November 30, 2023

This entry is part 41 of 41 in the Signs of Life

We were strangers, starting out on a journey
Never dreaming, what we’d have to go through
Now here we are, I’m suddenly standing
At the beginning with you

No one told me, I was going to find you
Unexpected, what you did to my heart
When I lost hope, you were there to remind me
This is the start

At The Beginning, Donna Lewis & Richard Marx

Sunday, June 4, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason emerged from the bathroom pulling on a gray t-shirt, then frowned because before he’d gone in for a shower, he’d been able to see the carpet. And now—

“I know what face you’re making,” came the muffled voice of his wife from somewhere in the closet. “I have a plan—” A sweater came flying out, landing on one of the haphazard piles clothing that surrounded the closet.

“It’s summer,” he reminded her, picking his way around the piles and going over to his dresser. His duffel bag, which he’d packed the night before, was ready to go. Five pairs of jeans, six t-shirts, two new backs of briefs, and five pair of socks. He tucked his shaving kit into the side pocket, and zipped it.

He turned back, shaking his head at the two large suitcases on the bed. She’d been packing for nearly a week and still, somehow, they were empty. She kept filling them, then removing the clothes and starting over.


“You won’t need the sweaters—”

Elizabeth finally poked her head out of the closet, the curls dancing madly around her face. He’d thought he liked her hair long so that he could slide his fingers through it, but there was something about the way the short hair framed her face now, and there was still plenty for him to touch—


He snapped back to attention, and her lips curved into a knowing smirk. She sauntered towards him sliding her arms around his waist. “You know how cold it gets on the airplane,” she reminded him, tilting her head up. Jason made a face because she had a point. He didn’t feel the cold, but Elizabeth did. “I promise. Today I’m going to pack. For real.”

“You don’t have a choice,” he reminded her, kissing the tip of her nose. “We’re leaving for the airport at six. Whatever is in those suitcases is what goes.”

“Today is the day, I promise.” She rose on the tips of her toes to kiss him again, fisting her hands in his t-shirt. He dragged her closer, and she giggled. Jason lifted her, then tossed her on the bed next to the suitcases. She tugged him over her, deepening the kiss.

“You have to pack,” he murmured against her lips.

“I can pack later.”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“And sign here,” Alexis said, pointing at the line. Sonny obeyed, then slid the contract over to her. “Congratulations, you’re now the active partner in Corinthos & Morgan Coffee, with completely control over all decisions.”

Sonny made a face, sipped his coffee. “Jason already signed?”

“On my way to give him a copy of it and a few other things before they leave.” Alexis tipped her head. “Are you all right with all of this?”

“With Jason leaving?” Sonny sighed. “Yeah. He’s making the right decision for himself. And for Elizabeth. They deserve this trip.”

“He’ll come back, Sonny,” Alexis said gently. “This is their home.”

“Eventually.” Sonny forced a smile. “But I’m happy for them both. I really am.” He looked back at the contracts. “Angry at myself because it didn’t have to be this way. If I could have just given in a little, been less selfish—”

“Then would you really be Sonny Corinthos?” Alexis smirked, put the contracts in her briefcase. “Jason made it work when you left him a few years ago, you’ll survive this.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“I would have expected to see more luggage,” Alexis said as Jason set down the duffel bag and crossed over to her. “Does Liz know you’re leaving for the airport today?”

“Yes,” Jason said, taking the paperwork she offered. “Does she realize we’re leaving in three  hours? Harder to tell.” He scanned the contract. “It’s all in order?”

“You’re a silent partner. And here—” Alexis gave him the last contract. “The post-nuptial agreement you asked for. Uh, does Elizabeth know about this? Because I remember negotiating the prenup, and—”

“She knows—”

“I know what?” Elizabeth asked, appearing on the landing. Behind her, she dragged a large suitcase. It thudded as she came down the stairs. Jason scowled, went to retrieve it. “I can—never mind.” She sighed as he took it from her, then set it next to his own. “Hey, Alexis. What do I know about?”

“Is your other bag upstairs?” Jason wanted to know.

“Yeah, you can get it later. What’s going on?” Elizabeth asked.

“Alexis has the post-nuptial agreement,” Jason told her. “She brought it for us to sign.”

“Oh, right.” Elizabeth went over to the table to pick up her purse and start rummaging through it. “Yeah, as long as it says what you promised.”

Jason looked at Alexis. “It should.”

“Oh, well, it preserves the agreement you made in January,” Alexis explained. “At the time of dissolution, you get half of everything each earns during the marriage. I just updated to include property which we left out the last time.” She gave him a pen.

Jason signed the new agreement, then gave it to Elizabeth who did the same. “Thanks,” he told Alexis.

“No problem.” Alexis tucked both contracts away. “Sonny said you guys were starting in Egypt?”

“Yeah, we’re doing two weeks,” Elizabeth said. “And then Italy for four, and Greece for six. After that, we’ll either come home or pick a new place. I keep trying to get him to tell me where else he wants to go—”

“I told you,” Jason said. “Anywhere you can paint is fine with me.”

“Well, have a great trip.”

When Alexis was gone, Jason went to go get Elizabeth’s other suitcase—then returned with two. He set them down, then just looked at Elizabeth. “Was this the plan you talked about earlier?”

“We’re going to be gone two months. If not longer,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t know what I’ll need. Do you have your passport? I’ll put it with mine—”

“Yeah, it’s in my desk drawer,” Jason told her. Elizabeth went over to retrieve it, pulling it open. On top of the passport sat a small velvet box. She frowned at it, then pulled both out, turning to him. “What’s this?”

Jason took it from her. “Today is June 4,” he told her.

“I know—”

“There’s a reason I asked Alexis to bring the contracts today. Why I wanted to leave today.” He paused, waited for her to meet his eyes. “Six months ago. Today. We got married.”

“I—” She cleared her throat. “I know—”

“When we made our vows in the church,” Jason continued, “I meant them. I know you did, too,” he added. “But we didn’t do things in the order that we should have. That you deserved—”

“I don’t care—”

“I do,” he said, and she close her mouth. “Because I want you to have everything I can give you. So I asked Alexis for a new agreement because it’s what we would have signed from the beginning. Not that I’m planning a divorce—” he added with a wince. “But—”

“I understand—”

“I didn’t ask you to marry me.”

“You did,” Elizabeth insisted. “We danced and everything—” She smiled. “Is that what you’re doing now?”

Jason flipped open the box to reveal a ring with a ruby and diamond setting. “I didn’t get you an engagement ring,” he said. “It happened so fast—” He took her hand and slid it over her finger. “So I thought—I don’t know—six months. It’s sort of an anniversary.”

“It’s also the earliest Alexis said we might be able to divorce,” Elizabeth reminded him. “So instead, you’re giving me a ring, a postnuptial agreement, and a honeymoon.” She slid her arms around his neck. “I should have known you were a romantic.”

“Don’t tell anyone else,” he warned, leaning down to kiss her. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


Author’s Note: Thanks so much for joining me on this journey! This is the first flash fiction that I really revisited and edited into something a lot stronger than the original. Drop a line and let me know what you think about the finished product!

This entry is part 40 of 41 in the Signs of Life

Maybe it’s intuition
But some things you just don’t question
Like in your eyes, I see my future in an instant
And there it goes
I think I found my best friend
I know that it might sound
More than a little crazy but I believe

I Knew I Loved You, Savage Garden

Friday, February 5, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“Are you sure?” Sonny asked. He stared down at the floor, not looking up. Not making eye contact with Jason, making him feel even worse at how things had turned out. His hair was disheveled and his eyes bloodshot from a sleepless night spent in lockup. Alan had dropped the charges that morning.

“There’s a chance she might be lying,” Jason acknowledged, “but she probably had this as a backup plan. The Quartermaines are going for the jugular in the divorce and custody — and Carly knew you weren’t likely to do her any favors with that.”

“Not in a chance in hell—”

“If she’d kept the baby,” Jason said gently, “she’d be fighting custody battles on two fronts. I honestly think she cut her losses. She wasn’t able to get out of town with Michael and live to fight another day. She thought I’d wait until the paternity tests came back and that there’d be more time to plan.”

And she hadn’t been wrong, Jason thought with some bitterness. He had been ready to wait until the last minute to come forward with all of this. What did that say about him? He dragged a hand down his face. “Listen—”

“It’s her choice at the end of the day,” Sonny said. He finally met Jason’s eyes. “And I don’t—I don’t blame you. Okay? I know I said I did, but I thought about it, and you know, you could have been right. Maybe a paternity test says it’s AJ’s kid. Better for everyone. Why blow up the situation if you don’t have to?”


“And it’s not like I really wanted to bring a kid into this world with that woman,” Sonny continued. “We’d have spent eighteen years screaming at each other.” He went over to the minibar, poured himself a drink.


“Even with all that,” Sonny murmured, “I still had a moment—where I thought back to Lily. When she told me about the baby. I didn’t love her the way she deserved, but I would have tried so hard for that baby.”

“I know you would have.” Jason shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well, at least Carly is finally somebody else’s problem.” Sonny raised the glass in Jason’s direction in a mock toast, then drank.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason came in, found Elizabeth sketching at the desk. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She twisted on the chair and came over to him, sliding her arms around his waist. “How did it go? I mean, where—”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I found her, and I called Ned with the information. I only went to talk to her for Sonny. She had an abortion,” Jason said, tugging off his jacket and hanging it up in the closet. Then turned, looked at her. Silence hung between them.

“I don’t know what to say,” Elizabeth said finally. “Did—is Sonny okay?”

“Yeah. At least for now. I’ll have to keep an eye on him, but—” Jason scratched at the corner of his brow. “It’s probably a good thing.”


“Just—I don’t know. Would Carly have a made different choice if I hadn’t stayed quiet?” And what if Elizabeth hadn’t talked sense into him? What if Jason had slipped into his old patterns, and to keep Sonny’s child safe, he’d done what Carly wanted? He didn’t know how he felt about that possibility.


“Or maybe it’s like I told Sonny—this was always in her back pocket. She could have an abortion for another month or so—”

“Longer,” Elizabeth corrected him, and he frowned at her. “New York is twenty-four weeks. I looked it up when I—” She folded her arms. “Bobbie gave me a morning after pill, but there wasn’t any guarantees, so I wanted to know. I mean, if I’d gotten pregnant after that, I think I would have terminated.” She cleared her throat. “Anyway. She had time.”

“Yeah.” Jason shook his head, clearing his thoughts. “It’s over. She’s been served, and she knows that I’m done. She’ll have to sink or swim on her own.” He drew Elizabeth close to him, framing her face in his hands. “Thank you.”

“I didn’t do anything—”

“If it wasn’t for you,” Jason said, resting his forehead against hers. Her hand slid up his chest. “If it wasn’t for you—” he didn’t know how to finish that statement. How to put any of this into words. He kissed her instead, pressing her closer, wanting to stay just like this for as long as he could.

Brownstone: Front Step

“Just wait here,” Carly hissed at the driver. “I’ll get your damn money.” She left him, the meter running to go up the stairs to her mother’s house, still seething. AJ thought a prenuptial agreement would protect him? That she wouldn’t find a way to regroup, to get back what she was owed? Damn it—

She’d just have to find a way to talk around her mother. To make Bobbie understand and give her just one more chance. She was a soft touch — Carly knew how to make it work.

She twisted the knob, but found it locked. She banged on the door, and a few moments later, it opened. Her mother stood there.

“Mama. Thank God. I need your help—” Her voice trembled. “It’s so horrible. They took my money, my car. I don’t have anything — I can’t even pay for the motel or the taxi—I need—please—”

Bobbie tipped her head. “I just got off the phone with Jason. He told me he’d found you. Didn’t want me to worry.”

Carly pressed her lips together. “I don’t know what he told you, Mama, but—”

“It was a good choice,” Bobbie said slowly. “The right one. You’re not fit to be a mother, and Sonny, for all his sins, doesn’t deserve what you’d do to him. AJ certainly didn’t.”


Bobbie stepped back for a moment, closed the door, and for one long horrible moment, Carly thought her mother was going to just walk away. But then she opened it, reappeared. Relief flooded. “Oh, thank God—”

“Here’s sixty dollars. It’s all I have on me. Why don’t you have that cab take you to a pawn shop?” She gestured at the rings on Carly’s fingers. “That should give you enough to start over. Not enough for the lawyer you’ll need, but that’s your problem. Goodbye, Carly.”

Bobbie closed the door, and Carly gaped in disbelief. She clutched the cash in her hand, her throat tightening.

No one left. All the bridges were burnt.

Oh, God. What was she supposed to do now?

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“Hey. I was thinking,” Elizabeth said, joining him at the window, sliding her arms around him. “Maybe we could invite Sonny over for dinner or something. I feel bad about him being alone right now. I know—well, I know you’re still not happy with him, but—”

“After I lied to him for two weeks,” Jason said, with a sigh, “it’s a little hard to hold on to the way I felt before yesterday.” He kissed the top of her head. “Yeah. I’ll go ask him later. Right now, I think he really does want to be alone for a while.”

“Okay. Do you have to go to work, or—”

“No. I’m good for a while.” He stroked her back, thinking about what had occurred to him on the way back from the motel. Yesterday, they’d been married a full month. He wasn’t one for birthdays or anniversaries, but he knew Elizabeth probably was.

And he hadn’t been able to give her much of anything that she deserved since that day in the church. But maybe—he thought of a silent promise he’d made to himself a few weeks earlier. “Wait here,” he said, drawing back. He took her hand in his, kissed the inside of her palm. Elizabeth smiled at him, but her eyes were a bit confused.

Jason crossed over to a table where she’d left a radio and stacks of her CDs and cassettes. He made a face as he looked through them. He didn’t know anything about music or which song were slow or fast — He could pick one at random, but— Finally, he looked at Elizabeth. “Which one is your favorite?”

