There were those empty threats and hollow lies
And whenever you tried to hurt me
I just hurt you even worse
And so much deeper
There were hours that just went on for days
When alone at last we’d count up all the chances
That were lost to us forever
– It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, Celine Dion
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
General Hospital: Carly’s Room
Every single inch of Carly’s body hurt. It ached. It screamed with pain. And yet…
She looked down into the face of her newborn son and couldn’t think of a moment in her life when she’d been happier. “Look at him,” she murmured to no one in particular. “He’s so perfect.”
She felt Sonny’s soft lips against her forehead and she almost closed her eyes to savor the sensation, but if she closed her eyes, she’d miss this moment. Morgan Stone Corinthos was twenty minutes old and he was the most perfect baby on Earth.
“I missed so much of this with Michael,” Carly said softly. “I was coming out of surgery…then I had post-partum. I left him, Sonny. And even when I could finally hold him, he was kidnapped and I was in Ferncliffe for all those months. He was almost a year old before I could even be his mother.”
“That won’t happen with Morgan, Carly.” She looked up, and his eyes were glossy. “It’s going to be better this time.”
The door opened slightly, and a nurse smiled brightly. “Hey! I have some visitors for mama and son.” She stepped aside and Elizabeth stepped in, Jason just behind her. Carly grinned.
“Hey, Muffin. Come see what you get to look forward to.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and came to the side of the bed opposite of Sonny, Jason on her heels. “Oh, just look at him, Carly.” She reached out with her finger to touch Morgan’s soft cheek. “How beautiful he is…”
“I know. It’s a good thing you’re having a girl, because I think my baby is the most beautiful baby boy and I’d hate for us to fight over that title.” She grinned and saw Jason looking at his feet. No. Not today. This wasn’t about him today.
This was about her second chance at being a good mother from day one. “Jase, you wanna hold your namesake?”
Jason hesitated and then nodded. Elizabeth moved out of the way, so he could come closer and take Morgan from Carly. He lifted the little boy in his arms, and smiled down at him. “He looks so different from Michael,” he said after a moment.
“Yeah?” Carly said, leaning back and letting her exhausted body relax. She reached over and took Sonny’s hand in hers, clutching it to her chest. “How so? I mean, I have the pictures…but…” She bit her lip. “Not from the day he was born.”
“He was too sick for pictures,” Jason said quietly. “And there…wasn’t anyone there really. I didn’t…” He cleared his throat. “I should have.” He hesitated. “Michael had lighter coloring, I think.”
“You can already tell Morgan’s going to take after Sonny,” Elizabeth volunteered, leaning up to peer at the baby. “His hair is already dark.”
“It might change,” Jason told her, glancing at her. “Michael had dark hair at first, but then it lightened to red.”
Carly saw Elizabeth’s face dim slightly as she watched Jason talk about Michael’s first days with a smile on his face, recalling his first moments as Michael’s father, and she knew what the other woman was thinking. Where was this love and affection for her child? Carly cleared her throat, and forced a smile. “Jason, let the Muffin have him for a minute. Let her get some practice.”
And it was sad how awkward the moment was as Jason gently laid Morgan in Elizabeth’s arms, and waited for her to support his head before letting his hands fall away. “I have to say,” Carly said, ignoring the tension in the air, “I’m annoyed that you’re starting your ninth month and you still aren’t as large as I was. It’s appalling.”
“Liz is…” Sonny coughed delicately. “Well, she’s shorter than you. You know.” Carly narrowed her eyes at him, and he smiled innocently. She knew what the bastard was saying. Elizabeth was a petite little angel, and Carly was a svelte cow. He’d pay for that later.
“He’s so light,” Elizabeth murmured, staring down at Morgan. “I haven’t really held that many babies, but I guess I thought he’d weigh more.” She looked up at Carly. “He’s so beautiful.”
Sonny nudged her and Carly remembered what they’d talked about. “Oh…uh, Sonny and I discussed it and we thought…um…” She cleared her throat. “I’d like it if you were Morgan’s godparents.” She flicked her eyes between them. “Both of you.”
