January 16, 2023

This entry is part 37 of 37 in the Counting Stars

Forever, we will be
Together, a family
The more I get to know ya, nothin’ can compare
With all of my heart you know I’ll always be
Right there

I’ll Always Be Right There, Bryan Adams

Monday, December 11, 2000

General Hospital: Waiting Room

“You know what would happen if I went home now, don’t you?” Emily said to Bobbie on her third lap around the room. “I’d get to the parking lot, and she’d have the baby.”

“That’s probably true—” Luke checked his watch. “But I don’t have a choice. I promised Felicia I’d grab Lu from her by eight, baby or no baby.” He grimaced. “Barbara Jean—”

“I’ll call you as soon as we know anything,” Bobbie said, flipping a page. She glanced up. “I told you all not to come this early. She only went into labor two hours ago. We’ll probably be here all night.”

“Well, then I better go restock the coffee.” Sonny got to his feet. “Bobbie, you in?”

“Is it your blend or the cafeteria?”


“Me, too. I’m staying until the bitter end. I will not be at home when my niece or nephew is born.” Emily flopped into a chair next to Bobbie, eyed the television mounted in the corner with some suspicion. “Who picks the channels on these things anyway?”

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

Bobbie was right. Elizabeth’s labor lasted through the night and into the next morning, but with the support of Laura and Jason and an excellently timed epidural, it wasn’t the nightmare she’d been worried about. It was a bit mortifying in some parts, but then a nurse placed the baby in Elizabeth’s arms, and it all seemed to slide away.

“She barely weighs anything,” Elizabeth murmured. Jason bent in close to peer at their daughter, and Elizabeth rested her forehead briefly against his cheek. “She’s perfect. They said she was perfect, didn’t they?”

“They did.” Jason kissed her forehead. “Full points on everything.” He’d watched as they’d cleaned her up, counting her fingers, her toes—

“Look at all that hair,” Laura said, leaning over the other side. “She’s going to have your color,” she told Elizabeth. “She’s beautiful. Absolutely incredible.”

“Do you want to hold her?” Elizabeth asked Jason. “I’ve been holding her for nine months.” Gingerly, Jason took the baby—she felt like a bundle of feathers in his arms. He’d thought about this in Greece, about this moment, holding his child. Watching her being born.

And he’d nearly lost it. It had almost been stolen from them. It would have been so easy for Elizabeth to give up, to think Jason had disappeared willingly or one of his own enemies had come for him. But she’d believed in him and had fought for him. She’d rescued him.

“You decided to be surprised,” Laura said to Elizabeth. “But you had names picked out, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. She’s Paige Audrey Morgan.” Elizabeth rested her head against the pillow and smiled faintly at Jason as he swayed slightly, soothing their newborn daughter.

“That’s a good name. I should go tell everyone. I think Luke came back after dropping Lu at school. Are you ready for everyone or do you want some more time?”

“They can come back for a little while.”

Laura kissed her forehead. “You did so good, honey. Congratulations.”

Spencer House: Living Room

“I swear I’m going to sleep for a month.” Laura collapsed on the sofa. “Bobbie and I should have pulled shifts or something.”

Luke smiled, sat on the coffee table and leaned down to help remove her shoes. “No, Liz wanted you in there with her, and Bobbie understood. Cute kid. She’s gonna grow up to be something special.”

“Are you all right?” Laura opened her eyes, peered at him. “You’ve been quiet since we left the hospital.”

“I’m—” Luke paused. “I had a moment when I was holding the baby—just a moment—where I wanted it to be Lucky. I’m happy Liz has moved on. That she’s found happiness and that she’s building her family. Grateful that she’s open to letting us both stay in her life. But it’s so hard sometimes—”

“I know.”

“It’ll pass. We’re going on two years since we lost our Cowboy, and it’s getting easier. I don’t think about him every day. It’s not the first thought when I wake up.”

“You’ve done good this year, Luke. Stepping up for Lulu, coming back to the club. Being there for Elizabeth.”

“Yeah, well, I wanted to be the man my boy always thought I was. Better late than never.” He got to his feet. “I’ll head out, let you get some rest.”

Laura watched him go, then curled up on the sofa, closing her eyes. She understood Luke’s fleeting desire for Lucky was to be the one in that room, that it had been handing his daughter to Luke to hold for the first time instead of Jason. Eight months since they’d left Greece, since Laura had turned her back on her last living son, and the pain could still make her chest ache and steal her breath.

She’d lost her boys, but she still had Lulu, and God willing, she’d have Elizabeth. It would be enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2000

Cassadine Estate: Terrace

The moon had risen over the water, but Nikolas hadn’t yet gone inside. It was the first time in months that he was alone on the estate. His father had remained to enforce the house arrest, but finally, Stefan had gone to the mainland for a series of meetings.

The house was as silent as a tomb. As empty as his own life. He let his head fall forward, contemplating his future. He could likely negotiate the ability to travel freely as long as he kept his promise to stay out of Port Charles. Beyond his sister, who had likely been fed lies about Nikolas’s supposed crimes, there was little left for him there anyway.

“I always enjoyed the way the moon shimmered over the water from this side of the island.”

Nikolas lunged off the chair, whirling around as a figure glided out of the house, her silver hair carefully coiffed, silver and diamonds glinting at her wrists and on her figure. “Grandmother,” he said warily. “I thought you were wintering in St. Petersburg.”

“I was, but then I learned that you had finally been left alone. My dear boy, this is no life for you.” Helena smiled as she approached. “You only honored the blood of your grandfather, of your uncle. You sought justice in a world that hadn’t offered it. And you’ve been punished for it.”

“I don’t know what you want from me,” Nikolas began. “There’s nothing I can do for you—”

“No, no, darling. I’m here to give something to you. An opportunity.” Helena tilted her head. “To finally make the women who abandoned and betrayed you pay. Are you interested?”

Friday, December 14, 2000

Hardy House: Elizabeth’s Bedroom

Elizabeth smiled as Jason entered the room, clad only in a pair of sweatpants. “Hey, she’s almost asleep.” The gentle back and forth rhythm of the rocking chair had lulled Paige into a light doze, and if they were very careful, that doze would turn into at least two solid hours of sleep before her next feeding.  Hopefully. It had worked the night before, their first full night at home.

“I can’t believe she’s finally here,” Elizabeth said, keeping her voice soft but not whispering. “I feel like we’ve been planning so long, and now—” She brushed her knuckles down Paige’s soft cheek.

“Now she’s here.”

“Do you want to try putting her in the bassinet? I think she’s ready to move.”

Jason leaned down to take the baby and soon enough Paige was fast asleep, her tiny fists raised up above her head. Elizabeth remained in the chair, watching him, her own body relaxing and sliding into sleep.

She felt herself being lifted from the chair, but there was no panic, no worry, just the comfort of being in the arms of the man she loved. “Mmm…I could sleep for an eternity,” she muttered, pressing her face into the pillow when he laid her down. She felt the bed dip next to her as he climbed in. “I’ve never been so tired, and we’re just getting started.”

“Yeah, we are.”

She felt his gaze on her, and opened her eyes, her lips curving into a smile. “Hey. You’re looking at me.”

“I’m looking at you.” He brushed some strands off her head, gently. “You’re so beautiful.”

“You have to say that,” Elizabeth said with a yawn. “I’m the mother of your child.”

“Maybe, but it’s not why. And you’re more than that.”

She smiled again. “More than friends. I remember.” Elizabeth opened her eyes again when he didn’t respond. His gaze was so serious, somber. “What?”

“I love you,” he murmured, bringing her hand to his mouth. “For never giving up on me.  You dragged me out of the snow, and you gave me back my life.”

“And you showed me I didn’t have to keep living in nothing. That there was still a life out there worth living. I love you, too.” He leaned down, and she threaded her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck to hold him close, as he kissed her, lingering.

“We’re going to have the best life,” she said. Jason opened his mouth, likely to agree, but then Paige started to cry because there was no such thing a routine with babies.

Somewhere in Russia

Nikolas blew warmth into his hands as he followed his grandmother down another twisting corridor. She’d dragged him from the warmth of Greece to the tundra of Russia, and then to this building that looked like a basic, bland building left over from the days of the Soviet Union.

“How much further—”

“Right here.” Helena stopped by a door. “In here you’ll find what you need for revenge. To make your mother, the Spencers—”

“Morgan and Corinthos,” Nikolas growled. “You promised.”

“Ah, yes. All those who hurt you, my love—” Helena punched a number into a keypad. “Tell me what you think, my darling.”

Nikolas pushed the door open, then simply stared open-mouthed as a lean young man stumbled to his feet. “What is going on?”

“What are you doing here?” Blue eyes flicked to Helena, questioning. “You said it wasn’t time yet.”

“No, not quite yet, pet.” Helena went into the room, her tone soothing. “But I thought it might be amusing to hold a family reunion.”

Nikolas swallowed hard, looked at Helena, then back at his brother. Lucky was alive. And in complete thrall to his grandmother.


This entry is part 36 of 37 in the Counting Stars

From this moment, as long as I live
I will love you, I promise you this
There is nothing I wouldn’t give
From this moment, I will love you
As long as I live, from this moment on

From This Moment On, Shania Twain

Monday, May 14, 2000

Hardy House: Living Room

Bobbie checked Jason’s vitals one last time before removing her stethoscope and smiling. “It all looks good. Your pulse is strong, the heartbeat is regular, and most importantly, your blood pressure is normal.” She patted his arm. “You’re in the clear. You might still need a few days before you feel like yourself all the way, so take it easy.”

“I don’t think I’ll have much of a choice in that,” Jason said, eying Elizabeth across the room who was talking with Luke and Laura. After the airport, he’d expected everyone to go home, but instead they’d all come here. Bobbie had insisted on one more medical checkup, Sonny and Alexis were in the kitchen, and Laura was hovering near Elizabeth.

Beside him, Emily beamed. “I’m so glad you’re home,” she told him. “Grandmother is so excited for the baby and for Elizabeth, and now you get to be here for all of it—” She paused. “And you really want us all to get out of here, don’t you?”

“I do, yeah,” Jason admitted. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate everything—” He looked to Bobbie. “I really do. But—”

“But we’re smothering you.” Bobbie rose from the sofa. “I’ll talk to Sonny and Alexis. They’ll be easier to hurry along.”

“It’s hard for me to go anywhere,” Emily admitted as Bobbie disappeared into the kitchen, the door swinging lightly. “To let you out of my sight.” Her smile faded, and now Jason could see the shadows lingering. “What if…what if Nikolas doesn’t give up?”

“He will,” Jason promised. He squeezed his sister’s hand. “And even if he doesn’t, this time we’ll see him coming. I’m sorry. I know how much you cared about him—”

“I cared about a man who clearly didn’t exist. Someone who never, in a million years, have hurt you or Elizabeth this way.” Emily took a bracing breath. “But you’re right. We know there’s a threat now. I trust you to look out for yourself. You have too much to lose.”

“I won’t let anything happen to her, either,” Jason assured his sister. “I’m glad to be back.”

Across the room, Elizabeth hugged Laura one more time. “Thank you,” she said, then drew back to look at Luke. “For both of you. For the last month, it’s been a roller coaster, but you’ve both been there when I needed you.”

“And we always will be,” Laura reminded her. “I told you, you won’t be getting rid of us that easily.” She glanced at Jason and Emily on the sofa, then saw Bobbie leaving the kitchen followed by Sonny and Alexis. “But I think we’re overstaying our welcome. It’s time for us to go, and for you to get some rest.” She hugged Elizabeth. “I love you, honey.”

“I love you, too.”

It took another ten minutes and a promise from Sonny to make sure the fridge was stocked, and meals would be delivered before the house had finally emptied. Elizabeth curled up on the sofa next to Jason, laying her head down on his shoulder. “We’re home,” he murmured, tightening his arm around her.

“How does it feel to be back in Port Charles?” Elizabeth looked up at him. “I mean, I know you haven’t been here long—”

“When I came back in March…” Jason exhaled. “It wasn’t right then. It is now. I know where I want to be, and it’s right here with you.”

Spencer House: Living Room

“I’ll get Lu from Felicia in the morning,” Laura said, switching on the light as she came in. “We should have dinner with her. Together. We’ve been gone a while—”

“Sounds like a plan.” Luke set down her suitcase. “Felt a bit like old times for minute there, didn’t it?”

Laura turned and her smile deepened. “It did, didn’t it? It’s been a long time since I felt like I could make something good happen.” Her eye caught the mantel and a photograph of Elizabeth and Lucky from their last—their only—Christmas together. She crossed the room to pick it up. “I wonder what Lucky would have thought about all of this. About Nikolas—” The wave of grief, of anger came so quickly it nearly brought her to her knees. “I’ve lost them both.”


“It seems obscene, doesn’t it?” she murmured, setting it back on the mantel and looked at the photo next to it — the only one that existed of Lucky and Nikolas together, taken at Christmas in his garage apartment. Emily had given it to her after the funeral, and Laura had cherished it — this small piece of evidence that her boys loved one another. “He’d have been horrified.”

“There aren’t words for any of it, Angel.”

“No, I suppose not.” She picked up the stack of mail that Felicia had left on the table during the check on the house and on Gatsby. There was an envelope from the state — Laura opened it, skimmed the contents, then looked at Luke. “I…the divorce.” She passed the letter to him. “It’s finalized.”

He took it, read it for himself, then nodded and refolded the paper. “So it is.” Luke looked at her. “Time for a fresh start. For all of us. Wherever it takes us.”

Friday, May 18, 2000

Hardy House: Kitchen

“I got a call from my agent,” Elizabeth said, breezing into the room that morning. She headed for the fridge and poured a glass of orange juice. “I have a new contract, so I’m going to head to the studio to get some work done.”

Jason set down the newspaper he’d been perusing and picked up his coffee mug. “Okay. I have to go see Sonny anyway. And stop by the dealership — the new bike is ready.” He raised his brows. “You wanna go on a ride tonight?”

“Do you even have to ask?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes lighting up. She leaned over to kiss him. “Maybe I could—”


“Come on.”

“You’re not driving.”

Elizabeth pouted and sat at the table. “I’ll wear you down eventually,” she muttered, but her eyes were still sparkling.

He’d spent most of the week resting — Bobbie was right. It had taken until yesterday before he felt like himself again. This morning, Jason had jogged down the steps and hadn’t felt even a little winded.

It was time to get back to both their lives — or to rebuild one together. And it started with going back to work and taking Elizabeth out on the cliff roads, where he just might let her steer for a while. Not that he’d tell her now. It was much more fun to tease her.

Elm Street Pier

Jason jogged down the steps to the pier, halfway to the warehouse that sat on the adjoining wharf when he heard a voice call out his name. An unwelcome one.

He knew it would happen eventually — that it was just a matter of when, not if—he came face to face with Carly. He’d just wanted a few more days, maybe even weeks. But the choice had been taken out of his hands. That always seemed to be the problem with Carly — she acted and left him no choice but to deal with her.

He stopped and turned around, watching as Carly hurried across Bannister’s Wharf, keeping his hands at his side and his expression empty. Carly paused a few feet away from him, her own features unsure. “What do you want?”

“I—” She took a deep breath, her brown eyes shimmering. “I don’t know. I just—I saw you and I reacted—wait—” Carly called out as Jason turned away. “Please. Just let me have a minute—”

“I’ve given you too many minutes—”

“I know. I know you have.” Carly swallowed hard. “A-and I know I made my choice. I did this to myself. I just—I never meant to hurt you—”

“Yes, you did,” Jason said, and she closed her mouth. “You meant to hurt me. That night. And with Michael on the docks. You used him to hurt me. Don’t lie, Carly. You wanted me to be hurt and to remember how much I loved him — as if I’d forgotten.” He looked at her, at the woman who had driven him to the worst mistakes of the last four years. “Michael is happy where he is. AJ’s a—” He paused. “AJ is a good father. Stop screwing that up for him.”

“I’m not trying to—”

“You never try to do anything, Carly.” He waited another minute. “You and I are done. We’ve been done for a long time. I just didn’t see it. Now you have to accept it and leave me alone.”

“We can’t even be friends—wait, please don’t just—” Carly’s voice went up a pitch as he turned away. “Jason—”

He left, striding across the pier and down to the wharf, walking away from Carly just as he should have done a lifetime ago. He’d once thought anything she’d done to him was worth the pain because she’d brought Michael into his life — now, he just wanted to put her in the past and move on.

She couldn’t hurt him anymore.

Vista Point

The sun was still setting when he picked Elizabeth up that night and drove up to the cliff roads, taking the turns just a little too fast so that she’d have to hold him tighter. He’d missed the sound of her screaming, the way it whipped into the wind roaring past their faces.

“Do you remember the last time we were here?” Elizabeth asked, turning her back on the view of Spoon Island.

“The night I came home,” Jason said. He rested his arms on the railing, taking in the Gothic mansion in the middle of the harbor, wandering if it would ever be inhabited by Cassadines again. If Nikolas Cassadine would stay locked up in Greece or if he’d shake loose and come after them again—

“I think about it sometimes,” Elizabeth continued and he looked at her. “When you took me home—if you hadn’t stopped me from going inside—”

If he hadn’t blurted out how much he thought about her and missed her, she might not have kissed him. He wouldn’t have stayed the night. And she wouldn’t be pregnant. Where would they be right now if he’d kept his mouth shut?

“I never told you how much I thought about you,” she continued, and he straightened. “When you were gone. I tried not to, but I’d stand on the pier and think about it. It was hard to work in the studio for a while because I kept turning around to look for you…” Elizabeth turned so that they were facing each other, their bodies brushing against one another. “I wanted you to stay so much. I wanted to be selfish. But I’m glad I wasn’t. That you’re here because you want to be.”

He kissed her, softly, lingering—a hand against her throat, feeling the flutter of her pulse. “You know how much I thought about you. You found those postcards.”

“That was Nikolas’s mistake,” Elizabeth said, her eyes still closed. “The man he sent after you — he left those behind. But I knew you wouldn’t have done that. I was already sure by then, but those—I found them in a drawer.” She opened her eyes, met his. “You were so embarrassed— you’d have burned them, not left them behind. He thought that you’d disappear, and I’d believe you left me. That I’d go back to Port Charles and forget about you. But he didn’t know me at all.” Her voice trembled. “I would have searched for you to the ends of the earth.”

He kissed her again, then pressed his forehead against hers. “You read them, didn’t you?”

“Every single one. When I was supposed to be sleeping, I stayed up and I read every single word you never sent—” Her lips curved into a wicked smile. “And I’m holding you to the promises you made.”

“It doesn’t count—”

“It absolutely does.” She danced away from him, then lifted her hand where he saw his keys dangling from her fingers. “You said if you got the chance, you’d let me drive.”

He grinned despite himself. Those damned postcards. “You better not close your eyes.”

“I promise.” Elizabeth laughed, then wound her arms around his neck. “I wouldn’t want to miss a moment.”

Cassadine Island: Dungeons

Stefan slid the key into the lock, then turned it, listening to the click of the tumblers. Behind the bars, his son sat on the cot, his hair disheveled, eyes bloodshot, and clothing rumpled.

“It’s been a week since they left,” Stefan said, pushing the door open and stepping back, forcing himself not to hold his breath. “I waited longer to be sure they would not return.”

Nikolas’s eyes burned as he rose to his feet. “And what promises did you make in exchange for my life?” he demanded.

“You are to be confined to the island for a period of time. And then you will stay away from Port Charles.” Stefan pocketed the key. “I had no choice, Nikolas. Not if I wanted to save your life.”

“You had a choice,” his son said flatly as he limped past Stefan and started down the hallway. “You made yours—”


“Now it’s my turn.”

This entry is part 35 of 37 in the Counting Stars

This year’s love had better last
Heaven knows it’s high time
I’ve been waiting on my own too long
And when ya hold me like you do
It feels so right oh now
I start to forget how my heart gets torn
When that hurt gets thrown
Feeling like you can’t go on

This Year’s Love, David Gray

Saturday, May 13, 2000

Private Jet: Bedroom

Jason leaned back against the pillow, irritated with how tired he already felt. He’d done nothing more than climb the steps to board the plane and sit down. Once the plane had taken off and reached cruising altitude, he’d walked down the hallway with Luke’s help to lay in bed. Bobbie hooked up another bag of fluids and Elizabeth was watching closely, as if taking notes.

Now Jason’s chest felt sore, and he was tired again — it was like being back at the hospital after the accident with everyone working or talking around him, and he could do nothing but lay there.

“All right,” Bobbie said, spreading the tape over Jason’s arm to secure the IV. “The doctor said that this should be the last fluids he needs,” she told Elizabeth. “After that, it’s just rest—”

“I’m right here,” Jason interrupted sharply, and they both looked at him. “I can hear you.”