“My favorite?” Surprised, she went over to him, took the CD he was holding, tipping her head. “Why?”

“Just—” Jason sighed. “At the No Name,” he clarified, “when we danced. You wished we were somewhere else.”

“And I said that the first time we danced, it was about someone else.” Elizabeth smiled at him, her eyes lighting with amusement. “Is that what you want? Something to dance to?”

He squinted. He couldn’t tell if she thought this was stupid idea or — “Yes. That’s what I want.”

“All right.” She set the CD in his hand down, then flipped through a few of the others stacked. She opened a case, put one into the radio, then messed with the buttons. “Here. This one.”

It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark

He took her hand as the music filtered through the penthouse, and drew her against him, the way they had danced that night at Kelly’s. But it was different now. He was comfortable sliding his hands around her waist, and her cheek against his heart—her hands on the sleeves of his sweater.

Try as I may, I can never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing

They swayed slightly, and Jason just let the rest of the world fall away. There was nothing left to worry about. Sorel was out of their lives, Carly was no longer a threat—it was just the two of them.

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me

He wanted it to be like this all the time—coming home to see her face, to know that he could say anything to her and Elizabeth would always find a way to understand, even when he didn’t. That her face would never change — she knew who he was and what he did. What he was capable of.

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me wherever I fall
You say it best, when you say nothing at all

“I was thinking about what you said,” he murmured, and Elizabeth stirred, stepping back just a bit so that their eye could meet. “When we found out we didn’t need the entire year.”

“What I said?” she echoed.

All day long, I can hear people talking out loud
But when you hold me near you drown out the crowd

“You said you didn’t want us to just drift,” Jason continued, tucking her hair behind her ears. He would never get tired of touching her, of letting his fingertips trail across her soft skin.

Her eyes searched his, then she nodded. “Because it needed to be a promise,” Elizabeth said. “I didn’t like the way you’d told me about it. The way Sonny had phrased it.”

“That we should just stay married until we didn’t want to be anymore,” Jason clarified. She nodded.

Try as they may, they can never define
What’s being said between your heart and mine

“It keeps one foot out the door,” Elizabeth said, her fingers tightening on his sleeves. She swallowed hard. “And I don’t want that for us. To constantly worry that this is the fight, this is the moment when we’ll decide to walk away.”

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me

“I don’t want that either.” He tilted her chin up, kissed her, long, lingering. “I can’t ask you to marry me,” he murmured against her lips. “You already did that.”

“I did.” He could hear the smile in her voice, felt the curve of her lips against his own.

“I love you,” he said, and he felt her gasp. Then Elizabeth pulled back, their eyes meeting. “I love you,” Jason repeated. “So I’m asking you to stay. To make the promise. I want it.”

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me wherever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

“You—” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “I—” She closed her eyes, then opened them again, tears dampening her lashes, making her eyes sparkle. “I love you. And I want that promise, too. I want to stay.”

Song: When You Say Nothing At All, Ronan Keating

November 28, 2023

This entry is part 39 of 41 in the Signs of Life

Where we used to laugh
There’s a shouting match
Sharp as a thumbnail scratch
A silence I can’t ignore
Like the hammock by the
Doorway we spent time in swings empty
Don’t see lightning like last fall
When it was always about to hit me

How’s It Going To Be, Third Eye Blind

Friday, February 4, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

The call came early the next morning — so early that the sun hadn’t yet broken through the clouds. Elizabeth stirred, then groaned, shoving her face deeper into the pillow. “Five more minutes,” she mumbled.

Jason slid his arm from beneath her and reached for his cell on the nightstand. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. Call me if she moves.” He hung up and rolled back towards Elizabeth. “Hey.” He brushed his lips over her hair. “I have to go.”

“Okay,” she mumbled. She shifted onto her side to peer at him blearily. “Call me if you need me.”

“Go back to sleep.” He kissed her gently, then went to confront Carly, promising himself this would be the last time.

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

AJ reluctantly went in that morning, intending to grab a quick breakfast and leave. He was ashamed of the day before, when he’d nearly broken his sobriety — being around the minibar was just a temptation he didn’t need.

But then he stopped, blinking at the empty table that sat against the far wall. No decanters, no tumblers. He frowned.

“I had them moved, my dear. To your grandfather’s study.”

AJ turned at his grandmother’s voice, saw her already at the breakfast table. “You did?”

“Ned told me that you had a weak moment.” Lila held out her hand and he went to take it. “How are you, my love? Yesterday was a difficult one.”

He squeezed her hand, then sat on the sofa. “Difficult is a good word for it,” he murmured. “It’s humiliating, Grandmother, what I was willing to accept. How I was willing to lie to my own family just to—” He sighed, looked down at the carpeted floor. “How I felt any sense of righteous for the year Jason stole from me with Michael. I got a harsh reminder that one year doesn’t make up for all the ones he’s lost. Twenty-two of them.” He looked at Lila. “How can any of you stand me? I murdered my brother.”

“You made a terrible choice, AJ. One that you couldn’t take back. And yes, the Jason we loved once is gone to us. But you did not murder your brother. He’s still here.”

“For you. For Emily. Sometimes for Mother. But not for me. He’ll never—” Tears burned in his eyes. “I hated him for so long. I hated him for being the chosen one, for Mom loving him more when he wasn’t even her real son — I could never measure up to Jason. He was better simply be breathing. But he loved me, you know? Despite that. He was frustrated and disappointed in me. But he loved me. He came after me that night, and I let the world believe Ned caused the accident. Just weak moment. Ned was willing to take the blame, and I nearly let him. I would have kept lying if I hadn’t blurted it out in a drunken confession.”

“You must forgive yourself, AJ, for what happened. You cannot keep living in one single moment. It will choke you.”

“Forgive myself? How can I do that when no one else will?”

“Everyone else does not matter. You are the one who must live with the consequences. Did you want to hurt your brother?”

“No. No, of course not.” AJ cleared his throat. “Or maybe I did. Maybe part of me wanted it. With him gone, I could have risen to the top. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. And maybe I never will.” He exhaled slowly. “But you’re right about something, Grandmother. I can’t keep holding onto that moment. Not anymore. I have a little boy who depends on me. So—” He rose to his feet. “I’ll have to find a way to move on.”

He went into the foyer and stopped when he saw Ned. “Hey—”

“Hey. Good news.” Ned had his coat in his hand. “Jason found Carly. I’ll handle this part.”

“I should—”

“Go spend time with Michael. This isn’t you being weak,” Ned told AJ. “Or not wanting to face it. This is me getting a little revenge of my own. For walking into that room yesterday and seeing you think about taking a drink.”

AJ swallowed. “That would have been my choice—”

“Yeah, that’s true. But she doesn’t get to push you to the edge of the cliff, leave you teetering on the brink, and walk away. So if you really need to do it, AJ, if you need to be the one, I get it, but—”

AJ blinked. “You want to serve her the papers because of what she did to me?” he asked, startled. “Really?”

“You’re my cousin. Quartermaines may attack each other, but we close ranks when it comes from the outside.” Ned’s smile was grim. “And Carly is going to regret the day she tangled with us.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth curled up at the desk, her history of architecture textbook open beside her. She was supposed to be studying for class and thinking about a paper, but instead, she’d grabbed a sketch pad after looking at the remains of the temple at Delphi. It had spurred something in her and the way she was thinking about her quest to paint a new version of the Wind.

She nearly missed the phone ringing until it had done so four times. Absently she picked up the cordless, pressed the talk button. “Yeah?”


“Oh. Em. Hey.” Elizabeth focused, setting down her pencil. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. I’m dying down here at school, waiting for updates. Ned wouldn’t tell me anything and Mom keeps telling me not to worry, but Deenie—you remember Deenie—”

“Yeah, she was Sarah’s best friend and hated me.”

“Oh. Yeah, right. Anyway, she has a brother who works at the PCPD, and she told me everything, or everything that she knows. So, is it true? Carly’s not pregnant with AJ’s baby and now she’s on the run?”

Elizabeth snorted at the image of Carly fleeing like a fugitive. “Yeah, I guess that’s the best to describe it. It blew up yesterday when Sonny found out and went to confront Carly. She took off before he got her. Sonny took a swing at AJ, they got into a fight, and Sonny got put into jail over night.”

“I always miss the best stuff,” Emily muttered. “How are you doing with all that? How’s Jason?”

“He’s actually out tracking Carly down now. I really hope he finds her today,” Elizabeth said. “He can drag her home to deal with her own mess and maybe I can stop thinking about her.”

“That would be nice,” Emily said. “But I think it might be just beginning. I mean, how are you and Jason going to stay out of this when Carly’s stuck in the middle of two custody battles with Sonny and AJ on either side and poor Michael in the middle.”

Elizabeth hesitated. That was a great question, actually, and she wished she knew. “Look, AJ’s going to shield Michael from the worst of it. As unfair as it is, you know your brother’s lawyers are going to wipe the floor with Carly, and Sonny will slap around what’s left.” And maybe Jason would feel a little conflicted about it, but—

“Yeah, I guess. I mean, you’re right. That’s not fair because Carly can’t afford lawyers if AJ cuts her off from the money, but I don’t know, I guess she shouldn’t have had an affair and lied about it. So there’s that.” Emily waited a moment. “But you really think you and Jason aren’t going to be affected?”

“Do I think Jason’s going to love it? No. He’s worried about Michael, and I am, too. And Sonny—this is going to be hard on him. But do I think my relationship with Jason will get messed up? Is that what you’re asking?”

“Well, it’s just Carly’s going to be desperate and asking for help. Jason’s always come through for her before. You don’t sound worried that it’ll happen again.”

Would Jason feel tempted to help Carly again? Elizabeth didn’t think so, not after  the last few weeks. Or the last few conversations. He’d been the one to blow everything up. But old habits were hard to break. Was she sure Jason was ready to break this one?


“It’s not that I’m hoping that would happen. I’m just scared. You and Jason haven’t been together long. And he and Robin—like that was serious. Not that you aren’t—this isn’t coming out right.”

“No, I understand where you’re coming from. All I can say is that Jason knows he made mistakes with Robin, and he’s been careful not to repeat them with me. And I’m not shying away from telling him how I feel. I just—” She looked at the photo on the desk, one of their wedding photos and thought about how that day had felt. How she’d felt walking down the aisle towards him and speaking her vows—

And how it didn’t even seem to hold a candle to how she felt now. “I can’t speak for Jason, Emily, but I can promise you this. I love Jason. And I love the life we’re building together. Carly’s not going to chase me away, and I’m not going to let her hurt him. Not ever again.” She paused. “Does that help?”

“Actually yes. You, um, you never told me that before. That you loved—I mean, I knew that. You don’t get married—and I saw Jason. I know he loves you, but neither of you said it in front of me or told me, and it’s just—wow, it’s kind of wild to hear you say it.” Emily’s voice sounded a bit more upbeat. “But it’s awesome, too, you know? I’m happy for you both.”

“Thanks, Em.” She hadn’t said it out loud before either, and wasn’t entirely ready to say it to Jason, but it was nice to hear it. To acknowledge what it was.

“I have to run to class. You call me the minute you know anything.”

“I promise.”


Carly yanked open the door and smirked at him. “Took you long enough. You’re getting slow.”  She stepped back, as if she meant to let him in. “You going to drag me back to Port Charles?”

“No. I wanted to confirm where you were and I knew you’d open the door for me.”

“Why?  So AJ can serve me?” Carly rolled her eyes and leaned against the doorway. “Or so Sonny can?”

“Does it matter?”

“Well, you can tell Sonny not to bother.” She tossed back her hair, then glared at him defiantly. “He has nothing to do with this—”

“Don’t lie to me,” Jason said tightly. “Not again—”

“I’m not,” she shot back. “I did what I should have done weeks ago. Lucky for me, New York doesn’t have a waiting period because the last thing I need is to be fighting two custody battles. So I took care of it.”

Jason stared at her for a long time, then swallowed hard. Waiting period. New York didn’t have a waiting period. “You had an abortion.”

“The right to choose and all,” Carly said. She folded her arms. “Go ahead. Judge me. I don’t care.”

He exhaled slowly, then shook his head. “I’m not going to do that,” he said, and she blinked at him. “You’re right. It’s your choice. It’s always been your choice. You’ve made all the choices, and I’ve just followed your lead. I guess we’re all better off if you’re not dealing with Sonny in court.”

She clearly hadn’t expected that. “Wait—”

Jason glanced behind him at the sound of another car pulling into the empty space next to his bike. He stepped aside, waiting for Ned to get out, a sheaf of papers in his hand. “Good luck, Carly. You’ll need it.”

“She’s all yours,” he told Ned as he passed him.

“Thanks.” Ned turned to Carly. “You’re not welcome back at the mansion, and all your accounts have been closed. And that car—” He gestured at the parking lot, where she hissed. “That’s in AJ’s name. Not yours. We’re taking it. Good luck finding your way home or paying for this room.”

“You can’t—”

“I can do what I want. I have all the money and the power, Carly. You should have thought about that before you slithered in and tried to hurt AJ.” Ned’s smile was wide and mean. He slapped paperwork against her chest. “You’ve been served.”

November 23, 2023

This entry is part 38 of 41 in the Signs of Life

Today was gonna be the day, but they’ll never throw it back to you
And by now, you should’ve somehow realised what you’re not to do
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now

And all the roads that lead you there were winding
And all the lights that light the way are blinding
There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how

Wonderwall, Oasis

Thursday, February 3, 2000

PCPD: Squad Room

“Wait here,” Jason murmured to Elizabeth by the doors. “I’m just going to talk to Alexis, and then we’ll get out of here.”

“All right.” Elizabeth caught his hand as he started to walk away. “Hey.” He looked back at her. “None of this is your fault,” she told him. “It’s not.”

He squeezed her hand, then released it. She was wrong, of course, but he appreciated the attempt. If he’d told Sonny weeks ago, if he’d found a way to do it more quietly, he could have kept this from blowing up.

