September 23, 2022

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the The Last Time

Written in 62 minutes.


30
Put my name at the top of your list

Jason stood just outside the double doors to the chapel, lingering in the anteroom of Queen of Angels, a bit unsure of himself as he watched the pews fill rapidly with members of the hospital staff and distant branches of the Quartermaine family. The front two pews had been left empty out of respect for the close family. Tracy had already passed by him, her arm in her father’s.

Edward looked as if he’d aged decades since Jason had seen him last, and it was hard to find the ruthless and cold man he’d battled after the accident. Monica had squeezed his hand and glad been glad to see him. She’d gone in with Ned and his ex-wife, Lois, and their daughter, Brooke.

But Jason couldn’t bring himself to sit down. To take a place in those front pews. To publicly proclaim a position of family, of relation, that he’d never taken when Alan was living.

“Hey.” Emily came around a corner, her eyes red. “I thought I saw you over here.” She touched a tissue to her eyes, forced herself to smile. “I was just washing my face. I can’t—” She swallowed, looked through the doors, and the tears were glimmering again in her eyes. “I could put it away for a while. The last few days. I made some calls for Mom. But mostly I just…” She closed her eyes. “I pretended he was at work, maybe. That it wasn’t real.”

Jason reached for his sister, drew her against him in a loose embrace. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, that he understood. He’d spent the last few days thinking about other things, but then Monica had called him with the time of the services, her voice hesitant. Would he come? All the confusion, the swirl of grief and numbness returned just like that. As if no time at all had passed since that terrible night in the hospital.

“I know you and Dad didn’t see eye to eye,” Emily said, drawing back so their eyes met. “But he loved you, Jason.”

“I know.”

“And somewhere, inside of you, I think you must have felt it.” Her smile faltered. “He didn’t always do the right thing. And he pushed too hard. He said things that hurt you. Especially after Michael was born—”

“Emily—”

“I wish we’d had more time. I wish he was here to meet your child. I think it would have changed things. Or maybe that’s just me wishing again.” She inhaled sharply, her breath shaky. “You’ll come in with me, won’t you?”

“Yeah.” Jason nodded. “Yeah. But I know Monica saved you a seat in the front. I’ll—” Stand in the back? He looked down the aisle, to the empty space in the second pew.

“Oh, good.” Emily stepped back, turned towards the door. “I wasn’t sure if she’d make it.”

Jason turned and everything felt steady inside again. Elizabeth was climbing the stairs, a black coat pulled over an equally dark dress, one hand over her belly. He broke away from Emily, thinking he’d help her up the stairs—

But she was already there. “Sorry. Cam had a hard time going down for his nap. He didn’t want Gram to read him a story. It had to be me.”

“You’re just in time. We’re going in.” Emily hugged her. “I’m with Mom, and you and Jason can sit behind us.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth bit her lip, looked at him and he knew what she was thinking. The news of their child’s paternity had spread, but this would be the first time most people had seen her since the hostage crisis—and it would be at his father’s funeral? Sitting with him?

He nearly told her she didn’t have to—he didn’t want her to feel obligated or pressured—but then he did something he rarely did when Elizabeth was involved. He spoke what was in his mind. “I’d like that,” Jason told her.

“Oh.” Her eyes widened, but there was a warmth there, and he knew he’d made the right choice. “Okay. Of course.”

He took her hand and they trailed behind Emily as his sister walked down the aisle to join Monica and Edward in the front pew. Jason waited while Elizabeth sat down, and then sat at the end of the second pew.

There was a casket in front of them, and belatedly, Jason realized it was an open one. Alan lay there, his eyes closed. Beside a podium, there was a large photograph of his father, smiling as he hugged Emily at her medical school graduation.

Alan had wanted that future for him, Jason remembered, thinking of a conversation long ago, mere weeks after the accident. In the Quartermaine gym. Alan had opened up to him about what it meant for Jason to follow him into medicine, and Jason remembered feeling close to him in that moment, a fleeting emotion that he’d buried.

He swallowed hard, as he thought of that moment and others over the last eleven years—there were more harsh than good, but they were all he’d ever had. There was no turning back the clock. No time, no chance, no extra time.

For just a second, Jason wished he could go back to that day, to the moment he’d almost connected with his father, and be softer. To be kinder to the family that was grieving the boy who had never come home.

Elizabeth slid her hand into his, and he looked at her. Her eyes were damp and he wondered if she was thinking about regrets the way he was. If she was thinking of all the maybes and what ifs. The roads not taken. The choices he’d run from.

Her fingers tightened around his and the tightness in his chest eased as he looked forward again as Father Coates stepped up to begin the services.

31
This is the last time I’m asking you why

He didn’t run after the service, though he thought about it. He sat and listened as Father Coates delivered a eulogy, as Monica wept through the memories of her marriage—the good, the bad, and the ugly—as Emily broke down in front of the casket as she tried to talk about her father—and as Edward went up to the casket after the services had ended, and Jason had wondered if the old man would be able to walk away.

He offered Elizabeth a ride to the mansion and she accepted, though they didn’t speak in the car. He didn’t know what to say, and maybe she could sense that because she remained quiet, too.

When he’d parked in the driveway, and helped her out, he finally broke the silence. “Go inside,” Jason said. “I, uh—” He looked away, towards the gardens. “I wanted to take a walk.”

“I’ll go with you.” Elizabeth closed the car door and wound her arm through his. “If you don’t mind.”

He didn’t. He didn’t want to be alone, but he didn’t want to be around people. Not just yet. And not here. But Elizabeth wasn’t just anyone.

They walked through the quiet, dormant rose gardens, and Jason tried to remember the last time he’d been here. Not after Lila had passed, no. But surely he’d made time before that—

“I haven’t been here since I came home,” Jason said, suddenly, stopping in the middle of a path.

Elizabeth had walked a few extra steps before realizing that he had stopped, and she turned to look at him, questions in her eyes. “After you were gone for that year?” she wanted to know. “You came to see Lila—”

“In the house. But not here.” He paused, looking around, wishing he was better at picturing things. That he had Elizabeth’s artistic gifts. He couldn’t remember what it looked like, bright with life. What Lila looked like, sitting amongst her beloved roses. “She loved it here.”

“I know. She used to invite me to tea even after Emily left.” Elizabeth smiled faintly. “She was special.”

“She was the first person I ever loved,” Jason murmured. “The first person who felt like family. She taught me what that was. Then Emily. Robin and Sonny, that was different, but Grandmother—” He shook his head. “I keep thinking about the weeks I lived here after the accident. We were all so angry.”

“Jason—”

“I destroyed his—my—” he corrected gently. “I destroyed my room. Evidence of a life I didn’t remember, and Monica lost her temper. She was furious with me—I destroyed things she couldn’t replace.” He turned to look back at the house, wondering what that room looked like now. “They were strangers to me, and they kept looking for someone else. I couldn’t see they were grieving—”

“It’s easy to be hard on yourself with hindsight,” she reminded him. “Yes, they were grieving the boy they’d raised, but you were doing the best you could. I didn’t know you then, but I know that you’re not cruel—”

“You’d be surprised,” Jason murmured, but she shook her head. “I did things I knew would make them angry—”

“And your father and grandfather attempted to have you declared an unfit parent to take custody of Michael,” Elizabeth said. Jason exhaled slowly. “You’re looking back with regret, Jason, and that’s good. But don’t pretend that your family didn’t do things that hurt you, too. You hurt each other.” She tipped her head. “At the end, did Alan blame you?”

“No.” Jason struggled to speak, to force the words out. “No. He  blamed himself. It’s a parent job to keep trying. To make their child feel loved. He was sorry for giving up.”

“My parents gave up, too, but I’m not sure they’ll have regrets on their deathbed.” Her smile was faint. “I was scared when I got pregnant the first time. What kind of parent would I be? All I knew was what I didn’t want to be.”

“You’re an amazing mother,” he told her. “Cameron adores you.”

“And you’re an amazing father. Michael was lucky to have you. This baby—” Elizabeth reached for his hand, rested it on her belly. Jason smiled as he felt a strong kick against his palm. “This baby,” she continued, “will be lucky to have you.”

“I’m sorry,” Jason said. She drew her brows together. “For asking you to marry me because you were pregnant. You’re right. Marriage is more than that. And I don’t want you to ever think that all I care about is the baby.”

“I didn’t think that,” Elizabeth assured him. “I know you want to be involved. To be a full-time father. I don’t know what that looks like, but I promise, we’ll make it work.”

“I know.” Reluctantly, he let his hand drop to his side, though he could have felt their child kick all day long. He thought about his conversation with Carly, what he knew Elizabeth wanted before she’d consider marry him. Love. Could he offer that? Was he ready? He didn’t know that answer, but she deserved to know how important she was to him. How did he put it into words?

“Last year,” Jason began slowly, and she looked at him, their eyes meeting. Holding. “I don’t know exactly how it happened—how we got our friendship back—but I’m glad we did. I couldn’t have made it through any of this without you.”

A tear slid down her cheek, but she smiled. “My life is always better when you’re in it,” she said, and he returned the smile. “There’s no one else I want to raise this baby with.”

32
You break my heart in the blink of an eye

Emily felt her mother tense next to her, and she twisted, thinking that Monica had over heard Tracy saying something—

But it was nothing so dire—only her mother watching as Jason came through the front door, turning slightly to make sure Elizabeth made it over the threshold without slipping. They ignored the eyes on them as he removed her coat, then handed it to Alice, along with his own.

Then they made their way across the foyer to Emily and Monica. “I’m so sorry,” Elizabeth said, offering a hand to Monica. “Alan was such a wonderful chief of staff. I didn’t think anyone could live up to Gramps, but he stepped in like the position was made for him.”

“He was so honored to be asked to take over for Steve.”  Monica squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “And your grandfather would be proud of you carrying the Hardy/Webber legacy into the future.” She looked to Jason. “Thank you so much for coming today. I know it’s not your favorite place in the world, but it meant a lot.”

“Thank you for asking me,” Jason told her.

“Alan’s will is being read in the next few days,” Monica continued. “He left you something, so I hope you’ll come.”

Jason shifted uncomfortably, but then nodded. “Yeah—Yes. I’ll be there.”

33
This is the last time you tell me I’ve got it wrong

The house was stuffy and crowded, so Jason made sure that Elizabeth was settled with Emily who promised to make sure she’d get her something to eat—and he escaped back into the fresh air on the terrace.

He realized too late that his grandfather was standing by the railing, looking over Lila’s gardens. He nearly went back inside, but Edward turned, and they stared at each other for a long time.

“Monica says you were there at the end,” Edward said, finally.

Jason nodded cautiously. “Emily and I were both able to talk to him.”

“Good. Good. I’m glad. He, uh, had a lot of regrets. You get older, and you start—” Edward slid a hand down his suit jacket, his voice trembling for just a moment before he continuing. “You start to think about the things that you could have done better. My list is—well, it’s endless. No surprise there.” He waited a beat. “You’ll be a father soon, won’t you?”

“Yes,” Jason said. “In May.”

“Spring.” Edward closed his eyes. “It’s a good time. Fresh starts.” He turned back to the gardens. “I shouldn’t be here,” he said abruptly. Furiously. “Burying a son? Preposterous. It should have been me. It should have been me instead of my Lila.”

Edward’s hands gripped the railing tightly and he bent over. “I shouldn’t be here. None of us should.”

“No,” Jason agreed, coming to stand next to him. His grandfather looked at him with surprise, and Jason was startled to see the old man’s eyes were damp. “But Grandmother wouldn’t want you to say things like that.”

“No, she wouldn’t,” he murmured. “I often wish I’d had an ounce of her heart. Of her grace. I’d have been a better man.”

“I think we all would be if we could be like her.” The silence drew out between them. “But she loved us anyway.”

“Yes, she did. Even when we didn’t deserve it. I rarely did.” Edward cleared his throat. “We—we pushed too hard. After the accident. We thought—” He shook his head. “I don’t know what we thought. I never expected you to stand up the way you did, to walk away. To stay away. You never would have before.”

“No, I guess not. But I’m not that different now,” Jason found himself saying. “I just found another family to be loyal to.”

“I suppose there’s truth in that.” Edward sighed. “I took my family for granted. I thought I could never push them too far—that I could always bring them back. But there’s no bringing my boy back, is there?”

It wasn’t a question that needed answering, so Jason didn’t bother. “We can’t bring him back,” he said slowly, “but I’d like my child to know who he was. Will—” Edward stared at  him, hope in his eyes. “Will you help me?”

“Of course. Of course.” His craggy face broke into a smile. “Try and stop me.”

September 18, 2022

This entry is part 25 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 69 minutes.


Morgan House: Living Room

Elizabeth’s car was in the driveway, and Aiden’s bike had been left on the front lawn, tossed on its side. But when Jason got inside the house, it felt empty. Until he heard the shouts from the backyard.  They grew louder as he went through the dining room into the kitchen and found Elizabeth on the back deck watching the kids. She was bundled up in a white coat, a blue scarf wrapped around her neck.

It wasn’t just their kids outside—it never was, Jason thought as he stood at the back door and watched as Jake and Aiden chased each other around in circles, Joss and Emma giggling while Spencer tossed a football towards Cameron. The sight of Joss’s blond hair and Emma’s dark had him flashing back to the night of the dance. The girls standing on their front lawn, Emma’s sweet smiles and Joss’s sullen eyes.

And his wife, standing and watching over them all.

She turned as he emerged, her eyes guarded. “You’re home.”

“I went to Sonny’s.” He closed the door behind him and joined her on the deck. “It’s getting too cold for this,” he murmured, watching the kids. “There’s snow in the forecast this week.”

“I know.” Elizabeth flicked her eyes at him before looking away. “I know you’re mad—”

“I don’t care that you did it,” Jason said, and she frowned, turning to look at him fully. “You think it bothers me — the act itself — and it doesn’t. I won’t apologize for not wanting my life to touch you. The violence, the danger — I know you can handle it. I’ve watched you do it for almost twenty years. That doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like it.”

“I know—”

“But—” He took a deep breath. “You’re right. If you’d told me, I wouldn’t have let you near it. I’d like to think if I knew how much you needed it, I’d have—” Jason pressed his lips together. “I hope the answer is yes.”