Elizabeth blinked, clearly stunned. “Carly….I don’t know what to say.”
“Believe me, Muffin, this isn’t exactly what I thought would happen when I got pregnant,” Carly said dryly. “But we are where we are in life. Morgan is going to be Cady’s cousin. I don’t want you to ever think that just because…” She cast a glance at Jason, whose face was set in a mask. Frick it. “I don’t want you to ever think that because Ric is biologically her father that it matters to me or to Sonny. All we’re going to see is our niece. Morgan and Michael’s cousin. A little girl we’re going to love to pieces. Whether you like it or not.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them, they were shining with tears and even a little anguish. “Thank you, Carly. I can’t speak for Jason, but it would be an honor to be Morgan’s godmother.”
“Jase?” Carly asked, looking at him. “Will you be his godfather?”
“Yeah.” Jason cleared his throat. “Yeah, Carly. I will. Thank you.”
“Good. Gimme my baby.” Carly held out her arms, and Jason engineered the exchange as Elizabeth couldn’t lean in towards Carly very far.
“I already asked Sonny to be Cady’s godfather,” Elizabeth said hesitantly, looking at Carly’s husband, who was smiling. “Because I…feel the way you do. That Sonny is her uncle, and that he’d love her anyway. But I hadn’t…really decided about a godmother.” She paused. “I think I hoped Emily and I would be speaking by then, and I thought maybe Nadine…but it’s clear to me that it should be you, Carly.”
Oh, hell. She was going to cry now. “Oh…I…” she cleared her throat.
“It surprised the crap out of me,” Elizabeth continued with a shaky laugh, “but you’ve been my rock during this, and I can’t think of anyone who’d love her more.”
“Well, frick, Muffin…” Carly sniffled. Damn these hormones. “This is an odd turn of events.”
“You’re telling me.” Elizabeth wiped at her tears. “I guess I always figured there was a reason Jason kept you around, but it wasn’t until this summer that I actually understood it.”
Carly glanced at her best friend, and sighed when she saw the discomfort on his face. “What is this magical reason? Maybe Jason wants to enlighten me.”
“Because it’s easier to be your friend than to kick you out?” Jason offered with a hesitant smile. Carly scowled. “No…Elizabeth is right.” He wrapped an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders and looked at Carly. “Even when you annoy me, I know you…mean well.”
“Hmm…” She’d take what she’d get. “So it’s settled. Let’s stop this sappy crap about us, and let’s concentrate on my beautiful perfect son.”
“Yours?” Sonny lifted his eyebrows.
“Listen, pal, I just shoved this kid out of my body. Damn right, mine.”
Saturday, November 9, 2003
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“Let me just grab this one thing,” Elizabeth said, standing at the doorway to the penthouse and smiling over her shoulder at Nadine. “It’s a present for Morgan, and then we’ll head over to Carly’s so you can meet him.”
Nadine grinned. “I’m going to go meet the local godfather’s new son. It’s a crazy life I lead, Liz. I’m telling you.” She examined her hands. “Can I use the bathroom at your place? I’m not sure I got all the sauce off my hands from Eli’s.”
“Sure.” Elizabeth flashed a smile at Francis, who stood by the door, and then pushed her door open.
Elizabeth blinked at the room she’d left only two hours ago to see it covered in decorations and filled with women. “Oh…my God.” She pressed a hand to her mouth. Her grandmother stood by the sofa with a beaming smile, while Carly and Morgan were seated. Bobbie, Monica, Penny, Kelly and several of her grandmother’s friends—her eyes watered when she saw Gail Baldwin, her old counselor, standing near the windows.
“Surprised?” Nadine said from behind her. She stepped inside and reached over to the desk to grab a few things. She placed a sash over Elizabeth’s chest, proclaiming her to be Queen for the Day, and then a plastic tiara on her head.
“I am…” Elizabeth shook her head. “Beyond words.”
Audrey strode forward and took her granddaughter’s hands in her own. “I’m so glad, Darling. We hoped we could surprise you.” She pulled her over to a rocking chair decorated with streamers and balloons at the base of the stairs. “Do you recognize this?”
