Timeline: This is set in December 1997. Elizabeth and her generation are aged up (Liz is about 22, 23). She moved to PC for nursing school after college in June 1997. Jason jilted Brenda at the altar for Sonny and took over the business. He’s spent the last two months looking after Brenda (who does not want him near her) and dealing the business. He and Robin broke up in August, and she left for Paris. Jason really only talks to people in the business, and Luke and Mike. Relationship to the Qs is basically Emily and Lila, though he and AJ are civil.
Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave
Without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change, the less you feel
– Tonight, Tonight, Smashing Pumpkins
Friday, December 5, 1997
Penthouse: Living Room
“It’s a bullshit deal, and you know it.”
“It’s disrespectful, that’s what it is—”
Jason Morgan ignored both scowling men standing by the mini bar and went to the window. His former boss had picked this penthouse, this side of the building because he liked to stare out over the skyline of Port Charles, to imagine his power growing until he controlled everything he saw.
All this view did was remind Jason that it was his problem for now, and he was irritated with people who kept pushing him to do things he’d already refused—
He turned back to Johnny O’Brien and Benny Abrams, his mouth set. “I didn’t say I’d take the deal. I just said we’re not gonna do what Johnny wants.”
“We can’t just let Anthony Moreno push us around—”
“Who said that’s what I’m doing?” Jason demanded, cutting Johnny off where he spoke. He thrust his arms out, fed up with the constant arguing. “We’re telling him to take his offer and shove it—”
“And no one is happier than I am,” Benny said patiently, adopting the conciliatory tone that told Jason the two of them had put their heads together and decided to do a good cop/bad cop routine on him. Like he was an idiot who didn’t know what he was doing—just like everyone else who thought he’d crumble under the weight—
Sonny Corinthos had trusted Jason to keep his growing empire steady until he could return. And that was exactly what Jason planned to do. His way.
“But,” Benny continued, “we can’t let Moreno think we’re weak enough that we’re considering it. We need to reject it. Forcefully—”
“You need to send a message that you’re the one in charge,” Johnny interrupted. “No more pussyfooting around, Morgan. Let me take out his second-in-command or burn down one of his damn strip clubs—”
“I said no,” Jason repeated. “If you got a problem taking orders from me, Johnny, maybe you need to tell me that now.” He strode towards the other man, stopping only a few inches from him. He glared at him, hard—and Johnny broke first, dipping his eyes to the ground. Good. Johnny was few years older than Jason, and he’d been in the business longer, but he was a stubborn hothead. Jason had wondered if he’d be able to accept Sonny leaving the business to someone else.
Time would tell, but at least today — Johnny was backing down.
“You send Moreno my answer the way I told you to, and if he pushes it — if he doesn’t accept that this is the way things are, then we can talk about going further.” You didn’t escalate confrontations to an eleven until you had to, Jason thought. You didn’t act when you were angry. He’d learned that over the last two years. It might feel good in the moment to act on that heat, to lash out—
But it was always more satisfying to keep it cool. To watch others squirm and flip out. He’d frustrated more than one person with a blank stare. Keep them guessing. Doubting you.
“Tonight, at Luke’s,” Benny said, “you’ll put in an appearance? To establish an alibi?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jason muttered already irritated at the idea of heading to the club and attending a private party with a dress code. He liked Luke’s, but he hated suits. “I’ll be there.”
Benny took Johnny’s arm and the two filed out, nodding to Reinaldo, the guard on the door. The door closed behind him, and Jason exhaled in relief.
He straightened the desk — Benny had set down his briefcase and pushed a set of folders. Jason lined them back up, pushed the chair back, the way it had been before the adviser had come in. The way Sonny always kept it.
He grabbed his leather jacket laying across the back of the sofa, shrugged into it, and left. He had things to do before the party.
General Hospital: Cafeteria
“There is nothing in this world you can say to make me go to that party.”
With that pronouncement, Elizabeth Webber set her lunch tray down on the table with a hard thud and sat down. “I mean it. Don’t even bother.”
“I have to. It’s a matter of life or death.” Her best friend, Emily Quartermaine, took a seat across from her, her dark eyes imploring. “If you don’t go, do you know what happens?”