“I didn’t know myself until I was in that room,” she said softly. “Before that, it really was about protecting. I’m so angry that Jordan was willing to use my past to hurt you. And even more furious that she used the girls. I never thought her capable of that kind of cruelty—”

“She came to Port Charles working undercover for the DEA,” he reminded Elizabeth. “For her, it’s about making sure no one ever questions her loyalties. That she doesn’t have any soft spots for us. She goes harder than she needs to. I understand it—”

“Jason—”

“But understanding doesn’t mean she gets away with this. I’m looking into a few things,” he said, and she sighed. “We’ll decide it together, I promise.”

“All right.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I wanted to protect you,” she said softly, looking back at the kids. “So you didn’t have to lie. I wanted your alibi to ironclad. I’m not sure I thought much past that or  how it would feel to lie to you. I didn’t like it.”

“I know.” He slid an arm around her waist, tugged her into his side, smiling as the bump of her belly brushed against his body. “I know the feeling,” he added. “And how easy it is to hurt someone you love when all you want to do is shield them.”

She met his eyes. “You’re not mad anymore?”

“No. Sonny reminded me that I’ve done the same to you. And that I’ve taken care of threats to our family that you don’t even know about. He, uh, appreciates the alibi by the way.” Jason kissed her forehead, lingering. “Did it help?” he asked, softly. “You haven’t had any nightmares.”

“Yes. I should have done it years ago. I thought it made me stronger. That it said something about me to let Baker go through the system. But the system wasn’t built for men like him. For people who can’t be fixed. That’s what I realized, standing in that room.  He was never going to stop, and I needed to be the one to stop him. I—” She licked her lips. “I almost wanted him to wake up. To know that it would be me who ended his life.” Tears shimmered. “I don’t know what that makes me—”

“Human,” Jason assured her. “It makes you human. He stole a piece of  you, Elizabeth, that I  don’t think you ever really got back. Maybe you never will. He didn’t deserve to die in his sleep.”

Elizabeth’s lips stretched into a humorless smile. “No. But I deserved to have a life after he stopped breathing, so it was necessary. Thank you. For understanding. For not…”

“You never flinched from me or this life. From what I’m capable of.” He took her hand in his, rubbed his thumb over her wedding ring. “I always knew you’d walk through fire for our family. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Elizabeth snuggled against him and they looked back at their family, her hand resting on her belly. “I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when we tell them about the twins.”

Greystone: Living Room

“No one in this family should sing Christmas carols,” Joss declared, her hands on her hips. “Except Cam. He can hold a note.”

“I don’t sound half bad,” Spencer said with a roll of his eyes. He tossed another handful of tinsel at the humongous tree Sonny had set up for decorating on Christmas year. “I can outsing that townie any day—”

“You’ve lived on Spoon Island for five years out of fifteen.” Trina flopped on the sofa next to Jake who was furiously battling Morgan on the game system. “That makes you the townie, doofus.”

“Nice to know some things will never change,” Elizabeth said. She set a tray of appetizers on the table. “Leave some for everyone else. Not everyone is here yet,” she said as the kids descended on the food. “Patrick and Robin aren’t due for another twenty minutes.”

“Uncle Sonny can just make more,” Joss said. She grinned at Elizabeth, her blue eyes sparkling. “He loves to cook.”

Elizabeth flicked her shoulder, and Joss giggled, more upbeat these last few weeks. Elizabeth started to return to the kitchen, but stopped to look over her shoulder for another glimpse of Joss.

Jason and Sonny were still in the kitchen, her husband sipping a beer as Sonny slid another tray of lasagna into the oven. “Hey, did you tell them to save some food?” Sonny wanted to know.

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t count on it.” Elizabeth sipped her water. “The boys are eating everything in sight, and I’m not much better lately.” Her pregnancy had advanced rapidly in the last three weeks, and her belly had doubled in size. She and Jason were holding onto the news about the twins until she was in her third trimester.

“Well, I got a call yesterday that I thought might make the holiday season brighter.” Sonny wiped his hands on the dish towel. Pitching his voice lower, he said, “The tox screen came back negative, and the medical examiner has filed it as undetermined. Officially, the case is closed.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Are you sure?”

“Oh, yeah. And—” Sonny’s lips stretched into a smile, though his eyes were cold. “The Herald will be releasing a bombshell story in the next few days. An anonymous source told them that the commissioner knowingly put some teenage girls in danger as a vendetta. They’ve got leaked surveillance reports to prove it.”

“Will it be enough?” Elizabeth asked softly.

“If it isn’t,” Sonny said, “there are other ways. But I think a few well-placed calls and threats  of lawsuits should get us where we need to be. If Commissioner Ashford hasn’t resigned by New Year’s, we can reassess.”

“Thanks, Sonny,” Jason told him.

“Now that you’re in the clear—” Sonny lifted his brows at Elizabeth. “You considering a side hustle? I could use—”

Jason choked on his beer, then set the bottle down with a thud to glare at his best friend and partner. “That’s not funny.”

Elizabeth snickered which just earned her a dark look from her husband. “Thanks, Sonny, but I’ll leave that to you guys.” She picked up a tray of cookies and disappeared out the door. Jason’s eyes followed her.

“I mean it, Jason. The case is dead. And once the investigation gets leaked, no one is going to be interested in digging it back up. The PCPD is going to want Tom Baker to stay dead and buried.”

“Good.” Jason picked up his beer again. “That’s where he belongs.”

General Hospital: Maternity Ward

Elizabeth went into labor one night in mid-June, just before the end of the school year. They’d only just finished dinner when she’d cried out in pain. Jason had left Jake and Aiden with Cameron, and hustled his wife into the SUV and to the hospital.

Though everything had gone to plan and she’d been healthy throughout the entire pregnancy, Jason couldn’t help but flash back to the last time he’d rushed her to the hospital. As she’d laid bleeding on the floor, unconscious in his arms, and then the fear that lanced through him while he watched Jake be born, and the terror of nearly losing her—

“It’ll be fine,” Elizabeth said as he sped though the night streets. She squeezed his hand as another contraction hit. “We’ll be fine,” she panted.

And then thirteen hours later, as the sun rose over the sky, the first baby was born.

Elizabeth was laughing and crying, her face flushed and hair matted to her face as a nurse laid their son on her chest. “Look at how beautiful he is,” she managed, even as the pain of another contraction whipped through her.

Jason pressed his lips to her forehead. “You both are,” he murmured.

The baby was swept away to be measured and cleaned up after they cut the first cord, Jason doing the honors. And then her labor began again as the second baby demanded their attention—

Four minutes after her brother came into the world, Elizabeth held their daughter in her arms. Both of the babies were small, but the girl smaller than her brother. “Look at her,” Elizabeth breathed. The baby screeched her discomfort and discontent with the world, and Jason could only stare at the miracle of his wife and the children she’d created.

“She’s perfect. They both are.”

Their daughter was taken to be cleaned up, joining her brother under the warming lamp. Exhausted beyond measure, Elizabeth laid back, still panting, everything inside of her on fire. But the babies were here, and they were healthy. She’d done everything she could. She forced her eyes open to look at Jason, smiling faintly at the tears staining his cheek. “What’s this?” she murmured, as he kissed her lightly. She brushed her fingers over the tears. “They’re okay. Everyone is okay.”

“Everyone is perfect,” he told her. “Especially you.” Jason smoothed her hair off her forehead. “I’ve never been here for this part.”

“Well, good thing you’re here now. There’s one for each us,” Elizabeth said as two nurses returned, each holding a swaddle.

“Do we have a name for them?” Britt asked as she stepped back into the room. “You didn’t want to say before—”

“Drake Alan Morgan,” Elizabeth said, looking at her son in Jason’s arms, the safest place to be. “And—” She looked at her daughter. “Paige Audrey.”

“Dr. Drake is going to be insufferable,” Britt offered, but laughed. “Great job, Elizabeth. I’ll check in on you tomorrow, but you did great. Congratulations to you both.”

Later, after Elizabeth had been cleaned up and moved from a delivery suite to a regular hospital room—she couldn’t take her eyes off the plastic crib at her side. At her two gorgeous babies.  Jason had gone for something to eat — she hadn’t had a bite since going into labor the night before.

There was a creak at the door and Elizabeth twisted her head slightly to grin as Patrick came in. “Hey, you.”

“Hey.” Patrick kissed her cheek, then went over to stare at the babies. “You didn’t say a word about twins, Webber. That’s a big secret to keep.”

“We meant to tell people,” Elizabeth said, “but I guess I was scared. We read about how difficult the birth could be. And sometimes one baby dies before birth—I guess I thought if I didn’t say it out loud, the universe couldn’t take them away.” She bit her lip. “Silly, I guess.”

“Whatever you needed to get through it.” Patrick brushed a knuckle down the cheek of one baby. “I hear they have special names.”

“Paige and Drake.”

Patrick looked at her, grinning even as his eyes were damp. “Yeah, that’s what I heard. You—you know Steven’s going to kill us both.”

“Let him. You’ve been a better brother to me than anyone else.” Elizabeth realized for the first time he was wearing scrubs. “Are you on a break?”

“No, no.” Patrick grinned. “Turns out we had something in common. Our kids are gonna share a birthday. Robin just got moved down here from Labor and Delivery. Noah Patrick was born about an hour ago.”

“Patrick!” Elizabeth squealed, then winced “Oh. Man. Everything hurts.”

“You might want to relax for a few months after all that.” Patrick kissed her forehead. “Congratulations, Mom.”

“Right back at you, Dad.”

The door open again and Jason came in—joined by all three of their boys.

“Mom! Mom!” Aiden raced in to her bedside, his eyes wide. “Dad said there was two of them!”

“Another brother,” Jake said. “Awesome!”

“And a little sister,” Cameron said with a grin. He went around the side of the bed to look at them. “Which one was born first?”

“Your brother Drake,” Elizabeth said.

“Which means your little sister is  going to have four older brothers to look out for her,” Patrick said. “God help the world when she grows up.”

Elizabeth laughed, then looked at her kids, all crowded around the crib, arguing who got to hold which baby first, and Aiden complaining because as the youngest he wasn’t going to go first—She caught Jason’s eye as he grinned at them.

She’d fought so hard to get to this moment, to have this life. She’d lied, cheated, and even killed for this family. She’d been battered and bruised, but she’d come out stronger, and so had their family.

She couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

THE END

September 16, 2022

This entry is part 24 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 65 minutes


Vista Point

He’d expected her to deny it. To continue lying, or maybe to discover that he’d been horribly mistaken and there was some other explanation for all of this—

Instead his wife had lifted her chin and stated the truth bluntly, the light in her eye suggesting that she wasn’t looking for forgiveness. She’d murdered someone—she and Patrick Drake had plotted to kill someone and had actually gone through with it—and lied about it.

Jason clenched his jaw, took a deep breath. “You injected him,” he repeated. “You.”

“Yes. Patrick was there in case the injection woke him, but I did it. Succinylcholine,” Elizabeth said. “It paralyzes—”

“I know what it does,” Jason bit out, and she closed her mouth. She wasn’t really going to explain how to kill someone without a trace, was she? But then he took another deep breath. “There are tests for that—”

“You have to test specifically for the metabolites which isn’t part of any standard tox screen,” Elizabeth said. She folded her arms. “And it’s even harder to detect in a body that’s begun to decompose.” She finally broke eye contact, looked back over the harbor. “It’ll be weeks before we know if they tested for them, before the tox screen comes back—”

“They didn’t,” Jason said, and she looked back, furrowing her brows. “It was a standard tox screen. I made calls,” he added, a  bit irritated with himself when she just frowned. “As soon as I found out he was dead. I knew.”

Elizabeth exhaled carefully. “I didn’t want to lie to you,” she said. “But if I’d told you, you’d have insisted on handling it yourself—”

“Yes—”

“And I knew Jordan was watching you. Not me, just you and Sonny. You told me that. And she’d never suspect you’d let me do it. I made sure you and Sonny were safe—”

“I don’t need you to protect me—” That was his job, damn it. “Did you know about the pictures? Why didn’t you—”

“No. Not the pictures.  But—” Elizabeth rubbed her chest. “Not long after the dance, I saw Baker in the park. He was watching the girls. It terrified me,” she murmured. “But you were still under surveillance. And I didn’t know what Jordan was watching. If she’d found other ways into your organization. I broke into his house—”

Jason closed his eyes. “You—”

“I am not some amateur,” Elizabeth cut in sharply, and he focused on her again. “I watched him first. I understood his schedule. I know how to pick a lock. I went into the house, and I saw the photos. And I realized she had to know. Those photographs—she had to. There were too many.”

He’d find out if Jordan Ashford had been aware the girls were being stalked— “There were pictures of you.”

“I know.” Her voice faltered a bit, and some of his fury faded. “I know,” she repeated. “I saw them. He followed Joss that night, Jason. My worst nightmare. He wasn’t going to stop until someone stopped him. I should have done it two decades ago. I went inside to see if I could. And then I went to Patrick. We bought cars in cash and I got rid of them both, just the way Luke taught me—”

Jason grimaced, but acknowledged the information with a nod. “What else?” Was there a trail he needed to handle—

“Patrick and I went to the drug store so there’d be a receipt if anyone asked. We made sure the window was small if anyone looked into us, but I knew Jordan wouldn’t. She didn’t even check with the hospital to see if we were scheduled. We burned the clothes we were wearing—”

“The succinylcholine?”

“Patrick knows how to work the system at the hospital,” Elizabeth said. “It’s an outdated med dispensary. We’re always off on the count. The only mistake I made was the one I made with you.” She huffed. “Starbursts,” she muttered, obviously disgusting with herself, and Jason had to admit that she’d thought of almost everything. And he knew that she’d left no trace behind in the house. Jordan would have found it by now.

And still — “You lied to me. And you let Baker walk around for two more weeks—what if he’d gone after the girls?” Jason demanded. “I could have handled it—”

“Maybe.” She swallowed hard. “Maybe. But you wouldn’t have let me do it. You would have made me stay home.”

