September 26, 2023

This entry is part 16 of 16 in the Signs of Life

It’s just you and me
On my island of hope
A breath between us could be miles
Let me surround you
My sea to your shore
Let me be the calm you seek
Oh and every time I’m close to you
There’s too much I can’t say
And you just walk away

I Love You, Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, January 5, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason immediately reached for his pants, yanking them on as Elizabeth went straight for the phone. He heard her greet Alexis by name as the pounding on the door continued.  He just shook his head, tugging his shirt on. She kept surprising him with her instincts—he hadn’t even had to say anything about calling his lawyer.

“She’ll be right up,” Elizabeth told him, cradling the phone on her shoulder. Jason nodded, then flipped the lock and pulled the door open, forcing his face into a blank expression even though he wanted to growl at the detectives on his doorstep.

“Took you long enough,” Taggert sneered as he sauntered past Jason, slapping a piece of a paper against his chest. He held out a second piece to Elizabeth. “I brought a second copy for the wife,” he drawled, his tone setting Jason on edge. “I know how you want to make sure everything is legal.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes but accepted the warrant, scanning the opening lines. Her eyes widened slightly, but that was the only change in her expression. Jason dropped his gaze to the copy in his hands—

They were looking for evidence that Jason had been shot a month earlier—clothing with blood stains or bullet holes — he gritted his teeth. There was nothing to find of course. He’d never stepped foot in the penthouse until he’d nearly recovered, and there was nothing at the studio either. He’d made sure of that after Carly had made her threats—

But they knew he’d been shot which meant Carly had called their bluff.

“We’ll get started down here,” Taggert told the officers who came in after him. He nodded to Capelli. “You take a few uniforms upstairs.”

“I want to go,” Elizabeth said immediately. “I’m allowed,” she added when Capelli just glared at her. “I’m setting up my studio and there are chemicals, okay?”

“Fine,” Taggert retorted before Capelli could protest. Jason wasn’t wild about Elizabeth going upstairs alone to supervise. He had confidence in her, but Capelli was the wild card. New to the PCPD, he was hot-headed and wouldn’t have even the basic respect Taggert did for Elizabeth.

“I don’t know what the hell you did to convince her to do this,” Taggert told Jason, “but you should be god damned ashamed yourself. She’s a kid—”

Jason said nothing. He knew Elizabeth was only eighteen, but why didn’t anyone ever stop to remember that he had no memories older than four years? Why didn’t that count for anything?

“Where’s the warrant?” Alexis demanded, appearing in the doorway, her cheeks flushed. Sonny was just over her shoulder. “What the hell is the basis for this search?” Jason handed her the paperwork. “Where’s Elizabeth?”

“Supervising the search upstairs—” Jason turned when he heard something rip—then saw one of the officers slicing down the cushion of the sofa. “What the—”

“Hey!” Alexis strode forward only to be waylaid by Taggert. “They’re looking for clothing,” she spat. “How the hell—”

“We can do a reasonable—” Taggert began but then there was a cry from the upstairs.

“Stop! Don’t—” Then Elizabeth’s voice went quiet. Even before her voice had faded, Jason had lunged towards the stairs.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

By the time Alexis reached the bedroom, she knew she was going to have to act quickly. Sonny had followed on Jason’s heels and had an arm out, blocking Jason from moving forward.

Capelli had Elizabeth shoved up against the wall—one hand on her head, the other holding her hands together behind her back. On the ground, between the closet and the bed was a pile of white fabric and nearby, a painting neatly wrapped in brown packaging — with a foot-shaped hole through the middle of it.

Taggert hauled Capelli away from Elizabeth who was crying, her cheeks flushed.

“What the hell is going on?” he demanded of the other cop.

“She interfered with my search,” Capelli snarled, “and was resisting arrest—”

“Interfered—” Elizabeth’s words were choppy as she forced herself to take a breath. Jason shoved off Sonny’s hand and went to her, framing her face with his hands. “I didn’t—I wasn’t—”

Alexis took another sweep of the room and her stomach pitched. They were searching for clothing, but the only clothing she could see was Elizabeth’s. The dresser drawers that had been dumped out onto the floor were hers, based on the feminine undergarments strewn across the carpet. Dresses and shirts and other pieces clothing had been ripped from hangers—

And the pile of white fabric, Alexis realized now, was Elizabeth’s wedding dress.

“I came in and he was throwing my clothes around,” Elizabeth tried to say. She cleared her throat, looked at Jason. “I tried to tell him where your things were because he was in the closet—and—”

“I can search everything in the damn room,” Capelli retorted, lifting his chin, but even Taggert was glaring at him. “What if he’d hidden evidence—”

“How did the dress get on the floor?” Taggert asked quietly. He went over to the garment bag that had, until the search, been neatly zipped and hanging outside the closet. The zipper was broken off as if it had been forcibly ripped open.

“He tore—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, it’s stupid. It’s just a dress. He’s right. He tore my dress, and I got upset. I grabbed his arm—”

Wordlessly, Sonny went to the dress and lifted it up by the bodice. One of the straps was ripped and there was a tear in the delicate bodice. He held it up by the one intact strap, then arched a brow at Capelli. “You think some bloodstained clothing was hiding inside the tulle?”

Capelli pressed his lips together. “I have every right—”

Taggert knelt down and turned over the painting. He looked at the foot-shaped hole, then at Capelli’s feet. “What happened to the painting?”

“It was on the floor—”

“When I grabbed his arm, he shoved me back,” Elizabeth interrupted. “And then he grabbed that—it was leaning against the wall—” she looked at Jason. “I brought it upstairs yesterday, remember? Before I—”

“I remember,” Jason said flatly. “It was leaning against the wall by the closet. And it was in one piece.”

“He did it on purpose—and then he shoved me against the wall—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. I should have just let him—”

“Don’t be sorry,” Jason cut in sharply, and she flinched. “You did nothing wrong.” He fisted his hands at his side. “Or do you want to arrest her for interfering?” he demanded of Taggert who slowly got to his feet.

“You could try it,” Alexis said with a dangerous smile. “But then I’ll explain that Capelli clearly targeted Elizabeth’s possessions in this rooms. Jason’s dresser—untouched. His clothing? Not on the floor. And you went for a wedding dress knowing she only got married yesterday—and this—” She took the painting from Taggert. “This tips it over into destruction.”

“I have every right—”

“Shut your goddamned mouth,” Taggert threw at Capelli who growled. “She’s right.”

“He married a witness—”

“And if you think that’s true,” Alexis said pleasantly, “what you’ve done today is nothing more than witness intimidation. You destroyed my client’s possessions and did irrefutable damage to her wedding dress and her painting — these are irreplaceable and I will be filing suit against the department.”

“Get downstairs.” Taggert grabbed Capelli and shoved him towards the door. “And get out of here. We’ll talk back at the station—”

“I can do whatever I want—”

“Like hell you can. Not on my cases.” Taggert swept his eyes over the room, over the other uniforms. “This search is over. We’re leaving.” When they hesitated, he narrowed his eyes. “Now.”

He turned back to Elizabeth who refused to look at him. Regret was etched into his expression, but Taggert said nothing, then left.

“I’ll make sure they all get out,” Sonny said, shoving his hands in his pockets and shaking his head. “And they call us the criminals.” He gently laid the damaged wedding dress on the bed. “I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.”

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said again as she was left alone with Jason and Alexis. “I didn’t mean—”

“Actually,” Alexis said with a half smile. “You might have done us a favor. Capelli has just tainted this entire search. I can make a good case that he was engaging in witness intimidation—he was angry that you were supervising the search,” she added, “and that you’d removed yourself from being interrogated through marriage.” She looked around the room, then at the painting she held. “So he decided to punish you.”

“And that helps us?” Jason asked skeptically.

“They clearly got this warrant based on Carly’s statement,” Alexis said. “The only way to give her statement any corroboration was to find some evidence backing it up. They can’t search now, and I assume even if they searched the studio, there’d be nothing to find.” She shrugged. “They can’t question Elizabeth now because of the intimidation. I won’t let you answer questions under any circumstances,” she said. “No lawyer would. Their case is dead in the water.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth rubbed her arms restlessly. “I guess that’s good, then. I wasn’t—”

“Capelli did this to himself,” Alexis assured her. “No one is going to say you were wrong to react when he went after your personal possessions. There’s not a woman in the world who wouldn’t have been upset to have their wedding dress destroyed in front of them—”

She shrugged, and set the painting down. “You reacted naturally, Elizabeth. I’ll put in a call to Mac and put together paperwork. We won’t actually file, but it’ll be enough to hold it over his head.”

She left them alone then, and Jason didn’t know what to say. Carly had followed through with her threats, but Elizabeth had been the one hurt. The painting—

Elizabeth went over to it, tearing away the last of the brown packaging, sighing as she ran her hands over the familiar jumble of colors he remembered from a few weeks earlier. The canvas had been framed with a light wood and looked like it was ready to be hung—

Except for the Capelli-shaped foot in the middle of the ferris wheel.

“I thought it might be nice to hang it in here,” Elizabeth said, numbly, running her fingers over the rips in the canvas.

“Can it be fixed?” Jason asked, his chest squeezing. She’d painted the wind and then she’d made him see it. Because of him, it had been ruined—

“Probably not, but I’ll try, I guess.” Elizabeth set it back down and looked at him. “It’s okay. I’ll put everything back. You should go talk to Sonny and Alexis.”

He shoved his hands in his pockets, feeling uncomfortable. “Okay. If you’re sure.”

“I am.” She forced a smile and it made him feel worse. “I’ll be down in a little bit. We’ll get something to eat.”

“Okay.” He went to the door, looked over his shoulder, still unsure, but then left her to clean up the mess the PCPD had left behind.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Mac lunged to his feet as Taggert charged through the door with Capelli hot on his heels. “What’s going on?” the commissioner demanded.

“This asshole just screwed our entire search—” Capelli began, his face florid.

“You just bought this department a civil suit,” Taggert shot back. “You dumb son of a bitch—Mac, I won’t work with him. He needs to be off my case—”

“Why doesn’t someone just tell me what happened at the Towers?” Mac wanted to know, stepping between the two of them. “I take it we didn’t get anything from the search—”

“Dumbfuck over here called it off,” Capelli sneered. “And called back the guys from the studio—”

Mac frowned, looked back at Taggert. “Is that true?”

“He went upstairs to search the second floor,” Taggert said, tightly. “I stayed downstairs with the uniforms and wait for Alexis—she was on her way. Elizabeth went upstairs to supervise—”

“She interfered—I had every right to haul her into the station—”

“Interfered? You asshole—” Taggert grabbed Capelli’s shirt and shoved him against the wall. “You think I didn’t see what the hell you did in that room? How you treated her?”

“Taggert, Taggert—” Mac pushed himself in between them again. “What happened?”

“I knew Morgan was too damn smart to hide anything in his own dresser, so you’re damn right I searched that whore’s dresser first! And she tried to stop me, so I—”

“Ripped her wedding gown from the hanger, stomped on it, and put your foot through a painting—”

“Both of you shut up right now.” Mac raked a hand through his hair. “You searched Elizabeth’s possessions. That’s within the law—”

“Really? Really?” Taggert shook his head. “Not a damned chance. The dresser next to the door — that’s where you start. You don’t go across the room and start yanking out drawers — and you only dumped her lingerie drawers. Then you went to the closet — and you shoved everything on the floor—you tore the garment bag—”

“Is that true?” Mac demanded. “Did you deliberately go into that bedroom to destroy Elizabeth Webber’s possessions?”

“It’s Morgan now, don’t you forget that! She’s not some little sweetheart. She’s just a bitch whore spreading her legs for scumbags—”

This time it was Taggert who had stop Mac from choking Capelli as he stepped in front of the commissioner as he lunged towards the other detective — because insulting Elizabeth simply for dating Jason Morgan was an insult to Robin.

“If he’d unzipped that garment bag carefully, he wouldn’t have torn the fabric,” Taggert bit out. “He would have been able to see it was a pile of fucking tulle—” And there’d been something tragic about Elizabeth’s eyes when she’d described it. He’d thought it had been a ploy to avoid investigation—and maybe it was — but she’d cared about her dress, and it had been destroyed in front of her face.

“Could have been something—”

“Why didn’t you dump the rest of the drawers? Why you’d put your foot through a painting? That’s destruction—” Taggert stopped, shook his head. “Alexis Davis will be here in the morning with the lawsuit, you bet your goddamn ass. You want her to back down, you need to get him away from me.”

“You’re suspended,” Mac told Capelli. “Get out of my sight.”

“You’ll be hearing my union rep!”

“Looking forward to it.” Mac slammed the door, his scowl only deepening. “Tell me straight. How bad is it?”

“I tried my best to keep it under control, but Capelli picked the uniforms — and they trashed the place while I was upstairs.” Taggert exhaled slowly. “I know I get tunnel vision. I know that Morgan and Corinthos make me go crazy, but what happened tonight—” He shook his head. “It’s not right.”

“Capelli’s not the only one who’s going think it’s open season on Elizabeth because she married Jason—it’s not like Robin,” Mac said when Taggert began to protest. “Robin grew up around these guys. They knew her before she got involved with Jason. You’re the only cop who knows Elizabeth. They’re not going to care—”

“Well, it’s bullshit. And he torpedoed any chance I had of using Carly’s statement against Morgan. You keep him away from me, Mac, or next time I’ll knock his lights out.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason grimaced as he inspected the leather sofa, sliding his fingers down the split in the cushion, revealing the padding underneath. “Alexis took pictures of this, too?” he asked Sonny as his partner came back in, scowling at the broken items scattered around the downstairs. Jason didn’t have a lot of possessions, but what he had—

Glasses and mugs had been thrown around the kitchen, plates were shattered on the floor. The leather sofa hadn’t been the only furniture casualty—the coffee table had one its legs broken—the shelf of travel books had been scattered and some of the covers torn from being stepped on.

“Yeah, yeah. She took everything.” Sonny looked around. “I’m sorry about this, man—”

“I can buy a new sofa,” Jason muttered. And a table. Travel books. Plates and mugs. All of these things were replaceable.

“Not about any of this,” Sonny said, drawing Jason’s attention. “It sucks, but Alexis is right. This looks vindictive and destructive. If they’d left it at this downstairs—”

Most of the destruction had happened on their way out of the apartment—the officers forced to vacate before the search had finished. Capelli hadn’t been the only asshole on the force.

“But they didn’t,” Jason finished. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Listen, can you get some guys to clear this? I don’t want her to deal with—”

“Already on that. And they never got to the studio,” Sonny told Jason who exhaled in relief. “Taggert wanted to search both personally, but he called it off. It’s all tainted.” He glanced up to the second floor. “She okay?”

Jason opened his mouth because Elizabeth had said she was fine and she’d looked fine, but he wasn’t sure if that was true. She didn’t always say what she meant, and he knew she didn’t want to worry him. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah, the painting put it over the top,” Sonny muttered. “Could have fixed the dress maybe, but I know she takes her art seriously.” He rubbed his hands together. “I’ll go check on the clean up crew. We’ll get the furniture replaced—”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s fine. I just—” Jason started for the stairs. “I’ll get her out of here for a few hours or something.”

“Good, good. Let me make my calls and I’ll check in with Alexis. If we’re right—if this puts Carly’s story dead in the water—” Sonny nodded. “That would be good. Then we can just focus on getting rid of Sorel.”

He left, and Jason went upstairs, returning to the bedroom where he’d left Elizabeth earlier to deal with the dressers and closets that the PCPD had emptied.

“Hey.” Elizabeth dumped a pile of clothing in the laundry hamper next to the bathroom. “I’m almost done.” She made a face. “How does it look downstairs?”

“Not great,” Jason admitted. “They broke a lot of things and ripped the sofa.” He frowned when he saw the dress still laid out on the bed, the ripped strap and torn bodice evident—and now he saw the dark footprint across the skirt. “I didn’t—”

Her mouth pinched as she crossed to the bed, picking it up. “I think that’s what made me the most angry,” she murmured, sliding her fingers over the dirt and mud specks. Capelli had worn heavy boots and walked through the snow and dirt mixed out out front. “It wasn’t enough to tear it off the hanger—he threw it on the floor—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t supposed to do anything. I really just wanted to supervise, and it’s not like—I mean—” Her voice faltered and she sank onto the bed. “It’s not like it really matters,” she said softly.

Unsure, Jason sat down on the other side of the dress. “Why doesn’t it matter? It’s your dress—”

She bit her lip, her eyes trained on the white fabric “It’s my wedding dress,” she said, her voice barely audible. “Alexis brought me a few of them, and I got to pick it. Like I was really—like it was real.”

“It was—” Jason reached for her hand, laying it flat over the dress. He could feel the ring he’d placed on her finger only the day before cool against his skin. “It was real,” he finished. “Wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, but—” She met his eyes. “I mean, it’s not like we—” Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed.

“We got married,” Jason reminded her. He raised her hand, his fingers twisted her wedding ring. “This is real, Elizabeth.”

She managed a smile and reached for his other hand where she’d given him a ring, too. “I know. But it’s still just a dress at the end of the day, I guess. It’s not worth getting arrested over. Not really. But I just—I—” Her eyes met his again and her tongue darted out to lick the corner of her mouth. His body tightened. “It’s not just that I wore it in the church yesterday. It’s—I wore it last night.”

Last night. When she’d stood in front of the mirror and he’d stood behind her, unfastening each button—

“And Capelli was—he wasn’t just searching. Or being rough or rude.” Elizabeth released his hands and looked over at the painting, once again propped up against the wall. “Alexis was right, and I knew what he was doing. He dumped out my underwear drawer so I’d feel violated.”

Jason clenched his jaw. “I—”

“And when I tried to stop him from ruining the dress, he stomped on it, ground his foot in—I didn’t say that earlier,” Elizabeth admitted. “I was afraid if I did—”

Jason would have rearranged his face and been arrested. “I’m sorry—”

Elizabeth sighed, shaking her head. “You have nothing to apologize for.” She rose to her feet and went to pick up the painting, her fingers tracing the rip in the canvas. “Capelli was angry from the moment I was involved in the case. The first time he questioned me, he was the one asking the inappropriate questions. I don’t feel like it was personal, either,” she admitted. “It wasn’t that it was me. Not like Taggert. He’s disappointed in me, but Capelli—I’m just an obstacle.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason got to his feet.

“Capelli wanted me to feel like I’d done something wrong. Like I’d committed a crime—and I did, I know that, but—” Elizabeth sighed. “For all they talk about the violence you and Sonny are capable of—” she jerked a shoulder and turned away, setting the painting against the wall again.

Jason waited a moment. “I am violent,” he said in a low voice, unsure why he was saying it only that he needed her to hear it. To know it. “I’ve done worse things than what happened here today.”

Elizabeth faced him, her face unreadable. Then she tipped her head to the side. “To women like me?”


“You’ve intentionally humiliated and violated a woman for not doing what you wanted? For not acting the way you expected?”

“No, of course not, but—” Jason stumbled to a stop, squinting. “But—”

“But you have a gun and you’ve used it,” she said plainly. “And you have hands. You’ve used those. There are people who aren’t breathing because you still are. You’re capable of violence, Jason. Did you think I didn’t know that?”

“No, but—”

“Your world is violent,” Elizabeth continued, and he just stared at her. “People like to act like there’s something unique about what you and Sonny do. If you were out of business tomorrow, would things really change? Would there be less violence in the world?”

He had no idea how to answer that. How to react. “Elizabeth—”

“Would I be safe in the park?”


“This world isn’t safe for women, Jason. Look at what happened to me here today.” She held out her wrist and for the time he realized it was darkening into a bruise. “A cop did this to me in my own home because I didn’t want him to destroy my wedding dress out of spite and vindictiveness. Capelli will say it’s because I’m with you, and I deserve it because of who you are. But what happened today has nothing to do with any of that. It’s who he is. And it would have happened to any woman he didn’t respect.”

“I guess, but—”

“If you’re waiting for my face to change,” Elizabeth said, turning away and shoving another pile of clothes into the laundry basket. “You’re going to be disappointed. The night we met, you nearly tore the arm off the guy bothering me and never broke a sweat.”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know what to say to any of that,” Jason finally admitted.

“The world you live in,” Elizabeth replied, meeting his eyes in the mirror over the dresser. “It does scare me. I know it’s dangerous. I know that the bullet you got in December wasn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. I don’t want to lose you that way, but I’m working on accepting it as a possibility.”

“And that’s okay with you?” Jason wanted to know. He stepped up behind her, his fingers lightly brushing her shoulder.

“I’m safe with you,” Elizabeth said softly. “And that’s all that matters to me.”

September 21, 2023

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the Signs of Life

And in your eyes I see ribbons of color
I see us inside of each other
I feel my unconscious merge with yours
And I hear a voice say, “What’s his is hers”
I’m falling into you
This dream could come true
And it feels so good falling into you

Falling Into You, Celine Dion

Wednesday, January 5

Morgan Penthouse: Kitchen

She hadn’t been able to sleep. Even after Jason had waited a few hours before coming up, Elizabeth had laid there, staring up the ceiling, feeling Jason next to her, and wanting to set herself on fire from humiliation. She wasn’t sure either of them had gotten any rest.