“Gramps’ chair,” Elizabeth murmured, running her hand across the back. A tear slid down her cheek. “Gram…”
“Sit, sit.” Audrey held the chair still while Nadine held Elizabeth’s hand as she lowered herself into the chair. “So, just to make sure credit is given where it’s due…Nadine was obviously in charge of keeping you occupied and supplied refreshments, I gathered the guests, while Carly handled the decorations.”
Elizabeth found Carly’s annoyed look, recognizing it as one she often had herself, when she realized that somewhere along the way she and Carly had gone from being enemies to uneasy allies to family. “Five minutes out of the hospital?” she arched an eyebrow.”
“Ha. I got this stuff together weeks ago,” Carly said. “And then I made Jason, Sonny and Max hang it. It’s my revenge for nine months of health food.” She snorted.
“Thank you.” Elizabeth looked around at the room and refused to be sad that Emily wasn’t there. Though she knew Emily had been around in the days after her botched kidnapping, she hadn’t spoken to her. “Thank you all for coming.”
“I know people generally do games and whatnot,” Nadine said. “And I thought about it, but I figured it wasn’t your type of thing, so we set up a buffet for snacks and drinks and you get to open some gifts.”
“I like gifts,” Elizabeth said with a bright smile. “Do I get to start now?”
“Absolutely!” Audrey reached for a large box, and Monica stood.
“That’s from myself and Lila, sweetheart,” she said. “Lila wanted to be here, but with the weather…”
“Oh, it’s not even a problem.” Elizabeth hesitated, feeling uncomfortable with Monica’s obvious excitement, but she pushed it away. She carefully unwrapped the beautifully wrapped gift. Tossing the paper aside, she waited while Nadine stabilized the box on her lap so she could pull off the top.
Inside was a beautiful white dress made from lace and silk, with a matching bonnet. She looked up at Monica, who smiled. “It was Lila’s christening gown. Her mother wore it as well, so it’s quite old. I believe it was handmade in 1887, in London where Lila’s family is from. So Lila wore it, then Tracy.” She hesitated. “And Tracy was the last Quartermaine girl to be born in to the family. I know…” She shifted slightly. “I know that your daughter is going to be a Morgan, but in Lila’s heart…”
“Monica…” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her mouth, wishing that she was worthy of such a gift. She cleared her throat. “I know…I know Jason would agree with me, that any daughter of his is part of Lila’s family, so of course…” She pressed her eyes closed, but a few tears slid down her cheeks. “This is…so beautiful. I promise to take very good care of it, so the next Quartermaine girl can enjoy it.”
“And there’s something else in the box, from me.” Monica nodded.
Elizabeth set the dress back inside and found a velvet case underneath some tissue paper. She handed the box to Nadine who set it on the desk to keep it safe. Elizabeth opened the case to find a single strand of pearls. “I…” She looked up at her friend’s mother with trepidation. “These are beautiful…”
“It’s another tradition from Edward’s side of the family,” Monica said. “When Lila had Alan, Edward’s mother gave her a strand of pearls and told her that they ought to be passed down to the mother of Lila’s first born grandchild.” She took a deep breath. “So Lila gave these to me after AJ was born. I’m not sure why she didn’t give them to Tracy.” She slid a glance at Carly who only lifted an eyebrow. “I…considered giving these to Carly,” she admitted, looking at the blonde, “but it never felt right.”
“It’s fine,” Carly shrugged.
Satisfied, Monica turned back to Elizabeth. “But when Jason came to tell me personally that you two were having a child, I…it felt right to finally pass these on.”
Elizabeth looked down at the pearls and touched them gingerly with her fingers.
She was such a fraud.
Morgan Penthouse: Nursery
Jason only sighed when he entered the penthouse that night, spying drooping decorations as evidence of Elizabeth’s baby shower from earlier that day. Carly had made him hang them, so he was sure it was going to be his job to take them down, as well. He hoped Elizabeth had a good time, was relieved that so many people had wanted to celebrate this with her.
