And lately, it’s yellow lights and you’re braking
Say you just want to wait and see it all unfold
But baby when you find what you’re seeking
Something you can believe in you just got to go
– Slow, Andy Grammer
January 10, 2006
General Hospital: Noah’s Room
Elizabeth and Patrick stood side by side at the end of Noah’s hospital bed, facing their father and his lawyer. It had been a week since their conversation in their apartment where they had finally come to some sort of agreement on how to handle their father. They would not bail him out, would not participate in his defense. As far as Patrick was concerned, Elizabeth had already gone above and beyond in order to get him a lawyer.
And now Noah and Diane wanted to meet with them, and the only reason Patrick was in this room was his promise to Elizabeth to see this through—to at least hear him out. But he hadn’t promised to stay.
“Thank you both for coming to see me,” Noah said, wincing in pain as he shifted his leg. “I know…that you didn’t want to.”
“Well, now that you know that, maybe we can speed this up,” Patrick bit out. Elizabeth nudged him, but he just nudged her back. She’d also forgotten to secure his agreement to be nice.
“I wish I could…” Noah hesitated. “I want to say I’m sorry, but I’m aware that for the both of you, that word means next to nothing, especially from me.”
“Not next to,” Patrick clarified, “but nothing. At all. Because you only mean it for five seconds.”
“Patrick,” Elizabeth hissed, but Noah held his hand.
“Your brother has a right to be angry, and I don’t blame him.” Noah nodded. “You’re right, Patrick. It means nothing. But I’ll say it anyway, because it’s true. I…never stopped drinking last year. I wanted to. I tried to, but after I came home from rehab and realized that in addition to destroying our family, I had helped destroy my brothers.”
“I just…” Elizabeth sighed. “I don’t understand, Dad, how you hid it. We saw you practically every day. Did…” She lifted a shoulder. “Did you just get better at it?”
“No. I didn’t drink as often and I didn’t drink on days when I was having a meal with either of you, or an operation to perform.” Noah closed his eyes. “But I still broke my promises, and the longer I did, the worse I felt, so the more I drank.”
“Typical,” Patrick muttered.
“I thought about fighting the charges,” Noah said after a moment. “Because it was an accident and I never meant to hurt anyone, except…maybe myself.” He looked at Patrick. “But I hurt more than the two of you. I…killed a young child, whose life was just beginning. I’m a doctor, I’m supposed to save lives…”
“Is there a point to this pity show?” Patrick said when Noah just trailed off, and he waited for his sister to hit him again. She didn’t.
“The point is,” Diane huffed, “is that we’ve spent the last week working out a deal with the DA’s office so that your father can avoid a trial and get help.”
“He’s done rehab before,” Elizabeth said softly. Patrick looked down at her and saw the anguish, the anger, and the betrayal reflected back. “What makes anyone think they can trust him to do it again and have it stick?”
“I don’t…blame you for thinking that.” Noah swallowed. “So that’s why I made the deal that I did. Diane, you understand the terms better than I do.”
“He’ll spend thirty days in a detox center, and then one more month in court-ordered rehab. After which point, he will be plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the first degree and will be sentenced to the maximum of fifteen years.”
Patrick blinked. He opened his mouth and looked at his father, confused. Because… “Aren’t deals supposed to…be give and take? That’s…the opposite of give and take.” He cleared his throat. “Not that I think…you don’t deserve it.”
“I wanted you two to know that I was serious,” Noah said quietly. “Diane says I’d be eligible for parole in four years, but it’s not good enough for me. So I’m also going to have lifetime probation. If I get pulled over even once for drinking and driving, I get taken right back to finish my sentence. It doesn’t matter if I do it ten minutes after I walk out of prison or ten years.”
“Dad…” Elizabeth’s hand found its way into Patrick’s, and she clung to him. “Dad…I know I wanted you to take responsibility, that I didn’t want you to be set free, but I didn’t mean…for you go…” Her voice broke. “You’re…fifty-five. You could be seventy before you can home. You’ll…”
And when she couldn’t continue, Patrick did it for her. “You’ll miss everything,” he said thickly. “Elizabeth is going to get married and have children, and they’ll be grown before you come home. Or almost grown.” He looked down at her. “Because we both know she’s already met the guy. It’s just a matter of when.” Focusing on his father, he said, “I…get that you’re serious about this…but don’t…don’t do it.”