Jason shook his head, turned away from her, his hands at his waist. He was so goddamn angry—the blood was pounding in his head, in his chest, everything felt like it was going to explode — “You’re pregnant—”

“And if I hadn’t been, you would have let me be part of it?” she demanded caustically, and he scowled. “No. You would have just taken care of it. Like you offered when he first got out. This was mine—”

“And Patrick’s—”

“Because he’d follow me,” she retorted, and he fell silent. “He wouldn’t try to protect me. I lied to you because there’s no reasoning with you sometimes. I can handle myself, Jason. I’ve   carried three other children. I know what I can handle. I’ve been in car accidents. I’ve been held hostage. I’ve nearly died giving birth—”

“Elizabeth—”

“And you heard Britt. I’m perfectly healthy. All I did was drive to a house, pick a lock, and shove a needle inside the monster plotting to hurt more girls. If I hadn’t been there that night, Jason, we’d be picking up the pieces of Joss right now. But you wouldn’t have let me do what needed to be done.”

“No, I wouldn’t have,” Jason snapped. “You think you’ve got everything, including me, handled. But what about Patrick? Do you think Robin is happy about any of this? You think she doesn’t know? As soon as she found out Baker died on Thanksgiving, she knew—”

“Years ago, when I was furious that Luke had killed Helena first—before Laura or I could even get our hands on her—you told me that you were relieved.” Her eyes burned into his. “Because something like this stays with you. You were glad I didn’t have to.”

“Elizabeth—”

“And I warned you then. I told you who I was. What I knew I could do. I would have strangled that evil bitch with my bare hands and danced on her grave! Did you think I was bluffing?”

“No—” Mystified at how the argument had turned, he just shook his head. “No—”

“You were glad that my hands were clean. It was fine to kill Stavros in the heat of the moment, but you don’t want me to get dirty. Like you.”

“That—Okay, that’s what I said then, but—”

“And it’s how you feel right now. You’re angry that I did this. That I didn’t just plot a murder, but that I actually went through with it.” Her eyes glimmered with tears. “I killed him, and then I shared Thanksgiving dinner with my children. And the only reason you even know is I slipped up with my cover story. I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment—”

“You’re twisting this around,” Jason interrupted. “I’m angry because you put yourself at risk without telling me—that you lied to me about it when you damn well know that I had the connections to get it done without a trace—”

She swiped at her eyes, and laughed bitterly. “You don’t even hear yourself, do you? I didn’t need your connections, Jason. I have my own. I killed my rapist—” Elizabeth flattened her hand against her chest. “I killed my monster. Not yours. Helena was mine. Stavros was only aiming at you because of me and my history. It’s okay for you to take care of crime in your world without discussing it—but I can’t do the same?”

“I’m not arguing about this anymore.” Jason went past her, heading for the parking lot, irritated. She just didn’t understand—

She followed him back to his bike, took the helmet he offered, just staring at him with sadness in her eyes—and a hint of disappointment. “I didn’t want to lie to you. But it was the only way—”

“We’ll never know because you didn’t trust me.”

“Would you have let me into that house, to be the one to kill him?” Elizabeth asked. “If I told you it needed to be me?”

Jason opened his mouth, then closed it, troubled by the question. He didn’t know the answer.  He climbed on the bike, and without another word, drove them home.

Scorpio-Drake House: Kitchen

Patrick studied the menu in his hands. “How many pizzerias does one town need?” he wanted to know when Robin came through the door. “This is the third new flyer in the last month—”

“Did you kill Tom Baker?”

The question fell out of her mouth before Robin even knew she was going to ask it. Her husband froze, then lowered the menu, their eyes meeting.

“You can tell me,” Robin hurried to add. “Even if you—if you didn’t do it alone—I’m your wife. I can’t tell anyone what you said even about someone else—”

“I’ve got a passing familiarity with spousal privilege,” Patrick said, finally finding his voice. “Yes. I didn’t do the final deed. But I secured the means, drove to the house, and went inside. I watched it happen. And then I came home. That makes me just as liable.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, then Robin bit her lip. “Did you know about the photos?”

“No. I didn’t. Not until I saw them. He was watch Emma, Robin. He was watching our little girl. And he was there the night of the dance.” A muscle ticked in his cheek, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. “If Elizabeth and I hadn’t hung out that night, if she hadn’t doubled back—it might have been Joss. It might have been any of them. But he stole photos of Emma from my locker. They’re both pinned on that board.”

Her hands were shaking as Robin dragged them through her hair, digesting that news. “He was stalking her, then.”

“He must have seen her around Elizabeth. Knew Emma was special to her. And—”

“And Emma has superficial resemblance to Elizabeth,” Robin finished, her stomach lurching. “Oh, God. Our baby.”

“The system didn’t protect Elizabeth. I couldn’t take the chance. Not with Emma. Not with any of those girls.” Patrick folded the menu and set it on the counter. “I understand if you think less of me. If it changes how you feel about me—”

“No. No.” Maybe it should, Robin thought. But she’d seen rape victims over the years, and she had some sense of how Elizabeth had struggled. The thought of her precious baby being shattered that way— “No, I’m glad he’s dead. We’ll—we’ll let it go. We’ll put it away.” She closed the distance between them, his eyes staying on her hers. “I can let it go.”

“Okay.” He cupped her face in his hands, his thumbs fanning out over her jaw. “I’m sorry I had to lie to you.”

“You’re not very good at it.”

“I didn’t—” Patrick stopped. “If you know, then—”

“Jason and I know. Or suspected. I don’t know if he’s asked Elizabeth yet.  He said it looks like the PCPD doesn’t have anything yet, but he’ll make sure it goes away.”

“I should tell her he suspects. We didn’t want to lie, but Elizabeth—” Patrick hesitated.  “There just wasn’t another way.”

“No. I can see that, I guess.” She kissed the corner of his jaw. “Thank you for protecting our daughter.”

Greystone: Study

Sonny offered Jason a drink, but the younger man just shook his head and stalked across the room to glare out the terrace doors. Sonny poured himself a bourbon and took a seat, considering the situation.

“What’s the part that’s making you the most angry?” Sonny wanted to know.  Jason turned to him, a scowl etched into his expression. “The lie or the crime?”

“Damn it—” Jason clenched his fists. “My wife just admitted to committing murder, and you want to me to pick which part makes me the most angry—”

“How many men have you killed to protect Elizabeth and the boys?” Sonny asked idly, and Jason stared at him. “There was that guy who set the bomb all those years ago. It’s why you left and went to Puerto Rico. And the one who kidnapped her. A few Russians. Some Cassadine guards—”

“Sonny—”

“Your wife,” Sonny said slowly, “saw a threat to her family and she eliminated it. Just the way you’ve done over and over again.”

Jason’s shoulders slumped and he sat on the sofa. “She thinks I’m angry because she got her hands dirty,” he muttered. “I said something a few years ago about being glad she didn’t have to be the one to kill Helena—that her hands were clean—” Sonny winced. “She was angry at me then, but I didn’t realize she’d held on to that. I’m not—this isn’t about that.”

“It’s a little about that,” Sonny said, and Jason’s scowl returned. “You hated when the violence touched her. When it came near your family. But you always hated it more than she did. And every single time she tried to show you she could handle it, you ran as far and as fast as you could in the opposite direction.”

“I—” Had done exactly that, though he hadn’t seen it that way. “Maybe.”

“She knows who you are, Jason. Always has. She never flinched from any of this.” Sonny leaned forward. “She lied to you because she didn’t want you to realize that she wanted to be the one to kill Baker. She was scared you’d flinch from her. And then you did exactly that.”

“My face changed,” Jason murmured. Sonny frowned, and his friend looked at him. “I don’t care that she killed him. I don’t. I’m glad he’s dead.”

“I’m a little impressed with her, honestly. She ever decides to make this a second career—” Sonny winced when Jason glared at him. “Kidding.”

“It’s not funny.”

“It’s a little bit funny.” Sonny got to his feet. “You’re glad Baker’s dead. And maybe Elizabeth got some satisfaction from doing the deed. Some closure. The girls are safe. And, cherry on top, Elizabeth pulled off what might be the perfect crime. Go home. Tell her you love her and that you understand. Because you damn well know about taking a life to protect others.”

“Sonny—”

“And tell her I appreciate the alibi. I enjoyed having Diane tell Jordan that she should ask a trio of former commissioners where I was all day.” Sonny sipped his bourbon. “We’ll make sure the case gets buried, Jason. Go home to your wife and family. You have a woman who’d kill to keep you and the kids safe. We should all be so lucky.”

September 10, 2022

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the The Last Time

Written in 65 minutes.


27
Run fast, nowhere to hide

Her mother was probably the last person Sam wanted to see right now, but she forced herself to smile as she let Alexis into the penthouse. “I know. I’ve been avoiding your calls.”

“I would have come over yesterday,” Alexis said, “when I heard what happened, but I thought maybe you needed some space.” She looked around the penthouse. “Jason isn’t here?”

“No.” Sam closed the door, rested her forehead against it. “He left. Yesterday. He came in after being out all night at the hospital, packed a bag, and left. I haven’t heard from him.”

Her mother said nothing, so Sam turned to look at her, a bit suspicious. “You’re not going to tell me I’m better off?”

“I made a mistake last year,” Alexis said gently. “I was just—I was so scared, Sam. I’d just  found out, and I was terrified I’d lose you—but I never should have pushed Jason when he was already struggling—”

“I wish I could blame you. It’d be easy. I blamed you for everything else wrong in my life.” Sam sighed, wandered over to the sofa. “Blamed you for my daughter’s death, even though placental abruption is often fatal. Especially when it comes without warning. Blamed you for Danny’s death—”

“Sam—”

“Blamed you for Manny, too.” Sam sat on the edge of the sofa, her hands fisted in the cushions next to her, staring blindly at the coffee table. “And I blamed you for Jason leaving. So I decided to hurt you both.” She closed her eyes. “You knew that, didn’t you? That it wasn’t spur of the moment. I wanted to hurt you, Mom.”

“I know.” Alexis sat in the chair next to the sofa, and waited for Sam to look at her. “Did it make you feel better?”

“Do you want the truth?” Sam asked.

“Yes.”

“It did. It felt good. For about an hour.” Sam’s smile was wistful now as she looked away, staring again at the coffee table. “And then the regret set in. Because the only way for it to work as revenge would be to make sure you knew. That Jason knew. So I got up and went to tell him. I got all the way to the Towers, to the penthouse. Up all those stairs—and I couldn’t do it.” Her voice shook. “I knew it would hurt him so much. And then I though about you. And Kristina and Molly. And how it would hurt everyone.” She swiped at her tears. “I wish I’d let that matter before I did it.”

Sam took a deep breath. “You pushed Jason into leaving me last year, Mom, but you didn’t hold a gun to his head. He chose to do it. And he chose to keep pushing me away until I was angry enough to lash out. You were right, by the way. About what I was letting it turn me into. I was nothing without Jason. No one. And now—” She waited a moment. “He found out last night about the baby. He didn’t know the whole time.”

“Sam—”

“I’ve been sitting here, angry at myself because I didn’t handle it well. I—I pushed at him, and I definitely jumped down his throat because he spent the night at the hospital with Elizabeth. I was  telling myself that if I had just let him breathe, if I’d let him go to sleep or take a minute, he’d still be here.” Sam looked at Alexis. “I can’t have children because of what Manny did to me. And Manny was aiming for Jason when he shot me. It’s not Jason’s fault. Not really. I took the risk. But I was arrogant. I thought I could handle whatever this life threw at me. But I can’t have children. Ever. That’s done for me.”

“I’m sorry,” Alexis said. “I don’t know what else to say—”

Sam swiped at stray tear. “I could make him feel bad, you know. I could have used this to keep him with me. Make him feel guilty for having a child with another woman when I can’t. I spent all day yesterday trying to think of how to do it.” She shoved herself off the sofa, went over to the terrace doors, folding her arms around her torso. “I could still maybe pull it off. If I play it right. I know how to do it. I managed to seduce your husband in about six weeks. I could get Jason back.” She looked at Alexis. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Alexis rose and crossed the room, her fingertips trailing over the green felt of the pool table. “I know what happened and why. It’s my choice to forgive you. I’ve made it.”

“I don’t deserve it, but thanks.” Sam closed her eyes. “I could get Jason back,” she repeated. “And there’s such a big part of me that wants it. Because I liked who I was when we were together. I liked that he made me feel strong and capable. I think he was the only man I’ve ever been with who came close to knowing who I really am. And he loved me anyway. For a little while.”

She scratched her arm absently as her mother remained silent behind her. “But Jason doesn’t love me anymore. It would end in tears and anger and we’d hate each other if we kept clinging to whatever this was. He’d see the pieces of me I’ve locked away—and he’d lose what little respect or warmth he has for me.” She exhaled in a rush of air. “Despite that, I’m still tempted.”

“You could do all of that,” Alexis said, “or you could pack your things and come home to me and your sisters. And we’ll figure out what’s next together.”

“You’d still want me in your home?” Sam wanted to know. “After everything I’ve done. After what I’ve said today?”

“Yes, I do. You need to be around people who love you.” Alexis tipped her head. “And I think we can both agree that I’ve got some sense of those pieces you’re afraid Jason will see. And I love you, anyway. So, will you try to grab a few more months with Jason or will you come home with me?”

28
Just you and me

Elizabeth peeked through the window and sighed when she saw Lucky standing on her grandmother’s porch. She rested a hand on her belly, felt the reassuring kick of the baby. Then looked at her grandmother. “I don’t know if I want to answer it.”

“I’ll be right here,” Audrey promised. “Or I can tell him to go away.” She rose and crossed to Elizabeth even as Lucky rang the bell a second time. “You said you were sorry that he found out the way he did. Maybe there’s a chance—”

“Gram—”

“Not for reconciliation,” Audrey said hastily. “But closure.”

Elizabeth sighed, and went to open the door. Lucky blinked in surprise, nearly dropping the manila envelope he held. “Lucky.”

“Uh. Hey. Hi. I—” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to just show up like this, but I thought maybe we could talk. For a minute.”

“Yeah, sure. Come in.” Elizabeth stepped aside, and when he entered, she closed the door. “How are you?”

“Fine, I guess. Staying with Nikolas for a few days just to keep my head on straight.” He nodded. “Mrs. Hardy.”