He started up the stairs and stopped at the door to the nursery. He had not been back in this room since the day he and Elizabeth had taken measurements. Since then, he knew it had been painted and furniture had been moved in. He pushed the door open to find Elizabeth sitting in the corner of the room, between an oak crib and the window, slowly rocking in a wooden chair, her hands over her belly.
“Hey.” He leaned against the door jamb and took in the room in the dying sunlight. She’d gone with soft peaches and cream colors in this room, and he saw that over the crib, Cadence Audrey had been painted in swirling pink letters, accented by stars and moons. “It looks like you guys had a good time.”
“We did,” Elizabeth said, looking at him with a soft smile, her eyes tired. “Carly told me you helped with the decorations. Thanks.”
“She threatened to do them herself,” Jason said. “Which was just a ploy, but Sonny didn’t trust her to stay off a ladder.” He shifted and looked around the room, finding a few gift boxes and some bags. “Were you surprised?”
“Astounded.” Elizabeth sighed, and smoothed her hand down the arm of her chair. “This was one of my grandmother’s gifts, you know. It was my grandfather’s. It sat in the room that Sarah and I shared at her house from the time we were babies until we moved here and it ended up being Sarah’s.” Her eyes dipped down to look at the wood. “I remember being three or four, and he would rock me in this. I’d sit on his lap and he’d read to me. Usually from a medical journal, but I never cared. I just liked the sound of his voice.”
“Then it’s good to have it here,” Jason said after a moment, not really sure what to say. “So you can…do the same with your daughter.”
“Yeah…” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “With my daughter.” Without looking at him, she continued. “Do you see that box on the changing table?”
Jason stepped into the room and saw a large open box with a white dress and a velvet case sitting next to it. “Yeah. Who’s that from?”
“Your mother.” Elizabeth opened her eyes and met his. “It’s your grandmother’s christening gown, handmade by her grandmother in London in 1887. Lila’s mother wore it, Lila wore it, Tracy wore it, but no one else since.” He watched her mouth twist into a grimaced smile. “She was worried you might not want to use it since it’s a Quartermaine heirloom.”
“I…” Jason swallowed and looked back at the dress again. He cleared his throat. “Maybe I wouldn’t have once, but…it’s from Lila’s side of the family.”
“That’s what I told her.” Elizabeth rocked for a moment. “There are pearls in that case, from Edward’s mother. She gave them to Lila when Alan was born, and told her to pass them down to the mother of her first grandchild. But for some reason, Lila gave them to Monica rather than Tracy. Maybe she felt they should go to a woman coming into the family, that there were other pieces for daughters.” She shrugged, and he frowned at her, confused by her mood. “Anyway, Monica told me that it never felt right to give them to Carly, but with me…” She exhaled slowly. “For some reason, she feels right giving them to me.”
“I didn’t know what to say to her, to this woman who’s been so supportive of me these last few months, who just wants to be a part of your life. She was so grateful to be included today, so sure that she was always going to be on the outside looking in when it came to you. She handed me these beautiful gifts, cherished mementos of your family…and I cried.”
He swallowed hard. “I—”
“Because I don’t deserve them.” She met his eyes, and he saw such bleakness in them. “I’m a fraud, Jason. When we started this, maybe I thought like you did, that it would be a matter of weeks, but as it became clear I was going to spend months pretending to be the mother of your child, I began to understand how difficult this was going to be. I tried to explain it to you once, but I know you didn’t get it. Do you…do you understand now?”
“I…” Jason gripped the wooden changing table, and took a deep breath. “Because you and I know the truth.”
“No.” Elizabeth shook her head, that same small smile on her face. “You told me once that we had to figure out how to do this without complicating things, and I know you feel the same way now as you did then, even though I thought…we might have a chance. I thought…after spending all these months together, that you might…see the future the way I want to…that you would see us as a family.”