“I—” Bobbie’s hand fluttered up in front of her, and her cheeks flushed. “I know that—”

“And the doctors already told me that,” Jason continued, struggling to sit up against the pillows. “I heard them—”

“She was reassuring me.” They both looked at Elizabeth. “I wasn’t there when they talked to you,” she reminded Jason. “Plus, you are right there, but you’re still recovering. And Bobbie’s been up with you all night. She’s going to sleep—”

“Elizabeth—” Bobbie began.

“You are,” Elizabeth told her, before looking back at Jason who was starting to feel like an idiot. “So she was telling me what was going on and showing me how to change the IV in case you were sleeping, too.” She looked at Bobbie. “Thank you. I’ve got it from here.”

“Uh—” Bobbie nodded. “All right. I’ll check in later.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason said when Bobbie had closed the door behind them. “I just—”

“Hate people taking care of you and talking about you,” Elizabeth said. “I know.”

He held out a hand and was grateful when she took it and laid down next to him. Everything inside of him settled when she was back where she belonged, curled up in his arms, her hand resting over his heart. “You found me,” he murmured. “I didn’t know if anyone would.”

“Sonny was the one who brought Alexis to Portland,” Elizabeth corrected. “If she hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have known about the Cassadine servant.” She exhaled slowly, and when she spoke again, her voice was shaky. “It was so close, Jason. Another day, another few hours, and you wouldn’t have been there.”

He knew it — as he’d laid on that cell floor, listening to Nikolas taunt him, praying for a chance to choke the life out of him — Jason hadn’t expected to live. He’d felt himself slipping away and just wanted to make sure Nikolas went with him — to protect Elizabeth. “I’m okay.”

“Yeah. You are. We made it.” She tightened her arms around him. “We’re going to have to stay in Port Charles for a little while when we get back. Just until you’re given the all clear, then we can go anywhere you want—” she paused. “I’m sorry. Your bike—it was—we never found it. It was taken out of the parking garage, and we couldn’t track it. We didn’t really try, though, so maybe—”

“It’s just a bike,” he said, though there was a small pang at losing it. He’d driven it across the country — had taken Robin on it, and it had been the first thing he and Elizabeth had shared. The bike had given Jason freedom, and while he could—and would—get another—it wouldn’t be quite the same. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not—he did this because of me, and I’m so sorry—”

“This isn’t your fault,” Jason told her, stroking her hair, sliding his fingers down the curve of her spine, grateful for the sensation, for the feeling of having her back in his arms. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this. Neither of us did.”

“Maybe,” she murmured. “But if this is the way you felt after New Year’s, after the bomb, then I get why you tried to walk away. I’d have done anything to keep you safe. To stop this from happening.”

“When I was laying on that cold floor,” Jason said, “all I could think about was you and the baby. That I wasn’t going to be able hold my child or protect you from whatever Nikolas would do next—” He exhaled slowly. “That we’d never get to take that trip to California. Or learn how to surf together.” He looked at her, then tilted her chin up so their eyes met. “That day before you left, I nearly stopped you as you started to board. Do you remember?”


“I wanted to tell you that I love you,” he said, and her lips curved. “I thought, laying in that cell, that I’d never get the chance to say it. I love you,” he told her again.

“I wanted to say it to you a thousand times,” Elizabeth told him. She raised herself up on her elbow. “I love you, too.”

He tugged her down so he could kiss her and taste her smile and happiness on her lips. “I love you,” he whispered again, and he’d never get tired of saying it.

“How are you, sweetheart?”

Emily blinked up in surprise as Laura sat next to her on the small loveseat tucked into a corner of the private jet’s main cabin. “Uh, fine. I mean—” She sat up, dropping her legs to the floor. “I should be asking you that. You’re Nikolas’s mother—”

“Taking care of other people is how I cope,” Laura told her, “and of all of us, I think you might be the most hurt—”

“What? No. I mean, you and Jason—and Elizabeth—”

“I was not blind to my son’s faults,” Laura said. “But you had a relationship with both Jason and Nikolas. Elizabeth had already closed that door months ago.” Her eyes were soft, considering. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that your best friend hated your brother enough to nearly kill him.”

“It’s going to be…” Emily considered the best word for the situation, but even her imagination failed her. “It’s going to be weird for a long time. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel real. None of this has felt real since the fire.” She absently wiped a tear clinging to her lashes. “Like a long, strange nightmare I’m not waking up from. I miss Lucky so much, you know. He’d know what to do or say.” She sucked in a breath. “But then I feel guilty for wishing he was here because Jason is so happy, and Elizabeth is happy, and they’re having a baby, which wouldn’t be happening if he were here—God, this is all so stupid, and it doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

“There’s nothing wrong wish wishing some things could go back and others could stay the same. I’m so proud of how Elizabeth handled this. There are women older than her that couldn’t have held on to faith the way she did. Nikolas did everything he could to make her believe Jason had left her, but Elizabeth never wavered. But that maturity comes from her life experience, and I would give anything to take away the pain she’s suffered.”

“I just…it’s scary, I think, to realize that someone you thought you knew could do something so terrible. Nikolas helped me track down Tom Baker last fall, you know? He didn’t hesitate to throw himself into danger — he didn’t even blink. I turned to him even before I’d told Lucky. I keep trying to square that with the man we saw these last few days—” Emily stared at her hands. “Was there something else I could have done? Some way I could have stopped him—”

“He wasn’t listening to any of us,” Laura reminded her gently. “I know from Elizabeth that you both tried to talk to him about Lucky. Bobbie and I wasted so many words. He couldn’t be shaken from his view of the world.” She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. “To admit that you were unable to save your child from death and destruction is paralyzing,” she murmured. “I couldn’t save Lucky, and I’ve lost Nikolas.”

“I’m sorry, Laura. This sucks. For all of us.”

Sonny knocked lightly on the slightly open door and stepped inside with a mug of coffee. “Hey.”

Jason set aside the book he’d been reading and pulled himself up against the pillows. “Hey—is—” He craned his head to look behind Sonny. “Is Elizabeth okay? She went to get something to eat—”

“She’s fine. Laura and Bobbie have her, and they started talking about the baby.” Sonny’s smile was faint as he handed the mug to Jason. “Thought I’d smuggle you some. They think you should wait longer since caffeine isn’t good for you—”

Jason was already sipping the coffee so Sonny stopped talking. “Thanks.”

“Good.” Sonny slid his hands into his pockets. “Uh, Liz said you guys were going to stay in town for a few days until you’re back on your feet.” He rocked back on his heels. “I wanted to let you know the jet is at your disposal if you go back to Portland or you wanna go somewhere else—”

“I’ve been thinking about that.” Jason gestured with the hand that held his coffee, indicating that Sonny should sit in the armchair near the bed. “Thanks. For everything you did. Uh, Elizabeth said you came immediately when she called—”

“I shouldn’t have sent her back alone,” Sonny muttered, even as he sat in the chair, leaning back. He put one leg over the other. “I didn’t know she hadn’t heard from you, but I still thought it didn’t feel right. I was just…I didn’t want to meddle,” he admitted. “Or push where I wasn’t wanted. I’m not in a hurry to make that mistake again.”

“She said that you…you were one of the only people who didn’t think I’d left her,” Jason said, and Sonny hesitated. “Or that I’d left her because I didn’t want the baby. You thought because of Brenda—”

“I wondered,” Sonny said with a nod, “but I never seriously entertained it. It’s just—the hours were drifting by, and the evidence wasn’t giving us anything, and Christ, thinking you were gone to protect her was so much better than the alternative which was that you were in trouble, and we might not be able to fix it.” He dragged a hand down his face. “When I think about the fact that I nearly didn’t ask Alexis to come with us, it’s gonna haunt me for the rest of my life.”

“Since that night,” Jason said, and this time when he said it, there was no lingering bitterness, no sadness — he was merely stating a fact— “I’ve struggled with trusting you. Even after you came to Portland, I still thought I couldn’t come back and do the job like I did before.” He paused, looking for the right words. “I want to come home,” he said finally. “I stood on the waterfront in Astoria last month, and it was almost…it was nearly physically painful to be away from Port Charles. To wish I was there, standing on the pier at Elm Street, or taking the cliff roads too fast—”

He looked down at his coffee. “I’m ready to come home and go back to the job. I never stopped trusting you, Sonny. That’s what I realized, laying on that stone floor thinking I’d die. I told myself that no matter what happened, you’d make sure Elizabeth had everything she needed. That she was safe. That our child was safe. And if I could trust you with them, then I can trust you with my life, too.”

Sonny swallowed hard. “That’s…” He bowed his head, took a quick breath. “That’s a hell of a thing to say to me right now.”

“I stopped trusting myself,” Jason said. “To set boundaries and make the right choices — because I’d done nothing but make mistakes for more than a year. I hurt and humiliated Robin because I was desperate to keep Michael in my life. I let Carly manipulate me for a year because I thought I might get him back. You destroyed my life that night in December, Sonny, and while I can’t be happy about it, I can’t ignore that you also shoved me out of the dark and forced me to see the truth.” Jason sighed. “I just didn’t much like what I saw, and I wanted to dive back into the pretense. To cling to the false hope I could have my son back.”


“I wish you hadn’t done it. That I could have figured it out for myself. I think I would have,” Jason continued, and Sonny closed his mouth. “I knew…my feelings for Elizabeth were changing—it happened faster than it would have because of the studio—but it was happening.”

“I know. I could see that. And I’m sorry. I will always be sorry for it.”

Jason nodded, then brought the mug back to his lips. “Elizabeth and I haven’t talked about it, but I know she’ll understand. I’m ready. I want to go home.”

“Hey, sweetheart. Do you have a minute?” Luke touched Elizabeth’s elbow as she started down the hallway towards the back bedroom. She hesitated, then turned back to him.

“Yeah. What’s up? Did you need to talk to Jason or—”

“No, I was just—” He glanced over at the main cabin, watching Laura and Emily in deep conversation with one another, Alexis reading over some paperwork in another corner. He looked back at Elizabeth. “I was thinking back to Portland, and how I was sure Jason left on his own—”

She tipped her head. “Were you? Sure,” she clarified when he frowned. “Because, yeah, you were questioning it pretty hard, but I don’t seem to remember a lot of certainty about it.”

“Ah, well, then I hid it pretty well.” Luke nodded. “I thought he’d gone on his own,” he told her, and she drew her brows together. “Because that’s how I handle threats. It’s how I’ve handled it since the day Laura came home from that damned island. For a decade, we went on the run to hide from the Cassadines and from Frank Smith. And even when we stood our ground, I always stood on someone else’s shoulders. Robert Scorpio back in the day, and then Sonny. I didn’t know why he’d left, but I was sure he had.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Uh, well—”

“And I’m sorry for it. For not believing you. For making this harder on you that it had to be. It seems to be my main fatal flaw,” he murmured. He looked back at Laura. “Making life harder for the people that matter.”

“It all worked out, Luke, and even though you didn’t believe, you listened to me. And you realized the handwriting didn’t match. I don’t care that you had your doubts. You stayed and you helped save his life. You don’t owe me any apologies.” Elizabeth disappeared down the hall, and Luke looked back his estranged wife.

Maybe he didn’t owe an apology to Elizabeth, but he sure as hell owed that and more to Laura. He’d never be able to make up for the damage he’d caused.

Cassadine Estate: Study

“Madame has arrived.”

Stefan exhaled slowly, then raised his eyes to the house manager, then set down his pen. There was no asking who Madame was or how she’d managed to gain access to the island without Stefan’s knowledge.

His mother was impossible to predict or control. All you could do was grab on and hope you survived the storm. “Where is she?”

“Right here.”

Helena Cassadine swept in, her hair elegantly coiffed, her eyes ice cold. She sniffed at Arturo. “You may go,” she commanded with a sweep of her hand, dismissing the longtime servant without a second glance.

“Mother—” Stefan rose to his feet. “I was unaware that you were planning to visit—”

“Did you think no one would tell me?” Helena sneered. “Not everyone on this island has forgotten their loyalty to me and to your father. How dare you allow that woman to come here and imprison my grandson?”

“Which woman would that be?” Stefan asked coolly. “His mother, Laura, whom you kidnapped and imprisoned for Stavros? My sister, whose mother you brutally murdered? Miss Webber, whose child Nikolas planned to leave fatherless? I hardly know—”

“That woman has done nothing to raise Nikolas, and yet you bow to her whims,” Helena retorted. “Imprisoning him for the smallest of infractions—”

“Keeping an innocent man and attempting to starve him to death is no petty infraction—even your damaged moral compass should see that.” Stefan fisted his hands at his side. “I had little choice in the matter, Mother. I was outnumbered and outgunned. I had little with which to negotiate. Be glad that Nikolas continues to breathe.”

“Your father should have strangled you in the nursery,” Helena hissed. “I have failed us all by allowing you to retain any control—”

“My father,” Stefan said evenly, “left his state to his eldest surviving son or heir. Stavros himself left me guardianship of his children. Despite everything, no man in this family has ever trusted you, Mother. You have no control here—”

“We will see about that. I will not allow you to cage my grandson like an animal.”  Helena swept out of the study, and Stefan exhaled slowly. He should have known she’d learn of the incident — he’d merely hoped for more time.

Private Jet: Bedroom

“Hey…” Jason gently shook Elizabeth and she blinked blearily, rolling over to see that the door to the hallway had opened.

“We’re going to be approaching the airport in about thirty minutes,” Sonny said. “So you need to come up and get belted in for landing in about twenty.”

“Thanks—” Jason said, and Sonny pulled the door closed again, dropping the bedroom back into dim shadows.

Elizabeth sat up slowly, but her stomach still rolled. She pressed a hand to her stomach, but Jason had already leaned over to the nightstand and handed her a cracker and a bottle of ginger ale. It was warm, but carbonated —

She leaned back against the headboard, her eyes closed, sipped, and nibbled until the feeling passed. “A few more weeks,” she muttered. She looked over at him, smiling. “But I’ve missed this. Waking up with you, having you be ready with the crackers.”

“I’ve missed it, too.” He drew her head down against her shoulder, stroking her hair as her eyes drifted closed. “We’ll be home before you know it,” he murmured.

“Home.” She snuggled closer, draping her arm across his chest. “Until you’re steady again.”

“No, I’m ready to go home. To be there.”

She had nearly slid back into a light doze, but those words startled her, and she sat back up, trying to find his eyes in the shadows. “What?”

“I’m ready.” Jason brought her hand to his mouth, kissed her palm. “To go home with you. To start our life together. I want you to have your family around you, and I want mine with us. Emily, Lila—” He paused. “And Sonny. We can travel later, when the baby’s born.”

“If you’re sure—” Elizabeth nodded. “All right. Let’s go home.”

This entry is part 34 of 37 in the Counting Stars

There’s nothing left to try
There’s no more places to hide
There’s no greater power
Than the power of goodbye

There’s nothing left to lose
There’s no more heart to bruise
There’s no greater power
Than the power of goodbye

Power of Goodbye, Madonna

Saturday, May 13, 2000

WSB Clinic: Jason’s Room

Elizabeth groaned, pressed a hand against her eyes to block out the sunlight that was streaming through the single window. “Oh, I still hate mornings.” She dragged herself into a sitting position, then pressed a hand to her belly—

She managed to make it to the bathroom across the hall before the nausea won. She vomited until her stomach and throat started to burn—then slumped back against the wall, closing her eyes.

“Thank you, baby,” she murmured, pressing her hands to her abdomen. “For holding off on the really bad morning until we found Daddy. He’s good in a crisis, too.”

There was a light knock at the door. “Elizabeth? Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth managed a weak smile as Bobbie stepped around the edge of the door—a pack of crackers and a can of ginger ale in her hands. “I’ve never loved you more than I do this moment—”

“Well, I’d love to take credit,” Bobbie said, perching on the toilet seat. She handed the crackers to Elizabeth and cracked the can. “I came to check on you, and I found Jason trying to take out his IV. You ran out of the room—”

“He brought me crackers every morning,” Elizabeth murmured. She nibbled at the corner, then sipped the ginger ale. “It was always waiting when I woke up.”

“It’s hard to do it alone,” Bobbie said. “When I was pregnant with Carly, Luke and Ruby were around, but not steady. I was on my own most of the time. It’s one of the reasons I went through with the adoption.”

“You thought about keeping her?”

“Oh, a dozen times a day, all the way up until the day she was born. I told myself I’m a hard worker. I could make a life for us.” Bobbie smiled wistfully. “But the truth was that I didn’t have enough to give her. Love matters, honey. But so does a roof over your head. And I just—I knew that neither of us would have a life if I didn’t make this choice. I don’t regret doing it. I’m just sorry that it left her with bitterness and anger.”

“Sometimes I wish my mom would have given me away.” Elizabeth nibbled another cracker. “After I found out about the fellowship she gave up, I used to dream about it. I’d have a family who wanted me. Picked me. I used to think adopted kids had it so great — they were chosen.” She smiled thinly. “Then I met Carly. And I realized the flip side, you know? For every baby that gets chosen, there’s a parent who didn’t want you. And maybe it would be harder. I don’t know.” She closed her eyes. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good mother. I want to be the best I can.”

“You will be—”

“I’m going to try. I’ve watched you and Laura, and you’re really good moms. I know that sometimes trying isn’t enough to make your kid feel safe and loved. It scares me,” she admitted. “That you can do everything right, and still, something terrible happens. I mean, we lost Lucky to burning candles.”

“I lost BJ to a bus accident.” Bobbie sighed. “I think about that day a lot. She was running late, and if it had been just a bit longer—I’d have driven her to school. She would have turned fourteen this year.” She swiped at her cheek. “But Maxie’s still with us because of that accident. How do I wish my daughter to be here when I know her cousin wouldn’t?”

Elizabeth slowly got to her feet, and Bobbie helped her stand the rest of the way. She tossed the empty ginger ale into the trash can. “How can you stand it?” Elizabeth wanted to know. “I’m so scared all the time. When Nikolas grabbed me yesterday, I thought—what a stupid risk I’d taken—I’d put my baby in danger—”


“But at least right now I can protect it—after—how do you let a kid go out in the world when you know everything that could be out there?”

“Honestly? Courage mixed with arrogance. Courage to let your child make their own choices and arrogance to believe the universe will take care of them. Losing BJ broke me into pieces. I don’t know that Tony ever recovered. Not after the way he lost Tania, his first wife and BJ’s biological mother. But if you ask either of us—would we still do it—would I still raise her, would he still bring her into the world if we’d known we lose her? If I had known I’d only have seven precious years—”

“You’d do it, wouldn’t you?”

“Absolutely.” Bobbie tucked Elizabeth hair behind her ear. “You know what it’s like to live a life driven by fear. You’ve done it before. You also know how to step outside of it.”

“Yeah, I do.” Elizabeth hugged her briefly. “Thanks for the pep talk.”

“Any time.”

She and Bobbie left the bathroom and returned to Jason’s room where they also found Luke.

“There are my girls. How you feeling, kid?”

“Better. I need a shower,” Elizabeth admitted. “And a toothbrush.”

“I can get you sorted with both of those.”

Elizabeth went over to the bed to check on Jason, relieved to see that his eyes were clear and that he was sitting up. “Did you sleep okay?” she asked, pressing the back of her hand to his cheek. The clamminess was gone—he looked like himself again.

“Yeah.” He reached for her other hand, drew her down beside him. “You’re okay?” Jason asked.

“We’re both fine.” Elizabeth pressed his hand against her belly. “As soon as we get back to Port Charles, we’ll listen to the baby’s heartbeat. It’s far along enough now that we can.”

She twisted to look back at Luke. “I imagine that if we stay much longer, we’ll outstay our welcome.”

Luke shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m here on a favor from an old friend. So, yeah, we’re gonna need to clear out soon, but the doc wants you on those fluids a bit longer. I’m gonna head over to the island to check on things and pick up Sonny and Emily—”

“Emily—” Jason exhaled slowly. “I thought I heard her voice. She’s—she’s really here?”

“Once we thought it was Nikolas,” Elizabeth said with a grimace, “I thought Emily deserved to be here.” She looked at Luke. “What do you think Laura is going to do?”

“She and Alexis might stay longer—”

“Where is he?’ Jason bit out, and no one had to ask who he meant.

“Still breathing,” Luke confirmed. “I left Sonny to negotiate on your behalf,” he added dryly. “That’s part of the reason I’m gonna head over. We’ll take the boat back to Mykonos, catch the jet and come to Athens to pick you up—”

“I’m going with you,” Elizabeth said. Luke shook his head. “We’re not going to have this argument again—”

“No, because you won last time and look what happened. Sorry, kid. You’re staying here.”

“Elizabeth, I don’t think it’s a good idea—”

“I want to be there for Laura—and Emily. And if Nikolas is—” she grimaced “Detained in some way, I want to see him.”

“Why? What good could it do, honey? We came all this way—you’ve been searching for Jason for almost a week,” Bobbie reminded her. “Stay here. Rest.”

“I’ll rest when I get home.” She turned to Jason who was clearly displeased at the suggestion. “I promise I won’t go near Nikolas unless he’s restrained. I just—it feels unfinished. I was so scared and worried for you—” Her voice faltered, and she stroked his hair. “I didn’t think we’d get you help in time.”