Elizabeth really only had two choices. She could continue to ignore it and hope he did, too. Or she could force herself to talk about it. To find out what he was actually thinking. She worried if she continued to ignore it, Jason might never make the first move again. But the thought of actually starting the conversation? Maybe she could just run away and join a convent—

“Now you’re being insane,” she muttered to herself. She drew in a deep breath and went into the kitchen, finding Jason by the counter, sipping coffee. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” he replied, but stayed where he was, his eyes on hers. “Did you, uh, sleep okay?”

“Not really,” Elizabeth admitted. She folded her arms, unsure what to do with them. “I, um, wanted to apologize, I guess.”

Jason set his coffee on the counter, his brows drawn together in confusion. “For what?”

Oh, was he really going make her say it? Because there was no end to this embarrassment. “Last night. Um, I know it’s not fair for me to…” She rubbed a finger against her bottom lip, then dropped it with mortification when she saw his eyes drop to her mouth. “It’s not fair for me to, like, lead you on like that. I’m sorry.”

“Lead me on,” Jason repeated. “When did you do that?”

Elizabeth squinted. Was he being deliberately obtuse or — “Last night,” she repeated. “I asked you to, um, help me with my dress—” And she knew her cheeks were flaming red. The heat was practically turning her insides into an inferno — which was what had happened last night only it hadn’t been embarrassment then. “And then I, um—”

She’d practically stripped for him, and even now she didn’t understand what had been going through her head. She’d been standing there, feeling his fingers trail down her back as he unfastened the buttons, and she’d been practically trembling by the time he was finished. Then she’d lost her damn mind.

“I remember.” His voice had changed, gone deeper, and the blue of his eyes were darker. Was that— “That’s not leading me on.”

“I—” Now she didn’t know where to go with any of this. “It wasn’t? But—”

Jason closed the distance between them, reaching for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. “We’re going to take this as slow or as fast as you want,” he told her. “And last night, you stopped when you weren’t comfortable”

“Yeah, but—” Elizabeth searched his eyes. She’d been so sure — “You’re really not mad? It doesn’t bother you? Because I know you were, um—” Interested, but she didn’t say it.

“Did I want to go further?” he asked. “You know I did.” Jason brushed his knuckles down her cheek. “And yeah, I needed a minute after we stopped, but that still doesn’t mean I’m angry at you.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, the tension sliding out of her body like a receding wave. “I thought I might be able to—” She touched the fabric of his shirt where it had folded slightly over his chest. “I wasn’t thinking about anything but you until—” Until she’d felt her knees against the bed and knew what was next.

“Good.” He dipped his head and captured her mouth with his. She relaxed against him, sinking into the familiar taste of him mixed with coffee. She’d never liked the flavor until Jason had kissed her.  “You’re what matters,” he murmured against her lips, sliding his fingers through her hair. “There’s going to be stops and starts, but as long as you trust me, we’ll get there.”

“I do trust you.” Elizabeth sighed, then frowned as she touched his shirt again, then drew back realizing he wasn’t just wearing a t-shirt. It was a thin gray sweater, and he wore a pair of dark trousers — not jeans. Not his normal hanging around the house or work clothes. “Are you going somewhere?”

Jason grimaced, kissing her one more time before reaching for his coffee. “Yeah, Sonny set up a meeting with some people. We have to tell people about this.”

“This,” Elizabeth repeated, then it clicked. “Oh. That we got married.”

“Yeah. Part of the reason was your protection,” Jason reminded her. “Now we have to go negotiate it.” His eyes iced. “Even if Sorel wasn’t behind the bomb — which I don’t buy — someone put it in your studio. And that has to be handled.”

She shivered slightly, folding her arms again. With everything that had been going on with Carly and then getting married, she’d nearly forgotten how this had all started. The bomb on New Year’s felt like another lifetime ago. “Oh. I—Do I need to be there?”

“No,” Jason said firmly. “Sonny and I will go, tell them that you’re my wife, and that changes how they see you. It better,” he muttered as an afterthought and she flashed a hesitant smile. “And then we’ll get Sorel to pledge protection. It’s just—it’s nothing you have to worry about, I mean.” He paused. “We haven’t really talked about what I do.”

“We don’t have to,” Elizabeth said quickly, but he shook his head.

“We do. You live here,” Jason continued, “and you’ve already dealt with the police. You’re doing fine,” he added. “And you’ve got good instincts, so I’m not worried. But there’s still some things we need to talk about.”

“Okay. I mean, isn’t it basically a don’t ask, don’t tell sort of thing?” Elizabeth asked skeptically. “I don’t ask you anything, and you don’t tell me anything.”

“Well—” Jason frowned. “Yeah, I mean that’s how it’s supposed to be, but—” He looked away. “I don’t know how well that works. That’s how Sonny tries to handle things, and I tried to do with it with Robin.” And Carly, though he didn’t say her name. “But there are times when you need to know things to keep you safe. You need to know who people are.”

“Like this guy Sorel,” Elizabeth said. “I know about him—”

“But there’s others. You need to know who they are and what they look like,” Jason continued, “and what our relationship is to them so you know who to trust and who not to.”

“Okay,” she said slowly. “That sounds fine.”

“But yeah, most of the time, I can’t tell you anything. And it’s easier if you don’t ask,” he admitted. “Because then—”

“Then you don’t have to lie or refuse to tell me,” Elizabeth finished. “I get it, Jason. I do—”

He still didn’t look quite convinced, but before he could say anything else, there was a knock on the door. He grimaced. “That’s probably Sonny. Or Alexis. Anyone else has to be called up from the front desk by Wally.”

Elizabeth followed him out of the kitchen, her head still spinning a bit. She managed a smile at Sonny as he entered, carrying a manila folder. “Hey, Sonny.”

“Good morning. Jase? You about ready?”

“Yeah.” Jason went over to the closet to draw out a black suit jacket. “What’s that?” he asked Sonny, nodding at the envelope.

“Oh, the photographer developed some of the shots we took after the ceremony yesterday,” Sonny said. “I wanted to have a few in case we got, uh, visits from the PCPD over the next day or so.” He handed the folder to Elizabeth. “You might want to toss some up in a frame or something around the place.” He glanced around the mostly barren penthouse. “I thought you brought your things over from the studio.”

“Um, most of them. There are a few more things I need, but I didn’t really live there long.”

“We should probably get this place set up—” Sonny started.

“We’re handling it,” Jason said, shortly. Elizabeth blinked at the tone, and Sonny looked taken aback.

“I know, but—”

“Well, Jason only moved in here a few months ago,” Elizabeth interrupted, wanting to cut through the tension she didn’t understand, “and I’ve only been here a few days. If we change everything too fast, wouldn’t that look more fake?”

“Maybe.” Sonny frowned. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” he said to Jason. “But—”

“Jason doesn’t like clutter,” Elizabeth said, “and as long as I have somewhere to paint, I don’t need anything else. I know I can’t go back to the studio until it’s secure,” she told Jason, “so I hope it’s okay if I use one of the rooms upstairs.”

“Yeah, no problem. Let me know if you need anything to make it work.” He turned his attention to Sonny. “You want to get this over with?”

“Yeah, I know how much you like this stuff,” Sonny said dryly.

“I got shot at the last one,” Jason muttered, grabbing his leather jacket off the hook. He ignored Sonny’s flinch and crossed over to Elizabeth, kissing her one more time, then holding her against him. “When I get back,” he said, dropping his voice lower, “do you want go for a ride? The roads should be clear enough.”

“That sounds good.” Her cheeks still flaming because Sonny was right there, she kissed him again. “Um, good luck, I guess.”

Jason and Sonny were gone long enough for Elizabeth to brew herself a cup of tea and settle down in the living room to make a list of things she needed to make a guest room into a temporary studio. She hoped one of them didn’t have a carpet, but if they all did—she’d need a tarp—

Then the phone rang, jarring her.

“Yeah? Hello?” Elizabeth asked, bracing herself for another diatribe from Emily. She really hadn’t figured out how to say anything about the situation to her best friend, so —

“Hey, Mrs. Morgan—” It was Wally, down on the front desk.

Mrs. Morgan. Holy crap.

“Uh, your grandmother is here. Should I send her up?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth bit her lip, then rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, I guess so.” Audrey had barely just started to accept her relationship with Jason — how the hell was she going to react to a quick wedding? Which just reminded her that she still had to deal with the rest of Port Charles — when she went back to work in a few days, her section would be overflowing again with busybodies wondering why Jason Morgan’s wife was still waiting tables —

Elizabeth opened the door a few minutes later to her grandmother. “Uh, hey, Gram.”

“Hello.” Audrey’s face wasn’t giving Elizabeth much to go on, but she didn’t look angry. “How are you?”

“Uh, all right. Come on in.” Elizabeth closed the door after Audrey had passed her. “I guess you, um, heard.”

“I have.” Audrey set her purse on the desk, removed her coat and scarf, draping them over the purse. Then she reached for Elizabeth’s hand, tilting it back and forth. “It’s a lovely ring. Did Jason pick it out?”

“Yeah, he did. Gram—”

“When I was reconciling with your grandfather,” Audrey said, letting Elizabeth’s hand fall away, “there were some parts of our relationship that were a bit difficult.” She paused. “I had trouble trusting anyone after my marriage to Tom Baldwin ended.”

Elizabeth folded her arms. “Gram—”

“Considering the time period we were in,” Audrey continued, “and the fact that Steve and I had already been married once—we certainly weren’t strangers to one another. Still, it took me time to feel…” She hesitated, searching for the right word. “Safe, I suppose.”

Elizabeth’s throat tightened. “Was Gramps kind?”

“Steve was the best of men,” Audrey said softly. “And he never once made me feel like any of it was my fault. Until you, he was the only person I ever told.”

“I’m glad, Gram. Um—”

“When I heard from Lila yesterday,” Audrey continued, “I took a minute to hear the happiness in her voice. Lila adores her grandson, and she genuinely likes you. She wanted to welcome you to the family, and hoped I felt the same.” Audrey’s smile was a bit thin. “I don’t think it will surprise you that, at the time, I didn’t. She shamed me with her graciousness. It’s easy to forget that Jason Morgan isn’t just…well, he’s not just the man in the newspaper, is he?”

“He’s not, no.” Elizabeth paused. “I know you might not understand—”

“There are two kinds of safety, I suppose,” Audrey continued. “There’s the external safety. The world around you. And then there’s the way you feel inside.” She pressed a fist to her heart. “And I think I had forgotten that. Sometimes one of those feels more important than the other. Particularly when the world fails you. And the world has failed you, darling, repeatedly. With your parents, with that terrible night in the park, with the loss of Lucky—”

Elizabeth’s eyes burned. “You never have.”

“Of course I have, sweetheart.” Audrey hesitated. “Does Jason—is he kind?” she said finally.

“Yes. More than I ever thought anyone would be. I feel…not just safe,” Elizabeth continued, “but like there’s a future again. I didn’t think I would after Lucky died.”

“Of course I have my reservations by how fast this seems to be happening,” Audrey admitted and Elizabeth sighed, “but I’ve been known to be hasty in my own time, and impulsive,” she added. Elizabeth smiled. “I certainly don’t want to pretend that I was perfect.”

“But you…you’re okay with this,” Elizabeth said, almost questioningly. “Or at least, you’re not going to cut me out for getting married.”

“I would be denying myself a lot of joy if I did that, wouldn’t I?” Audrey said. “If it doesn’t work out—and it might not—I want you to always know you have a home with me.”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Are you here because you hope it doesn’t—”

“No, and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. I just—even your grandfather and I divorced for a time,” Audrey reminded her. “Love doesn’t solve everything, and we often let our own pride get in the way. I just—you might not always have my understanding, but you will have my support.”

“That—” Elizabeth almost couldn’t speak. “That means so much to me, Gram. Thank you.”

“Well, I missed the wedding, but I certainly hope there were photos—”

“Oh—” Elizabeth wiped the tears from her cheek. “The photographer gave us a few. I think we’re getting more, but—” She reached the folder. “Sonny dropped them off this morning, and I almost forgot.” She opened the folder, surprised when she saw more than just the posed shots they’d taken after Carly had crashed the wedding. There was one of her standing alone at the end of the aisle, then another of Jason walking her down — and then one of them speaking their vows.

“Oh, how lovely—” Audrey beamed as Elizabeth handed them to her. “And you look wonderful. That’s such a beautiful dress—thank you. I hope to get a copy of some of these when you get the full package.” She paused on the posed portrait. “He really is a handsome young man. Your grandfather thought highly of Jason before the accident, and he hoped he would recover.” Audrey’s eyes sparkled now as she returned the folder. “You know, he once thought one of his granddaughters would end up with one of Alan’s boys, and I think he secretly hoped it would be Jason since he wanted to be a doctor.”

“Well, I guess Gramps got his wish a little bit,” Elizabeth managed, surprised. And then they both laughed.

No Name Restaurant: Private Dining Room

Jason didn’t think much of any of the men he and Sonny worked with, but Joseph Sorel might be one of the worst. Jason might have been willing to buy Sorel’s story that the phone call could have been something trying to create more trouble, but Sorel’s stupid, smug smile made it clear — at least to Jason — that Sorel had been the one to call Elizabet. To taunt her. To try and kill her.

“I’ve mostly controlled the internal problems in my organization,” Sorel said coolly as he leaned back in the chair. “Whoever went after Ms. Webber—” He paused. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Morgan,” he corrected with a smile that indicated it had been a deliberate slip. “Whoever went after the young woman—he took a shot and it didn’t work.”

“Well, as a sign of a good faith,” Sonny said, “I expect you’ll be making it clear that if anything happens to Jason’s wife, you’ll be the first person I blame. And Jason will have free reign to handle it as he likes.”

That put a hitch in Sorel’s step because it wasn’t the way things were done. “Without evidence?” he demanded. “Without proof—”

“Those are concepts for a court of law,” Sonny murmured. “If I wanted to live within that system, I wouldn’t be here.” He flicked his eyes to Sammy Tagliatti, seated next to Sorel. “What do you think, Tagliatti?”

“I think that’s a very fair deal,” the man said with a silky smile. “Clearly, the culprit came from your organization,” he said to Sorel. “That makes it your problem—”

Sorel clenched his jaw. “She wasn’t his wife when it happened—”

“Which is why you’re still breathing,” Daniel Vega proclaimed from the other side of the table. He gestured at Jason. “And why he hasn’t ripped your throat out at this meeting. Shameful, shameful, going after such a young woman just to keep her from cooperating with the police. After Jason eliminated Moreno for you, you try to take something from him?”

Sorel’s face was florid with fury. “That’s not what happened—”

“No, it’s not,” Jason said flatly, drawing their attention as he hadn’t spoken yet. “You and your boss ambushed me at a meeting that was negotiated in good faith to make a deal, and then you finished Moreno off and dumped him. You wanted me framed for the murder, and you tried to use Elizabeth to do it.”

Sorel met his eyes, pursed his lips. “That’s one way to write the story—”

“I’m in agreement,” Daniel said. “Anything happens to the young Mrs. Morgan, you’ll have my support to handle it however you like,” he told Sonny. “I don’t believe in collateral damage and using women and children. Extra bodies just draws the authorities to us. That’s how they got in trouble in Manhattan and Philly,” he continued. “We don’t give them an inch to come after us here.”

“Tagliatti?” Sonny said.

“Agreed. Sorel will be held responsible if a single hair on the woman’s head is touched. I’ll help dismantle his operation.” Tagliatti smirked. “And enjoy taking pieces of it.”

Accepting that as a price, Sonny nodded, then focused on Sorel. “Any questions?”

“No,” Sorel said tightly. “As I said, I had nothing to do with the bomb. And I’ll make it clear that she’s off limits.”

“Good.” Sonny got to his feet. “I’m glad we understand each other. Elizabeth Morgan is under the protection of the entire syndicate. Harm her and we’ll destroy you.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Master Bedroom

Carly’s voice was filtering out from the bathroom as AJ went into their bedroom that afternoon. He’d slept in another room the night before, still seething over Carly’s humiliation. Everyone knew his wife preferred Jason to him, and AJ put up with it to keep his family together. To give Michael both his parents. For all her faults, Carly was a decent mother and AJ didn’t want to lose his son, even to partial custody.

He was ready to make another attempt at convincing Carly to give their marriage a chance. So he went towards the bathroom and gently pushed on the slightly ajar door to hear whoever she was talking to better.

“I can’t tell you anymore than that,” Carly said, her teeth clenched. “Can’t you work with what I’ve told you? He was shot at the same time that Moreno guy went missing! No, you can’t have my name you little cretin, just do your damn job—” She slammed the phone down and whirled around, stopping dead when she saw AJ leaning against the door frame, his arms crossed. “When did you get here?”

“So my little brother got shot at the same time Anthony Moreno went missing?” AJ repeated. “Interesting. How did you find out?”

Carly glared at him, her lips pressed together. AJ shook his head. “You’re not going to be able to keep this to yourself, Caroline. How did you know Jason was shot?”

“Jason got pissed at me for some reason,” Carly bit out, “and I couldn’t get a hold of him. Not because I was sleeping with him, so don’t get any ideas—”

“That’s not answering my question—”

“I followed that little twit,” Carly retorted. “She was ducking out of work, claiming to be sick. I followed her back to her studio and confronted them both. Everyone thinks they were sleeping together, but she was taking care of him. He got shot.”

“And you kept the secret because it suited you.” AJ straightened. “Now, because you were wrong about his relationship with Elizabeth Webber—”

“I wasn’t wrong!”

“Obviously you were since they got married yesterday,” AJ said coolly. “Now that Jason has married someone else, you decided to pay him back.”

“Why do you care?” Carly said sullenly. “I would think you’d want me to hurt him—”

AJ wasn’t that wild about Jason these days — not after months of being lied to and then having to go to court when Jason sued for visitation. But at the end of the day, Jason had loved Michael and been a decent father. He’d walked away from the visitation, and to the best of AJ’s knowledge, walked away from Carly. Still —

“You’re trying to have it both ways,” AJ said. “You’re doing an anonymous tip, Carly. If you’re ready to make Jason pay and put him in the past, go to the PCPD and make a statement. Go on the record.”

She clenched her jaw. “But—”

“But what?” AJ asked pleasantly. “It doesn’t suit you? You don’t want to burn all the bridges with my brother?”

“You’re deliberately twisting all my words—” Carly exhaled slowly. “Fine. Okay. Will you stop accusing me of sleeping with Jason every other minute if I go to the PCPD?”

“Yes. You go on the record turning my brother in, and I’ll believe it’s done between the two of you.”

General Hospital: Waiting Area

Elizabeth could feel the weight of the stares from nurses, doctors, patients—practically everyone she passed as she walked towards Gail Baldwin’s office, but she ignored them.

It wasn’t like the way everyone had looked at her after the Christmas party when they’d been snickering and waiting for Jason to get tired of her. Now, they were twisted and turned around — Jason had married her instead of breaking it off. No doubt they were probably going to be counting down the months and waiting for a baby.

Unless the immaculate conception took place, they’d be in for a rude awakening.

She arrived at Gail’s office and waited to be let in by the receptionist, her pulse fluttering. She’d called Gail after Jason had left this morning, mostly on a whim, never expecting her grandmother’s best friend to move around her morning and agree to see her immediately.  Elizabeth thought she’d have more time to put together her thoughts, but now —

“Hello, darling.” Gail smiled, then kissed her cheek. “I had breakfast with your grandmother, so I know congratulations are in order.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “Do you mean that?”

“Of course.” Gail squeezed her hands. “Two years ago, you were wondering if you’d ever be able to get this point, and now look at you.”

“That’s why I’m here. Um—” Elizabeth set down her jacket. “The thing is — I mean, Jason and I are married, but we haven’t—and we weren’t—” She closed her eyes. “I know what the rumors were saying, and I know the new ones think I’m pregnant. But I’m not. Jason and I got married, but we haven’t—we haven’t had sex.”

“All right.” Gail gestured for her take a seat. “Let’s talk about it, then.”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Still irritated after the meeting with the leaders of the syndicate, Jason was disappointed to learn Elizabeth had left not long after he had. Had she mentioned going out? He didn’t remember, but it wasn’t his business. She could do whatever she wanted as long as she took Francis, and she had.

But he’d been looking forward to coming home and then taking her out on a ride. Getting away from all of this. They hadn’t been able to do that since before New Year’s, and he was starting chafe at all of this. He hated going to those meetings, hated being in this penthouse day after day.

He just wanted to feel the wind rushing past him, the roar of the engine in his ears—

The door opened behind him and Elizabeth came in, her cheeks flushed from the cold. She smiled at him. “Hey. I was hoping I’d get back before you. When did you get here?”

His mood instantly improved, Jason shrugged. “Just now. I didn’t know you were going anywhere.” He winced. “Not that you have to report to me—”

“No, but I’m sure knowing my schedule, especially right now, is useful. And it’s not like you want to call Francis,” Elizabeth said. She cleared her throat. “I didn’t know I’d be going anywhere, honestly. I called Gail Baldwin to make an appointment later in the week, and she had a cancellation this morning, so I went to the hospital.”