“I do,” Jason said, but his words were hollow because he knew it was too late for her to believe them. He hadn’t done enough to convince her, and now he didn’t think anything would. “I do,” he repeated. “I just…”
“You didn’t want to complicate things,” Elizabeth repeated, as if he hadn’t spoken. “Because you didn’t want to be her father, and even now, you don’t.”
“No…” Jason shook his head. “I never said that—”
“You didn’t have to.” Elizabeth met his eyes, and he froze at the finality in her gaze. “I got the point. Because every time we took a step forward, I took it and you just followed. I wanted to fix our friendship, I wanted to make things work between us. And you let me believe we could.”
“We still can,” Jason said roughly, trying to think of the words that would stop this from happening.
“Nadine told me months ago that I needed to be brave, that I need to ask you about tomorrow.” She sighed wistfully and looked out the window, as the sun dipped below the horizon and the room slowly slid into shadows. “I was scared to do it, scared to ask you what you wanted from me, what you saw for us, because I always knew the answer.”
“You don’t…” Jason stopped and took a deep breath. “I know I’ve messed things up, but if you just let me explain—”
“I sit here, and I think back over these last few months, and really…” Elizabeth paused. “They’ve been good ones. Even with the tension and the danger, there were moments I spent with you that were happier than any in years. I wanted our friendship back, Jason, and in some ways, I got it.”
“I wanted it, too.” He just wanted her to stop talking, to stop saying things in that tone of voice that sounded like she was building up to something he didn’t want to hear. How could he make her stop?
“But in the most important ways…I failed.” She exhaled, the breath almost shaky. “I spent years in a relationship where I stuck my head in the sand and ignored the reality. Ignored the way my head screamed every time Lucky made me unhappy, because I was so sure we could get those moments back, that we could be who we used to be before the fire. I can’t do it again, Jason. I can’t spend another day with you, pretending that our friendship is what it used to be.”
“So it changed,” Jason said. “It’s different. That’s fine. Things don’t have to stay the same—”
“So, after Cady is born, I think it’s best if I go back to my own room,” Elizabeth said as if he hadn’t spoken. “We haven’t made love in almost a month anyway, since I’ve been uncomfortable. And then, when this is over, when Ric and Faith aren’t threats, we’ll talk about how to end the rest of this.”
“Elizabeth, I know I’ve made mistakes. I just…I didn’t…” He couldn’t find the words. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“And you still haven’t give me a reason to stay,” Elizabeth murmured. “So it appears we’re exactly where we were all those months ago.”
His chest was tight, and for some reason, he wished Carly were here, because she’d know the words he needed to say to make Elizabeth understand. Carly always knew about words. Jason had never been good with them, had always relied on actions.
But it was his actions that had doomed him in this, so it was going to have to be words. He cleared his throat. “Elizabeth,” he began. “We’re not the same people we were last year, or even this summer, when you moved back in. I know I haven’t made it easy on you, that I’ve made you feel like I think you were a burden, that your child was an obligation, or even worse, a mistake, but—”
“You still…don’t get it.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “My child. You say it all the time. My child. My baby. My daughter.”
He drew his brows together and shook his head. “Elizabeth, she is—”
“I’m tired,” she murmured. “I think I want to be alone for a while.”
“But you have to let me fix this—”
“Jason…” She looked at him again, her eyes shining in the darkness with her tears. “I can’t…do this anymore. I don’t want there to be bitterness. Not now. You’ve kept me safe, made it possible for me to be a mother without fear. I want to remember these months with a smile, and if you keep trying to explain or fix something that cannot be fixed, then I won’t be able to. I’ll only remember how painful it was at the end.”
He dipped his head and took a deep breath. “All right.” He nodded. “Okay.” He stepped out of the room and leaned against the wall.
Carly had warned him for months that if he kept protecting himself, kept his distance, he’d drive Elizabeth away. He’d always seen her point, but he realized now that a part of him had hoped that it wouldn’t come to this, that somehow they’d find a way to make this right or that he’d wake up one morning without his belief that this situation was temporary, that this idea of family in front him wasn’t ephemeral.
It had never happened, and instead, the day he’d been expecting arrived anyway. Elizabeth was going to leave and take her daughter, leaving him alone.
