September 9, 2003
Somewhere In Port Charles
Emily glared defiantly at Ric. “This is never going to work. Jason hates me. Elizabeth hates me. They won’t come for me.”
Ric smirked. “You underestimate your friend’s loyalty.” He took a seat across from her and started to slice some vegetables. “I hope you’re hungry,” he said.
She just stared at him now—not even struggling with the ropes that bound her. “You are insane.”
“We’re having company for dinner,” Ric continued. “Someone you know very well.” He smiled and there was charm in the expression. “We really couldn’t have done this without their help.”
Someone else had betrayed Elizabeth and Jason, Emily thought as a tight ball of tension formed in her gut. Someone else they loved and they trusted. She closed her eyes. What she wouldn’t do to take it back.
Who was it? A guard? Someone at the warehouse? Someone even closer?
When the person in question stepped into the kitchen twenty minutes later, Emily realized how obvious the choice was.
“Hey, Em,” Courtney greeted warmly. She took a seat at the table and smiled at her. Like Emily wasn’t tied to the chair having just been kidnapped from her brother’s home.
And it made sense. Courtney had been the one to call and suggest they talk to Elizabeth. She’d take care of the guards, Courtney had said. No one would bother them and Elizabeth would have to listen to their apologies.
Ric’s intention had never been to kidnap Elizabeth at the penthouse. It had been to gain leverage.
Please, Emily prayed fervently, let Elizabeth hate me and want me dead. Don’t let her come after me.
“You know I’ve just got Jason’s best interests at heart,” Courtney remarked. “Elizabeth is trying to trap him. And she has no right to keep Ric’s child from him.”
Zander had made Emily watch a tape of that night in Elizabeth’s apartment and she’d watched in horror at what she’d been to blame for. Elizabeth had been emotionally brutalized because of her insecurities and her betrayal.
She’d finally understood her best friend’s terror.
“Elizabeth doesn’t need to trap Jason into anything,” Emily said flatly. “He loves her. And Ric’s a psycho. I’d say she has every right in the world.” She smiled at Ric. “You’ve been stripped of parental rights, by the way.”
Ric glanced up at her sharply. “In the States, that means something. I bring Elizabeth somewhere else, I make her sign Laura over to me—”
“She’ll never do that,” Emily said sharply. “Never. I made the mistake of trusting you once, now I know better. The second you have your hands on Laura, you’ll kill Elizabeth.”
Ric shrugged. “No use for her.” He looked at Courtney. “Chicken stir-fry all right with you?”
“And if you do that, you’d better pray it’s Sonny who finds you and not Jason.” Emily pressed her lips together and narrowed her eyes. “My brother protects the people he loves and he loves his wife and his baby.”
Courtney narrowed her eyes. “She’s trapped him. He loves children. She knows that. She’s using that baby—”
“Elizabeth doesn’t have to trap him. He loves her. He will do anything for her,” Emily said coldly. “He already wanted you dead, Ric, but God help him if he finds you now. After what you did to her last month in her apartment…”
Ric shrugged. “I got impatient. This will work. Elizabeth feels guilty. I know her, Emily, and I know she feels guilty that you betrayed your brother because of her. She’ll want to fix it. She’ll come Friday night.” His lips curved into a cruel smile. “And I’ll make her understand she can’t run from me.”
Elizabeth rubbed her arms and stared out the window. “I’m not angry,” she repeated.
Jason sighed and rested his hands on her shoulders. “I’m just not ready to lose you. You mean so much to me.”
“I know what Emily did was wrong,” she said slowly, “but I know why she did it. People do crazy things to protect people they love.”
“I will find her,” Jason pledged. “But I won’t risk losing you and Laura.”
Elizabeth turned and met his eyes with a sober look in hers. “Jason—”
“I’m tightening security.” He moved away from her and picked up the phone at the desk. “I don’t want you leaving the penthouse without me and I’m putting a guard in here at all times. He’ll go everywhere with you.”
She frowned. “Jason—”
“I don’t want you alone.”
“You don’t want me to have an opportunity to sneak out.” Elizabeth tried to find some indignant anger but failed. “You know me very well.”
His smile was humorless. “You love Emily. I know you’d go to bat for her.”
“I’m going, Jason.”
“No you’re not,” he said quickly. “If I have to tie you to your bed, you’re not leaving this penthouse. Damn it, Elizabeth, do I have to lock you in here?”
