Still waiting for the snow to fall
It doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all
Those Christmas lights light up the street
Down where the sea and city meet
May all your troubles soon be gone
Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on
– Christmas Lights, Coldplay
Friday, December 24, 2004
General Hospital: Fifth Floor
The elevator doors slid open to reveal the brightly decorated floor of the hospital, where the children would soon gather around Alan Quartermaine to listen to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and receive presents from Santa Claus.
Elizabeth could remember visiting her grandparents at Christmas and watching her grandfather read to the children stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Alan was a wonderful successor, but she would always miss Steve Hardy most this time of year.
Audrey placed a hand on her shoulder. “I miss him, too,” she murmured.
Elizabeth adjusted Cameron in her arms and turned to smile at her grandmother. “He’ll always be with us. And I’ll tell Cameron all about the men he’s named for.” She looked down at her six month old son, with his dark hair and dark eyes like his father. “Cameron Steven Webber, grandson of doctors, and great-grandson of the best doctor and nurse team General Hospital ever saw.”
“And nephew of the new pediatric oncologist,” her brother teased from her side. “This kid is going to be quite helpful with ladies, Bits. They cannot resist a baby.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes with a smile and passed the baby to him. “Go. Flirt with the nurses. Be merry.”
She watched as Steven, Cameron in tow, walked towards a trio of nurses—a blonde, a redhead and a pretty dark-haired girl she recognized seeing Lucky with at Kelly’s. “I don’t think you’re getting great-grandkids from that one anytime soon, Gram.”
“Not likely,” Audrey agreed with a sigh. “Why don’t you go talk to Emily? She’s gesturing at you, and I’ll go talk to Monica and Alan.” She kissed Elizabeth’s cheek before heading away.
Emily stepped up to her and grabbed her hand. “I want you to meet someone!”
“Whoa!” Elizabeth said as Emily all but towed her across the reception room, around the nurse’s hub and towards the Christmas tree, where she saw Jason, holding an infant in a red velvet Christmas dress and a matching headband with a floppy bow.
She hadn’t seen him in the last two weeks, but she knew from Emily that they had talked, and Evie now had a nanny that she appeared to love. The fatigue was gone from Jason’s eyes, and he appeared less tense.
She was happy that she could help, even if it had just given him a small nudge to look to Emily for real support. She hadn’t had any illusions that their moment of closeness on the docks would be repeated with further confidences.
“Jason, I thought Elizabeth might want to meet Evie.” Emily almost skidded to a stop in front of her brother.
Jason arched a brow at his sister. “I figured that with the way you dragged her across the room, Em.”
“Geez,” Elizabeth said, rubbing her wrist. “You missed your calling as a linebacker. Seriously.” She rolled her eyes and looked at Jason. “She’s beautiful, Jason.”
“Do-do you want to hold her?” He lifted the infant from his chest and she nodded, holding out her arms.
“Oh, I just love little girls,” she murmured, smoothing her hand down Evie’s velvet dress. She glanced up to ask Emily a question and frowned when she saw her friend had disappeared and was already across the room with Nikolas, Lucky and the dark-haired nurse. “How did she…”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” Jason murmured, squinting across the room as Emily studiously avoided looking at them.
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “I do,” she said under her breath, but looked down at Evie, whose dark brown eyes were open and looking up at her. “She looks like Sam.” She vaguely remembered the woman she’d seen at Lila’s funeral and around town once or twice before she moved.
“That’s…what Emily tells me,” Jason said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I guess. She has the dark hair and dark eyes.”
“And you’re so quiet and peaceful,” Elizabeth said to Evie. “Cam’s a fusser. Never thrilled with being right where he is. Always wants to be on to the next thing.” She glanced up at Jason. “Please, make my day, and tell me you bought this dress.”
“Ah…” Jason blinked. “Emily brought it over this morning. Why?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Oh, well. I suppose I just enjoyed the image of big, bad Jason Morgan picking out delicate lacy baby girl clothes.” She smirked. “It’s different than raising a little boy, isn’t it?”
“You’re not kidding.” But he smiled at her words, so she was glad she hadn’t offended him. “It gets easier, doesn’t it?”