“Gail?” Jason echoed. “She’s a therapist, isn’t she? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. It’s fine. It’s just—well—” Elizabeth exhaled in a rush of air. “I know we talked about it this morning, and I know you’re okay with it taking as long as it takes, but I still wanted to get…I don’t know. Some perspective.”

Jason drew his brows together, unsure. “Perspective?”

“Yeah.” She stripped off her coat and tossed it over the desk. “You know, like I trust you. Obviously—” Her cheeks flushed, and he knew she was remembering the night before. Standing in front of the mirror.

“At the same time, I guess I just need to understand what exactly I’m afraid of. Because if I can figure that out, we can—or I can—I don’t know, it made sense when Gail and I were talking.” She wrapped one arm around her waist, then used her other hand to bite her thumbnail. “I also don’t know how much you want to talk about any of this—”

“I want to talk about anything you want to,” Jason told her. He took off his jacket because it didn’t look like they were going to the cliffs anytime soon. He grabbed her jacket and then hung them both in the closet, wanting something to do with his hands. “You can tell me anything.”

“You say that, but I’m not sure if you—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Part of working through this means acknowledging what happened to me. In more detail than I think I was ready for when I was in therapy two years ago. And maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s me. I’m afraid to say these things to you. I don’t—” Her voice thickened and she looked away.

Jason approached her, reaching for her hand, sliding his own fingers over the ragged thumbnail she’d bitten nearly to the quick. “You’re afraid that if you talk about what happened to you, it’ll change the way I feel about you,” he realized. She bit her lip, looked away. “That I won’t want to touch you. Or that I’ll be afraid to.”

“I don’t know. Yes. Okay, that’s—I mean, God, Jason, how am I supposed to tell you that the thing that scares me the most if that it’ll feel the same way? Like I’m being ripped apart, and that all I’ll feel is pain, and I’ll never—” She broke off in a rush, her eyes wide. “Oh, God.”

“You tell me like that,” he said roughly, forcing the words. “You just say it. Because you don’t have to live with it by yourself.” And how the hell did he actually handle that? The power and the responsibility of knowing that if he screwed this up — if he took one wrong step — he could bring it back to her — put her in that moment — “I’m scared, too,” he admitted in a low voice.

“You are?” Elizabeth asked. She wiped at her eyes, using her other thumb to dash away the tears. “I don’t want that—it shouldn’t be like this—”

“No, maybe not, but it is. And I care about you. I want this to be good for you. I want to make you feel—” Jason didn’t even know how to put it into words. “I don’t want you be scared of me. Ever.”

“I’m not. I’m really not.” Her voice caught on a sob as she said the words. “I’m not. But I’m afraid I will be, and I think it’ll just kill me.” She placed a hand on his chest as she said it and he drew her closer, clasping her hand in his.

“You need to know that there’s nothing you can say to me that’s going to make me stop wanting you,” Jason pledged and she met his eyes. “What you’ve been through—what you still go through every day—you never have to be scared you’ll say something that will change how much I want to be with you. It’s separate for me, okay? I don’t know how else to explain it. It doesn’t change how I see you. I won’t let it.”

She rested her forehead against his chest, and they stood there for a long moment, their breathing the only sound in the room.

“G-Gail said that it’s normal for me to feel this way. That this coming up now makes sense. This is the closest I’ve been to a sexual relationship since the attack.” Elizabeth stepped back, but he kept her hand in his. “And that even if we—if I can do this—it doesn’t mean it won’t come back at times. Part of me just—God, wants it to be over with. To just get through it and—” She sighed. “But that’s not fair to you. To tell you just to do it while I grit my teeth—”

“I wouldn’t—”

“I know—” She managed a weak smile. Then stepped back more, using both hands to wipe the tears from her cheeks now. “And she told me that. She said there’s no one way to get past this. That I can just do what we’ve been doing. Going as far as I feel comfortable with, but what if that takes months?”

“What if it does?” Jason asked, frowning. “You think I’ll change my mind in six weeks?”

“N-No, but I don’t want it to be like that. I’m tired of waiting to get my life back. I’m tired of feeling like what happened to me two years ago—something that took ten minutes—that’s all it was, you know? I was sitting on a bench, minding my own business, trying to think of how I’d get myself out of that stupid lie I’d told—and then I was on the ground, fighting and choking on my own screams—” She pressed her hands to her eyes. “I couldn’t make it stop. I couldn’t make him stop. And then it was over, and he was gone. Ten minutes of my life. It doesn’t get to ruin the rest of it.”

He felt helpless to help her sort through this. He’d done what he could — he’d reassured her, he thought he’d said all the right things, but at the end of the day — he couldn’t get inside her head and change anything. So Jason stood there, remaining silent, waiting.

“It doesn’t get to define who I am,” Elizabeth said, sounding stronger now. “I am not the girl who got raped, and I don’t want to be her forever. I can’t be the girl crawling out of the snow forever.”

“You’re not—”

“I’m more than that. I don’t know who I am all the way yet, but I think—” Elizabeth paused. “I need to be in control. I think that’s what this is. I was okay last night because I—I think I was in control. And then I wasn’t.”

Jason tilted his head to the side, trying to parse it out, then understanding. “Because you made the first move. And then I started to steer you towards the bed. I didn’t see it as taking control, but—”

“I know you didn’t,” she said quickly. “And I wasn’t scared. I just—I couldn’t go any further. But I wasn’t nervous or scared.”

“Okay.” He could live with that. “You need to be in control. That’s not a problem.”

Elizabeth blinked at him, a bit surprised. “It’s not?”

“No. Why would it be? If this is what you need, then that’s good enough for me.” And if at the end of the day if letting Elizabeth be in complete control meant he’d get to put his hands on her, then it was a win win situation. “We both get what we want, don’t we?”

“Um, yeah. I guess.” She chewed her lip. “I don’t actually know what I’m doing though—”

Jason arched his brow. “You knew what you were doing last night,” he reminded her, his voice low again. Her cheeks flushed, but her eyes were sparkling now, her breathing just a bit quicker. “You took what you wanted. What do you want now?”

“Um—” Elizabeth drew her bottom lip between her teeth. “Really? I can say whatever I want?”

“Whatever you want.”

She cleared her throat. “So if I tell you to take off your shirt, you’ll just—you’ll just do it?”

As an answer, Jason reached for the hem of his sweater and drew it over his head, tossing it behind him. Her eyes were as wide as saucers now and her tongue darted out to lick her lips.

“And you’d—if—I mean, if I asked you to take everything else off—” Her cheeks were flaming now, her voice a bit less sure. “You’d do that, too? You’d stand here in front of me naked?”

“If that’s what you want me to do.” He put his fingers at the buckle of the pants, undid his belt. “Is that what you want?”

“Um. Yes. That’s—” Her voice nearly squeaked as Jason stripped off the belt, tossed it with the shirt, then unzipped his pants. He paused when he was just in his briefs because he wanted her to be sure. Her breathing was even quicker now—

And then there was a knock at the door. Not just a knock, but an aggressive pounding. “Open up! It’s the PCPD! And we have a warrant!”

September 19, 2023

This entry is part 14 of 16 in the Signs of Life

I don’t wanna be so shy, oh, oh
Every time that I’m alone I wonder why
Hope that you will wait for me
You’ll see that you’re the only one for me
I wanna believe in everything that you say
‘Cause it sounds so good
But if you really want me move slow
There’s things about me you just have to know

Sometimes, Britney Spears

Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“I think we should be discussing damage control,” Alexis declared, accepting the glass of wine Sonny handed her. “Carly might already be at the PCPD—”

“She’s impulsive and stupid, but I don’t think she’s going to the police tonight.” Sonny sipped his bourbon, then wandered over to look over the skyline of Port Charles as the sun dipped behind the buildings, plunging the downtown into night. “Tomorrow. Tonight, she’ll be cursing Jason’s name. We have time.”


“And we’ve done the damage control,” Sonny reminded her. “Jason and Elizabeth got married in a church with a priest. We’ll have wedding photos of them, there’s rings. They’re living together, and half the town already suspected they were dating before this. Carly crashing the wedding did us a favor.”

Alexis grimaced. “Maybe—”

“Because now when she tries to turn on Jason with no corroborating evidence but her word, the PCPD might go after us, but it won’t get to court. You said that, remember? She’s got nothing but her own testimony. Bobbie will lawyer up just like we will. She played the role of scorned woman almost too well today.”

“I suppose you’re right. All we have to do is tell the PCPD Carly vowed revenge on Jason and was cruel to Elizabeth about the rape.”

Sonny’s scowl only deepened at the reminder. “She barely had credibility before this, and now—it’s gone. She’s destroyed it.”

“Fair enough. I just—I put this idea into Jason’s head, and Elizabeth seized on it to keep Jason in town. I feel responsible. I don’t want either of them hurt.”

“Neither do I,” Sonny said. “I’ve already done enough.”

Quartermaine Mansion: AJ & Carly’s Bedroom

Carly paced the length of the room, an ice pack against her cheek, and quietly seethed at the events of the day. First that freak show of a wedding and then that humiliating scene with AJ —

She’d been so sure—so certain—that Jason would leap at the chance to protect his precious damsel in distress that he’d agree to leave town with her and Michael. Once they were gone, Carly knew she could change Jason’s mind. If they could just get a few minutes alone in a room, Carly was convinced she could have swayed him.

But instead Jason had done something wholly unpredictable. Something absolutely beyond the pale.

He’d married that little bitch. And why? Why? Why had he done such a drastic thing? What could it—

Carly stopped, meeting her own shocked eyes in the mirror. Because wives couldn’t testify against their husbands. Elizabeth could never be asked any questions about the studio or what happened there. Even if she was dragged into the police station, Alexis Davis would have her out by supper.

“That son of a bitch,” Carly muttered. He’d stood by while that damned bitch had punched her, and he’d abandoned Carly when she needed him the most. Why did he refuse to see how things could be? How they should be?

This couldn’t be allowed. It couldn’t stand.

She’d let him think he’d won tonight, but tomorrow — tomorrow she’d make Jason regret he’d ever walked into that damned church.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason put the lasagna in the microwave to defrost, then went back to the living room to wait for Elizabeth to return. He picked up his suit jacket where it had dropped to the ground earlier—

None of this was turning out the way he thought it would, but wasn’t that the story of every day since he’d met Elizabeth? Since he’d really and truly met her that night at Jake’s? Wasn’t that part of the reason he’d been drawn to her? Her smiles, her laughter, the twists and turns of conversations—

He hadn’t meant to tell her all of that tonight, hadn’t even known it was inside of him, but he’d desperately needed to explain how he could have done something as stupid as tell Carly he loved her only a few weeks ago without making what he felt for Elizabeth seem wrong or too fast. Or worse, a lie.

He’d believed what he had said to Carly in the moment, but it had already been fading and shifting and turning into something else. Not even hatred, but apathy. The only good Carly had ever brought to his life was Michael, and he couldn’t even think of the little boy without the pain that followed.

Jason just wanted to be done with Carly forever, and he wanted Elizabeth to understand that she was the key to that—to his realization that he’d been punishing himself by letting Carly stay in his life, clinging to a hope he could have Michael back.

Michael—and Carly—were in his past. Robin was in the past. And for the first time in a long time, Jason wanted to look to the future.

When the microwave timer went off and Elizabeth still hadn’t come downstairs, Jason started to worry. Was she upset? Had he pushed her too hard? Was she still thinking about Carly—

The door to his—their—room was partially ajar, but he still knocked. “Elizabeth? Are you okay?”

“Um, yeah. I forgot—you can come in,” she said. Jason pushed open the door, surprised to find her still in the wedding dress. She was standing in front of the full-length mirror, twisting and trying to reach—

“I can’t get it off,” Elizabeth said miserably, turning to face him. “It’s got all these little tiny buttons, and I can’t—” Her face flushed and she bit her lip. “Can you help?”

“Uh—” Jason nodded, his throat tight. He crossed the room and Elizabeth faced the mirror again, her back to him. The dress began halfway down her back, and his fingers fumbled as he reached for the first small, pearl button. There were at least a dozen, maybe more.

Slowly and carefully, he slid each button individually from the loop, painstaking avoiding the bits of lace and fabric around each. She looked so beautiful, and he didn’t want to make a single rip or tear in the dress.

As each button came undone, the bodice of the dress loosened, the two pieces in back gaped, revealing the soft, pale skin of her upper back. The bare skin without a single piece of clothing beneath it. He focused on the dress, ignoring the way her skin felt as his knuckles brushed it, or the way her breathing had changed.

The final button was at the base of her back, and reluctantly, Jason slid the last one out of its loop. He probably could have stopped halfway down—the dress would have been loose enough for her to shimmy out of it, but he hadn’t wanted to stop touching her—and she hadn’t asked him to.

He remained behind her, raising his head until he met her eyes in the mirror. She had hands pressed to the front of the dress, holding the bodice in place so that it hadn’t slid down while he’d been unbuttoning the dress.

Then Elizabeth moved her hands, letting them fall to her side. The bodice had been sitting higher on her chest as she held it against herself, but when she let go, the straps on her shoulder loosened first, sliding down her shoulders.

As if in a trance, Jason raised his hands to her shoulders, sliding his fingers beneath the straps. Maybe he meant to pull them back up, to put the dress back into place so that he could leave and give her a chance to change in private—

But Elizabeth raised her hands, sliding a thumb beneath each strap, their fingers brushing. And she gently pulled. Her dress fell from her shoulders, to the ground in a soft rustle, leaving her in nothing but a pair of white panties.

His chest felt eight sizes too big as their eyes remained locked together in the mirror. Elizabeth kept one of his hands in her own, raising it until it cupped one of her breasts. She was biting her lip, and Jason could feel her entire body had tightened, tense from something. Was it desire? Fear?

He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he did anything that frightened her, that brought back those memories, so even though it took everything inside of him, Jason didn’t move his hand, just stood there, feeling the weight of her in his palm. Then he dropped his head down to brush his lips against the curve of her neck. Her body loosened and she sighed, slumping back against him.

Jason carefully lifted her from the folds of the wedding dress, aware that she’d been grabbed and lifted during her attack, and scared beyond words that he’d trigger something. But if he had, Elizabeth never let on, turning to him and wrapping her arms around his neck, then kissing him.

Jason pulled her against him, his fingers sliding across her soft, silky skin. His shirt fell off his shoulders, their skin bare against one another now. He started to gently steer her towards the bed, but when her legs brushed the comforter, Elizabeth was startled, jerking away, her body tensing all over again. Her breathing was choppy, her eyes squeezed shut. “I’m sorry. I—”

“It’s okay,” Jason said immediately. He kissed her one last time, soft and lingering to reassure her. He retrieved his shirt from the floor,  drawing it over her shoulders even as she started to use her hands to cover herself. “It’s okay,” he repeated. She met his eyes, still biting her lip. “I’ll go put the lasagna in the oven, okay? I’ll see you downstairs.”

She nodded, the motion little more than a jerk up and down. Jason closed the bedroom door behind him, but instead of going downstairs, he went into one of the guest bathrooms and splashed some cold water on his face.

It was going to be a long night.

PCPD: Lobby

Taggert tossed a report into the bin for Mac to read in the morning, and paused at the front desk to look through messages that hadn’t been passed to his desk.

A pair of uniforms passed by, and Taggert nearly ignored them entirely but he heard a stray pair of words that had no business being anywhere near each other.


“Hey. Hey, wait up!” He jogged after them, waiting as they turned. “Rodriguez, right?”

“Yeah, what’s up, Taggert?” The younger man frowned. “Did you need something?”

“Were you just talking about Jason Morgan?”

“Oh.” The other uniform, one that Taggert didn’t recognize, frowned. “Yeah, Cruz was just saying he hadn’t pictured the guy as the marrying type.”

His gut clenched. “Why? Why does that matter?”

“Figured you’d have heard by now,” Rodriguez said. “You’re usually more dialed in on this guy—”

“Heard what?” Taggert bit out.

“Jason Morgan got married this morning. That girl from the fire last year.” The second uniform elbowed Rodriguez. “Guess he likes ’em young.”

“Jason Morgan married Elizabeth Webber,” Taggert said. “Are you shitting me?”

“Nope. You’ll never see me getting so crazy over a broad—”

Taggert left them both and stalked back into the squad room. He snatched up phone and dialed the county clerk’s office. “Yeah, it’s Detective Marcus Taggert. I need to know if a marriage license was issued for Jason Morgan in the last few days.” He waited, then grimaced. Jason Morgan and Elizabeth Webber had filed for a license the day before, dutifully witnessed by Sonny Corinthos and Alexis Davis.

He slammed down the receiver.


Morgan Penthouse: Kitchen

Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure how she managed it, but she had tossed on clothes and gone back downstairs where Jason had heated up food for dinner.

And, mercifully, Jason didn’t ask any questions or even refer to the…incident in the bedroom. Which seemed like the safest way to think about it. Elizabeth had lost her damn mind, and she’d thought for half a second that she could just ignore everything else in her head and go with the way he’d made her feel—

And then she’d basically humiliated herself, and probably ticked him off. He was too nice to say so, but there were names for girls like her, girls who basically stripped in front of a guy and then didn’t deliver on the unspoken promise—

She’d choked down some bites of the lasagna Sonny had left in Jason’s freezer, knowing if she ate nothing, Jason might want to talk about it, and she wasn’t ready. She didn’t think she’d be ready if she lived a thousand years.

But he didn’t bring it up. He asked her about work, about school, and she found answers, grateful that he was trying to make things normal.  After dinner, she took their dishes and went into the kitchen, happy to have something to distract her.

“I was thinking—”

Elizabeth jumped and spun around, the dish rag in her hand went flying right into Jason. Specifically at his chest, drenching the blue shirt he’d changed into. Her eyes widened, her cheeks reddened.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Jason bent down and picked up the rag. He tossed it back into the sink, where the faucet continued to run.

“I didn’t—” She cleared her throat. “I didn’t hear you come in. I’m sorry.” She ripped paper towels from the roll and nearly raised her hand to dry him, but then thought maybe she wasn’t really ready to touch his chest or run her fingers over his muscles—

Her cheeks flaming, she just held out the towels. “Um, here.”

Jason met her eyes, a bit skeptically, she thought. Then took the towels and blotted at the water. “It’s fine.”

“Right. Right.” Elizabeth turned back to the sink and scrubbed at the already cleaned plate. “Um, you said you were thinking about something.”

“I didn’t really move in,” he told her. “Before you did. I just put clothes upstairs, and Sonny gave me some leftover furniture from storage.” He leaned against the counter next to her. “I never really had a place of my own before. I lived at the boxcar, then Jake’s. Then I was at Sonny’s.”

He didn’t mention the cottage where he’d lived with Robin and Carly, and Elizabeth didn’t bring it up either. “I haven’t either, but that’s probably not news to you.”

“We should probably get some things. I don’t have a television. That doesn’t bother me, but you probably want one.”

“Oh.” She glanced out into the living room, realized how much extra space there was. There was just a leather sofa, armchair, and coffee table with the desk by the door. “Okay.”

“Do you want, I don’t know, a table?” he asked. “Out there.”

Elizabeth made a face. “Like a dining table? Wouldn’t that just mean people would come over? You don’t like people.”

“No, but you do.”

“Not lately.” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, we’ve got the table in here if we really want to sit down. I thought—” She folded her arms. “Um, I thought—you’d know better—but it looks like there might be enough space for a pool table.”

Jason squinted, then looked out at the space she gestured at. “Yeah, maybe. But—you—do you play?”

“No. Um, no. But you do.” Restless, she twisted the ring on her finger—something she’d done a thousand time with the one she wore on her index finger, but the new one—the diamond Jason had slid on her fourth finger that day—it still felt somewhat uncomfortable on her finger, so she twisted it, and the glint of the stone must have drawn his attention because he dropped his eyes to it.

Elizabeth stopped, then clasped her hands behind her back. “Um, unless you prefer to go play at Jake’s. You probably do. And you should keep doing that like before,” she said in a rush. “I mean, you used to do that all the time, but you don’t anymore, and I don’t want you to think you have to baby sit me—” And maybe he’d want to get away from her because she was a babbling idiot child—

“I went to Jake’s all the time,” Jason cut in, his tone almost amused, “because I didn’t have anything better to do. I wanted to look for a fight most of the time.” He stepped towards her but Elizabeth instinctively stepped back, flushed, caught herself and stepped forward, but the moment was lost. He put his hands in his pockets. “I don’t really feel like going there the way I did before,” he continued. “You’re right. That’d be a good spot. I’ll measure.”

“Jason—” She started, but then closed her mouth, miserable. He’d probably been about to say something sweet and wholly untrue about how he didn’t need Jake’s because he had her, but she’d ruined it, like she ruined everything— “Um, I’m tired. I’m gonna go up early.”

Jason nodded. “Okay. I’ll be up in a while. I have some paperwork to do from the warehouse.” He waited another moment. “You’ll probably be asleep before I finish.”

Her throat tightened. He was giving her a reassurance—he’d stay downstairs until she fell asleep so it would be less awkward. As if anything could be— “Okay. Um, good night.”