“Jason.” She closed her eyes. “Jason, please try to understand—”
“You’re my wife,” he bit out. “And you’re pregnant—”
“And the only reason you married me was because there was no other choice,” Elizabeth said coldly. “For all your grand talk about wanting to stay married and caring about me and not wanting to lose me, if this hadn’t happened, you’d still be with her.”
He stared at her for a moment before looking away. “Why do you have to think like that?” he asked softly. “What good does it to do to think what if?”
“It’s not a what if. It’s a fact.” Suddenly, she felt so tired and worn out. She leaned against the pool table. “Maybe in twenty years, I’ll be able reconcile myself to that. That we’ll be married because there was no other choice and it was just easier to stay together.”
“That’s—it’s not like that.” Jason moved towards her. “Elizabeth, I want—”
“You’ve had a year to tell me what you want.” She looked up at him and her eyes were empty. Cold. “All you had to that night was tell me you were sorry. That you’d hurt me. That you’d lied.”
“I am sorry—”
“But you let me walk out. And you never once told me you cared. Never once said you missed me. And I let Ric make me believe he was better than you because I was just so desperate to believe someone could love me.”
“Elizabeth, I want to be married to you,” Jason told her again. “I want a life with you—”
“I want that, too.” She felt so empty. “I want that enough that I’m going to try really hard to not remember why we got married. That at our wedding, you came close to drinking yourself into oblivion and if Sammy Tagliatti hadn’t pulled that stunt, you would have.”
“You didn’t want to marry me, Jason. And that’s okay. I can learn to accept that.” She rubbed her forehead. “I didn’t want to marry you either.”
That bothered him somehow. “Why?” he asked, regretting the question almost as soon as he’d asked it.
“Because I knew that. I knew that you only married because Carly came up with the idea and Sonny suggested you. Because you would do anything he asked you to.” She closed her eyes. “And I knew that I loved you.”
“Elizabeth,” Jason began but he stopped. He didn’t know what to say to that—didn’t know what he could say.
“I’m going on Friday, Jason. Because I will never be able to live with myself if I don’t. I know I’ve asked you for a lot since we met but I have to do this.” She met his eyes. “Jason, please.”
For the first time since they’d met—he shook his head. “I can’t let you. You told me that you were upset that I let you go once. That I let you walk out and that I never told you I cared. I’m not making that mistake again.”
She nodded slowly. “All right. I won’t lie to you, Jason. I’m going to find a way to go on Friday. You can try to stop me. You can put guards on me. You can do whatever you think you have to do. But Emily is my best friend. And she would do this for me.”
“She almost got you killed!” Jason exploded. “God damn it, Elizabeth, you’re too forgiving!”
“Maybe,” Elizabeth allowed. “But no one seemed to bat an eye when Carly turned Sonny into the police because it’s just something right up her alley. And even when they were apart, Sonny would have done anything for her. But because this is Emily, because this isn’t something she would do—I’m supposed to just hate her forever. To let her die for something I did—”
“You didn’t do anything!” Jason retorted.
“I knew something was wrong with Ric. That he didn’t add up. But I thought he loved me. And that seemed more important.” She straightened and started for the stairs. “I’m going to bed.”
“Elizabeth—” he called but she ignored him. A few minutes later, her bedroom door clicked shut and he exhaled slowly.
Jason sat downstairs in the penthouse alone for about fifteen minutes before he realized Elizabeth wasn’t coming back down.
It was time to start discussing action, he decided. He left the penthouse—but not before leaving a scrawled note that he was at Sonny’s. He didn’t want her to worry.
Carly was on the couch, eating a plate of strawberries and listening to Michael reading out loud in his halting voice. “It’s free-dum, not free-dome,” she murmured, correcting him.
“Where’s Sonny?” Jason asked. “I have to talk to him.”
“He’s in the kitchen. I threatened something about Oreos and he disappeared in there to sulk.” Carly sighed. “The man just does not change.”
Jason nodded shortly before offering Michael a smile. “Sounds like the reading’s going okay.”
Michael shrugged. “It doesn’t suck.”
Jason ruffled the little boy’s red hair before going into the kitchen where Sonny was chopping some cucumbers and muttering something about vegetables. “Ric and Faith are in the city,” he said shortly.