Noah exhaled. “That’s why I have to do it. Because I want you look at me, Patrick. I want you and Will to look at what happens when you let the pain and devastation of loss take over your life. I climbed into a hole and I never climbed out. My brother is heading my way, if he hasn’t already gotten there. My father’s marriage was a disaster because he cared more about his brandy and his career than my mother. I want more for you. For Will. For Ellie.”
“And I want my father in my life,” Elizabeth whispered. “Dad…please…”
“It’s not as though he’d serve the fifteen years outright,” Diane reminded them. “He’d be home in four. Any grandkids wouldn’t even know he was gone.” She lifted her hands. “These are arguments I made before I made…the arrangement, because it sure as hell ain’t a deal.” Her eyes cast darts at her client.
“I’ve promised them too often that I’ll change,” Noah said simply. “I wanted them to know I meant it this time. If I come home in four years, I’ll count myself blessed, but I’ve been useless to them for years. What’s four more?”
“I get that you think you’re doing the right thing,” Patrick said tightly. He wrapped an arm around his sister’s shaking shoulders. “And I don’t disagree you should go to prison. But this is just selfish. So what if you get out in four? At any time, you could go back to jail for eleven years. We would just have to trust you to keep your nose clean for the rest of your life.” His voice was pained, but he forced himself to finish. “You think you’re proving something to me? To Ellie and Will? You’re just proving that you can’t keep your word. You need the threat of jail to keep you sober. Ellie and I aren’t enough. That’s what you’re saying.”
“No…” Noah shook his head. “It’s not what I’m saying, or doing. Patrick, you just don’t understand—”
“I understand perfectly.” Patrick nodded. “The day our mother died, we became orphans. Sure, you paid lip service to it this last year, pretending everything was fine. But you knew you were living a lie. I never bought it, not really, but Ellie did. And that’s what I’ll never forgive you for. Me, you can hurt me. But not her.” His arm tightened. “I’m through.”
“Is it too late to stop this?” Elizabeth asked, wiping her tears.
Diane hesitated, but nodded. “He’s being officially sentenced tomorrow, but the agreement is in place, so his statements to the police on the subject would be admissible. I suggested he talk this over with the two of you, but—”
“I thought you’d see this as me taking responsibility,” Noah said, his voice almost angry now. “But as usual, Patrick, you’re making it all about you—”
“I come by it honestly,” Patrick shot back. “You abandoned us three years ago, why should this be any different?” He looked down at his sister. “You ready to go?”
“I just…I don’t understand why you had to make it like this. Why…you had to make this decision without us.” And Patrick hated his father in that moment, for making his sister look like that—shattered and uncertain. “Didn’t….you care what we thought?”
“I didn’t think you’d see it this way, Ellie.” Noah shifted. “I killed a girl. I should go to jail—”
“You’re right. You should. It’s time that we were free of you and your guilt trips. Don’t make her feel like crap because she still loves you.” He nudged her towards the door. “Let’s go, El. You don’t have to justify yourself to him anymore.”
He steered her out of the room and was unsurprised to find Jason and Robin waiting for them by elevators. He saw the way Jason tensed and pushed away from the wall when he realized Elizabeth was crying, and he saw the concern in Robin’s face.
“What happened?” she asked softly. “He’s fighting it?”
Patrick released Elizabeth and felt not an ounce of annoyance or frustration that she went into Jason’s arms. He wasn’t Jay Quartermaine, and Robin had been right all those weeks ago. He had to let go of that, and just accept that whoever Jason was inside his own brain, he made Ellie happy.
He huffed and looked at Robin. “He tried to be self-sacrificing. He’s going to court-ordered rehab and then he’s pleading guilty to the maximum of fifteen years, eligible for parole in four years with lifetime probation.”
“I…” Robin stepped forward. “You mean if at any point for the rest of his life, he drinks and drives, he goes back to jail and finishes his term.”
“Yep,” Patrick said flatly. “So he needed the threat of prison to keep him on the straight and narrow. His kids aren’t enough. But I guess I already knew that.” He looked at Elizabeth. “Hey, El?”
She looked at him, not moving an inch from the circle of Jason’s arms. “Yeah?” she asked.
“You should…get out of here. Go…clear your head or something. I’ll stick around, make sure Dad gets transferred to the PCPD later without issue.” He hesitated. “Maybe Jason can take you out on the bike—I know you like to do that when you’re…upset.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes and he sighed, because he knew she was searching his statement for the hidden meaning, for the catch. When she couldn’t find it, she offered a smile and then tilted her head up to the man in question. “Can I drive?”
