When Jason and Elizabeth came into view, Lila was delighted to see them hand in hand. She was even more pleased when she realized that they were both smiling. It was wonderful to see her grandson and the girl she loved as family finding their way back to one another.
“Elizabeth, darling,” Lila greeted, a gentle smile gracing her face. Elizabeth leaned to kiss her cheek before taking a seat across from her. Jason did the same and took a seat next to Elizabeth. “How have you been? I’ve been worried.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been by,” Elizabeth apologized. “Carly’s taking on new accounts at Deception and I’m working on a research project with Sonny. But it’s no excuse, I should have been by.”
“Don’t worry, darling. I understand that you’re busy,” Lila smiled. “But how have you been?”
“I’ve been better,” Elizabeth admitted. “But I’ll be okay.”
“You know I’ve always considered you an honorary member of this family,” Lila said gently. “And that hasn’t changed because you’re not ten years old. You’re still welcome any time.”
“That means a lot to me, Lila,” Elizabeth replied, softly. “Have you heard anything about my family returning from Europe?” she asked hesitantly.
Lila studied the young woman carefully. Poor girl must be worried out of her mind that she was going to see her father. “No, darling. But I no longer keep in touch with them. After Jason’s accident, your father disapproved with the way we handled the situation and Edward broke all business ties. Within time, personal ties were broken as well.”
“How did he want you to handle the situation?” Elizabeth asked curiously.
“He wanted us to have AJ arrested and thrown in jail and recommended we send Jason away to an institution until he remembered his past,” Lila said bluntly. “We, of course, disagreed.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “I am so sorry he said that.”
“Don’t apologize, darling. You’re nothing like your father,” Lila said. “Why, I can remember a good many conversations with you and Emily right here where you said that the way it ended up was for the best. AJ in rehab and Jason being left to find his own way.”
Elizabeth could feel Jason’s stare. “Well, I still believe that.” She turned to Jason. “I just thought it was better if no one pushed you. If you were going to remember anything, it’d happen in its own time.”
Jason squeezed her hand. “There are some things I wish I did remember,” he said quietly meeting her eyes.
Lila suddenly felt like a third wheel as she watched them share the stare. She was thrilled that their connection had survived five years of neglect—and it seemed stronger than ever. She noticed the circles under Elizabeth’s eyes and the general paleness of her complexion. She frowned. There had to be some way to put her fears to rest. Perhaps she could talk to Edward about buying out Webber Industries in Port Charles so Jeff Webber would never need a reason to be here.
“So, Lila, how are your roses this season?” Elizabeth asked, finally. She smiled brightly.
Lila warmed up to her favorite subject. “They’re better than ever. This garden is so full of life—it’s better than it’s been in years. I told Edward I believed it was because all my grandchildren were in the same area and happy, but he just patted my hand and said of course.” Lila frowned. “I think he was patronizing me, but I couldn’t be sure.”
“I think sometimes Edward doesn’t quite know what to say,” Elizabeth said. “You seem to surprise him a lot.”
Lila smiled. “After so many years of marriage, that’s quite a blessing. I know many people don’t understand why we’re still together, but I see the good in Edward. And he is a good man. He makes bad decisions,” she said, turning in Jason’s direction. “But he does it out of love.”
Jason looked away, “Yeah. Well, maybe one day. He hasn’t bothered me yet since I’ve been back.”
“He wanted to see you, but he held himself back,” Lila admitted. “He doesn’t want to push you any further away.”
Elizabeth smiled. “You know, I always loved you two more than my own grandparents. I used to pretend I was your granddaughter.”
Lila reached out and touched Elizabeth’s free hand. “Don’t you know, darling? You’ll always be my granddaughter. Blood doesn’t make a family. Love makes one.”
Elizabeth blinked back the sudden tears that sprang to her eyes. Why was it so easy for everyone but her family to love her? What had been so bad about her that they couldn’t love her?
They left a little while later. On their way out of the garden, Jason pulled her to a corner.