But instead, he’d waited. He’d been selfish, trying to protect himself and Michael, and not doing what was right. Now Sonny had been arrested for assault and trespassing, Carly was in the wind, and Michael’s life was going to be destroyed anyway. All Jason had done with his silence was delay the inevitable.

“Hey.” Alexis emerged from the interrogation room with a sigh. “Alan’s holding firm on the charges of trespassing, and right now, AJ’s not in the mood to deal.”

Jason scrubbed his hands down his face. “They’ll back down eventually,” he muttered. “To protect the name. The last thing they want is to be splashed over the papers with all of this.”

“You’re probably right. When Edward gets down here,” Alexis continued, “I suspect he’ll talk to Alan. AJ’s angry. Humiliated. Which he has a right to be, I guess—” She bit her lip. “I don’t think I can get Sonny out today. Maybe later tonight if I can get a quick arraignment, but—”

“That’s fine.” Jason glanced back at Elizabeth, then at Taggert who was glaring in her direction. “I need time to track Carly down and it’s easier if—”

“Why bother?” Alexis wanted to know. “What purpose—”

“I don’t care about her,” Jason interrupted. “But Carly’s angry. And panicking. She does her worst damage at this point. Shooting Tony, having me arrested for kidnapping—” He shook his head. “And she’s going to take it out on me. The last time she did that—”

“Right.” Alexis held up a finger. “Excuse me.” She stalked towards Taggert who had just stood. “Going somewhere?” she asked coolly. Taggert tore his eyes away from Elizabeth and looked at the attorney.

“I just thought I’d ask—”

“She’s represented by counsel and there’s an injunction against this department. You’re not allowed to breathe in her direction,” Alexis reminded him. “And we’re still reserving our right to sue—”

“I didn’t—” Taggert took a deep breath. “None of that is my fault—”

“No?” Alexis arched a brow, then tapped the shield he wore on a chain around his neck. “This makes it your fault. You were the lead officer on that search and you knew from prior encounters that Capelli was overly aggressive and angry with my client. You let him into that penthouse. You let him go upstairs to search her personal possessions. You let her go upstairs with him—”

“She went on her own—”

“Protect and serve,” Alexis cut in. “You stayed downstairs to harass Jason, and you let Capelli loose. Her wedding dress, by the way, couldn’t be repaired.”

Taggert grimaced, then looked over at Elizabeth again who just stared back at him. He returned his attention to Alexis. “You and I both know she’s protecting him. That she knows something about Moreno’s murder—”

“Prove it,” Alexis challenged. “Until then, stay away from my clients. Slapping a badge on your chest doesn’t make you a good man. You should know better than that.”

Jason waited for Alexis to back into the interrogation room before joining Elizabeth again. “Hey. Let’s get out of here.”


Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason dropped his keys on the desk and rubbed the back of his neck. “When do you have class?”

“In a few hours.” Elizabeth perched on the arm of the sofa. “I’d skip it, but I can only miss two classes all semester, and I’d rather save that for something that isn’t about Carly.” She paused. “Will you call me if you find her?”

“I don’t think—” His sigh was heavy. “I don’t think we will tonight.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry.”

She hated to see him looking so lost, so upset with himself. He’d waited too long to tell the truth, she knew that, but he’d only wanted to protect Michael. It wasn’t really that terrible when it came down to it. “I went back to the studio last night,” she told him.

Jason looked at her, his expression grateful for the change in topic. “Yeah?”

“I’ve been trying to repaint the Wind,” she continued. “You know, the way it was before. With the Ferris wheel, and Angelina’s yellow door. But I can’t make it come out right. Something always feels off.”

He grimaced. “I’m sorry—”

“No, it’s—it sucks,” Elizabeth admitted. “But you know, it happens. Art gets destroyed. I’m taking this class about the history of architecture this year, and we were comparing the ruins in Greece to what historians think they looked like. The Parthenon, do you know it?”

“I’ve seen pictures.” He tipped his head. “What does that have to do with your painting?”

“It’s beautiful now. Even ruined. It must have been incredible when it was all put together, but it’s still beautiful now. Because you look at it, and you think about the civilization that created it.” Elizabeth stood and reached for his hand, drawing him closer. “When I wanted to paint the wind, it wasn’t just the visual I wanted to put on the canvas. I was trying to find a way to express how it felt, you know? The way it blocks out everything else and makes the world go away.”

“Is this your way of asking for a ride?” he asked, a little suspiciously. “Because you’re not driving—”

Elizabeth laughed. “No, but pencil that in for later. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve gone out.” She took a deep breath. “I can’t fix the painting that was ruined. And maybe if I kept trying, I could make another one that looks exactly the same. Just like they could rebuild all those ruined places. I want to see them, you know. In Athens. And in Rome, and everywhere else. You can rebuild it, but it won’t ever be the same. It’s okay. Because I already put that feeling on the canvas. I don’t need to look at it to remember how it felt.”

“I still hate that it happened. That you went through it—”

“Yeah, it still sucks.” Elizabeth traced a finger down his thin sweater, circling one of the buttons at the collar. “But the feeling is what mattered. That night at Jake’s, I was drowning, and I thought that it would never get any better. I was sure of it, and you made me feel like you understood that it would never get any better. You didn’t tell me it would, you just sat there and listened.” She flicked her eyes up to him. “And then you took me on the bike, and it went away. And eventually, it stayed away. The grief, it’s part of me. It always will be. But it doesn’t surround me. It’s not what I think about when I wake up. Or go to sleep.”

“I’m glad.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his knuckles, and she sighed. She loved when he touched her. “You did that for me, you know that, don’t you? I wasn’t much better back then.”

“Today, I decided to start trying to paint a new feeling.” She licked her lips and his eyes darkened slightly. She absolutely loved that she could do that. “I wasn’t just the girl who lost Lucky when I met you. I was the girl who was frozen forever in that night, always doomed to be crawling out of the bushes, looking for the pieces of my world that couldn’t ever be put back together.”

He exhaled slowly, his breath a bit shaky. “Elizabeth—”

“Even with Lucky, I never thought I’d move past that. Maybe I could get through it for him, and I knew he’d be kind. But I could never, ever imagine wanting someone to touch me. To look at me. I just knew I’d always be locked in that night.”

He brushed her cheek again, and she realized a tear had escaped. “So that’s what I’m trying to paint now. What it felt like when you showed me I was wrong.”

“You showed yourself,” Jason corrected, with a swift shake of his head. “I was just in the room—”

“Don’t do that,” Elizabeth said, fisting her hands in his sweater. “Don’t make yourself less that way or pretend that who you are and the way you took care of me wasn’t important. Not every man would have your patience and understanding. And not just any man would have made me feel more than just comfortable, but—” She hesitated, unsure of the right word. “Powerful,” she said finally. “You gave me back my power, Jason. That was you.

He dipped his forehead down, rested against hers. “You trusted me. There aren’t words to tell you what it meant for you to do that.”

“No, there aren’t. So I’m trying to paint it instead, and when I do, I’ll be able to tell you about it.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room

AJ stared at the minibar, at the decanter of vodka surrounded by other liquors. The glass tumblers by its side.

He’d thought Carly’s pregnancy was karma—the universe returning the favor and allowing AJ some revenge. He’d get to raise his brother’s child. He deserved that much, didn’t he?

But he’d been right that day with Carly — she was the punishment he deserved for what he’d done to his brother, what he’d done to his family. He’d been in this room with his parents, trying to block out the sound of their disappointment, the vision of their disgust—and Jason had been there, trying to make peace.

He’d give anything for that moment back, for just a chance not to leave the house. He’d go upstairs and sleep off the drunk, he’d wake up with a hangover but maybe then he’d go to rehab—

But there was no redemption. You couldn’t be forgiven for murder, and it didn’t matter if Jason hadn’t died. His brother, his beloved little brother, would never come home. It was worse, somehow, than death.

He deserved what Carly had done to him, and maybe he deserved even worse. He deserved to die himself, didn’t he? What kind of father could he ever be with his past, with his crimes?

As if in a trance, AJ reached for the vodka and poured himself a glass.


AJ turned and found Ned in the doorway, his hand up. “Don’t do it, AJ.”

“What’s the point?” AJ asked. He closed his eyes, wrapped both hands around the glass, letting the warmth of alcohol seep into his body, craving the burn as it slid down his throat. The way it would let him sink into nothing. All of this would go away. “Why bother staying sober?”

“For your son,” Ned said gently. He reached AJ and took the glass away. AJ didn’t fight. “Carly was a mistake. You did your best to give Michael a family, but that’s over now. She’s given you what you need to get her out your life for good. We’ll find her, AJ. You’ll serve her with papers, and it’ll finally be over.” Ned poured the vodka back into the decanter. “Carly’s not worth this.”

“I—” AJ swallowed hard. “I wanted it to work. I really tried.”

“I know you did.”

“I even asked Jason for permission,” he said. He met Ned’s eyes. “After you talked to me — I thought — I’ll get Jason’s blessing. And instead—”

“Instead, Jason decided to come forward. He must have been waiting. Maybe he thought it was your child. That there was a chance. Did you tell him there wasn’t?”

“Yeah.” AJ managed a laugh. “Yeah, I did. I tried to do the wrong thing in the right way. I guess I got what I deserved.” He exhaled slowly. “I won’t drink, Ned. Not tonight.”

“That’s enough then. We’ll take care of tomorrow when it comes.” Ned put his arm around AJ’s shoulders. “Let’s go upstairs. We’ll go see Michael, okay?”


Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason set the receiver down and put his head in his hands. Nothing. No sign of her. How the hell had Carly been able to disappear?

He glanced over when Elizabeth came through the door, her bag slung over her shoulder. “Hey. How was class?”

“Fine.” She dumped the bag on the sofa, then leaned against the side of the desk where he sat. “No luck?”

“No.” Jason leaned back, looking towards the ceiling. “She did this before. When Michael was born. She disappeared.”

“I remember.”

“There were decisions that had to be made about Michael. About his health. And he didn’t even have a name. I could have told the truth then.” He tilted his chin back down to look at her. “I didn’t.”


“Because I’d promised her,” Jason said. “And I knew what the Quartermaines would do. She’d never get the baby back. They’d use her leaving against them, and I just thought—she deserved a chance. But I should have told the truth.”

“You’re saying that now, two years later, because you have the advantage of knowing what she was capable of,” Elizabeth said gently. “Give yourself a break, Jason. You did the best you could at the time, and Michael’s better off for it. Maybe there were other times you could have told, but you’re only human. And you loved him. I know how much you still love him. He’ll always be a little bit yours.”

“I just—she’s out there,” Jason said slowly, “angry, scared, and panicking. And planning.”

“Jason, what can she do?” Elizabeth wanted to know. “I mean, to you? To Sonny? Or the Quartermaines? Realistically, what can she do now? What does she have left to hurt anyone with?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. He didn’t really have all that much to take, he thought. He had Lila and Emily. He had Elizabeth. He reached out for Elizabeth’s hands and drew her down to sit in his lap, holding her close. She tucked her head under his chin. He traced her wedding ring with the tip of his index finger.

“You’re doing the best you can, Jason. Carly, Sonny, and AJ are adults who can make their own mistakes.”

“Yeah. I’ll just feel better if she’s somewhere where she can be watched.” Jason exhaled slowly, then stroked Elizabeth’s back. “But there’s nothing else I can do until she makes a mistake and we find her.”

“Then I think—” Elizabeth shifted until she was straddling him, one knee on each side. “I think we should find something else to do.” She arched a brow. “I’m really tired of talking about Carly.”

“Me, too.” Jason grinned then, and swallowed her gasp with his mouth as he abruptly stood. He set her on the desk, and she parted her legs so he could get closer.

“You know, the desk is on that list of I made,” Elizabeth teased as she nipped his lips. “Right after the shower.”

This entry is part 37 of 41 in the Signs of Life

Please tell me why
My car is in the front yard
And I’m sleeping with my clothes on
I came in through the window last night
And you’re long gone, gone

It’s no surprise to me, I am my own worst enemy
‘Cause every now and then, I kick the living shit out of me
The smoke alarm is going off, and there’s a cigarette
Still burning

My Own Worst Enemy, Lit

Wednesday, February 3, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny looked from Jason to Elizabeth, then back again as he absorbed what Jason had just told him.

“I don’t know if you’re the only other person it could be,” Jason continued, “but AJ made it clear to me yesterday that it isn’t his baby.”

Sonny turned away, scrubbing his hands down his face. “How long?” he asked quietly. “How long have you known she was pregnant?”

“Sonny—” Elizabeth began but Jason shook his head, released her hand, and stepped forward.

“Since the day of wedding reception. I didn’t say anything at first because Carly said there was a chance it was AJ’s baby—”

“And you believed her?” Sonny bit out, whirling back. “She does nothing but lie—”

“I know. I told her I wanted a paternity test—”

“Like they can’t be faked—” Sonny’s gaze burned into his. “Was this your idea of revenge? I put your family at risk, you keep mine from me?”

“No, that’s not—”

“Sonny—” Elizabeth tried again, but he wasn’t in any mood to be comforted or talked down.

“You had no right to—” Sonny shook his head. “To hell with this,” he bit out. He stalked past them, slamming the door behind him.

“He was never going to take this well,” Elizabeth murmured, putting a hand on Jason’s shoulder.

“He would have if I had told him when I found out,” Jason replied, irritated with himself. And he’d thought of keeping quiet even longer? Was Sonny right? Had there been some thought in the back of his mind that Sonny deserved to be in the dark?

“Should we go after him?” Elizabeth broke into his thoughts, and he frowned, looking down at her. “He’s going to the mansion to confront Carly, but she’s not alone. AJ might be there. Lila definitely is, and maybe Michael—”

“Sonny might be angry, but—” Jason paused. He wasn’t worried about Lila or Michael, he realized. He trusted Sonny enough to moderate himself around his grandmother and a toddler.