“Lucky.” Audrey looked at Elizabeth who nodded. “I’ll go check on Cameron. He’s napping upstairs.”

When her grandmother had disappeared up the stairs, Lucky looked at Elizabeth. “How are you feeling? I, uh, know you were in the hospital overnight—”

“I’m good. Kelly was just worried about the cramping I had while we were held hostage. And my blood pressure. She’s got me on light rest.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I’m not sorry that the truth is out there,” she said, “but I wish it hadn’t been that way. It was so public and I know that’s been hard—”

“It was a bad night.” Lucky stared down at the envelope in his hands. “You were tired. Dehydrated. I’m angry at you,” he confessed. “So angry that I almost can’t breathe.”

Elizabeth flinched, cleared her throat. “I know—”

“But I’m angrier at myself.” He raised his eyes, met hers. “Before I got hurt, we were so good. You, me, and Cam. We were a family. You were worried about the pain meds from the start. I know that. I couldn’t see it. I didn’t think of myself as being weak.”

“Lucky—”

“I wanted to be angry that you’d had an affair—I wanted to see it as proof that I’d been right all along, but—” He swallowed hard. “I think maybe that’s just me looking for someone else to blame. I thought it was Patrick, but I was wrong—”

“It was one night,” Elizabeth said. “The blackout. After I found out about Maxie.” She folded her arms. “I was planning to leave you, but then I came home and you were going to a meeting. You wanted to get clean. And I wanted to believe in you. In us.”

Lucky nodded slowly. “Okay. Okay. I can—I can be okay with that. Um—” He looked away. “I don’t really know what to do with any of this. I’m angry because you lied, but I know you had reasons. But it doesn’t really stop me from hating you. I don’t want to, but—” He held up the envelope. “Our divorce is almost final. I was going to bring these to dinner to tear up. So we could try again. I was just going to throw them out, but…” He handed it to her. “I signed them. I know that doesn’t matter because the divorce will be final anyway, but I didn’t sign them before. I made you go through the court. To give us more time. To give me more time to convince you to forgive me.”

Elizabeth held the papers against her chest. “I’m sorry,” she said. “That it ended this way. I loved you so much, Lucky. I wanted so much more for us.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” He slid his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels. “I wanted—I wanted you to know that I love Cam. That I always will. But I’m angry at you,” he repeated. “So maybe we just walk away. You’re gonna have this baby, and Jason—” He closed his eyes.

“Lucky—”

“No. You’ll have this baby, and Jason will be there. And he’s—he’s an okay guy. I mean, I liked him just fine when we were kids. And he’s a good father. Maybe it’ll be easier for you if I’m out of the picture.”

“What about you?” Elizabeth asked. “Cam loves you—”

“He’s young,” Lucky said, but he looked away, swallowing hard. “And being a good father isn’t always about holding on. It’s about knowing when to walk. I’m angry at you,” he said once again, and this time when he looked at her, she saw the fury he’d been hiding. The flare of his nostrils. The tension in his shoulders. “Right now, I’m keeping it together because we’ve been through hell. And you’re pregnant. And because I can remember that this wasn’t some sort of deliberate plan. But I think it’s better for you and me if this is the end. Because I can’t promise I’ll always feel that way. When you have that baby, and I remember it was supposed to be mine—” Lucky’s jaw clenched. “We’re done now. The divorce will be final. We both walk away with what we came with.”

He strode past her, yanked open the door, and left. Elizabeth looked after him, her eyes stinging with tears. “Goodbye,” she said softly. She felt the baby kick again, and reminded herself that Lucky had a right to his anger, and he had a right to walk away. He’d never adopted Cameron and hadn’t really sought him out after Elizabeth had moved out, but—

Oh, it hurt to know that her little boy was losing the only daddy he’d ever known. Lucky had just assumed Jason would step in, and Elizabeth knew he was right—but it didn’t make it right. It didn’t make it okay that Lucky could be Cameron’s father for over two years and then walk away because of her mistake, assuming another man would pick up his responsibilities.

As much as Lucky had railed against his father, he wasn’t much better than Luke who had walked out on his daughter when Laura hadn’t quite measured up.

29
This is the last time I’m asking you this

Jason picked up the note that Sam had left on the desk, staring at the contents, trying to digest it. He’d had a call from the front desk that Sam had left with her mother—and that there had been suitcases.

He’d decided to venture back to the penthouse to find out—and sure enough—Sam’s dresser and closet had been cleared out. She was gone.

I hope whatever you’re looking for makes you happy. You were kind to me when you didn’t have to be, and you took care of me when I was nothing more than the bitch ruining your best friend’s marriage. I hope one day we can both remember the good we brought to each other.

It was a generous note, one he certainly didn’t deserve after the way he’d acted the day before. After he’d finally slept for more than two hours, this morning, he’d woken up with a fair bit of embarrassment and regret. Not that he and Sam had broken up — it had been overdue, but he wished it had been handled better.

And then he’d gone to Elizabeth the news of the break up as if it was something that would magically change her mind about marrying him—Jason was lucky she was still talking to him—

There was a sharp knock on his door, but before Jason could even turn towards it, Carly was pushing it open. “Finally!” She rushed towards him, hugging tightly. “I’ve been looking for you for ages!”

“What did you need?” Jason asked, hugging her back, then pushing her away gently. “Is everything okay?”

“What? How can you ask me that?” Carly’s eyes were wide and she slapped his chest. “I’m here for you! I can’t believe this! She lied to us all! I always knew she was a manipulative bitch just looking to get her claws into you—as soon as she had the chance—”

Jason scowled, dropping Sam’s note on the desk. “What the hell are you talking about?” he demanded. “Are you talking about Elizabeth?”

“Of course.” Carly hissed. “You’ve forgiven her, haven’t you? Why can’t you see—”

“I’m not listening to this—”

“No! She saw her chance in that stupid elevator—and look what happened! You walked into that elevator in love with Sam and then you broke up with her! Elizabeth is using that baby and your father’s death—”

“Don’t stay another word—” Jason whirled around and stabbed a finger at Carly. “Not one more word.”

Carly closed her mouth, but the silence only lasted for a minute. “You always defend her! She lied to you! She’s just using you—”

“If she’s just using me, then why did she refuse to marry me?” Jason wanted to know, out of patience with the woman who claimed to be his best friend. “I’ve asked her more than once.”

That threw Carly and she actually stopped to think about it. He could see the wheels turning in her head, trying to make sense of it. “She refused,” she echoed.

“I asked her twice last fall,” Jason bit out. “And then three more times yesterday. So go ahead, Carly. Explain that to me. If Elizabeth’s trying to manipulate her way into my life, lying about the paternity and refusing to marry me doesn’t really play, does it?”

“If she refused to marry you, she’s dumber than I thought—” Carly furrowed her brow. “Or there’s something else she wants. She just wants you to grovel. That’s what it is. She wants you to beg her to marry you. Or do declare your undying love—”

Jason had been heading for the stairs, intending to get a shower and ignore Carly, but those words stopped him in his tracks and he turned back. “What?”

“She wants something from you, of course. No woman would be dumb enough to turn you down. Especially not Elizabeth who has been running after you since she met you,” Carly spat. “You’re not giving her what she wants. Maybe it’s money—”

What she wants. It was so simple, Jason really shouldn’t have needed Carly to point it out. “You’re right,” he said, and Carly was so stunned that she stopped in mid sentence.

“I am?” She cleared her throat. “Of course I am. So that’s why—”

“That’s why I can’t ask her to marry me again until I’m ready to give her what she wants,” Jason said. “Thank you, Carly. You’ve been a big help.” He took her by the elbow. “Now go home before you ruin it.”

“Uh, okay, but—”

Jason closed the door on her face, flipped the deadlock, and went upstairs to shower. He had to think about this before he took any more action.

September 9, 2022

This entry is part 23 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 56 minutes.


PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Taggert stared at the photos, took a deep breath, then raised his burning gaze to Jordan. “This is my daughter.”

“Marcus—”

“You had surveillance on this guy, didn’t you?” He slapped the evidence photos back on her desk, and she flinched at the slap they made against the wood. “You told me you were watching Baker—”

“I was—”

“Then how did you miss him stalking my daughter? Damn it, Jordan—”

“I—”

“He was doing time for blackmailing a teenage girl over photographs he took of her! And your guys let him around more teens with a camera?” Taggert stabbed a finger at her. “And they did nothing—”

“They—” Jordan sank into her seat, stared blindly at the surveillance report, then raised her eyes to Taggert. “No one was ever in danger. No one, okay? I made sure of that—”

He stared at her, and the horror crept into his eyes. “You didn’t miss it. You saw it. They saw him taking pictures of those girls.”

Jordan swallowed hard, nodded. “I knew why he was doing it. He was following girls who were connected to Elizabeth Morgan. I thought he was focusing on Emma because she looks like Elizabeth did back then—” Taggert turned away from, and Jordan got back to her feet. “But nothing happened, okay? I just—he was careless about it. I knew they’d tell an adult. I knew it’d get back to Morgan—” She put her hands flat on the desk, leaned forward. “Listen to me, Marcus. I was right! Elizabeth saw Baker in the park a few weeks ago. And now he’s dead. She ran right to her husband—”

Taggert turned back to Jordan. “What? What do you mean?”

“Before we pulled the surveillance on Baker—my officer saw Baker in the park taking photos of the girls. And saw Elizabeth Morgan hurry into the clearing, and get the girls out. She looked worried. We waited to see what would happen—” She gritted her teeth. “I was wrong. I thought Morgan would do the job himself because it was personal—”

“You had a cop in the bushes watching Tom Baker take photos of my daughter—he could have gone after Trina because of me, Jordan—” Taggert clenched his hands into a fist.  “You put those girls at risk—”

“They were never—” Jordan took a deep breath. “They were never at risk, Marcus. You have to believe me. If Baker had made a move, they had orders to stop it. But there’s no crime against being in public and taking photos. I just—”

“You decided it was worth the risk to get Morgan, and with him, goes Corinthos. You know, I wasn’t always proud of myself when I worked here—I was narrow minded and I lost objectivity.” His eyes burned into hers. “But I never put an innocent kid at risk to get someone. And what did it get you, Jordan? Baker’s dead and there’s no leads. You can’t even prove murder.” His mouth stretched into a grim smile. “And Jason Morgan is alibi’d by three former police commissioners. The fucking irony—”

Jordan hissed. “I know he did it—his wife is pregnant. There’s no way he was going to keep Baker living once she found out about the photos. About the stalking.”

“You gambled and you lost, and for this—” Taggert stabbed a finger into a photograph of Emma and Trina in the park. “You deserve it. And when the press finds out about this—and they will—you already told me Elizabeth knows Baker was stalking the girls. You think she won’t go to the press if you keep going after her husband?”

“Tom Baker did his time,” Jordan said coldly. “You either believe in the system or you don’t. You don’t get to pick and choose—”

“Why not? You did. You decided the risk was worth it. You chose to let Tom Baker stalk teenagers so you could get this department’s holy grail. And that’s why you lost. That’s why I lost. Why Mac and everyone else who ever went after Morgan and Corinthos. You made it personal. You deserve whatever comes next.”

Kelly’s: Diner

Trina dropped her books down with a thud next to Joss and flopped into a chair. “I am going to fail algebra,” she said with a huff. “There’s not a prayer in the world—”

“You are not.” Emma rolled her eyes and reached for the green folder in Trina’s stack to retrieve the quiz. “You have to stop rushing.”

“Why does there have to be letters?” Trina demanded of Joss. “Weren’t numbers good enough?”

“Apparently not,” Joss began, but then stopped when she saw Emma’s face pale as she scrolled through her phone. “Emma?”

“I was—I was gonna look up this math app, but—I got this notification from the news—” Emma raised her eyes, looked at Trina. “A few weeks ago, last month, I think. There was that weird guy in the court yard.”

“Yeah?”

Emma handed her phone to Trina and her eyes widened. “But look at the story, Treen—”

“What’s going on?” Joss asked, and Trina showed her the phone. “Tom Baker, former photographer to the stars, found dead,” she read. “Tom Baker—” She pursed her lips. “Wait, why is that name familiar?”

“It’s the guy who hurt Aunt Liz,” Emma said. “Dad said it was the guy who blackmailed Cam’s aunt, Emily. The one who died. So I looked it up. Tom Baker. But he’s the guy who I saw outside. And I saw him at the hospital.”

Joss took the phone to look more closely at the picture. “I saw him a few times at the hospital. And in the park,” she realized. “Weird.”

“I didn’t even know he was out of prison,” Trina said. “But he’s dead now.”

“Good,” Emma said. “I know it’s bad to want people dead, but people like him don’t get to live.”

“No.” Joss stared at the face of the man who had hurt Cam’s mom, the same woman who had waited all night for her after the dance. And found her on the street. “People who rape women deserve to die.

General Hospital: Ultrasound Room

Elizabeth laid back and forced a smile at Jason, who returned it. But it was lined with the same heavy tension that had been there for the last week. Since Tom Baker’s body had been discovered.

She was going to tell him. She’d always planned to do it eventually, but now that it was over, she found herself struggling with how to start the conversation. She and Jason didn’t talk about these kinds of things. He never talked to her about what he did as Sonny’s enforcer, and she didn’t ask. She knew he’d taken lives, and had mad her peace with it.

But what she’d done — it was different. It had been murder. Cold-blooded, premeditated murder. It was one thing for him to get his own hands dirty, and maybe he hadn’t minded when she’d killed Stavros — but it had been the heat of the moment.

Now that it was safer to tell Jason, she was starting to have doubts that he’d see it the way she had. That he’d understand she’d only lied to protect him. To protect the boys. And he’d be furious, she admitted, that she’d put herself—and their unborn child at risk.

“Hey,” Jason murmured as the ultrasound technician came in. “You all right?”

“Good. Just nervous. I don’t know why,” she admitted. “I’ve been through this a few times—” But never quite like this. She and Jason had never done this together. And she regretted that it was tainted by the tension. By the secret. God, why had she lied on Thanksgiving? Why had it been so important for her to keep the secret until the discovery of the body?

“Are we ready?” the technician asked with a bright smile. “Dr. Westbourne will be here in a minute to read the image, but we’re going to get to started.”