“I found this yesterday and I was wondering if this is the same one you always talk about with Emily.” Jason gestured towards the decapitated statue of an angel that sat next to a fountain.
Elizabeth stared at it. “I wonder why it’s still here,” she said softly. She circled it and reached out to the touch the wings. “I always thought it was beautiful—I couldn’t understand why Edward said Lila didn’t like it.”
Jason furrowed his brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“We were playing tag,” Elizabeth said softly. “You were chasing me and when you caught up, you tackled me and we crashed into the statue. It hit the fountain and the head cracked. I was so upset…” she trailed off and looked at him, her eyes sad. “That was the first time you saved me from my father.”
“What happened?” Jason asked.
“My father had a meeting with Edward and for some reason he came into the garden looking for me. He saw the statue and grabbed my arm. I cried out…and you stepped in and took the blame,” Elizabeth said quietly. “AJ backed you right up and said that you’d been wrestling and knocked it over. I guess my father didn’t look convinced so Edward said that Lila didn’t even like the statue so there was no harm done. He had no choice but to back off. He still tried to take me home, but Emily asked if I could stay the night.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Looking back, I think Edward might have suspected. He was always kind to me—more than he was with any of your other friends. After the accident and the three of you had left home, Edward still stopped whenever he saw me. Asked me how I was. He’d ask how you all were. He never once said a bad word about Sonny—one of the few people who didn’t.” She met his eyes. “If he knew, Lila probably does, too, doesn’t she?”
Jason looked away. “She knows, but whether she heard it from Edward, I don’t know. I told her when I was younger.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth didn’t know how to take that. She’d trusted Jason Quartermaine not to tell anyone and he had anyway. For a moment, she wondered if he’d said anything to anyone else. “Do you know why?”
“Lila told me it was because I needed some to vent to. You’d only made me promise not to tell AJ or Emily.” Jason exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything,” Elizabeth said quietly. “Jason Quartermaine did and I guess I can’t blame him. I guess he needed someone to talk to …and I wasn’t much help.” She smiled at him. “I wonder if they kept the head.”
“What?” Jason said.
“The angel’s head,” Elizabeth clarified. “I wonder if they kept it.”
Jason stared at the angel. Somehow he thought it looked better this way. Otherwise it’d be perfect—and nothing was supposed to be perfect. He looked back at Elizabeth. “She reminds me of you.”
She frowned. “A decapitated angel?”
Jason met her eyes. “She’d be perfect with the head—and I don’t think anything’s supposed to be perfect.”
“And how is she supposed to remind you of me?” Elizabeth asked, bewildered.
“You see your past as…” Jason struggled for the right way to explain it. “As a flaw. Like it’s your fault. You think if it hadn’t happened, you’d be…well not perfect…but closer to it.”
“Yeah?” Elizabeth said, trying to follow his logic.
“But you’re like the angel. It’s not her fault she’s not perfect. She didn’t ask to be knocked over. It just happened.” Jason reached for Elizabeth’s hand. “Don’t you think she looks better without it?”
Elizabeth flicked her eyes back to the statue and tilted her head. The wings still sprouted from the back, clearly marking it as an angel. The angel held a harp in her hands. It was perfect in every way—except for the missing head. Weather and time had warped the top of the statue so that it looked like it had always been headless. She smiled softly. “Yeah.”
“Well, you wouldn’t be who you are if it wasn’t for what happened,” Jason continued. “It’s made you stronger. It’s made you wary of people you don’t know. You don’t trust easily, and when you do, it’s easily broken. You take care of yourself; you make your own rules in life. No one controls you—because you’ve had that before and you know it doesn’t work.”
Her breath caught in her throat as she turned to look at him. Good lord, it was too late. Carly had been right. She did love Jason. “I-” she stopped. She didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to say what she wanted to say. No one ever took the time to say things like that. She had her friends—Emily, Nikolas, Carly. They all loved her and looked out for her, like Sonny. But Jason…took the time to consider the things she did and why. How had he managed to walk into her life after five years, turn it upside down and make her thrilled that it had happened?