But if AJ was there—or Edward or Alan—if any of the Quartermaine men were—Sonny would be arrested before he got two steps into the mansion and that would be a headache none of them could afford.

“You’re right. Let’s go.”

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

Carly returned to the house, the nausea in her stomach gone but somehow the sick feeling remained. It was just nerves, she thought. Guilt. And worry. Jason was keeping her secret for now, but eventually he’d want results. And Carly still hadn’t found Lorraine or anyone else to help her with the paternity test.

She was running out of time.

She should have gotten out of town when she’d had the chance. Jason had been ready to make her and Michael disappear, but no, Carly had to reach a bit higher. Had to go for the gold.

She’d never settled in her life, and until these last few weeks, she’d never had to. She’d set out to destroy her mother’s marriage, and she’d done it. She’d schemed to make sure no one took Michael for her, and until now, she’d managed that. She’d made sure she was a wedge between Jason and Robin—

It should been easier to get the little bitch away from Jason. Robin had almost been pathetically easy to get rid of once Michael was in the picture. Carly had nearly tipped Jason into having an actual affair with her, and if not for that Webber bitch—

She squeezed her eyes shut. If Jason had just left with her, had taken Michael and run, they’d be somewhere and a family. Jason would believe this child was his. It should be his. It wasn’t fair—

There was a thud and some distant voices somewhere in the house. Carly frowned. Who was even here to argue with? AJ had taken the day off to spend with Michael, but nearly everyone else was gone—

Carly went towards the entrance connecting the family room to the foyer—stopping when the voices became more clear.

When she recognized them.

“Where the hell is that whore?” Sonny demanded. Carly couldn’t hear AJ’s response, but she didn’t need to.

It was over. Sonny knew. And he was going to tell AJ—if he hadn’t already—

Damn it.

Carly closed the door again and headed back to the terrace. She’d leave through the gardens, get into the garage, take one of the cars—

It was time for Plan C.

Quartermaine Estate: Driveway

Jason slowed the bike as they approached the main entrance of the mansion, but even before he’d switched off the ignition, he could predict the disaster laying ahead. One of Sonny’s cars was parked haphazardly near the garage, the driver’s door hanging open. The front door to the mansion was wide open —

And he could hear the shouting from where they stood in the drive.

None of this had anything to do with him, Jason realized as he stood next to the bike. Sonny might be his friend, but it wasn’t really Jason’s job to run after him. And Carly and this baby were nothing to him.

But his grandmother was inside, and she didn’t deserve any of this.

“Let’s go.” He took Elizabeth’s hand and headed in.

Sonny hadn’t made it further than the foyer—AJ and Ned were blocking his progress, and Alan was standing behind them, fuming.

“I want to see her now!” Sonny bit out. “Either get out of my way or—”

“I’ll be damned if I let you anywhere in this house,” Alan cut in. Sonny lurched forward again, and AJ shoved him back, the younger man’s eyes slightly wild, his hair disheveled. “I’ll have you arrested—”

“Sonny—” Jason reached for his partner but Sonny shoved him back.

“Not without talking to that—”

Ned grimaced as Sonny came forward, and this time Sonny threw a punch, landing a solid blow to AJ’s jaw as Ned ducked out of the way.

“Damn it—” AJ swore, then leapt at Sonny. The two of them began a fist fight, rolling around on the ground, trading punches, jabs, and kicks as Ned struggled to separate them.

“That’s it!” Alan strode to the phone and snatched it off the receiver. “I’m calling the police—”

“I’ll find Carly,” Elizabeth told Jason reluctantly as she slipped around the fracas and Jason moved in to break up the fight.

Elizabeth checked in the front parlor, then in the family room where she found a worried Lila with an irritated Reginald, her ever present manservant.

“Oh, darling—” Lila held out her hands, and Elizabeth squeezed them. “If you’re here, I hope that means Jason is. He’ll know how to sort everything out. He always does.”

“I know,” Elizabeth said with a rueful sigh. “He’s dealing with AJ and Sonny. I thought I’d try to find Carly before Sonny can—” Not that she cared much, but like Jason, she wanted to contain the situation somehow.

“Don’t bother,” Reginald said tightly. “She’s gone.”

“Gone?” Elizabeth echoed. “How—she’s not upstairs either?”

“As soon as Mr. Corinthos barged in, I came to find her,” Lila said, her voice shaking. “She was in the gardens, heading for the garage.”

“I tried to follow, but by the time I got there,” Reginald said, “her car was gone.”

That wasn’t good. Elizabeth went back to the foyer, relieved to find that Jason and Ned had separated AJ and Sonny, though both men were still tossing insults. She met Jason’s eyes and lightly shook her head, hoping he’d understand.

“I don’t care what crime you think was committed against you,” Alan told Sonny, his eyes burning. “You have no right to come into this house and attack my family. If you were dumb enough to sleep with another man’s wife, then you deserve every piece of misery coming your way—”

“She had no right to lie—”

“She had every right,” Alan sneered. “Isn’t that how Jason justified stealing Michael for over a year? The right of a mother? I may not want Carly anywhere near my family, but don’t pretend you didn’t lie for Jason, either.”

Jason flinched, then closed his eyes, his grip loosening sightly at this reminder that it had all started with him.

Elizabeth scowled at Jason’s father, but kept her mouth shut as she crossed the room to stand by Jason. She’d been in Port Charles long enough to know Alan had no business casting stones at anyone else. After all, Jason was the result of an extramarital affair, and she knew even AJ’s paternity had been in doubt as an infant.

Officers from the PCPD arrived then, and hauled Sonny out in cuffs. Elizabeth waited until he was clear before leaning up to whisper in Jason’s ear. “Carly took off as soon as she heard Sonny in the hall. Lila saw her go, and Reginald confirmed her car is gone.”

Jason winced. Now Carly had time to plan the next step, and he really didn’t want to think about what she might have planned. She had to know he’d told Sonny. He had to find her before she had time to plot her revenge.

PCPD: Squad Room

Bobbie came through the double doors, wincing as she saw the cluster of men around Taggert’s desk. Lila had nearly been in tears when she’d called, hoping that Carly was with her. She could barely get the words out, so Reginald had taken the phone and continued the story. Bobbie had listened painfully as her daughter’s latest schemes were revealed.

Jason wasn’t the father of Carly’s child. Sonny Corinthos was. And now everyone knew.

She’d rushed down to the police department, not entirely sure what she could do to resolve the issue but needing to do something. Bobbie felt responsible for the mayhem Carly had wrought.

“Bobbie—” AJ spotted her, his hair disheveled, a bruise forming beneath his eye. “What are you doing here?”

“I came—” She swallowed. “I came to see what I could do. There must be something.”

“Unless you know where Carly is—” AJ shook his head. “But you don’t. I know you wouldn’t. I’m sorry, Bobbie. For everything. I thought she and I—I thought we had an understanding. I know you think I’m terrible—”

“I think Carly has that effect on people.” Bobbie squeezed his hand. “What happened? Sonny came in? Started a fight.”

“I tried to—” AJ exhaled slowly. “I tried to do it right. I knew the baby wasn’t mine. So I thought if I just explained to Jason that we could make this work and no one had to get hurt, he’d understand. I tried to ask for permission.” His mouth tightened. “And I guess Jason—”

“He must have thought there was a chance it was your baby,” Bobbie said, wincing when she thought of the pressure she’d put on Jason and Elizabeth to handle the situation. “And you made it clear there wasn’t.”

“Yeah, so he decided to blow it all up.” AJ looked over to his father, still arguing with Sonny over charges of trespass. “I deserve this,” he murmured.

“No one deserves this, AJ—”

“Really?” AJ shook his head. “Go home, Bobbie. You’ve stood by Carly long enough. There’s nothing left to do.”

Planned Parenthood: Parking Lot

Carly switched off the ignition, and sat in her car for a long moment, staring at the gray building in front of her, the cluster of protesters that had nothing better to do than harass women.

She’d known all along that this was an option, but it had remained at the bottom of the list. If she kept the baby, she’d spend the rest of her life in court, fighting for Michael, fighting for this baby. Neither AJ nor Sonny would go quietly. And Jason wasn’t there to help. Bobbie wouldn’t either.

She’d burned all the bridges.

It was time to do what she should have done from the beginning and make at least one of her problems go away.

This entry is part 36 of 41 in the Signs of Life

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

Iris, Goo Goo Dolls

Thursday, February 3, 2000

Harborview Towers: Parking Garage

Jason switched off his bike and sat for a long moment. He needed to check in with Sonny, and then hopefully Elizabeth had already gone to bed so he wouldn’t have look at her. She knew what he’d gone to do, of course, but if he could just go to bed, hold her, and then tomorrow, wake up and never talk about Joseph Sorel again—

He dragged himself into the elevator, relieved that security had dialed back to the skeleton crew and that there was no one on duty in front of the penthouses. The fewer people he had to see, the easier it would be for all of them if the body ever surfaced.

It wouldn’t, but it was always good to plan for worst case scenarios.

Sonny had waited up, nursing a tumbler of bourbon. He glanced over and Jason stopped, taking in the strange sense of having lived this moment before.

His partner was sitting in the chair by the fireplace, the liquor in his hand, his hair slightly disheveled, and Jason returning from taking care of business. Just like that night in December.

Except he didn’t have to look at the stairs, didn’t have to worry about what he’d see. Elizabeth was safe across the hall in his bed, and Jason intended to keep it that way.

“Is it done?” Sonny asked, skimming his eyes over Jason’s form. “You’re good?”

“Yes,” Jason said shortly. “It’s done.”

“Good.” Sonny got to his feet, tossed back the last of the bourbon. “Go home. We can talk about everything else tomorrow.”

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

The room was dark. He could barely see the outline of Elizabeth in bed, resting on her side, one hand draped over the edge. He went into the bathroom, dumped everything he was wearing into the trash, and turned on the shower. There was nothing on him — it hadn’t been that kind of kill, but it still felt like it lingered on his skin and he wouldn’t bring that to her. And he didn’t want her touching anything he’d been wearing.

He’d done what was necessary to protect his family, and he would never regret it. That didn’t mean he wanted to dwell on what he’d had to do.

Jason stepped beneath the spray, only dimly registering it might be a bit too hot. He didn’t always feel temperature well, but he felt the sting against his skin.

He didn’t hear the shower door open, but he heard the hiss. “Are you trying to boil yourself?”

Jason winced, then turned, thinking Elizabeth would just be standing outside the door, holding it open to check on him. His eyes widened when he realized she’d shed her clothes and closed herself into the shower with him, the spray already dampening her hair, slicking it back her head. He muttered, twisting the knob to turn down the hot water. “What—”

“I heard you come home.” She smiled as the water turned cooler. “Thanks—”


The smile turned a bit nervous as she stood there, and he stayed at the other end of the shower, still not quite sure what she was doing or why. Didn’t she realize where he’d been? What he’d done? Why hadn’t she waited in bed—

Elizabeth bit her lip, then a light came into her eyes that he knew all too well. Determination. She’d folded her arms over her torso, shielding her upper body from him as the discomfort had set in. She let them fall to the side as she closed the short distance between them, the steam and water swirling around them. “I heard you come in,” she repeated, her eyes on him. “I tried to wait up.”

“You shouldn’t have,” he murmured, barely audible over the water, but he couldn’t help him. He trailed his fingers down her shoulders, sliding easily with the slickness of the water.

“I was worried,” she admitted. “And I also knew—” She glanced at the side of the shower, the steam clouding the clear glass. “I saw your clothes in the trash. I thought you might be hurt.”

“I’m not.” He kissed her forehead, then trailed his mouth down her skin to her mouth. “Go back to bed. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“You don’t need to do this.” Elizabeth framed his face with hers. “I know who you are.”

“You can’t—”

“And I know where you were.” Her eyes searched his. “It’s over, isn’t it? We’re safe.”

“You’re safe.” For now. Until his choices made a thousand years ago put her in danger again.

“Good.” She slid her arms around his neck, pressing her slick body against his and he groaned, letting his forehead drop to rest against hers. “I know who you are,” she said again. “And I won’t run from it. My face won’t change.”

Jason raised his head, saw the sincerity, the plea to believe her and man, he wanted to. He wanted to believe that this time it was different. That she wasn’t Robin, who had tolerated the other part of him, or Carly who had just wanted the money and power. That here was someone who really did see and understand him. Who wanted him anyway.

He kissed her, slowly and reverently, hoping that it was true, that she really meant it. “Let’s go to bed—”

“Actually—” Elizabeth drew back, her eyes gleaming and her smile turning slightly wicked. “Why don’t we stay right where we are?”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

They slept late the next morning — not that there was much sleep to be had. Jason knew Sonny would call for him eventually, but right now, the morning was theirs. Elizabeth had an evening class and was planning to head to the studio that afternoon, but for now—

He handed her a cup of hot chocolate just the way she liked it, including sprinkles and she beamed at him, curled up in the corner of the sofa. “You really do pay attention.”

Jason sat, his simpler cup of black coffee in hand, and drew her legs over his lap, wanting to be closer to her, needing the contact. “It helps that Emily takes it the same,” he admitted.

“Yeah, I started it. It works great when we’re together. Three packs split two ways.” Elizabeth sipped it, closing her eyes. “Perfect.”

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes. He nearly stayed silent, not wanting to rock the boat. Things were good just the way they were, and he didn’t want to think about anyone else outside this room. But he couldn’t pretend.

“Yesterday,” Jason said, slowly, and looked at her. She raised her brows, her hands cupped around her mug. “You said I wasn’t ready to talk about why I don’t want to tell Sonny or AJ about the baby.”

She exhaled slowly, and some of the light left her eyes. He regretted it, but as long as they didn’t have this conversation, it would sit between them. And she might honestly not want it to mess things up — but it would. He’d learned the hard way from Robin that words left unsaid were worse than the ones that you screamed at each other. Those unspoken words burned like acid at the foundation of everything you wanted, and you wouldn’t even realize it until everything collapsed.