“I just want to close this chapter. Luke will be with me the whole time and if he doesn’t want me to go near Nikolas, I promise you I won’t.” She looked at Luke. “Right?”

“I can answer that right now. You’re not going—” He grimaced when she just glared at him. “Yeah, okay, I didn’t think that would work either.” Luke exhaled slowly. “All right, Elizabeth. If this is what you need to make this over, I’m going to listen. At least one of you will get closure. I don’t think Jason’s going to get to rip Nikolas apart.”

“You’ll be with her the whole time,” Jason said to Luke. “Because otherwise, I’m ripping out this IV—”

“Won’t take my eyes off her. White on rice.”

Cassadine Island: Terrace

“It’s a shame,” Sonny said, strolling out on to the terrace adjoining the breakfast room, “that this place is owned by lunatics.” He sat next to Laura, across from Alexis and Emily, ignoring the scowling Stefan at the head of the table. He plucked the white linen napkin from the table, laid it in his lap, then poured himself a glass of orange juice. “Maybe I should get a place in Greece,” he said to Alexis who narrowed her eyes. “To help keep my eye on this pile of insanity—”

“I believe I have some business to see to,” Stefan said stiffly, rising to his feet and striding inside. Laura pursed her lips, tossed Sonny an irritated glance, then followed her son’s father.

Sonny lifted a brow and looked at those still seated. “Was it something I said?”

“You might have some consideration and compassion for them,” Alexis said stiffly. “Nikolas is their son—”

“I have consideration and compassion for Elizabeth,” Sonny cut in sharply. “The eighteen-year-old girl who’s had nothing but garbage thrown at her for the last two years and managed to rise above it without kidnapping and trying to kill people. I have it for Jason who did nothing but offer a kid a job and a place to live—” He jerked a fork at Emily. “For Emily, who nearly lost a brother—”

“Sonny—” Emily said softly, her cheeks pale.

“What about for me?” Alexis wanted to know, slapping her napkin on the table. She shoved her seat back, stood. “What about consideration and compassion for me? I’ve done nothing but hold your damn hand for months—”

“I’m going to go,” Emily said but neither of them noticed as she disappeared inside.

“Hold my hand?” Sonny lunged to his feet. “The hell—”

“Why was Jason in Portland?” Alexis challenged. “Why did he leave? Why wasn’t he coming back, huh? How quickly you forget when people have compassion for you,” she said scathingly. “Did you deserve consideration when you slept with Carly? When you knowingly took the woman Jason cared about to your bed? Did you deserve compassion?”

Sonny growled. “You’re not comparing me to that lunatic—”

“I’m reminding you that it costs you nothing in this moment to be a human being,” Alexis broke in flatly. “Jason is alive. Nikolas is locked in a damned dungeon. Laura and Stefan are grappling with a terrible reality with no easy choices, no way out. And you’re enjoying their pain—my pain—” Her voice broke on the final words, and Sonny’s ire faded.

“I’m not enjoying it,” Sonny said roughly. “Alexis—”

“Stefan was not a perfect parent, but he did the absolute best he could with Helena waiting in the wings to poison Nikolas. Laura is doing the best she can with divided loyalties. She loves Elizabeth like her own daughter—he’s mine, too, Sonny.” She pressed a fist to her chest. “Mine. I watched him grow up. I thought he was a chance for our family—” She squeezed her eyes shut and stalked away to the edge of the terrace. She placed both her hands on the railing, her palms flat against the stone, the ocean waves crashing below her.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” Sonny approached her. “I’m sorry,” he repeated and was relieved when she looked at him, could meet his gaze. “Maybe it’s my own guilt. Jason was in Portland because of me. He was staying away because of me. He knew Elizabeth wanted to be in Port Charles, and he was going to come back for her. He just needed to convince her he was okay, and I messed it up. I pushed and pulled, and I shoved him further away. He could have come home, and instead, he was in Portland, alone. Like a sitting duck.”

“There you go again,” Alexis murmured. She closed her eyes, shook her head. “The arrogance of thinking this was all in your control. Jason didn’t get kidnapped because of you. Or me or Elizabeth.” She turned around, leaning against the railing, her back to the water. “This happened because of Nikolas. Because he believes the world, and the people in it, are his to control. There’s no point in any of us blaming ourselves.”

“I don’t like thinking this was inevitable,” Sonny returned. He rubbed the back of his neck. “That no matter where Jason or Elizabeth were, he’d be ready to strike—” He paused. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “For what you’re going through.”

“I didn’t know Mikkos was my father,” Alexis told him. She stared at the house, at the walls that contained the memories of her childhood. “I thought I was a distant cousin, a poor relation that Mikkos took in out of spite because Helena had murdered my mother.”

Sonny raised a brow. “Spite?”

“Mikkos was having an affair with her. A distant cousin,” Alexis repeated. “I think maybe he loved her, as much as he could love anyone. He stayed with her for years, and I thought of him as a warm and generous man who loved her. And then Helena slit her throat.” She exhaled slowly. “Mikkos brought me to the estate to live and I grew up here with Stefan and Stavros. He was still kind to me, but I thought it was because I wasn’t his child. Maybe because I wasn’t a boy. If I’d been a son, maybe the casual cruelty would have been my fate. I grew up being grateful, thanking God that he wasn’t my father. That the Cassadine blood in my veins would be diluted and I could get away, I could have a life and a future.”

“But you are his daughter.”

“I am. And I learned the hard way that he only cared about you when you did his bidding. When I stepped out of line, he made sure I knew it. I paid for it,” she murmured. She looked at Sonny. “Elizabeth stepped out of line, and Nikolas made sure she paid for it. Nikolas never knew his grandfather and yet, he grew up to be just like him. The Cassadine blood is a curse, and the line should die with us.”

Cassadine Island: Dungeons

It had really been too easy to slip behind the hidden doorway and down into tunnels and passages leading to the dungeons — Emily had expected them to be guarded, though she wasn’t really sure why. Stefan wasn’t likely to let Nikolas on the loose with Sonny still on the island—

Yesterday, her blood had been pounding in her veins, her throat, even her ears, and she hadn’t really paid much attention to her surroundings — she’d just trailed behind Bobbie and Alexis as they walked through the stone hallways with dim lighting, the vague smell of death mixed with the ocean and the sound of waves crashing.  As they’d drawn closer to the dungeons, Emily had heard Nikolas’s taunting voice, then silence —

Then they’d turned a corner to see Jason inside a cell, behind rusted bars, and Nikolas pressed against those same bars, Jason’s hands around his neck. The scene had been horrifying, unbelievable — and all too real.

And still Emily couldn’t make sense of it. How was this happening?

She turned that same corner today and the dungeons came into view — more than just the single cell where Jason had been held. There was a row of them, each their own little dank hole dug into the stone walls, with a crisscross of bars at the front.

Nikolas laid on his back in Jason’s cell, his hair disheveled, stubble on his cheeks, his hands folded behind his head as if he were relaxing on a chaise lounge.

She stared at him for a long moment, thinking of the first time she’d seen him, the flutters in her heart at his lovely dark eyes and sweet smile — he’d never seen her as more than just a friend, but Emily had adored him from the beginning, and would have cheerfully walked through fire for him—

Nikolas turned his head at her approach, then slowly rose to his feet like a coiled panther stretching. “I don’t imagine you’re here to let me out,” he said coolly—in that elegant voice that had never betrayed a childhood spent in Greece, no trace of an accent.

“I came,” Emily said, a bit unsteadily, wrapping her arms around her torso, keeping her eyes on him, “because I needed—I needed to understand. I needed…” To know that Nikolas was sorry? To see remorse? Or to discover it had been a mistake? Maybe this wasn’t Nikolas. Maybe it was just an impostor— “I miss Lucky, too. He was your brother, but he was my best friend. My first friend in Port Charles. And if I’d thought someone was responsible for taking away from us—” Her voice faltered. “I’m trying to picture how I’d react—”

“Someone was responsible,” Nikolas bit out. “Your brother. And you did nothing to avenge the friend you loved so much—”

“You keep using Lucky against us like a weapon.” Emily shook her head. There was a coolness seeping into her veins now—not quite numbing but calming. For the first time, she saw clearly what had happened. “You’re using him as if you have the right, but it’s been a year, Nikolas. If you’d believed Jason responsible, then why did it take so long to do something? Why now?” She tipped his head. “Because Elizabeth is pregnant. You wanted her for yourself—”

“Shut up,” Nikolas bit out.

“And you’re too arrogant to imagine she doesn’t feel the same. There must be a reason, an explanation, for why she doesn’t want you,” Emily retorted. “It must be someone else’s fault. It’s always someone else, isn’t it? It’s Laura, for leaving. Lucky, for working for Jason. It’s Jason, for seducing Elizabeth. It’s Elizabeth, for rejecting you—” A humorless smile tugged at her lips. “It’s mine for not abandoning my brother or maybe for not telling you Elizabeth was pregnant. It’s always someone else, but it’s never you.”

Nikolas stepped towards the bars, wrapping his fingers around them, curling them tightly. Emily took a step back to be sure she was out of his reach. “It’s all of those things,” he hissed. “You’ve all chosen me last or not at all, and I’m done—”

“It is our fault,” Emily said with a nod. “For humoring you. I should have known a long time ago that you were nothing but selfishness and arrogance masquerading as a good man. You tried to kill my brother, to make my best friend feel abandoned. Whatever happens next,” she told him, “is your fault. If you come back to Port Charles, if I ever see you again, I’ll make sure Sonny and Jason know where to find you.”

Nikolas’s jaw clenched. “You should know better than to threaten a Cassadine—”

“If you think I’m scared of you, then you don’t know me very well. Stay away from me and my family, Nikolas. There’s no one left to protect you.”

She walked away and made sure she’d turned the corner before the tears began to fall.

Cassadine Estate: Study

Laura placed the receiver back on the base and looked at Stefan. “Jason made it to the clinic and is expected to make a full recovery. Luke is on his way back to the island to collect Sonny and Emily.” She paused. “He’s bringing Elizabeth with him.”

Stefan raised a brow. “I didn’t think he’d allow her anywhere near this island after yesterday.”

“Yes, well—” Laura looked to Alexis. “Will you stay or go back with them?”

“I would stay,” Alexis said slowly, “if I felt as though my presence would be helpful.” She met Stefan’s eyes. “But I think that since I put him in that cell—”

“You should both leave.” Stefan focused on Laura. “Your presence may do more harm than good.”

“I can’t just—” Laura hesitated. “If I leave now, it’ll be committing the same crime I did when he was a baby. I have to stay—”

Stefan shook his head. “It won’t work, Laura—”

“You asked me not to give up on him—”

“I did, but I merely hoped that you would leave room for his redemption. At the moment, you represent a world that has rejected him—”

“I won’t just leave—” Laura flattened her hands on her desk. “He’ll feel more abandoned—” She closed her eyes. “I want to see him once more. I want him to be the one to send me away. I’ll go then. But he’s my son, Stefan. I can’t give up on him. Not yet. You begged me not to.”

“Fine. You can speak to him once more. But I—” Stefan sat at the desk. “I fear that if we allow him any freedom while any of you are still here, I don’t know what he’ll do. I never thought he’d harm Elizabeth. Or anyone else. This—” He met her eyes. “I want to believe the boy I raised is still inside of him, but you were right. The man I saw yesterday can’t be trusted. I won’t trust him with your life or that of anyone else.”

Cassadine Estate: Foyer

“How is he?” Emily demanded as soon as the butler closed the door behind Elizabeth and Luke. “Alexis told me he would recover, but—”

Elizabeth hugged her. “He’s a medical miracle,” she told her best friend. “Five days without water, and he shouldn’t still have had the strength to choke a man.”

“Well, that’s been Jason’s story since he woke up from the accident.” Emily sniffled. “They said he wouldn’t, and that he’d be a vegetable, but look at him now, you know?”

“They want him on fluids for a few more hours at the clinic, and rest when we get home. But he’ll recover.” Elizabeth squeezed Emily’s hands, then went over to Laura to hug her. “How are you?”

“Managing. You?”

“Slept for the first time last night.”

“I didn’t expect to see you back here—”

“Yeah, I thought you’d stick to Jason like glue,” Emily said. “I can’t wait to get him back home where he belongs. I’m never letting him out of my sight again.”

“If it’s okay—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “If it’s safe. I want to talk to Nikolas one more time. Before I go home. I just—I don’t know. I don’t want to leave it this way.”

“And Jason and I made her promise that if it’s not safe, she wouldn’t do it. So tell her it’s not safe and we can pack up and get out of here—”

“Actually—” Laura winced. “It’s probably safer now than it’s ever been.”

Cassadine Estate: Dungeons

Elizabeth had expected to learn Nikolas had been taken to a suite of rooms and locked away, or maybe—well, maybe she really didn’t have an idea of what she’d find when she returned to the island —

To learn that Nikolas had spent the night in the same cell where he’d locked up Jason—

“You know, I always knew Natasha had it in her,” Luke mused as they made their way down the dark passage. “She complained about the parapet—”

“This is not the time,” Laura snapped. “You’re here because you promised Jason. Stay quiet and out of the way.”

They rounded the corner and Elizabeth inhaled sharply at the sight of Nikolas sitting on the cot, his back to the wall, one leg drawn up to his chest. A tray of food and jug of water lay discarded on the floor.

“Come back to gloat, Mother?” Nikolas asked darkly. He rose to his feet, padded towards them. Elizabeth was careful to keep her distance — she’d seen what might happen if she got too close. “And you—” Nikolas turned to her. “Why did you come back?”

“Because we were friends once. And Lucky loved you by the end. I owed it to him.” Elizabeth folded her arms. “I don’t know what’s happened since yesterday. I’ve been in Athens with Jason. He’ll live. If you care.”

“I don’t,” Nikolas muttered.

“You were going to let him die,” Elizabeth said. “I thought you were supposed to be different than the men who came before you. Different from Helena. I don’t understand. We—we haven’t been able to see eye to since that night. Since my birthday. We’ve argued. And I’ve thought terrible things about you. I’ve been angry with you about what you did at Christmas and a few weeks ago—but I never thought you could be capable of this. For all the arrogance that used to drive me crazy, you could also be kind. We worked so hard to find the man who blackmailed Emily. It was so important to you that we get justice.” Her eyes burned. “How did that man turn around and plot to murder Emily’s brother?”

“It’s not murder,” Nikolas said. He wrapped his fingers around the bars, his eyes gleaming in the dim lighting. “It’s neglect. I wasn’t going to kill him, but I wasn’t going to lift a finger to stop it. The same way my brother died—”

The same old argument and excuses. Whatever friendship she’d found in him once, it was gone now, and there was nothing left to say. “I don’t care what Laura or your father says. If you come back to Port Charles, I won’t step in to save your life. The same neglect you showed the father of my child, I’ll return it to you. Your brother, by the way?” Elizabeth shook his head. “He’d be horrified by what you’ve done. Then again, blood always tells, and the Cassadine men are rotten to the core.”

She swiped at her eyes. “I’m going back upstairs,” she told Laura, who just nodded. “Luke—”

“I’ll be right here until Laura’s done,” Luke told her. “You go on up. Sonny and the others are waiting.”

Laura listened to Elizabeth’s footsteps fade away, then looked at her son. At the boy she’d carried for nine months, then abandoned for sixteen years. “I could spend the rest of my life trying to make up for the choice to leave you,” she murmured. “I would have done anything to earn your forgiveness. I thought I had. I thought that you and I could finally be a family.”

“You think I want you in my life after this?” Nikolas demanded. He rattled the bars. “You let them lock me up!”

“And you’ll stay that way until Elizabeth is gone. I worked so hard to be forgiven, but I’m done. I have spent too many years feeling guilty for surviving a nightmare.” Laura’s lip trembled. “But not one minute more. I did the best I could, and you grew up with a man who loved you with all the material comforts wealth could buy. You’ve decided to hold my decision to leave you over my head. You think I should have stayed—”

“Yes!” Nikolas cried. “You were my mother, too!”

“And I would have eventually flung myself from the cliffs. Do you know how often I was raped living on this island?” Laura asked. “Do you know how many times Stavros dragged me into these dungeons and threatened to forget me down here. I escaped this nightmare, Nikolas. And I will not spend one more minute feeling like the villain. I never should have had to ask for forgiveness. I have nothing to apologize for.”

She stepped back. “For four years, I have begged for your mercy and love, and I’ve received none in return. Not a single ounce of understanding. From either of my sons,” she admitted. “Not one more minute will I give you or this place. If you come back to Port Charles, I cannot and will not guarantee your safety.”

Nikolas lifted his chin defiantly but said nothing. Laura turned and left.

Cassadine Estate: Hall

Laura emerged from the hallway, Luke trailing behind her. She found Elizabeth waiting for her. “Oh.” Her eyes filled. “I thought you’d have gone ahead to meet with Sonny.”

“I waited in the passage until you were done speaking, then came ahead.” Elizabeth looked at Luke who remained silent as he closed the entrance to the dungeons. “I’m sorry. For all that you’ve been through. For what you’ve lost.”

“You did all you could, Angel,” Luke said finally. “The best you could when you were being pelted from all sides.” His eyes were damp as she looked at him. “For my part in it, for the grief and misery, I can only offer my apology. It’s not enough. It’s maybe a drop in the ocean. I was too weak to be the man you needed me to be, and I’ll spend the rest of my life regretting it.”

“Thank you for that, Luke.” Laura closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then looked back at Elizabeth. “We’re going to go home and be with our family. Lulu can’t wait to be an aunt, and I’m sure Jason’s grandmother can’t wait to get her hands on you.” She put an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “There’s nothing left for either of us here. Let’s go home.”

This entry is part 33 of 37 in the Counting Stars

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion

Friday, May 12, 2000

Cassadine Island: Beach

Elizabeth hugged Emily fiercely, then took Luke’s hand, accepting his help into the helicopter. Jason lay stretched out as Bobbie held a canteen of water to his lips. “Sip it slowly,” the nurse cautioned.

Luke climbed into the other passenger seat, and the door was pulled closed. The helicopter lifted into the air, and Elizabeth’s stomach lurched slightly.

“How long until Athens?’ Bobbie asked.

“Maybe a half hour, forty minutes,” the pilot tossed back. “Just sit back and relax.”

“We need to keep him awake and as hydrated as possible,” Bobbie told Elizabeth. She took Jason’s wrist to check the pulse. “It’s thready, and I don’t like that it’s not improving.”

“Can you hear me?” Elizabeth asked, taking his hand from Bobbie. He squeezed it, but his eyes remained closed. “I’m in week seven. Do you know what that means? The baby has a heartbeat. It’s the size of a sweet pea. The book says the ear canals start to form this week.”

“You—” Jason’s eyes opened into slits. What little blue was visible seemed glassy and unfocused. “Sick?”

“A little bit of nausea. I’ve missed having crackers delivered to me as soon as I wake up,” Elizabeth teased. She stroked his hair, then his face, her voice trembling from relief. He was still with her. Still present. “But I’m okay. I just thought about finding you, and it kept me from getting too tired or too nauseous.”

“We’ve been making her sleep,” Bobbie said gently, tilting another sip of water into his mouth. “Don’t you worry, Daddy. We’ll get you back on the job before you know it.”

Cassadine Estate: Library

“It’s not a permanent solution,” Stefan growled as he paced the room. “We can’t leave him locked in there forever!”

“I like it,” Sonny offered with a shrug. Stefan glared at him. “Hey, it’s called karma, asshole. You raised a lunatic. It’s either the cell or I dump him in the ocean.”

“Sonny,” Emily hissed at her brother’s partner and best friend. “You are not helping.”

Sonny leaned towards her, flashing his dimples but his eyes as cold as a shark. “Not trying to.”

“No one—whose opinion matters—” Laura muttered, glaring at Sonny, “—is seriously suggesting we lock Nikolas in the dungeons forever. But—” She rubbed her arms. “Stefan, we can’t just…we can’t let it go. This is completely out of control, and he’s proved he’s dangerous. If we just walk away without doing anything, he may just try again. He doesn’t seem to think what he’s done is wrong.”

“He blames Morgan and Corinthos for the loss of his brother. I don’t know how you get around that, Laura.” Stefan lowered himself into the chair, then finally looked at his sister. “What would you have me to do?”

“I think it’s clear that Nikolas can’t come back to Port Charles,” Alexis said. “As a starting point for negotiations,” she added when Sonny scowled. “Perhaps confining him to the estate. Engaging a doctor to help him. He’s grief-stricken, Stefan, and ready to destroy the world in retribution for what he’s lost. The only way forward is to keep him away from Jason and get him help.”

“And keep him confined for how long?” Stefan asked, roughly. He put his head in his hands. “I tried so hard, Alexis.”