“Um…speaking as a former teen-aged girl…” Elizabeth winced. “Sorry. If she’s anything like I was…” She laughed when Evie wrapped her fist around Elizabeth’s pinky finger. “I stole my grandmother’s car, snuck into Sonny and Brenda’s wedding, framed my sister for cheating…”
Jason hesitated and his eyes were wide for a moment, because she supposed it was one thing to tell him those things when they were part of her past, but now she could see him looking at Evie and picturing her growing up and doing those same things.
“Oh, that’s not even the worst of it,” she teased. “One time, I went to a bar when I was only eighteen, and I picked up this guy.”
He scowled, but she continued. “Oh, yeah. He took me out on his bike all the time, and then I drove my grandmother crazy because I refused to stop seeing him.”
Jason laughed then and looked down. When he raised his head up, he was grinning. “You know, I’m starting to understand your grandmother a little more.”
“I know, right? It’s amazing how you figure your parents are overreacting until you think your kids will grow up to be just like you.” She bounced Evie lightly, and the baby smiled at her, and then gurgled. “I’d introduce you to Cam, but I think Steven’s using him right now.”
“Using him?” Jason echoed. He looked around until he found her brother at the nurse’s station, holding the infant and talking to a blonde. “Ah.”
“Men and babies, it’s supposed to be irresistible.” She rolled her eyes, and then bit her lip because hadn’t she felt that flutter in her stomach seeing Jason in his leather jacket, holding an infant girl with her pretty Christmas dress.
That was not a pleasant development, no matter what Emily was clearly trying to do.
She cleared her throat. “So, Emily said you hired someone to help.”
“Uh, yeah. Her name is Nora.” He slid his hands in the pockets of his jacket, as if restless. “Thanks…for pushing me to talk to Emily. I wish she felt like she could have asked on her own, but I know Evie’s better off with someone full-time, so when I can’t be there…”
“Well, Emily’s not nearly as pushy as I am.” Elizabeth frowned, and glanced at her friend who quickly looked away. She was going to have to talk to her about this. “You look better, though, so I guess you’re getting more sleep.”
“Yeah, ah, things have slowed down at work…” Jason trailed off and she turned to see what he was looking at. Until now, she hadn’t noticed the Corinthos family across the room by the elevators, and it hadn’t dawned on her that Jason was not standing with his best friends.
She wasn’t surprised—knowing that the custody situation must have made things difficult, but she was sad to see Jason’s shoulders tense at the sight of Sonny Corinthos crossing the room towards them. The teasing light in his eye had disappeared completely.
“Do…you want me to go?” Elizabeth asked softly. “I can—”
“No, I…” He exhaled in a rush a breath. “No, he won’t say anything in front of you or Evie.” But she could see he wasn’t as convinced of that as he’d liked to be.
“Elizabeth.” Sonny smiled at her, and she reflexively smiled back, but she saw that his expression didn’t reach his eyes. Those dark eyes were trained on the baby in her arms and she disliked the possessive way he was regarding Evie.
“Hey, Sonny. Merry Christmas,” she said, trying to keep the moment light but the tension was thick between these two and she felt like she was in the twilight zone. It was not so long ago that she had told Jason he would be loyal to Sonny above all else.
This wasn’t the way she wanted to be proved wrong.
“I saw you come in with your son,” Sonny said, but he still wasn’t looking at her. Now, he was looking at Jason, who was staring at his boss with an almost bland expression. “He’s beautiful.”
She cleared her throat and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, instinctively rocking Evie. She glanced down and saw that, despite the tension, the little girl was dozing in her arms. “Thank you, Sonny. Michael and Morgan…they’re getting so big.”
Elizabeth looked across the room where Carly and Courtney were talking to the young boys, who were laughing and pointing at something else. “Morgan just…turned one didn’t he?”
“Hmm….” Sonny nodded. “I can see your son is going to take after his father with his looks. What did you name him?”
Now he looked at her, and the hair on her arms stood up. This was not idle conversation. She tightened her arms around Evie, as if she thought Sonny might snatch her and run. “Cameron,” Elizabeth said. “I named him Cameron Steven, for my grandfather and for Zander’s father.”
“That’s nice. Cameron Lewis was a good man. Better to name your son for him than the bastard whose DNA he has in his veins.”