He wouldn’t do it again. He’d never forgive himself if keeping this secret somehow cost him this time with Elizabeth, for however long she’d stay with him. He wasn’t willing to lose a minute of it if he could stop it.

“I did,” Elizabeth said finally. She drew her legs out of his lap, folded them underneath her body, then reached to set the hot chocolate on the table.

“It sounded like you think you know why I’m doing it,” Jason continued, twisting slightly until they were facing each other. “And that it’s not what I’m saying out loud. You think I’m lying to you.”

“No,” Elizabeth said with a forceful shake of her head. “I don’t think you’re lying. You’d never lie to me.”


“Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m worried—” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down as if what she was going to say was so painful she needed to hurt herself first to take the sting out of it. “I’m worried that you’re really protecting Carly. I know it’s about protecting Michael, and I understand that, but he’s barely two. He won’t be called into court to be asked which parent he wants to live with. He won’t even know most of it is happening—”

“Kids know more than we think—”

“I know. I know they do,” Elizabeth assured. “And I know it’ll be upsetting if he loses one of his parents full-time. Whatever else Carly has done in her life, I know she loves Michael. And as much as it hurts you to think about, you know AJ does, too. He’ll know people are angry, but he’ll still feel the love. And I don’t know if it’s a good idea to make this kind of decision because a little boy will be confused for a while.”

Jason exhaled slowly, then looked away, staring at the opposite wall as he took in her words.  Was it really just Michael he was protecting? Or was there some small piece of him that instinctively wanted to shield Carly even after all she’d done to him?

And if that was true—if it really was just Carly he was protecting—what did that say about him? That he was willing to to hurt others to keep Carly happy? To do her bidding and keep her secrets? He’d done it to Robin, hadn’t he? But that was different, he reminded himself. He’d done that to keep Michael. He’d have done anything to keep that precious boy all to himself.

I’m not telling you what you’re feeling or thinking. I’m sorry if that’s how it sounded. I know you hate that,” Elizabeth added, and he swung his head back. “I think saying that I think there’s more to this for you — maybe that’s my own fears creeping out, you know?”

“Your fears?” he repeated, with a frown. “What—”

“I’m scared you’re really just protecting Carly,” she admitted in a small voice. “That you’ve been doing it so long you don’t know how to stop. Or maybe it’s…you told me weeks ago you didn’t think you were still in love with her, but maybe it’s just how you want to feel—”

He scowled. “Don’t—”

“I’m sorry, that’s me—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, her expression twisted, and he wished he hadn’t started this. “That’s me again. I’m afraid that’s how you feel.”

He  didn’t really see how it was any different. “If it’s what you think, then you think I lied—”

“God, I wish it were that black and white,” Elizabeth muttered. She dragged a hand through hair, then covered her mouth. “It’s—it’s—look, the day we got married, I told you that it was all okay—what happened at the church and what Carly said. I told you I was fine because you hadn’t broken any promises to me. I meant that, Jason. But you saw that as much as I meant it, there was a piece of me that didn’t. Because—” Her voice faltered and she stared down at her hand. At the ring he’d slipped on her finger. “Because until she came in, I forgot for a while why we were there. Which seems insane, I guess, but Father Coates was asking us to repeat the vows, and it didn’t feel like a lie.”

“It didn’t for me either,” Jason told her, and she smiled faintly.

“But then Carly came in and it was like someone popped a bubble and I fell to the ground. Two weeks before we got married, you sat in my studio and told another woman you loved her.”

He exhaled slowly. “I thought I did. That seeing her with Sonny had hurt so much because I loved her. It made sense. But I couldn’t have loved her. It wasn’t real—”


“It wasn’t,” Jason insisted. “Because all she ever did was hurt me, and all I ever did was clean up after her and wait for the next round. I loved Michael,” he continued. “And I destroyed everything else in my life to keep him. I wanted him back. And the only way to get him back was to keep Carly in my life. You know how easy it is to lie to yourself, Elizabeth. Is it so hard to believe I was doing it, too?”

“No, I guess not,” she admitted.

“I was hurt because of Sonny,” Jason continued, “and I felt like an idiot because everyone had told me who Carly was. I thought I knew who she was. And I was still blindsided by what she could do. Because to give up on Carly—” He closed his eyes and forced out the next words. “It’s giving up on Michael. I know he’ll never be mine again, but I can’t stop wanting it. I can’t stop loving him. I don’t know how.”

She didn’t say anything to that, and Jason just sat, absorbing it, realizing the truth in his own words. If he kept Carly happy, he was still holding out some kernel of hope that it would be different. That Michael could be his again. Why did he have to keep learning over and over again that Michael wasn’t his to keep and never had been?

“Okay,” Elizabeth said softly. “That’s enough for me.”

Jason frowned, looked at her with confusion. “What?”

“I know how much it hurt to lose him. How much it still hurts. I lost Lucky,” she reminded him, “and I know it’s not the same because maybe it’s worse to lose someone and watch them go off and live a life without you. Michael won’t remember the year he spent with you. For him, it won’t have happened. You get to grieve that for as long you need to, Jason. You let me grieve without limits.”

He scrubbed his hands over his face. “It’s not the same,” he echoed. “And your grieving didn’t hurt anyone.”

“Except myself,” Elizabeth said with a half smile. “But you gave me the space I needed to realize that, and I’m on the other side. I see a future now, and that wasn’t true six months ago.”

And he could see that she meant that. She’d pushed him to examine why he was really keeping Carly’s secret, and now, she was content with what she’d learned. She’d keep this secret for him—one she didn’t agree with—and respect his choices.

His mistakes.

But she was right. What AJ had asked of him—it wasn’t Jason’s to give. And Sonny didn’t deserve to be kept in the dark. Jason had the answer he said he’d been waiting for. It was time to make a choice.

The right one.

Jason got to his feet, put down his coffee cup. He held out his hand, and confused, Elizabeth took it. He pulled her to his feet. “Thank you,” Jason told her, kissing the inside of her palm. “For trying to understand. But you’re right. It doesn’t matter why I’m doing it, I am still protecting Carly. And she doesn’t deserve it. She never has.”


“Come with me.”

Jason waited for her to slip on a pair of shoes, then pulled her across the hall and then he knocked on Sonny’s door. A moment later, it was pulled open by the man himself, who frowned at the two of them. “What—”

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

Carly picked at the remains of the breakfast table, her appetite all but absent. Something strange was in the air, she thought. AJ had been quiet the last few days, and the family seemed to be shiftier than usual.

Were they planning something, she wondered? Or was AJ getting cold feet? The last thing she needed was AJ to have an attack of conscience.

She broke a piece of bacon in half, nibbled, then tossed it away. Everything made her feel sick right now. She needed some fresh air.

Carly jerked open the door to the terrace and stumbled out towards the railing, letting the fresh, bitter cold wash over her. God. Why was she so nervous? AJ might have doubts and second thoughts, but he’d made the announcement, hadn’t he?

And Jason loved Michael enough to protect him. To protect the life Carly was trying to give him.

Why did she feel like everything was about to fall apart?

November 16, 2023

This entry is part 35 of 41 in the Signs of Life

All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I want is to feel this way
The evening speaks, I feel it say

And it won’t matter now
Whatever happens will be
Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be
It won’t trouble me

All I Want, Toad the Wet Sprocket

Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Corinthos & Morgan: Office

Jason scribbled his name at the bottom of a contract, then shoved it into a pile that he intended to dump on the secretary’s desk on his way out. He’d come in this morning to make it look like everything was normal. Like he wasn’t planning to go to the Blue Moon tonight and end the Sorel problem once and for all, but it wasn’t easy to put it out of his mind. He had hours to go before he could—

“Yo—” There was a light knock, and Jason glanced up to find one of the guards in the open doorway. “Uh, AJ Quartermaine is insisting on talking to you. We can kick him out, but I thought I’d check—”

His stomach churned, but Jason got to his feet. There couldn’t be a lot of reasons the Quartermaine scion would be demanding to talk to him. Had AJ realized he might not be the baby’s father? It was one thing to let things drift until Carly’s paternity test, but—

“I’ll take care of it,” he told the guard.

AJ stepped over the threshold and closed the door. They stared at one another for a long moment, then finally he spoke. “I know that I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life. Most of which you don’t even remember. There’s no reason for either of us trust each other after this last year.”

Jason shoved his hands in his pockets. This wasn’t quite the approach he’d expected, so he remained silent.

“I married Carly knowing exactly who she is and what she’s capable of. This was the same woman who drugged me into thinking I was drinking again,” AJ said. Jason kept his face blank, but the reminder of the incident stung. He’d known what Carly had done, but he’d accepted it as part of Carly’s life before Michael. Now, it showed a pattern of being willing to destroy people who’d never hurt her to get what she wanted.

He should have seen it as a lesson to be learned.

“I knew she was in love with you,” AJ continued, “and that there was a chance whatever was going on with you two would continue. I know it has.” His eyes burned into Jason’s. “I deserve the life I have with Carly, and it was always a price I was willing to pay to have Michael. You know that. You were willing to pay it, too.”

“What’s the point of all of this?” Jason interrupted. “Why are you here?”

“Whatever Carly’s faults—and there are many—she’s a good mother. I don’t want Michael to lose what we have. I can live with Carly. And I know you’ve moved on.” AJ swallowed hard. “You’re building a future that doesn’t include her. You took my son for over a year without asking and lied about it. I’m at least giving you the choice.”

Jason furrowed his brow. This was a strange conversation for them to be having—how could AJ sound so convinced? “What—”

“Don’t bother.” AJ held up a hand and Jason closed his mouth. “Carly and I weren’t sleeping together at the point she got pregnant. There’s no chance this is my baby. I hoped that the infidelity clause in the prenuptial agreement would be harsh enough, but I guess Carly can’t help herself. I don’t even know if it’d hold up in family court, and I’m not willing to chance it. I don’t want Michael to be used like a weapon. He’s already spent too much of his life in the middle of all of this.”


“I don’t deserve him. Or any other kids. I don’t deserve anything. For what I did to you. To my family, to the other people that I’ve hurt.” AJ pressed a hand against his chest. “I deserve Carly, okay? But Michael should have his family. I’m asking you to let him have it. I will be a good father, and if you want to be an uncle, I can live with that. I promise. I just—”

“AJ—” Jason stopped. He didn’t know what to say to this impassioned plea from a man who had clearly thought through everything.

“And, you know, maybe we can come clean later. I don’t know. I just—I’m asking you for this. To keep quiet. Do you want to deal with Carly for the rest of your life?” AJ pressed. “Michael will be dragged into court, but so will Elizabeth. You and me, we’ve got enough bad blood. Neither of them deserve it.” He cleared his throat. “You don’t have to decide right now. It’s a lot to ask, and you should think it over.”

Quartermaine Estate: Family Room

Bobbie had thought often about what she was going to do. She’d been pushing the wrong people, she knew that. Putting pressure on Elizabeth when it wasn’t remotely her fight—and the way Elizabeth had looked the last time they’d discussed it, Bobbie had decided to stop. Jason had a right to walk away from Carly and everything that came with her. He had a right to a future.

But that didn’t mean Bobbie was ready to let this go. She couldn’t look the other way while her daughter continued to ruin lives, repeating all the mistakes that Bobbie had in her youth.

“Mama.” Carly’s expression was wary as she stepped into the room where Bobbie was waiting. She closed the doors, leaning against them. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“And this will be the last time,” Bobbie said softly. Carly flinched. “I’m sorry. I am. But I can’t do this anymore. You and I both know that’s not AJ’s child—”

“You don’t—”

“I forgave you for Tony,” Bobbie said, and Carly closed her mouth. “I looked past everything you did to hurt me because, God knows, I was never innocent. I lied, cheated, and stole to get what I wanted, and the only person who ever really got hurt was myself. I wanted better for you. I wanted you to have what I didn’t. So I forgave you. But you haven’t changed. You’re still lying, still cheating, and still stealing what doesn’t belong to you.”

Carly’s eyes burned with tears, but she lifted her chin. “So you’re turning your back on me. Because I’m not living my life the way you want me to—”

“I will miss my grandson,” Bobbie said, and her heart twisted. Oh, God. “But I can’t sit by and watch this. You were willing to sacrifice me to get what you wanted. To put Elizabeth in jail. You would have watched us both get destroyed to punish Jason. I don’t matter to you. No one matters to you but yourself.”

“That’s not true. Mama, please—” Carly’s voice  broke. “Please.”

“I have watched you use Michael since the moment he was conceived, and now you have another child to use as a pawn. You’re good at making people believe in you for a while.” Bobbie went to the door and gently steered Carly away so she could open it. “Tony saw who you really were. So did Jason. And now it’s my turn. Goodbye.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“And he just left it like that.” Elizabeth curled up on the sofa, her eyes wide as she watched Jason at the window on the other side of the fireplace. His expression was troubled, and she knew what was rolling around in his head.

He’d wanted to wait until the paternity test, but now he knew. There was no chance AJ was the father. The time to make a decision was now.

But she swallowed those words. She’d meant what she’d said when they’d first learned about the baby. This was Jason’s choice. For better or for worse. His mistake. She’d made a promise to respect his choices, even when she thought he was wrong. She wouldn’t break it.

“Yeah. He wanted me to think about it.” Jason turned to her, but his expression was hard to read. “What do you think?”

“About what AJ said?” Elizabeth shrugged. “I think, whatever he’s done in the past, he showed a lot of courage in at least facing you head on.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I guess.”

“And he’s not wrong about what the future is going to hold. A lot of time in court for everyone. Carly’s going to go down swinging. Sonny will be dragged into all of that, too.”  She shifted. “But Carly knew what she signed—”

“She was desperate,” Jason interrupted. “She knew the Quartermaines would pay off anyone in court—”

Elizabeth closed her mouth. And just like that — as soon as Elizabeth had begun to criticize Carly, Jason had shut her down. When push came to shove, Jason was still going to defend Carly.