Alexis went around the side of the desk to stand by her brother. “Stefan, none of us wanted this. You and I, we worked so hard to make our generation of Cassadines a better one. A saner one. Do you think it brought me joy to put my nephew behind bars?”

“How can he be my son,” Stefan murmured, “and be no better than my brother?”  He exhaled slowly. “As a starting point, until you are all clear from the island and from Greece, I suggest we leave Nikolas where he is. I will take care of food and water.  I’ll make it clear to him that his life will be forfeit if he leaves the island.” Stefan met Sonny’s gaze from across the room. “I suspect that isn’t an empty threat I’ll be making.”

“I see your nephew anywhere near Jason or his family—” Sonny rose to his feet. “I’ll give orders to shoot on sight. Sorry, Laura,” he offered as the woman choked back a gasp. “We could have negotiated something else, but the minute he went after Elizabeth—you understand, as it is, I’m going to have to talk Jason out of taking the little shit apart piece by piece. This is how it’ll have to be, and it’s only a measure of my respect for you, Laura, that we’re even discussing it.”

Laura closed her eyes. “Respect. You’ve got a funny way of showing it—”

“Your son tried to murder my best friend and then attempted to kidnap a pregnant woman to save his own skin,” Sonny retorted. “I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I am. Especially after last year. But if we don’t find a way to neutralize Nikolas now, we’re going to have this damned fight again in two or three years. So, yeah, Laura, letting him continue to breathe after what he just did to Elizabeth, to Jason—it’s because I respect you. Do we have a deal or not?”

Athens, Greece

Medical Clinic

The clinic was contained within a nondescript gray building in the Thission district of Athens — it had no sign in the parking lot that advertised its medical services—Elizabeth’s first indication that Luke’s contacts were not people who simply lived in Greece.

She kept her suspicions to herself as Jason was removed from the helicopter and placed on a stretcher. She and Bobbie followed as orderlies and a doctor snapping orders in Greek rolled him into the building. Luke disappeared.

Soon, Jason was settled in a private room, and an IV had been inserted. He had drifted back to sleep—this time Bobbie said it would be okay to let him rest.

Elizabeth curled up beside him in bed, gently stroking his hair and telling him about all the things she’d seen as they’d raced halfway across the world—

“The airport in Barcelona was beautiful, and the plane did this dip over the sea, tilting towards the land—we should put Spain on our list. I want to see everything, and wouldn’t be awesome if the baby grew up knowing all kinds of languages?”

“He’s going to sleep for a while, honey. Are you sure you don’t want me to get you a cot or something?” Bobbie asked.

“No. I want to be right here in case he wakes up.” She looked at Bobbie. “You know, Lucky always told me about all the things his parents did before they got married. This is a WSB clinic, isn’t it?”

“Most likely.” Bobbie sighed. “I didn’t realize Luke still knew anyone from the agency, not since we lost Robert.” She rose. “You get some rest, too. I’ll see if I can rustle up something for us to eat.”

“Okay. Thank you. For dropping everything and coming all this way,” Elizabeth said.

“Always.” Bobbie squeezed her shoulder and left the area.

Wyndemere: Guest Room

Emily perched on the edge of the bed and stared out the large window overlooking the water, the breeze lifting the curtains. She was really in Greece. Her brother had nearly died from dehydration and starvation at the hands of her best friend. With one of her best friends. A man, that until a few months ago, Emily had considered family.

She shoved herself off the bed and began to pace, her arms folded as she circled the room, her stomach rolling—Jason had been nearly dead—and he might not be out of the woods yet—

There was a gentle knock at the door, and Emily turned to see Alexis stepping inside. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Nothing. I just—” Alexis exhaled slowly. “I’m not sure what to do with myself,” she admitted. “Laura is going through her own grief, and there’s nothing more I can say to Stefan.” She paused. “Bobbie contacted Laura — Jason arrived at the clinic, and it looks like he’ll be okay.”

Emily closed her eyes, swallowed the sob that suddenly rose in her throat. “She’s sure?”

“It was a bit dicey, but they’ve stabilized his pulse and heart rate. He’s on fluids and resting.” Alexis wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her upper arms, looking maybe for some warmth. “They’re keeping them there overnight. Maybe another day. He’ll be tired and a bit out of sorts for a while, but we’re okay.”

“Okay.” Emily collapsed back onto the bed. “Okay,” she repeated. She stared hard at the stone floor, before raising her eyes back to Alexis. “How do you do this? How do you accept that someone you loved and trusted so deeply could do something like this? Nikolas…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I can’t make this okay in my head. I saw it. With my own eyes, I saw my brother in that cell, and how sick he was. And I watched Nikolas wrap his arm around Elizabeth’s neck—”

“And still you can’t quite fathom the cruelty,” Alexis finished. “He’s not so different than his grandfather,” she murmured. “Stefan worries he’s like Stavros, but I think he simply can’t see it clearly. There’s too much pain for him, too many dark memories of his childhood.”

“His grandfather?”

“Mikkos.” Alexis cleared her throat. “He was charming and handsome. He could smile at anyone and make them do his bidding. And he could be extraordinarily kind,” she continued. “Stefan comes by that streak in his nature honestly. But Mikkos also had a very firm view of the world. It was his to control, and his kindness only existed if you were playing your role. If you stepped out of the place he’d given you, then he could twist and turn on you so cleanly and coldly, you’d doubt your own existence and wonder what you’d done wrong. Elizabeth didn’t act as Nikolas expected, and so she became an enemy.”

She swiped angrily at a tear that slid down her cheek. “That’s who I saw today in that cell, and I fear there’s nothing we can do to turn back the clock.”

Medical Clinic: Office

After making sure Bobbie and Elizabeth were settled and watching over Jason for a few hours, Luke decided to take care of some unfinished business. He wandered out of the medical area of the clinic and into the administration area. He pulled open a door and waved off a woman at a desk who objected. He spoke to her in Greek, and she subsided.

Inside the office sat a man with salt and pepper hair, hunched over a map. “Some things never change,” Luke said, leaning against the door frame. “Thanks for the assist.”

The man stretched to his full height and sent Luke a sour look. “Bloody Cassadines,” he said, his accent suggesting a youth spent in Australia. “We ought to have burned the island to the ground and salted the Earth behind us.”

“Ah, well, you lose some, you win some. I don’t think we gotta worry about world domination. Just another sick, twisted bastard who has obsession in the blood. I’ll let you know if that situation changes.”

“You do that, Spencer.” The man paused, focused on the maps again. Then he met Luke’s. “Have you seen my daughter lately?”

“Not in about a year. But you’d be proud of her. Studying medicine in Paris. She’s going to change the world.”

He exhaled. “Yes, well—” Robert Scorpio’s smile was bitter. “Don’t forget that I’m supposed to be dead. That hasn’t changed. You can’t be calling me every time you need a hero.”

“Well, you’re the only one I know, so—” Luke held out his hand. “Thank you again. This girl—she’s like a daughter to me. I needed to make this okay for her. You let me know when you’re ready to start breathing again, and I’ll be there.”

Cassadine Estate: Terrace

The sun began to dip below the horizon. Laura stood at the railing, watching as it sunk below the water, the streaks of pink and orange fading into an inky black.

“How many times did I catch you watching me back then?” she murmured, turning, unsurprised to find Stefan silently approaching.

“About as many times as when you didn’t. You were so often lost in your own thoughts.” He stepped up to the railing beside her. “Perhaps I ought to have remained here in Greece four years ago and not brought Nikolas to Port Charles.”

“I want to say you’re wrong. That I’ve treasured the time I’ve spent with Nikolas, but as much joy as it brought me, I fear it’s given him nothing but grief and pain. To be confronted with the choices I made—” Laura closed her eyes. “And how I still chose my children with Luke time and time again. Even today. He’ll never see this as anything other than choosing Elizabeth.”

“Cassadine men—” Stefan grimaced. “We seem to have an obsession with the women in the Webber family. You’ll offer my apologies to Elizabeth. She did nothing to deserve any of this, and for all that Nikolas talks of his brother, I suspect it was her rejection of him that triggered this.”

“Isn’t that always the way? A man is rejected, and yet it’s the woman who pays. Over and over again. I certainly have.” Laura turned towards the house, the sconces illuminating the light stone. “I loved Nikolas. I want you to know that. I didn’t expect to, but every movement, every kick—it broke my heart to leave him. If I had thought for one moment I could have escaped with him, I would have done it.”

“I know—”

“But the man he’s grown into, the man I fear he’s becoming—I can’t find any love for him. Perhaps it’s because he’s grown to look just like the man who raped me every night.” Laura squeezed her eyes. “Maybe the lack is in me. I simply can’t find it in me to love someone who looks so much like a man who haunts my nightmares.”

“Laura, you’re upset. You’ve lost Lucky, and this terrible kidnapping—Nikolas’s abuse of Elizabeth—” He reached for her hand, but she stepped away. “But I implore you, we must not give up on him. He’s done nothing before this to deserve our abandonment—”

“As if this isn’t serious enough—” She laughed, even as she wiped her tears. “You’re right, of course. I’ll feel better in the morning when I go to visit my son in his cell. Just another day on Cassadine island.”

WSB Medical Clinic

Jason stirred, opening his eyes, and for the first time in days, his throat wasn’t on fire. It was still sore, but—he attempted to swallow, then started to cough—

Beside him, Elizabeth sprang up, climbed off the bed—he hadn’t even realized she was with him—then there was water, a straw at his lips. He drank and would have drained the glass if she hadn’t pulled it away.

“The doctor said we shouldn’t let you drink too much,” she said, apologetically. “You could get sick.” She touched his face, and he closed his eyes, leaning into her touch. Her fingers glided through his hair, brushing his scalp and he nearly drifted back into sleep, lulled by the sensation.

But then he had a flash of Elizabeth, an arm around her neck, and Jason looking up from the ground—

His eyes snapped open. “You’re all right,” he said roughly. He raised his hand to her, but he couldn’t tell in the dim light. “The—Nikolas—”

“It’s okay. I’m okay. He let me go. He’s back on the island. Sonny’s still there, but you needed more help than we could manage on our own. So Luke got a hold of some contacts and we’re in Athens. But we’re both okay.”

He closed his eyes, then leaned back, trying to take it in. It all kept swirling in his head—being in the cell, not leaving—his hands around Nikolas’s neck—falling—the darkness—

He felt a dip in the mattress, then Elizabeth stretching out beside him. He relaxed again because it felt right to have her there, curled up next to him, just like all the other nights before she’d left, and the ones he still wanted to have.

“Five days without food and water,” Elizabeth murmured. “The doctors said it was a miracle you were lucid. That you were still moving. I didn’t tell them you were choking Nikolas, but that’s probably another minor miracle.”

“Well, you taught me how to keep myself awake,” he told her.

“I did?”

“Yeah. Talking.”

Elizabeth leaned up on an elbow, her eyes slitted in a scowl. “Excuse me?”

“You used to sing and talk to yourself at the studio,” Jason reminded her. “So I talked to myself.”

“You talked to yourself?” she repeated. “How—I mean—” She laid back down. “What did you talk about?”

“Anything I could think of. After the accident. Meeting Emily for the first time. The hotels I stayed out. All the names I’d ever called the Quartermaines—”

She snorted at that, and he found himself smiling. “Finding out I used to eat this disgusting oatmeal because it made my grandmother happy. I was mean about it—after the accident. I don’t know if I ever apologized.”

“You know Lila probably forgave you the moment you left the room.”

“She still deserves an apology. She was never anything other than generous with me. One of the first people who didn’t make me feel like I was suffocating.” He exhaled slowly. “Robin, Michael. I tried to remember the first time I ever saw you.”

“Lucky introduced us at the boxcar,” Elizabeth reminded him. “When you came to tell him about the garage.”

“That wasn’t the first time. Was it?”

“Well, I remember the first time I saw you—” Elizabeth tilted her head up, resting it on his chest so that their eyes met. “I snuck into Sonny and Brenda’s wedding, and you came to jilt her.” He winced, and she smiled. “Sorry, I know it’s not a fond memory. But you were in this tuxedo, and, you know, I almost swallowed my tongue. You looked very hot.”

He arched a brow. “Oh, really?”

“Mmmm—” she snuggled closer, then closed her eyes. “I only had eyes for Lucky then, and you were older and out of my league, but man—a couple of extra years, and I might have considered it.”

“I remembered Jake’s,” Jason murmured. He closed his eyes, too, letting his body settle. He felt his mind drifting. Back to that night. He smiled. “How angry you were. And the way you smiled after the ride.”

“Changed my whole life,” she said softly. “Best decision I ever made.”

January 8, 2023

This entry is part 32 of 37 in the Counting Stars

Even at a time like this when the morning seems so far
Think that pain belongs to you but it’s happened to us all
It’s all right to make mistakes you’re only human
Inside everybody’s hiding something
Take time to catch your breath and choose your moment

Slide, Dido

Friday, May 12, 2000

Mykonos, Greece: Frangias Beach

She hadn’t been back to Greece since her mad escape almost two decades earlier, but little had changed about the beauty of the land, the pebbly beach, the tucked away villas, the shine of the Aegean Sea–

Laura shielded her face from the sun, then turned back to the cluster of people on the beach, awaiting the arrival of the boat Luke had promised would take them the six miles out to Cassadine Island, a hunk of rock and cliffs that encased the ancient medieval estate and the neighboring village.

“We have been arguing about this for at least ten time zones,” Elizabeth was saying to Luke as Laura rejoined the group, though she was only partially listening, her mind already across the water and thinking of what they might find on the island.

“And at least for the hour it took us to drive from the airport,” Emily added. Luke scowled. “Just so we’re keeping track.”

“I’d letting Laura go with us because she might be able to talk some sense into the boy—”

“I flew all this damn way because I’m a nurse,” Bobbie interrupted. “Emily is that boy’s sister, and Elizabeth is carrying his child—”

“Exactly why the three of you should stay here,” Sonny cut in. “Jason would never forgive us—”

“He’s not here, and he’s not the one you should worry about. If you don’t let me go, Luke, I’m just going to nearest marina and renting a boat myself. Emily—you know how to drive one.”

“Uh—” Emily’s eyes widened, then she nodded. “Yes. I can make it work. Or I’ve got the credit card. We can hire a driver—”

“And I’ll be right there behind them,” Bobbie argued.

“There’s no discussion to be had,” Laura said, speaking for the first time.  She looked at Luke. “As much as you and I may see Elizabeth as ours to protect—and we do, honey—this isn’t something we get to say no to.”


“I agree with Laura. You’re acting as you’re expecting a battle,” Alexis said. “You don’t have to break into the estate. I grew up here. Maybe I was just the poor relation back then, but I had the run of the house. And Stefan is here. He’ll let us in.” She took a quick, bracing breath, almost as if to reassure herself. “He will.”

“Nikolas had his own men orchestrating this,” Luke retorted. “You’re telling me you can swear it’s safe—”

Sonny sighed. “The only reason to keep her back, Luke, is to keep her safe. And it’s just not our choice to make.”

“Thank you.” Elizabeth turned back to Luke. “Nikolas thinks Jason—and Sonny—are responsible for Lucky’s death. It’s one of the reasons he’s angry with me. He thinks I’m betraying Lucky. But he snapped because of the baby. He wanted to hurt me, Luke. And to take away the father of my child.” Her eyes burned. “I have the right to confront him.”

“I know you do, sweetheart.” Luke closed his eyes. “I just—I don’t know what we’re going to find on the island, if there’s anything to be found at all.” He looked past her at the white boat that had sailed around a curve of the island and was dropping anchor, lowering a dingy that would transport them from the beach.

“I’ll deal with it if I have to, Luke. But Emily, Bobbie, and I—we’re going.”

Cassadine Island: Hall

Stefan watched as Nikolas disappeared down another corridor, one whose only value was the hidden entrance to the dungeons, despite his promise the day before to stay out of them. He started down the hall, contemplated following but then there was a rustling behind him.

Arturo, the estate manager, appeared. “Sir, Madame Davis is at the gate requesting access for herself and her party.”

“Alexis—” Stefan stepped back from the hallway, towards the butler. His sister had said nothing about coming to Greece. And her party? Who could she have brought with her—

Stefan looked back at the corridor, a twist in his gut. Alexis arriving on the heels of Nikolas’s strange behavior and newfound obsession with the dungeons—

“Show her in, and take her to the family parlor. I’ll await her there.”


It was like something out of a movie, Elizabeth thought as they had cruised from the island of Mykonos to the smaller island in the distance. They’d docked the boat at a marina that served the local village, a cluster of stone and wood buildings that curved around another beach.

Looming above the village, Cassadine estate was a hulking castle made of the same cream colored and sun-washed stone she’d seen everywhere else. She kept waiting for something to go wrong—for someone to stop them.

No one did. Alexis was well-known here, having grown up here as a girl before leaving for boarding school in the States, and she was greeted warmly with some Greek endearments Elizabeth didn’t quite understand. Alexis returned the greetings, speaking in the unfamiliar language.

They found transportation from the village up to the main estate, and three hours after they’d landed in Greece, they were at the entrance of the Cassadine estate, being ushered inside.

“I keep looking for a Trojan horse or something,” Emily muttered, wrapping her arm through Elizabeth’s. “This is crazy. Nikolas grew up here?

A butler led them through the foyer, down a long corridor into a room that seemed out of place for the sunshine they’d seen elsewhere—a dark, cold room that reminded Elizabeth of Wyndemere. Behind a heavy oak desk, Stefan Cassadine sat as if he were presiding over a hospital meeting.

“Alexis—” His eyes scanned the group that entered with her. “Is there a reason you’ve brought the Spencers—” His mouth twisted, “including my ex-wife?”

Elizabeth widened her eyes, and she looked at Bobbie who winced. She’d forgotten about their shared history—the marriage over before she’d moved to Port Charles. “Would you believe it’s a social call?” Alexis asked.

“No.” Stefan rose to his feet. “Laura. Are you here to see Nikolas? I see you’ve brought Miss Quartermaine and Miss Webber. Perhaps to stage an intervention?”

“On Monday, five days ago—” Elizabeth pushed to the front, elbowing Luke out the way. “Jason Morgan went missing in Portland, Oregon. While he was at the airport with me and Sonny, someone else cleared out our hotel room and drove his bike out of the parking garage.”

“Nikolas was here—”

“It was one of ours,” Alexis told her brother and Stefan focused on her. “I recognized myself. And he’s not from Port Charles. He’s from here. Georgios. He’s been devoted to Nikolas since he was a child.”

“You—” Stefan fisted his hands at his side. “You cannot think Nikolas would have anything to do with this—”

“Cassadines love to kidnap people. It’s practically a rite of passage for the men in this family,” Luke drawled. Stefan sent him a scathing glance, then turned a pleading look on Laura.

“He isn’t Stavros, Lasha. For all that he’s said, for all that he’s done, you must believe in that—”

“I want to,” Laura said softly. “I want to believe that he’s your son in all the ways that matter, but I need to speak with him. I need to understand how one of his servants was on that camera footage—”

Stefan closed his eyes. “He’s in the dungeons,” he said finally. “He’s spent a great deal of time there—”

“I knew it—” Sonny muttered. “Where are these dungeons—”

“I’ll take you to them. But I must—” Stefan came from around the desk, went to Laura even as Luke hissed. “You must remember that he’s your son, too. For all the Cassadine blood that runs through him, he has yours as well.”

“I’m counting on that,” Laura told him, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “I am praying that he’s just made a dreadful mistake that we can correct.”

“You won’t hurt him. Whatever’s he done—”

“No promises—” Sonny began, but Elizabeth stepped up beside Laura.

“If Jason is alive, if I get him back in one piece, we can speak of how this can end without violence or more pain. But first—you’ll take us to the dungeons.”

Cassadine Island: Dungeon

Nikolas grinned as he ambled around the corner in the passages, to the cell where Jason had been kept since he’d arrived on the island since early Tuesday morning. Jason lay unmoving on the floor, his breathing shallow.

The end stages of dehydration, perhaps helped by starvation. He’d lasted longer than Nikolas had hoped he would, but there was nothing to do about that. It was essential that Nikolas not hasten the end. It would defeat his purpose

He wanted to be here when Jason’s chest stopped rising, when this killer left this mortal plane. It wouldn’t bring his brother back, but it might begin to tip the scales of justice. And maybe when Nikolas had everything he wanted, he might turn his attention to making Sonny Corinthos pay, but it was Jason who Lucky had trusted. Jason who had manipulated Elizabeth into abandoning her obligations to Lucky and his family.

It was Jason who deserved to burn in hell for his crimes. His crimes must take precedence.

“I don’t know if you can still hear me.” Nikolas stepped closer to the cell, gratified to see Jason perfectly still, not even a flutter from his eyelids. He wrapped his hands around the bars. “Elizabeth went back to Port Charles yesterday. She only spent one day looking for you.”