“Ready.” Elizabeth tugged up her sweater, and flinched as the cool gel was spread across the curve of her belly. Then the ultrasound wand started to move gently across. Elizabeth watched the screen, smiling as the sounds of the baby’s heartbeat came across. Then frowned—because it sounded different than any of her other children. She looked at Jason who was tilting his head, a bit confused as well.

Britt Westbourne came in, a wide smile across her face. “Good morning. Sorry, I’m just a bit late—let’s take a look—” She tilted the screen, then raised her eyebrows. “Well—”

“There’s something wrong, isn’t there?” Elizabeth said, her voice tight. “I can hear—”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Britt reassured them both. “It’s just—” She gestured at the screen. “You’re hearing double. There are two heartbeats.”

Elizabeth stared at the doctor for a long moment, the words not processing. “What—”

“Two heartbeats,” Britt repeated gently. “Twins.” She pointed again. “One heart, and there’s the other.”

“Twins,” Jason echoed, and even he seemed a bit flustered. “That’s…there are two of them. They’re—” He stopped, took a deep breath. “There are two of them?”

“Looks like it. I’d wondered after your last appointment,” Britt told Elizabeth. “You were measuring a bit bigger than I’d thought, and I’d heard an echo. But I wanted to be sure. Congratulations!”

Even after they’d left the office, Elizabeth couldn’t quite find the words. They stood by the elevators, and she stared at the sonogram. “Twins.”

“Two,” Jason echoed. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, we, uh, wanted to do it all over again.”

“Yeah, but twins—they usually run in the family,” Elizabeth said. She peered at him curiously. “I don’t remember any twins on my side—”

“Well, I never knew my biological mother,” Jason pointed out. “Maybe—” He shook his head. “This is—it’s good news,” he decided. “It’s just—”

“Scary,” Elizabeth confirmed, and he smiled in return. “Terrifying. But—kind of amazing. ” She pressed a hand against her belly. “Two babies. At once. We’re going to be so outnumbered.”

“It’ll be okay.” He drew her in for a tight hug, and she clung to him. “Jake and Aiden already  offered to share a room. You raised three great boys—”

“You’ve been here for three years, Jason.” She drew back. “You get some of that credit. We raised them. And now we get to do it again. Not many people get to say they’re almost doubling the number of kids in one shot, but here we go.”

“Yeah.” Jason stared at her for a moment, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “We have some time before we have to be home for the bus. You wanna take a ride?”

“You don’t even have to ask.”

Scorpio-Drake House: Living Room

Robin’s smile was nervous as she came in from the front hall. “Hey. I didn’t realize you’d be home,” she said to her husband. “Didn’t you have a surgery?”

“Got cancelled.” Patrick flipped through the television channels, his feet propped up on the coffee table. “Thought I’d relax a little.”

Robin sat next to him, biting her lip. “Um, we haven’t really—I mean, we’ve been running on crazy schedules this week,” she said finally. “And I didn’t want to say anything around Emma, but—”

Patrick frowned, put the television on mute to focus on her. “What’s up?”

“Tom Baker was found dead,” Robin said, watching his face intently. Nothing changed, but maybe there was something, just a twitch around his eyes. “The PCPD already questioned Jason, but lucky for us, you and Elizabeth suggested we do Thanksgiving here. So he’s got a lot of people who saw him.’

“Yeah, I saw that in the paper. About Baker,” Patrick added. “Did you hear an update or something? Do they know what happened?”

“Uh. No. I think they’re waiting on a tox screen, but the papers said there was a history of heart trouble.” Robin smiled nervously. “Seems kind of..anti-climactic, doesn’t it? He gets out of prison, stirs everything up, and then just…dies in his sleep—”

“More than he deserved,” Patrick bit out, and she stopped, frowning at him. “He deserved worse,” he clarified. “When I think about how Elizabeth handled seeing him again—it’s not right. He should have been eaten alive by lions. Or wolves.”

“Yeah, I guess. But people don’t always get what they deserve,” Robin pointed out. “At least we don’t have to think about him hurting anyone.”

“No. We don’t.” Patrick turned back to the television, flipped through the channels again, and Robin settled back against the sofa cushions, wondering if maybe she was just going to have to ask him straight out if he’d murdered Tom Baker.

There should really be Hallmark cards for these kinds of things.

Vista Point

They’d been together for four years, and married for nearly three—and every single week, Jason had made sure that he’d taken Elizabeth out for a ride on the cliff roads—short, long, fast and reckless, or a bit more restrained—it was something they’d shared since the beginning, and he thought that it might be a way to resolve this terrible tension.

He’d waited for her to come to him, sure as the days passed without further word from he PCPD, that she would confide in him, that she’d want him to check and be sure that the crime had left no trail—

But after today, after looking at the screen—seeing and hearing the heartbeat of the two children they were going to bring into this world—Jason  couldn’t stand the secrets hanging between them anymore.

So he took her on the cliff roads, took the turns faster than maybe he should, considering Elizabeth was nearly four months pregnant—but he wanted her to be relaxed. And he wanted her to remember who they were. Who he was.

Jason parked the bike at Vista Point, the highest point in Port Charles, and she eagerly went to the overlook, leaning over the guardrail to breathe in the clear, fresh air. “This is probably one of my favorite places,” she murmured, tilting her head up to the sky. “I love it here.”

“Me, too.” Jason leaned against the guard rail, his back to the harbor, their shoulders brushing. “I need to ask you something.”

He could feel her tense next to him, her body stilling. “What?”

“Tom Baker.” Jason straightened, then touched her shoulder, turning him towards him so that their eyes met. “You and Patrick. On Thanksgiving. You killed Baker, didn’t you?”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Yes,” she said softly. “I killed him. Not Patrick. He was just there if anything went wrong. I did it. I gave him the injection. And I watched him until he stopped breathing. And I’m not sorry.”

September 5, 2022

This entry is part 22 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 60 minutes.


Morgan House: Driveway

Jason watched as Jordan and Nathan climbed back into the car and drove away, but he didn’t look at his wife. Couldn’t.

He’d gone to Robin, they’d discussed the possibility, but until this moment—until Jordan had showed them the photographs of what had been on Tom Baker’s wall—photos of his wife. Of Joss. Of Emma and Trina—he realized he hadn’t truly believed it.

Baker had been stalking his wife and young women close to her for months. And Jason hadn’t known. Couldn’t have known, thanks to the PCPD tying his hands—but Elizabeth—

She’d found out. She’d learned the truth, and she hadn’t told him. She must have. He and Robin had wondered what had triggered Baker’s death after all these months—

When the car had disappeared, Jason’s chest eased a bit. He looked down at Elizabeth whose gaze was still trained on the horizon where Jordan’s SUV had turned. Her face was pale, and she’d crossed her arms tightly. “Elizabeth—”

“You told me they had guys following Baker,” Elizabeth said, her voice still shaky. “From the moment they learned what he was and what he’d done to me, the PCPD had eyes on him.” A tear slid down her cheek. “They missed it. They didn’t know. Those photos—” She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Nothing happened.” Jason drew her against him, holding her tight. He knew they needed to have a conversation about Baker—about why she’d done this on her own—why she hadn’t trusted him—but it wasn’t his priority right now. “Nothing. Everyone is safe. Including you.”

“They could have kept men on him,” Elizabeth said, fisting her hands in his shirt, looking at him. Her eyes searching his. “But they were watching you instead. Jordan wanted you and Sonny more than keeping those girls safe.”

He squinted slightly—and thought now of that conversation when the surveillance had been pulled on Baker. He swallowed hard — she’d used him for information. Another reason Baker had only recently died. There had been no one watching his comings and goings.

The yellow bus from the middle school turned a corner, stopping a block away—the normal bus stop. He cleared his throat. “Jake’s home. Aiden and Cam will be here in a bit.”

“I’m going to go wash my face.” Elizabeth swiped at her eyes. “Wait—” She frowned. “Jordan never said how he died. Just that there was no cause of death.”

“Yeah. Maybe it was natural causes,” Jason said. “I’ll have someone find out.” And he’d try to think of the right way to ask his pregnant wife if she and her best friend had planned and carried out the murder of her rapist. He exhaled slowly, watching her go inside. He should just ask her straight out, but she’d already lied to him. Would she keep lying?

He watched as Jake raced towards the house, their bright, beautiful miracle on his way home from school. Thought again of that day in Greece when Elizabeth had killed Stavros Cassadine. She was capable of anything when it came to protecting the people she loved.

“Dad! Dad!” Jake was breathless as he approached. “I did it! I got an A in math! You promised I could have the Playstation in my room for the whole week—”

Jason pushed Baker’s death out of his head and reached for the paper from the triumphant student.

Inside, Elizabeth had gone upstairs to splash water on her face. She looked at herself in the mirror. Jordan had come to ask those questions even after she’d seen the photos. If she kept coming after Jason, if Jordan tried to break Jason’s alibi, she’d make sure the entire world knew about those photos. She’d worked too hard to protect him from this—she’d even lied to him—

She’d be damned if Jordan was going to screw it up for her now.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

Jordan was seething when she stormed back in the office. “An alibi,” she muttered. “A perfect alibi—”

“Maybe it was the heart problems,” Nathan offered as he closed the door. “There’s a history in the file. He wasn’t in great shape. CSU says no signs of forced entry—”

“They’re missing something—”

“Like we did?”

Jordan turned to the detective. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Nathan flipped open the file and held up the one of Baker’s room. “Elizabeth Morgan had a good question. Baker was on parole. How did he manage to take all these photos of teen aged girls? We had surveillance on Baker for weeks. You’re telling me he did this under their noses?”

Jordan scowled. “We don’t pick our victim—”

“Say you get evidence that Morgan did this,” Nathan interrupted. “You’re going to want motive, right? The rape of his wife. A jury is going to see those photos. They’re going to think whatever happened to Baker isn’t so bad. Because at least they stopped him before another girl got attacked.”

She hissed. “And you agree with them, don’t you?”

“You rolled a dice, Commissioner,” Nathan said. “You thought Jason or Sonny might take this opportunity to go after Baker. You waited for two months. And when the budget was strained, you didn’t keep the guys on Baker. He’s dead two weeks after we pull his surveillance. I think, judging by the photos in his room, maybe we got lucky.”

“We don’t pick our victims—”

“I hear you, and I’m going to investigate. We’ll canvass the neighborhood. We’ll go over the house, but Commissioner — I’m telling you — no jury in the world would convict this guy. You don’t even have a cause of death.”

“They’re smart. They waited for Thanksgiving, surrounded themselves by family and former cops—they must have hired someone.” Jordan shook her head. “I’m not giving up.”

“Like I said, we’ll run out the leads. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

Nathan took the case file and returned to the squad room. He opened the file again, looked at the close-ups of Baker’s photographs.  He’d do the job, but he really didn’t care if Baker was dead.

Justice came in all forms.

Morgan House: Master Bedroom

Elizabeth rubbed lotion into her hands, watching Jason from her mirror as he changed. He’d been quiet all day, and she wondered if he suspected something. Or if he was worried about her because of the photographs.

She’d kept the truth from him because he never would have let her take care of this. He’d have insisted on doing it himself — and the PCPD was watching. What if they’d watched one of the men who worked for Jason? No, she couldn’t take that chance. And she’d kept lying because Jason couldn’t know anything until the body was discovered.

But she’d slipped up on Thanksgiving, and now she worried that he’d started to pull at the threads.

“I nearly killed Baker when I was a kid,” she found herself saying. Jason stilled, standing at the dresser, his back still her. “At the studio. After he’d locked Emily and I up. Lucky and Nikolas got to us—but Baker got there before we could leave.”

She stared down at her wedding ring, twisted it. “There was a fight, and the gun was just on the floor. I grabbed it, and I held it on him. I didn’t shoot him. I could have. Self-defense. Being held hostage. Protecting others. But I wanted him arrested. I wanted to see him go to jail and pay for what he’d done.”

He turned and their eyes met in the mirror. “But he didn’t get charged with your attack.”

“No. I was stunned. Devastated when Taggert told me there wasn’t enough evidence. He’d confessed to me, but then said I was just a scared little girl who didn’t understand what he’d said. It’d be my word against his.” She exhaled slowly. “Not only was he not going to get charged with it, but my case was being put on the shelf. They were going to stop investigating. I’d done everything wrong from the moment that night started. I lied. I went to the park. And I took a shower—”

“Hey.” Jason came around the bed, sat on the edge. “You did the best you could—”

“Lucky told me not to shower. He told me to stay right where I was. He was going to get help. But I could—” Elizabeth’s throat tightened, and she was back in the terrible night, curled up in that chair, sweet Foster’s head resting on her knee. What a lovely dog he’d been— “I could still smell him. I could feel him—” On her. Inside. She shook her head to clear it. “But you know what I regret more than that shower?”

“What?”

She met his eyes again in the mirror. “I should have killed him then.” Please. Her eyes begged him. If he suspected anything, please, she wanted him to understand. What she’d done had been justice, long overdue.

“Emily wanted to testify against him,” Jason reminded her quietly. “She wanted to be brave like you—”

“Emily would have understood. She killed her rapist, too.”

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said finally. “She would have understood.”

“I’ll never know,” she murmured. Then she closed her eyes, her shoulders began to tremble. “I’ll never know if it would have helped.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason tugged her off the stool and next to him. “Hey—”

“The nightmares — they used to come all the time, and then they’d go away, but never forever—they never went away forever—but if he’d died years ago—if I had shot him then—I’ll never know—”

He rocked her in his arms as she continued to sob for the girl who’d been lost all those years ago, and still hadn’t found her way home.

Later that night, when Elizabeth had finally fallen asleep, her eyes red and puffy, Jason slipped out of bed and went downstairs to the back deck where a man waited.

“I got copies,” the man said handing over the manila folder. “So far, the case is a dead end. Looks like natural causes—”

“Autopsy won’t be final for a few days,” Jason murmured. “The photos in the bedroom?”

“I got those, too. From CSU—”

Jason found them — the photo of the girls in the park. Elizabeth at the hospital. And photos that looked like posed candids—of Emma with her family. Baker had focused most of the photos on Emma—a pretty brunette around the age Elizabeth had been.

