Elizabeth was already waiting when Jason arrived at Kelly’s the next day. Truth be told he was a little anxious about the meeting – it didn’t seem likely she’d made up her mind in only one day. Last night’s dinner had given him some hope, but he wasn’t exactly a hopeful man.
He stood just outside the courtyard staring at her. She was sitting at one of the outside tables, sipping an iced tea waiting patiently for him. She looked a bit more rested than she had in the past few days – still a little pale for his liking, but maybe the nightmares would begin to fade again He was in no hurry to see her have another one. Her curly hair was tied back in a high pony tail and she wore a pair of flared jeans with a light blue tank top. He smirked. She looked more like a high school student than Sonny Corinthos’ silent partner.
Elizabeth seemed to sense his presence somehow and she looked up. She smiled and motioned for him to come over. He did so without hesitation and took the seat across from her.
“I didn’t order yet. I keep sending her back,” Elizabeth said smiling. “Have you been by the warehouse yet?”
Jason nodded. “Sonny wants me to bring you by this afternoon. It seems Chosky has taken a liking to you and will only talk to you.” He glanced around. “Carly give you the afternoon off?”
Elizabeth nodded. “I’m only going to work mornings at Deception until this problem is over. Carly doesn’t really need me there anyway.”
The waitress returned then and they gave her their orders. Once she was back inside, Elizabeth put her elbows on the table and leaned forward. “So I guess you want to hear why I asked you here.”
“I am a little curious,” Jason admitted.
She took a deep breath. “I’m not substituting Jason Quartermaine for you. I don’t pretend you’re him when I’m with you and I don’t want you to be him. I want to make that clear.”
Jason nodded, clearly relieved at her revelation. Before he could say anything, she continued.
“And I do care about you – a lot. But like I said the other night, a lot is happening in my life and I think that we need time before we start anything.” She paused, “If you want to start anything, that is. We’ve barely been talking civilly for a week – and I think any relationship we might have might be better served if we got to know each other better first.” She folded her hands and looked at him.
“You’re right. I’ve been back a week. And I’m not going anywhere…” Jason paused. “I’m back in Port Charles to stay. There’s a lot here for me. I see no reason to rush things.”
She smiled. “Good.”
“So, I’ve got a question for you.” Jason folded his arms on the table and leaned forward. “Just what do you know about Emily’s boyfriend?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Nikolas? He’s one of the best guys, I know. Seriously, I’ve known him since he moved to PC ten years ago. He moved here with his uncle, Stefan Cassadine. Shortly after moving here, Stefan revealed that Laura Spencer was his mother.”
“Now, she’s married to Luke Spencer, the owner of blues bar who’s never around, right?” Jason asked for confirmation.
She nodded. “Yeah, apparently, Laura was kidnapped by Nikolas’s family years ago and forced to marry Stefan’s older brother. Laura escaped and returned home. Anyway, Nikolas got along well enough with Laura and Luke even got used to him after a while. But he and Lucky were vicious enemies for at least two years.” Elizabeth smirked. “Lucky was going through the bully phase when we were ten because of that, at least that’s the theory. Emily’s right – Lucky’s not so bad. As long as he stays out of the country.”
“So, how did they become close enough for Lucky to introduce Nikolas and Emily?” Jason asked.
“Luke kidnapped them both and locked them in a cabin. He figured that when he went back to get them, they’d either be brothers or one would be dead. Simple. Luke would do anything for Laura – and Laura, more than anything, wanted the two of them to get along.”
“I guess it worked.”
“Yeah. Lucky and Emily were friends – but they never clicked as a couple. Nik was getting ready to graduate and we were sophomores. You and Nikolas were actually friends, too. You approved of him. They didn’t start dating until the summer after your accident, though.”
“And he treats her right?”
Elizabeth nodded firmly. “They’re perfect for each other, trust me.”
The waitress brought their food and they spent the next few minutes eating silently before Elizabeth spoke again.
“So, how did you manage to meet Carly? She’s only been in PC for three years, and she and Sonny have been married for only two.”
