Jason opened the door to the penthouse as quietly as possible. He let Elizabeth walk in front of him, but she stopped almost as soon as she was inside.
“Emily’s here?” she whispered. Jason peered over her head to see Emily passed out on the couch.
“AJ and Courtney and the kids are in town and took over your apartment. She came here to sleep.” He eyed her. “We can go upstairs if you still want to talk.”
Choice. Elizabeth closed her eyes and breathed in a sigh of relief. She could turn around right now and go back to her apartment, go to sleep and never tell him another thing. He’d let her, too. She was sure of it.
Instead, she nodded. “Let’s go upstairs,” she said softly. She slipped her hand in his and he led her up the stairs. He opened one of the doors in the hallway and led her inside. She perched on the edge of the bed and crossed her arms tightly. Jason flipped on the light and leaned against the dresser.
They sat in silence for a time. Elizabeth didn’t know where to start and Jason didn’t want to push it. Finally, she sighed. “Is there anything you want to ask me?”
Jason hesitated. “I don’t know. Do you really want to tell me anything?”
She peered up at him and smiled a little. He was really going to handle this any way she wanted to. He wouldn’t ask and he wouldn’t push. They’d go at her pace. Elizabeth relaxed a little and pushed herself further onto the bed. She curled her legs and sat Indian style. She patted the space in front of her. “Sit down.”
Jason moved to the bed and sat with his legs over the edge and half turned to see her. “Elizabeth, I’ll understand if you don’t want to say anything more.”
She took one of his hands and wrapped her smaller hands around it. Concentrating on that instead of looking up, she said, “I know you would. And that means a lot to me. But I want to tell you. And if I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never do it.” She took a deep breath. “I always had a big mouth and I guess you know I usually say what I think. Not a trait my father appreciated. He’d smack me upside the head. It wasn’t that bad at first.” She moved her fingers over the rough skin on the back of his hand. “When I was seven, he hit me with a belt. Even then, it was only when I did stupid things. I tried to behave more, but I was never very good at it. He began looking for reasons and it started getting worse. I always wore long shirts and long pants, even during the summer.”
She looked up then. He was staring at their hands as well. “That’s how you found out.”
He jerked his eyes up to meet hers. “What?”
“We were in the garden during the summer. I was eleven and you were thirteen. You, me, Emily and some of our friends from school were playing hide and seek. AJ was fifteen and too old to play it. I was hiding behind a hedge. It was a hot day and I’d pushed my sleeves up. You came up behind me – I guess you were going to surprise me—but you saw the bruise instead…”
“What’s on your arm, Lizzie?” Jason asked, confused. Elizabeth turned around so fast she fell against the bushes.
“What?” she asked, her eyes wide.
Jason pointed to the large, ugly purple bruise that covered the bottom half of Elizabeth’s left arm. “What happened?”
Elizabeth hastily pulled her sleeves down. “N-nothing.”
Jason grabbed her right arm and pulled her up. “What’s on your arm, Lizzie?” he asked again.
“I said it was nothing,” Elizabeth snapped, jerking her hand away. Jason pulled the sleeve up again and looked at the bruise. His blue eyes bore into hers.
“These look like finger marks,” Jason said. “Who hurt you, Lizzie?”
Elizabeth’s lower lip trembled and she tried to pull her hand away. “N-no one. Let me go.”
“Leave me alone,” she said, her voice breaking. “No one hurt me. No one.”
“You can trust me, Lizzie. Who was it?”
Elizabeth’s eyes welled up with tears. “You promise not to tell Emily or AJ?”
Jason nodded. “I promise, Lizzie.”
“It was my dad…”
“You were so angry,” Elizabeth remembered softly. “You wanted to head right over and beat his face in and that was before you knew the whole story.”
“I guess things haven’t changed,” Jason said quietly. “I still want to head over and beat his face in.”
For some reason, his words brought tears to her eyes. She sniffled, trying to keep the tears at bay, but they came anyway. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his neck. Confused, Jason wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer.
After a while, she pulled away and wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just…I don’t know.”
“It’s okay,” Jason assured her.