Elizabeth inhaled sharply and glanced at Jason, whose eyes were hard. “Sonny—” the enforcer began.
“But I suppose he’s better than the last piece of scum you picked as a father to your child.” Sonny tilted his head. “As sad as it was, Elizabeth, it was for the best you lost that child.”
The edges of her vision grayed, so she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I…I’m sure you didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” she began.
“Sonny—” Jason began again, his voice tight, the muscles in his neck bunching. “This isn’t—”
“You would have been tied to Ric forever, and it’s better that you’re not.” Sonny leaned forward, and Elizabeth forced herself to remain still, to not take a large step back. “You really do have terrible taste in men.”
Part of her wanted to walk away from this, to hand Evie to Jason and just disappear. But she knew this wasn’t about her. This was about Jason.
“Knock it off,” Jason growled, stepping between them slightly. “You have a problem with me, that’s clear. You don’t bring Elizabeth into it. You don’t say anything to her. Just walk away, Sonny.”
Across the room, Courtney Matthews watched her brother saunter over to her ex-husband and Elizabeth. As the trio exchanged tense words, she saw the way Jason’s hands fisted at his sides, and then watched him step between Sonny and Elizabeth.
She looked to Carly. “I thought you said things were better between Jason and Sonny. Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad?”
Carly followed her gaze, and her mouth tightened at the scene. “Well, you made your choice when you fled to New York instead of staying here and fighting for Jason. I figured you didn’t want to hear about him anymore.”
Courtney hesitated, because it was true that she had hastily decided to pack up and leave for the city in the wake of Jason and Sam’s shocking announcement they were expecting a child together, but she didn’t expect Carly to phrase it that way.
“Sonny is still my brother,” Courtney said. She handed Morgan a cookie and then watched as the toddler joined his brother in another group of children.
“Well, maybe they’re still not past the fact they were screwing the same woman,” Carly muttered. “Bound to put a damper on any friendship.”
Courtney arched a brow. “Didn’t seem to slow them down when you were the woman in question.”
Her sister-in-law scowled. “That’s not…it’s not the same thing.”
Of course it was, but Courtney didn’t push it. After all, Carly was probably the only one left in Port Charles who didn’t see the truth.
Courtney had not left because she believed Jason cheated on her before they’d filed for divorce, but because she didn’t want to watch him sacrifice his life and future on the altar of Sonny and Carly Corinthos. She loved them, but time and space from their nonstop drama had allowed her to see them clearly.
“So, Jason and Elizabeth are close again?” Courtney asked, as her brother sauntered away from the two of them and, instead of returning to his family, wandered down a hallway. “I thought she was living in California.”
“Why would you think I’d know?” Carly snipped. “I’m not a member of the Muffin Fan Club.”
Courtney sighed and wished she carried aspirin in her purse. More and more, her phone calls and visits with Carly were turning into obligations. Carly’s life had been on a roller coaster for more than a year, since the day of Courtney and Jason’s first failed wedding when Ric Lansing had kidnapped her.
At the thought of the smarmy attorney, she cast a dark glance at another spot in the room where Alexis and Ric stood with Kristina, talking to Ned Ashton and his daughter Brooke Lynn. How he still walked the Earth…
After escaping Ric and then Lorenzo Alcazar, Carly had been shoved out of her home when Sonny left her, and then shot in the head. After her coma, when she’d woken up, conflicted and lacking emotions to go with her memories, she and Sonny had continued to deteriorate until Carly turned to Alcazar and Sonny to Sam.
Their reconciliation the previous spring had not been for each other, but for their children. Not that Michael and Morgan seemed to be doing well. Michael threw tantrums and Morgan was sullen and withdrawn. She watched Michael take a toy from a smaller boy and sneer at him.
The way Sonny often sneered.
She had hoped things would improve with Carly believing Jason was the father of Sam’s child, but there was an edge to her sister-in-law now. She wasn’t just hard from a tough life, she was brittle, as if one more revelation would cause her to shatter.
And God knew, Carly Corinthos wasn’t the type to shatter into a million pieces of cotton and collapse into sobs or fits of depression.
When Carly broke apart, it would be into a million little jagged shards of glass that would rain down on those she loved and destroy them.