But there was one of Joss that made his blood run cold. Standing in Kelly’s courtyard, in that red dress the night of the dance. Baker had been there that night. He’d been the noises she’d heard.  How close they’d come that night to devastation.

“Let me know if the autopsy comes back,” Jason said. “If it says anything other than what the prelim does.”

“You got it.”

The man melted away and Jason went into the house, into the room at the back of the house that served as an office. He stored the file in the lockbox in the closet. So far Elizabeth had gotten away with it. The crime scene was clean, no signs anyone else had been in the house.

He wondered what the plan was — to lie to him forever? Or was there a moment when he was to be told?

Jason rubbed his chest, thought of how to handle it. Should he just make sure it went away and hope she’d tell him in her own time? It hurt, he finally admitted, that she’d hint around it and not tell him straight out. She’d all but told him that night. But she wouldn’t say the words.

Did he wait until the PCPD found something or should he push her now to get rid of anything before it could be found?

There was no easy answers. He went back up stairs to lay beside his wife, but he didn’t sleep.

General Hospital: Roof

“I know you don’t feel the cold,” Robin complained as she joined Jason the next morning, “but did we really have to meet up here—”

“Did you say anything to Patrick yesterday?” Jason asked as he handed her a copy of the autopsy report.

“No. He’d heard about it at work and mentioned it.” Her lips twisted in a smile. “Like it was gossip he was sharing. I think I’m concerned he’s too good at this.” She skimmed the autopsy, nodding. “History of heart arrhythmia,” she murmured. “Did you see this?”

“Yeah. I thought that might be something.”

“Heart arrhythmia means it could be natural,” Robin admitted. “It can be fatal if it’s not taken care of. Massive heart attacks. He could have died in his sleep—” She scanned the notes. “No defensive wounds. Body looks clean. Um—there are drugs that could have done it—but there’s no sign of injection. So either it was missed or it was ingested.” She squinted, then looked at him. “But unless the labs come back with some sort of poison, there’s no way this gets marked as anything but natural or, at worst, undetermined.”

“The labs they sent out—can you tell anything from that?” Jason wanted to know.

“Uh—” She flipped through the lab order. “Pretty standard tox screen. It’ll pick up most things.” She handed it back to him. “Honestly, Jason, if it weren’t for Thanksgiving, I might write this off as a natural death. The heart was in really bad condition, and decomposition over three days in a closed up house — it’ll make it hard to see if that was the cause.” Robin bit her lip. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“I guess you didn’t ask Elizabeth about any of this, did you?”

“No. I didn’t. I wanted to, but—” Jason’s mouth tightened. “Baker was watching the girls,” he confessed. “He had photos of Elizabeth, but a lot of them were Emma. Some of Trina. And one of Joss at Kelly’s after the dance.”

“Oh my God—” Robin brought her hands to her face. “He was there that night—”

“Elizabeth said Joss heard sounds. If she hadn’t followed—” Jason shook his head, looked out over the city. “I don’t care that she did this,” he told Robin. “I just—”

“She lied to you.” Robin closed her eyes. “But the pictures—it explains why Patrick agreed.” She touched Jason’s arm. “I’m telling you that unless the tox screen comes back with a poison or there’s something on the scene, they’re in the clear. If Elizabeth lied, you know she had a good reason.”

“She’s pregnant, Robin—” Jason bit out. “And she went into that house—”

“And came back out. She was protecting her girls—” Robin thought of her daughter. “And if she did do this, if she did this to look after Emma and keep her safe, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be angry about it. She did what had to be done.”

September 3, 2022

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the The Last Time


24
Everything is better

Nikolas approached the guest room he’d given Lucky when he’d finally managed to convince his brother to leave the hotel and return to Wyndemere. The door was slightly ajar, so Nikolas knocked gently, and pushed it open.

He found his brother stretched out on the bed, sitting up against the headboard. A bottle of tequila on the nightstand behind him, and papers strewn across the bed and his lap. From the shape of them, Nikolas knew they were legal documents.

“Hey.”

Lucky reached for the still half full glass, stared down at the clear liquid. “I’m not looking for pills,” he said, his voice only a bit slurred. His eyes were a little glassy and unfocused. “You don’t have to check on me.”

“You’re sitting alone, drinking and reading your divorce papers,” Nikolas said slowly. “I just wanted to—”

“I had them with me last night,” Lucky interrupted. He set the glass aside, then started to gather the papers back into a pile. “I was  going to rip them up after dinner because I thought—I was sure she’d want to stop the divorce from being finalized.” He met Nikolas’s gaze. “It’s a week away. Did you know? I didn’t contest it, and she didn’t ask for anything. It flew right through.”

“It’s not going to do any good to look at this—”

“It wasn’t supposed to end like this,” he murmured. “She didn’t want to get back together. I had to push for every moment she gave me. She didn’t even say we were getting back together—just that we’d have dinner. And I was ready to rip them up. Would she have let me, you think?”

“She might have,” Nikolas admitted. He pulled out a chair from the desk and sat. “Elizabeth has always loved you, Lucky. And no one wanted this. She stayed until that night. Until you put your hands on her.”

“It’s all a blur, you know. She was so angry at me—I don’t even think she knew I’d slept with Maxie again—” Lucky dragged a hand across his face. “But she’d found the pills. She was going to leave. I just wanted her to stop. I wanted everything to stop for a minute so I could think—and then she was on the ground—” He exhaled. “When we were together before, after I came back—the brainwashing, the Cassadines, all that crap I pulled with Jason—the wedding—Sarah—” He shook his head. “I used to ask myself why she was still with me, what I’d done to deserve someone who loved me the way she does—but it’s not love.”

“Lucky—”

“It’s not the kind of love either of us deserve,” Lucky said, ignoring Nikolas. “It’s obligation. She didn’t want me back on the pills. I got clean for the baby. Not for her. Not for Cameron. I got clean for the baby. What kind of a man does that make me?”

“A human one,” Nikolas offered. “Give yourself a break, Lucky. You’ve been through hell—”

“Were we really even in love last year?” Lucky murmured. “I thought we’d fallen for each other again. I thought we were happy, and planning a future. But I think maybe I was lonely. And maybe she was, too. And we drifted back towards each other.”

“Until you were injured, Lucky, you and Elizabeth were happy,” Nikolas told him. “Don’t let everything that’s come after ruin that memory. You were happy and you were in love—”

“I kept throwing Patrick in her face,” Lucky continued. “When she got arrested for that surgery on Sam, I was sure it was because of Patrick. Even last night, when I found out the baby isn’t mine, I accused her of sleeping with Patrick.” He looked at Nikolas. “I couldn’t face the truth. I see that now. Because it was always Jason. He saved her from Manny. I couldn’t do that. He saved her last night, too. I just made it worse—” He got to his feet, picked up the divorce papers and went over to the trash can. “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t compete. I don’t want to. I’m not a kid, making promises in a church. I’m not who I was before the fire, and neither is she. The longer we keep looking for who we used to be, the more we’re going to hurt each other.”

He dumped the papers in the trash. “So I’m done. She can live her life, and I’ll figure out mine.”

25
And right before your eyes

Jason knocked lightly on the front door of Audrey Hardy’s home, going over what he wanted to say. He couldn’t just ask her to marry him again—she’d been upset when he’d asked that this morning, and Sonny was right. Just because Jason felt like his head was much clearer, he couldn’t expect Elizabeth to be on the same page.

So first, he had to explain why things were different. She couldn’t have known that earlier—he hadn’t until he’d returned to the penthouse and talked to Sam. He’d explain it to Elizabeth, and this time, she’d understand. He could commit to her and the baby—to Camreon, too. She just had to trust him.

The door opened, and Audrey Hardy stood there, her lips pinched in slight disapproval. She couldn’t have been thrilled with the news, Jason reminded himself. Lucky might have had a dru addiction, but he was still a cop.

And Jason was still Jason.

“Mrs. Hardy,” he said with a nod. “I got Elizabeth’s message that she was being discharged. I was hoping to talk to her.”

“She’s upstairs resting, but she was awake when I checked on her.” Audrey stepped back so he could enter, then closed the door after he had. “I’m supportive of this situation,” she continued, “because to be anything else would be foolish, considering what my granddaughter has been through in the last six months.” She raised her chin. “I understand that you intend to be in this baby’s life, and therefore, Elizabeth’s. That’s fine. Children should have their fathers, and I remember that you were quite good with Michael.”

Jason nodded, a bit cautious now. “I appreciate that—”

“But—” Audrey held up one finger. “I will be watching you. I should have done more when she left Lucky in September. When she told me about the drugs and the affair in August. I will not make that mistake again. The moment I feel you are not what Elizabeth needs, I will make that clear to her.”

“I understand,” Jason said. “I just want—I want what’s best for Elizabeth. And her children. Whatever that ends up being.”

“All right. Tell Elizabeth that Cameron is eating dinner, and then I’ll put him down for bed. I want her to rest.”

26
I’m aching

Elizabeth flipped through the channels, restless and irritable. She couldn’t focus on anything long enough to enjoy it — whether it was her mood or the quality of the television—

She heard footsteps down the hallway, and sat up, a bit bewildered. Those weren’t her grandmother’s—

“Jason,” she said, her eyes widening. “I didn’t—I wasn’t—I thought you might come by tomorrow.”

“I—I can go.” He stood in her doorway, a bit uncertain now. “If you’re tired—”

“No, it’s okay.” Elizabeth sat up and gestured for him to come in. He closed the door and came to sit in the chair by her desk. It felt so strange to have him in her bedroom, with the posters from high school of boy bands still on the wall. “Um, I feel bad about how things were left this morning. Emily—she came by.” He met her eyes. “I’m so sorry about Alan.”

Jason didn’t anything right away, and she worried that it was the wrong to say. He stared down at his hands, and she fidgeted, twisting her fingers in the comforter she sat on. “I don’t know if I get to be upset about it,” he said finally, his voice soft, almost impossible to hear.

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “What? Why?”

“He was my father, but I never let that matter.” Jason grimaced. “I pushed him away until he stopped trying—”

“Jason—I wasn’t around after your accident,” she said, “but I bet if you ask other people who were—Emily or Robin—you’d remember how hard it was for you. You told me that it felt like they never saw you. That they were always telling you how it was before, and being angry you didn’t live up to that.”

“Yeah, but—”

She slid to the end of the bed, until her legs were dangling off the foot and she was closer to him. “You get to feel upset about losing him, Jason. Because now it never gets to be different. You never get to change how it was. You get to mourn for the relationship you can’t have.” She reached for his hand, held it between both of hers. “He was your father, Jason. It was a complicated, messy, relationship. He hurt you by not accepting who you grew up to be, and you hurt him by not being the man he expected. Did you—did you get to talk to him? Emily said she did.”

“Yeah.” Jason stared down at their intertwined hands. “Yeah, I did. He told me he regretted giving up. That he always loved me.” He looked up and met her gaze. “I told him I loved him, and he said it was a lie, but he was smiling—” He stopped, looked away. Elizabeth reached for his face, turning back to with a gentle push of her fingers on his jaw. Tears glimmered his eyes.

“Was it a lie?” she asked him gently.

“No. I don’t—” Jason cleared his throat. “I don’t know. Maybe. There were times after the accident when we almost—when I could imagine it being different. Like it was with Emily or Lila. Or Monica. But he hated everything I did. He wanted to control me.”

“He wanted you to be safe,” Elizabeth corrected softy, and Jason nodded. “Parents do that, you know. We control our children, we create their worlds. And we do it for as long as they let us. I hope I’ll know when to let go, to let them make mistakes. He was afraid of losing you again. He couldn’t let go.”

“I want it to be different,” Jason told her. “For me. This baby. I want to be a father. I don’t want to miss anything, but—” He shook his head. “I had it planned,” he muttered. “What I was going to say.”

“And you think the best way to be a father is to be a full-time father,” Elizabeth said. “It’s why you keep offering to marry me—”

“No, I mean, yes, but not the way you mean it,” Jason said, with a shake of his head. “You told me I couldn’t ask because nothing had changed. But it’s changed now. I broke up with Sam.”

Her heart twisted. “Jason, you’ve had a really long day. Have you even slept yet?”

“A few hours, but—”

“Marriage is more than just sharing children. It should be, anyway,” she added. “I can’t marry you so that you can be with this baby all the time. That’s not fair to either of us. We deserve more, and I’m not settling for less. Not again.”

“But—”

“But,” she interrupted, “you and I can come up with something that makes us both happy. Being a good father isn’t just about showing up. It’s just the start. You’re showing up, Jason. We don’t have to have all the answers. Especially not today.”

He sighed. “You’re saying no again.”

“I’m stopping you before you ask the question. Because I already told you it’s off the table, and this time I want you to listen to me. You do not need to marry me to be in this child’s life. I promise you. I made a mistake keeping it from you, but that’s not going to happen. We’ll sign whatever paper you want, you’ll be on the birth certificate. I won’t keep this baby from you. You’re not going to miss anything.”

Jason nodded. “All right. If that’s what you want.”

No, but it was what she needed. What they both needed. “Thank you.”

“I’ll—I’ll get going.” He got to his feet. “Thanks. For…”

“I’m sorry you lost your father, Jason,” Elizabeth said, hoping that this time, he’d accept the condolences.

“Thank you. I’ll—I’ll call. Or you can—”

She got to her feet and hugged him tightly, but briefly, then kissed his cheek. “I’ll call you in the morning, okay?”

He nodded, then left, and she sat back on the bed, wondering if she’d made a mistake. If maybe she should have let him ask the question.

But if he had—if he’d looked at her one more time and asked her to marry him, she might not have been able to say no.

September 2, 2022

This entry is part 21 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 61 minutes.


PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

“No, no, I told you. I’ll handle this myself. Yeah—I’ve been waiting for this.” Jordan hung up the phone and looked across the desk at Nathan West. “Get the surveillance report on Morgan and Corinthos for the last few days—” She got to her feet, tucking her gun in the holster at her back and clipping the badge to her belt. “That was Baker’s parole officer. He missed his appointment today and he hasn’t been to work since Thanksgiving.”

