Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
Jason slowly opened his eyes and sat up. Sunlight streamed through his window, telling him it was morning. The long night seemed to have ended but had it all been a dream? Had he seen visions of holidays past, present and future?
He rubbed his hands over his eyes and reached for his cell phone. He would call Sam, she would be still celebrating December 24 with the time difference.
“Hello?” a groggy male voice answered. It was not Sam’s. It was not her brother’s.
Jason closed his phone and gently set it on the table. Somehow, in the scheme of things, it didn’t matter anymore.
He needed to see his sister.
Emily was curled up on one of the patio chairs when he approached the house from the back. She was bundled up in a pink parka, a white hat pulled over her head. She raised her eyes at the sound of his boots crunching in the snow. “Jason,” she murmured. She held out a hand. “How do you always know when I need you?”
“I wanted to check on you.” Jason took her hand and knelt in front of her. “How are you?”
“Oh…Jason…” Emily sighed. “I thought I was at rock bottom last night. I was so…so tired. So miserable.” She tilted her head back to look at the sky. “If I could have only known how much worse it could get…”
“Emily…” Jason prompted. “What happened?”
“There was a call from the police station this morning,” Emily murmured. “Justus was seeing a client down there and happened to be there when the news was called in. Lucky’s dead, Jason. He was found in an alley.”
Jason’s heart sunk. “Elizabeth?”
“Devastated. I went over there–but she wouldn’t let me in. She won’t let her grandmother in, I’m so scared for, Jason. She barely survived losing him once but it’s so different now. They had this whole life planned and I’m just…he was my best friend, Jason. Nikolas’s brother. It doesn’t seem fair.”
“I’m sorry,” Jason murmured. “Do they know what happened?”
Emily shook her head. “I’m so scared for her. She’s so proud, Jason and I don’t know what she’s going to do without Lucky’s income. They’ve been cutting her hours at the hospital and she and Lucky cashed in his insurance policy months ago to pay bills.” She closed her eyes. “He wasn’t killed in the line of duty, so she won’t even get anything from the department.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Jason told her. He squeezed her hand. “We’ll find a way to take care of her.”
Emily frowned and sniffled. “How–you don’t remember Elizabeth do you?” she asked, startled. “Did you get your memory back?”
“No,” Jason said honestly. “Not entirely but I’ve had some…flashes of memories and I know that Elizabeth and I have been friends for years.” He stood and pulled her to her feet. “But Elizabeth isn’t the only thing on your mind.”
“It doesn’t matter right now.” Emily cleared her throat. “Where’s Sam?”
“In Hawaii. We’re not…we’re not seeing each other anymore.”
Emily blinked. “When did that happen?” she asked as Jason guided her down the steps and towards the garages where his bike was parked.
“About an hour ago. It’s not important, Em.”
“But…” Emily shook her head. “I don’t understand, Jase. What’s going on? Where are we going?”
“We’re going to see Elizabeth and what’s going on is that you’re my sister and I love you and what’s going on with you is important to me, okay?” He helped her onto the bike. “I know you’re upset about Nikolas–”
“It’s not really Nikolas anymore,” Emily sighed. “It’s my whole life.” She wrapped her arms around his waist. “What happened with Sam, Jason?”
“I’m not really sure,” Jason said quietly. “But this morning, when I woke up, things were different.”
Elizabeth was curled up in a corner of the couch, staring at a mindless Christmas cartoon. Cameron was toddling around the apartment, playing with the few toys she and Lucky had been able to afford.
Her eyes were dazed and slightly unfocused, her cheeks tearstained and the shadows beneath her eyes more pronounced than ever. In the background, the phone kept ringing and the answering machine kept recording sympathy calls from friends, calls of concern from her grandmother, from Lucky’s partner Jesse and his girlfriend Maxie. Nikolas had pounded her on her door a little while ago and Emily had knocked timidly.
She heard none of these things or the click of the door as the lock was undone and the door swung up. Jason stood and slipped his tools back in his jeans pocket and let Emily enter before him.
“Oh, Liz!” Emily rushed in and pulled her friend into a hug. “Honey, I’m so sorry…”
Elizabeth turned and focused on Emily. “He left me again,” she murmured. Tears suddenly welled up in her eyes and slid down her cheeks. “He meant everything to me and he’s gone.”