It didn’t matter that he was right. That Carly had likely felt a measure of desperation, but it was of her own making. And he still wasn’t willing to see that Carly had created her own misery and had no problem sharing it with the rest of the world. For all that he talked about moving on and not loving her, it was hard to believe it. Not when he constantly rose up to defend her. “Okay.”

Jason waited, but she remained silent. He furrowed his brows. “Is that all you think?”

“It doesn’t really matter what I think,” she said carefully. “This is your decision.”

“But I’m asking you.”

Elizabeth sighed, then got to her feet. She was tired, and she knew Jason was supposed to be out on business most of the night. She really just wanted to go to bed and never talk about Carly or her children again.

“Okay. Fine. But you asked for it. What AJ wants from you isn’t yours to give,” she said bluntly, and he blinked at that. “He’s asking you not to destroy his family because he thinks you’re going to want, at the very least, joint custody of this baby he’s already told the world is his. If the family finds out it’s not, he’ll feel pressured to divorce her. That’s his problem, and I don’t feel sorry for him. He knew what he was doing when he married her. And the only reason AJ’s even bothering to cover for Carly is because he thinks it’s yours.”


“Because it’s karma for him after you lied about Michael. He gets a little credit for asking permission, but if he knew it was Sonny’s, this wouldn’t be a conversation and you know that. You want my blessing to tell AJ you’ll keep quiet, and I’m not going to give it.”

Jason’s face tightened. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Elizabeth said, wishing she’d kept her own mouth shut at this point, “that whatever you or I feel about Sonny right now, I don’t know that he’s done anything to deserve being kept in the dark. But this isn’t my problem. It’s not my secret. I think you’re wrong not to tell him. But you get to be wrong, Jason. Isn’t what you wanted? The freedom to make mistakes?”

“Yeah, but—”

“I told you I wasn’t going to make this choice for you, and I won’t. AJ, Carly, and Sonny—these are your people, not mine. This has nothing to do with me. Except that I’m married to you.” She folded her arms. “Keep the secret, tell the truth—it’s your choice.”

“But you think I’m wrong.”

“You are wrong,” she said gently, but he still flinched. “And the worst part is you know it. But you don’t want to talk about why you’re doing it, and until then, I don’t know if it does us any good to talk about it.”


“This isn’t a secret that affects our everyday life,” she continued, even though she wasn’t convinced that fact would remain true forever. “It’s not like Robin. You’re not asking me to raise another woman’s son conceived while we were together. This baby? Not my problem. I feel sorry for those kids, though. Because they didn’t ask for it.”

Jason cleared his throat, then looked at the clock across the room. “I have to go.” He started past her, then stopped and took her by the shoulders. “Thank you.”

She raised her brow. “For what?”

“You’re unhappy with this,” he said, “and I guess we still need to talk about it, but thank you for at least telling me. Robin never—she didn’t really. And maybe she just thought it would go away. I didn’t know how unhappy she was until it was too late. I can’t fix anything if I don’t know.”

“Well, then I guess you’re welcome.” She stroked his jaw, knowing what he was leaving to do and wishing he wasn’t so twisted up about all of this. “Be careful tonight, okay? I want to be able to argue with you when you come home.”

He kissed the tip of her fingers, then leaned down for a longer, lingering embrace. “I don’t want to argue with you.”

“Me either.”

“I’ll be careful.” He kissed her again, then left. She watched him go. Tonight, the problem with Sorel was supposed to be over—

But she knew something much worse was on the horizon. Sorel was nothing more than a physical threat, and those didn’t scare her. They still hadn’t really dealt with Carly, and why Jason was really keeping this secret for her.

And whether or not Elizabeth had been unintentionally lying to Jason when she said this wouldn’t affect them or that this wasn’t like Robin. Robin hadn’t confronted Jason about Carly because she’d been scared of the answer. Elizabeth understood the other woman for the first time—and why when Robin had been pushed so far over the edge, she’d blown up Jason’s life.

Elizabeth wasn’t going to do that, but she also wasn’t interested in sitting around for a year while Carly sat in the wings. One way or another, Jason was going to have to choose.

Blue Moon Lounge: Back Room

“You got everything you need?” Vega asked, standing in the doorway and watching Jason set down a hard plastic box and remove a handgun. He checked the magazine, then slid it home, and checked the safety.

“Yeah. You just make sure Sorel’s guys are dealt with,” Jason said. He twisted the silencer onto the barrel of the gun. “You put them down, I’ll do my job.”

“I’ll take the clean up.”

Jason frowned at him. “That’s on us—”

“The reception was my idea,” Vega said, and Jason fell silent. “I put your wife in his cross hairs, and she nearly paid for it. Yeah, maybe you made her a target, but I used her. So my club, my cleanup.”

Which meant Vega was taking on most of the risk. It was a hell of an apology since Sorel hadn’t come directly for him yet — he’d concentrated on Jason and Sonny first since they’d been direct competitors with Moreno.

It meant Jason could take the shot and get the hell out of the area before anyone even knew what had happened.

“We got a deal, Jase?”

“Deal.” Jason met his eyes. “Now show me where I’m supposed to wait until the meeting starts.”

It was time to make Joseph Sorel disappear.

This entry is part 34 of 41 in the Signs of Life

And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you’re my survival, you’re my livin’ proof
My love is alive and not dead

I’ll Be, Edwin McCain

Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

It wasn’t a coincidence. It couldn’t be, Jason thought as he closed the door behind him and faced Sonny, standing at the minibar with a tumbler in his hand. “Vega called last night night to tell me the meeting was set up for tomorrow. And Sorel just happens to pick this afternoon to show his face in public and—”

Make it clear that he’d been the one behind the bomb on New Year’s. Blood pounded in his head, the rage boiling through his veins.

“You think Vega’s setting you up and not Sorel?” Sonny wanted to know.

“No.” Jason shook his head swiftly. “No. Vega’s predictable. He doesn’t want the instability or the power play, and Sorel isn’t going to be satisfied with taking over for Moreno. He’ll keep pushing.”

“That’s true.” Sonny swirled the bourbon. “Then—”

“Sorel had to know we’ve been waiting for the chance to take him out. He’s probably surprised I haven’t done it yet.” He should have taken the chance and strangled him in his sleep, but Sorel never slept alone. Insurance, Jason thought, because the bastard knew Jason wouldn’t dispose of witnesses. “Vega calling a meeting was always going to be suspicious. I just—”

“Hadn’t thought Sorel would make it a spectacle.”

“How’d Elizabeth handle herself?” Sonny wanted to know. “All Francis told me was that he approached her and they exchanged some words.”

“He accused her of having no manners,” Jason said tightly. “Of being the type to hang up on someone. He chose the words deliberately, Sonny. She knew it, and I know it. So do you. If he’d just wanted to insult her, he would have just called her rude for walking away. We never told anyone Elizabeth hung up that night. They only know she spoke to someone claiming to be Sorel.”

“Yeah, that feels like a fuck you he wanted to toss out.” Sonny pressed his lips together, considered. “He wanted you to know it was him. Either he’s arrogant to the point of stupidity or he’s planning something—we might need to think about changing the plan—”

“If something gets triggered because he goes missing,” Jason interrupted, “we’ll deal with it. I’m not worrying about it. Sorel isn’t just a threat to Elizabeth.  He’s a threat to everyone else. I’m not going to wait around for someone else to handle him.”

“I just—” Sonny shook his head. “We need to be ready for anything. I want him gone, too. That’s three times he’s gone for Elizabeth. I don’t want her in danger either. I never wanted that—”

“It was just a risk you were willing to take,” Jason bit out.

“And it’s one you were, too,” Sonny shot back. “You married her, didn’t you? You could have left. Yeah, things would have gone to hell with Carly, but Elizabeth would have been out of it with Sorel, and you knew that. You decided to stay.” His eyes burned into his. “I told you to go, didn’t I? Stop being so pissed off at me because we knew this would happen if you stayed!”

Jason didn’t have an answer for that. Of course not. He’d stayed because Elizabeth had wanted him to, and because he hadn’t wanted to go. But the only way to be sure Sorel wouldn’t use her was not to be in town. He’d put her in the middle of everything by marrying her. He’d made her a target.

“That doesn’t change what you did—”

“No, but I’ll be damned if I take any of the blame for her being in this situation in the first place.” Sonny tossed back the last of his bourbon. “You were the one that stayed in her studio even after people knew you were there. You used her to stay out of sight.”

Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. This wasn’t getting them anywhere. “I don’t want to fight about this anymore,” he growled. “It is what is.” And damn it, Sonny had a goddamn point. The reception was his fault, but everything else— “I have things to do.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth paced the area in front of the fireplace, twisting her hands, waiting for Jason to return from Sonny’s. She hadn’t even been able to tell him more than the content of the conversation before he’d left to talk to Sonny.

Maybe she shouldn’t have stopped. Or maybe she shouldn’t have gone to the studio. They’d said it was okay, that there was security—

The door opened and Elizabeth spun around to find Jason quietly closing the door behind him. He leaned against it for a moment, meeting her eyes from across the room.

“Is, um, everything okay?”

“Yeah. Sonny just wanted to check in.” Jason flicked the lock, then approached her. “You okay?”

“I’m fine. I guess. I don’t know,” she added when he just raised his brows. “It was just…weird, I guess. I did what I’m supposed to do. You know, I just turned and left. I didn’t say anything to him until—”

“Until he reminded you of New Year’s.”

She winced. “Yeah. I don’t know why hearing him confirm it made me feel jumpy. Or why it makes you so mad. We both knew he did it—”

“Yeah—” He slid his hands from her shoulders down to her elbows, then repeated. His touch calmed the jitters in her stomach. “But today, he made sure we didn’t have any doubt. He tried to kill you. Almost did.”

“Yeah. With everything that’s happened since then—” A month ago. That’s all it had been. A month earlier, she’d been worrying herself silly over sleeping with Jason and made a nearly fatal mistake in returning to the studio alone. What a lifetime ago it seemed now. “I don’t really think about it. Everything kept happening, and there wasn’t really time to dwell on that night. Carly started making her threats—”

“And then we got married,” he murmured, “and the PCPD—” Then Carly again, but they didn’t say anything about that. Better to think of Carly as something they’d already dealt with. Elizabeth knew Jason wasn’t going to say another word about the baby until those paternity results came in. And that was if she believed Carly planned to tell the truth when that happened, which Elizabeth didn’t but Jason seemed to take for granted.

No room for that conversation today either.

“You did everything right,” Jason reassured her. “You followed Francis, you didn’t engage in conversation. Sorel wanted you to take a message. You did that.”

“I did kind of get snippy with him at the end,” Elizabeth reminded him.

“Yeah, well, he had that coming.” He kissed her forehead, but lingered, his fingers tightening at her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”


“I’m not sorry we’re standing where we are,” he said, drawing back for a moment. He took her hand in his, his fingers tracing over her wedding ring. “But Sorel is going after you because of me. And Sonny reminded me—” Jason’s eyes clouded over. “The reception might be his fault, but the rest of it—”

“It’s no one’s fault—”

“When I was going to leave town,” Jason told her, “it wasn’t just because of Carly. I knew if I were out of the picture permanently, Sorel would lose interest in you. I stayed.”

“I made you,” Elizabeth insisted. “And I knew—”

“You made a case,” Jason corrected, “and I agreed. I wanted to be here. With you,” he added, and she flushed at that, but managed to smile. “But I knew that it meant you’d be still in the middle of this. That Sorel might see you as someone to use. I could have stopped it. I didn’t.”

“The only way to stop it was to lose this.” Elizabeth leaned up on her toes to kiss him. “And I’ll never be sorry I fought to keep it.”

“Me either.” He tangled his hands in her hair and kissed her back.

Quartermaine Estate: Nursery

Michael toddled towards AJ on a pair of short stubby legs, his hand clutching a block. When he reached his father, Michael dropped the block in AJ’s lap. “Daddy, play.”

“What do you want me to do?” AJ asked, hoping his son didn’t want to play fetch. But Michael was already bringing over more blocks. He then plopped down and started to build a tower.

“Play.” Michael set one block on top of the other. “Daddy.”

“I get it now, buddy.”

Michael grinned and clapped when AJ placed the block on top of the ones he’d already stacked. “Good boy.” He held out another block and AJ took it.

In September, there’d be another baby in the nursery, and Michael would be nearly three. It was crazy to think about expanding a family that still didn’t feel real, even after almost a year.

Jason was a good father.

Ned’s voice echoed in his mind, but AJ pushed it away. His cousin meant well, but this was the right choice. Jason had started a new life, and AJ wasn’t going to blow up his marriage and Michael’s life. He’d known Carly would continue her affair with Jason. He’d tried to curb it, but Jason was the one who had slept with a married woman.

Jason doesn’t owe you fidelity or loyalty.

AJ cleared his throat, smiling as Michael lost interest in the tower and toddled over to another set of toys. Michael had arrived in his life as a beautiful, bright, and vibrant little boy who could already walk and say a few words. Jason, against all the odds, had been a good father. He’d protected Michael and loved him, even when it had cost him his relationship with Robin.

Keeping the secret had felt like karma to AJ for that lost year, but was it? What did AJ owe his little brother for all the years that had been stolen through that car accident? Was it really karma for AJ to steal one more thing from Jason that couldn’t be given back?

Did AJ really think that one year of Michael’s life had balanced the ledger between them? Jason didn’t remember all the times he’d stood by AJ or tried to make him a better person, but AJ did.

Suddenly, AJ’s determination to get justice for Michael’s stolen year seemed weak and petty. There was no balancing the scales between them. AJ would always be in the red, and to claim paternity of Jason’s child would only make it worse.

Could he live the rest of his life like that?