She flew out of the kitchen before he could say anything, angry with herself for how she’d ruined her own wedding night.

September 14, 2023

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the Signs of Life

Now that I’ve tried to
Talk to you and make you understand
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me

Hold me close, don’t ever let me go
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
‘Cause I’d already know

More Than Words, Extreme

Tuesday, January 4, 2000

St. Timothy’s Church: Chapel

Ten minutes earlier

Jason tugged at the collar of his shirt, then glanced at Sonny standing next to him without a care in the world. Of course not. He wasn’t the one getting married, Jason thought, then returned his attention to the set of double doors at the end of the aisle, separating the chapel from the anteroom.

Father Coates emerged from a room off the front of the chapel, clad in the elaborate white and gold robes that he wore during Sunday services. He nodded to a woman sitting at the organ off to the side who began to play.

He swallowed hard as the first notes of the wedding march wafted through the church. This was really happening. He was really getting married, and any second, the doors at the end of the aisle would open and—

Alexis pushed both of the doors open, flashed them both a harried smile, then went back around a corner, disappearing for a minute. Jason’s collar felt tight again. Was Elizabeth having second thoughts? Third thoughts? She’d be insane to go through with this—

Then Alexis returned and came down the aisle to stand across from Jason, leaving an empty space for Elizabeth to stand.

“We’re good,” Alexis told them both in a voice barely above a whisper. “Don’t worry.”

That was easier said than done. All Jason could do was worry. Would he hurt Elizabeth? Would their friendship be ruined by this? Would anything that had grown between them survive this crazy plan? Six months earlier, she’d barely been a blip on his radar, and now it was as if she consumed his every waking thought—

Elizabeth appeared then, walking from around the corner, pausing at the threshold of the chapel. The tulips he’d given her clutched in her hands, the blooms on on the flowers wavering slightly as her hands trembled.

Her face was pale, her eyes were wide, her chaotic curls spilling around her face, over her shoulders, brushing the wide straps of the dress she wore. Jason’s breath caught at the sight of her, in wedding white, the bodice curving and clinging tightly, then exploding into a fluff of soft, floating fabric that fell just below her knees.

Her eyes locked on his and she offered a smile, even as the tulips continued to tremble. She was as nervous as he was, Jason realized. And she wasn’t moving. The wedding march continued, but she hadn’t taken another step.

He thought about how beautiful she looked, and how much better she deserved on her wedding day than an empty church with only his lawyer and best friend as witnesses. There was no one to walk her down the aisle or to stand up with her.

Without thinking, Jason started moving. He went down the aisle, their eyes holding each other’s until he reached her. He held out his arm, and she smiled at him again, but it was more genuine now and reached her eyes, the sparkle he enjoyed so much lighting them up.

“We’re in this together, remember?” he promised her.

“I remember.” Elizabeth took his arm and then he led her down the aisle to stand in front of Father Coates. She handed the tulips to Alexis, then turned back to take Jason’s hands so that Father Coates could begin the ceremony.

Jason only half listened to the words the priest said, talking about the importance of marriage, the sanctity of the promises they were about to make, and the commitment that was being undertaken. He knew all the reasons they’d agreed to do this, and all the reasons why it might be a mistake.

He hadn’t proposed to her, and she had no engagement ring. There’d been no celebration, no whispered words of love and forever. And yet, for all that he knew this was not a real marriage—

It didn’t feel false. It didn’t feel like a lie. When Father Coates asked Jason if he’d promise to love and to cherish Elizabeth, and he said, “I do”, every word of it felt like a promise he meant to keep.

Elizabeth’s soft, but firm voice repeated the same vow he’d taken seconds earlier, and then the priest asked them about rings. Elizabeth blinked in surprise, but Jason was already turning to Sonny.

His partner handed him the box from the store they’d visited that morning, and Jason turned back to her, opening it and removing a gold band with diamonds inset. He reached for her hand even as she was lifting it to him.

Father Coates prompted her with the vows for the exchange of rings, her voice wavering slightly as he slid the band onto her hand. Then Jason turned back to Sonny who handed him a second gold band, this one plainer and wider to fit his own hand. “I didn’t get a chance to give this to you earlier,” he told her.

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, but then took the ring from him, returning it as she slid it onto the finger of his left hand, her touch light and soft, the red polish of her nails stark against his skin.

Jason repeated the same vows that she’d spoken a moment ago. “I, Jason, receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Father Coates blessed the rings, then completed the ceremony. “May the Lord in his kindness strengthen the consent you have declared before the Church and graciously bring to fulfillment his blessings within you. What God has joined, let no one put asunder.” He closed his Bible, then smiled at Jason. “You may now kiss the bride.”

In a rush of breath, Jason looked back at Elizabeth, realizing that they’d done it. They were married. She smiled at him, tremulous but…happy? Was she really? He tipped up her head, then leaned down. Her mouth opened beneath his with a soft sigh, and for a moment, he nearly forgot where they were, his other hand sliding around her waist to draw her closer.

He would have remembered in another minute or Sonny would have coughed or something—but instead, the double doors, which one of the altar boys had closed after the ceremony had begun, burst open, slamming against the back walls.

And there was Carly, standing at the end of the aisle, furious.

Elizabeth, still in a daze, had trouble processing the scene at first. Her mouth was still warm from Jason’s as she drew away from him, startled at the interruption.

“What the hell is going on here?” Carly demanded as she stalked down the aisle, her brown eyes snapping with anger. “What is this?”

Jason’s arm, still around Elizabeth’s waist, tensed, and he drew her closer.

“Father,” Sonny murmured, going over to the priest. “If we could have a minute.”

The priest, accustomed to the drama of a wedding involving Sonny Corinthos, merely inclined his head. He left the room, followed by the altar boys and the piano player.

“You think this is going to do anything?” Carly demanded. She focused on Jason. “You think this is going to stop me?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jason said evenly. He looked at Sonny. “How did she get in?”

“I don’t know,” Sonny said tightly, “but I’ll be asking that question—”

“Do you expect me to believe you’re marrying this child because you’re in love?” Carly spat. “Please—”

“Carly, I hardly think you want this to get back to your husband,” Alexis said coming forward slightly, reaching out as if she were going to take Carly by the hand and draw her away. “Why don’t we—”

“Don’t touch me!” Carly slapped at her then grabbed Jason by the lapel of his suit jacket, jerking forward.

Elizabeth stepped back as Jason grimaced, reaching up to take Carly’s hands and lightly pushing her back.

“You cannot stand here and promise to love and cherish her when a month ago you were saying you loved me!” Carly cried.

Elizabeth inhaled sharply without thinking, and some of her reaction must have shown because Carly’s eyes were now lit with glee. Jason turned, his face lined with irritation—and guilt.

Because it was true. She could read his expressions now, and she knew that Carly wasn’t lying. Not about that.

Jason had told Carly a month ago that he loved her.

The air was sucked out of the room and reality returned, almost as if the hazy dreamy fantasy she’d been enjoying had been popped like a pin in a bubble.

Jason had barely admitted to more than possessing feelings for her, some of which were sexual. He had not told her he loved her or that he wanted a future with her. He enjoyed being around her, kissing her, and maybe there might be other things in the future.

But he had never lied to her.

“That’s right, little girl,” Carly taunted. “While you were patching him up like a sad, pathetic Florence Nightingale, he was telling me that he loved me! Do you know where he told me?”

That sliced through Elizabeth like a knife. In her studio, of course. That’s where Jason had been a month ago.

“If you don’t leave,” Jason said, stepping between Carly and Elizabeth, “then I’ll make a call to the Quartermaines. This is your last chance, Carly—”

“No, it was your last chance,” Carly snarled. “We were so close to everything we wanted, what we dreamed about, and you’re throwing it away for a child whose legs are glued shut—”

Elizabeth shoved past Jason and swung at Carly, the attack coming as such a surprise that the older woman fell backwards and hit the pew, then the ground. Elizabeth winced as pain laced through her fingers.

“Maybe if you kept your legs shut more often, you’d have less trouble,” Elizabeth retorted as Jason put an arm out, holding her back, staring at her with wide eyes. “Because last time I checked, you’re already married to someone else. If Jason wanted you, he’d be with you.”

Carly rose to her feet, wiping at her lip. “Oh, you have no idea what you just unleashed—I felt sorry for you!”

“I didn’t ask for your sympathy,” Elizabeth bit out. “But you’re going to need it when AJ finds out what you’ve done. Emily told me your prenup has an infidelity clause. You think the Quartermaine lawyers wouldn’t be interested in this little scene? He’ll drag you and up down that court room and you’ll walk out with absolutely nothing.” She smiled, but there was no humor in the expression. “Go ahead, Carly. I dare you.”

Carly hissed, then glared at Jason. “You’re going to be sorry,” she promised him. “This was your last chance.”

Then she stalked out of the church, the door slamming shut with a thud behind her.

Elizabeth’s hands curled into fists, facing away from everyone. She took a minute to get her breathing under control. To cool her expression. If Jason knew she was hurt or upset, he’d feel worse.

And he didn’t have a reason to feel that way. He hadn’t lied. Hadn’t made any promises. Elizabeth had known exactly what she was taking on.

She turned back to the trio, lifting her chin. “I think we need to sign some things before we go, and we need to let the photographer take the rest of the pictures,” she told Jason. “So let’s get it over with.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason began but Sonny elbowed him.

“She’s right. Let’s get it done, then Alexis and I will get out of your hair,” he told Jason.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Every time Jason thought he had a handle on Elizabeth, she flipped and showed him something new. But maybe he needed to stop underestimating her or trying to predict what she might do next, he thought as he unlocked the door and pushed it open, Sonny heading into his own penthouse.

Elizabeth went in first, removing the knit cap from her hair and tossing it on the desk. Then she unbuttoned her jacket, the diamond ring on her finger flashing as the stones hit the light.

“I’m sorry,” Jason said, breaking the tense silence. “I don’t even know how she found out—”

“The city clerk’s office probably,” Elizabeth said absently, laying the bouquet of tulips next to her coat. “They probably saw your name on the paperwork and called Edward or something. He probably couldn’t wait to tell Carly.”

Jason flinched at the reminder that the entire world knew about his previous relationship with Carly, even his own estranged family. “About what Carly said—”

“I didn’t punch her because of what she said to you,” Elizabeth interrupted. “You can handle yourself. I’m just tired of her throwing my rape in my face like it’s something I did to myself. She has no right—”

“No, I know. And I’m sorry you had to hear it, but she deserved it.” Jason reached for her hand, the knuckles red. “You need to keep your thumb outside your fist,” he told her, running his fingers across her skin. “That’s why it hurt.”

“And she’s got a hard head,” Elizabeth muttered. “It’s fine.” She drew her hand back. “I’ll remember that if I have to punch someone else later.”


“You don’t need to explain anything,” she told him. “About what Carly said. I may not—” She hesitated. “I may not know the extent of your relationship before you were shot, but I’m not an idiot.”

“It wasn’t—” Jason grimaced. “I just want to explain—”

“You don’t need to. You didn’t make me any promises that were broken by what she said, okay?” Elizabeth turned away from him, the fabric of her dress rustling and floating as she moved across the room towards the stairs.

“No, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong. You may not need or want my explanation, but I still want to try.”

Elizabeth sighed, stopping at the base of the stairs, a hand on the railing. “All right. Then go ahead.”

“It’s true what she said. I told her I loved her,” Jason told her, his stomach twisting as her face remained perfectly expressionless. She might be saying nothing now, but he’d remembered the church. The gasp, the pallor of her skin.

“I told her it didn’t matter anymore after what she’d done. But I should have told her the rest of it. That it didn’t matter if I thought I loved her because she’d never be the person I needed her to be. The person I thought she was,” Jason continued. “She can say she loves me over and over again but she’s never done anything but—” He paused because saying it out loud was painful and humiliating but Elizabeth deserved it. “She’s never done anything but hurt me. And whatever I thought I felt for her—I was wrong. Because it’s not love. I should have known better.”

Elizabeth remained where she was, but her eyes had softened. “I’m sorry, Jason.”

“I’m not. If she hadn’t shown me who she really was underneath all the lies and broken promises, I might still think she loved me. That I loved her. I wouldn’t have seen you.”

Elizabeth’s hand tightened around the railing, the skin around her knuckles turning white. “What do you mean? You already knew me—”

“You and I both know things changed while I was staying with you,” he said softly. “That’s why I could walk away from whatever I thought was there with Carly. The night we met at Jake’s, do you remember what you asked me?”

“Do you know what nothing feels like,” she said, her voice scarcely audible. “And you said that’s where you live.”

“Until you,” he told her. “You dragged me back into living, Elizabeth. I told you. There are no words for what I feel for you. Love doesn’t seem like enough, but it’ll have to be.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Foyer

Carly didn’t care who saw her or what they thought as she slammed her way into the foyer and tossed her coat over the banister, preparing to storm up the stairs — until her husband stepped out from the front parlor, his face set like stone.

“We need to talk.”

His anger cut through her own, and Carly remembered that she was limited in her choices. Jason had made his that day in the church, choosing that simpering little waif over her, and now she was stuck for good.

She highly doubted that he was willing to even entertain the thought of getting her out of town now. She’d overplayed her hand, underestimated just how angry he was over Sonny — and she never should have made those remarks about Elizabeth’s rape in front of Jason.

AJ was the only thing that stood between her and losing everything.

Carly turned, her finger gripping the railing. “Why?”

“Did you really think I wouldn’t find out?” he demanded. “I’m not going to have this conversation with you in the middle of the foyer.” He jabbed his finger over his shoulder. “Get in here and let’s settle this.”

Carly grimaced, but obeyed. What choice did she have? Jason had made sure of that, hadn’t he?  And what exactly had AJ learned? Her trip to the church?

“You practically ran out of this house after Grandfather made that announcement this morning,” AJ said, closing both the double doors. “I followed you.”

Carly’s face paled, her heart pounding in her chest, in the throat, almost as if it was going to leap out of her mouth. “What?”

“I followed you to the church. I didn’t go in, so God only knows how you humiliated yourself,” AJ bit out, “but I waited. And then you came out, angry and upset. Jason came out later. With Elizabeth. So I guess you didn’t stop the wedding.” He paused. “And judging from that mark on your face, your presence wasn’t exactly welcome.”

Her cheek still throbbing, Carly folded her arms, and chose to remain silent. She’d give him nothing.

“I don’t know what the hell my brother is thinking, but I don’t care. I have my son,” AJ continued. “And the prenuptial agreement made it clear — if I get proof you’ve had an affair, you walk out of here with nothing and I get full custody of Michael. Do I need to remind you of that?”

“No,” Carly growled. “You don’t. I know what I signed—”

“Do you?” AJ demanded. “Because I wanted my son to have a family. His mother and his father. I know you love him, you know that I love him. I’ve given you everything, Carly! Everything! Unlimited access to every cent I own, and what have you done?”

She lifted her chin, said nothing.

“I have never, not once, done a single thing to deserve the way you’ve treated me,” AJ said. “I didn’t have to marry you, you know that. All of Jason’s money wouldn’t have changed what you did to me. What you both did to me. You tried to destroy my life so I wouldn’t suspect Michael was my son. I have proof that you drugged me, that you tried to break my sobriety.”

Carly gritted her teeth. Damn that Lorraine Miller for turning traitor then fleeing town. “I know that.”

“This is the last time you humiliate me, Carly. The absolute last time. Because I don’t need the prenuptial agreement to destroy you. If you think I won’t drag you into court and divorce you, you’re demented. I have all the cards here, Carly. And you have nothing.”

And she knew it. God, she knew it, and she had no one to blame but herself.

“You and my brother—whatever it was—it’s done. Let him go. If he wanted you, Carly, he had his chance. He married another woman. That’s his answer, isn’t it?”


“The next time I find you rushing out after Jason, I’m filing for divorce. Michael is young enough to forget you.”

He left then, slamming the double doors behind him as Carly flinched.

She had no choice now. She had to find a way to make her marriage work, to make AJ think this baby was his.

But Jason couldn’t be allowed off the hook so easily. He was going to have to pay for abandoning her.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Had Jason just…had he…

Love doesn’t seem like enough, but it’ll have to be.

Elizabeth’s hand fell from the railing and she stepped down, off the step. She swallowed hard. What did she say to that? How could she respond? He hadn’t even really said it, had he? But wasn’t it nearly the same? Oh, God, she didn’t know what to do—

But she couldn’t keep standing here, staring at him like an idiot. He was trying, wasn’t he? Trying to explain the twisted, complicated relationship with Carly—and honestly, what did he really owe her? They were married for reasons that had nothing to do with their feelings. Would she expect him to be in love with her after a week of dating if she wasn’t in a wedding dress?

Elizabeth took a deep breath, then went to him, his eyes staying on her with every step she took. Whatever he meant by what he said, whatever was swirling around in her head or his—

She curled her fingers in the lapels of his jacket, then tugged him down to her, kissing him with everything she had inside of her, everything she wanted and dreamed and fantasized about, his mouth warm and sweet against hers, his taste as addictive.

His fingers dug into her hair, tugging her head back to deepen the kiss, crushing her against him, her feet nearly leaving the ground. Blood pounded in her brain, her knees weak, and something was ringing—did she hear bells? What was that?

Jason broke away, breathing hard, his eyes glazed slightly. He brushed her bottom lip with his thumb. “It’s the phone,” he murmured. “Ignore it.”

No argument there, and Elizabeth dove back in, shoving his jacket off his shoulders, hearing it drop to the floor. But Jason didn’t kiss her again, not like that—instead, he kissed the hollow at the base of her throat and everything shivered, tingled, then burst into flame as his mouth moved across her skin, to the curve of her neck and shoulders, his fingers sliding gently beneath the straps of her dress. One slid off her shoulder—

“If you don’t pick up this phone right now, I am getting on a train, and I will use my key and I will come to that penthouse, and I don’t care—

Emily’s voice burst into the room like a gunshot blast and Elizabeth shoved Jason away, confused and startled. Then focused on the answering machine. “What—”

“I’m going to count to five. One, two—”

Her fingers trembling, Elizabeth jerked the phone off the hook. “Emily.”

“Elizabeth Imogene Webber,” Emily said, “you have a lot of explaining to do.”

It was like a bucket of cold water had been dumped over her head. Elizabeth pressed her other hand to her forehead, then looked at Jason, his face still flushed—and had she done that? Unbuttoned his shirt halfway? She drew her hand from her face, staring at it like it was alien to her.

“Elizabeth,” Emily repeated. “Are you listening to me? What is this message? And my mom called me, too. She said you got married. To my brother. What the—I just left for school—”

“I—” Elizabeth’s mind blanked. She had a story, didn’t she? She met Jason’s eyes in a blaze of panic. “I don’t—”

Jason, taking pity on her, pressed a button to put the call on speaker phone. “Emily.”

“Oh, no, it’s starting already,” Emily said, with some disgust. “I don’t think I’m insane for wanting to know what the hell is going on—”

“You know what’s going on,” Jason said, with a patience and evenness that Elizabeth envied. “Elizabeth and I got married this morning.”

“Oh, for crying out loud—”

“We got married because we wanted to,” Jason continued, “and we didn’t wait because we didn’t want to. That should cover it.”

“It absolutely does not—”

“Emily,” Elizabeth said, out of patience. “We got married this morning. Which means you are calling on our wedding night.”

There was a silence on the other line as Emily digested that information. “Listen—”

“And Elizabeth already told you our sex life is none of your business. We’ll call you tomorrow.” Jason hung up on sputtering his sister, plunging the room into silence as Elizabeth’s brain skittered and jumped.

We got married because we wanted to…our sex life is none of your business…

“That should keep her in New York. At least for tonight,” Jason said.

“Maybe. I’ll leave a message for her when I know she’s in class.” Elizabeth absently drew the sagging strap of her dress back over her shoulder, and his eyes followed the movement. She flushed. “Um, I was gonna go and change. I don’t—” She bit her lip. “The fabric is kind of delicate—I just don’t want anything to happen to it.”

Jason dragged a hand through his hair, then nodded. “Yeah, okay. I’ll go—I think there’s some lasagna or something in the freezer. I’ll go defrost it.”

They stared at each other for another long moment, then went their separate ways.

September 12, 2023

This entry is part 12 of 16 in the Signs of Life

Close your eyes, give me your hand
Do you feel my heart beating?
Do you understand? Do you feel the same?
Am I only dreaming?
Or is this burning an eternal flame?

Eternal Flame, The Bangles

Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“I really think you should have your own lawyer look this over,” Alexis said with a grimace. She set the prenuptial agreement in front of Elizabeth, then looked at Jason. “I can have someone here in an hour—”

“You’ve spent the last day trying to convince me to take half of Jason’s assets,” Elizabeth muttered. She grabbed a pen and started scribbling her initials wherever Alexis had tagged the paperwork. “How is my own attorney going to do better?”

Alexis pursed her lips. “I suppose that’s true, but still—”

“If I didn’t trust you or Jason, then I wouldn’t be doing this at all.” Elizabeth finished with by signing her name on the last page, then handing the pen to Jason. “You got what you wanted. I’m stuck with half your income while we’re married.”