Sonny glanced up. “Can’t know that for sure. Ric grabbed Emily hours ago and honestly—” He sighed heavily. “We can’t be sure that Emily didn’t set this up with them.”
Jason sank onto one of the high wooden stools. “I know. But Elizabeth seems to believe otherwise.”
“I will say that this would be something that would directly hurt Elizabeth,” Sonny considered, “and Emily seemed to just want you to be safe. She didn’t arrange for Elizabeth to be on her own or lose her guards. She handed information that Faith wanted in exchange for the ending of the marriage.”
“She was being naïve if she thought Faith wouldn’t use that information for her benefit,” Jason scowled. “And Elizabeth is just being so damn stubborn—she’s insisting that she’s going on Friday and nothing I can say will change her mind.”
“She’s loyal, Jason. The two of you have that in common.” Sonny dumped the cucumber slices into a bowl and pulled out some carrots to start dicing them. “I still don’t see why—”
“And she thinks we’re only married because of Ric,” Jason muttered. He stared at his hands.
“Well…you are,” Sonny reminded him.
“We got married because of him, we’re staying married because…” Jason stopped and shook his head. “She’s just upset right now. She’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”
“Why are you staying married?” Sonny asked. “Because it’s easier than finding the woman you really want to be with forever? Because you want to be Laura’s father?”
“Why does everyone think being married to Elizabeth is easy?” Jason replied sharply. “She thinks I’m taking the easy way out by staying. You think I’m just tired of looking for the right woman. Well to hell with you both.”
He stormed out of the kitchen and when Sonny heard the front door slam shut, he smiled faintly.
Jason raised his hand to knock on the door but faltered. Laura Spencer knew Elizabeth almost better than anyone else. She was the mother Elizabeth had never known and her only real confidante now that Carly had pulled away from her, Audrey had disowned her and Emily had betrayed her.
If anyone could tell him to how to make Elizabeth see the truth, it would be Laura.
But he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to tell him anything. If Elizabeth couldn’t understand—couldn’t see what he felt for her, why did he want to kill himself trying to prove it to her? That he was married to her because he wanted to be—that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
“The door doesn’t bite,” Luke drawled and Jason turned. “Something wrong with Lizzie?”
Jason sighed. “Ric was at the penthouse today. He got past the guards.”
Luke climbed the remaining steps and grabbed Jason’s arm tightly. “Where is she? Why the hell weren’t we called?”
“She’s fine. Emily came over and Ric grabbed her instead. We need to meet with Sonny later to figure out what to do now.”
Luke nodded. “We’ll get the pipsqueak back,” he told Jason. “She ain’t done answering for her actions and I’ll be damned if I don’t get a chance to yell at her.” He pulled his keys out of his pocket but before he inserted the key into the lock, he frowned. “Why were you just standing here?”
“I came to talk to Laura,” Jason admitted.
“Laura, huh?” Luke smirked and let his hand fall to his side. “You have a fight with the wife?”
Jason looked away. “No,” he said sourly.
“Uh huh.” Luke studied him. “What’d she say to you, Morgan? You look more miserable than usual.”
Jason shook his head. “It doesn’t matter—”
“Saying crap like that is a sure way to lose her for good.” Luke shifted. “I ain’t good with advice—that’s my woman’s department but I do know Lizzie. She’s like a daughter to me and I’ve watched her grow up. Survive things no girl her age needs to have gone through. I want to see her happy and settled.”
“She will be,” Jason stated. “If she just stops waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
It dawned on Luke then and he nodded. “She’s thinking about why you two got married and trying to work it out in her head why you’d want to stay that way.” He pressed his lips together and continued to nod. “She won’t let herself even think of the most obvious reason.”
“She thinks I’m taking the easy way out,” Jason said, irritation bleeding through his words. “She’s made her mind up.”
“Then you just got to swallow your pride and tell her you love her.” Luke tilted his head to the side. “Which you do, you know. Even if you’re trying to deny it. You love her and she loves you. Doesn’t matter why you’re married or how it happened. Only matters where you go from here.”
Jason hesitated. “But—”
“It’s time you two stop doing this god damn tango. If you hadn’t been afraid of your own shadow a year ago, none of this would be happening,” Luke scowled. “Go home and tell your wife you love her. Me and the posse will be at the Corinthos joint in about an hour.”
He slid the key into the lock, opened the door and was inside all in the second it took Jason to realize he was actually contemplating taking the other man’s advice.