“Absolutely not,” he replied, but he smiled as he said it, and Patrick realized it was almost a routine for them. He wondered how he had missed this between them, insisting until the bitter end that Jason Morgan was nothing more than Elizabeth’s rebellious middle finger to her father and brother for all the crap they’d given her.
“I’ll see you at home, Patrick,” Elizabeth called over her shoulder as she and Jason headed towards the elevator.
“Probably not though,” Patrick muttered to himself after they were out of earshot. He wiggled his shoulders to chase away that thought and turned to find Robin studying him. “What?”
“That was a very nice thing you did for your sister.”
“You act so surprised,” he muttered. “She’s been dealing with Dad since the accident. It was my turn to get inconvenienced.” He slid his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I told him in there that Elizabeth would be getting married in the next four years, because she’d already met the guy. Which meant he would miss that.”
“It’s probably true,” Robin agreed. “They just started dating rather than just being friends, but I think…they just took the long way around. Maybe they don’t see it right now, but they’re already in love.” She stepped next to him. “What makes you the angriest? That Noah is going to prison at all, that he wants the security of lifetime probation to keep him sober…”
“That he’s in this mess at all,” Patrick bit out. “I want him to pay for what he did to Jennie Young’s family, for putting the mother in a hospital bed as well, so they had wait on the funeral until after she could be discharged. So the four years….that’s fine. And I wouldn’t even care about probation, but…” He dipped his head and closed his eyes. “If he had just been telling the truth last year…about not drinking…he wouldn’t be facing this. So, yeah, bully for him to taking responsibility, but you know what? Too little, too late.”
“Fair enough.” Robin nodded. “So when Elizabeth gets married, you’ll just have to walk her down the aisle.” She smiled up at him. “And it’s appropriate. You always wanted her to end up with Jason Quartermaine, but Jay sat around and waited. He waited for her to break up with Lucky, waited for her to have a little time to enjoy being single. He never reached out for her.”
“Yeah.” Patrick rocked back on his heels. “And Jason Morgan did. So I guess it’s fair that he ends up with her.” He looked down at his ex-girlfriend. “We’re okay, aren’t we? We’re friends.”
“Always.” Robin slid her arm around his waist, he slid his around her shoulders and for a brief moment, Patrick felt the weight lift from his shoulders.
Spencer House: Kitchen
Lulu reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes with one hand as she passed the green beans to Will on her side. “Hey, Lucky, what did you get Emily for her birthday?”
Her brother glanced up and shook his head. “Uh uh, Lulu. I’m not telling you so you can go steal it and then pass it off as your own. You buy your own gifts.” He dumped carrots onto his plate and set the platter on the table.
Lulu rolled her eyes and looked at Will.. “Any ideas for Emily’s birthday? I think I’m still paying off the St. Paul trip she got me out of, so it’s gotta be good.”
“Why you thought it was a good idea to drag poor Dillon on a bus because you thought you saw Kristen Bell,” Laura sighed, sipping a glass of a wine. “Thank God for Emily and Nikolas. I don’t know what your father and I would have done if we’d had to fly out to get you.”
Luke frowned and looked at his wife. “You think I would have been disappointed in her? She’s a Spencer—” he gestured with a fork full of chicken. “She was following her God-given intellectual curiosity.”
“Is that what we’re calling it this week?” Lucky asked. “Because I remember when Liz and I ditched school for a week to go to New York for a music festival in high school, I was tossed in my room for a week.”
“Yours was deliberate,” Luke waved away Lucky’s objections. “And you know that was your mother. I don’t hold with punishments. I turned out just fine without parents controlling me.”
“Right,” Lulu drawled. “You and Aunt Bobbie are the poster children for well-adjusted adults.” She mimed the universal okay sign with her hand. “Okay, Dad.”
“So, Will, did Ellie or Patrick call you today?” Lucky asked, before Luke could offer a retort. “Their dad was supposed to be transferred to the PCPD today.”
Will swallowed his mouthful of carrots and nodded. He’d been content to just watch the Spencer byplay until that point. Their family dinners were full of warmth and laughter, good-natured mocking and reminiscing of past adventures. He had been used to frozen dinners standing over the kitchen while his mother was passed out upstairs. Or before his father had left, it had been silence and the occasional question about classes.
He preferred this.
“Yeah, Patrick called after Uncle Noah was all set up at the station.” Will sighed, and briefly related the deal that his cousin had told him over the phone. “So he’ll be in jail for four years, and then a lifetime probation.”
