “Jason, this is where talking is better than just assuming. She thinks you will never love her child the way you loved Michael, the way you would if it were your own. So she’s just not talking about it with you to make things easier. But that’s not why you’re not talking about it, not going to the doctor’s, not setting up a damn nursery. It’s because you think she’s going to walk away anyway.”
“Carly, what is your point?” Jason demanded, but he didn’t deny her words.
“My point is that if you keep trying to protect yourself, you’re just going to make it easier for her to go,” Carly retorted. “Because she’ll put up with you not loving the baby until Cady’s here, but once she brings her home, and this situation is over, what’s going to tie her to a man who doesn’t love her child? You think you can stop yourself from loving that baby because you don’t talk about her, because you don’t get involved with doctors?”
“You done now, Carly?”
“You are ruining your chance—”
“I’m going.” Jason pulled open the door.
“You don’t get to choose—”
The door slammed and Carly stomped her foot. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Why wouldn’t he just let her help?
Men. Fucking morons.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason fought the urge to slam the door behind him as he entered his home, dropping his keys on the desk. Elizabeth often napped in the afternoons and he didn’t want to wake her.
Goddamn Carly. Why couldn’t she just stay out of it? She didn’t know the whole story, and he was tired of people pretending they knew what was going on in his head. How the fuck could they know, when he barely knew on a daily basis? From the second this entire plan had started, he’d known it would end in disaster. He wasn’t the kind of person who got have everything he wanted and what he wanted more than anything else in the world was for Elizabeth and the baby to stay with him forever. That would never happen, even if Elizabeth promised it would. Inevitably, she’d walked away.
No one had ever stayed. Not Robin. Robin had told him she could deal with the job as long as they were together, but that wasn’t true. She’d tried to have Sonny fire him, and then she’d taken Michael from him because she wanted to protect him from Carly. Like he needed goddamn protection from Carly. He knew Carly better than she knew herself. Of course she was going to use Michael like a weapon against him—Carly was always on the offensive, always looking for the second shoe to drop. But Robin never understood that it was all worth it to keep Michael. She’d just thought she knew better and destroyed his life.
Carly hadn’t stayed with him either, had told him she loved him and wanted to be family, but Carly always protected herself first. She’d wanted to make sure she could keep Michael and had ran right over to the Quartermaines, accused him of kidnapping and married AJ to cement her own custody. Even if Jason had been half-in love with her then (and he wasn’t entirely sure that was the case), she hadn’t stayed either.
And it went without saying, Elizabeth had never stayed before. She had never chosen him unless he was the default. Lucky didn’t love her anymore, so it was safe to finally admit how she felt about him. Most of the time, Jason even understood her waffling back then, and he wasn’t lying to her when he said he didn’t hold it against her. He didn’t, but Elizabeth had never stayed. First Lucky, then Zander, then that stupid lie about Sonny.
So why should he get attached to her daughter, fall in love with her? Michael had been his son, but not by blood, so he couldn’t keep him. How could he keep this new child, who still wasn’t his? What if Elizabeth got angry with him? What if she thought her daughter would be safer away from him?
So Carly didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. He knew Elizabeth was going to walk out when this was over. If not the day after, then maybe months down the line. And when she left, he was going to make damn sure he kept enough of himself together to keep going.
This wasn’t going to be like losing Michael. He wasn’t going to find himself bleeding in the snow, wishing for death because he was alone. Not this time.
His resolve still strong, he started up the stairs, intending to check to see if Elizabeth was napping. He’d seen Cody outside, which meant she was somewhere in the penthouse. He looked in their room, and saw that it was empty and wondered if the run-in with Courtney had been worse than Carly hinted. He hated asking the guards for information like this but he doubted Elizabeth would tell him.