Cameron toddled up to Jason and remembered him from the diner the night before. He held his hands up in the air. “Up!” he demanded. “Up! Up!”
Almost absently, Jason lifted the small boy into his arms and kept his eyes on Elizabeth.
“I don’t…” Elizabeth broke then and buried her face in Emily’s hair. “I don’t understand! We were just starting our lives, we have a baby, we were supposed to be happy!”
Emily didn’t have an answer to that but only hugged her friend more tightly. Jason heard footsteps behind him and saw Mac Scorpio and Jesse Beaudry coming up the hall. He stepped outside the door to block their entry.
“We have to ask her a few questions,” Mac said apologetically. “If we could do it now…we could get the answers more quickly to find out what happened.”
Jesse shifted. “We need to know why he might have been in that alley last night,” he shrugged, trying to pretend that his partner’s death didn’t affect him.
Jason didn’t answer either of them but went into the apartment. “Elizabeth…” He set Cameron next to Emily and kneeled in front of her. “Mac and Jesse want to ask you a few questions.”
She focused on him. “What? Why?”
“So they can investigate…” Jason hesitate. “It might be easier to get it over with now.”
“Nothing about this day will be easy.” Elizabeth slowly stood and rubbed her eyes before heading towards the door.
Jason stayed with her for most of the day, watching over her as she answered the questions and absorbed Jesse’s reluctant confession that Lucky wanted to track down Manny Ruiz. That sent Elizabeth into a fit of tears–that Lucky had wanted revenge on Manny for what he’d done to her.
Later, when Audrey and Nikolas had arrived followed by a grief-stricken Luke and Lesley Lu, Jason quietly took his leave, resolving to stop by once a day to make sure his nightmare never came true. She would come out of this strong, not defeated and he would see to it that she never had to go through what his dream had depicted.
He went straight to Rose Lawn and broke into Carly’s room to see her. Her eyes brightened at his entrance. “We’re going to get you out of here,” he informed her. “I’ll get power of attorney from Alcazar and I’m going to take you home.”
Carly squeezed his hands. “I knew you’d come for me,” she said fiercely. “You always do.”
“I have to go before I’m found in here,” Jason told her. He hugged her. “One condition, though. If I get you out, you have to promise me you’ll let me live my own life and make my own decisions.”
Carly frowned. “I always do–”
“Carly,” Jason said, shaking his head.
“I just weigh in with my opinion,” she began to argue but he kissed her forehead and left her sputtering.
He returned to his penthouse where he found his sister waiting. She stood and crossed her arms. “I didn’t forget what you said about Sam this morning.”
Jason sighed. “How’s Elizabeth?” he said instead going to the kitchen to get something to eat.
Emily scowled but followed him and watched as he opened a bag of pretzels and began to eat. “She’s doing okay. We bundled her and Cameron up to stay with Audrey for a while.” She shifted. “Jason–”
“It’s important that you pay attention to her,” he interrupted. “That we take care of her and make sure she has everything she needs.”
“Of course,” Emily said, somewhat mystified. “That’s what Lucky would have wanted.” She shifted again. “About Sam–”
“I still care about her but it wouldn’t have worked,” Jason said. “She doesn’t understand me and she doesn’t try to. She doesn’t trust me to do my job and tries to decide what I should know and shouldn’t know. I don’t have the time or the patience for that.” He shrugged. “Plus, some guy answered her cell phone this morning so…”
Emily gaped. “Wait, wait, I don’t understand–”
He set the pretzels down and gripped his sister by the shoulders. “All you have to understand, Emily, is that I know what my life was before and I know what it could be like if I don’t start taking control again and protecting the people I care about. I’m okay about Sam, I really am.”
“But you were engaged–”
“It was a mistake,” Jason said. “It was based on something I thought I needed and I didn’t. Emily, you have to trust me to know what’s right for me.”
“Of course I do.” Emily sighed and wrapped her arms around him. “Will you go with me to see Elizabeth tomorrow?”
“And can you shove Courtney off a pier?” she asked, half serious.
“Anything for my sister.” He kissed her hair. “Are you okay?”
“Right now, I am,” Emily sighed. “Ask me again in five minutes when this all hits me again.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Jase?” she pulled away and smiled faintly up at him. “Merry Christmas.”
Through the years
We all will be together
If the Fates allow,
Hang a shining star
On the highest bough,
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now