Nothing from the near corpse on the ground. Emboldened, Nikolas continued. “She’s there, right now, maybe crying herself to sleep because you’ve left her. It won’t be the first time you’ve caused her tears. As soon I’ve seen to your watery grave, I’ll be going back to comfort her. This time she’ll understand that I was right. And when your child is born, we’ll be there to take care of her. Maybe it’ll be a boy. Maybe I’ll name him for my brother. That would be justice, wouldn’t it? Why should you get to have a family when he’s lying cold and dead—”

Nikolas never saw it coming, never even noticed a hint of movement—he was too wrapped up in the fantasy he drew in his head to see Jason launching himself off the ground, reaching through the bars to wrap his hands around Nikolas’s neck—then began to choke—

“You’re—” Nikolas gasped, his hands digging at Jason’s fists, frantically. “You’re supposed to be dead—”

“I saved my energy,”  Jason growled, his eyes bloodshot, his eyes wild, and the stubble on his chin making him look like a madman.

“I’ll give you the keys—just let me—” Nikolas fumbled in his pockets, but he couldn’t quite latch on—

“I’d rather kill you now and take my chances—” Jason yanked Nikolas against the bars again, his head slamming against the rusted metal. Nikolas moaned, losing consciousness for a moment. Better to kill Nikolas now and guarantee Elizabeth and their child would be safe.  “What’s stopping me from killing you and getting the keys from your cold, dead body—”


Jason’s grip slipped at the new voice and Nikolas was able to break loose. The voice sounded so familiar—and the burst of energy Jason had mustered began to wane. “Who—”

“Stefan—”  Laura Spencer melted out of the darkness—but she wasn’t alone. She hurried over to  Nikolas slumped over on the floor and started to search his pockets. Stefan Cassadine knelt on the other side—

And with her—Jason’s vision began to swim. “Em—”

“Jason—” His little sister burst into tears, her fingers wrapping around the bars. “I’m here—Liz—” She sniffled and turned, and then Elizabeth was there, stepping from behind Sonny. Her eyes were rimmed with red, her face pale—

But she was here, and she was real, wasn’t she? Oh, God, he didn’t dream. He didn’t see images, but what if he was hallucinating? What if this she was here to lead him into the next stage?

What if he was already dead?

“We’re going to get you out,” Elizabeth said softly. “It’s going to be all right.”

“Are you real?” he managed, his voice rusty, hoarse. He looked again at Emily, then at Elizabeth. “You’re both—”

“Real—” Elizabeth reached for his hand, brought it through the cell and held it against her face. She was so warm—and he felt a cool tear as it slid down her cheek. She was here. Not a dream. Not a hallucination. She was real.

“I’ve got the keys—” Laura got to her feet, but Sonny was already there, already shoving it into the lock, dragging it open. Then the door was open—and he was free.

She had nearly convinced herself that Jason wouldn’t be here. That it would be some terrible trick of the mind—that Nikolas would be talking to nothing in the dungeons—but they’d come down one of the passages, and she’d heard the voices.

She’d heard Jason’s voice for the first time in days, and she’d nearly broken into a run. Would have, if Sonny hadn’t held her back.

When the door to the cell opened, Jason stumbled back, then fell to his knees, gasping for air. Bobbie hurried past them both into the cell to kneel down. “Hey, Jason. Honey, can you hear me?”


“When was the last time you had water and and something to eat?” she wanted to know. He shook his head, and Bobbie looked at Luke. “He needs to get out of here. Now.”

Luke and Sonny went into the cell, one on each side of Jason to drag him back to his feet. Elizabeth pressed her hands to her mouth as she took in Jason’s condition for the first time—the blue shirt and jeans he’d worn that last day were were filthy, the shirt itself tattered. His feet were bare, and he could barely stand—Five days without food or water. It was a miracle he was still alive.

Elizabeth stepped out of the way as Luke and Sonny dragged him out of the cell.

“He’ll be okay,” Emily told her, holding her arm fiercely. “That’s why we brought Bobbie—”

Elizabeth turned to respond, but then she was being dragged back, a hand gripped in her hair, then an arm around her neck—she tried to scream, but the arm tightened and she just gagged—

“Nikolas, no!”

Luke and Sonny turned, and Jason’s head swung towards them. At the sight of Nikolas holding Elizabeth by the neck, he burst forward but didn’t make it more than a few steps before falling to his hands and knees again, then slumping over. Still, he tried to crawl.

“Nikolas!” Emily cried. She tried to go forward, but Alexis snagged her back. “No, please, don’t hurt her!”

“Don’t hurt her?” Nikolas demanded, starting to back up. “Don’t hurt her? All I want to do is protect her! That’s what I was supposed to do!”

“Please, let me—” Elizabeth clawed at his forearm, digging her nails into the skin. “Let me go—”

“Nikolas,” Laura said, putting up her hands. “Please. Please, don’t do this.”

“No one was listening! No one was trying to save her! I had to be the one! All she did was lie to me but I was going to save her!”

“Is this saving me?” Elizabeth managed to choke out. “What are you saving me from?”

“He killed my brother and he’ll kill you, too! I had to take you away—and we’re going—” Nikolas backed up another step. “We’re going somewhere you can’t escape, and you’ll have your baby, and you’ll be safe. It’ll all be okay. It won’t be like Katherine. I can fix this—”

“This isn’t what Lucky would wanted—”

“Don’t—” Jason managed to get his feet, bracing his hand against the stone wall. “Don’t do—I’ll stay. I’ll go back in the cell. Another day, maybe two, it’ll finish the job—” he closed his eyes, forced out the rest of it. “Just let her go—”

“Don’t be stupid,”  Nikolas sneered. “I put you in the cell, my mother will let you out as soon as my back is turned—no, no, this is the way. I should have started with Elizabeth—”

“This is what Stavros did,” Stefan reminded his son roughly. “He saw someone he thought belonged to him and took her. He destroyed her life, Nikolas. You know what your mother has been through—”

Nikolas looked at Laura, at the tears streaming down her face. “It’s not the same—”

“Lucky wouldn’t want this. Your brother wanted Elizabeth to be happy,” Laura said softly. “Happy and free. You’d lock her up to keep her safe. If Lucky were right here right now—”

“He’d tell you to let the girl go,” Luke growled. “You think you’re getting off this island with her? I’m not the only person here who would hunt you to the ends of the Earth—”

“Lucky loved you, Nikolas,” Elizabeth managed. “Please. Just let me go. Let me go—”

Nikolas shoved her forward and she went flying. Sonny lunged forward, catching her just before she hit the wall.

Then Nikolas sank to the ground, put his head on his knees and started to sob. Stefan and Laura crouched by him.

“Let’s get out of this damn prison,” Luke muttered. He put Jason’s arm over his shoulders again. “Liz, you okay?”

“I’m fine—” She touched her neck, looked to Sonny. “I’m okay. Help him, please.” Sonny went to Jason’s side to help him stand again though Jason was starting to sway, barely able to keep himself upright, his head lolling to one side. What if they were already too late?

Behind them, Nikolas was still sobbing, his ragged breaths echoing off the walls, Stefan’s urgent, but soft voice trying to console him. Still in shock, Alexis stood against the opposite wall. Luke and Sonny began the long walk back to the upstairs corridor, practically carrying him.

Laura sat quietly next to her son, tears staining her pale cheeks. She looked at Elizabeth, her eyes shattered. “I’m so sorry,” she managed. “So sorry.”

Emily put an hand on Elizabeth’s forearm. “We need to get out of here. Jason—” Her voice trembled as she looked at their friend, at a man Elizabeth knew Emily had thought she loved. “We need to go.”

Cassadine Estate: Library

The library down the hallway from the entrance to the dungeons was closest room. Luke and Sonny dragged Jason to a chaise lounge, and dumped him. Bobbie hurried over with the medical kit.

“Bring me water,” she barked at no one in particular.

“He’s going to need more than water,” Luke told Sonny. “I’ll make some calls.  We need a doctor, and faster transportation off this island. The boat won’t be enough.”

Elizabeth poured a glass of water from the glass jug that sat near the minibar, then hurried over to sit next to Jason. His eyes were barely visible, just slits of blue in a pale, clammy face. She raised the glass to his lips. “Drink. Please. You need water.”

Jason shook his head, so she poured the water into his mouth—he nearly sputtered, then rose up, coughing. “I’m sorry—” Then he sank back against the cushions, his breathing short and shallow. He tried to reach for the glass, but couldn’t grip it, so she helped him drink. It was gone almost before she could take another breath.

Bobbie was already there, ready with another glass. “He needs fluids through an IV and rest,” she said. “We can’t keep giving him water. It might make him sicker.”

Elizabeth smoothed Jason’s hair back, it had grown longer since he’d left Port Charles in January and without the gel he thought she didn’t know about—it hung over his face, making him appear younger. “Okay. We’ll stop after these two. Then wait to give him more—”

“I can’t believe this, I can’t believe this—” Across from them, Emily was pacing. “Nikolas had him in a dungeon, trying to starve him to death—how could he think that was okay? What, an eye for an eye? How could he do this? And then he was going to kidnap you!”

“It’s over,” Elizabeth murmured. She took the wet cloth Bobbie handed her and gently washed Jason’s face. “It’s over, and he’s going to be okay.” She had to believe it. They hadn’t rescued him only to lose him now.

“I got a contact in Athens,” Luke said, returning to them. “He’s sending a helicopter here. Me, Bobbie, and Liz will go. Corinthos, you wait to see what Laura and Alexis want to do. Em—” He looked at Jason’s sister. “I wish there was room, but I need to go since it’s my guy—”

“No, this is okay.” Emily nodded. “I’ll wait here. It’ll be okay,” she repeated more to herself than to the others. “Get him to the boat. Get him healthy.” She sat next to Elizabeth, squeezed Jason’s hand. “You’re going to be a daddy,” she said with a whisper, and Jason smiled, just a slight curve of his lips. “So you have to be okay. I’ll see you soon.”

Cassadine Estate: Dungeons

“I don’t want to ask the obvious question,” Alexis began as the voices of the others disappeared up the passage. “But how are we going to stop Nikolas from doing this again?”  She shivered. “Or something worse.”

Stefan shot her a dirty look, but Laura just sighed and got to her feet. “I don’t know,” she managed. She swiped at her cheeks.

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here,” Nikolas managed, through another choking sob.

“You might as well not be here,” Alexis snapped. “What the hell were you thinking? How could you do this? It’s going to take everything I have to keep Sonny and Jason from dumping you in the ocean—”

“Alexis, this isn’t helping,” Stefan snarled.

“Well, neither are you—some parents you both turned out to be. Your son just kidnapped a man and tried to starve him to death. What are we going to do?”

“Maybe I should just die.” Nikolas hurled himself to his feet and started towards Alexis who just lifted her chin in defiance. Stefan grabbed his arm before Nikolas get too close to his aunt. “So you can all get rid of the mistake that ruined your life—”


“No one thinks that,” Laura said. “We just—I don’t know how we fix this.” Her eyes burned. “I don’t know if I want to.”

“Typical,” Nikolas sneered, though the impact was ruined slightly as his voice wobbled. He wiped his face with his sleeve. “Mother’s giving up—”

“To hell with this—” Alexis shoved Nikolas hard and he flew backwards.

Into the cell.

By the time he was on his feet, Alexis had swung it shut and the lock had reengaged. Stefan just stared at Alexis while Laura put her head in her hands.

“What did you just—”

“As a temporary solution,” Alexis said, dragging a hand down her face, avoiding Nikolas’s burning gaze. “He doesn’t see the reality of this situation, Stefan. And until he does, he’s too dangerous to be on the loose. He’s lucky to be alive, and if we can’t come to some sort of understanding, he won’t be for long.”

This entry is part 31 of 37 in the Counting Stars

Get the kids and bring a sweater
Dry is good and wind is better
Count the years, you always knew it
Strike a match, go on and do it

Oh, days go by, I’m hypnotized
I’m walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire

Sunny Came Home, Shawn Colvin

Thursday, May 11, 2000

Portland International Airport: Lounge

“I’m doing the best I can,” Sonny said as Luke snapped again about the waiting time. “Unless you have a personal airstrip we can use, we’re waiting on clearance—” He grimaced. “It’s maybe six hours and some change back to Port Charles, another hour maybe while we refuel— and then from there, we need to refuel again in Spain—I’m not equipped for a nonstop flight to Greece,” he said when Elizabeth turned in surprise. “I don’t have the fuel storage.

“What if Jason’s not in Greece?” Elizabeth wanted to know. What if he’d already—

“We aren’t going to think like that, sweetheart.” Laura took Elizabeth’s hands in hers, and Elizabeth felt shame for complaining—she wasn’t the only who was grappling with a world in which Nikolas had orchestrated Jason’s disappearance. Laura was his mother.

“I have to think the Dark Prince—” Luke grimaced as Alexis glared at him. “Don’t start with me. This is pretty damned dark, don’t you think? Anyway, if he’d wanted Jason dead—” Elizabeth flinched, but Luke continued, “he’d have done it. Left a body. But he wanted you to think Jason was gone, honey. He wanted—”

“This was designed to hurt you,” Laura realized. “To make you doubt Jason. I think—” She closed her eyes. “I have to wonder if Nikolas might want Jason close to…”

“Taunt him, maybe? The Cassadines always liked to pat themselves him on the back. They’ve even been known to monologue like a Bond villain. Fatal flaw.” Luke looked to Sonny. “It’s noon here. We’re leaving here in an hour. We land in Port Charles at four, local time. We’re off to Spain by five. Finish the route. I need to make some calls and check in with some contacts. I need to know when—”

“Uh—It’s what, eleven hours to Spain?” he asked Alexis, who nodded. “We’re there by five am our time—”

“11 am local Spain time,” Laura volunteered as the words started to sound the same to Elizabeth. So much time. Why did it have to be Greece? Of all places—halfway around the world—

“It’s only three hours to Mykonos,” Alexis continued. “And they’re an hour ahead. So add four hours — we’re there by three pm tomorrow. Which is eight am in New York.”

“All told, sweetheart, it’s maybe twenty-four hours,” Laura told Elizabeth. “We’ll be in Greece—”

“I—I need to call Emily and Bobbie.” Elizabeth got to her feet, swayed slightly. Luke braced her with an arm around her waist. “Bobbie’s got—she’s a nurse. Jason might need her, and Emily—Emily knows something is wrong, and I haven’t called her. They should meet us in Port Charles—”

“I don’t think—” Sonny closed his mouth when Alexis elbowed him in the stomach. “Sounds good to me. Luke?”

“I’ll get to my contacts. We’ll need a boat when we get to the island, and we might want a few other reinforcements—” he disappeared around a corner.

“Let’s get you something to eat and drink,” Laura said, taking Elizabeth by the arm. “And before you argue—” she continued as Elizabeth opened her mouth, “I want you to know that the only way I’m keeping it together is focusing on you. Can you let me do that? Please.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah. Okay. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry—” Her voice broke. “How could he do this? How could he ever think this was—”

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get the answer to the question. All we can do is hope for the best—that we’ll find Jason in Greece and bring him home to you.”

Cassadine Island: Dungeons

He wanted to sleep.

The headaches had come first, but Jason was used to them. He’d had terrible migraines after the accident and had learned to work through them. To push the pain away. The chills—he thought they came later, but he couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was all at the same time. He shivered—he couldn’t feel the cold, but his body was trembling and sweat dripped down his face.

But it was the intense desire to sleep that told Jason that he was sliding into the danger zone. His eyelids drooped, his limbs felt numb and too heavy for his body—

He knew that if he paced too much, if he exerted too much energy, he would hasten the dehydration. The harder his body worked, the more it drained what resources were left.

But he had to stay awake. Had to keep his eyes open, so he had to walk that line. He did push-ups. He walked laps around the cell to keep his blood moving. He felt over the stone walls, hoping for something—

He might have even considered drinking his own urine, but he hadn’t needed to relieve himself since waking up in this cell.

Another dangerous sign of dehydration.

He started to talk to himself because that wouldn’t use much energy. He recounted the places he had been, and then the names of the motels. He listed every insult he’d ever used to describe the members of the Quartermaine family, from Edward to Alan to AJ, and hell, even Ned.

He recounted the first time he’d met Emily, about the day he’d learned that he’d eaten disgusting oatmeal to make Lila happy—he’ been so rude to her—had he ever apologized—he would do that when he got home.

He was going home. He could do that now. He could face anything—he’d rather be on the docks, listening to Michael cry out for him than laying on the stone floor of this cell, this dungeon—was he even still in the States?

He thought about the first time he’d seen Robin after the accident—and even better—when he’d seen her on the bridge, and he’d kissed her for the first time. Another apology he needed to make. Robin hadn’t deserved the way things had ended—

And Elizabeth. When had he seen her for the first time? He strained his mind, trying to picture it—he knew it couldn’t be that day in the boxcar—maybe at the Nurse’s Ball—but he knew he’d never forget the garage fire—watching her cling to every last hope that it wasn’t Lucky—and then the moment it had hit her, and she’d fractured into pieces—

And then that night at Jake’s. He told himself about that night, more amused now at how she’d been angry at him—he understood it, he’d always understood it—she’d come to Jake’s looking for a fight, just like he had. She’d needed to fill the nothing that had invaded every piece of her world—

He’d never spoken so many words in all his life, but finally his throat cried defeat. The words were hoarser and barely audible, even to himself—and then there were no words. He had nothing left to give.

His eyes finally closed, and Jason slid into sleep. He’d fought so hard—but he’d lost the battle. Or maybe it was the war—maybe he wouldn’t ever wake up—

Port Charles Airport: Gate

Bobbie knew something wasn’t right — she’d known it the moment she’d answered Elizabeth’s phone call and heard the tremble in her voice. Even before Elizabeth had told her that Jason was in trouble, and that he might need medical attention. They were sending the jet —

She thought it was strange but knew Jason disliked hospitals and other doctors. She’d thought it was nothing more than that, and maybe Elizabeth was overreacting. But Elizabeth had asked for help, and Bobbie was determined to be there. She’d packed and left Lucas with Tony and Lulu with Felicia. Then she’d arrived at the gate and found Emily waiting with a suitcase of her own, a mixture of bewilderment and fear in her dark eyes, and it sunk in that maybe it was more serious that Bobbie wanted to believe.

“Bobbie?” Emily asked. “What are you—”

“Elizabeth said there was trouble, that Jason needed help—” Bobbie gestured at the black bag in her hands. “But if you’re here—”

Emily exhaled slowly. “She told me Jason was in trouble, but she didn’t want to get into it on the phone—” She clenched her hand into a fist, raised it to her chest. “She couldn’t get him on the phone when she was here, and then Luke and Laura and Sonny—” She swallowed hard. “Even Alexis — they all left yesterday without any explanation. Now they’re calling for us—”

They turned at the sound of the gate door opening — Sonny’s jet just beyond the window attached to the passenger boarding bridge. Elizabeth was first through the door, followed by Laura and Luke, then Sonny and Alexis.

But no Jason. Bobbie’s eyes darted behind them, searching, but then at Elizabeth. “What’s going on?”

“We need—” Elizabeth folded her arms, took a deep breath. “We need to refuel. We, um—” Her voice trembled, and Laura put a hand on her arm.

“Jason went missing,” Luke said. “Liz got back and his things were gone. The bike, clothes—all gone. All she had was a note telling her not to look for him again—”

“That’s a goddamn lie—” Emily interrupted harshly. “He’d never—”

“That’s what I said,” Elizabeth said, rubbing the side of her face, deep purple circles gouged beneath her eyes. “Em—” Tears slid down her cheeks. “Oh, God. Em, someone took him. And Alexis recognized the guy carrying Jason’s duffel out of the lobby.”

Emily frowned. “What? Who? Is that where we’re going? Why you’re refueling?”

But Bobbie knew what Elizabeth would say, read the misery and heartbreak in Laura’s eyes, the disbelief and fear in Alexis’s expression. And realized why Elizabeth thought Emily deserved to be here for this. She put a hand on Emily’s shoulder. “Are you sure?”

“I’ve known him for years,” Alexis said, stiffly. “No question in mind. I don’t know what, if anything, we’ll find there, but we have to start somewhere.”

“What? Start where? I don’t understand,” Emily said. “Liz—”

“Greece,” Elizabeth said faintly. “The man on the video works for Nikolas, Em. We think—” She swallowed, her breath shaky. “We think Nikolas is the reason Jason is missing.”

Friday, May 12, 2000

Somewhere Over the Atlantic

Alexis stood in the small galley kitchen at the bank of the jet, staring blindly at a closed cabinet, trying to remember why she’d come in here in the first place.

Since the moment she’d seen Georgios on the screen, Alexis had been putting one foot in front of the other, concentrating on the next step. Get to the airport. Stay upbeat, listen to Luke go over plans to infiltrate Cassadine island, watch Elizabeth and Laura battle with the horror of watching someone they loved slip over to the dark side—

And Alexis had just shoved everything away, deliberately ignoring the implications of Georgios being in Portland, a devoted family servant who had looked after Nikolas since he’d been a small child. There would be no reason for a Cassadine servant to be in Oregon, in a hotel lobby, carrying Jason’s duffel bag to the elevator for the parking garage just minutes before someone had roared away with Jason’s motorcycle.