“That must be hard for Patrick and Ellie,” Lucky said, his face sober. “But they’ll get through it.” He leaned back in his chair. “Ellie’s got Jason, and Patrick…well he’s still kind of got Robin.” He shrugged a shoulder. “And it goes without saying, they’ve got us. You. And Emily. They’ll get through this.”
Will nodded, because it was true. Their father was going to be in jail, but he knew his cousins would be just fine. They had great friends who would stand up for them, the way family should.
“But I’m sorry for them all the same,” Laura murmured. She reached over and covered her husband’s hand with her own. “Noah and Mattie were so wonderful. We raised all our kids together, and when we lost her, it was like the light went out in his eyes.”
Luke nodded. “Can’t say I blame him for taking it so hard. Not that anything is ever going to happen to my Angel here,” he sent his wife a smile that told him exactly how much he loved her, “but I can’t say I’d handle it better than Noah.”
“You’d be surprised what you can handle when you have to.” Will looked at Lulu, who smiled at him hesitantly. They might not ever date again—they might always be co-parents, but he thought they’d be all right. Somehow.
Family would make the difference.
Quartermaine Estate: Parlor
Monica stepped into the parlor, knowing that Edward liked to spend time after dinner, sipping tea and reading the newspaper. After nearly two weeks of watching her daughter’s unhappy face, Monica Quartermaine had had enough.
“Edward, it’s time you and I had a frank discussion.”
Edward scowled as his daughter-in-law sat next to him on the sofa. “Monica, I don’t want to hear it—”
“How is what you’re doing to Emily any different than what the Cassadines did to Sofia?” she demanded. At that, his mouth closed. “Mikkos Cassadine wanted something better for his sister—some European royal probably. And instead, she fell in love with a playboy Quartermaine like your brother. You want something better for Emily, but instead she’s fallen in love with someone you don’t approve of. And you have browbeat her into believing that her family’s wishes ought to come first.”
Edward pressed his lips together and looked away. “I hadn’t…Monica, I know that family—they’ll break her spirit.”
Because she honestly knew that Edward loved her daughter, that he idolized her beyond sense, her heart softened. “I know that’s what you believe Nikolas will do. But have you seen her since New Year’s, Edward? She left him so that she wouldn’t resent him later for giving up her family. She did what you wanted her to do. Are you satisfied?”
“Of course I’m not satisfied,” Edward bit out. “I thought…” He waved his hand. “I thought she’d realize he was a reprobate and when she asked me if I…I meant for her to choose between this family and Nikolas, I-I suppose…” He looked away. “I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know…I didn’t realize she…”
“You and I, Alan and Lila, everyone in this family looks at Emily as one of our own,” Monica said. “But she still remembers when she wasn’t. She believes we chose to love her, which means we might choose to stop.”
Edward scowled. “I don’t care who she marries, Monica. That girl is a Quartermaine. She may not have our blood, but she is Lila through and through, and I will not have—” He closed his mouth and dipped his head. After a long moment, he folded his paper and set it on the coffee table. “But I suppose that’s exactly what she believes. That I will withdraw my love and affection if she marries Nikolas Cassadine.”
“And we both know that’s not true. You may grumble, you may pout, but you will still love her.” Monica reached out and touched his hand. “I remember when Alan and I decided to adopt Emily after her mother died. I was…nervous because, of course, we had the boys and you loved them so much, but I know how proud you are of the Quartermaine name. But you and Lila never once looked at Emily as if she weren’t ours.”
“She is ours,” Edward said, fiercely. He rose to his feet and pointed at her. “You and Alan…you were busy, but I was…I was here for the rebellions. When she tried to run away, Robert Scorpio brought her back to me. I thought she might follow me into ELQ, so I talked to her about the company. She’s mine every bit as much as she’s yours.” He cleared his throat. “I…don’t want her thinking she has to be anything different to keep my love, Monica. She simply…” He gestured with his hands, as if not knowing exactly what to do with them. “She simply has it. And it’s not going to change.”
“So you should probably tell her that.” Monica nodded, wishing she had had this conversation months ago with the morons in her family. Alan would follow his father’s lead, and peace would reign again. “You could make this up to Emily, you know. We’re throwing her a birthday party this Friday at the Haunted Star. Perhaps you might invite Nikolas for her.”