So Courtney played along with the lie, swallowed the perceived humiliation of her husband’s supposed affair because Evie was better off where she was. Jason was a good man who would love that little girl.
While Sonny and Carly were selfish creatures who were only mediocre parents at best—when they remembered they had children to begin with.
Courtney cleared her throat. “It would be nice if they were friends again,” she said. “I remember when they were.”
“If they’re friends again, she’s just going to sink her claws into him,” Carly retorted, her hand braced against the small of her back. “He’s barely recovering from Sam McCall, like I want him anywhere near Elizabeth Webber. He needs support from us, from his best friends, but Sonny’s punishing him.”
“It’s been months,” Courtney murmured, but maybe she shouldn’t be surprised. As far as her brother was concerned, Jason had stolen something from him. It didn’t matter that Sonny hadn’t raised a hand to get his daughter under his roof—that wouldn’t be the point.
“Sonny holds a grudge.” Carly huffed. “We’re trying to get pregnant, you know.”
Courtney snapped back to her, startled. “What? Why?”
“I saw Sonny when Sam was pregnant,” the other woman almost growled. “He wanted that baby. So if he wants a baby, I’ll give it to him. And he’ll remember how much he loves me, our boys. It’ll be okay again.”
Courtney pursed her lips. Morgan was barely a year old. If he and Michael weren’t enough for Sonny and Carly to get it together, then why would anyone think another baby would do it? But talking Carly out of something would be like trying to prevent the sun from rising.
“It was good that Sonny wasn’t Evie’s father,” Courtney said hesitantly, almost testing her. “It would…have been a complication no one needed. I mean, it would have been better if it had been Jax’s child, but—”
“If Evie had been Sonny’s,” Carly said slowly, and now there was something in Carly’s expression Courtney just didn’t trust, “it would have been even worse now. With Sam gone. Evie would be there. A constant reminder of his affair.”
“Sonny…it was a difficult time, Carly. With Lorenzo Alcazar—”
“I think Sonny was punishing me for waking up and not loving him,” Carly retorted. “And rather than give me time to sort things out, he kept pushing me to love him. As if the reason I was in that coma wasn’t his fault. He pushed me out the door and then he brought Sam right in. So you’re damn right it’s good Evie’s not his kid. Jason will raise her, and it’ll be fine.”
“Besides,” Courtney said softly, “I’m sure Jason loves Evie, even before she was born. It would…be horrible if he lost custody of her.”
“Why would he?” Carly demanded, her dark brown eyes boring into Courtney’s. “Sam’s dead. Jason’s her father. Sonny is nothing to her.”
“Exactly.” Courtney nodded and reached inside her purse for a stick of gum. “So you and Sonny…you’ll work it out eventually. You always do.”
“That’s right. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to save my marriage, Courtney.”
And the trouble about that the statement, Courtney thought, was that she believed Carly meant it.
When Sonny had finally disappeared down the hall, Jason gently steered Elizabeth away from everyone else and down a quiet corridor.
“I’m…sorry about that,” he told her. “I thought things were getting better with him.”
“It’s all right,” she murmured. She glanced down at Evie. “She slept through it so—”
“He had no right to say those things to you, especially about Cam or…” He hesitated. “Your first child.”
Because the thought of that tiny life that had been snuffed out after a few weeks still caused her stomach to turn, Elizabeth looked down. “It wasn’t about me, Jason. He just wanted to annoy you. And he knew which buttons to push.” She grimaced. “Though, I’m sure he actually thinks those things are true…about Ric and Zander. But I know they’re not.”
“Still.” He shook his head. “I can’t…he wasn’t like this before.”
“I know.” Elizabeth sighed. “I know, Jason. I used to think of Sonny as a friend, but that changed a long time ago. He’s not the man who was there the night Lucky died, who looked out for me when you were gone. It’s been a long time since I saw that man, but I know for you to be at odds with him, it’s difficult.”
“I don’t know when it started,” he said after a moment. “I just know I didn’t see it until this last year, until he and Carly made Michael’s life miserable. They kept dragging him into court, asking him who he should live with. He told the judge he wanted to live with me, so I’m sure Sam picking me over him for Evie must have reminded him of that.”