No reason other than the obvious—that a Cassadine scheme lay behind all this madness — that Nikolas himself had orchestrated this after months of screaming at the world how much he blamed Jason for Lucky’s death—

“Did you want coffee?”

Alexis jumped, then turned to find Sonny behind her. “What?”

“Coffee,” Sonny repeated. “I’m making some for the rest of us. Bobbie took Liz and Emily to the bedroom, hoping they’d get some rest, but I don’t see the rest of us heading that way.” He rubbed his eyes. “Christ,” he muttered. “I think I’d rather the threat be coming from my side of things—”

He crossed to the cabinet, drew down a bag of coffee beans. Even on the jet, he had to grind his own beans. She nearly smiled at the image, but it faded. “It’s in the blood. We’re broken. Damaged. Doomed to insanity.”

Sonny said nothing, just scooped the beans into the grinder, the loud, screeching sound jarring. When they were ready, he dumped the fine powder into the coffee maker. “I used to think that,” he said finally. “That something in my background — something in me was like a ticking time bomb. I get these dark moods,” he continued as Alexis stared at him. “And it’s hard to dig out of them. They’ve become worse since I lost Lily. And Brenda,” he added.


“You’re not broken or damaged, Alexis.” He looked at her. “You’re a neurotic control freak. Your living brother is a cold fish, and the dead one was a fucking psychopath raised by a supervillain and an evil bitch.”

“I suppose Stefan’s lucky to have emerged so unscathed in your opinion,” Alexis said folding her arms. “What about Nikolas?”

“A spoiled little prince who has spent his whole time whining about his mother leaving him.” Sonny sneered. “He expected Laura to stay on that island to continue being tortured and raped by that animal, I suppose. Would he have been happier if Stavros Cassadine had killed her? The way Deke killed my mother?”

Alexis hesitated. “Nikolas doesn’t think she loved him—”

“Nikolas should have been raised to revere that woman for escaping that son of a bitch, but Stefan Cassadine never forgave Laura for choosing Luke, either.” Sonny jerked his shoulder. “My mother stayed because of her belief in her vows, because she didn’t have any choices, because she thought I needed a father—pick your reason. Deke broke her into so many pieces she no longer resembled the mother I loved. So, yeah, Nikolas is a spoiled little bastard, but he’s a product of his environment, not his blood line.”


“We’re going to get to Greece, we’re going to get answers about Jason, and Alexis—” Sonny met her eyes. “If my best friend is already dead, if Nikolas Cassadine is the reason Jason’s child grows up without a father, he won’t live long enough to regret it.”

“If Nikolas did this terrible thing, and if it’s gone far enough that we can’t drag it back—” Alexis swallowed, “maybe it’s for the best that the next generation of Cassadines is smothered in the cradle. But Sonny—if Jason’s alive, promise me you’ll give us a chance to fix this.”

“I’m not promising anything until I see Jason,” Sonny said. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”

“All right.” She exhaled slowly. “All right. Then we’ll see what happens when we get there.”

“You should sleep,” Bobbie told Elizabeth, steering her towards the back of the plane and the bed Sonny kept. “Laura said you barely slept last night—”

“I don’t even know what time zone we’re in—” Elizabeth sank onto the bed, blinked at Bobbie who knelt down to remove her sneakers. “I can do that—”

“I’ve never been to Cassadine Island,” Bobbie said. “I can’t pore over maps the way Luke and Laura can. You let me occupy myself—” She glanced at Emily who had joined them. “Hey, sweetie. Why don’t you and Liz take the bed? You can both get some sleep.”

“I don’t understand,” Emily said, sitting next to Elizabeth, “how this is happening.”  She closed her eyes. “I can’t make it real.”

“We don’t even know that it is,” Elizabeth said dully. She didn’t even protest when Bobbie pressed her shoulder. She curled up on her side, tucking a fist under the pillow, stared straight ahead. “Alexis just recognized a Cassadine servant.”

“Maybe it wasn’t,” Emily said. She scooted to the other side of the bed, sitting against the headboard, her knees drawn up to her chest. “Maybe she was wrong.”

“Maybe.” Bobbie tucked Elizabeth’s shoes under a chair.

“But if it’s not this—if we’re chasing a completely wrong theory, then where is he?” Emily wanted to know. “I can’t believe I have to hope that one of my best friends is a psychopath because that’s the best-case scenario.”

Bobbie stroked Elizabeth’s hair, gratified when the younger woman’s eyes began to droop. Within moments, she’d finally fallen asleep.

“Was it Katherine, you think? Losing her and the crap she pulled about the baby right after Lucky?” Emily said. “Is that why he snapped?”

“Could be.”

“It’s just—Jason’s my brother. He didn’t just do this to Elizabeth—” Emily’s voice cracked. “He did this to me. How could he—to both of us—” She swiped at her eyes. “He said we were a family. That last Christmas. That me and Liz—that we’d made him and Lucky brothers, and that made us all family. How does this happen?”

“I wish I could tell you, honey. But all we can do is wait.”

Sonny put his head in his hands. “How many rooms are in this damn castle?”

“I stopped counting at around a hundred,” Laura said, with a touch of apology. “And there were still three more wings. That’s not including any construction done since I was held hostage. There are also the outbuildings—there’s a village where most of the workers live—”

“It’s one of those old self-sufficient island kingdoms,” Luke said. He squinted at the map. “I never did much exploring—I doubt they’d keep the kid in a room with a window.”

“No, Jason would be able to escape—”

“Stavros used to—” Laura exhaled slowly. “He used to threaten me with the dungeons.” Luke and Sonny both looked at her, as Alexis sat across from them. “Have you ever seen them?”

“I heard of them, but I never saw them,” Alexis said. They’re from some warlord—the one who built the original keep in the 1300s or something—I never listened to Mikkos when he droned on about the history—but they’re there. I’m sure the family had a use for them at one time or another.”

“He took me there once,” Laura murmured. “Dragged me by the hair. The pathways are just carved passages in the rock beneath the castle. They had lights—”

“Electric?’ Luke managed, his hand fisting on the table.

“Could have been. The, ah, the cells were just holes carved deeper into the rock with bars—” Laura cleared her throat. “They exist. And there’s no escape. But the entrance to the dungeons—it’s not easily accessible. The servants knew about them, but they never went down there.”

“So the dungeons sound like a perfect place to keep a kidnapping victim,” Sonny finally said. “Do you—do you remember where they are?”

“I might. I haven’t been back in a long time.” Laura rubbed her arms, as if warding off a chill. “Stefan is there. He’ll know.”

“How do you know he isn’t a part of this?” Sonny demanded.

“He’s ruthless,” Laura said slowly, ignoring the snort from her ex-husband. “But not cruel. He simply doesn’t have the capacity to do this—”

“He was happy to let you stay on the island forever,” Luke retorted, and she simply stared at him. “Never helped you escape—”

“How do you think I got away?” she asked. “No, at first—with Helena and Stavros—it was so hard that first year to have a moment to myself. And then, after a time, Stavros decided I had accepted my place. He must have convinced Helena the same.” She shook her head. “If Stavros were still alive, I’d say Stefan wouldn’t do anything. But he’s not. And we’ve had no indication Helena is a part of this. If it’s as we think it is, if it’s Nikolas acting alone, I don’t think Stefan would support it.”

“He’s been worried about Nikolas,” Alexis admitted. “Since Katherine, he just hasn’t—we don’t need to go into the details,” she said briskly. “Suffice to say, while no one could have predicted this, I’m not sure Stefan would be surprised. Or that he’d deny it.” Her lips twisted. “The men in our family enjoy hurting women. Especially the ones they love. It must be genetic.”

Cassadine Estate: Study

Stefan saw movement in the hall out of the corner of his eye and hurried to push open the ajar door study to catch Nikolas turning own the next hallway.

“Nikolas. A moment.”

For a long moment, Stefan thought his words would be ignored, but finally Nikolas appeared around the corner but came no closer. Stefan nearly beckoned with a gesture for his son to approach, but—

That was his father. His brother. They demanded respect. Stefan had always attempted to earn it. He closed the distance himself.

“Yes?” Nikolas asked, arching a brow. “Did you need something?”

“I want to know why you’ve been to the dungeons,” Stefan said bluntly. Nikolas’s nostrils flared slightly, the only indication that the boy had heard him. “The servants say that you’d reconnected the electricity—”

“The servants gossip,” Nikolas bit out. “Is this not my home? Do I not have the right to do with it as I see it?”

“When you were believed to be the son of Stavros, the eldest child and heir,” Stefan said, his tone a bit gentler now, “I held the estate in trust for you. But now that the world knows the truth—”

“Now that you no longer lie to me,” Nikolas spat, and Stefan winced. “What, I’ve lost my right to do anything?”

“No, but that makes me the eldest living heir. It’s no longer a trust. I closed the dungeons off a long time ago. Father only kept them accessible to drive fear into my brother and I—no good can come from allowing light in there.”

“What would you have me do then? Fill them in with concrete and pretend they never existed?”

“I never said that,” Stefan murmured, studying the shadows beneath his son’s eyes, the set of his shoulders. The tenseness in his body. “I simply don’t know what the interest is—”

“And I don’t need to tell you. If you don’t want me in the dungeons—” Nikolas lifted on shoulder in an elegant, yet careless, half-shrug. “Then I won’t go. I have no need to be there anyway. Not now.”


“Is that all? Or have the servants gossiped more about me? Perhaps it was a mistake for me to come here. I thought to find peace, but all I have is your nagging.” Nikolas sneered, and just for a moment—a terrifying moment in the shadows—Stefan thought his brother stood before him. “Shall you return to Port Charles or I?”

“Would that make you happy?”

“Nothing will,” Nikolas muttered, and then that terrible look in his eyes had gone, and his son was back. The boy he’d raised. Stefan exhaled slowly, more easily. “Let me be.” He walked away, and this time, Stefan said nothing.

This entry is part 30 of 37 in the Counting Stars

The angels they burn inside for us
Are we ever, are we ever gonna learn to fly
The devils they burn inside of us
Are we ever gonna come back down
Come around
I’m always gonna worry about
The things that could make us cold

Angels or Devils, Dishwalla

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

New Imperial Hotel: Jason & Elizabeth’s Room

Elizabeth hadn’t thought she was hungry, but as soon as the chicken was put in front her, she felt the hunger pangs. Laura was right. She had to make sure she was thinking clearly, that the baby was getting its nutrients, so she ate — while Laura, then Alexis, started to pace.

“How long does it take to pick up footage?” Alexis muttered.

Elizabeth set her napkin aside. “They’re watching it first,” she said softly. She met Laura’s eyes. “Because Luke thinks they’re going to find Jason leaving on his own.”


“It’s okay. I know that didn’t happen, so—” Elizabeth pushed her plate away. “I can understand. He’s trying to protect me, and Sonny’s no different. They want to have any bad news ready. No surprises.”

“Still—” Laura stopped as there was a knock on the door. Alexis pulled it open, and Luke strode in.

“We got the taxi number.” Luke set the tapes on the nightstand. “Sonny’s tracking that down to see where the car took him. We, uh, watched the hotel footage, too.” Luke sat on the bed. “We don’t have Jason coming back to the hotel. At least not through the lobby.”

Her breath rushed out in a whoosh. “Not at all? He never—”

“We might have missed him. He might have come in a different entrance. Sonny’s contact is getting us Tuesday as well. All we got so far is Monday, but right now, if we go with the theory that he didn’t leave on his own—”

“It’s not a theory,” Elizabeth bit out.

“—it makes sense if he went off the grid on Monday. That’s the day he was expecting you to call, and you didn’t, right?” Luke asked.

“Right, but—” Elizabeth rubbed her chest. Jason had never come back to the hotel. He would have—he’d taken a taxi, not the bike. He wouldn’t have come in through the parking garage. “Are you—are there cameras in the parking garage?”

“No, but we’re looking into traffic cameras to see when the bike left and if we know who was driving it.” Luke paused. “We’re covering every base we can think of, Elizabeth. I promise.”

“I know. It’s just—” She swiped at the tears that had escaped. “I knew something was wrong. I should have said something, but I thought maybe I was overreacting. Or being dramatic—”

“You did say something. To me. And probably to Emily and Bobbie,” Laura added. “And we all thought there was a plausible reason for him to miss your calls. You did nothing wrong.”

“It’s just—” Elizabeth shook her head and went over to the nightstand to pull out the drawer where the hotel stored left extra boxes of tissues. Her heart sank. The postcards.

“Elizabeth?” Laura asked.

Wordlessly, she reached into the drawer to draw out the stack. Jason had kept them in his bag after she’d found them the last time. She’d wanted to read more, but he hadn’t let her. She’d  been amused by how embarrassed he seemed to be by their existence.

But they were here. In this drawer. When his bag had been packed, who ever had done it— they’d taken these out and left the pregnancy book behind, too. Stripping any evidence of her existence—of the baby. The little pieces of the life they’d begun to build together.


“He, um,” she turned, the postcards in her hands. “He left—someone left these—” But how had someone known to leave them? How—

Laura reached for the cards, took them from Elizabeth, glanced through them. “I don’t understand—”

“He sent me a few while he was gone. I told you that. But I didn’t know—he, um, had trouble writing, so he kept redoing them. But he kept them all.”

Until now.

Elizabeth sat down on the bed, her chest aching, the pain radiating out, down her arms, into her fingertips. He’d kept the postcards for months—

But now they’d been left behind like trash—

“There’s an explanation for this,” Alexis said, but Elizabeth could hear the doubt in her voice. See the looks Luke and Laura exchanged. They didn’t believe her. They didn’t understand.

Jason hadn’t left her. She would never believe it. After everything they’d been through, all they’d shared. She would never accept it, even if he was standing in front of her, admitting it as a fact. How could she convince everyone else of that?

“I’m going to go check on Sonny,” Luke told Laura. “Natasha—”

“Yes, of course.” Alexis followed Luke out of the room.

“You think he left me,” Elizabeth said dully. She felt the bed sink next to her. “You all think it.”

“I think,” Laura said carefully, “that I don’t know Jason the way you do. If you tell me you believe that someone did this on purpose, I will believe you. And we are going to keep looking. The fact that he didn’t come back to the hotel that day—that’s troubling.” She looked at one of the postcards, smiling. “It’s sweet to think of him, crouched over these, writing over and over again until he had it right.”

“It’s how I knew it would all be okay. Really, truly. We didn’t plan on forever or anything, but I knew whatever happened, I could handle it. Because he’d never forgotten me. He thought about me every day, Laura. How could he do that, and then walk away without a word?”

“I don’t know—”

“He didn’t. I need you to believe me, okay? I can’t be wasting my time convincing all of you—” Elizabeth shook her head. “He left another postcard in my luggage. He wrote he didn’t want to fall asleep without hearing my voice. Maybe he could change his mind about me, about the baby. But that’s not happening here, Laura. He wouldn’t write that, then leave everything behind without telling me. Jason isn’t cruel.”

“No, he isn’t, baby. We’re going to find him. And whoever is making you hurt like this, we’re going to make sure they don’t get away with it.”

Sonny’s Room

“Yeah, okay. Thanks. We’ll pick it up in the morning.” Sonny hung up the phone in the hotel room, then turned to Luke and Alexis’s worried faces. “Taxi company will have a copy of the log from Monday, but we can’t get it tonight.”

“We’ve got—” Alexis made a face. “We’ve got another tick in the Jason did this on purpose category.”

Sonny bristled, but Luke held up a hand. “Apparently, they had this thing with postcards,” he said. “Morgan wrote her some, never sent them, and kept them. She just found them in a drawer.”

“The only evidence left behind points to him cutting ties,” Alexis said. “I don’t like thinking it, Sonny, but—”

“Then don’t.” Sonny growled, stalked across to the balcony doors, looking out over the city. “You think this is me jilting Brenda at the altar and letting her think I didn’t want her anymore.”

Luke sighed. “It’s got elements of it, maybe. You can’t help but see the parallels, and we both know Jason learned a lot about how treat women from you. For better or worse. You kept Brenda from following you, didn’t you? Maybe he’s into something. Someone makes contact with him. Someone could have followed you to Portland, Sonny. You’re telling me I’m crazy—”

“No. No, I’m not.” Sonny dipped his head, took in the information, the possibilities. And yet— “I can’t really see it, but I get how you can. Hotel security says they can get me more footage, but not until tomorrow. There’s not much more I can do from here.” Sonny looked at them. “Did Laura stay downstairs?”

“Yeah, she’s not going to leave her tonight.”

“Good. Get some sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow.”

When they were gone, Sonny went out onto the balcony. It was a different room, different side of the building, but it looked just like the one he’d been in days earlier. The days he’d spent in Portland, watching Jason with Elizabeth, seeing the dynamic they’d created. He’d never been with them before, had never really seen them interact outside that terrible morning in the boxcar.

But Jason had been talking about a future, about finding a place here, a doctor — he’d been happy, ready to share that future with Elizabeth and their child. The way Jason had spoken about his relationship with her, their child—

Sonny didn’t care what they found on the cameras, what the taxi driver told them—Jason hadn’t walked away on his own. Not like this.  Not without getting word to Sonny that something was wrong. He knew Elizabeth wasn’t going to give up, and neither would he. He’d keep looking until the day he died if that’s what it took.

Thursday, May 11, 2000

Jason & Elizabeth’s Room

Elizabeth picked at her oatmeal, keeping one eye on the hotel footage that Luke was studying as she forced herself to eat. Sonny had gone to pick up the taxi log, and Alexis and Laura were—she frowned. She wasn’t sure where they were.

She shoved the bowl aside and went over to the book on the nightstand. She was seven weeks pregnant now. That last night, before she’d flown to back to Port Charles, Jason had read to her from the pages—

“The placenta will finish forming by the end of the trimester,” Jason read. “In the sixth week, the embryo is about the size of a blueberry.” He laid the book upside down on the bed and reached down to tug up her sleep tank, baring her belly. “That seems impossible.”

“I know right—” She held up her fingers, less than an inch apart. “They’re so small, you might accidentally swallow them.”

He brushed his mouth over her smooth skin, and she giggled, lacing her fingers in his hair. “The book says the circulatory system forms first. We can hear a heartbeat soon.”

“We’ll be able to hear at the first ultrasound. I promise. As soon as I get back, we’ll make an appointment. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.”

“I know.” He stroked her belly again, his thumb moving back and forth. “You’ll be an amazing mom.”

“And you’ll be a great dad.”

She opened the book to the seventh week, smiling faintly. Jason had scrawled something in the corner—her symptoms, she realized. Marking them so he could track them better. Nausea, taking a few more naps. They hadn’t been able to drive for long periods of time, reminding her of that morning before things had changed between them, and she’d picked another silly fight.

Elizabeth went to the next page—to the eighth week. Saw that Jason had written another note. Heartbeat this week. Can stethoscope hear it this early?

“Well, that’s the last of it,” Luke said, breaking into her thoughts. “No sign of Jason in the lobby on Monday or Tuesday.” He got to his feet, stretched. “You wanna go for a walk? It’s not good for you to be cooped up—”

“Sonny should be back soon. Where did Laura and Alexis go?”

“To sweet talk one of my old contacts. Wendell is a sucker for a pretty smile, and Laura always had a way with him—” He nodded at the book. “How far along are you?”

“Seven weeks.” Elizabeth managed a smile as she looked further down the page to symptoms where Jason had written a reminder to get more ginger ale and crackers.

“Listen, I know it hurts to think that maybe Jason left on his own,” Luke began, sitting next to her, his tone gentle. “I don’t like suggesting—”


“Just hear me out, darlin’, all right? I’ve known him longer, and I’ve watched him change. I don’t think he’d ever hurt you. Not on purpose—”

“Then how can you think he’d leave?”

“He might have had his own reasons—”

Elizabeth handed him the book. “Do you see the handwriting?” she asked. Luke frowned. “That’s Jason. Jason’s the one who was reading it. Jason was the one who bought it before we even worked things out. He was poring over every page. He made notes. The pages are marked—he used to read to me from it.”

Luke flipped through the pages. “I see that—”

“He was excited to be a father again, Luke. Even if he didn’t want me, he wanted the baby. He never would have left me like this, without a word.”

“I hear all of that, and I believe you. But it’s also—it’s emotion, not facts. And the facts are—”

“You can’t even prove Jason was the one to pack his things.” Elizabeth lunged off the bed, spaced the room. “He never came back from the airport—”

“Not that we can tell—”

“Why are you so determined to make him the bad guy?” Elizabeth demanded. “Don’t you see how much it hurts me when you talk like this?”