“Stuck with,” Alexis repeated, as if that phrase didn’t suggest they were referring possibly millions of dollars.

“Don’t forget, I get half your tips,” Jason said with a half smile. He initialed the paperwork and signed it. “Make sure you keep track.”

“Oh, don’t worry.”

Jason handed Alexis the contract. “Do we need to sign anything else?”

“Not before the ceremony, but there will be a few things after,” Alexis told them. “Name change, forms to put you on the accounts—Don’t make that face. We agreed,” she told Elizabeth. “But it can wait.” She paused. “There’s a chance the DA will subpoena the paperwork,” she admitted. “To prove that Elizabeth was paid for testimony.”


“The fact that Elizabeth is taking very little,” Alexis continued, “and that there’s not a massive settlement for dissolution is going to work in our factor. I thought it over,” she added. “Elizabeth might have been refusing for good reasons, but no DA is ever going to think you’re being paid off.”

“Well, that’s good news, right?” Elizabeth asked Jason who was frowning at his lawyer.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Now.” Alexis arched a brow. “You had better go ahead and head over to Sonny’s. He wanted to go to the church and talk over security with Father Coates.” When Jason’s scowl deepened, she said, “I’ll get Elizabeth there in time. We have an hour.”

“I need to call Emily,” Elizabeth reminded him. “I made sure to wait until she was at orientation so it’ll be a message, but if you want to help explain this to her—”

“I’m going,” Jason said, with a shake of his head. “She’s just going to yell at us both for doing it without her.” He kissed Elizabeth’s cheek, then left the penthouse.

Her cheeks flaming, Elizabeth turned to Alexis. “Um, thanks. For putting a spin on this prenup thing that makes it look like it works for us. He’s still a little frustrated, I think.”

“It will help us in the long run,” Alexis assured her. “I was thinking like your attorney yesterday, but the point of all of this is to make the marriage look real.” She filed the paperwork in her bag. “I have to run over to Sonny’s and grab a few things, so you leave your message and I’ll be right back.”

The lawyer left before Elizabeth could ask what Alexis needed to grab or why she was coming back. Telling herself that she’d learn the truth soon enough, she dismissed it and turned to the phone.

Time to tell her best friend Elizabeth would be her sister-in-law in about two hours. Hallmark should really make cards for this kind of thing.

Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room

Carly sipped her tea and flipped through the Port Charles Sun, enjoying the tabloid and ignoring the Quartermaine family around her. She hated these morning breakfasts where everyone pretended they were one happy family.

Well, maybe they were but they certainly didn’t include Carly in that family. If it wasn’t for their money—

She barely registered Edward coming in, rubbing his hands together with a grin. He went over to the table pour himself a cup of coffee.

“Why are you smiling like that?” Alan asked suspiciously. “Did you take candy from a  baby or something?”

“Edward,” Lila began, her eyes squinting. “Have you done something?”

“I am hurt, my dear,” Edward said, his eyes continuing to twinkle. “I come bearing good news to this family and all I get is scorn.” He sniffed. “Maybe I’ll keep my secrets to myself.”

“This never bodes well,” AJ muttered, turning away from feeding Michael to focus on the rest of the family. “Grandfather—”

“What secrets?” Monica demanded. “Edward, so help me God—”

“All right, all right. You’ve pulled it out of me.” Edward set down his cup of coffee and his grin deepened. “I had a call from City Hall this morning. Some paperwork was filed yesterday that is going to make this family very happy, indeed.”

“Will you stop being cryptic?” Ned retorted. “What—”

“Jason is getting married. Today.”

The room exploded in noise, but Carly felt it pass over her like a wave. Everything inside her froze, her fingers tightening around the handle of her tea cup.

Jason was getting married.


God damn it.

“Did you know about this?” AJ hissed to her, jerking her out of her shock. “You didn’t go get a quickie divorce or anything—”

“No, of course not!” Carly’s eyes widened. “I had no idea.” And if she could get out of this marriage with a goddamn Dominican divorce, she would have done it already. Stupid prenuptial agreements and custody agreements.

“Who could Jason be marrying?” Ned said, furrowing his brow as the conversation filtered back in for Carly. “The only gossip I’ve heard is—” He blinked. “Wait.”

“I like Elizabeth Webber nearly as much as Robin Scorpio,” Edward declared. “A good girl from a well-established family. She’s very sweet.”

“And she and Emily are already like sisters,” Monica said, her eyes lighting up. “Oh, that’s wonderful.”

“Isn’t she awfully young?” Alan said, with some skepticism.

“Eighteen,” Edward offered with a shrug. “No younger than my Lila was when she first married.” No one in the room reminded Edward that his Lila had been eighteen when she’d married her first husband, Crane Tolliver, who had ended up not signing the divorce papers leading Lila to live in accidental bigamy for most of her life.

“True, but—” Alan sighed. “Well, I would have preferred Robin, but you’re right. Elizabeth is a lovely young woman. He could have done worse.”

Carly bristled when some eyes fell on her. Absolute jackasses. They could judge her all they wanted —

She was going to stop this stupid wedding from happening. No way Jason was going to try to call her bluff and make her look like a crazy woman.

He was going to pay for this.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“So, Emily, I wish you were here,” Elizabeth said, “but I promise you, when you come home for Spring Break, we’ll have a party or whatever you want. I love you. Please don’t be mad. Jason and I—” She closed her eyes. “We just couldn’t wait. And hey, like you said, at least it’s not Carly.”

She set the phone back on the receiver, then turned as Alexis bustled in, a few dark garment bags over one arm. “What’s that?” Elizabeth asked.

“Sonny wanted you to have a few choices,” Alexis said as she set the bags on the sofa. “It’s not like you planned to get married, so he just didn’t want you to have to settle for something nice in your closet.”

She had been planning just to grab one of the dresses she’d carted over when she’d packed up her studio, but — “Wait—”

“We couldn’t go shopping,” Alexis told her, “because then someone might have known and we’d lose the element of surprise—” She paused. “I’m sorry. I know this is happening really fast, but—”

“But if we want this to look real—” Elizabeth touched one of the zippers. “The bride should look like a bride.”

“Are you all right?” Alexis asked, tipping her head to the side. “You can stop—”

“No, no—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “It’s just—you know, I wasn’t like all the little girls who grew up dreaming about their wedding day. I mean, I never even thought I’d get married.” Never thought anyone would stop looking at Sarah long enough to want Elizabeth.  “But then I had dreams last year. After Lucky died. Of what our life would have been.”

She took a deep breath. “I didn’t know that I had an idea of what my wedding day would look like until then, and it always started with the perfect dress. And getting ready with Emily and maybe my grandmother.”

Elizabeth met Alexis’s compassionate gaze. “It’s stupid. The only reason this all feels weird is that Jason and I aren’t just friends, you know? We’re…I guess we’re dating. And now we’re getting married. And we’ll still be dating, only there will be all this legal stuff in the background—it’s just—it’s a lot. Every time I think I have a handle on it what I’m doing, it feels like I get reminded all over again.”

“You don’t have to use a single one of these dresses,” Alexis told her. “If you want to save the idea of a wedding dress for the day when you mean the vows—”

“But that’s the problem, isn’t it?” Elizabeth slowly drew down on the zipper to pull out one of the dresses. “When Jason and I repeat those vows later, I think we’re both going to mean some of them. That’s what makes it harder, I think. Because a part of this is real—just not the most important part.”

“The forever part.”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth set the first dress aside to unzip the next garment bag. “What if it could have been real in a year or two but we’re ruining it because we’re doing this now?”

“I suppose you have to ask yourself if it what you’re doing is worth the risk,” Alexis said. “You can still say no.”

“It just leaves Carly with all the power,” Elizabeth murmured. “She’ll find a way to make Jason’s life a living hell, and the people around him. I can help him stop her.” She returned the dresses to the garment bags. “I should try them on first. Will you—” She bit her lip. “Will you help me?”

“Of course,” Alexis promised. “Whatever you need.”

St. Timothy’s Church: Anteroom

Jason felt like he was coming out of his skin, avoiding Sonny as he paced the small room outside of the chapel.

The security was just as it should be, and he and Sonny were dressed in tuxedos. There was a church with a priest. Everything was going according to plan. In maybe a half hour, Jason would be married. To Elizabeth.

To protect them all from Carly.

Every time Jason thought he had a handle on what was going to happen — something threw him off. Alexis telling them that the prenuptial agreement would help them if the PCPD investigated the marriage, then Elizabeth reminding him that Emily still had to be told—would his sister be angry at them? Would she understand? Would Elizabeth want her to know the truth?

Then he’d gone to Sonny’s where his partner had shoved him into a new tuxedo that reminded him, uncomfortably, of the one he’d worn the last time he’d dressed for a wedding.

The day Sonny had jilted Brenda and left Jason to do the dirty work. That wedding had ended in disaster—

Jason rolled his shoulders. He was fine. This was all fine. Elizabeth was right. This protected them all without sacrificing either of their freedoms or life in Port Charles.

“Maybe you should go inside,” Sonny suggested. He checked her watch. “Alexis and Elizabeth will be here any minute, and you don’t want to see her before the ceremony—”

“I do,” Jason insisted. He wanted just one more chance to make sure she was okay with this—that she wasn’t just doing this to protect him. It didn’t matter that she’d pushed him for this option — he wanted her to be doing this because she was comfortable with it.



The door to anteroom opened then, and some snowflakes swirled in along with the winter breeze. Alexis grimaced as she pushed open the door more firmly, ushering Elizabeth inside.

Elizabeth was wearing a long white coat, her hair tucked up underneath a white knit hat, some snowflakes clinging to the curls that escaped it. Their eyes met and he couldn’t look away for a long moment.

“Sorry if we’re a little late,” Alexis said, unbuttoning her coat. “Thanks,” she said as Sonny helped her out of it. “Traffic was getting a little dicey. It’s snowing harder than we thought it would.”

“It’s fine,” Sonny said. He hung up Alexis’s coat. He jabbed Jason in the ribs. “We should go inside so Elizabeth can take off her coat.”

“It’s no big deal.” Elizabeth reached for the top button.

“It is,” Sonny insisted. “We’re doing everything by the book. In fact—” He looked at Jason. “Why don’t you give her the flowers, and we’ll go tell Father Coates we’re just about ready?”

“Flowers?” Elizabeth said with a blink of her eyes. “Oh, but—”

Jason went over to the bouquet that he and Sonny had picked up on the way over. “I hope it’s okay,” he said as he held it out to her. “I wasn’t sure what to get, but—”

He’d remembered her talking about the white roses Lucky had given her the year before, and how sad roses made her feel, so he’d told the florist anything but roses. He wasn’t entirely sure what kind of flowers were included—but he knew they weren’t roses.

“I like tulips,” Elizabeth assured him, breathing in the scent of the pink, yellow, and red tulips. “Thanks.” She bit her lip, looking down at the bouquet for a long moment, before glancing at Alexis.

“All right, that’s settled. We’ll get you out of the coat and hat, and we’ll get this done.” Alexis eyed Sonny who nodded.

Sonny clapped a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

“Yeah, I—” Jason looked at Elizabeth one more time, but she was smiling now, handing the bouquet to Alexis for safekeeping. She drew the hat from her head, carefully letting the rest of her hair cascade down her neck. “Yeah, let’s go,” he told Sonny.

If either of them had any second thoughts, the chance had passed to say anything.

St. Timothy’s: Courtyard

Carly cursed as she hurried up to the front doors of the church. She hadn’t been able to do much more than learn that the church was closed between eleven and twelve that day for a private ceremony, and then it had been impossible to get out of the house—

If she missed her chance to stop all of this—

“Excuse me,” a guard stopped her just as she approached front door. “You can’t go in there.”

Carly started to growl at him, but then recognized the guard as someone she’d known during the short time she’d lived with Jason. “Dougie. It’s nice to see a familiar face.”

“Mrs. Quartermaine—”

“I’m not here to make trouble,” Carly said. She spread her hands out. “You can frisk me and everything. I’m just here to give my good wishes to the groom.”

Dougie glanced at his partner who shrugged, then he looked back at Carly. “You’re just going to attend the wedding?” he asked skeptically.

“Of course. I’m a married woman, Dougie. What trouble can I cause now?”

He still looked skeptical, but he stepped back. He was there to guard against threats, not tiny blondes.

Men, she snorted as she continued up the walk. Always underestimating women.

She shoved inside the anteroom, then strode to the chapel doors—throwing them open just as Father Coates completed the ceremony—

Giving Carly a front row seat to Jason and Elizabeth’s first kiss as husband and wife.

September 7, 2023

This entry is part 11 of 16 in the Signs of Life

When I’m lost, in the rain, in your eyes
I know I’ll find the light to light my way

When I’m scared, losing ground, when my world is going crazy
You can turn it all around yes

And when I’m down you’re there pushing me to the top
You’re always there givin’ me all you’ve got

I Turn To You, Christina Aguilera

Monday, January 3, 2000

Port Charles City Hall: Fourth Floor

Elizabeth didn’t really know what she expected when she stepped off the elevator the next afternoon, but it wasn’t Sonny and Alexis standing next to Jason. “Um, is everything okay?” she asked, shifting her purse higher on her shoulder. “What’s going on?”

“We need witnesses,” Jason said to her. “For the, uh, ceremony.” He put his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “Emily went back to school this morning—”

“Right. And the witnesses need to be here when we apply. I forgot.” Or hadn’t really thought about who those witnesses would be. This wasn’t a real wedding. There wouldn’t be a dress or a ring. A church.

It was paperwork.

She looked over at Sonny and Alexis. “Is there anything I need to do before—”

“Well,” Alexis said, uneasily, “as Jason’s attorney, we need to discuss a prenuptial agreement—” Jason glared at her and she closed her mouth.

A prenuptial agreement. Because Jason was a literal millionaire and she was a waitress from the docks with twenty dollars to her name after she finished paying for classes and rent. She bit her lip. “I can do that—”

“I told her I didn’t care—”

“But it looks—”

“Anything we can do to make this look legit,” Sonny cut in, silencing Jason and Elizabeth. “Alexis, you have something for them to look at, don’t you? ” When she nodded, Sonny looked at Elizabeth. “Great. She can go over with it back at the penthouse, and I can find someone—another lawyer—to look it over for you,” he promised Elizabeth.

“I—this—” Elizabeth folded her arms, her cheeks flaming. “I don’t need that. Just say I get nothing and we can move on—”

“That’s not—”

“I don’t want anything anyway. That’s—” She shook her head. “Ever. I mean, even if this were—” She wiggled her shoulders. “Anyway. That’s what I want it to say and it should be up to me since I’m the one signing something away.” She met Jason’s gaze. “Okay?”  She was never going to give anyone the chance to say she was using Jason like Carly had. She didn’t give a damn about his money.

“Elizabeth—” Jason began, but Sonny cut in.

“We can talk about it later,” he said. “Let’s apply for the license.”

Elizabeth watched Jason complete his part of the form. He handed her the pen and slid the paper towards her. Without looking at him, she scratched out her name — Elizabeth Imogene Webber — and the rest of her information. Then Sonny and Alexis completed their sections.

The clerk stamped the form and smiled at them. “Congratulations,” she said brightly. “And good luck!”

They would need it.

Harborview Towers: Hallway

The moment the elevator had arrived at the top floor, Elizabeth told Jason she wanted to talk to Alexis alone about the prenuptial agreement. He opened his mouth to argue, but Elizabeth just lifted her chin.

“I’m the one that has to sign it,” she said, repeating what she’d said at the registrar’s office, “so wouldn’t it be better if we started with what I wanted it to say?”

“I think Jason’s just worried you won’t even take gas money,” Sonny said dryly as Jason bristled.

“Well, I won’t. I don’t have a car. I take the bus.” She folded her arms. “So if you want to negotiate bus fare—”


“I’ll see what we can come up with before tomorrow,” Alexis told Sonny and Jason. “My job is to protect your interests, so I’ll do that.”

“I don’t care—” Jason began again but Elizabeth turned and disappeared into the penthouse, ending the conversation. “Alexis—”

“This is not the worst problem in the world,” his lawyer told him. “I’ll talk her into something you can live with. Trust me. You and Sonny should make sure you have everything for tomorrow and I’ll let you know when we’re done.”

Jason grimaced as Alexis followed Elizabeth, leaving him alone with Sonny. This was all happening too fast, and he was starting to think it was a massive mistake.


“Let’s just get whatever we have to do done,” Jason muttered, brushing past him and Max to go into Sonny’s place.  Sonny sighed and followed.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“You know he’s not going to make you take millions of dollars,” Alexis said.

Elizabeth turned to find the other woman stripping off her coat and setting it over the back of the chair. “That’s not—”

“Considering this was accidentally my idea,” Alexis cut in, “let me first apologize for putting this in Jason’s head. If you’re not comfortable with this, it’s not too late. I can find you a criminal attorney—”

“I talked Jason into it,” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “He was ready to leave town forever, and I just—all his ways of solving this doesn’t stop Carly from destroying everything. She’s threatening me and Bobbie, too. If he left—”

“She’d know he did it to protect you. I get it.” Alexis tipped her head. “If you and Jason were planning this for other, happier reasons, can I tell you where I would start negotiations?”

“I don’t want—”

“Happier reasons might include a future family, and Jason’s estate is complicated. There are layers,” she continued. “So, yeah, I get it. You’re not doing this for the money. But you are doing this to protect him.”

Elizabeth sighed and perched on the arm of the sofa. “Yes. I want to protect Bobbie, too. And myself. But I don’t want him to get hurt by Carly again.”

“A marriage damages Carly’s credibility and it complicates any attempt to leverage you against Jason or vice versa,” Alexis said, “but it’s not foolproof. If the DA or the PCPD can prove you’re doing this to circumvent the law—” She paused. “This needs to look as real as it can.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips. “What does real mean?”

“Sonny and I discussed this. He doesn’t want Jason to leave any more than you do, so he’s pulling strings with Father Coates at St. Timothy’s.”

“Wait—” Her eyes widened. “Sonny’s making it so we can get married in the church?”

“At the church Jason attends and where Michael was baptized. There will be witnesses. Pictures. But that’s the ceremony. It’s afterwards that we need to worry about. You getting married will make everyone suspicious. There might be search warrants for the studio, for here at the penthouse. They will assume you have something to hide.”

“We do, but there’s no physical evidence.” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip as the gravity of what Alexis was saying sank in. It would be important that everyone outside these walls saw them as being in a real and committed, if hasty marriage. People already thought she was a gold digger—that wasn’t going to change after tomorrow. It would only be worse. And if Jason’s enemies, the men who may or may not have put a bomb in her studio only a few days ago—if they thought this was a legal fiction—


Elizabeth bit her lip. “Okay. If this was happening for other reasons, how would you write this prenup?”

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Jason felt like he was crawling out of skin as he paced the room, waiting for Alexis to tell him she’d finished talking to Elizabeth.

“Alexis will get it sorted, Jase. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and she’ll talk some sense—”

Jason whipped his head around to glare at Sonny who stopped talking. “Elizabeth isn’t an idiot. Don’t talk about her that way.”

“No, I know.” Sonny put up his hands in surrender. “I’m sorry. It was a poor choice of words. She’s just very proud, and she doesn’t want you to think she’s using you. If this were happening for other reasons, you’d probably still be fighting with her to take a nickel.”

“Money doesn’t matter to me,” Jason said, rolling his shoulders. “I’ve lived without it, so I don’t need it. But it’s there and it’s just—” Collecting dust in his accounts. He barely touched it most of the time, and the last time he’d talked to Benny about his share of the warehouses, the accountant had looked appalled by the lack of investments.

“When I say Alexis will convince her, I mean that she’ll remind Elizabeth that prenuptial agreements might start as private documents, but leaks could happen. And she’ll need to accept more than bus fare.”

Jason scrubbed his hands over his face. “This is a mistake,” he muttered. “There should be another way out of this.”

“If there was, we’d be taking it, Jason. Elizabeth was right to remind us that Carly doesn’t go away because you do. She absolutely would still throw Elizabeth under the bus to punish her, and she’d drag Bobbie with her. If you sent Elizabeth away, Carly would still be a factor for you. Still using Michael against—”

“I don’t want to talk—”

“We’re going to talk about it because it’s business,” Sonny said flatly. “You don’t want to talk about December, I get it. I haven’t said a damn word about it—”

“You had no right—”

“Maybe not, but it’s done. You don’t trust me anymore, I can live with that. But what I did—what Carly and I did—it’s the reason you were dying out in the middle of nowhere. Elizabeth and Bobbie wouldn’t be at risk if I’d been a better man.”

Jason exhaled slowly, looked away from Sonny. “There’s no point in talking about this—”

“There is. Because in less than twenty-four hours, you’re supposed to be marrying that girl across the hall, and you need it get it out of your head that you’re making a mistake. She can see it, and she’s probably already thinking the worst.”

Jason blinked at Sonny, unsure where the other man was going with this. “The worst?”

“It would be one thing if you and Elizabeth were doing this before things had changed between you. You’re not strangers getting married. I get it—you hate that it’s happening. You wish there was another way. But this is the only way we can clear everyone, stop Carly, and protect Elizabeth from Sorel. Do you see anything that does all three things and keeps you in town?”