She smiled weakly. “It was all I could do to convince you to stay away and keep the secret. After that, I-I…it started getting harder to keep it to myself. You were always asking me if I was okay. You started getting more observant…started noticing the circles under my eyes … that I was trying too hard…” She closed her eyes and bit her lip. “That I was trying too hard to act happy. You kept asking me and asking me and I finally I blew up at you. I was maybe thirteen at the time. I completely freaked. I told you that I miserable, that it was getting worse, I wasn’t sleeping and that I was probably going to fail eighth grade because I couldn’t concentrate.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “So, you came up with a solution. You told me that the next time I couldn’t sleep, just to come over to the house and knock on your window.” She chuckled softly. “I thought you were insane. But a few nights later, I was lying in my bed staring the ceiling. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I was so afraid that the minute I shut my eyes, my father would-” Elizabeth broke off and looked away. “So, I pulled on my robe and climbed down the trellis. Your house was only just across the lake.”
“How did you get up the third floor?” Jason asked curiously.
“That first night?” Elizabeth couldn’t help but grin. “I shimmied up the drain pipe.”
“You could have fallen-”
She held up a hand to stop him. “Hey, you forget. I’ve heard this lecture. You’re not as different as most people think.” Elizabeth shrugged. “You set up a ladder after that. Some nights you even waited at the bottom.”
“You showed up that often?” Jason asked.
She nodded. “After a few months, it was at the point where if I wasn’t already spending the night with Em, I was with you. By the time of the accident, I hadn’t spent the night in my room in a year and a half.” She smiled. “You weren’t even surprised to see me. Not really. Just said to come in, I’d catch cold sitting on the roof. You’d let me sleep in the bed and you’d sleep on the floor. I felt so guilty – I kept trying to sleep on the floor. I’d even doze off sitting on the floor, but I’d always wake up in the bed. Finally, a few months after I started coming, you got one of those cots that folded up. You’d put it in the closet during the day.”
“I found that cot after the accident,” Jason admitted. “I asked Emily what I used it for – she didn’t know.”
“Well, no, she wouldn’t,” Elizabeth said. “The first few weeks I was there, I still didn’t sleep much. I’d try, but I’d always wake up in nightmares. You always got to me before I’d make too much noise. I don’t know how you do it – you probably stayed up. I don’t think you got a lot sleep either. But eventually, I started sleeping more. My grades went back up, and I passed the year.”
“I can’t believe we never got caught,” Jason said, shaking his head.
“I never said that,” Elizabeth said. “We did…once.” Her face became troubled. “We overslept one morning. It was in March, a month before the accident. You insisted on walking me back and my father was waiting. He threw me against the house and ended up spraining my wrist. You stepped in and punched him.” She bit her lip. “You also slammed his head against the trellis. His nose never looked the same.”
“Good,” Jason said shortly.
She smiled. “We went up to my room and you wrapped my wrist.” She touched her wrist as if remembering. “You tried to make me go to the police, but I knew they’d never believe me. Webber was a name respected almost as much as Quartermaine. I just knew my father would either kill me or send me away and I knew I’d never see you again. You made a compromise…” Elizabeth trailed off. She hadn’t meant to tell him that part of the story. He already felt guilty enough.
“What kind of compromise?” Jason asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Elizabeth said quickly.
“Yes it does,” Jason pressed.
She took a deep breath. “You told me that when you turned eighteen in August, you’d come into your trust fund. You said we’d leave Port Charles and get away from my father.” She looked at him, into his eyes that were practically over flowing with self-loathing. “It’s not your fault, Jason. You didn’t know-”
Jason exhaled slowly. “What happened when you didn’t have me around?”