Jason took a sip of his iced tea. “Well, remember when he sent Carly to the island shortly after their marriage, because of Sorel?”
Elizabeth nodded. She smeared some ketchup on her burger. “Yeah. I remember. He wanted to send me, too.”
“Well, I was the guard that he sent with Carly. Told me there was no one he trusted more. I got to know Carly pretty well the two months she spent there.”
“She told me she told you about Florida,” Elizabeth said. “That’s part of the reason I knew I could trust you. She doesn’t tell a lot of people about that.”
Jason nodded. “Yeah, I know. She said as much then. She was having a few problems – because the island’s so close to Florida, I guess. She’d get really pale or really jumpy. I’m the one who convinced her to tell Sonny.”
“Which was a good idea. They’ve never been closer. I think Sonny has finally found the right woman.”
“I’d hope so. They’re married and all,” Jason remarked.
“Like being married has ever stopped Sonny’s search,” Elizabeth cracked. She sobered. “I feel bad. You know, because Carly told me about her childhood and I know all about Sonny. I haven’t told them.”
“You shouldn’t feel bad. Their experiences were a little bit more behind them,” Jason said. “Doesn’t make them any worse – but they’ve had longer to deal with them. You’ve only been out of your house for two years. If you ever tell them — they won’t be angry.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I think Sonny’s upset that I haven’t trusted him yet. He knows something wrong – and he knows that I’ve trusted you with it. Being family, I know that’s difficult.” She nibbled on a French fry. “I’m just not ready to keep telling it. Every time I do, the nightmares come back and I’m just getting back to normal.”
Jason nodded. “Then wait until you’re ready.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Elizabeth sighed.
“Some things are,” Jason replied.
“I wish I could think like that. I have a tendency to overanalyze a situation or make it worse than it is.” Elizabeth smirked. “I think that’s why Carly and I get along so well.”
“I think I should warn you,” Jason began, “that Emily and AJ aren’t the only ones out to, um, help.”
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “You mean other than them and Carly, right?”
“Who else?” Elizabeth asked, resigned.
“Well, AJ figures Courtney. I know Emily recruited Nikolas and my grandmother and I had the strangest conversation with Sonny the other day.”
“Consider yourself lucky that you got approval,” Elizabeth replied. “The last guy I dated, well, let’s just say he left town shortly after our relationship ended. Sonny scared the shit out of him.” She smiled “It’s all right. Didn’t like him anyway.”
Jason smiled slowly. “Sonny’s got good instincts.”
Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled. “You only say that because you got his approval.”
Jason shrugged. “So?”
Reginald had Lila waiting in the garden when AJ and Emily arrived. She smiled widely at the sight of her two grandchildren. “It’s so wonderful to see you.”
AJ leaned over to kiss his grandmother and so did Emily. “It’s good to see you, too,” AJ said, taking a seat.
“I’m so glad to see you, darling. How are Courtney and the children?” Lila asked.
AJ pulled his wallet out. “I brought pictures.” He looked around. “The rest of the family isn’t around right?”
Lila shook her head. “No, your parents are at the hospital and Edward is at the office.” She accepted the wallets that AJ gave her. “Oh, AJ, they’re so adorable. You must bring them by.”
AJ nodded. “Not a problem.”
“Now, Emily, how goes your little plan?” Lila asked, setting the pictures aside. “Are you making any progress?”
Emily nodded, grinning. “Jason and Beth are much closer – they haven’t fought since that first day and I’ve got it on good authority that they’ve kissed.”
AJ looked at Emily. “What? Says who?”
“Beth!” Emily squealed. “Isn’t that great?”
Lila smiled gently. “It’s wonderful. I would love to see him happy – and Elizabeth as well. She’s like my own granddaughter.”
“We get our way and she will be,” AJ said. “We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve but we’re mainly leaving it up to them. They seem to be doing well on their own.”
Emily nodded, “Which means you know it’s meant to be. We’re just giving them…a slight push.”
Lila laughed. “A slight push never hurt anyone. After all, I did arrange for Courtney to work in New York City.”
AJ grinned. “And I couldn’t thank you enough. How did you know she was the right one?”