Edward frowned. “Now, Monica, you’re pushing things. I will tolerate him, but—”
“You will accept him with open arms.” Monica got to her feet and leveled a glare at her father-in-law. “You will invite him and tell Emily yourself that you not only accept the engagement, but that you’re willing to pay for the wedding—without making any of the decisions. You have made Emily miserable from the moment she fell in love with him. She thought she was breaking your heart, Edward. So she broke her own instead. You need to make it up to her, otherwise she will never believe that you mean it.”
He looked away, but offered a small nod, which she knew considering his pride, would be all that she would receive.
Elizabeth leaned over the railing, staring out over the city, her breaths little puffs of air. “I’ll be glad when it starts to get warmer.”
“Yeah.” Jason leaned his back against the railing. “We can’t go as fast when there’s ice on the road.”
She grinned and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “I’m not saying that because of your bike. Not everything is about how much I like it.” She tilted her head up to the stars. “Is it wrong to be angry that he’s taking himself out of our lives like this?”
“You get to feel how you want to feel,” Jason said after a moment. “Did…you want him not to go to jail?”
“No, I didn’t,” Elizabeth admitted, “but I…knew he probably would.” She focused on the lights of the harbor, on the island in the distance, and the hulking structure of Wyndemere. “I just…didn’t think he’d do it willingly. And fifteen years, Jason…”
“That’s only if he breaks the terms of his probation.”
She closed her eyes. “And he will, you know. I can’t…believe that he won’t take a drink the second he’s out of prison. I simply…I don’t trust him.” She felt his arm draw her closer, and she burrowed herself in the opening of his leather jacket. “Isn’t that horrible?”
“He hasn’t given you much of a reason to trust him, has he?” he replied. “You thought he was sober all this last year, and he was lying to you.”
“It’s just…” She closed her eyes, and concentrated on the scent of him, of the warmth of his arms, the steadiness his embrace offered her. “He was so wonderful once. He and my mother….the four of us were so happy. How…could that be gone like this? I know nothing will bring her back, but I wanted that sense of family. I think Patrick and I will be okay, but…”
“I just…wish I knew what happens next.” Elizabeth drew back, her hands holding the edges of his jacket. She met his eyes. “He’ll be gone for four years, maybe longer. He’s going to miss so much of what happens in our lives. I mean, I guess I’d go visit him, but Patrick probably won’t. We’re never going to be a family again. The three of us.”
He sighed and his hands slid up from her ands to her elbows. “I don’t know what to say to you, because that’s true, I guess. It’ll never be the same.”
She pursed her lips and was quiet for a few moments, listening to the sounds of the night around them, the far off horns of the ships in the harbor, the cars on the highway below then. The leaves rustling in the trees. “I remember thinking that things would never be the same after Lucky and I broke up in high school. It was senior year, and I thought…” Elizabeth laughed a little. “I thought my life was over. We didn’t love each other the way we had, but I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t Lucky’s girlfriend.”
She tilted her head to the side and met his eyes. “And you know what? They weren’t the same. Lucky and I are friends now. Patrick and Robin may never be the couple we all thought they’d be forever, my father will never be a part of my life the way he used to be…but you know what? It’s okay. Because at the end of the day, things can’t stay the same.” When he just frowned at her, she continued to smile. “What if Lucky and I had just decided to stay together? You know, we were laughing about a few weeks ago. We could have been happy together, maybe. Comfortable, at least. But we would have settled. Somewhere out there, there’s the perfect woman for him.”
Feeling nervous now because he hadn’t said anything, Elizabeth continued, “But if we had stayed together, we both would have missed out. He’ll find that person one day, but I needed to be free.” She leaned up on the tips of her toes to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “So that I could find you.”
“Well, I’m not sorry you broke up with him,” Jason finally said, his hand sliding up to her nape of her neck. “After my accident, after I left the Quartermaines, you were the only person in my life that didn’t seem to care I wasn’t Jason Quartermaine anymore. You made me feel…” he hesitated. “Normal. When everyone said I couldn’t be.”
“Well, normal’s relative,” Elizabeth murmured. “I hated the way Tony Jones talked about you, as if the brain damage had…made you less human.” She slid her hands inside his jacket, wrapping them around his waist. “I’d like to see him be half as well-adjusted as you are if he woke up with a blank slate.”
“So, maybe things aren’t going to be the same with your dad,” Jason said, brushing his lips across the tip of her nose. “Maybe he’ll drink when he gets out, and maybe he won’t. And maybe your brother will figure out how not be angry all the time. But you and me, Elizabeth, I don’t think that’s going to change.”
She grinned and leaned up to accept his kiss. “Oh, I don’t know about that, Jason. I think it might just get better.”