Footsteps broke the spell and they both turned to see Edward enter the clearing. He cleared this throat.
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but Lila mentioned you might still be here.” He didn’t even look at Jason—was afraid Jason would leave if he did. “I wanted to see you, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth smiled and approached Edward. She gave him an impulsive hug—she was in a good mood. “It’s good to see you. It’s been far too long.”
Edward smiled. “You’re looking better than you have in a while. You getting more sleep?”
Elizabeth smiled. “I’m doing much better. How are you?”
Edward hesitated. “I could be better,” he admitted. “It’s been tense in the house lately.”
Jason took a deep breath and strode forward. He stuck his hand out. “Hello, Grandfather.”
Both Elizabeth and Edward turned startled eyes to him. Edward was the first to recover. “You’re looking good, Jason,” Edward said, shaking the hand quickly as if it would be retracted before he could. “Lila tells me you’ve moved back to Port Charles.”
Jason nodded. “Time to put some roots down,” he said.
Edward glanced over at Elizabeth and smiled. “Ah, I see. Well, I didn’t want to keep you. I just wanted to say hello to Elizabeth.” He turned back to her. “Will you tell Emily I said hello?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Sure thing.”
Edward hesitated again. “And AJ…he’s in town?”
Elizabeth and Jason traded glances. “Yes,” Elizabeth said warily.
Edward smiled. “It’s good to have the family in one town,” he said. “Tell him that I’ve forgiven him for blackmailing me,” he said, raising his chin.
Elizabeth laughed. “All right.”
“And that he’s welcome in the house any time,” Edward said. He seemed to be struggling with the words. He eyed Jason. “All of you, of course.”
Elizabeth softened. It seemed like the Quartermaine patriarch was finally ready to pull the fragmented family back together. “I will. See you later.”
She took Jason’s hand and led him out of the garden. Once they were off the Quartermaine property, she turned to him. “What was that about?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.
Jason shrugged. “I looked at him and suddenly the anger wasn’t there anymore.” He hesitated. “When you told me what he’d done…and how he’d treated you, and then I saw him talking with you…I don’t know. He doesn’t feel the same.”
“He had a heart attack two years ago,” Elizabeth said quietly. “It almost pulled the family back together, but AJ and Alan went at it again and things seemed worse. Edward nearly died and I guess the experience changed him.”
Jason nodded. “Makes sense.”
He led her to the spot where they’d left the bike. Just before they reached it, she stopped him. “I didn’t get a chance to say anything before Edward came.”
Jason turned. “You don’t have to.”
“Yeah, but I want to.” She took a deep breath. “I told you this morning that you were becoming important to me again and that it was uncomfortable.” She paused, searching for the right words. “That’s not true anymore. In the last hour, that stopped being true. I think that I’m okay with you being in my life again.” She rubbed her eyes and sighed. “And that’s a difficult thing to say, because not only do I trust you with my life…but I trust you not to leave. And I know that I can do that. Because you’ve proved that to me. You’re not just a friend, Jason.” She paused again, meeting his eyes. “You’ve held me while I’ve cried, comforted me during nightmares, listened when I talked…that’s more than a friend. I could try and tell you how I feel about you but I don’t know if I could find the right words.”
He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re more than a friend to me, too,” Jason said quietly.
She allowed herself a few moments of bliss in his arms before pulling away smiling. “Hey, how about teaching me to drive?” she asked, her eyes shining.
“You are not driving my bike…”
A few hours later, Elizabeth had finally tracked AJ down at the hotel. He’d sent Courtney out shopping with the kids so that he and Elizabeth could have some time to talk. He’d wanted to tell her that he knew—but he didn’t know how to tell her without her thinking Emily had said something.
He and Elizabeth sat on the couch in the main room of the suite they were renting. She didn’t say anything at first—which made AJ suspect that she might know he knew.
Finally after a few minutes, Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I want you to know that after the accident, I was angry at you.”
AJ let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. “Oh.”
“I’m not now,” Elizabeth assured him. “But it took a while. And I want to tell you exactly why I was angry.”