And it was no one’s fault but his own.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Corinthos & Morgan Coffee Warehouse: Sonny’s Office
Sonny wondered if he took the rubber band he was playing with and shot it straight at Damien Spinelli’s forehead, if it’d be as entertaining as he thought it might be. Again, the computer tech was speaking in babble, tossing out Jackal, assassins, awesomes, and other words that made Sonny feel homicidal.
He looked at Jason, who was staring out the window, looking as exhausted as Sonny felt. He wondered what Jason had to be exhausted about, seeing as Sonny was the one with an infant at home who never slept. Something had changed after Elizabeth’s baby shower a few weeks ago. Jason was withdrawn, even sullen.
“Listen,” Sonny said suddenly, causing Spinelli to drop off in the middle of his spiel. “I want you to tell me what you found in English. I don’t wanna have this conversation every damn time you come in this office, you know. I want plain English. I pay you well enough.”
“Yes, Mr. Sir. I am endeavoring to correct some of my annoying nervous eccentricities,” Spinelli nodded. “I spoke to…” He hesitated, “Stan…” as if the name was unfamiliar and he had to remind himself not use some ridiculous nickname. “And we were working on a solution to the problems in the casino that have cropped up.”
“I thought you were still working on the shell companies,” Jason said roughly
“I am,” Spinelli said, “I am, Stone Cold, sir, but it is quite difficult as none of the attached accounts are currently being withdrawn upon, so I am unable to trace that which does not exist. That being said…Stan…believes that the problems in the casino indicate that the person causing them is on-site.”
Sonny straightened. “Why?” he demanded quickly. “Why would he think that?”
“The nature of these particular problems,” Spinelli remarked. “There are dealers at the tables who show up one night, and then quit. Customers who bring in almost nothing to start playing, win big and then never return. Money is being siphoned again, but in smaller amounts. The problems are diverse, which cannot be set by a remote computer as was the case with the problems in August.”
“So you’re saying that things are so screwed up,” Sonny said, pissed, “that it can only mean the bastard is pulling the strings from the casino itself.”
“Or he’s turned someone close to us. Carlos, or Tommy,” Jason pointed out, rubbing his forehead. “He could be in contact with one of them, and they could cause trouble. But…he’d have to be in contact to keep this up.”
“Yes, sir,” Spinelli bobbed his head. “There’s no set pattern to the types of problems — they could happen in any casino where management is badly handled. I am working on new arrivals to the area, but it’s a large search area and maybe useless.”
“We need someone on-site to look at it in depth,” Sonny said, wishing he could just sink the damn island into the ocean. “Who the hell are we going to send? I can’t leave Carly and Morgan, not unless I want Carly to set me on fire. Johnny and Tommy aren’t really equipped—”
“I’ll go,” Jason said quietly.
Sonny just blinked at him and then looked at Spinelli. “Be ready to go to Puerto Rico by tomorrow morning,” he told the tech. “I’ll call you later and let you know what’s going on.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Sir.” Spinelli left the room.
“You can’t go,” Sonny said firmly. “Elizabeth may not be due for another two weeks, but due dates are really just guesses. She could probably go into labor at any point—”
“She needs this to be over,” Jason said. He leaned forward, his knees parted, his hands clasped between them. “She needs to be free of Ric Lansing. You and Carly are here, her grandmother and Nadine. She doesn’t—”
“That is goddamn bullshit,” Sonny growled. “You want to run out on her before she has the baby. You could miss it.” He shook his head and sat back in his chair. “I don’t get you, Jase. I really don’t. I got Carly worried all summer that you’re messing this up, and I keep telling her that maybe you’re not as smooth as she’d like, but you and Elizabeth still stumble through this. You got this far. But you’re sitting there, telling me you’ll go to Puerto Rico mere days before your girlfriend has—” He hesitated. “Before she has the baby, and you think you can tell me she’s got enough people here that she doesn’t need you?” He shook his head. “Bullshit, Jason. At least have the guts to tell me the truth.”