“I have a quiet, pleasant evening in my crappy studio apartment,” Elizabeth said. She twisted the cap off her water bottle. “And I don’t make small talk with people who hate me.”
“Nikolas doesn’t hate you,” Emily pointed out.
“His girlfriend does,” Elizabeth muttered. She sipped her water, letting her eyes drift around the cafeteria, catching the irritated gaze of the girlfriend in question, otherwise known as her sister, the every perfect Sarah Webber. “I’d rather ingest rat poison.”
“Yes, and you know I agree with you on this,” Emily said. She leaned forward. “But I have to go. It’s a fundraiser for the hospital, and my grandfather is insisting the family go—” She frowned. “Wait. Your grandparents practically built this place. How come Audrey isn’t forcing you?”
“Fortunately for me,” Elizabeth said sweetly, “there’s a better, more successful product of the Hardy/Webber line to represent the family tonight. Gram doesn’t care what I do as long it doesn’t embarrass her.” She sipped her water. “Go. Have a great time. Call me when you get home.”
“Please.” Emily folded her hands in a praying gesture. “I beseech you not to abandon me to hang out with them. Don’t abandon me in my time of need—”
Elizabeth scowled. “You’re asking me to willingly spend time with my sister. You understand what you’re asking me, don’t you? Because I will remember this. And I will use it against you.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Emily beamed. Then her smile turned sheepish. “Since you already agreed to come with me, I should warn you practically every doctor not on duty will be there, which means—”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “Dr. Jones and the shrew. Oh, man. You are going to owe me so big for this.”
Luke’s: Back Office
“Word on the street is you’ve had an offer from Moreno.”
Jason dumped the ledger back on the desk and leveled a glare at Luke Spencer, who was one of the few people in the world unaffected by it. The club owner just leaned back in his gaudy chair—which matched the decoration of the entire club—and puffed on a cigar. “For someone who says they’re not in the business, you always seem to know what’s going on.”
“Pays to keep a toe in.” Luke shrugged. “And I run a business on the border between you and Moreno. He’s sniffing me, just like everyone else, kid.” He leaned forward. “So he did offer a deal.”
“Yeah.” Jason rubbed his face. “To buy out Sonny’s interests. He wants to make sure there’s nothing for Sonny to come back to—”
“Or,” Luke said, “he’s testing you. It’s a bullshit deal—”
“That’s what Johnny said—”
“And it’s a sign of disrespect—”
Jason pushed the chair back, got to his feet. “And that’s what Benny said. The three of you get together on this?”
“No. I’m just trying to keep my little slice of heaven out of the crossfire. But they’re not wrong. Let me guess—” Luke stubbed out his cigar and stood. “You said no. And that’s it. Maybe you sent the messenger back a little roughed up.” When Jason said nothing, the older man nodded. “Moreno wants to see what you’re made of, Jason, and right now, it’s not much—”
“Don’t—” Jason bristled. “I’m doing fine—”
“Because you’re good under pressure. You don’t panic. Sonny leaves you holding the bag for everything, personally and professionally, and you don’t sink in the first two months. But that was the easy part—”
“Yeah. Sonny handed you the keys to the kingdom, but that don’t mean you get to keep them without a fight.” Luke put his hands on the desk, leaned forward. “You think you don’t got guys working under you that are wondering if you have what it takes? You send a weak response to a guy like Moreno—”
“You keep saying it was weak—” Jason scowled. “But it was supposed to be, okay? How come I’m the only one who sees it? I need Moreno to come after me. To go too hard. Which is what he’s going to do when I tell him no. He wants to put Sonny out of business. It’s an insult to even ask. So he gets an insult back. It wasn’t a serious question. He just wanted to see if I was gonna cut and run.”
Luke considered this, then nodded. “Okay. So you’re thinking few moves ahead, and I don’t mind it. But Moreno goes after you, Jason, where’s he gonna go? How hard? You’re not just taking orders anymore. You gotta do the big picture.”
“You’re not,” Luke said firmly. “Moreno isn’t going to come after you. That’s not how this works. He’s going to come after me. Or Tommy down at the Blue Moon. Or maybe Dougie, down on Courtland Street. He’s going to take out someone who works for you.”