“Because I took away Jason,” AJ said.
Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah. AJ, there’s something I never told you…that I kept from everyone. The only person who knew was Jason-”
AJ shook his head. He didn’t want to put her through the explanation if he already knew. It would serve no purpose. “Liz, I already know.”
She stopped and stared at him. “What do you know?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I know about your dad,” AJ said, softly.
Her lower lip trembled. Oh, god. Had Jason Quartermaine told AJ too? “How?” she demanded.
“No one told me,” he assured her quickly. “I was at the estate on Friday with Emily and we found the angel statue in the garden. We started talking about that day—and it hit me. I’m sorry.”
“You guessed?” Elizabeth said weakly. Oh, god. How many other people had?
“No one else knows,” AJ said quietly. “No one was around enough to even see the way he treated you. And Liz, I am so sorry. If I’d been a better friend, I would have seen it. I would have been there and I’ll never forgive myself-”
Elizabeth stood. “How did you figure it out?” she asked, hugging herself tightly.
“I was talking to Emily about that day. How scared you’d been. That I wished I’d thought of jumping in. I said I wondered what Jeff would have done if he’d gotten you home and suddenly the pieces fell together. The clothing, the time you spent with us, how close you and Jason were…” AJ trailed off. “Emily wasn’t going to say anything—she didn’t even want to confirm, but I knew it. And I just….I wish I’d seen it.”
Elizabeth turned to face him. “Do you know many times I’ve heard that over the past week?” she asked, quietly. “You didn’t see it because I didn’t want you to know. I wore long sleeved shirts to hide the bruises. You didn’t pay attention to what I wore—and by the time I was old enough to make a difference…”
“I’d already started drinking,” AJ finished quietly. “And Jason knew. Didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth said, weakly. “I used to sneak in his room when I couldn’t sleep.”
“And when he didn’t remember and couldn’t help…” AJ stood and looked at her. “You had nowhere to go.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No.”
AJ swore softly and drove his fingers through his hair. “I guess this is the one mistake I’ll be paying for a long time.”
Elizabeth touched his arm. “No. Look, I lost him. And I was angry. But in the end, it was for the best. I would have leaned on him—and I never would have gotten out of that house by myself. I had to learn to deal with it myself.” She smiled. “And Jason came back to me, anyway. And, you know what? I’ll tell you a secret.”
“What?” AJ asked.
“I think I’d rather have Jason Morgan over Jason Quartermaine any day,” Elizabeth said. “You and Emily and everyone knew exactly what you were doing—even if I figured it out by myself.”
AJ smiled weakly. “The plan took on a different purpose after Friday. I thought if I could help you and Jase get together…I could help ease my own guilt.”
“I am so glad you pulled your life together,” Elizabeth said softly. “We both had a difficult childhood and we’ve both come out of it—stronger. I’ll probably have nightmares for a long while yet and for you, the urge to drink will never disappear, but in the end, we’ve taken ourselves out of those situations. And neither one of us have anything to feel guilty about.”
For the first time since Jason woke up five years previous, AJ finally believed the words. He didn’t have to feel guilty. The only people that still blamed him were his family—and they blamed anyone and everybody as long as it didn’t have to be themselves. But the important people—Emily, Liz and Jason—had forgiven him. And that made all the difference.
He drew her in a hug. “Thank you,” he said gratefully.
She hugged him back. “You know, other than telling Jason, this was the easiest.” She pulled away and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re my best friend in the world, AJ. You’re the brother I wish Steven had been.”
“Steven was a fool,” AJ said forcefully. “And so was the rest of your family. But, hey, you lucked out. My family has adopted you and Sonny and his wife seem to adore you.” AJ wiggled his eyebrows. “And Jason is crazy about you.”
Elizabeth flushed and pulled away. “Well, the feeling is mutual,” she said softly.
AJ grinned dopily. “Good to hear, Lizzie, my dear, good to hear. All I want is for you to be happy.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I think I’m finally headed in that direction,” she said.