“Better you hurt today than to watch you wait for him day after day, and never know.” Luke sighed. “I don’t want this for you—”

“Maybe Jason didn’t want me anymore, okay? Maybe you’re right. But he’d never leave me with the baby alone. Worried about him like this. But maybe you can’t understand that. Maybe you’re the one that can’t believe someone wouldn’t leave his family. Isn’t that what you did to Laura? To Lulu?”

Luke closed his mouth, absorbed the hit. “Yeah, okay. I did that. I left when they needed me the most. And maybe I didn’t really show up for Laura, but I loved my kids—”

“And Jason loves his. He held on to Michael until he realized it was confusing him. He only walked away because he knew Michael wasn’t his. Not really. But this baby—” Elizabeth rested her hand on her abdomen. “Jason is this baby’s father. He knows it. And he wouldn’t leave us.” Her eyes burned. “Thank you for your help, Luke. But if you can’t believe in him, then maybe you should just go home.”

New Imperial Hotel: Lobby

Sonny came into the lobby, frowning when he saw Laura by herself near the elevators. “Where’s Alexis?”

“She’s making a phone call—” Laura sighed. “We got the traffic camera footage—did you get the taxi info?”

“Yeah, the taxi let Jason off downtown. They gave me the address. I thought about going on my own,” Sonny said, “but I thought maybe Elizabeth would know more. She was traveling with him. Maybe it’s a place they talked about.”

“Okay, you take her—” Laura stopped as Alexis approached them. “Everything all right?”

“Oh, fine. Stefan wanted to let me know he’d arrived in Greece. Nikolas left a few days ago and Stefan decided to join him,” Alexis reminded Sonny. “He thought it might help to have someone to talk to. We’ll see.”

The doors opened, and they stepped on board. Laura pressed the fourth-floor button. “If we don’t get a lead from all of this, we need to talk about checking out and taking Elizabeth home,” she said. She looked to Sonny. “The odds are this is connected to your business—”


“And we need to make sure Elizabeth is safe. I’m not sure there are any more answers to find in Portland.”

Cassadine Island, Greece

Cassadine Estate: Terrace

Nikolas scowled when Stefan emerged from the house. He shot to his feet. “I told you I didn’t need a babysitter.”

“I’m not here to baby sit,” his father said coolly. He sat at the table, smiled as a maid brought him a coffee and a croissant. “Thank you, Mia.”

“Then why—”

“Port Charles can be a bit stifling, and the weather is beautiful this time of year. Greece is my home, Nikolas,” Stefan reminded him. He stirred sugar into the coffee. “I’ll be saddling Demetrius this afternoon. Would you like to join me—”

“No. I came here to be alone.” Nikolas got to his feet, then stormed back inside the house. Stefan sighed and continued with his breakfast.

“I’m so glad you’re home sir,” Mia said when she came back out to gather Nikolas’s breakfast dishes. “The young master has concerned us all.”

“Oh?” Stefan raised his brows. “Is he throwing tantrums? Stomping around the place?” He thought he’d raised a better child than that, but perhaps he’d spoiled him too much.

“Spending too much time on his own. Disappearing,” Mia said. “And Arturo thought he saw Master Nikolas coming out of the dungeons. I hope you’ll be able to sort him out.” She went back inside, leaving Stefan to stare after her with squinted eyes.

Why in all the worlds would Nikolas be going anywhere near the dungeons? They hadn’t been used since in Stefan was a child, and even then, only as a threat. They were remnants of a different world, left over from a time when the island had been stronghold for an Ottoman warlord. Stefan mulled it over in his mind, then put it away. Whatever the reason, Nikolas clearly needed closer attention.

New Imperial Hotel: Jason & Elizabeth’s Room

Laura slid in the first traffic camera footage and pressed play. Beside her, Alexis picked up the pregnancy book that had been left open.

“I hope Sonny and Elizabeth can find a lead at that address.” Luke shook his head. “But we’re just about out of ideas—”

“Jason was making notes about the pregnancy,” Alexis noted. Laura frowned, looked down at her. “That’s really sweet.”

“Yeah, Elizabeth thinks it’s good evidence he didn’t leave on purpose.” Luke went over to the drawer where Elizabeth had left the postcards. “Me? I think it’s more telling it was left behind. With these cards—”

“I guess.” Alexis made a face as he dumped them on the bed. She reached for one. “Badlands—”

“Look—” Laura said, grabbing their attention. She paused the tape. “There’s a bike—Luke, that looks like the one we saw in Astoria—”

Luke knelt in front of the television, squinted. “Yeah. Can’t tell much about the driver—”

“Because he’s wearing a helmet,” Alexis finished, then Luke straightened, his eyes widening as they met hers, the words registering the significance of them. “Jason never wore a helmet.”

“What’s the time code?” he wanted to know.

“Monday—” Laura frowned. “9:59 AM. But that’s—”

“Definitely not Jason,” Luke finished grimly. “Someone was clearing the kid’s belongings out of this hotel room while Jason was waving goodbye at the gate. Christ—get me the hotel footage.”

Laura switched the tapes and went to Monday morning. “There!” she slapped the screen, hitting pause. “That’s someone walking out of the elevators ten minutes before the bike is moved—and look at what he’s holding—”

“It’s a duffel that looks like mine—” Luke gestured to the bag Elizabeth had left on the floor. “I gave it to Liz because it’s more portable than hers—”

“Elizabeth told me that’s how she found the postcards.” Laura went back to the bed, held them up. “He kept them in the bag. Always. And she went into it, thinking it was hers. Because they both had black duffel bags.”

“Wait—wait, where’s the letter that was left for her?” Luke rummaged through the table to find it. “Give me those postcards, Laura.”

“What is it, Luke?” Laura hurried over. He snatched the card out of her hand, then took the note over to Alexis who was still squinting at the screen. “Luke—”

“The handwriting. Look—the postcards — it’s a good match for the book, right? Book’s a bit cramped, but it’s still the same—” Luke exhaled slowly. “But it’s not anything like the note.”

Laura’s face was flushed as she took the note out of his hand, studied it alongside the book. “He didn’t write this.”

“And he didn’t clear out his things. Whoever came into this room packed his things, went through the bag and got rid of anything that could be linked to Liz—and then left.”

“I think—” Alexis moved the screen forward a bit more. “We need to call Sonny.”


“I know—” She closed her eyes, steadied herself, then looked at Laura. “I know this man—and it’s not Sonny’s. It’s not one of his. He’s mine.”


“He’s—I’m going to be sick—” Alexis got to her feet. “He’s one of our retainers from Greece.”

“Greece?” Luke echoed. “The hell—”

“Stefan said it was his idea for Nikolas to go to Greece—” Laura looked at the screen, then back at Alexis as the implication sank in. If one of the Cassadine retainers—a loyal family servant—had cleaned out Jason’s belongings— “Oh my God.”

“We need Sonny back here now. Alexis, get him on the horn. I’m gonna call the airport. We need to get to Greece—”

“No, no—it’s not—” Laura couldn’t finish the sentence. Couldn’t breathe. Had Nikolas done this? Had her son done something to Jason?

Broadway & Taylor Street

Elizabeth glanced around the street, looking at the mixture of buildings and stores, frustrated when nothing leapt out at her. “They wrote down the address, right?” she demanded of Sonny as he squinted down at the photocopy of the log.

“Yeah, yeah — but maybe this wasn’t the address he gave them at first,” Sonny said. “This is only a few blocks away from the hotel—” He took another few steps, gestured down the street where the sign from the New Imperial was barely visible. “He might have wanted to be let out there and walk the rest of the way.”

“I guess.” Elizabeth bit her lip, folded her arms. “I really wanted this to be a lead,” she said softly. “I needed this to work.” She looked at Sonny. “You believe me, don’t you? Luke and Alexis, they have doubts. And Laura’s telling me what she thinks I need to hear. But I know you believe me.”

Sonny hesitated, and she drew in a sharp breath. “Sonny—”

“No. No, I believe you.” Sonny cleared his throat. “I thought…there might be a possibility he took off to protect you, but the more I thought about it—” He looked around the area again. “I thought maybe,” he began again, “that he’d decided to use a trick out of my playbook. The day I jilted Brenda at the altar, I asked him to do the impossible.” He concentrated on the passing cars. “I needed her to stay safe. To believe I left her so she wouldn’t look for me. I needed her to hate me.”

“Jason wouldn’t—”

“No. He wouldn’t.” Sonny looked at her again. “He hated every minute of what I asked him to do, but he did it for me anyway. He’d never do it to someone he loved.  I believe Jason might walk away from you if he thought it would keep you safe. But not like this. He never would have left you that note. Or the book and postcards. And he’d have told me what was going on.”

Elizabeth nodded, relieved to have Sonny on her side. She turned in a circle, slowly taking in every storefront and building, looking for some small hint as to why Jason had taken a taxi here instead of directly to the hotel. Sonny’s pocket began to ring, and he dug for the cell phone.

“Yeah?” His expression changed and he looked at Elizabeth. Her throat tightened. After another moment, he nodded. “We’re a few blocks away. We’ll be there in ten.” He closed the phone. “We have to go—”


“The handwriting on the note doesn’t match the postcards and that book you showed Luke. Laura found someone getting off an elevator with Jason’s bag and then riding out with the bike at the same time Jason was at the airport with us—”

“Oh my God—” She’d known, she’d known all along he was in trouble, but—

“And—” Sonny hissed when they got caught at a red light. “This is the hard part, okay, so I’m just going to say it quick. Alexis recognized the guy. He works for her family in Greece.”

“In Greece—” The world came to a stop, and everything fell away. The cars, the people around them — it all just went disappeared.


Cassadine Estate: Dungeons

Jason paced the short length of his cell. Back and forth, back and forth—he was nearly dizzy. He didn’t know where he was. Didn’t know why he’d been grabbed—

And he knew it had to be at least a day. He’d been awake at least twenty-four hours, and—he touched his jaw. The stubble there was maybe two or three days old.

He closed his eyes. Okay. Gone two days. Monday. Elizabeth would know something was wrong. She’d tell Sonny. Sonny would start looking.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him just how long it had been since breakfast with Elizabeth in their room on Monday morning. He closed his eyes, trying to bring up a picture of her in his head. What would they be doing if they were together right now? Would they be meeting with doctors? Finding an apartment?

Maybe he would be reading to her. It was week seven. Heartbeat week. He’d thought about getting a stethoscope since they didn’t have a doctor yet, but then he read somewhere else in the book it wouldn’t work.

“If you’re praying for rescue, it won’t work.”

At the sound of a voice not his own, Jason’s eyes snapped open, and a figure emerged from the darkness, walking into the dim light offered by a sconce across from the cell.

Nikolas Cassadine.

“No one knows you’re here,” Nikolas continued, “and I left instructions for a note to be left for Elizabeth.” His lips curved into a smile. “You already did this to her once, you know. She’ll believe you left her again. Especially as my man left behind anything that was sentimental. The pregnancy book, some postcards you’d written her.”

Jason stared at him, at this man who’d been Elizabeth’s friend, Lucky’s brother—Jason had saved his life once. “You did this. Why?”

“Because she won’t be one more casualty,” Nikolas bit out. “You stole my brother. He’s dead. And you manipulated a grieving girl into sleeping with you. But don’t worry about her. My mother will look after her, and eventually, when she realizes I’m the only one she can rely on, Elizabeth will let me back in.”

Nikolas tipped his head as Jason remained silent. “Nothing to say, I see. Well, it won’t be long. I hear the human body can only last about three days without water. You’re in good shape, so maybe double that for you. Have you ever been dehydrated?” he asked idly. “Your mind starts to wander. You’ll feel dizzy. Tired. Chills. Any of those yet?”

Just the fatigue, Jason realized. “You’re going to kill me—”

“No, no.” Nikolas shook his head, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Something much better than that. You didn’t kill my brother, but you let him die, so I will return the favor.” Nikolas shrugged. “I’ll make sure you get buried at sea. I hear you love the water.”

Then he disappeared into the darkness and Jason realized, for the first time, that he wasn’t going to survive this. He wasn’t going home. He wasn’t going to be a father. He wrapped his hands around the bars of the cell, squeezed his eyes shut. No one would ever suspect Nikolas. Laura’s son, Emily and Elizabeth’s friend. They’d spend their time hunting Sonny’s enemies—

And Jason would be dead before they realized their mistake.

This entry is part 29 of 37 in the Counting Stars

I burn, burn like a wicker cabinet
Chalk white and oh so frail
I see our time has gotten stale
The tick tock of the clock is painful
All sane and logical
I want to tear it off the wall
I hear words in clips and phrases
I think sick like ginger ale
But my stomach turns and I exhale

Inside Out, Eve 6

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Port Charles Airport: Gate D

Sonny paced the waiting area, checking his watch. If they didn’t show—

“They’ll be here,” Alexis said patiently. She stepped away from the desk and the flight attendant waiting for them to board. “You know if you get on that plane without Laura, she’ll skin you alive, and Luke will be behind her to cook the carcass—”

“You didn’t hear Elizabeth—” Sonny gritted his teeth. “I knew something was wrong. When she wanted to move up the flight time—”


“He hasn’t called her once since we left on Monday. Forty-eight hours with no contact and nothing is wrong? No. You didn’t see him in Portland. It took everything he had to put her on the plane without him. If he hadn’t heard from her in twenty-four hours, he’d have called me.” Maybe there had been an accident, Sonny thought, sickened. Maybe Jason was lying in a hospital, or Christ, a morgue—

“Hey.” Alexis put her hands on his forearms, and he snapped to attention. “You need to keep your head clear, okay? Whatever is going on, we’ll figure it out. Okay? There’s going to be an explanation.”

“An explanation that doesn’t include alien abduction isn’t going to work for me—” Sonny bit off the rest of his response when he finally saw Luke and Laura approaching. “Good. Let’s get out of here.”

“What else did Elizabeth say?” Laura demanded after they were belted in for takeoff. “All you said she’d called collect and that something was wrong—”

“She hasn’t talked to Jason since we left on Monday. She’s left messages on the phone and with the hotel,” Sonny said, feeling relieved when the plane started to move. “And he didn’t get the flight information, so he wasn’t there to meet her. She called the hotel again, but this time they told her he hasn’t picked up any messages at all.”

“That might not mean anything,” Luke said. “Morgan doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to think about that—”

“His pregnant girlfriend traveling alone hasn’t contacted him in two days, and you think Jason didn’t notice?” Laura wanted to know. Luke winced at that. “Yesterday, she told me she’d had trouble connecting with him since she left, but I just thought—” She closed her eyes. “She was trying to downplay it, and I helped her. I didn’t take it seriously.”

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Luke told her. “Whatever it ends up being.”

“God. Elizabeth isn’t still at the airport, is she?” Laura asked. She sat up, her eyes wide. “Did she go to the hotel?”

“Yeah, last I heard she was getting a taxi. I thought about waiting until she got there, but—” Sonny shook his head. “Maybe Jason’s just at the hotel, and it’s all fine. We’ll have ourselves a trip to Portland then, but my gut said I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to be another hour behind.”

“I’d rather we all show up looking like fools,” Laura agreed. “I just wish this plane could go faster.”

New Imperial Hotel

Elizabeth stopped by the desk to ask about the messages, but no, he still hadn’t checked for messages. Her heart was in her throat — no, there was no record of the room being cleaned. The Do Not Disturb had been posted— No, Mr. Morgan hadn’t checked out.

God, if the room hadn’t been cleaned, what if he’d fallen—

She waited impatiently as the elevator climbed to the fourth floor and hurried down the hallway, jabbing her key card into the slot, shoving it open—

The room looked as it had the day they’d left for the airport. The bed sheets had been pulled across the mattress and the comforter haphazardly laying on top, as if waiting for house cleaning to finish the job. But they were the same sheets.

She checked the bathroom — but Jason wasn’t in there, lying in a pool of his own blood like she’d pictured. The bathtub and sink were both dry.

Elizabeth to the closet—her heart pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears—

Jason’s duffel bag was gone.

She squeezed her eyes shut. That didn’t mean anything. It didn’t. It couldn’t. Elizabeth got to her feet, turned around and then saw the pregnancy book on the nightstand. Slowly, as if it was a bomb, Elizabeth went towards it. She sat on the bed, held it in her hands, then saw the note that had been left underneath it.

The words had been scrawled on the hotel stationary. I’m sorry. I can’t do this. Don’t look for me again.

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Emily set her purse and books down on the table, frowning at the counter where Lulu Spencer was sitting, clutching a pencil, and bowing her head over what looked like homework while Bobbie sat next to her, reviewing receipts.

“Hey,” Emily said, joining them, and trying to think of a way to ask Bobbie why Lu was at Kelly’s after school with her instead of Laura. Not that it was strange or anything — Lu was Bobbie’s niece, after all.

But Elizabeth had just returned to Portland that morning, and there was something pricking at Emily’s senses that something was not quite right. Elizabeth hadn’t heard from Jason by the time Emily had dropped her off at the house the day before, and—she checked her watch—Elizabeth would have landed in Portland several hours ago. She’d promised to call—

“Um, have you heard from Elizabeth?” Emily asked finally. “She went back this morning and should have landed around three our time—” She gestured at the clock on the wall behind Bobbie. “It’s almost six now—”

Bobbie exhaled and straightened. “I haven’t heard from her, no, but—” she glanced at Lu who continued working on her math. “Laura called and asked me to look after Lu for a few days because she was flying out there.” She tapped a pencil against her yellow notepad. “They said they’d call as soon as they knew anything.”

Emily swallowed hard. “Elizabeth couldn’t get Jason on the phone the entire time she was here. She should have met up with him—”

Bobbie put out a hand, rested it on Emily’s forearm. “We’re not going to go there yet,” she said softly. “Whatever it is, Luke and Laura are on their way with Sonny and Alexis. Until I hear differently, everything is fine.”

“Bobbie—” Emily shook her head. “He’s my brother—”

“I know, sweetheart. But he’s dropped off the grid before, remember?” Bobbie said. “We didn’t hear from him for months—”

“But it’s different this time. Elizabeth said they were going to stay out there—” Emily took a deep breath. “If it were really bad, she would have called me. She would have. She always does.”

“Exactly. Maybe there’s some complication with Jason’s job, and it needs some delicacy. Laura said she’d call,” Bobbie reminded her. “So we’ll wait here until we know more.”

“Okay. Okay.” Emily flashed a smile at Lu who had stopped working and was peering at them curiously. “Hey, Lu. You need some help with that math?”

New Imperial Hotel: Lobby

Elizabeth paced in front of the entrance, her thoughts completely scattered. It was almost six o’clock. And there was still no sign of Jason. She’d gone to the parking garage for the hotel — to the spot assigned to their room, and it had been  empty.

It looked as though he’d packed everything and left, but it was a lie.

She knew it was a lie.

Elizabeth saw Laura’s blonde hair first as a dark car pulled up to the hotel, outside the glass doors. She flew through the entrance and hurled herself at the older woman. “I thought you’d never get here.”

Laura hugged her back, then drew away to frame Elizabeth’s face in her hands. “We’re going to figure this out, honey. We brought the cavalry.” She turned to Sonny and Luke who were unloading bags from the trunk, and to Alexis who was coming around the front.

“I, um, I got you guys rooms. I didn’t—” She twisted her fingers together. “I didn’t—”

“Let’s go check in, darlin’,” Luke said gently. He hoisted his bag and reached for Laura’s. “We’ll get sorted and organized. We’ll find him. Wherever he ended up.”

Elizabeth blinked at him, at the anger in his tone. Bewildered, she stopped short. “Do you think he left me?”

“I think we don’t know anything,” Alexis said, sending Luke a scathing glance. “So we’ll check in, and I’ll take the bags up. You’ll feel better if we get started,” she added, “and I know the least.”

“All right.” Elizabeth folded her arms and went to the entrance.

“He didn’t go on his own,” Sonny told Luke. “Knock it off—”

“I’m being realistic,” Luke bit out. “Guy leaves without a trace once, he can do it again.”

Jason & Elizabeth’s Room

“I got back to the hotel, and I checked with the, um, desk first.” Elizabeth twisted to look at them as they filed in behind her, save for Alexis who had gone one floor up to dump the bags. “Someone put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door—and we didn’t do that when we left.”

“No cleaning, then.” Sonny opened the balcony, stepped out. “And he didn’t check out.”

“No, but his bag and the bike are gone.” Nothing had terrified her more than seeing that empty parking spot. She swallowed hard, went to the nightstand. “And I found this.” She held it out, and Laura took it.

Her eyes softened with worry as she read it, then wordlessly handed it to Sonny who just scowled. “This is bullshit.”

Relief flooded her body to hear Sonny reject the note. “I thought so, too. It’s to throw me off—”

“Elizabeth,” Luke said as he studied the note. He grimaced. “It looks like he had some second thoughts, all right? He packed his bags, the bike is gone—”


“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Sonny cut in as Elizabeth started to protest. “The bag and bike—the note—it looks bad. But if he was going to leave like this—” He gestured with the note. “Then why the Do Not Disturb? Why not check out? Because he wanted her to find the note? I think we’ve got enough here to say it’s fishy—”

“Listen, whether the kid left willingly or not, I’m still going to track him down,” Luke interrupted. “I’m just—”

“Luke, stop speculating and tell me your contacts came through,” Laura snapped. “And Sonny, you spent most of the car ride here on the phone. Did either of you manage to get the security footage?”