Elizabeth looked down. “I had to go back to my room. For three years. I barely slept, and I barely graduated. My father didn’t hit me as often but when he did…it would hurt for weeks. He broke my arm once and I ended up with a concussion twice,” she whispered. “On my eighteenth birthday, he woke me up early. He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me to the window. With his other hand, he opened it and shoved me out halfway. He told me that I was a bastard that he’d been forced to raise, that he hated me and wanted me out of the house. He offered to end my misery and throw me the rest of the way. That where I was going, it wouldn’t matter. I’d end up dead anyway. That’s how I found out Sonny was my brother. My father knew all along.” Elizabeth blinked back tears. “I didn’t tell Emily the truth when I told her about that morning. I just told her my father came in, told me the truth and left. I couldn’t tell her without having to tell her the whole story – and you were the only person who ever knew.”
“I wish…I wish I’d known. I’m sorry,” Jason said. “It’s not enough – and there are no words to tell you how-”
“I didn’t tell you to make you feel bad,” Elizabeth said quietly. “The nightmares never went away – they just stopped coming as often.”
They sat in silence for a while as Jason struggled with the story. He couldn’t believe what she’d gone through — both with and without him. He was now curious about the nature of their relationship and it’d gone any further than he was aware of.
“I only have one question and I want an honest answer,” Jason said, locking eyes with her. “Before the accident, did you know I was attracted to you?”
“How did you know that?” Elizabeth said, her hand darting up to her mouth in surprise. “How could you know…”
“Emily told me I was going to ask you to the senior prom,” Jason replied, studying her reaction very carefully. “You did know, didn’t you?”
Elizabeth nodded slowly. “We were together,” she whispered. “No one knew…I was scared that my father would send me away and I’d never see you again.”
“We were dating?” Jason asked, incredulously. His conversation with AJ earlier that night drifted back to him and he could only blink.
Elizabeth slipped off the bed and turned her back to him. “If that’s what you call it. We’d sit in your room and for the first time, we’d talk about more than my problems. We’d talk about the future – about the way we felt about our families and people we knew. We’d talk about everything. Sometimes, we’d kiss.” She wrapped her arms around herself. He stood up and approached her. “I was only fifteen but I had convinced myself I was in love with you.”
Jason put a hand on her shoulder and she turned. Tears were streaking down her cheeks again. “Why didn’t you tell me…after the accident?”
She shrugged her shoulders helplessly. “We didn’t get along. You weren’t the same person, you didn’t have the memories. What good would it have done?”
He brought his hands up to wipe the tears away. “God, I wish I could have known – I wish I’d been here for you,” he whispered.
Elizabeth reached up with her own hand and wiped a tear from his cheek. “That doesn’t matter anymore,” she said meeting his eyes. “You’re here now.” Her hand lingered on his cheek. As different as he really looked – Elizabeth was beginning to realize that maybe the only real difference between Jason and who’d once been were the absence of memories.
Blue eyes locked on blue – she felt like she was drowning. She knew she should pull away or leave – but she couldn’t move. He moved his head slightly in her direction and she lifted her chin and closed her eyes.
The first kiss was light, just a brushing of the lips. The second was a bit longer – but it was the third that made the difference. Their lips parted, tongues met and Elizabeth couldn’t think anymore. She moved her hands through his hair and arched her body against him. His hands drifted from her face, down past her shoulders to wrap around her waist and drag her closer.
It was the need for oxygen that finally drove them apart. Breathing heavily, Elizabeth put a hand over her racing heart. She leaned against the wall, trying to catch her breath. She kept her eyes closed.
Jason stood rooted to the same spot. He drove his fingers through his hair and cursed himself for pushing her. She’d never trust him now.
It was a few minutes before Elizabeth trusted herself to speak. “Jason-”
He jerked his eyes up to meet hers. She’d opened her eyes and was looking at him. “Elizabeth, I am so sorry. I never should-”
“Stop,” she whispered, moving away from the wall. “Do I look like I regret anything?” she asked, searching his eyes.
Jason closed his eyes. “No.” He opened them. “But I think I do.”
She blinked. “What?”
“I know who I’m falling for,” he said quietly. He tucked a curl behind her ear. “But I don’t know who you want me to be.”
Elizabeth sucked in a breath and moved away from him. She sat on the edge of the bed and covered her eyes with her hands. Who had she been kissing a few minutes? Jason Quartermaine, Jason Morgan or a cross between the two? She looked up. His back was to her. She stood up and went to him. “Jason.”