“I’m just…” She sighed. “I’m so sorry this is happening, and I can tell you don’t expect it to get better. Maybe less stressful, but you don’t see an exit for this.”
“Not one that doesn’t include Sonny taking custody of her,” Jason said quietly. “I-I know if he asked for her, I would have to give her up, but—”
“Why?” Elizabeth said, and then regretted it. She didn’t want to get between Jason and Sonny. If she encouraged Jason to go against Sonny now, any hopes for a friendship between them would be over when Jason did figure out how to fix this. “Never mind, it’s not my business—”
“He’s…her biological father,” Jason said slowly. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Blood.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “As if blood makes you a good parent. I haven’t seen my parents in seven years, Jason. You know that my grandmother isn’t my blood relative? That my father was Steve Hardy’s son by a woman he knew before he married Gram. But she has never let me feel like I’m not her granddaughter. My father says that she has always treated him as her own son. Blood doesn’t make a family. Why does it matter whose blood is in her veins? Does that make him the better man? When does Evie’s best interests come into it?”
When he just stared at her, she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I just…I remember you that day on the docks, watching AJ and Michael together. I don’t want you to have that look on your face again.” She stepped closer to him, only separated by the baby in her arms. “Jason, I don’t want you to live in nothing again. Because I remember what it’s like, and you deserve so much better.”
He dipped his head down and exhaled slowly. “I think about it every day,” he confessed. “About what it would be like for him to come and take her away. I can’t believe I’m in this situation again. I don’t even know how I got here.”
“Because you’re a good person who tries so hard to protect the people important to him. You wanted to protect Michael and Morgan, and maybe even Carly. And now you want to keep your promise to Sam, who saw what most of us always knew.” She lifted Evie and carefully handed the little girl back to her father. “That you were always the better man.”
Their eyes met and held for a long moment before she looked away, her stomach rolled again. “I should…get back to my grandmother. And maybe find my son before Steven promises him to some willing nurse.”
They started down the hallway, towards the reception area. “I’m going back to California for a few days after the holidays,” she told him. “To pack up our apartment, tie up some loose ends. Maybe…”
She trailed off when they stepped back into the crowded room. Emily was standing there, blocking their further progress. “Hey, I was wondering where you two went!”
“Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you,” Elizabeth replied, her brow arched. Emily raised hers in return.
“And look at your amazing placement.” Emily jabbed a finger in the air, and Elizabeth glanced up, realizing why Emily had stopped them in this precise place.
The mistletoe hanging in the doorway between the reception and hallway.
She glared at her friend, sending her a mental message she knew the brunette understood. You’re about as subtle as a train wreck.
Emily just quirked her lips, and Elizabeth could picture the words. Suck it, Webber.
She looked at Jason, who had also been giving his sister an annoyed look. “Just ignore her, I think she’s had one too many batches of eggnog.”
“It’s fine.” Jason leaned down and brushed his lips across her cheek, and then stepped back. “I’m glad you’re home.”
Hell. She really thought she had outgrown this.
Elizabeth smiled. “Thanks.” She stabbed a finger at her friend. “We’ll discuss this later, Quartermaine.” She started across the room, but then turned back, feeling playful.
“You know, all in all, it’s turning out to be better than the last Christmas party we were at together.” He grinned at the reminder and she continued on her way.
When Elizabeth was across the room and taking her son from her brother, Jason just looked at his sister. “Emily.”
“Opportunity creator,” she said, as if this was something that ought to mean something to him. “I’m so ecstatic she’s home, Jase. And just in time for Christmas and her art showing. She’s finally showing the world how awesome she is.” She wrapped her arm around his bicep and beamed up at him. “But we always knew, right?”
“Let’s go take Evie to see Mom so she can stop sending you sad looks.”
Jason just sighed and followed his sister as she towed him closer to the Quartermaines. What did it say about his frame of mind when he preferred the blustering of his grandfather and the snide remarks of his aunt to the accusations of his best friend?
He glanced over his shoulder once more to find Elizabeth standing with Nikolas and Lucky, as the former was holding Cameron. Elizabeth laughed and punched Lucky in the shoulder.
It really was nice to have her home, to talk to her again.
But that didn’t mean his sister’s plans were going to work.