Jason grimaced. “No.”

“That—that right there—” Sonny stabbed a finger at him. “You make that face one more time, I’m gonna deck you. Elizabeth Webber is making a massive sacrifice to get you out of trouble and to keep you in town. To keep you with her. You know that’s why she’s doing it, don’t you?”

“I—” Jason paused. “But—”

“And it’s why you’re doing it. This is not a mistake. It’s awkward, it’s frustrating, but none of this is a mistake, Jason. Elizabeth is an adult capable of making her own choices and mistakes. You keep making that damn face, she’s gonna think you want to be anywhere else but with her.”

Jason fell silent. There were so many things that he didn’t always see right away when it came to personal relationships, he realized. He could read people in business all day long, but when it came to the women in his life that he’d cared for, they were often a baffling mystery. But Elizabeth had been upset when he’d told her was leaving—she’d insisted on finding another way out. He’d thought it was because Carly would still be a threat—but had she been as upset as he’d been at the thought of never seeing each other again?

“We both know it’s not true,” Sonny continued, his tone more gentle now. “But she’s been through a lot, and she’s taking on the big leagues now. She needs your support, not your doubts. Trust Alexis to convince her to let us both protect her, and do whatever you can to make this work. There’s no going back after tomorrow.”

There was a knock at the door, cutting off whatever Jason would have said next. Max opened the door, and Alexis came in.

“Well?” Sonny asked. He poured himself a bourbon. “How did negotiations go?”

“Not as well as you’d like,” Alexis told Jason, “but I’m mostly satisfied. She’s agreed to letting you buy her a car, knowing you might assign her a driver at any point. She also agreed to a bank account with whatever you want to put in there, except she said she won’t use it unless she doesn’t have any money of her own.” She pursed her lips. “She offered a payment plan for the car and the account after dissolution, but I talked her out of it.”

“Christ,” Sonny muttered, rubbing his temple. “She probably wanted a used car.”

“I talked her out of that, too. I reminded her you’d need to upgrade it for security.” Alexis paused. “But she wouldn’t budge on dissolution, Jason. You both walk out with what you came with.”

“What about property acquired during the marriage?” Sonny asked. “You can buy her a house and then make her keep it,” he suggested to Jason. “Property during—” He saw Alexis shake her head. “Oh, man.”

“She was ready for it. All property purchased with Jason’s assets stays with him.” Alexis sighed. She raised a brow at Jason. “Do you want to counter?”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth was perusing a takeout menu, considering the twenty dollars in her account and wondering if she was being too stubborn when Jason came back from Sonny’s. She offered him a weak smile. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He reached for Elizabeth’s jacket, stripped off his own, then hung them both in the closet. Then he sat next to her on the sofa, took the menu from her, and set it on the coffee table.

“You’re mad,” Elizabeth said, her stomach twisting. “About Alexis—”

“No, not—” Jason paused. “Thank you.”

She frowned, then narrowed her eyes, looking for the catch. “For what?”

“Money doesn’t matter to me. Don’t get me wrong—I like having it and it makes life easier,” he admitted. “After I left the Quartermaines, I didn’t have any. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t need much. I just need a place to live and food to eat. I live here because it’s better for business, but I was happy in the boxcar, too.”

Elizabeth shifted on the sofa to face him, tucking a leg underneath her body. “I can take care of myself. I make good tips—”

“I know, but—” He paused. “Thank you,” he repeated, “for doing this. I know it might seem like I was okay with leaving, but I didn’t want to. I told you that before, but I wanted to make sure you knew that I meant it. I didn’t—” He paused. “Yeah, Alexis suggested this, and I thought it was asking too much of you, but I should have given you all the options before I made a decision on my own. I’m sorry.”

“Oh.” A weight slid from her shoulders, and she smiled. “I can do this. It’s a lot, but—”

“It is, but it won’t be that bad if we talk to each other. That’s what we do best, right?” he asked her softly. “We listen to each other.”

“Yeah.” Feeling a bit brave, she slid closer to him and was rewarded when he tucked her against him. It was so warm and soft and lovely to be cuddled up together on the sofa. “I guess you’re about to do some talking and I have to do some listening.”

“Yeah.” He touched the edge of a curl, pulling it down and letting it pop back up. “I know the prenup is a lot. I wasn’t expecting Alexis to bring it up.”

“It’s okay. She explained it—”

“Still. Thank you for agreeing to let me buy you a car,” he continued. “You can pick it out, it’ll be in your name, but it would make me feel better if you had a safe way to get to school and work.”

“I can do still do both of those?” Elizabeth asked hesitantly. “I was worried—”

“Yeah. I already took care of Kelly’s,” Jason told her, “or Sonny did when you started taking care of me and going back and forth. We added extra security after I left the studio. You have a guard — I’ll get Francis registered to audit your classes, and I’ll make sure he leaves the suit at home,” he added when she wrinkled her nose. “It won’t be forever, just until we’re sure the danger is passed.”

“Okay. That’s good.” She bit her lip. “Is that it?” she asked hopefully. She smiled. “I mean—”

“I know you want the studio for painting,” he told her. “But it needs to be secured. Will you let me do what needs to be done there?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Does that mean buying the place?”

“It might.” He paused. “Alexis is drawing up the paperwork the way you asked her to, but there’s something I asked her to change.”


“I don’t know how long this is going to last,” Jason said after a moment. “And I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next year. It’s important to me that you’re protected. Not just because of this, but because I care about you.” He reached for her hand, his fingers surprisingly soft against her own.

Sneaky bastard. “What’s the change?”

“Anything income either of us makes while we’re married,” Jason began, “gets split equally at dissolution.”

She scowled. “Oh, okay, so you’ll get half of my tips and I get half of the million you’ll make this year? That’s not going to happen—”


“I don’t want—”

“I know that. And I’m not doing it because I think you want it. Or need it,” he added. “It’s because you deserve it.”

Somehow that sounded wrong, and she was trying to pinpoint why. “How do you figure? I’m not exactly some great bet— ” She could be a terrible investment after all. What if she really did hate sex? She certainly wouldn’t deserve money then.

“I’m alive because of you,” he told her. “Every day I’m here, it’s because you dragged me out of the snow and forced me to live. I can make all this money I don’t even want or need because of you. I want to share what I have with you. Will you let me?”

“I knew you’d find a way to make this feel like a favor.” She sighed and slumped back against the sofa. “Fine.”


He was quiet for a moment, and she opened her eyes to find him smiling at her, his expression amused. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because I can.” He leaned down to kiss her. She touched his jaw, spreading his fingers over his skin, marveling at the fact that in twenty-four hours, he’d be her husband. And in moments like this, the reasons why they were doing this seemed a million miles away.

September 5, 2023

This entry is part 10 of 16 in the Signs of Life

Always pushing and pulling
Sometimes vanity takes vacation time on me
I’m in a daze stumbling bewildered
North of gravity head up in the stratosphere
You and I roller coaster riding love
You’re the center of adrenaline
And I’m beginning to understand

The Best Thing, Savage Garden

Sunday, January 2, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Alexis yanked off her reading glasses and stared. “What did you just ask me to do?” she demanded.

Sonny held out a mug of coffee. “Draw up a preliminary prenuptial agreement for Jason and Elizabeth and refresh yourself on spousal privilege. Oh, and meet us at the clerk’s office tomorrow to get the marriage license.”

Alexis didn’t take the coffee, so Sonny set it down in front of her. “He’s not really going through with this asinine plan, is he? When I mentioned it, it was—he wasn’t supposed to take me seriously!”

“I wondered who planted the seed in his head.” Sonny returned to the coffee bar, poured his own cup. “It didn’t occur to me, to be quite honest, but it really does solve a number of our problems.”

“Oh, if Audrey ever finds out about this, she’s going to murder me,” Alexis muttered. “You know, I was already on thin ice as the hospital’s attorney after I took you and Jason on as a client — she’ll be calling the board of directors—”

“Elizabeth is an adult—”

“Who graduated from high school last year,” Alexis said. “She’s a child—”

“And Jason woke up from a coma four years ago without a single memory of his first twenty-two years. His life experience was reset to zero,” Sonny interrupted. “Look, I’m not going to stand here and tell the man he’s too old for her. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my relationships — it’s not like he’s a grown man who’s been out here for seven years as an adult—”

“No, but—” Alexis held up her hands. “Okay. Okay. I get what you’re saying. It’s just—I mentioned it to Jason because he seemed upset, but because I knew he’d never go for it—”

“It was my impression,” Sonny said carefully, “that he hadn’t intended to consider it seriously. Our plan was to have him leave town. I imagine when he presented that to Elizabeth, she pushed him for other options. Having negotiated with Elizabeth on other matters, I know that she’s tough and doesn’t back down when she knows she’s right.”

“But is she?” Alexis wanted to know. “Can she possibly understand what she’s getting herself into?”

“I don’t know if anyone ever really knows what they’re getting into when it comes to marriage,” Sonny said. “There are people who date for years, get married, and divorce within the first year. Alexis, if you’re not comfortable—”

“I just—I feel responsible.” Alexis picked up the coffee. “She’s been through a lot. And it’s not just losing Lucky Spencer last year. Sonny, I don’t know how familiar you are with her history—”

“I’d heard a few things from Luke, but nothing solid. But when she let Jason stay in her studio last month, I wanted to know how she’d hold up. I had Benny run her.” Sonny sat down, his eyes sober. “Her outcry at the trial last year made the papers. I was just getting settled back in town, I missed it. She accused a photographer of raping her.”

“The same photographer who blackmailed Emily Quartermaine and held her and Elizabeth hostage in his studio,” Alexis said tightly. “Yes. He confessed to the rape when Elizabeth went to help Emily. I don’t know any of the details—”

“It was Valentine’s Day, she was sixteen, and it was in the park,” Sonny said quietly. “Don’t ask how I got the police report.”

“I wasn’t going to.” Alexis’s features were pained. “She was a baby, Sonny, and it was only two years ago.”

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I can sit in judgment of anyone, but particularly Elizabeth Webber. I know that she’s had dozens of opportunities to cut ties with Jason. At great personal and public cost, she’s rejected every one of them. She lost her reputation, her grandmother, and friends over this. If she has agreed to marry Jason to keep Carly from screwing up her life, I’m not going to tell her she’s not ready or old enough to make that choice.”

Alexis nodded. “All right. All right. And you have to know, I’d have these objections even if it weren’t Jason. I like Jason. I like him better than you,” she added, and Sonny made a face. “I just—I’ll feel responsible if this ends badly.”

“I think they’re going to surprise you,” Sonny said. “I’d worry more about protecting both of them from the amount of stupid they’re going to face when the world finds out.”

“That’s certainly true. All right, I’ll draw up the preliminary details to have them review tomorrow, and review the literature on spousal privilege.” She sighed. “What are you going to be doing while I slog through paperwork?”

“Planning a wedding.” Sonny smiled as he raised his cup. “This has to look real, doesn’t it? So I’m calling Father Coates, and, uh, I do need one more favor from you. What do you know about wedding dresses?”

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth fiddled with the hem of her sweater as she made it to the bottom of the stairs and found Jason at the desk across the room, his pencil moving swiftly over what looked like accounting books. The chair squeaked as he straightened and twisted to look at her. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She nibbled on her bottom lip as she remained standing there. Yesterday everything had seemed so much more simple, she thought, even after the bomb in her studio. She and Jason were on the same page regarding their non-existent sex life, and she knew she could sleep in the same bed with him.

Now, she was staring across the room at her future husband, and she’d just had a massive panic attack about everything that label could and should mean.

“Are you hungry?” Jason wanted to know. He pushed himself to his feet. “I could—” He frowned towards the kitchen. “I don’t know if there’s any food in there, but maybe—”

“I’m okay.” She wasn’t. Her stomach was growling, but the words were out of her mouth before she knew she was going to lie, and why had she done that?

Why was it so hard to talk to him? Where had that ease and comfort gone? Had it disappeared the moment Carly had swaggered into Kelly’s and reminded Elizabeth of all the ways that she could disappoint him?

Jason didn’t seem to be any more at ease than she did, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I have to finish the books for the warehouse, but if you want—do you have to work today?”

“No. No, I usually have Sundays off.”

“We could go out. On the bike, I mean. Or go to the studio and get the rest of your stuff.”

“Both of those sound good. I don’t really have much there anyway. I didn’t bring it from my grandmother’s.” Elizabeth paused. “Um, I guess I can’t—or I shouldn’t tell her. Right? Until it’s over.”

“You can tell anyone or whoever you want,” Jason said. “But—”

“But my grandmother might not keep it to herself, and this only works if Carly doesn’t find out until after. Yeah. I figured.” Elizabeth nodded. And Audrey would hardly attend or be overjoyed. “Okay.”

“I’m sorry—”

“Why are you apologizing? This was my idea,” Elizabeth interrupted. “And my friends and family are the reason that any of this is happening. I didn’t know Carly followed me to the studio. No one, including Sorel, would know where you were if I’d done a better job.” She sighed and wandered across the empty space between the staircase and window.

“It’s not your fault. You can’t control how people react—”

“Really? I could have predicted it,” Elizabeth muttered. She sighed. “I’ll find something to keep myself busy until you want to go—”

“Hey.” Jason came to her, took her hands in his. “It’s—it’s not too late. If you want to change your mind.”

Her eyes flew up to his, but his expression was guarded. Did he want to back out? Did he think he couldn’t because she had pushed for it? “No. But I think maybe you do.”

“I don’t—”

“It’s just—” She paused, trying to articulate what was swirling in her head. “Alexis told you about this, and then you didn’t say anything. You didn’t even suggest it until I got upset. If you’d rather go—”

“If I went,” Jason said, cutting her off, “I might not be able to come back. And you’d still be here. You were right last night. None of this goes away because I go.” He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. “I didn’t want to go. I just thought it was the best way to protect you.”

“I can protect myself—”

“I know you can.” He smiled, almost reluctantly. “But it doesn’t stop me from wishing you didn’t have to. Or wanting to take care of you. I care about you.”

“I care about you, too,” Elizabeth replied, though the word felt weak and vague. “I just—I don’t want any of this—or what’s going to happen to…” She paused. “I feel like we were just starting to figure out what this is, and now—” She shook her head. “I don’t want to lose that.”

“We won’t.” Jason kissed her forehead, then his lips found hers, and she sighed, melting into his embrace, wishing she felt as confident as he sounded. They were pouring gasoline on what had been, until then, a small flickering flame. Sure, it would burn hotter, brighter, and more intensely than before — but it could also just as quickly burn itself out before she was ready to let it go.

But it was too late to turn back, and she’d just have to hold on for as long as she could. Jason might not have wanted to leave, but that didn’t mean he really wanted to marry her. She just had to remember that part of it — the marriage, the wedding, the way the world would see them — it was just business. A way to protect her from Sorel, and to keep Jason and Bobbie safe from Carly’s lies.

Jason cared about her, but he didn’t love her, and he wasn’t going to promise her forever after a few weeks.  It would be a terrible mistake to forget that it was all just a fantasy, a dream that wouldn’t—couldn’t—last.

PCPD: Squad Room

Taggert rubbed the back of his neck as he flipped through a surveillance report, scowling at the notation that Elizabeth Webber hadn’t spent a night in her studio in two days. They’d had a guy staking it out for any trash or anything she might discard because he knew that the typo on the search warrant had ruined their best chance at getting any solid evidence.

He hadn’t really expected to find anything at the studio — Morgan was too smart for that—and, Taggert reluctantly admitted to himself, Morgan was also unlikely to draw Elizabeth in that directly. Maybe she might look the other way if he was recuperating from an injury, but there was little chance she was a direct accomplice.

But he’d wanted to find something, anything, that might suggest Morgan had been injured. A blood stain. Maybe some medicine she wasn’t supposed to have — he just wanted to get Elizabeth on her own and talk some sense into her. She was a good kid, with a soft heart. And unswerving loyalty. Morgan had earned it, somehow, but it could be broken.

Taggert just needed to find a fracture in their relationship that could shatter the whole damn thing and get him what he needed.

He pulled out the autopsy report on Moreno, looking for anything he’d missed. Two gunshot wounds. One to the chest, one to the head—execution style. Different bullets had been pulled from the body, he noted. He went for the ballistics report —

“Any progress?”

Taggert glanced up at the commissioner, shook his head. “No. Just thinking it through. They pulled two different wounds from Moreno. One matches the type of ammunition for the gun registered in Morgan’s name, but it’s common. We’d never get a direct match.”

“The other?”

“From Sig-Sauer. Not that he couldn’t have two weapons, just doesn’t—” Taggert paused. “Doesn’t seem right. He follows the right laws,” he muttered. “Has a concealed and carry permit for the Glock. He has a different license for two more Glocks — but they’re for premises. Can’t carry them outside the house and he’s never been caught with them.”

“He only uses the Glock?”

“That we know of. No telling how many unregistered he’s got squirreled away—” He paused. “The chest wound matches Morgan’s usual gun. But not the head wound.”

“Not the kill shot.” Mac sat next to him. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking Joseph Sorel probably doesn’t mind Moreno being gone. And maybe, just maybe, he took advantage of a situation to make himself come out on top. We got reports of gunshots down near the pier that night. Late on November 30, almost into the next day. But by the time cops showed up, the scene was clean.”

“And Moreno was pulled out of the harbor downstream.”

“Figured he got dumped in a hurry.” Taggert leaned back. “I can’t prove it, but I think Morgan took fire, probably got wounded. He’s responsible for the chest, and Sorel finished Moreno off.”

“And you think he was injured because he disappeared,” Mac continued. “And that’s when the rumors started swirling about Elizabeth Webber.”

“I hate that she’s screwed up in all this.” Taggert met the other man’s eyes. “You know what I mean. Robin finally got out.”

“Jason nearly did, too,” Mac reminded him. “Maybe he would have stayed out if Sonny hadn’t come back. Careful with this, Taggert.” He got to his feet. “I saw the report on your interview with Elizabeth Webber, and the search warrant dismissal. She’s a smart one. And she was with Lucky Spencer long enough to be introduced to the Spencer way of life — laws are more like suggestions to them.”

“Yeah, I know about that.” Taggert nodded. “I’m not an idiot, Mac. I’m waiting on a solid lead to come through. But someone has to know something about those weeks Morgan was out of sight. All I need is one domino to fall — I get Elizabeth in the box, I can find a way to get the truth out of her.”

“Good luck.”

Harborview Towers: Lobby

Carly looked around the nearly deserted lobby, making sure that no one could recognize her. The last thing she needed was some helpful Good Samaritan reporting to her husband or his damned family that she’d made a visit to Jason’s place of residence.

When she was satisfied that no one could possibly know her, she went to the security desk. The guard behind it looked up, and his expression shifted to wariness. “Mrs. Quartermaine.”

Carly flashed a forced smile. “Hey. Wally, it’s good to see you. Been a while. Can you let Jason know I’m here?”

“Uh—” Wally sat straight. “No.”

Carly narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean, no?”

“You don’t have access to the penthouse floor.” He paused. “Mr. Morgan told us so a few days ago. If you need him, I can call him and see if he’ll come meet with you—”

“Then do that,” Carly said, her teeth clenched. Jason thought he could avoid her? No. She’d given him time to think about her offer. She needed to make sure he understood what was at stake.

Wally sighed, picked up the phone. “Mr. Morgan, Mrs. Quartermaine would like to see you. Okay. Thank you.” He set the phone down, met her eyes. “He’s not available.”

Carly gripped the edge of the counter. “Wally, you and I go way back—”

“I have my orders, Mrs. Quartermaine—”

“Stop calling me that!’ she snapped.

“Maybe you can try again later.”

“You make sure Jason knows that he can’t avoid me forever. He’s got forty-eight hours. You tell him that. I’ll be back then to get my answer.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

August 31, 2023

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the Signs of Life

I know I felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
Because it came from you
Then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

Dreams, The Cranberries

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

She was hallucinating. It was the only explanation.

“Can you—” She stepped back from him, desperately needing a bit of space. Her head was spinning and she couldn’t make sense of anything. He hadn’t really—

Had he?

She made a little circle with her finger. “Can you repeat that?”

“I talked to Alexis,” Jason said, “and she said that the best way to handle this was to make sure you couldn’t be forced to testify against me — and to damage Carly’s credibility in court.”

“Does she have any credibility to start with?” Elizabeth asked doubtfully. “Can’t I just refuse to say anything—”

“You could,” he said slowly, “but if Carly walks into the PCPD and says she knows I was shot, that she knows it happened the same night Moreno went missing, and that you were hiding me in the studio, Taggert is going to scrutinize every single detail. He’s going to be looking for leverage.”

“And the fact that I brought you pain medication is something you think Carly might remember.”

“Maybe. Elizabeth—If they charge you—”

“Are they going to do that on Carly’s word?” she said doubtfully. “Carly’s spent time in a mental institution—”

“And if she were making this statement against anyone else, I’d agree with you. But this is the PCPD—”

“And they hate you. They’ll use anything.” On a shaky sigh, she rubbed her forehead. Well, she’d asked Jason for all their options. “I guess we can’t really make Carly disappear because that would probably solve a few problems.” When he grimaced, she added, “That was a joke. Mostly.”