“Security?” Elizabeth shook her head. “What—”

“Luke knows a guy who knows a guy who can get us airport footage of the day you left. Jason went to the gate with you, right? Did you come on the bike or—”


Luke’s phone rang and he went to answer it. Elizabeth closed her eyes, holding herself tightly. “Taxi,” she finished. “Because Sonny was with us.”

“And I’m getting hotel footage to track comings and goings, okay? We get lucky with the airport, maybe we get some way to track the taxi.” Sonny looked at his watch. “I’m going to go grab it now. Between me and Luke, we got money and contacts everywhere.”

“You saw him—” Elizabeth stopped Sonny from leaving. “You know that he didn’t leave me.”

“I know it. Now we’re going to prove it. Luke’s just—he’s a cynic. And maybe we need someone like that to keep us on our toes. We’ll do this—”

Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face, swaying slightly. “This is a nightmare. I don’t understand how this—could someone have found us here? Did someone hurt him?”

“When did you eat?” Laura wanted to know. She steered Elizabeth over to the bed to sit down. “Have you eaten today?”

“I had something at the airport, but—”

“Let’s get some dinner ordered up. You might not feel hungry,” Laura told her, “but I promise you, that baby will make you sorry you didn’t pay attention. And you need to stay strong. Alert.”

“Right. Right. If Jason’s in trouble, he’s going to need me.” Elizabeth hurried over to the table to rummage for the room service menu.

“I’m going to pick up the footage,” Sonny told Laura. He gestured to Luke, still on the phone, to follow him.

Sonny’s Room

“I don’t know what you think we’re going to find on this tape that she can’t see,” Sonny said, sliding Luke’s footage from the airport into the VCR in the room. “What’s on this anyway?”

“The gate,” Luke said, focusing on the screen, his remote in hand. “Tape is about eight hours. We find the exact time you’re at the gate, I can work the other footage better.” He pressed the fast forward button. “Find the taxi, then we can figure out when he came back to the hotel—”

“Laura’s going to kill you for not bringing this directly to her.” Sonny grimaced. “And me for listening—”

“She’s pregnant,” Luke said flatly. “And already not doing well. You see the circles under her eyes? She didn’t get those in the last few hours. She didn’t sleep last night. Not eating right. I see that asshole on these tapes walking out the door with his bag, I need to be ready with that—”

“He didn’t leave her, Luke—”

“You gotta think that. He’s yours. She’s mine.” Luke exhaled slowly, as the sped-up footage raced through. “I don’t want it to be true,” he said quietly. “I’ve always liked Jason. And if it can’t be my boy, I thought it was okay it’d be him. But you and I both know—” he looked at Sonny. “Sometimes we hurt the women we love. Could you have ever predicted what you did to Brenda if you hadn’t lived it—”

Sonny closed his eyes. “Shit.”

“You got a heavy threat to your life. Either you disappear or Brenda is first in line to get whacked. You knew you had to go. Knew you had to break her so she wouldn’t be seen as a resource to get to you. And it worked. You lived to tell another tale, and Brenda—” Luke grimaced. “She wasn’t a casualty in the war.”

But she’d died all the same, Sonny thought. What if he’d taken her with him, taken her underground. Would she still be alive?

“You think Jason left to protect her?”

“I’m saying that he’d better—” Luke stopped, and pressed play. “There it is. 10:04. Write that down.” They watched the grainy image on the screen—Sonny going to the desk to make sure they were set for departure, Jason saying goodbye to Elizabeth—Sonny watched, as he had that day, the two of them—Jason holding on to her until the last moment.

“He heads back to the entrance at 10:10. We’ll start there—”

“He didn’t leave her willingly,” Sonny said. “Tell me you watched the same tape—”

“I’m not ruling anything out, but—” Luke swallowed. “I don’t know. Something about all of this isn’t right.”

A Cell

Jason knelt in front of the lock for what had to be the fifteenth or sixteenth—maybe hundredth time—and tried to pick it with the sliver of wood he’d chipped from the cot in the corner. He didn’t care if he had to break the cot into cinders—he was going to get out of here—

He swayed slightly, then swallowed hard. How long since he’d eaten? Since he’d had water? He didn’t know how many days had passed, if it was still the same day—

All he knew, all he remembered was the taxi at the airport and then waking up here.

When the sliver snapped, Jason scowled and shoved himself to his feet, bracing his body with a hand against the rusted bars. He scanned the surroundings again, hoping for something different. It wasn’t a jail, but a wall of bars chiseled into stone. The walls themselves weren’t cement, but rock, a strange, unfamiliar musty scent.

It was like a dungeon, he thought. No windows. A stone floor. Who the hell was behind this?

Jason whirled back to the bars, wrapped his fingers around them and pulled. He yanked them back and forth—maybe they were old, maybe he could pry them loose—

But they didn’t budge. “Let me out!” Jason shouted again, but his voice just echoed up and down the dark passage. He couldn’t see how far it went on either side, but he’d seen no other signs of life.

He trudged towards the cot, sank down, and put his head in his hands. Thought of Elizabeth. Safe in Port Charles. She had to be. Sonny would make sure of it. Even if he never made it out, if he starved to death or died of thirst, he knew she was okay. No matter what issues Jason still had with him, Jason knew Sonny would look after her and the baby. His family was safe. And if that was all he could cling to, for the moment it was enough.

January 2, 2023

This entry is part 28 of 37 in the Counting Stars

And I can’t see that thief that lives inside of your head
But I can be some courage at the side of your bed
And I don’t know what’s happening and I can’t pretend
It’s a long, long get away, it’s a long, long get away
Make it home again, make it home again
It’s a long, long get away, it’s a long, long get away

Thief, Our Lady Peace

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Spencer House: Living Room

Laura enveloped her into a tight hug, then stepped back to let Elizabeth get all the way into the house. “I didn’t mean to jump you as soon as you came in.”

“It’s okay. I missed you, too.” Elizabeth followed Laura into the kitchen. “Thank you so much for taking care of Gatsby.”

“It’s no trouble. Lulu’s been asking for a pet,” Laura added, “so this has been good practice. Do you want some tea or something else to drink?”

“Water is fine.” Elizabeth checked her watch. Jason hadn’t called her back last night, and he hadn’t picked up again this morning. She told herself it wasn’t a big deal. There was a three-hour time difference, and maybe the message hadn’t saved. Or something had happened to the phone. Maybe Jason didn’t even know—

If she didn’t hear from him today, she could always call the hotel—

“You all right?” Laura set a glass down and took a seat at the table. “You look a million miles away. Or maybe just three thousand?”

“Jason—we can’t seem to connect—by phone, I mean. He wanted me to call him last night, but it went to voicemail, and I still haven’t heard from him.”

“Oh, well, that could be a thousand things,” Laura said, squeezing her hand. “I’m sure it’s all right.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Your last few phone calls seemed happier,” Laura said. “You and Jason are on the same page now?”

“It was hard at first. Awkward, which you know—I was so scared and unsure of myself before we went out there, and then things were weird and strained for a while, but then Jason and I—we just found our old rhythm again. A better one,” Elizabeth corrected. “We made plans. Talked about the future. He bought a pregnancy book. I think he’s read more than I have.”

“I’m so glad.”  Laura paused. “You won’t have to worry about Nikolas,” she told Elizabeth. “He and I had a pretty bad argument after the scene he made—”

“I can’t believe—I don’t even know how he found out,” Elizabeth said. “Emily said he was angry because we were all lying to him.” She bit her lip. “I didn’t really want to get into it, but we had a huge fight in January. Like massive. He said some really cruel things, so I told him then I was done. I wanted to be civil for you and for Emily—” She sighed.

“He’s having a very hard time letting Lucky go,” Laura said. She sipped her tea. “They only had each other for a few months, so I think that’s made it even more difficult. When you factor in Katherine, I can certainly understand some of what he’s feeling, but to take it out on you the way he has—”

“He told me in November that he had feelings for me,” Elizabeth confessed. “He tried to kiss me, but I had to—I had to turn him down. I told him I wasn’t—I wasn’t ready. I wanted to let him down easy, Laura. I didn’t want him to feel bad.”

“Oh, honey—”

“But I guess he decided I was lying after he found Jason at my place — and maybe he overheard us talking that night at dinner.” She looked towards the door, then back at Laura. “He’s your son. I don’t want to make things hard for you—”

“You are part of my family, too. He just feels like I’ve picked you, and maybe he’s right.” Laura sat back. “It’s always been hard to connect with him. He’s never let me in. I can’t blame him for that, but—” She shook her head. “Either way, that isn’t your problem. Stefan called me yesterday — he suggested Nikolas go to Greece for a few months,” Laura continued. “To clear his head a bit.”

“Maybe being away from everything will help. I hope it does. And on that subject, Jason and I are staying in Portland for a while.”

“Oh?” Laura raised a brow. “But—”

“Jason needs more time before he comes back, and I need to get back to work. Plus, I need to think about prenatal care, so it just makes sense to put down some roots.” She hesitated. “So I actually need to know if you’ll keep Gatsby.”

“Of course. Lu adores him—” Laura forced herself to smile. “I’m happy you and Jason are on the same page, though I’ll miss you.”

“I hope you’ll come visit,” Elizabeth asked hesitantly. “You and Emily and Bobbie. And we’re going to make sure we come to see Lila, though we’ll have to do that under the radar. But I don’t…I don’t want to lose anyone I’ve found here. I just…I need to do this for a little while.”

“Of course,” Laura squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “But when the baby comes, don’t hesitate to ask for help. You’ll both be tired. You know Bobbie and I will jump at the chance to fly out and give you a week or two every few months.”

“It’s not permanent,” Elizabeth said with a shake of her head. “It’s just—”

“It’s okay. Whatever you and Jason choose will be right for you.”

“Thank you.” Elizabeth smiled, then looked at her watch again. “I should get back to the house. Emily’s coming by, and I want to check my messages.”

“Call me if you need anything.” Laura hugged her tightly. “I’m so glad it all worked out.”

“So am I.”

Hardy House: Living Room

Elizabeth frowned at the answering machine. No messages. She’d left Portland twenty-four hours ago. How could there be nothing—She picked it up and dialed into the machine at the studio, but there weren’t any messages from Jason there either.

She held the phone to her chest for a long moment, jolting when the dial tone started to echo.

“Hey—” Emily knocked as she opened the door. “I’m not late, am I?”

“No, I just—” Elizabeth picked up the phone and dialed the cell again. “Hey, it’s me again. Um, I don’t know if something is wrong or the phone isn’t working, but—I need you to call me.”

“Liz?” Emily asked when Elizabeth set the phone down and then went over to her purse to start rummaging through it. “What’s wrong?”

“Probably nothing,” she admitted. She sighed. “I don’t have anything with the hotel number on it—” Elizabeth turned back to Emily. “It’s just—Jason hasn’t called me since I got here.”

He’d left a postcard for her, wanting to hear her voice. And yet—

“Well, maybe the cell broke or something. You know how they can be a pain to connect—especially if it’s roaming. Is it?” Emily asked.

“That’s what I thought—” She bit her lip. “That’s probably it. Luke gave it to us — maybe it’s running low on minutes, and he doesn’t realize it. He could be just as worried—” She picked up the phone, dialing the number for information. “Hello, can I have the number for the New Imperial Hotel in Portland, Oregon?” She repeated it slower for the automated service.  “Yes—” she said, agreeing to be connected directly.

“New Imperial Hotel,” someone chirped. “How many I direct your call?”

“Room 414,” Elizabeth said, folding one arm across her chest. She waited. The phone rang. And rang. Then rang again. Finally, she hung up. “He didn’t pick up in the room.”

“What time is it in Portland—” Emily checked the clock. “It’s like breakfast there, isn’t it? Maybe he ran out for coffee. He might not even realize anything’s wrong yet.”

“I know, I know.” She called information back, and this time wrote down the number for the hotel before calling it again. “Hello, can I leave a message for Room 414? Yes — tell him it’s Elizabeth, and that something’s wrong with our cell phone. It’s not connecting, so could he call me at my house? Not the studio, the house. As soon as possible.”

She set the phone back on the receiver. “He might not even ask the desk for his messages.” Elizabeth sat on the sofa, fighting the urge to call Sonny and get the jet in the air.

“He will,” Emily said patiently. “He’ll come back from getting coffee, realize he still hasn’t heard from you, and then he’ll call you or check with the desk. He might have thought you were just too tired when you got home and overslept. We’re three hours ahead, too—”

“Yeah, I guess. We did get to Port Charles pretty late—” Elizabeth managed a smile. “Thanks. I’m going back tomorrow anyway. Laura said she’d make sure my mail got put on hold.”

“And Jason will probably call you in an hour or so.” Emily dropped onto the sofa.

But Elizabeth couldn’t stop herself. She went back over to the phone and dialed the hotel again, adding the room number as an extension. No one picked up.


“I know. I’m insane. But—” She thought again about the postcard. “If he thought I was too tired, he would have left me a message.”

“You seem really sure of him,” Emily murmured. “Even after he didn’t give you a way to contact him for months—”

“It’s—” Elizabeth whirled around but saw her friend’s face was only concerned. “It’s different now. He’s—it just is. He knows about the baby. We’re planning a future together.” She turned back to the phone, and this time, she dialed Sonny’s number.


“Hey, Sonny. It’s me—”

“Is everything all right?”

“Um, fine. Listen, I got everything taken care of sooner than I thought I would. Can we leave earlier than noon tomorrow? Like a lot earlier?”

“Uh—sure. I’ll call you back with a time. Are you okay?” he asked again.

She wanted Emily to be right. She wanted to believe nothing was wrong and because she wanted that so much, Elizabeth didn’t say anything. Sonny would worry for nothing, and he might try to help—and the last thing she wanted was to create more problems because she was impatient and overreacting. “No, just eager to get back.”

“I get it. I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks.” She turned back to Emily. “I need to get out of here for a little while. Do you want to go grab some lunch?”

Emily got to her feet. “What if you miss Jason’s call?”

“Well, then he’ll know what it’s like to wait on me,” Elizabeth muttered, irritated with herself. “Honestly, Em, if I sit here staring at this phone, I’m going to scream.”

“All right, all right. Let’s go. I guess Jason won’t ever miss a call from you again, huh?”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny hung up with Elizabeth, keeping his finger pressed against the button longer than needed. Something wasn’t right.


He ignored Alexis in the background, released the button and waited to hear the dial tone in his ear. Then he dialed the number to the airfield. “Hey, Stu. It’s Sonny Corinthos. I need to know how early the jet can be ready for another trip to Portland. Yeah, just one passenger. Not me this time.” He leaned against his desk. “Thanks.”

“Elizabeth heading back earlier planned?” Alexis asked.

“Yeah, uh—” Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. “There was something in her voice,” he murmured. “She says everything is okay, but—” He exhaled slowly, then reached for the phone again, dialing the cell phone Jason had given him. It went to voicemail, and Sonny hung up without leaving a message.  He glanced at the card next to the base. “Room 414,” he told the receptionist when the line connected.

The phone continued to ring and ring, and finally Sonny hung up. “Jason didn’t answer either line,” he said after a long moment.

“He might be out,” Alexis pointed out. “It’s still early in Oregon, and Jason’s a morning person. If there was something wrong— really wrong—you know Elizabeth would tell you.”


“She came to you to find Jason, didn’t she?” Alexis reminded him. “Before she went to the Spencers.” She flipped through a contract. “She probably misses Jason and doesn’t see the point in wasting time here.”

“You’re right,” Sonny decided. It was as simple as that. Elizabeth was eager to start her new life with Jason and didn’t feel like hanging around her old one.

“I hope Laura took a minute to reassure her that Nikolas won’t be an issue,” Alexis said, waiting for Sonny to rejoin her at the table to continue reading over the contracts. “He’s been in Greece for over a week, and I don’t think Stefan expects him to return.”

“Good,” Sonny grunted, flashing back to the bitter, possessive angry man Jason had tried to beat into a bloody pulp at Christmas. “I’m sorry for you, but—”

“But he wasn’t happy here and was taking his misery out on all of us,” Alexis finished. “I want the best for my nephew.” She slid her reading glasses on. “Now, we need to finish this paperwork before the next meeting.”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Bobbie beamed when she saw Elizabeth and Emily turn the corner into the courtyard. “I was hoping you would come by—” She stood to hug Elizabeth. “Can you stay for a while?”

“Yeah, we came for lunch.” Emily pulled out a chair and sat down. “And to keep Liz busy. Jason’s taking his sweet time to call her back—”

“Oh?’ Bobbie frowned as Elizabeth sat down, picked up a menu. “Is everything all right?”

“It’s fine. Luke gave me a phone when he was out there, and I guess it was either a burner or one that needs minutes added to it. Jason and I probably used them all and didn’t realize. We’re having trouble connecting.” Elizabeth forced herself to smile. “Um, speaking of Jason—”

“If you are going to apologize for not telling me—” Bobbie squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “You just forget all about it. Laura told me you’d only just found out, and the priority was Jason. I’m just happy you found him.”

“Me, too.”

“And he was happy about the baby, wasn’t he?” Bobbie questioned.

“He started with stunned,” Elizabeth confessed with half a laugh. “We didn’t really know what to say to each other for a while, and it was a bit awkward. But then we just—” She flashed back to the postcards. To the way he’d looked at her when he’d come back into the room and saw her reading them — “We just figured it out. And it’s been great. We’ve been traveling down the Oregon coast.”

“It sounds like a lot of fun. And you’re heading right back, Laura said?”

“Um, yeah—” Elizabeth paused while they ordered something to eat. “Especially with the news being blown up like this. We’re going to stay around Portland for a while.” She fiddled the paper from the straw she’d put in her water. “I’m not sure when we’re coming back.”  She checked her watch.

“Why don’t you go use Kelly’s phone to check your machine?” Emily asked, gently. “Bobbie doesn’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not.”

Elizabeth was already out of her seat before Bobbie had answered. Emily watched her go inside, then sighed. “She’s really antsy about this. I keep telling her it’s fine, but I bet it’s just worry that he’ll leave again.”

“You think?” Bobbie twisted in her seat to watch Elizabeth through the window. “It sounds like Jason’s committed—”

“I didn’t say he’d leave, but you know how sometimes your mind can know something, but your heart is too scared to believe.” Emily jerked a shoulder. “I could kill my brother for not getting his own cell phone or using the room phone—”

“Well, you know, sometimes men don’t think these things through. I’m sure as soon as Jason realizes how worried she was, he won’t make this mistake again.”

Inside, Elizabeth listened as her machine reported no new messages. It had only been maybe twenty minutes since they’d left the house. There was still time.

She’d fly back, and he’d be there, and there’d be a reason for all this.

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Portland International Airport: Arrivals Hall

True to Sonny’s word, they were wheels up by seven that morning. With the time difference, Elizabeth landed in Oregon around eleven. She’d left a message on the cell and with the hotel with her flight information.

But Jason wasn’t at the airport.

He wasn’t at the gate. Or at the baggage claim where she got help from one of the workers to put her suitcases onto a cart which she dragged towards arrival hall, sure that he’d be there, waiting.

But he wasn’t.

She wasn’t ready to admit something was wrong, so she started to tell herself stories — to construct perfectly rational explanation for why she’d been able to get in touch with Jason since she’d left Portland.

Maybe he’d gotten the messages, but not the flight time. Maybe he was at the airport and couldn’t find her, so she decided to stay in one place. She sat on a bench, with the luggage cart next to her. But he didn’t find her.

He’d have her paged, Elizabeth decided. So she went to the counter to wait for him to approach. But she never heard her name on the loudspeaker, and he never came near the counter.

He hadn’t received her messages yet. As soon as he did, he’d rush to the airport. She’d give him more time. It wasn’t fair of her to jump to conclusions or to start worrying about calling hospitals—No, she’d give him some time to get her messages.

So she went to get something to eat, and then she shopped on the concourse, checking her watch, continuing to listen for her name to be paged. Finally, around two, she went to a pay phone and called the hotel to leave another message—

Only to learn that Mr. Morgan hadn’t picked up any of her messages.

She’d been out of contact with him for two straight days. He’d never contacted her or Sonny, and he’d never checked with the desk. It was like he’d dropped off the face of the Earth. She could go to the hotel, start calling hospitals, but—

But somewhere inside, she finally accepted what had been whispering in the back of her mind for days. She picked it up again, and instead of putting more change in — she dialed 0 to start a collect call because thirty-five cents wouldn’t get her anywhere near New York. When the operator asked for her name, Elizabeth gave it, her brain already numb.

“Elizabeth? What’s going on?”

She swallowed hard. “Sonny, something’s wrong.”