Nathan furrowed his brow. “I’ll pull the report, Commissioner, but if they saw a crime—”

“I never expected to catch them in the act.” Jordan jerked a shoulder and went towards the door. “All I have to do is put them in the area.”

Nathan pulled out his cell phone to make the call, but he wasn’t sure why Jordan was so confident—they’d need a whole lot more to put someone away than being in the area where a crime was committed.

Port Charles High School: Hallway

Joss pulled her algebra book from the shelf and tossed it in her bag. She slammed the locker shut, then jumped at the sight of Emma and Trina right next to it. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Sorry—” Emma elbowed Trina. “Go ahead.”

“Um, about Thanksgiving—” Trina began.

“No, don’t bother. I’m not interested in another truce that’s only going to last until you get annoyed with me again.” Joss slung her bag over her shoulder. “We’ve been irritating each other since the sand box. You don’t like me, and I—” She paused. “Well, you don’t like me. We don’t have to keep pretending—”

“No, just wait—” Emma snagged Joss by the elbow. “I feel bad because we did totally call a truce, and Trina was just saying that we haven’t pulled any pranks since the hair dye—”

“Which you deserved—”

“Because I told Oscar Nero that crap about you—yeah, well, I only did that because of what you told him,” Joss reminded her, and Trina made a face.

“Wait, what did you say?” Emma frowned. “Treen?”

“I—” Trina hissed. “I told Oscar that Joss’s mom is, like, a crazy person. Like, certifiably insane. Um, that she’s done time in a mental institution. Which isn’t really a lie—”

“Trina—” Emma scowled. “That’s almost as bad as Thanksgiving—”

“I know I did a lot of things when we were kids—I said things,” Joss corrected, “that I didn’t know were hurtful. And you’re never really going to like me because of it, Trina. I get it. I’m not looking for you to like me. We’re not friends.”

“It’s been pointed out to me,” Trina said slowly, “that we’re not kids anymore and we shouldn’t be acting like it.”

“I’m not looking for us to be okay,” Joss said. “I just—I just want it to be civil. When Cam’s around. He’s my best friend. I don’t want to lose that.”

“And you shouldn’t. Cam was really pissed about last week. He was right. We were totally out of line, and I’m sorry.”

“Me, too,” Trina offered.

“Okay.” Joss nodded. “Um, thanks, I guess.”  The warning bell rang. “I gotta go, or I’m gonna get detention again.” She headed to class, but felt a bit lighter. Maybe things were going to be okay.

Baker House: Living Room

Jordan knew as soon as they got inside the house—the smell of sewage permeated the small, one-story house.

“Call for CSU,” Jordan told one of the officers, then nodded to Nathan. “Let’s go.” She headed towards the smell, across the living room, and down the short hallway—the bedroom door had been left open—

They could see Tom Baker sprawled on his back, simply laying as if he were asleep. Nathan approached the bed, coming around Jordan. He tapped the exposed foot—and it moved. “Body’s out of rigor,” he told Jordan.

“Looking at least twenty-four hours—” Jordan clicked on her flashlight, moved it around the room. “And judging by the smell and the missed shift on Thursday evening—” Her light stopped on the wall opposite of the bed. Her flashlight illuminated several photos pinned up. “What are those—”

Nathan went to take a closer look, his jaw clenching. “That’s Maxie’s little cousin, Emma. And Carly’s kid, Joss. Hell, that’s Morgan’s wife.”  He turned back to Jordan. “And there’s another girl I’ve seen around Emma—”

“Trina,” Jordan murmured. Marcus’s little girl. Pinned up on the wall of a man suspected of rape. She exhaled slowly. “He’s got pictures of teenaged girls—”

“And one adult woman.” Nathan stepped even closer. “Shit, Commissioner, he was stalking them—” He turned back to Baker. “No signs of foul play—if Morgan did this, why did he leave the photos up?”

“To make sure we knew what he was,” Jordan murmured. Her stomach twisted. Oh, God. Had Tom Baker hunted girls connected to Elizabeth and Marcus? “I don’t care what it looks like. We treat it like a murder until the autopsy comes back.”

She looked back at the body. “We work it until we know the truth, Nathan. We don’t pick the victim—”

“No, but he sure hell did,” Nathan retorted.

“Detective—’

“Yeah, I got the message. We don’t pick the victim. We just find the answers.”

Greystone: Living Room

Sonny closed the double doors  behind Jason and turned to his partner, his face somber and pale. “I got a call from the PCPD—”

“What’s wrong? You look like—” Jason stilled. “Is it one of the kids? Morgan—”

“No. No. Nothing like that—” Sonny shook his head. “Baker’s dead.”

“Baker—” Jason stared at him. “I don’t—what are you talking about?”

“Parole called in a welfare check after a missed appointment. Baker hasn’t shown for work since Thursday evening. Thanksgiving,” Sonny clarified. “They found him in his house.”

“What happened?” Jason’s chest tightened, and he thought of the strange conversation with Robin—

“No signs of foul play,” Sonny said. “So it might be natural, but she’s gonna look at us hard.” He smiled faintly. “Aren’t we lucky we’ve got a good alibi for the entire day? Jordan can ask a couple of former cops, WSB agents, and commissioners about us.”

“Yeah,” Jason said slowly. “Lucky for us.”

“I thought you might want to tell Elizabeth yourself. I didn’t think she should hear it through the grapevine.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll make sure to get to her.” Jason left then, and pulled out his phone as he left the house. But it wasn’t Elizabeth he called—

He had a feeling she wouldn’t be surprised.

“Jason?”

“Robin. Where are you?”

“At home. Why?”

“Stay there. I’ll be right there.”

Scorpio-Drake House: Living Room

Robin hadn’t seen Jason this unsettled in a long time, but as her ex-boyfriend paced the room, she started to get worried. “Jason—”

“Thanksgiving. Who’s idea was it this year?” he wanted to know. He stopped, looked at her. “I mean, Elizabeth and I usually go to Sonny’s. You’ve never invited Sonny here. ”

“No, I guess—” Robin tipped her head. “It was Patrick’s, I think. He said it would be funny to have Sonny here with my dad and Uncle Mac, and I figured why not—Jason, what’s going on?”

“Tom Baker is dead,” he said flatly. “I don’t have the details yet, but apparently it was some time on Thanksgiving. The PCPD has had me and Sonny under surveillance since Baker was paroled—”

“Wait a second—” Robin put up her hands. “What are you saying—”

“Elizabeth and Patrick arranged for Sonny and I have to alibis. She knew Jordan had pulled people from Baker—that they were still watching us—we just talked about it. And they were late—”

“I—” Robin shook her head. “It’s a coincidence, okay? How was he killed?”

“No signs of foul play,” Jason said. Instead of reassuring her, the news sent a shiver down her spine, and she closed her eyes. “Yeah. That’s what I thought.”

“Jason, are you telling me you think your wife murdered Tom Baker and that my husband helped? Do you hear yourself? Elizabeth is pregnant—”

“She was bleeding out from a stab wound to the gut in the middle of the woods on that damn island, and managed to get to my gun and blow out Stavros Cassadine’s brains,” Jason said, and she closed her mouth. “And your husband operated on her in the middle of a flat with a first aid kit. He’s done brain surgery by flashlight. I know who my wife is and what she’s capable of—”

“If she’s under threat,” Robin reminded him. “What’s the threat? Baker’s been out for months! Do you really think she’s been waiting all along—”

“No. But something happened—it had to.” Jason scrubbed a hand down his face. “You knew they were lying, Robin.”

“Yes, but—” Her voice faltered. “Jason. What exactly are we talking about here? I mean, if it’s true—” She folded her arms. “What are we supposed to do?”

“I’m going to make sure it goes away,” Jason told her, and she bit her lip, nodded. “So far you and I are the only ones that know anything was a little weird that day. I think we were the only ones who noticed they were late.”

“Right. And we couldn’t testify against them even if we wanted to.” Robin bit her lip. “Do we ask them about it?” Did she really want to know?

“They lied to us last week, so I don’t think they’re planning to bring us in—” Jason grimaced. “I need to know what happened so I can make sure they’re safe. You can—you can do whatever you need to. I just—we need to be on the same page. If anyone asks about Thanksgiving—”

“Nothing happened,” Robin said softly. “Except some teenage drama. It was a great day.”

“Good. Thank you—”

“No, thank you for—I don’t know. For whatever you’re going to do. I don’t need to know about it, but thank you.”

Morgan House: Driveway

Elizabeth locked her car, frowning at Jason’s SUV parked at the curb. He was usually at the warehouse for a few more hours—

Then she saw the door open across the street, and Jason step outside — say something to Robin before turning towards their house. Their eyes met, and her insides tightened. He knew something. Even from this distance—

And then a car turned around the curve and slid into the space behind Jason’s SUV. Jordan stepped out, followed by Nathan.

Baker had been found.

“Well, this is good timing,” Jordan called as she came up th front walk, a manila folder tucked under her arm. Jason was crossing the street. “I was hoping to talk to both of you.”

“What’s going on?” Elizabeth tightened her hand around the strap of her purse. “Nothing happened to the kids, did it—”

“No, no. Hello, Mr. Morgan,” Jordan said coolly. “Have a few minutes for some questions?”

“Do I need to call Diane?” Jason wanted to know, already bored with the conversation. He stepped up next to Elizabeth. To Jordan, he would appear to be stone-faced, but Elizabeth knew her husband—she could feel tension and tightness radiating—

“Well, why don’t you listen to my questions and you can make that decision?” Jordan offered. She opened the folder, and Elizabeth’s stomach twisted. “Tom Baker. Died sometime Thursday — preliminary autopsy says maybe the afternoon. No cause of death just yet, but I thought we’d find out where some interested parties were—”

“So you came right over to the house of the woman he raped as a teenager,” Elizabeth said. She folded her arms, took a deep a breath.

“He was never convicted of that crime,” Jordan retorted. “So can I get an alibi or—”

“Thanksgiving,” Jason said. “You can ask about twenty people,” he told her. “Give or take. Robin and Patrick invited us over. So my sons saw me all day. So did my mother-in-law. Robin’s uncle and dad. Her mother—”

Jordan’s mouth tightened. “You were with Mac and Robert Scorpio—and Laura Spencer and Anna Devane.”

“So was Sonny. He deep fried a turkey. There were a lot of kids there, too. You can ask them.  Elizabeth had work until about noon—but she saw me all afternoon.” Jason lifted his brows. “Any other questions?”

“Just one.” Jordan flipped to another photo — Baker’s wall. “Did you know he was talking your wife and teenage girls close to her?”

Jason stared at the photo, the muscles in his cheeks twitching as Elizabeth digested the horror of what Jordan was asking—

“Wait, wait—” Elizabeth reached for the photo, finding it no trouble to find the horror and disgust she’d lived with for days. Weeks. “This is me—that’s my girls—Jason—” Her voice broke. “He was watching all of them?”

Jordan hesitated. “I—”

“How could this happen? How could someone on parole take all these—” Elizabeth shoved the photo away. “How could no one have seen him do it?”

Jason put a hand at her waist, and she closed her mouth, still shaking. Because her fury was real. How could Jordan have not known?  “We’re done here. You have my alibi. Any thing else, call Diane.”

August 31, 2022

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the The Last Time

Written in 50 minutes.


21
And all the times I let you in

“Hello, darling.” Her grandmother poked her head around the edge of the door. “Do you have the energy for a surprise visitor?”

Elizabeth sat up, already smiling because she knew who her visitor was—and sure enough, a little bundle of energy zoomed past his great-grandmother towards the bed. “Mommy!” Cameron cried. “Mommy! Miss you!”

Audrey came in behind him, closing the door. Then she lifted Cameron to sit on the bed. “Careful, my love,” she cautioned the toddler. “Mommy’s still a little tired and needs a gentle hug.”

“Hi, Mommy.” Cameron dropped to his knees and crawled towards her, wedging himself in between her side and the railing. “You almost better?”

“Almost.” She kissed the top of his curls, lingering for just a moment. She’d worried so in the elevator, in the hotel, that she might never get to hold him again. That he would grow up without her. But she had another chance.

And she would make it a better one.

“Thank you, Gram. I really—” She took a deep breath. “I really needed to see him.”

“He really needed it, too. We both did.” Audrey squeezed her hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired, mostly. Kelly says I’m okay. She’s going to discharge me in about an hour.” Elizabeth paused. “I—I can’t go back to the apartment. Lucky and I—”

“I’d heard,” Audrey murmured, and Elizabeth dipped her eyes away, focusing on the thin hospital blanket. “News travels fast when it begins in the emergency room at the top of someone else’s lungs.” Her grandmother tilted her head. “You’ll come home with me, then. You still have things from when you came last fall.”

“Thanks, Gram. I appreciate it. Um, there’s just—” She cleared her throat. “Jason—He’s going to be a part of things—”

“I’d hope so if he’s the father of this child. Are you asking me if he has permission to come in?”

“Yes.”

“Of course. It might not be what I wanted for you, but I have no intention of making anything more difficult for you.” Audrey smiled at her. “Now, tell me what else Kelly has to say about the baby.”

22
Just for you to go again

Jason stepped inside the office of the coffee house, remembering that nearly twenty-four hours earlier, he and Spinelli had planned how to infiltrate the hotel and end the siege.

It felt like another lifetime now.

Behind the desk, Sonny lurched to his feet. “Jason. Hey. Hey. I wanted to—” He came around the desk. “I wanted to call. To come by. I just didn’t know—” He paused. “I heard about Alan. I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” Jason said, though it still didn’t feel right to accept condolences for a man he’d never let be his father. How could you let people feel sorry for a loss that wasn’t yours? He had no right— “I just—I came to tell you I’m not at the penthouse.”

Sonny furrowed his brow. “What? What happened—”

“I—” Jason searched for the words and settled on the simplest recap of the last day of his life. “Elizabeth’s baby is mine. I’m going to be a father.”

Sonny stared at him for a long moment. “But she said—”

“Did she?” Jason asked. He wiped the back of his mouth. He’d spent hours wracking his brain—and she’d never said those words. She’d never told him or clearly anyone else that the baby was Lucky’s. It didn’t make it right that she’d kept the truth from him—but also it didn’t make any of it wrong. “She never told you, did she?”