“I told you, Elizabeth, this wasn’t something I was even going to suggest. It asks too much—”

“Of both of us,” she cut in. “Don’t pretend like this isn’t something that would just be on me.  A week ago, we were just friends. We were just figuring out what this is, and now—”

Now, they were putting gasoline on their relationship and lighting the match. It was like skipping a year of dating—

“If either of us leaves Port Charles,” she murmured, “it would be harder to come back. If I left, Carly would still be harassing you about leaving town with her.”

“That would be my problem—”

“But it wouldn’t solve anything. Carly could still throw me under the bus—and worse, she might go after Bobbie without me here. I can’t let that happen, Jason. I went to Bobbie and asked for help. I didn’t do a good enough job of hiding my tracks. I led Carly right to you.” She wrinkled her nose. “And Nikolas. And my grandmother. Everyone knows about you being there because of them.”

“I could have let Sonny help me. Or moved to a safe house after a day or two. You saved my life, Elizabeth. I’m not going to let you get in trouble for doing it—”

“And I made the choice to do it. I came back to the boxcar because I knew you weren’t going to let Sonny help. You hadn’t gone to him in the first place for a reason.” She folded her arms. “If one of us leaves, it doesn’t solve anything. Does…does getting—” Oh, God, if she couldn’t say the word, how was she supposed to actually go through with it— “Does getting married help you with Sorel?”

Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “We need to get you off his radar. There’d be a certain level of protection if you—I mean—” He hesitated. “It’s not a guarantee, and things are up in the air. He’s trying to take over for Moreno, but not everyone agrees he should be the next guy in charge.”

“Right, but it wouldn’t hurt.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Do you see another way out of this, Jason?”

“We could wait to see if Carly is bluffing—”

“But you said Alexis wanted to damage her credibility,” Elizabeth pointed out. “If we do it before she goes to the PCPD, that’s what makes it look like she’s just, you know, jealous or whatever. Doing it later makes it look like a cover-up.”

“I know.” He looked away, then shook his head. “No. If the goal is minimize the danger to everyone from Carly and Sorel, then this might be the best choice.”

“Okay. Then that—” She swallowed hard. “That settles it, right? Um, we’ll get married and then see what happens.”

Had she really said that out loud? Was this really her life?

“Are you sure?” He reached for her hands, drew her closer to him.

“I think so. I guess—I mean, it’s not like a lot of things would change, right? We’ve been mostly living together for the last six weeks,” she reminded him. “I was gonna stay here anyway. The PCPD and Carly already hate me. My family hates you. I mean, honestly, the only thing that changes is that it’ll take more paperwork to…” To walk away from each other but she did not want to bring that up right now.

“Yeah, I guess when you put it that way—” Jason looked down at her hands. He turned one of her palms over and traced the lines with the tip of his finger. “It doesn’t change what we talked about last night, Elizabeth. It’s just paperwork. Nothing between us has to change.”

She had a feeling that even he didn’t believe that, but she nodded. “I know. So, um, what’s next?”

“What’s next is that I tell Sonny and Alexis. Better to get it done as soon as we can,” he said.  “We could go to Vegas or something—”

“We could. Or, um, I think there’s only a twenty-four waiting period in New York. Emily told me that when she and Juan were separated last fall—”

“Oh, man—”

“Yeah, she definitely thought if she and Juan got married, he’d get to stay in New York—she didn’t do it, but—” She cleared her throat. “We could get a license tomorrow. Has Carly asked you again about getting her out of town?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Why?”

“Because if she only asked you once, she’ll probably try one more time before she goes nuclear. We probably have a few days, I mean. And—and we don’t want this to look like a cover-up.”

“Right. That’s—” Jason nodded, a bit surprised. “That’s a good point.”

“So if we take a few days to do it here in Port Charles, it’ll give the PCPD one less thing to argue about.” Elizabeth smiled nervously at him. “You keep being surprised when I’m not an idiot. I don’t know whether to be insulted or—”

“No. It’s not that—I just—” Jason paused, clearly searching for the right words. “You understand all of this more than a lot of people who’ve been in this longer,” he said finally. “I know how smart you are, but your instincts for handling the cops, for last night—and this—I just didn’t expect it.”

“Oh.” Ridiculously pleased, her smile widened. “Well, I’m glad a lifetime of constantly getting into trouble has finally started to pay off.”

“I’m just happy to have you on my side.” He leaned down to brush his lips against hers. “I better go tell Sonny I’m staying in Port Charles.”

“Thank you,” she said as he drew back. “For trusting me enough to do this.”

Jason started towards the door, then turned back to her. “I didn’t want to go, Elizabeth. I just—I didn’t think I had a choice.”

She watched him leave, then sighed. No, maybe he hadn’t wanted to go but he’d certainly settled on that option easily. She’d talked him out of it, but she would have to remember that staying with her hadn’t been all that important to him either.

They might be signing some paperwork that made them a team, but Elizabeth wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it meant any more than that.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

Sonny raised his brows when Jason strode in. “I thought you’d be spending tonight with Elizabeth,” he said. “Since you’re leaving in the morning—”

“It turns out,” Jason said, “there was another option.”

Quartermaine Mansion: Bathroom

Carly squeezed her eyes shut, avoiding the sight of the little plastic stick on the counter. It was going to be negative. It had to be negative.

There was no way in hell she’d be able to hide this from AJ. They hadn’t slept together in months, and while she was pretty sure she could seduce him, he’d be suspicious as hell if she popped up pregnant.

So she wasn’t pregnant. It was going to be negative.

She would just have to manifest it into reality. Negative, negative, negative—

Her watch beeped, and Carly opened her eyes to see the double lines.

Damn it.

Carly dragged her hands through her hair. Okay. Okay. She could handle this. She could do this. She’d make Jason get her out of town, and then she’d seduce him right away. As long as this kid came out looking like her and not Sonny Corinthos, she still had a prayer of this working.

She would just have to remind Jason just what was at stake. Clearly, he hadn’t taken her seriously so she’d have to make him.

If AJ found out she’d cheated, she’d lose everything.

Sunday, January 2, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Unlike the previous morning, Elizabeth woke up on her own side of the bed, curled up on her side with Jason next to her.

In the studio, once he’d started to feel better, he’d rarely slept and had always seemed to be awake before her.

But this morning, he was still asleep—stretched out on his stomach, his arms partially hidden by the pillow.

Would she feel more comfortable with all of this if their relationship was more than four days old? Or would it be worse? If they’d been together for months, and then were suddenly married, would it feel like more pressure?

Maybe it would be easier if they were sleeping together. Wasn’t that some of the tension Elizabeth felt inside of her? Being around Jason, knowing he cared for her and wanted to be with her—it was making it hard to concentrate sometimes. Her stomach always felt like it was on a roller coaster with dips and dives and curves—it was difficult to breathe.

What if she never felt ready? What if she did try and the worst happened—what if he was on top of her and she was shoved back to that moment, of feeling the bitterly cold and hard dirt beneath her, the scrape of rock against her back and shoulders—

She swallowed a sob, turning over to bury her face in the pillow. God, would it ever go away? Would it ever fade into a dim memory?

Was she ever going to be able to be normal? Would this insanity with Jason be the only marriage she’d ever have? She’d never thought about kids but maybe she’d want to be a mother one day. What if she could never learn to like sex? Would she have to grit and bear it so she could have a family?

What if sex always hurt and she always felt like she was being ripped apart—


She heard the rustling of sheets behind her, but Elizabeth kept her face in the pillow. Her breathing was shallow and fast—she’d walked herself right into a panic attack.

“Hey—” Jason touched her shoulder lightly.

She jerked into a sitting position, her lungs starting to burn. Elizabeth twisted, sliding her legs off the bed. “I’m okay,” she choked out. “I just—sometimes—” She squeezed her eyes shut. Count to ten. Count to ten.

You’re not in the park. It’s not happening. It’s not real. You’re safe.

The pressure finally eased and Elizabeth could finally take a full breath. Her cheeks were flaming when she turned to look at Jason, his face creased in worry. “Sometimes,” she said softly, her voice hoarse, “I get panic attacks. From nothing.”

“From nothing?” he echoed.

She scrubbed her hands over her face. “No, I guess not. I start to think too loud, and my brain goes in directions I don’t want it to. I usually stop it, but, um, I can’t always.” She forced a smile. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize. What can I do? Do I leave you alone? Can I help?”

Her eyes stung with tears. “Not really. Um, it’s just—it’s me. I have a lot of anxiety. I didn’t used to,” she remembered with regret. “I mean, not like this. I hated a lot about my life, but I was always able to roll with the punches. Most of the time. It’s just—I think there’s a part of me that’s always—” She faltered. “It’s always going to be locked in that night. I’ll always be in the bushes and I can’t get out.”

“But you did.”

Elizabeth met his eyes. “I know. But I told you the other night. I don’t know what’s going to trigger it. It’ll be something that makes sense — bumping into someone — or it’ll be me just laying in bed here, thinking about something else, and bam—it’s happening again.” She sighed. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I was damaged.”

He didn’t argue with her, not like he had the last time she’d said it to him. “Is this because of last night? Because of what we talked about—”

“Yes. And no. I don’t know.” She got to her feet. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m not changing my mind, so it doesn’t matter.”

“It does,” Jason said, “but we don’t have to talk about it.”

“No, we have a lot to do if we’re getting married on Tuesday.” She managed to say it without stuttering over the words, but it still sounded insane to her ears.

Was she really marrying Jason Morgan in just a few days?

March 9, 2023

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the Signs of Life

Don’t say what you’re about to say
Look back before you leave my life
Be sure before you close that door
Before you roll those dice
Baby, think twice

Think Twice, Celine Dion

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Morgan Penthouse: Bedroom

The sky behind the shades was still a grimy gray when her eyes drifted open the next morning. Blearily, she focused on the clock sitting on the table — it was just after six. Hmmm, maybe she should just go back to sleep.

She was so wonderfully warm and comfortable—not a sensation she was used to since she’d moved out of her grandmother’s house. The mattress was soft and plush, and she was wrapped in a cozy cocoon of comforter and—

Elizabeth’s eyes snapped wide open as she took in the feeling of weight behind her, and an arm slung over her waist, holding her against a furnace of heat. Jason. Jason was holding her against him, his hand resting loosely over her abdomen. She could feel all of him. Every single inch, and—

And she was fine. She was comfortable. She wasn’t scared. Elizabeth closed her eyes as a shudder slid through her and tears stung her eyes. She’d dreamed of this so often—first with Lucky, and more recently with Jason and now—

She felt him tense behind her and that hand started to jerk back. She reached for it, lacing her fingers with his. “No, um, not yet.”

“I’m sorry, I—” His voice was rough with sleep. “I didn’t mean—”

“I’m okay.” She released his hand and twisted until she was flat on her back and Jason was resting next to her. He sat up slightly, propping himself up on his elbow. “Really.”

His eyes searched hers, doubting. Or maybe just worried that she was covering it up. Elizabeth bit her lip, then slid her hand up his chest—over the soft cloth of the t-shirt he’d worn to rest at his collarbone. There was a flicker in his eyes when her fingertips brushed his bare skin and she realized—

He hadn’t been lying the night before. He really did—he found her attractive. Desirable. He liked when she touched him. And she liked knowing it.

Feeling brave, Elizabeth tugged his head down to kiss her. His legs were brushing hers under the comforter, so she slid her one of hers between his, and he tensed. She could even feel his heart pounding against her chest. She’d done that to him.

Fragile and damaged her ass.

“Good morning,” she murmured when she pulled back, her cheeks flaming.

“Good morning,” he managed. “I guess you slept okay.”

Elizabeth laughed then. “Oh, yeah. You?”

“Yeah.”  He kissed her again, lingering for another minute. “I hate to get up,” he admitted.

“Me either, but I have to work,” Elizabeth said with a grimace. “And I know you have stuff to do.”

He paused and she wondered if he was going to suggest they both blow things off for a few hours—she’d like to explore just how comfortable she really was—but then the cell phone on his side of the bed vibrated. With a scowl, Jason rolled away. “It’s Sonny,” he said with some surprise. “I need to—”

“I’ll get a shower. I need to stop by the studio before work to get clothes,” she reminded him as she moved towards the bathroom and left him alone with his phone call.

Maybe this would work after all.

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

“Isn’t this a little early?” Jason asked Sonny as Max closed the door behind him. “It’s barely six—”

“Some of us haven’t been to bed yet,” Sonny muttered. He stalked towards the kitchen. “I need coffee. You want some?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Heard from Roscoe a few hours ago,” Sonny said, dumping some beans into the grinder. “He says Sorel is denying the bomb was on him.”

Jason scowled. “I don’t even know why you’re bothering to ask him,” he muttered. “Of course he denies it. She said it was Sorel—”

“Because that’s what the man on the phone said. But she doesn’t know him.” Sonny held up a hand when Jason glared at him. “He might be telling the truth. It might not be Sorel.”


“It could be guys who worked for Moreno wanting us to take Sorel out.” And at that, Jason fell silent. Sorel’s takeover of Moreno’s organization wasn’t a done deal, and he knew there had been issues. Shipments that didn’t make it to port, guys going missing —

And if it was true—if it hadn’t been Sorel ordering the bomb, then it put Elizabeth in the middle of a civil war with another organization. That was the worst possible scenario. “Damn it—”

“I spent half the night with the guys tracking down everything. Paulie went to our explosives contact with the bomb. He can’t tag the maker from it — it’s generic.”

Jason grimaced. A bomb that couldn’t be traced made it harder to pin this on Sorel. “So we don’t know anything.”

“Well, if what was said to Elizabeth was true, Sorel and his guys know about you being targeted by the PCPD and Elizabeth’s role in it. That Christmas party—it put you two on the map,” Sonny continued. “No one knew where you’d been in those weeks, but Nikolas Cassadine made it very clear. Apparently, after we left, Stefan confronted him and Nikolas told him—in front of witnesses—he’d caught you at the studio.”

Jason exhaled slowly, then leaned back against the counter. “Am I supposed to keep Elizabeth locked up in the penthouse until we do know—”

“We need this PCPD crap to go away. I think Elizabeth should take herself out of this by coming clean about the whole thing. You were right to make sure she didn’t alibi you. She needs to tell them she saw you and then you left. She doesn’t know where you were the rest of the night. Sorel’s guys can’t go after her for what she doesn’t know.” Sonny poured the coffee, avoiding Jason’s eyes. “The thing is—”

“If she does that, Taggert’s coming right at me. I dropped out of sight when Moreno did. He’ll know Elizabeth is involved in that, thanks to Cassadine.” Jason took the cup of coffee from Sonny but set it on the counter. “We have another problem,” he said, reluctantly.

“Of course we do,” Sonny muttered. “What is it?”


Sonny’s hand fumbled slightly as he spooned sugar into his cup. “What about her?” he said evenly.

“She’s making noise about telling the cops I was shot. She does that and Elizabeth makes sure the PCPD know I have no alibi—”

“Why the hell—” Sonny whirled on him. “Why is she doing that?”

“She wants me to get her out of town with Michael.” Jason scrubbed a hand down his face. “She’s insisting I go with them. I told her no, and I don’t care if she goes to the PCPD about me, but—”

“But Cassadine has put Elizabeth with you in the same time period you’d be recovering. She’s on the hook as an accomplice. It’s circumstantial, but it’s a distraction we don’t need with all of this—”

“I talked to Alexis—she’s worried they might come after Elizabeth with drug charges. For the pain medication,” Jason admitted. “I’ve been thinking about it—Carly made Bobbie come to the studio one day and Bobbie and I talked about it. I said I’d only used pain meds the first day, but that Elizabeth flushed the rest. I don’t know if Carly heard it.”

Sonny stared him for a long moment, then nodded. “Well, there you go. All Taggert has to do is hear that, charge Elizabeth with distribution which carries like twenty years if they want to be bitchy about it. She’ll have to flip on you to save her own skin, but somehow I doubt she’d go that way without kicking and screaming—”


“The only way to make this go away is to get one of you out of town.” Sonny paused. “Or both of you, but that will just make it harder for you to come back. With just one of you gone, we got a shot of this going cold.”

Jason said nothing. He knew Sonny was right. To keep Elizabeth from being used by Carly and Sorel’s organization, Jason needed to remove himself from the situation.

“I know this isn’t what you want,” Sonny said slowly. “And I’m sorry. I should have taken the meeting—”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jason said flatly. He could do this job if he didn’t think about that morning. If he didn’t remember how it had felt to watch Carly coming down the stairs in Sonny’s shirt or the way Sonny had tried to spin it like he was doing Jason a favor—

He had considered leaving town before his relationship with Elizabeth had changed, but after last night—


“I gotta think about it,” he said. “It’s not that easy.”

“No, I know—” Sonny closed his mouth.

“I need to go. Elizabeth has to work, and I want her to get some things from the studio. If I—” He hesitated. “If I go, I want her to stay here. At least until you know it’s safe. She might argue, but I’ll figure that out—”

“I’ll make sure she’s safe, Jason. She’s in this because of me—”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it.” And with that, Jason left the kitchen wondering how the hell he was going to explain to Elizabeth he probably needed to leave Port Charles, probably for good.

Quartermaine Mansion: Bathroom

Carly dipped her hands into the cool water streaming from the faucet, then splashed it over her face.

She hadn’t heard a word from Jason.

She would have thought he’d get the picture pretty quick. Either Jason went with Carly, or the little bitch was going to pay the price. How was he going to argue with that?

He was angry at her now, Carly considered as she looked at her reflection in the mirror over the sink, but once she had him to herself — once they were away and they had Michael with them—

He’d remember that he loved her. Hadn’t he told her that only weeks ago? Elizabeth Webber was a distraction, Carly assured herself. Jason was only a man, and the waif probably made him feel better after the year he’d had. Carly had even meant what she’d said to her the day before — she really did feel sorry that the girl had been raped so young.

Not that there was ever a good age for it, Carly decided as she went back into the bedroom and wandered over to the walk in closet. But to be violated that way before you even got a chance to experience how good sex could be? Tragic.

Carly didn’t mind if the waitress used Jason to get back out there, but her generosity only went so far. Jason was hers. He’d forgotten that for a little while, but she could remind him. When it was just the two of them, she’d lure him back to bed.

She’d get pregnant, Carly decided. She’d find out when she was fertile—maybe some of those ovulation tests or—

And just like that—her brain skittered to a stop.

It was January 1.

And she was late.

“Oh, God. Please, God, no.” Carly closed her eyes, pressed her hands against her face. “Oh, no. No. No.”

Kelly’s: Kitchen

“Hey, DJ. Table ten is still waiting on their order,” Elizabeth said as she untied her apron. She tossed it on the hook. “Penny’s taking over my section, but—”

“I got you, Lizzie,” the cook said affably. “You look better today. Must have been one of those bugs going around.”

“Yeah, must have,” Elizabeth said with a weak smile. She wasn’t sure she shared DJ’s optimistic outlook — she and Jason seemed to have resolved the issue of their non-existent sex life, but he’d been strange when he’d come back to Sonny’s that morning.

He’d been quiet, Elizabeth remembered as she cashed out her receipts and separated her tips. Not that Jason was ever much of a talker, she considered, but there was quiet and then there was quiet.

When she went out into the alley, she realized she was almost surprised to see Jason there, the engine on the bike idling. She’d half thought he’d make an excuse and send her home with Francis.

“Hey.” She accepted the helmet from him, but didn’t put it on right away.

“Hey,” he said, returning the greeting with a half smile. There it was again—that flicker of something in his eyes. She didn’t know him well enough yet to know what it was—but she could tell something was not okay.

Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip, then pulled on the helmet. Maybe he’d just had a bad day.

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason dumped the keys on the desk when he came in, Elizabeth trailing behind him. “We need to talk,” he said finally after he’d taken her jacket and hung it up with his. Anything to stall and keep his mind away from the conversation they needed to have.

He didn’t want to do this, he realized now as he looked at her standing in his living room. This place was too big for him and he’d only come to stay there because the cottage had been too painful. Too many memories of Michael. But he liked seeing Elizabeth in this room—in his bedroom, waking up with her.

He’d wanted more of that. Instead, he had to tell her he needed to leave Port Charles. That this had to end.

“Okay.” She folded her arms. “Um, what’s going on?”

“A lot,” he admitted. “I don’t really know where to start.” Jason paused. “I guess with the most important part — we don’t know for sure that Sorel put the bomb in your studio. I know the guy said it was him—” he said when she opened her mouth, “but it could also be—it’s complicated. Long story short, we need to get you off Sorel’s radar.”

“Okay, but I don’t know how that—” Elizabeth stopped, swallowed hard. “Off his radar,” she replied softly. “What does that mean?”

Jason looked away from her, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You need to go to the PCPD and tell them that I dropped you off around midnight. You didn’t see me the rest of the night.”

Elizabeth drew her brows together, puzzled. “I don’t understand. That leaves you without an alibi. How does that get me off the radar—”

“Because the PCPD won’t be coming after you for a statement anymore,” Jason continued.