“When you’ve lived as long as I have, darling, it’s just something you can recognize. There’s certain energy in the air. I saw it between yourself and Courtney the night you brought her home and I knew I had to make sure it wouldn’t be lost. So, I called in a few favors and arranged it.” Lila smiled. “And I’m very glad it worked out.”
“Wait, when did you bring Courtney to PC?” Emily asked curiously.
“It was just after rehab,” AJ explained. “I came home to see if the family had forgiven me. I didn’t want to do it alone, so I asked a few other people who were getting out the same time I was. Courtney was the only one available.”
Emily nodded. “Grandmother…” she asked hesitantly. “Do you see that with Nikolas and me?”
Lila gently patted her granddaughter’s hand, “Yes, darling. I do. He loves you very much.”
Emily beamed. “He’s the best.”
AJ grinned. “We are just a bunch of hopeless romantics, aren’t we?”
Lila laughed. “There are worse things to be, darling.” She sighed. “I do wish you could come more often. I miss the four of you being around.”
Emily nodded. “We miss it, too, believe me. Especially lately. I miss how simple and innocent everything used to be. When we were really young…when the worst problems we had to face was whether or not Beth and Jason would have a fight that day.”
AJ put an arm around his sister’s shoulder. “Problems come with the territory. You can’t be twenty-one and not have a few problems.”
Emily still looked troubled. “I miss the happy times with the family. I wish I hadn’t been forced to walk away. If only they would have been more understanding…” she shook her head. “I guess it’s useless to think of that.”
Lila sighed. “I wish I could have talked some sense into Alan, Monica and Edward. Things aren’t much better. Your parents are having problems – especially since they’re estranged from all three of their children and Edward…he does miss having you all around. I know it.”
Emily exchanged a look with her brother. “Maybe one day, we can mend the bridges. After all, what can they still be angry about? AJ is sober, has been for over four years. I’m in college, and Jason’s back in town and he’s happy, too. Or he will be.”
“I could never claim to know they’re thinking,” Lila replied. “When you see Jason and Elizabeth, please tell them to stop by. I miss them both.”
Emily nodded. “I know Jason would like to talk to you.”
“I get tired so easily these days, darlings,” Lila said. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine,” Emily said. “Go inside and rest. AJ and I will just take a walk and let ourselves out.” She and AJ kissed their grandmother goodbye and Reginald took her back inside.
Once she was gone, AJ sighed. “She’s getting older, Em. One day, she’ll be gone. What happens then?”
Emily shrugged sadly. “I think maybe we should think about approaching at least Mom and Dad.”
AJ nodded. “Let’s take a walk down memory lane.” He held his arm and Emily took it.
They walked through the vast garden before coming to a statue that seemed to be decapitated. Frowning, AJ stared at it. “This can’t be the one Liz knocked over.”
Emily smiled. “It is. I wonder why they didn’t get a new one.” Her eyes darkened as she remembered the day it broke.
“Liz’s father was so mad at her,” AJ said quietly. He circled the statue. “She looked so scared – I can’t say I don’t blame Jason for jumping in. I only wished I’d thought of it.” He met her eyes. “And when Edward tried to calm Jeff down by saying it wasn’t Lila’s favorite statue – I’d never seen him do anything like that before.” AJ looked at the statue again. “I wonder what Jeff would have done if he’d gotten Liz home…” AJ trailed off as Emily became uncomfortable. “That’s it, isn’t it?”
“What’s it?” Emily asked. AJ was too close to the truth for her taste.
“I always thought Jeff was a bastard – he and Katherine. They treated Sarah and Steven like gold and Liz like crap. Do you remember how jealous Sarah always was? She once told me that she would be better suited to be a friend to the Quartermaines…” AJ shook his head. “Jeff hit her, didn’t he?”
Emily sucked in a breath. She’d forgotten how observant AJ could be when he wanted to be. He was better at putting pieces together than anyone else she knew – which was why he did so well at ELQ. “AJ-”
“Don’t. I know Liz has probably sworn you to secrecy. But…it makes sense now. Why she was always here – early in the morning to late at night. Why she wore heavy clothing even in summer.” AJ looked away. “Jason knew. He probably was the only one who did – probably why they seemed closer after a while. That’s why the accident destroyed Liz.” He looked at her. “You don’t have to say anything. I think I’ve got it.”