He turned to look at her, the mask of indifference in place. He looked down at her.
“I need time,” she told him. “Everything is happening so fast. The nightmares, you – the territory problems, the novel rejections, I just need time to think.”
Jason furrowed his brow in confusion. “The novel rejections?” he repeated.
“I’ll tell you about that some other time,” Elizabeth said. “But I wanted you to kiss me. I hope you believe me.”
He smoothed her hair down. “I believe you.”
She bit her lip. “I’d better go,” she said quietly. “It’s late and I have work tomorrow.”
As she put her hand on the door knob, he put a hand on her shoulder. “Will you be all right sleeping?”
Elizabeth turned her head towards him. “Probably not,” she admitted. “But I won’t be sleeping anyway.”
“Do you…” Jason hesitated. “Do you want to stay here?”
Elizabeth sighed and peered up at him. “Would you stay with me?” she asked softly. She flushed. “In case I wake up…I mean…”
“If you want me too,” Jason said. He gestured towards the bed. “I’ll take the floor.”
“No.” Elizabeth put a hand on his arm. “No,” she repeated firmly. “You’re not sleeping on the floor.”
“Well, the chair will be pretty uncomfortable,” Jason said, shifting his feet.
She shook her head. “It’s a king-size bed. We can share.”
Share a bed with her. Good god, this woman was going to kill him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth nodded. “All right, then I’ll take the floor, you have the bed.”
“Either we both sleep in the bed, or we’re both on the floor,” Elizabeth said firmly. “I’m not going to put you out because you’re being kind.” She smirked. “You’re not arguing with a thirteen year old.”
“All right,” Jason said. He shook his head. “Do you want to borrow something to sleep in?”
“If that’s okay,” Elizabeth said quietly. He headed to the dresser and opened one of the drawers. He removed a blue t-shirt and handed it to her. “The, uh, bathroom is over there,” he said pointing to a door on the far side of the room.
“Thanks.” Elizabeth headed to the bathroom.
Some time, just before dawn, Jason’s eyes opened. He looked down to see a mass of curls ticking his chin. He raised his eyes to the ceiling and swore silently. They’d started the night out on opposite sides of the bed – he was sure of it. Somehow, they’d both ended up in center. He was lying on his back and she was curled into his side, her hair flung every which way on his chest and one of her arms slung just above his waist.
The first thing that he realized was that he didn’t mind waking up next to her like this. The second was that he could more than likely get used to it. And the third…she was muttering in her sleep.
Jason frowned. She must be having a nightmare, he guessed. He stroked her hair. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re all right,” he said softly. “No one’s going to hurt you.”
Elizabeth cowered in the corner of her room. “Don’t…Don’t Daddy!” she screamed as Jeff approached her, the belt snapping in his hands.
She shut her eyes, trying to block out the image before her and she waited for the first sting of the belt.
“Hey, it’s okay.”
At the sound of his voice, Elizabeth opened her eyes. Jason was crouched in front of her, holding his hand out. “You’re all right.”
She hesitantly took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. He pulled her into a hug. “No one’s going to hurt you.”
Jason kept stroking her hair as he felt her body relax. She was still asleep. He closed his eyes and decided to try to sleep a little more.
Emily stretched and rolled over. She woke up with a start as she tumbled off of Jason’s couch. She banged her head against the coffee table and swore. She’d fallen asleep waiting for Jason. The sun was now streaming through the windows. She saw Jason’s keys and jacket on the desk.
Emily stood and headed up the stairs. She just wanted to satisfy her curiosity. She silently slid open the door to Jason’s room and had to struggle to keep a squeal from popping out.
Jason had made it home all right – with Elizabeth it would seem. They were both lying on their side in the center of the bed, both deeply asleep. Jason’s arm was slung across Elizabeth’s waist and his face in her hair. Elizabeth had her hands clasped over Jason’s.
Emily slipped back out and skipped down the stairs, humming. It didn’t matter that they probably had slept together in the biblical sense. They were getting closer – and the reunion dinner tonight was just the way for Emily to find out how close.