“But then they’ll go after you—”

“I know, but you won’t be something Sorel or his guys can use. He can’t scare you into not giving me an alibi if I’m telling you to do the same thing.”

“Oh. Well, that doesn’t sound great for you,” Elizabeth said slowly, “but that doesn’t sound so bad. You had me—” Then she closed her mouth. “That’s not everything, is it?”

“No,” Jason admitted. Uncomfortable, he walked over to sit on the arm of the sofa. “Carly gave me an ultimatum yesterday. I turned it down,” he continued, “which is why she went to you. But I can’t ignore the threats. They’re about you. And Bobbie.”

“About us?” Elizabeth blinked. “What was—Jason, I wish you’d just tell me what’s going on. You’re making me nervous. Are you breaking up with me? Is this what’s happening? Is that what she’s making you do—”

“She wants to disappear with Michael. She’s demanding that I go with her,” Jason continued. “If I don’t do it, she’s going to tell the PCPD that I was shot—and turn you and Bobbie in as accomplices.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me? She’s going to throw her own mother under the bus? I can’t—” She pressed her hand to her chest. “Oh, God. If she tells the PCPD that you were shot and I make sure they know about you not having an alibi—Jason—that’s bad. For you. I can’t go to the PCPD—”

“You have to,” Jason told her. “And you need to tell them everything. You need to tell them that I threatened you.”


“Because Carly is going to tell them that you gave me pain meds. She knows you did. She might not remember it, but if she makes a statement, Taggert will make sure she goes over every detail. Bobbie and I talked about it when she was in the room. So you need to tell them I threatened you—”

“There’s no way in hell—first of all, I made you go to my studio, and I went to Sonny—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I am not going to testify against you—”

“I won’t be here to go on trial.”

She stumbled to a stop. “What the hell does that mean?”

“I’m going to leave,” Jason said. “Before any of this happens. With any luck, if I’m not here to go after, Sorel’s men will back down on the alibi, and Carly—”

“Let me get this straight,” Elizabeth said, clenching her jaw. “You think these are our choices? One, you stay and I throw you under the bus to save myself and you end up in jail, or two, you leave Port Charles, and Carly will somehow not take that out on me?”

“Wait, what?” Jason shook his head. “No—”

“Yes,” Elizabeth cut in, slicing her hand through the air. “You’ll leave, and Carly will know you did it to get away from her. She won’t blame herself, she’ll blame me. And maybe even Bobbie, but mostly me. And she’ll be furious at you. Carly’s going to do this thing whether you’re here or not, Jason. Only if you’re not here—” Tears stung her eyes and he just stared at her in shock. “Why are you giving up?”

“I’m not—”

“This happened last night! And you’re already—you’re probably half-packed, aren’t you?” Elizabeth accused. He cast his gaze aside, and she scowled.


“You’re going to run away and leave me and Bobbie to deal with Carly? How is that fair?”

He hadn’t thought about it that way—he’d just thought if he took himself out of it— “Elizabeth—”

Her voice faltered. “You have to leave me, too. Or doesn’t that matter? Is it that easy to walk away from me?”

“No!” He didn’t know how to walk this back, how to fix this. It had seemed so simple when he and Sonny had talked about it. If Jason wasn’t here—the situation would cool down. “No, I don’t want to leave you. If it weren’t for you—” He’d be dead right now. She’d dragged him back into the world of living—how couldn’t she— “I’m doing this to protect you. To keep you safe—”

“Safe.” Elizabeth laughed, a jagged, harsh sound he didn’t recognize from her. “Sure. Okay. Tell yourself that. Fine.”

“There’s no other way—” He stopped because to say that to her was a lie. There was another way that might work, but — “Anything else — it’s a risk and it just keeps you in the middle of it—”

“So there is another way and you’d rather leave? How am I supposed to take that, Jason?”

“It’s—I mean it, it’s asking too much—”

“You don’t get to decide what’s asking too much. If it keeps us both in Port Charles, out of jail, and together—” Her eyes burned into his. “Or isn’t that important to you?”

“It is,” he insisted. He took her hands and pulled her towards him. “You know it is. I just—” Jason paused. “There’s no guarantee it would work, and we might be right back where we started.”

“Then at least we’ll say we tried everything. Jason—”

“If we were married, we couldn’t testify against each other.”

February 12, 2023

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the Signs of Life

Is that why they call me a sullen girl, sullen girl?
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea
But he washed me ‘shore, and he took my pearl
And left an empty shell of me

Sullen Girl, Fiona Apple

Friday, December 31, 1999

Harborview Towers: Hallway

“Wait here,” Jason told Elizabeth as they stepped off the elevator. “I need Sonny to get guys to your place.”

“Okay.” Feeling exhausted, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. She couldn’t think about it yet. Couldn’t really understand how it had happened — in less than five minutes —

“They did what?” she heard Sonny demand. Then he appeared around the corner, following Jason. “Elizabeth, you okay? What the hell?” Without waiting for her to respond, he turned back to the guard on the door. “Get a team to down there. Grab Mikey and Paulie. They got explosives training. I want to know if that was a dud —” He turned back to Elizabeth. “What happened?” he bit out. “How did you find the bomb?”

“Sonny—” Jason began.

“He called me,” Elizabeth said at the same time, her voice faint. Jason broke off and looked at her, stunned. “I got home from work and maybe two or three minutes later, the phone rang. He said he was Joseph Sorel. I heard something at the door, and then I couldn’t open it. I couldn’t open it. Then he told me to look under the table.”

Sonny hissed. “He was watching you.”

“I guess so. There was a bomb under the table. And while I was looking at it, the timer started. Five minutes.” Elizabeth lifted a hand up, intending to rub her temple, but it was shaking. Instead, she curled it into a fist. “He told me that if I promised not to alibi Jason about that night with Moreno, he’d tell me how to deactivate it.”

“That doesn’t—” Jason narrowed his eyes. “It wasn’t on a remote timer then. He couldn’t stop it.”

“Risky as hell,” Sonny muttered. “If it was a live—” He bit off his words. “What happened then?”

“I realized it wasn’t a bomb he could turn off, so I hung up on him,” Elizabeth admitted. “I didn’t think it was a great use of my time. Then Jason called — but when he told me the studio was blocked—”

“Back and front—they’d nailed boards to the front,” Jason said, flexing his hands.

“I didn’t think he’d make it in time, so I hung up on him, too,” Elizabeth said with a wince. “I thought about going out the window—”

“That’s four stories down to the alley—” Jason began, clenching his jaw.

“Yeah, so I piled a bunch of stuff in front of the bomb and then hid in the closet. I thought it might block some of the shock waves.” She rubbed her fist against her collarbone, restless. “I read that somewhere.”

Sonny grunted. “Not a terrible idea. Would it have worked?” he asked Jason.

“I don’t know. I got through the door and heard her in the closet. I didn’t stop to look.” Jason paused. “Is that all Sorel said to you?”

“That’s all I gave him a chance to say,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sorry—”

“You did the right thing,” Sonny said with a wave of his hand. “We’ll get some guys down there to look at it. I’ll go supervise,” he told Jason. “You get those hands taken care of.”

“Yeah—” Jason paused. He looked at Elizabeth. “Can you go inside? I’ll be there in a minute.” He reached into the pocket of the jacket she still wore and drew out his keys. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I mean, well, no, but I can manage,” she clarified. Her fingers fumbled as she slid the key into the lock, but then she went inside and closed the door.

She was tempted to press her ear against the door, but she knew she wouldn’t need to do that. Jason and Sonny would make sure she was safe, but she knew she’d made a mistake. She hadn’t taken Jason’s safety concerns seriously, and—

She went over to the sofa, sat down, and clung more tightly to the jacket. She was such an idiot.

Back in the hallway, Jason looked after Elizabeth, his brows pinched together. Was she okay? Was she angry at him? She was going to change her mind, he decided. This wasn’t what she wanted—


Jason blinked, realized Sonny was looking at him. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat, flexed his hands again. Now that some of the adrenaline was fading, he could feel the stings. “What were you saying?”

“Something about this feels wrong,” Sonny repeated. “Sorel calling her? Leaving her a warning? And then the bomb doesn’t go off?”

“There’s also the chance that he meant it to go off and it didn’t. Which means he tried to kill Elizabeth,” Jason said. He swallowed hard. “Because of me—”

“Don’t go there yet,” Sonny warned him. “He wanted her to refuse to alibi you. Whether the two of you are together or not — that doesn’t change the fact that she’s involved. People know it. The PCPD has her in their sights over all of this. Moreno and her part exists either way.” He paused. “You’re scared, but this isn’t the first time people you know have been targeted because of you.”

But it was the first time with Elizabeth. “Sonny—”

“Don’t be stupid, and don’t do anything you can’t take back. You could walk away from her,” Sonny said, and Jason grimaced, “but it won’t change anything. Don’t make my mistake. Sorel had guys watching that building. Guys who just saw you rip your hands apart and bust down doors to get her out.”

“I know all of that,” Jason retorted.

“Okay. Then I’m going to go see what I get from the studio.” Sonny jabbed the elevator button. “Get those hands looked at,” he repeated. “And make sure she’s okay. You’ll feel better when you know she is,” he added.

Jason watched him step on the elevator, and then looked back at the penthouse. He took a deep breath and headed for the door.

Elizabeth was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly at the television that wasn’t even switched on. She turned when he came in, rising to her feet. “Um—” She stripped off the jacket and handed it to him. “I forgot to…”

“It’s okay.” He tossed it on the desk, then went to the closet for the first aid kit. He really didn’t know what to do or say to her. He had that ridiculous conversation with Alexis rolling around in his brain, the threats from Carly — and now Elizabeth was standing in the penthouse, a place she clearly didn’t want to be after a bomb had been set in her home.

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I—you didn’t want me to be at the studio tonight. You asked me not to go back there.”

Jason remained silent, setting the kit on the desk. That was true, but he also knew if she’d run into Carly — Carly had a way of making people do destructive things. “It’s okay,” he said finally.

“It’s not. You need to know that I know it’s not. You—you need to be able trust that I’ll do what you need me to do with things like this. With safety—and your job, I mean.” Her voice was shaking, but the words made sense to him. “I was going to do that. I was just—” Elizabeth faltered. “I was going to do it tomorrow. Emily had plans tonight, and I just—”

“Didn’t want to come here,” Jason finished. He cleaned off the last of the blood on his hands, then started to close the kit. Instead, Elizabeth came forward to grab it.

“You didn’t clean—” Elizabeth bit her lip and reached for his hands. “It wasn’t about not wanting to come here,” she finished. “I mean—” She took one of the antiseptic pads and pressed it against a particularly nasty gouge in his palm.

“Then what was it about?” Jason asked. “I’m not mad,” he reassured her when she didn’t reply. “I didn’t think the safety thing was such an issue,” he admitted. “If I thought things were bad enough there’d be a bomb, I would have said something. I’m not mad,” he repeated. “I just want to know what I did wrong, so I don’t do it again.”

“Nothing.” Her eyes flew up to meet his. “Nothing! It’s just, um, I thought—staying at the penthouse for a few days—I thought it would mean—” She bit her lip, color staining her cheeks. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that—”

Jason started to frown because he didn’t really understand, but then with her next words — “I was going to talk to you about it, and then Carly—”

“Carly,” he muttered. “I knew it.”

“She just…I don’t know. She just has a way of saying things that get in your head,” Elizabeth said in a quiet voice. “Things you know aren’t true the way she means them, but they are a little bit—”

Knowing some of the vile things Carly had spewed to Robin in the past, Jason steeled himself. “What did she say?”

When Elizabeth started to pull back, he wrapped his hands around her wrists to keep her in place. “Elizabeth.”

“She just reminded me that I’m not…” Elizabeth looked away, broke eye contact as a tear slid down her cheek. “I’m not…I can’t—I don’t know if I’ll ever able to trust anyone—even you—because of what happened to me.”

Jason stared at her for a long time, trying to absorb it—trying to wrap his head around all the implications. Elizabeth had been nervous about the penthouse because she thought it meant he expected sex, and then Carly—

“What,” he said, “exactly did she say to you?”

“Why does that matter?” Elizabeth asked. “I just told you—”

“We’ll talk about that,” he told her. “Because that’s important, but I can’t—she came to me first,” he said finally. “And when I didn’t give her the reaction she wanted, she went straight to you. I need to know what she threatened you with.”

“Threatened—” Elizabeth’s eyes were wide. “Is that what she did to you?”

“Yeah. That’s something else we need to talk about,” he admitted. “But she did, didn’t she? She threatened you.”

“Not—not in so many words—” Elizabeth tried to edge away again.

“We need figure it out, Elizabeth—”

“This is just like that night at Vista Point,” she muttered. “You just keep pushing—fine—fine—” She twisted until he released her hands. “Fine. She reminded me that I’m fragile and I’m damaged, okay? Because I don’t like sex, and according to her, you do. Which just means you’ll go back to her when you get bored. Happy now?”

Jason just stared at Elizabeth as she stalked across the room, her back to him. Fragile and damaged. If that’s what Elizabeth had taken from the confrontation with Carly, it meant that somehow, Carly had thrown Elizabeth’s rape in her face and used it to make her feel less.

He exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth,” he began, not having the slightest clue what words he would use to follow that.

“Let’s just not talk about it,” she muttered. “I don’t want to.”

“I get that.” He waited. He knew he couldn’t leave it like this. “So let me talk and then we can drop it, okay? You don’t even have to look at me.”

“I won’t.”

Fair enough. Okay, so now what? “Carly has an idea of who I am,” he said finally. “Based on how we met. It was only a few months after my accident, and I was still—I don’t know. I was understanding how things worked. She thinks that because I had sex with her while I was interested in Robin that it gave her power over me—and Robin.” And it was humiliating to recount that, to remember how Carly had used that knowledge to try to lure him back to her bed. How she had used it to hurt Robin.

And he remembered that Robin had forgiven him even when he hadn’t really deserved it.

Now Carly was doing it again to hurt Elizabeth. He wouldn’t make the same mistakes. He couldn’t.

“I don’t know why she still thinks that’s true now,” Jason continued. “Robin always knew I couldn’t be Michael’s father because Carly and I haven’t been together that way in three years.” He paused again. “Yeah, I like sex, Elizabeth. That’s not something to be ashamed about.”

“I didn’t mean—” Elizabeth turned to him now, her voice quiet. “I didn’t mean you should be—”

“I know that.” Relieved that she was looking at him now even though she was still across the room, Jason took a step towards her. “You’re not fragile or damaged—”

“Really? You’re not living in my head, Jason, okay? I know—” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her torso. “I know what goes through my mind when we’re together.”

“You’re right. I can’t tell you how to feel about yourself.” And knowing she felt both of those things—that Carly had forced them on her again just to get herself out of trouble—it left a sour taste in his mouth. “I can only tell you how I feel about you. I know you’re—I know you haven’t been with anyone. You told me that about Lucky—”

“I mean technically—”

Technically doesn’t count,” Jason said with a shake of his head. “And I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that.”

“No. Bobbie said so. And I’ve been to therapy. I get it. But knowing it and feeling it—” She rubbed the side of her face. “I don’t think about it all the time,” she offered. “Days go by, and I don’t. But lately, now we’re—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I knew it would come up—”

He took another step towards her. “What scares you about it?” he asked. “I mean, if you can or want to—”

“I don’t know. That I won’t like any of it,” Elizabeth admitted. She twisted her fingers together in front of her, staring at them. “Or maybe worse. That I will, and then there will be a moment, and then I’ll be back there. It’s the hardest part of it, you know. You never know what’s going to trigger it. Um, sometimes people say something or, once, DJ—the cook at Kelly’s—he just bumped into me in the kitchen and I thought he was grabbing me—” Her throat closed. “I’m scared that if we try—If I try—then it’ll put me back in that night and it’ll ruin everything—”

Her eyes met his, tears still glistening in her lashes. “It’s not about trusting you. I wish it was that simple. I trust you. I trusted Lucky. It’s about trusting myself, and I’m not there yet. I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” he demanded, wincing when he heard the roughness of his tone. She flinched. “I didn’t—I just meant this isn’t something you did to yourself, Elizabeth. It was done to you.”

Elizabeth swiped at her tears. “I know. I’ve been in therapy. It’s not my fault. None of it is. But it still feels like there’s something wrong with me.”

Jason had been slowly crossing the room and now he was just in front of her. “You said you trust me.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Do you trust me when I tell you that I don’t care if or when we sleep together?” he asked.

Elizabeth made a face. “Jason—” She took a deep, watery breath. “See, I know you meant that to help, but now—”

“What?” he reached for her hands, stopping her from twisting them. “Do you think because I don’t care that it means I don’t want to?” he asked and from the flush in her cheeks, he knew he was right. “I’ve been scared,” he admitted in a low voice, “to show you how much I do want you. Maybe saying I don’t care isn’t the right way. Because I do,” he continued, “and I hope one day you’re ready. But it’s not a dealbreaker. I just like being around you.”

“Jason—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s so frustrating,” Elizabeth muttered.

“What is?”

“Because most of me wants to—” She sighed. “I think maybe I didn’t really believe you were—I mean, that you wanted to have—you know, this is ridiculous. It’s frustrating,” Elizabeth repeated, meeting his eyes and now he saw the flare of irritation, “because if you want me, and I definitely want you, that I don’t get to have that, you know? It shouldn’t be this hard—”

“It’s been less than a week,” Jason cut in. He cupped one of her cheeks, letting his thumb slide over the tear-stained skin. “I can be patient.”

“Yeah, well, patience has never been one of my virtues.” But some of the sadness had dissipated and he knew that he’d managed to reassure her. She smiled at him. “This has been a really weird day.”

“Yeah, and it’s not over yet.” Sensing the storm had passed, he leaned forward to kiss her, but she put her hands on his chest. “I’m sorry—”

“No, no, I just realized—” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “You never told me how Carly threatened you. You said she had and that you’d turned her down so she came to me. What did she say to you?”

Jason winced because he really didn’t want to have this conversation since it just put that insane conversation with Alexis back in his head.

Fortunately for him, before Elizabeth could press further, there was a slight knock on the door and then Sonny pushed it open. “Hey, hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“No.” Elizabeth cleared her throat and put some space between them. “Do you—um, should I go upstairs? Or whatever—”

“No, I think since the bomb was in your studio, you should at least get to know about it.” Sonny glanced at Jason. “Don’t you think?”

“Yeah. Yeah. The guys already looked?”

“Didn’t take long. The studio isn’t far from the warehouse.” Sonny rocked back on his heels. “Good news and bad news,” he continued. “Bad news, it was a live bomb. It should have detonated.”

Jason exhaled in a rush as he reflexively tightened his grip on Elizabeth’s hand. “But it didn’t.”

“No. Uh, Paulie said you might have made it out with minor injuries,” Sonny told her. “In the closet, I mean, but tough to know for sure. The thing is — there was a wire crossed. The bomb could count down but detonation wouldn’t trigger.”

Elizabeth squinted. “So, was that a mistake?” she asked. “Did he want the bomb to go off or did he just want to scare me?”

“It’s hard to say,” Sonny said slowly, and Jason could tell he was impressed that Elizabeth had made that leap. “The thing is—we don’t know. I’m getting a meeting together, so we’ll see tomorrow.” He hesitated. “You can’t go back to the studio.”

“No, I didn’t think I could. Um—” Elizabeth flicked her eyes to Jason. “I was gonna stay with Emily while you got the door and lock replaced, but I don’t feel—I mean, he could go after her, too.”

“If you were there, yeah. He wanted you to refuse to alibi me,” Jason reminded her. “He doesn’t know you weren’t planning to.” He looked at Sonny. “Do you need anything else from me tonight?” He really didn’t need the other man for the rest of this conversation.

“No, no. You’re good to go. Uh, Happy New Year’s,” Sonny said, gesturing at the clock which had clicked over to midnight when they hadn’t realized. “Call me if you need anything.”

When Sonny was gone, Jason turned back to Elizabeth. “I know everything we just talked about, but—”

“You want me to stay here in the Towers which has better security,” she finished. “I figured.” Elizabeth bit her lip, glancing around the room with its spare furniture. “Um, I’m also guessing maybe the guest rooms aren’t furnished.”

Jason scratched the back of his neck. “Uh, no. Just the one bed. But you take that and I’ll take the sofa—”

“No, no.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “When we were in the studio, you were on the sofa and I was on the floor. I know how to share a space with you Jason.” Her cheeks flushed. “I mean, if you want—”

“If you’re sure.” His skin felt like it was stretched too tight all of a sudden. He cleared his throat. “You can change your mind. Even in the middle of the night.”

“I know. I just—I trust you,” she said. She hesitated. “I guess we should—I mean, unless you don’t have—”

“No, we can—” Go to bed, he finished silently, but saying it out loud didn’t feel right. “Yeah.”

“Right.” Neither of them moved for a minute, then she laughed—with a mixture of embarrassment and nerves. “Can I borrow something to sleep in? I guess a t-shirt or—”

“Yeah. I’ll get you something,” he said immediately, starting for the stairs relieved to have a task. He heard her footsteps behind him and hoped like hell they weren’t making a mistake.

Maybe he should just take the sofa after all.