“Oh, AJ,” Emily sighed. “She kept it a secret for so long – I feel so guilty. How could I have missed it?”
AJ kept staring at the statue. “You weren’t the only one, Em. I missed it, too. Even when I was sober… I was her friend and I was so busy drinking away whatever insignificant problems I had…I totally missed my best friend’s pain.” He took a deep breath and looked at her with sad eyes. “The mistakes…some mistakes you never stop paying for, huh?”
Emily hugged herself. “Maybe I didn’t want to see it,” she whispered. “Things were bad enough at home … and even when they weren’t… I guess I wanted to believe that since we had the perfect family, that Beth must have the same thing too. I guess I just couldn’t see it – I couldn’t fathom someone wanting to hurt another person like that.” Her eyes became angry, “How could he do that to her? She trusted him, trusted him to love her, protect her and keep her safe. How could he be so cruel and make her pay for something that wasn’t her fault?” Emily raged.
AJ reached out to touch the statue, “Because some men are weak. It’s easier to hurt a small child than it is to face what your wife’s done. He’s lucky he’s not standing in front of me – I might strangle him.”
“AJ, she can’t know that you know,” Emily said desperately. “She’ll think I told you.”
AJ shook his head. “Don’t worry, Em. I won’t tell her. But you know what? Her comment last night makes sense now. When you compare what I did to her father…I guess I didn’t ruin her childhood after all.” His eyes darkened. “But I took Jason away – and I get the feeling she needed him those last three years she was at home.” He gave Emily a small smile. “But maybe if … maybe if we can get them together … I’ll feel like I’m not such a bastard anyway.”
Emily reached out and hugged her brother tightly. “Believe it or not, AJ, we were very lucky. Our parents might not have shown it, but at least we know we were loved.”
AJ sighed, “Yeah, Em. And maybe it’s time to let the past go.”
Sonny looked up as his sister and Jason entered the office. He grinned a little, thinking that while Carly’s idea had seemed crazy at first … maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. “About time, you two.”
Elizabeth smirked and put her purse on her desk. “Sonny, its 12:30. We were at Kelly’s for like a half an hour, tops.”
Jason closed the door behind him and leaned against it. Sonny took the hint and stood up. “Don’t worry about it. Listen, we got a call from Chosky. He seems to like you – thinks you have a good voice and a good head on your shoulders. He told me that anything we needed, he’d be more than happy to help. I, of course, told him that it was returned.”
Elizabeth nodded, all business now. “Good. He’s a good ally to have.”
“I got information that seems a little disturbing,” Sonny said. “One of our informants reported he’s been seeing working girls around Courtland Street. So, Jason, I want you to go track down Jack Gregg and get any other information he might be keeping from us.”
Jason nodded. “I’ll go now.” He glanced at Elizabeth before leaving. “See you later.”
“See ya,” Elizabeth replied, not able to hide her smile. Once Jason was gone, she shook her head and turned to Sonny. “What do you need me to do?”
“I need you to be on your toes,” Sonny said. “You’ve proved yourself to me, Liz. And it would usually take someone more than two years of research to do so.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Good. I worked hard enough.”
“So, if you want, you can take a more active role, starting with Verruchio.”
Elizabeth’s smile fell a little. “What about Jason?”
Sonny grinned and leaned against his desk. “Oh, you’re worried if you take on more that we won’t need Jason anymore.”
“No,” Elizabeth said, crossing her arms, “Not at all. It’s just that he’s moved back here, expecting to be a partner… I’d hate to see him go…” she trailed off and looked away.
“Oh, Liz,” Sonny said, amused. “You don’t lie very well.”
“I do, too,” Elizabeth said, defensively.