He heard rustling from the room that had been Elizabeth’s room the first few weeks she’d been here, and he pushed the ajar door open to reveal Elizabeth sitting on the floor next to the bed, a collection of bags at her feet. When the door creaked open, her head twisted and her startled eyes flew up to meet his. “Jason—I—I didn’t think…” She bit her lip and looked at the sweater she was holding.
The miniature white sweater, meant for a baby. And then Jason realized she’d been going through baby clothes, which had been kept in bags in the guest room. He saw a cardboard box halfway out of the closet, with a few more bags.
Something twisted inside him as he realized that Carly was right. Elizabeth had sensed his reluctance to talk about the baby and had done what was necessary to keep it from coming between them, so she’d prepared for her child in secret, stuffing all the evidence in a closet.
He exhaled slowly, and she glanced away. “I…I was just…putting this stuff away—” She started shoving clothes back in their bags, reaching for the box.
“Wait a second.” Jason rubbed the side of his face, and wondered if he’d ever really believed he’d be able to protect himself from watching Elizabeth take her daughter and leave him one day?
It was already too late.
“You…” He entered the room and sat next to her, reaching for one of the soft white t-shirts she’d been pulling from its package. “You need a better place to put these things.”
Elizabeth looked at him, her beautiful eyes filled with apprehension. “I…” Still chewing on her lower lip, she glanced away, towards a pink onesie proclaiming I Love My Aunt. He closed his eyes. Carly was doing a better job at supporting Elizabeth through her pregnancy than he was. No wonder she was so sure Elizabeth was going to walk away from him.
“You should…look at the guest rooms,” Jason said slowly. “Which one you like best.” When she just frowned at him, he continued. “For the baby…” Carly’s words came back to him, and he hesitated. “I think Carly said you were calling her Cady?”
“You’ve talked to Carly?” Elizabeth said, with a shaky sigh. “I guess she told you about Courtney.”
“Yeah…” Jason leaned back against the bed. “I’m sorry she’s still giving you a difficult time.”
“She’s not saying anything that isn’t true,” Elizabeth murmured, lingering over a sun dress. “She was angry that I was having lunch with Carly. That I was trying to steal her life. I’m not…” Her fingers tightened on the outfit. “I just…Carly’s been…uncharacteristically nice to me, and without Emily…” She hesitated. “I know Nadine is my friend, but with Carly…there’s not…she knows the truth.”
“Yeah.” Carly did know the truth, which Jason had half suspected all along, and he was surprised she’d handled it as well as she had so far. “I get that. Elizabeth, I—”
“And, yeah, Carly and I talked about names, because she was telling me they’re going with Morgan Stone.” When he winced, her smile deepened, looked more genuine. “Don’t be modest, Jason. Carly said you’re the reason she has Sonny in her life, that she’s having this baby. She just wants to honor that.”
“I guess.” Jason scratched the back of his neck, still uncomfortable. “So Cady?”
“Yeah…short for Cadence.” Elizabeth slowly folded the sun dress. “Cadence Audrey.” Her hand slid to her abdomen and she jolted. “Whoa.”
“What’s…” He hesitated, because he thought he knew. She suddenly reached for his hand and drew it against her belly.
“Can you feel that?” Elizabeth asked her eyes wide and shining. “She was kicking—”
And then he did feel it. A light bump under his hand, and he couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face. “Yeah, I feel her. That’s…” Jason swallowed. “She’s going to be here soon.”
Some of the light dimmed from her eyes, and he felt like he’d been punched, because he’d done that to her. He’d wanted to protect her from Ric, to keep her child safe, and somehow he’d ended up making her feel guilty for being excited, for looking forward to it, as if she didn’t have the right. “Elizabeth, I am so…” He didn’t know how to say it, how to make this better. Instead of trying to explain himself, he just said, “We’re going to need that nursery sooner rather than later, don’t you think?”
Her smile brightened a little. “Yeah…I guess we are.” She rested her forehead against his, and he closed his eyes, wondering if it was too late to change what was going to happen, if it was too late to prevent her from walking away.