“I don’t owe you an explanations,” Jason said stiffly. “One of us has to go to Puerto Rico. You went the last time, I’m going.”
Sonny got to his feet. “Don’t fucking me tell me you don’t owe me any explanations. I supported you in this asinine plan from the beginning. I told you we could protect her, even if you hadn’t claimed the baby. You put Elizabeth in the position of pretending to be the mother of your child, and you’ve resented it from goddamn day one and I’ll be damned if I understand why. This was your bright idea and you’re a goddamn piece of shit if you run out on her now—”
Jason lunged to his feet, his face tight with anger. “You don’t know what you’re talking about—”
“Carly keeps feeding me some bullshit about how you’re so broken up over losing Michael, but I don’t buy it.” Sonny dragged his hands through his hair, thinking for the first time in their friendship he might actually lunge over this desk and punch his best friend. “At least man up and say it straight out. You don’t want to raise Ric Lansing’s child.”
Jason’s hands fisted at his sides, and he thought Jason might be close to landing a punch as well. “Fuck off, Sonny. I don’t give a damn about that.”
“No?” Sonny shrugged. “Could have fooled me. You’ve been pining after Elizabeth Webber for years, long before either one of you saw it, I did.” He pressed a hand to his chest. “I saw it that winter, the way you two talked about one another. You’ve spent so many years wanting to be with her, that now that you’re with her, you don’t know what the hell to do with it.”
“Drop it, Sonny—”
Sonny dropped into his chair and just stared at his friend. “I honestly don’t get it.” His tone was quiet now, perplexed. “I know how much you love her. I knew why you claimed the baby all those months ago, and I didn’t say anything then. I thought you guys were working things out, but you never saw it lasting beyond the end of this fiasco. You always saw it with expiration date.”
“Sonny, I’m going to Puerto Rico.”
“Whatever.” Sonny shook his head. “You’ve been walking away from Elizabeth since the day you met her. I don’t know why I’m so surprised you’re doing it again.” He reached for his phone, to call the airfield. “This time, Jason, you walk away, she’s not going to come back—”
“She didn’t come back to me this time,” Jason growled. “Did she? Don’t accuse me of walking away from her—she walked first.”
“The hell she did.” Sonny slapped his hand against the desk. “You did it. You walked away that first time, because your feelings were changing, and you lost the best chance you had, because she got sucked into the Lucky Spencer debacle for years. And you walked away from her again for a year when she was still figuring out what it meant to love two people at once. And maybe she left the penthouse last fall, but you walked away first.”
“She left me because of you,” Jason retorted. “Isn’t that what you’ve been saying? That it was your fault—”
“It was,” Sonny nodded. “Because when you asked to tell her, I should have agreed, but I’ll be damned if you don’t take responsibility for your part. You could have told me to go to hell, that you loved her as much as I loved Carly and you were going to tell her whether I liked it or not. You didn’t fight for her. And you didn’t exactly go back to her this time, either. You two just ended up in the same situation. So you’re both cowards, but at least she had the guts to try.”
He saw Jason bow his head and take a deep breath. “She’s already planning to leave,” his friend said in a much softer tone. “She told me after her baby shower. And there was nothing I could say to make her stay. She begged for me not to argue with her, because she didn’t want to remember us ending in anger. Not like last time.”
“And she’s walking because you’ve never let her back in again.” Sonny sighed. “Well, I can’t blame her. Can you?” He picked up his phone and dialed the number of the airfield. “Run to Puerto Rico, Jason. Take the easy way out. But you’re the one that’s telling her you’re leaving.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Jason paused outside the door to the penthouse, and took a deep breath. He had driven around for nearly an hour after storming out of Sonny’s office at the warehouse, wanting to be calm when he came home to tell Elizabeth he’d be leaving town.
He knew Sonny was right, it only made what he was doing worse. But after that conversation in the nursery, Jason didn’t know how to make this better. All his efforts to stay distanced from the baby, to be with Elizabeth and not think about the future…they’d been in vain. He lay next to her at night and he could feel the baby kicking against his side when Elizabeth was curled up on her side at night.