They had plans to spend the evening together, but unsurprisingly, after her run-in on the docks with Sorel, Jason had a thousand things to do that he couldn’t tell Elizabeth about. So she’d gone back to the studio for a few more hours of work.

She’d asked first, of course, if maybe she should stay in but Jason wanted her to act like the incident on the docks hadn’t bothered her. To go about her life as normal. Easier said than done, Elizabeth thought but if that’s what he needed her to do, she’d do it.

She stared at the half-finished canvas, grimacing at the yellow splotch of paint meant to be Angelina’s House of Beauty. She’d wanted to recreate the painting Capelli destroyed, but just like this morning, it simply wasn’t working.

And maybe it couldn’t be remade. It had been a moment in time, a feeling she’d had when she’d been on Jason’s bike a lifetime ago when he’d been Emily’s older brother and the sweet, gruff guy who occasionally put up with her rambling. Being on the bike, the wind rushing past so fast and loud that she couldn’t think — when she’d felt free and young and alive for the first time in months —

It had been a wonderful feeling, and painting it had been exhilarating. But that feeling paled in comparison to how she felt with Jason now. It had just been a taste of what was to come. She’d wanted to paint what it felt like to be free.

The Wind had been about putting away her grief, and moving on with her life. To look past the pain of losing Lucky and finding out there would be tomorrows.

Now she was living in that tomorrow. She’d found love again, even if she wasn’t ready to tell Jason that. She knew what it felt like to love someone with her whole heart, and now she knew what it was to love someone with her body, too.

Elizabeth set aside the old canvas and picked up her sketchbook. It was time to paint the way she felt now.

This entry is part 33 of 41 in the Signs of Life

I only smile in the dark
My only comfort is the night gone black
I didn’t accidentally tell you that
I’m only happy when it rains
You’ll get the message by the time I’m through
When I complain about me and you
I’m only happy when it rains

Only Happy When It Rains, Garbage

Thursday, January 27, 2000

Studio: Hallway

“That door looks like it should be on a bank vault,” Elizabeth said as they drew closer to her studio door. “You don’t think it’s overkill?”

Jason studied the thick, heavy, metal door that had only a small peep hole. “No. It’s not enough, actually.” He pulled keys out of his pocket. “And it’s not as thick as a bank vault. I tried to find a door that was—”

She rolled her eyes, and leaned against the wall, smirking. “Of course you did.”

He handed her a set of the keys, then pushed it open. “I didn’t change anything in here,” Jason said as she went inside. “Except the heating and plumbing. That’s been upgraded. I’m still working on the rest of the building, but I know you wanted to be back here.”

“Feels like a lifetime since I’ve been here,” Elizabeth said, turning in a slow circle. “Doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. I guess so.” The last time he’d been in this room, he’d had to dig his way into the closet to get her out, worried about the bomb under a table — He looked over to the table in question. A single wire had been a dud, stopping the bomb from detonating. How close he’d come to losing her—

“I’ll bring my paints and stuff back this weekend,” she said, drawing his attention back to her. “If you think it’s okay to come back and start working in here again. I have another week at Kelly’s, but I’m excited to have more time for this.”

“Yeah, yeah. You can start moving things back whenever you want.” She beamed, and he smiled back at her. “But Francis or another guard is on the door here, just like at home.”

“Yeah, yeah. How is Francis enjoying his art history classes?” Elizabeth asked, coming back to him, sliding her arms around his waist. “Do you think he’ll let me borrow his notes?”

“I know you hate the full-time guard,” Jason said, and she made a face. But she didn’t deny it, he noticed, and it frustrated him, too. Since Friday, they’d pushed back on plans to get her a car, and now Francis drove her everywhere. He was already sitting in on her classes, on the door at home, in her section at Kelly’s—

“Don’t apologize,” Elizabeth ordered when he opened his mouth. “I get to hate being carted around like cargo without you feeling bad. Two things can be true at once — I hate it, but I also know it’s necessary. Let me complain and make my faces, okay?”

“Yeah, I know. But—”

“But nothing.” She leaned on her toes and kissed him. “Thank you making sure my studio has heat. Did you do the same for the hallway so poor Francis doesn’t get turned into an icicle?”

“Yes.” He deepened the kiss, and she melted against him. Oh, man, if he could get Sorel and nail him down—if he could get rid of him, he could just get back to living his life and figuring out what normal could look like with Elizabeth by his side.

But his phone rang and he had to reluctantly pull back. “I won’t apologize,” he said, dragging the phone from his coat pocket.

“Good, you’re learning.” Elizabeth smirked at him, then wandered away to give him a bit of privacy, something she was good at. She started to sort through canvases while he listened to the voice on the phone.

“I’ll drop you at the penthouse,” Jason said. “I have to go to the No Name and meet with Vega.”

“All right. I have to meet Francis there in an hour anyway. I have another class this afternoon.” She paused. “Will I see you before you have to go out tonight?”

“I—I’m gonna try to make it home first,” Jason told her. “But I can’t promise it.”

“Okay. So, I’ll just order something and leave yours in the kitchen. But hey—” She raised her brows. “Wake me when you get home, okay? Because I don’t have to work until noon tomorrow.” She gripped the lapels of his jacket and leaned up for another kiss. “Let’s see if we can pencil in some time for each other then.”

“This is going to be over soon,” he promised. “Sorel can’t hide forever.”

“I know. I can be patient. Be careful.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room

AJ sipped some water and perused the day’s papers, reading the sections he’d skipped earlier that morning. The house was quiet for once—his grandfather at ELQ, his parents at the hospital, and Carly had gone shopping with Michael. It wasn’t often he got to sit by himself, with his own thoughts.

“Junior. I was hoping to find you in here.”

AJ looked up, grimacing as Ned sauntered in. “Why?” he wanted to know, folding the paper and tossing it aside. “What do you want now?”

“I’ve had some time to think it over.” Ned sat on the sofa, leaning back and crossing one leg over his high. “I wasn’t going to say anything,” he continued, “but the longer I sat with it, the more I decided I should at least tell you what I’m thinking.”

“If this is about the pharmaceutical proposal—”

“It’s about Carly.”

AJ got to his feet, shook his head. “I don’t want to listen to any more of how I’m letting Carly ruin the family—”

“If you go through with pretending you’re the father of this child, it won’t just ruin your family. It’ll ruin everyone else’s.”

AJ stopped at the doorway, turned back to Ned, then closed the door. “I’m not pretending.”

Ned stood with a shake of his head. “You are. And I don’t blame you. There’s karma in this, I get it. Jason took a year of Michael’s life away from you. And we both know he’s still the ghost in your marriage. For the last year, Carly’s schemed to get Jason back. If you hadn’t made her sign that prenup, she’d already be gone.”

AJ’s throat was tight. “Maybe. But she’s here. And we’re making it work.”

“She’s not a terrible mother, so I get why you’re doing this. I barely see my daughter.” Ned grimaced. “Divorce is hell, even when it’s civil. I’ll never be the father I wanted to be for Brook Lynn, not as long as she’s in New York with Lois. I get that you don’t want that for Michael—”

“Get to the point, Ned—”

“Jason was a good father,” his cousin said softly, and AJ scowled. “It doesn’t matter that he didn’t have the right. He was good to Michael—”

“And if he were the father, which he’s not, it would mean he had an affair with my wife,” AJ bit out. “You think he needs to be rewarded for that—”

“You married Carly knowing that was probably going to happen. Jason doesn’t owe you fidelity or loyalty. Especially after you slammed his head into a rock—”

“Damn it—”

Carly made you those promises. She’s the one that broke them. And right now, she’s the only one getting away with it. How is that fair to anyone?”

No Name Restaurant: Private Dining Room

Jason scowled, dragged his hand through his hair. “Sorel can’t keep this game up forever. I told you I didn’t need your help—”

“Two weeks of cat and mouse, and you don’t want any help?” Daniel poured himself a tumbler of whiskey. “Are you sure that’s wise?”

“The last time I had help from you or your people, it didn’t go so well.” Jason shoved his hands in the pockets of of his leather jacket. “Sorel is keeping out of public. And I’m not taking the chance that he’s trying to trap me into trying something on private property. He has to know something is coming after what he did.”

“Jason—” Daniel sat at a table. “Sit.”

“I don’t—”

“That wasn’t a suggestion.” And while the hard tone made Jason want to punch someone, he also recognized that he didn’t have a lot of power in this situation. He didn’t want to be in charge, and so he wasn’t on their level.

Jason reluctantly sat across from the older man. “What?”

“You had a close call two weeks ago,” Daniel said, and Jason grimaced. “A very close call if the story Sonny related to us was true.” Jason blinked. “He gave us the details you weren’t interested in offering. You made a mistake that night and your wife nearly paid for it—”

“Keep her out of it—”

“I’d like to, but you brought her into it.” Daniel paused, waiting for Jason to look at him. “You made her a target, Jason. By staying at that studio and letting those rumors swirl about her. And then you married her which told Sorel everything he needed to know. He looks for weaknesses. And you served him one on a silver platter.”

“I had to sit for this?”

“Cut the attitude. If you had all the answers, you wouldn’t be standing in front of me after two weeks of no progress,” Daniel said flatly, and this time Jason dropped his gaze. “I was willing to let you take the lead on this to see if it would work. And because it was your family that was threatened. I can understand the hesitancy in going after Sorel with no holds barred. You don’t wish to have any blowback. Not on yourself, on Sonny, or Elizabeth. This is admirable, but Jason, it is not realistic. You cannot do this alone.”

“I—” Jason exhaled on a quiet breath. “I don’t know who I can trust in that room.”

Daniel’s eyes sharpened. “You don’t trust Sonny?”

Jason stared at him, said nothing, and Daniel nodded. “I won’t ask if you trust me, though I’m not sure I’ve done anything to deserve that. I got you out when you wanted to be out, didn’t I? I brokered that deal with Moreno, and I lent my assistance when you and Sonny wanted back in.”

“The reception was your idea,” Jason said. “Maybe I made Elizabeth a target, but you were happy enough to use her. You think I trust you? You brokered that deal because you didn’t like me being in charge and you wanted me out. And you helped Sonny get back in because you didn’t like what Moreno turned out to be. You want sit here and act like you’ve done me favors. You didn’t. The only reason I’m taking this meeting is because I like your wife.”

Daniel nodded. “All of these things are true. I did all those things out for you because it served my own purposes. But I never pretended generosity. I never pretended to be doing it for friendship. I am who I am, Jason. I want Sorel gone because he’s unpredictable. I don’t know if he meant for that bomb to explode on New Year’s, but it told me that he doesn’t think two steps ahead. That bomb would have brought us nothing but grief and sorrow. You’d have lost your wife, but the authorities would have rained down on us like hellfire with the death of a potential witness.”

He pushed back from the table. “Sorel and I have business dealings. One of my clubs is on the border between our territories. He’s been pushing in, making trouble for me. And when I call him, Jason, he answers.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “He’d see through it—”

“He has no reason to think you’ll be involved. It’s a business meeting between associates. He’ll come to my club on my turf,” Daniel said. “He may bring some of his men. I can handle that. Your job will be to stay out of sight and take the shot.” He arched a brow. “Can you handle that?”

“Yeah. I can handle that. Set it up.”

“It might take a few days, but I’ll be in touch.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2000


Elizabeth swirled the last paintbrush in the sink, then set it aside to dry. She glanced over her shoulder at the canvas on the easel across the room, studying it with a critical eye. It was her third attempt at trying to recreate The Wind which had been destroyed the day the PCPD raided the penthouse, but she hadn’t quite recaptured the way she’d felt that first time.

That first try had been messy with some splatters and drips, but it had felt right. Every other attempt just felt like she was copying her own work.

She exhaled on a huff, then checked the clock. If she left right now, she’d might be able to catch Jason before he had to leave. He was supposed to be gone again tonight, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see him. It had been difficult for the last few weeks, only seeing him in bits and pieces, snatching whatever time they could together. But she was determined to prove that she could handle this.

And while Sorel had served a useful purpose in keeping Jason focused on him, and not on the secret he was keeping for Carly, Elizabeth knew it wasn’t far from the back of his mind. Carly had promised to take a paternity test after the first trimester, and then they’d have to deal with whatever happened. She wasn’t sure, even if the results came back in favor of Sonny, if Carly wouldn’t find a way to guilt or manipulate Jason into keeping the secret anyway.

But that was a problem for another day. Time to stop thinking about all of the things she had no control over and go home to her husband while she still could.

Elm Street Pier

She jogged down the steps to the pier, crossing towards Bannister’s Wharf and the parking lot where the car waited. Several feet behind her, a guard trailed. She always felt bad for the guards assigned to her — they were supposed to follow her around, but she had such short legs. How did they stay behind without basically dragging their own feet?

Distracted for a moment by the thought of the tall, blond, muscular Francis keeping the pace of a turtle, Elizabeth didn’t hear the other footsteps until two men stepped out from the steps leading up to the wharf.  She stumbled to a stop, and almost as quickly, Francis stepped up and slid in front of her.

“Ah, Mrs. Morgan.” Joseph Sorel smiled, flashing his even white teeth. “What a lovely surprise.”

“Out of the way,” Francis stated simply, taking Elizabeth by the elbow. “Now.”

“This is a public dock,” Sorel murmured. “I can walk where I wish.”

“Let’s just go back,” Elizabeth told Francis. They’d go back to the studio or towards Kelly’s. Francis nodded, and they started to turn.

“I’m surprised you’ve returned to your, ah, studio.”

“Ignore him,” Francis muttered, and Elizabeth agreed. They were already at the stairs with Francis almost shoving her onto the bottom step.

Then Sorel spoke again. “Those bad manners are showing again. No greeting, no goodbye. You don’t even let a man finish his sentence before you hang up.”

Elizabeth froze, turned just a moment to meet Sorel’s eyes. Hang up.