“I’m sorry, I take it back. You’re an excellent liar,” Sonny replied. “Anyway, you know my reasons for wanting to keep Jason as a partner even after you graduate – it takes a long time for a woman to get respected in this business and should something happen to me, I don’t want to have to worry about you.” He grinned. “And there’s the added benefit that you and Jason will run the business together one day.”
“Together…” Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not suggesting…” she rolled her eyes. “Gosh, Sonny, not you, too.”
“What?” Sonny asked innocently. “I just happen to agree with the majority.” He sighed. “You know how much I love you right?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth said, grudgingly.
“And all I want is for you to be happy. And seeing you with Jason … You’re happy with him. And the people around you can see that. He’s happy with you, too. And trust me, you couldn’t ask for someone better.”
Elizabeth smiled a little and looked down. “He is great, isn’t he?” she asked shyly.
“He’s the best person I know,” Sonny answered plainly. “And he’s the only person good enough for my baby sister.”
Elizabeth crossed the office and wrapped her arms around her brother. “You know I love you right?”
Sonny hugged her back, “Yeah.”
“And that I do trust you.” Elizabeth pulled away. “I know that you’re worried – but I’m okay. I really am. And I know you’re hurt that I’m keeping something from you.”
“And I want to thank you for not pushing me,” Elizabeth said quietly. She pulled away and stepped away a little. “And I want you to believe me that I will tell you. It’s just … it hurts a lot to tell and I’ve already done it twice in the last week.” She took a deep breath. “But, I guess you could say … that you, me and Carly…we all have something in common. And it’s not that we’re related. It’s something that happened to us.”
Sonny stared at her. “Liz-”
“I know there are people in my life that I’ve kept this from for too long,” she said quietly. “It’s just … I only trusted one person in my life and he was taken from me. I didn’t want to chance that again.”
Sonny crossed the office and crouched before her. “Your father abused you, didn’t he?”
Elizabeth was taken aback by the bluntness of the question, but she finally nodded, “Yeah.”
Sonny took her hand—he was almost afraid to ask. “Physically or…” he swallowed hard. “Sexually.”
Elizabeth’s eyes welled up with tears as she watched her brother’s reaction. “Just physically,” she promised. “He never touched me any other way.”
Sonny stood and pulled her into a tight hug, “Oh, god, Liz. I never…I wish I’d known then—I wish I could have taken you away from him.”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, burying her face in his chest. “I had Jason and when I didn’t have him, I had a memory of him telling me to stay strong. I made it Sonny, I got through it and here I am.”
“But this never ends, Liz,” Sonny said, sadly. “It’s something you never really let go of. It stays with you. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but I know. And Carly knows. You can get past it, you can move on. But part of you will always be that little child.”
Elizabeth brushed at her tears. “I know,” she said, brokenly. “I know part of me will always be screaming at him to stop. But I can’t let that rule my life, which is why I can’t hide from it anymore.”
“You come to me,” Sonny said forcefully, stroking her hair. “Nightmare, anything, you come to me and Carly and we’ll get you through it. No matter what, kid, you always have us. That will never change.”
Elizabeth started to cry harder. “Thank you,” she whispered through her tears. “You have no idea how much it means to me that I have a family that cares.”
“Yeah, I do, Liz. I do get it and believe me, no one will ever take that from you again,” Sonny promised. He kissed the top of her head. “I’ve had the luck to be blessed twice, first with my beautiful and incredible wife and now my beautiful and incredible sister. You two are the strongest people I know. And it’s people like you, me and Carly that take action to make sure we’re never hurt like that again.”
She wrapped her arms around him more tightly. “I just don’t understand, Sonny. I don’t know what I did to make him so angry all the time,” she whispered, broken.
“It’s not your fault. He didn’t need a reason to be angry,” Sonny said quietly. “Some people are weak. It’s easier for them to take their anger out on a defenseless child than the people they’re angry with.”
“But it wasn’t my fault that my mother had an affair,” Elizabeth whispered. “I’ll never understand why he just didn’t kill me. He could have. The day he told me he wasn’t my father, he nearly pushed me out a window. Sometimes…I wish he had.”
Sonny held Elizabeth while she cried and decided that Jeff Webber had to pay. No one hurt his family and got away with it.