“No,” Sonny said slowly. “Now that I think about it — she said it was who she expected. I assumed—”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry—but she should have corrected me—”

“Before or after you told her it would have made things harder for me?” Jason wanted to know, and Sonny closed his mouth. “I’m not innocent, either. And that’s not what I came here to tell you.” He didn’t want to think about all the ways he’d failed Elizabeth or how she’d not told the truth — it no longer matter. That was yesterday.

Today was important. Tomorrow was the focus. He wouldn’t have regrets.

“I don’t understand what that has to do with Sam or the penthouse—”  Sonny put a hand on Jason’s forearm. “Don’t you think you should maybe slow down a little? You just lost your father—”

“It’s because I lost him it has to be this way. Alan—he told me—” Jason fisted his hand at his side. “He told me his regret was giving up. Not fighting to be my father. And now it’s mine, too. I didn’t give him a chance. Not a real one. I don’t want that with my child. This baby — I can’t be the father this baby deserves if I don’t make changes.”

“Okay,” Sonny said slowly. “But I still—”

“I’m at Jake’s right now,” Jason told him. “I just thought you should know. If you needed me.”

“Jason, just wait a minute, okay—” Sonny caught his arm as Jason turned to go. “You and Sam have been through a lot this last year. You can co-parent with Elizabeth and not give up what you have with Sam—people do it all the time—”

“I—” Jason nodded. “I know. It’s not just about the baby. I don’t—” How did he put it into his words? “I think Sam and I have been over for a while,” he said finally. “Or maybe we never really got back together. Not in the way that mattered. You and Carly. You almost got back together right before you got divorced for good. You know what I mean. You were together, but it wasn’t right.”

“Okay. Yes, but—”

“And I know you think you’re still going to be together now,” Jason continued, “but Carly doesn’t want it. So it won’t work. I didn’t know I was done until I asked Elizabeth to marry me, and she asked me about Sam. I hadn’t even thought about her.”

“You asked—” Sonny scrubbed a hand down his face. “Okay. Let’s back up for a second. You got engaged to Elizabeth before you broke up with Sam, and then Alan passed away—I think you need—”

“She said no,” Jason said bluntly, and Sonny closed his mouth. “And she was right. It was the same as the last time I asked her—”

“The last time—”

“The last time, she wanted to know about Sam, and I didn’t know what to say. Because I didn’t think of her.”

“How many times exactly did you propose—”

“Does that matter?” Jason asked, impatiently.

“Apparently not. Jason—” Sonny shook his head. “Okay. I get it. You and Sam are done. But—”

“She told me nothing had changed. But it has now,” Jason said. “Sam and I—I felt guilty that about Elizabeth. About wishing—” He closed his mouth. It was clear to him now in a way it hadn’t been this morning. He’d never really wanted to get back together with Sam, but she’d been there and Elizabeth wasn’t. And he’d stayed with Sam because he felt guilty for wishing she was someone else. For wishing that he was the father of Elizabeth’s baby.

And now his wish had become a reality.

“Jason, just because you’ve had some sort of epiphany about your life and what you want from it, it does not mean everyone else has. Elizabeth said no last night, didn’t she?”

“And this morning—”

“You proposed again—” Sonny shook his head. “Never mind. Can I just give you a little advice? Just one piece,” he said when Jason looked at him. “Take your time. Everyone has been through a lot, including Elizabeth. She might not be ready to take the same leap you are. Don’t take it too hard if you try to propose again now that you’ve broken up with Sam, and she turns you down, okay?”

“I won’t.” He started for the door.

“You won’t propose, or you won’t take rejection too hard?” Sonny called after him, but Jason was already gone.

23
Disappear when you come back

“It’s good to see you on your feet.”

Elizabeth grinned as she saw Patrick leaning against the door frame. She tucked the remnants of her purple dress in her tote bag. “Hey. I was hoping to see you before I left. How’s Robin?”

“Good, good.” He crossed the room to hug her briefly. “In recovery. We got lucky. I guess if they’re springing you, you and the baby are good?”

“Kelly’s asking for some light bed rest for a few weeks, but me and baby have a clean bill of health—” Elizabeth touched her belly. “I’ll be off the schedule for a bit.”

“Yeah.” Patrick rubbed the back of his neck. “So, I heard a rumor from the emergency room—”

“Oh, God, everyone really does know.” Elizabeth sank back onto the bed. “I guess I should be relieved it’s less people I have to tell.”

“There you go.” He sat next to her. “You doing okay with all of this?”

“I guess. I haven’t seen Lucky since last night. I feel terrible for how he found out, but I’m a little relieved. Except for—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Jason asked me to marry him. Twice.” Four times if she counted the times he’d asked last fall.

“And I’m guessing that you said no.”

“Of course I said no. He’s only asking because Alan passed away. We talked about him in the elevator last night, and I know Jason has regrets for how everything happened—” Elizabeth got back to her feet. “What if I said yes, and he resented me later for taking advantage of him—”

“I don’t know a lot of people who take advantage of Jason Morgan—”

“That’s because you don’t know him,” Elizabeth shot back. Patrick put up his hands in protest and she sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s just—Jason’s too generous with himself. He’s always worried about other people. Taking care of them. Sonny and Carly, for one. And now he’s decided I’m one of those people—”

“In your defense, you should be one of those people. You’re literally carrying his kid. He wants to be part of it, Elizabeth. It’s not a terrible thing—”

“It wouldn’t work—” She stared down at the bed. “Marriage should be more than that. I’ve had two husbands, Patrick. I can’t let the third one marry me out of guilt and obligation. I won’t do that to myself. Or him.”

“Then don’t marry him.” Patrick waited. “Unless you want to.”

Of course she wanted to. But— “I can’t. Let’s just leave it at that.”

August 30, 2022

This entry is part 20 of 25 in the Flash Fiction: Scars

Written in 57 minutes.


Scorpio-Drake House: Living Room

Patrick hung up his coat and turned to Robin with a grin. “So, I hear Carly made a run for it. You get all the good karma and none of the blame. It’s a good day.”

“Very funny.” She frowned when a pack of Starbursts fell from his coat pocket. He stared at it for a long moment, then scooped it up. He ripped off the top and popped a pink one in his mouth. “I thought they were out of those. That’s what Jason said.”

“Elizabeth spent forever in the candy aisle trying to find the big bag—” He wagged the little package.”I got the last one up at the register. Don’t tell her, though. There wouldn’t have been enough.”

Robin furrowed her brow and he returned her gaze with a bland expression. Be cool, he reminded himself. You’ve got nothing to hide. You were once a master of saying nothing to women and getting away with it.

“Stealing candy from a pregnant woman.” Robin shook her head, then held out her hand. “I’m gonna need a penalty.”

“She finds out, I’m coming for you,” he warned, dropping a yellow in her palm.

In the kitchen, Elizabeth twisted the cap off the jar of pickles and poured some of the juice into a glass tumbler. Then she set it aside and dug back in the white the plastic bag for a bag of gummies.

Crowded around the kitchen island were a crowd of men who were appalled when she dropped several pieces into the glass. “I know pregnancy cravings are bad,” Sonny said, slowly, “and listen, Carly and her pickled turnips—it violated some laws. But that is disgusting.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips, glared at him, then looked at Mac and Robert. “You have an opinion to offer?”

“Nope,” Mac said. “I learned from Felicia not to argue. Or judge.” He winced as she plucked one out and ate it. “It’s a choice.”

“I’m taking my appetizer somewhere where I’ll be appreciated.” She picked up the glass and went to the dining room where Anna and Felicia were laughing about something.

“They bring new life into the word,” Robert said solemnly. “It is not for us to understand or question. But merely to support.”

After leaving Patrick the kitchen, Robin went outside to find Jason checking the deep fryer. “Hey. I have a question for you.”

“No, I can’t explain what Elizabeth’s eating. Don’t ask me to try.” He’d buy her whatever she craved, but even his stomach had rolled when he passed through the dining room and watched her eat the pickle juice soaked candy.

“Oh. No. Not that. She said they went to a drug store right?” Robin asked. “That’s why they were late?”

Jason frowned, looked at Robin more closely. “Why?”

She pulled out a crumpled receipt. “This was in Patrick’s pocket. They bought the candy ten minutes ago.”

“She said—” Jason took the receipt, studied it. A bag of gummy bears, a jar of pickles—and Starbursts. “I thought they were out of these.”

“Patrick said he grabbed the last package, and not to tell her. But it’s all on the same receipt —and it’s not one of our cards.”

“No, it’s Elizabeth’s—” He looked at Robin. “Why did you check his pocket?”

“I don’t know. He just seemed weird. And trying to hard not to be.” Robin bit her lip. “It’s strange, isn’t it? I don’t think they were at the drug store the whole time.”

“What do you think was going on?” Jason handed the receipt back. “There’s no reason for them to lie—”

“It makes sense. Elizabeth got a craving at work, and Patrick tagged along. But then he takes the candy she specifically told you she was looking for. And you said she ate it with Jake. But Emily used to tease her about the gummy bears in pickle juice.”

He couldn’t answer that. He hadn’t been there. He didn’t know what she’d craved. “Robin—”

“I think she panicked when you called. And she said the wrong thing.” Robin looked at the receipt. “I don’t know why, but I think they’re lying.”

“To hide what?” Jason demanded. “I trust Elizabeth—”

“And I trust my husband. They would be the last people to have an affair. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be hiding another secret.”

“I think,” Jason said after a long moment, “that you’re overthinking this. Elizabeth probably misspoke on the phone—”

“So Patrick lied to me about it, not wanting me to tell her he had them? Jason—”

“You two look serious,” Sonny said, sliding open the door. “We’re not fighting again, are we?”

“No.” Robin forced a smile. “No. We’re not. How’s the turkey? It hasn’t exploded yet, so that’s a good sign.”

Morgan House: Master Bedroom

He’d brushed Robin’s concerns off and had actually managed to forget them entirely as they finished cooking dinner and sat down to eat early. Sonny’s deep fried turkey had turned out better than anyone had expected, but most of the food had disappeared by the time people started heading home.

They brought the boys home, but there was no bedtime. It was a holiday which meant all three boys would be up until dawn playing video games in the living room.

Elizabeth poured mouth wash into a cap and swished it around her mouth. After spitting it into the sink, she smiled at Jason who was already stretched out in bed, one of his travel books in his hands. “There. Pickle juice gone.”

“I wasn’t going to ask—” And then Jason remembered the strange conversation with Robin, and the receipt. “You know, Patrick got the last pack of Starbursts and didn’t tell you,” he said.

She flicked off the light, and crawled across him to her side of the bed. She flashed him a confused smile. “I bought them for him—” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “Oh. I wasn’t thinking when I talked to you earlier. He was trying to convince me the Starbursts would taste better, and I guess I just—” She shrugged and picked up the remote from her nightstand. “I got mixed up.”

“Oh.” He fell silent, looked back at the page in his book, but his attention was unfocused. She hadn’t sounded confused on the phone, and Robin had seemed pretty clear about Patrick’s words.

But what was the alternative? To believe she was lying to him? Elizabeth never lied to him.

Elizabeth leaned back against the pillows, and he let it go, letting her relax and watch one of her shows, and he went back to his book again. Trying to focus.

“I felt the baby today,” Elizabeth said, and that got his attention. Jason set the book side. “Not like—kicking. Obviously—” She took his hand, rested it against the gentle curve. There was nothing yet, and he was a bit disappointed. “It was just a flutter really. But it’ll be soon.” She sighed happily. “And I think maybe I might be further along than I thought,” she continued. “Because I’m bigger now than I was with any of the boys at four months.”

“We can find out next week,” he told her. He leaned over, kissed her. “Mmm, no pickle juice at all.”

“I told you I’d take care of it.” She wound her arms around his neck and drew him over her. And he stopped thinking about Starbursts and receipts altogether.

General Hospital: Nurse’s Station

“You know what I think is actually going to kill me?” Patrick asked Elizabeth the next morning as he stepped up inside the hub and reached for a chart. “The fact that we thought of everything except the cover story.”

“I panicked,” Elizabeth muttered. “I swear to God if this falls apart because I said Starbursts instead of gummy bears, I’ll deserve the prison sentence.” She clicked away at the keyboard, irritated with herself. “I distracted Jason, I think. What about you?”

“Maybe. It’s hard to tell with Robin. She’s sneaky.” Patrick leaned against the counter. “Uh, how you feeling this morning? I mean, we’re good, right?”

“Do you mean did I wake up feeling guilty?” she murmured, keeping her voice low but resisting the urge to whisper. Low conversations about patients were normal. Hushed whispers were suspicious. “No. You?”

“You’d think.” Patrick shrugged. “I’m off to my rounds.”

He disappeared down the hallway, then Laura stepped off an elevator a few minutes later, her brow furrowed.

“Hey. You okay?” Elizabeth asked. “You look upset.”

“Not upset. Concerned.” Laura leaned across the counter. “And I wanted you to hear it from me.”

Oh, damn it. Had they already found Baker? They should be fine, Elizabeth told herself. It was twenty hours. She’d wanted forty-eight, but—

“There’s a possibility Tom Baker has jumped parole,” Laura cautioned her. “He didn’t report for work this morning.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth tightened her fingers around her pen. “How—Maybe he’s sick.”

“Maybe. I spoke to his supervisor to see what we should do.” Laura said. “He has to miss an appointment with his parole officer.  and that’s not until Monday. Unless you want me to—if he violates parole—”

What would look less guilty, Elizabeth wondered? Encouraging Laura to push for contacting the parole officer and finding Baker’s body sooner? Or holding off to give the body a chance to sit longer, making cause of death harder to determine?

How would she have answered if she didn’t know exactly where Tom Baker was?

“I’d feel so silly if I asked you to push and he’s just at home with the flu or something. I mean, he lives alone, right? Maybe he’s just too sick to call out. You call his parole officer, and he finds him at home, I’ll just—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “I don’t want to live my life in fear. And I don’t want to think about Tom Baker. No special favors. If he violates on his own terms, that’s his problem.”

“All right. You let me know if you change your mind.” Laura patted her hand and walked away, leaving Elizabeth unsure if she’d made the right decision. Too late now, she thought, and went back to work.