She’d hung up on him that night at the studio, when it was clear that he’d be of no use to her. He’d claimed it wasn’t him, but she’d always known it was. She’d heard his voice that night at the reception and recognized it, the smooth lies over the oily tone. Insincerity oozing from every word.

He’d chosen his words carefully to remind her. To carry a message. He’d gotten to her in the studio. In the limo. Today on the docks.

If not for a bad charge on the bomb on New Year’s, Elizabeth might already be dead.

“When you show me a man worth respecting,” Elizabeth said coolly, “then we can discuss manners.” Then she turned away, continuing her climb, her heart pounding, Francis’s boots echoing in her ears.

November 10, 2023

This entry is part 32 of 41 in the Signs of Life

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“You know, why don’t you take a seat at the counter?” Tammy suggested, as Elizabeth limped towards the cash register. “Those feet have to be killing you—”

“Better than the weekend.” Elizabeth separated her cash tip from the money left on the table and slid it into her apron. “And it’s down to a dull throb. There’s just one cut that was deeper than the rest.” She winced, shifting her weight from that foot. “The rest are pretty much good.”


“I’m okay.” Elizabeth handed Tammy the receipt from the table she’d just cleaned. “And I’ll be more careful trying to cook in the kitchen.”

“Mmm-hmm.” The manager eyed her critically, and Elizabeth knew that her cover story for the injury hadn’t fooled her. But Tammy didn’t ask any other questions. “How were your classes yesterday?”

“Good. Better since I cut back to only four,” Elizabeth admitted. She started another pot of coffee. “I only have to be on campus two days a week which gives me more time for other things. Jason said my studio was almost finished being renovated.”

“And I, for one, will be very happy when you have a safe place to work. Doors that lock. Heating that works.” Tammy hesitated. “Have you given any more thought to what we talked about last week? About maybe leaving the nest?”

“You trying to fire me?”

“No, no. Of course not. I just know how loyal and stubborn you can be.” Tammy shrugged and pulled out the ledger book to enter in the sale from the day. “So is that a no?”

“It’s actually…I was going to give you my two week’s notice at the end of the shift,” Elizabeth admitted. “Jason and I talked about it, and he agreed with you. Of course he did.”

“I knew it. As soon as you told me you were gonna maybe travel some this summer.” Tammy nodded. “Good. You’ll have time to work on your art, finish your education, and give your marriage a good chance. You gotta put the work in, you know. The first few months — well, you can ride high on the heat and the sweet. But eventually, you see each other on a bad day, and that’s when marriage becomes a choice.”

“The heat and the sweet,” Elizabeth repeated. “That’s an interesting way to put it, but I guess you’re right. Everything has been…” So fast, she thought. A whirl wind. She and Jason had been friendly before that night in November when she’d asked him to dance. How could so much have changed in less than two months? It seemed almost impossible that she was standing here, giving her two week’s notice because she had Jason’s support.

Her husband’s support.

“I gotta say, I had my doubts when I read the news — I knew he’d only been sniffing around for a little bit,” Tammy continued. She picked up a tub of dirty dishes and went into the kitchen. Elizabeth followed. “I thought maybe you were moving too fast. Or maybe he’d, uh, gotten you in trouble.” She lifted her brows, and Elizabeth flushed.

“No. No, definitely not.” And she’d gone to the doctor like they’d talked about. And hopefully, in another week or so, she’d get the confirmation that their rush a few nights ago wouldn’t have any lasting consequences. “We just…I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea.”

“Well, it’s been almost three weeks,” Tammy said. “Do you still think it was a good idea?”

Elizabeth considered the question. The threat from Carly was a fading one, though she had her worries about the secret Jason was keeping from Sonny on Carly’s behalf. There was the more worrying threat of Sorel going after her again, but she wasn’t that concerned. But had they really needed to get married to solve either of those problems? Probably not.

“I do,” she said finally. “In fact, I think it was a great idea. And I’m really happy.”

“Good. Consider your resignation accepted. We’re going to miss you around here.” Tammy hugged her. “And you’re always welcome back if you miss the smell of grease and chili.”

Thursday, January 20, 2000

Quartermaine Estate: Master Bedroom

Carly poured over the staff directory from Mercy Hospital, but wasn’t surprised when she learned that Lorraine wasn’t still working there. And the nurse had already been an unreliable ally the last time Carly had worked with her. But it hadn’t been Lorraine’s fault the truth had come out — that had been AJ.

No, she just needed a paternity test that would stand up to whatever Jason would do with it. Would he investigate it himself? Carly tossed the staff directory back into the drawer and found the phone book. Maybe Lorraine was working at a different hospital — she had money now. Lots of it. And AJ never asked about how she spent it.

She’d pay Lorraine whatever she wanted this time if she could just guarantee a paternity test Jason would believe. Oh, but what if the kid came out looking just like Sonny? Jason would never believe it then—

Carly scowled and paced the room, a hand at the small of her back. She could try to get to Lorraine, that was definitely an idea on deck. But she needed an exit plan. A way to guarantee that she could keep herself out of a bitter custody dispute with Sonny and out of divorce court with AJ.

She exhaled slowly, met her eyes the mirror. There were only a few ways out of this mess, Carly thought. And none them ended particularly happy. She just had to choose her poison, commit to it, and hope for the best.

She’d track Lorraine down and hope like hell her genetics won the day and gave her a blonde-haired baby. The universe owed her that much, at least.

Friday, January 21, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason emerged from the kitchen as Elizabeth limped through the front door. His brow creased. “It’s still hurting?”

“Not as bad as a few days ago.” She sighed with relief as Jason slid her coat off her shoulders, took her backpack, and then carried her to the sofa. “I could have made it on my own.”

“Yeah, yeah—” He slid off her ballet-shoe shaped flat and sighed. The cuts were basically healed — just thin lines at the bottom of her feet. “It’s just this foot now, right?”

“Mmm. The deepest cut. Your medical guy said it would take another few days the last time he looked.” She sighed and stretched her arms over her head.

“Richie also said that you should stay off of it,” Jason reminded her. She cracked open one eye.

“What’s your point?”

“Nothing.” He couldn’t help but smile at the grumbling in her voice. While it frustrated him at times that she was so stubborn, he also respected her more for it. She’d promised Audrey she’d finish college, so she’d gone to her classes. And she had refused to call out of Kelly’s, knowing she would leave Tammy short-handed. Not when she was already planning to leave her job.

It would be so easy for her, Jason thought, to have lounged around the penthouse the way Carly had. To go shopping and use the bank account he’d given her. Not that he’d ever look, but he doubted that she’d even touched any money that she hadn’t earned.

“I can feel you looking at me.”

“I was thinking about how much I wish I didn’t have to go out again tonight,” he said with a sigh, and now she opened both her eyes and sat up on her elbows. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Elizabeth sat all the way up now, folding her legs beneath her. “We don’t have to talk about where you’re going,” she added, “because I know it. And while it’d be great if it was just over already, it’s not that easy.” She leaned forward, kissed him. “When do you have to go?”

Jason pulled her across his lap and kissed her again, deepening the embrace. It had been days, he thought, since they’d had time for each other. It seemed like she was always coming in as he was going out. “I have to deal with a shipment first, and then—” Then he’d do his round of the places Sorel might be, looking for the opportunity to make this over. Sorel had been cagey the last week — avoiding public places — and the last thing Jason wanted was to chance breaking into a private property.

No, this had to be a clean kill with a guaranteed disposal. He wasn’t going to take any chances that he couldn’t come home. Or that he’d leave Elizabeth unprotected.

“I probably have an hour or so.”

“Mmm, that’s enough time—” Elizabeth sighed when his cell phone rang. “Or not.” She shimmied off his lap, and he grimaced at the interruption. He went into the kitchen to answer it since it was one of their guys at the warehouse.

When he came back, he went to the closet for his lockbox. “I have to go now,” Jason said, with some regret. “I’m sorry.”

“What did I say about apologizing?” She leaned over the back of the sofa, watched him. “I should learn how to use a gun. I can hold one,” she continued when he looked at her, startled. “But I don’t know if I can do more than aim and hope for the best. Do you think I should know?”

“Do I get in trouble if I say I wish I could say no?” Jason asked. He slid a magazine into the the gun, then pulled out the holster that sat at the small of his back. He tucked the gun securely, then closed the lockbox. “But you should probably know how to aim,” he said. “And to hit something.” He looked at her, considering. “Do you really want to know?”

“That feels like a trick question.” She sat back on her heels. “No. But wanting and needing are two different things. And I don’t want to learn in the moment, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do.” He returned the box to the closet. “I’ll take you out to the range,” he said. “And you can get a permit.” He came back to the sofa, leaned down to kiss her. “But stay out of trouble while I’m gone.”

“No guarantees,” she called as he left, and he grinned as he pulled the door shut.

Elizabeth was already bored out of her mind an hour after Jason had left, flipping through the channels and contemplating pizza for dinner. When the phone rang, she was almost pathetically excited for something to do. She grabbed the cordless from the coffee table. “Hello?”

“Mrs. Morgan, I have Carlotta Vega in the lobby, hoping you have some time today.”

Carlotta Vega? Elizabeth straightened, her brows furrowed. “Ah, she can come up.”  Why would she come here? Hadn’t she said she’d send Elizabeth an invitation? And was she supposed to let the woman come upstairs without Jason being here?

Yes, she thought. The front desk guards wouldn’t have even bothered to call — Jason would have given them a list of people to admit or to keep out. And he’d liked Carlotta Vega, hadn’t he?

Still a bit bewildered, Elizabeth opened the door a few minutes later when she heard the elevator outside the door. Francis had his hand already poised to knock. “Mrs. Vega is here,” he said.

“Yeah, um, yes, thank you.” Elizabeth felt a bit dowdy in the jeans and sweater she’d worn to her classes and her feet bare, except for the heavy wool socks she’d put on when Jason left. “Mrs. Vega—”

“Please…” Carlotta sailed in, perfectly coifed in a coffee and cream skirt set, her hair just precisely set, and pearls at her ears. “I’ve been thinking about you all week, my dear.” She kissed Elizabeth’s cheek. “But Daniel insisted I give you some time to recover.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth closed the door. “I’m fine.”

“After we heard what happened, I hope you know we were both quite upset. Daniel was already regretting the reception by the time you arrived last week—” Carlotta ushered Elizabeth back to the sofa. She sat in the armchair. “And what was attempted — Sonny told us how brave you were.”

“Well, I don’t know about brave. Just—just stubborn. I guess.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Do you—I could make some coffee?”

“I’m only here for a moment, my dear. I don’t intend to put you out at all.” Carlotta patted her knee. “Sonny told us you’d hurt your feet?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth curled her toes. “Yeah, well. We had to—I couldn’t run in heels. And stockings don’t really offer a lot of protection. But I’m okay. Mostly all healed.”

“Well, that’s good. You don’t have to be nervous—” Carlotta’s eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled. “Unless Jason’s been filling your ears with terrible tales—”

“Oh. No, no, no. The opposite, really. Just that you’re kind of…” Elizabeth hesitated. “He said he liked you. And I did, too. I do, still. I mean. I think—” She paused. “When Sorel cut into that dance last week, you stopped Jason from murdering him on the spot.”

“To my everlasting regret,” Carlotta muttered, and Elizabeth smiled, a bit more at ease. “It’s best to tread lightly, Elizabeth, when you’re in a room filled with men who claim to be your ally with one breath, and stab you with the next. You’ll learn this as you go along, but just because it appears everyone was on the same side last Friday, that does not make it true. Sorel has allies. Ones we know about, and the ones we do not. Jason knows this, but I worried he might forget in the moment. He’s quite protective of you.”

“I know. I guess I just—you handled Sorel so well that night. And he…he was intimidated by you.” Elizabeth paused. “I guess I wish I could do that. Or at least know to handle that better. I don’t want to be a liability for Jason.”

“I would hope that if I were in a limo with my husband,” Carlotta said, “and we learned that we were in the process of being kidnapped, that I would have the strength and courage to leap out and run away with him. Sonny told us that Jason had been injured. That it was you who kept Joseph’s men from accomplishing their goal.”

“I—yeah, I guess.”

“That is precisely the opposite of a liability. But I understand your concern. It’s not a world for the weak, Elizabeth. And if you choose it, you must really choose it.” She tilted her head. “Have you made the choice with your eyes wide open?”

“I think so. I mean, yes.” Elizabeth nodded, thinking of the gun shot wound she’d tended, the bomb in her studio — the chances she’d had to walk away. “Yes. I knew who Jason was when I married him. And I wouldn’t want him to be different. Not unless it’s something he wants.”

“Good. Good. Well, I won’t keep you any longer, my dear. Expect an invitation to tea. Thank you for letting me impose on you.”

“It was nice to see you.” Elizabeth followed her to the door. “Um, tell Mr. Vega I said hello.”

“I will do that.” Carlotta smiled at her, then left. Elizabeth exhaled on a rush of air, a bit relieved. She genuinely liked the other woman, but it had felt like a visit from the president or some other visiting dignitary. She was just relieved it was over.

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason tiptoed into the room, having already kicked off his boots downstairs. It was just past five in the morning, and the sleepless nights were starting to wear on him.

Elizabeth was curled up on her side of the bed, her hands tucked under her chin, the comforter pooled around her waist. He waited an extra moment, to be sure her breathing was deep and even — he hadn’t woken her.

He tossed his clothes in the hamper, pulled on a pair of sweats and crawled into the bed, inching towards her. He didn’t want to wake or disturb her, but he also — he just missed her.

Jason stretched himself out at her back and kissed her shoulder before laying his head on her pillow, content to just be close.

“You’re home,” her slurred words barely audible.

“Go to back to sleep,” he murmured in her ear. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Not awake. Dreaming.” She sighed, then snuggled against him. He relaxed, laid a hand over her waist, which she found and laced together with her own, holding it against her abdomen. Jason closed his eyes and let himself drift to sleep.