He knew he loved this child, because it was part of Elizabeth, and she was going to be such an amazing mother. He should have embraced the idea months ago, shouldn’t have allowed whatever was in his head to affect the way he treated Elizabeth.
But he hadn’t. He’d thought he could hold her at arm’s length, have these moments and then not lose himself when she walked away. Even now, after he knew it was a certainty that she’d leave, after he knew how he felt about Cady, he was still trying to protect himself.
If he did miss the birth, if he wasn’t in the room when Cady was born, if he could get rid of Ric before that moment, then maybe he could spare himself. To watch Michael from afar, to never be his father…he couldn’t put himself through that again. After all these years, he still saw the little boy and his heart would swell, remembering what it had been like during that first year when he’d been a father. He knew Michael didn’t think of him that way, that Sonny was his father in every way that mattered.
To Jason, Michael would always be his son. He didn’t know how to turn that off.
“Everything okay, Jason?” Cody asked, and Jason looked at him. “You’re…just…” He hesitated. “Standing there.”
Jason sighed, and pushed the door open. Elizabeth sat on the sofa, her legs up, her back against the armrest. They had spent the last two weeks in a great deal of silence, sharing most meals and still residing in the same bedroom. She’d told him that to move her things back to the guest room at this point just felt like a waste of energy, and she’d deal with it when she wasn’t pregnant anymore.
“Hey.” He closed the door and dropped his keys on the desk.
She glanced up from her sketchpad, “Hey,” she said absently. “Are you going to be home for dinner?”
“Uh…yeah.” He sat in the arm chair and stared at the wooden coffee table. “I…wanted…I have to go out of town.”
Her pencil stilled, but she didn’t look up. “Oh?”
“There’s more problems in the casinos in Puerto Ric,” Jason told her. “Spinelli—the tech guy—thinks whoever is doing it is actually down there pulling the strings.”
“So you think Ric is in Puerto Rico.” Elizabeth nodded and looked up, her gaze unreadable. “And you’re going down to check it out.”
“Yeah. It’s…the closest we’ve come to a lead on him since he split town all those months ago.” Jason shifted. “I don’t…know how long it will take.”
The knuckles on the hand holding the sketchpad were nearly white, but her voice was even when she spoke again. “I suppose it will take as long as it takes.”
“I…” Jason hesitated. “I’m sorry. It’s just…it has to be me or Sonny, and Sonny can’t—”
“He just had a baby,” Elizabeth murmured, her pencil moving again, but he thought she was only pretending now and not actually sketching. “He’d never hear the end of it from Carly.”
“That’s…what he said.” He exhaled in a short quick breath. “Elizabeth, I’m—”
“Don’t apologize.” Her eyes flicked to meet his and he still couldn’t see what she was thinking, feeling. “Jason, you’re doing exactly what you promised me you do all those months ago. You told me that you were going to get Ric out of my life to keep me and my daughter safe. You’ve never promised me more than that. So…go do what you have to do.”
“Okay.” She wasn’t angry, but he wanted her to be. At least when they argued, she was in the conversation. This…tense, cold acceptance of the situation was discomforting. “I don’t have to leave until tomorrow morning—”
“Oh, good.” Elizabeth glanced towards the kitchen. “I’ll heat up the lasagna Sonny brought us the other day.”
“I’ll do it,” Jason told her, getting to his feet. “You don’t need to be…on your feet.”
Elizabeth shrugged and returned to her sketchbook. He headed for the kitchen, still tense and waiting for the second shoe to drop.
Morgan Penthouse: Bedroom
It dropped the next morning, when he slipped out of bed to dress. They’d shared another quiet dinner and then later, they’d gone up to bed. For the first time in over a month, she’d reached for him, and though it hadn’t been easy, they’d made love, and he knew she intended it to be the last time.
They’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms, and then he’d woken up, and dressed. He leaned over the bed to brush a kiss to her forehead. “I’ll see you later,” he murmured.
He was almost out the door before he heard her soft answer. “Goodbye.”