Jason stared at Luke, then nodded. “Maybe. But he was going to do that anyway. All I did was buy some time to figure out where.”
“You need to be thinking about how you’re going to respond—”
“The Oasis,” Jason said. “Makes Moreno a lot of money — not just the girls. He gambles in the back room and two of his best dealers work the floor. I’m not an idiot, Luke. He takes a shot at me, and the Oasis burns.” He shoved the ledger book across the desk. “But he needs to fire the first shot.”
“Right.” Luke tipped his head. “It’s one way to deal with it, I guess. But I think you’re going to regret not being more proactive.”
“Yeah, well—” Jason jerked a shoulder. “We’ll see.”
Luke went to the coat rack next to the door and tossed Jason’s jacket at him. “You need to head home to change. Dress code and all.”
Jason made a face. “I hate suits,” he muttered. He pulled the jacket on. “I appreciate the advice,” he said after a moment. “I know you don’t have to give it.”
“And you don’t have to take it. But it’s there.” Luke hesitated, then opened the door for Jason. “Just one more thing—”
“Moreno’s not trying to put Sonny out of business. Sonny ain’t here. He’s trying to bury you. It’s yours now. Sonny liked to react,” Luke continued as Jason stared at him. “And you learned it from him, so I get it. But you’re not that guy. I know that because you already know your target. You gotta figure out if you wanna be your own man or a Sonny clone. And do it fast.”
Luke’s: Main Floor
“I’m going to get another drink,” Elizabeth called to Emily as her best friend let her cousin, Justus Ward, twirl her out on to the dance floor.
“Get me another glass—” Emily replied, then giggled as Justus dipped her down, then whirled her into the crowd.
Elizabeth weaved in and out of that same crowd as she edged her way from the tables by the stage towards the bar at the back of the main room. She loved Luke’s most of the time — it had the best music, cheap drinks, and the food didn’t make you vomit the next morning, but man, she hated when it was so loud you couldn’t even hear yourself think.
She saw a familiar blonde a few feet away, and Elizabeth immediately turned and made a beeline for the opposite direction. The absolute last thing she wanted was to run directly into Carly Roberts. She’d had quite enough of her at the hospital—
But unfortunately, in her quest to avoid blondes—she forgot the other person she was avoiding—and crashed right into him. “Ooof—” She grunted. “Sorry—”
“No problem—” Lucky Spencer’s eyes lit up. “Liz. Hey. I was hoping Em would convince you to come tonight.”
“Oh.” If Emily thought she was doing her a favor—Elizabeth crossed her arms, covering the deep neckline of her sapphire dress. The last time she’d spoken to Lucky, both of them had been wearing a lot less—and she was still pissed he’d forced her to break up with him half-naked.
If he’d just waited to ask stupid questions until the next day—
“You haven’t returned my calls—”
“No, I haven’t.” She pursed her lips. “I’m just going to go—” She tried to edge around him, but Lucky snagged her elbow “Lucky, come on—”
“No, you come on—what kind of girl does that? Three months, and you act like I don’t exist—”
“We dated for six weeks,” Elizabeth said, resisting the urge to stomp her foot. “Six weeks. In the summer. It’s literally an entire season later, Lucky. Go find someone else.”
“But I said no, and then I ignored you. I don’t know what other hint you need—” She put her hands up when he tried to reach for her again. “We had a little fun and it fizzled out, okay?”
“Not for me—”
“Well, it did for me, and that’s all that matters. I don’t have an obligation to date you until we’re both not interested.”
“You won’t even tell me why—”
“Jesus, Lucky. What do you want me to say?” She threw up her hands. “I’m supposed to give you an itemized list?”
“No, but—” He clenched his jaw. “You could have at least told me we were done—”
“I did. You keep choosing not to believe me—and I am done having this conversation with you right now.” She saw a break in the crowd and took advantage, and slipped between two different groups.
That was the last time she ever did a favor for Emily. If that little brat thought she was helping—
Elizabeth spied the front door and breathed a sigh of relief. Air. She just wanted a little bit of air. And maybe to make a run for it. She had her purse. Her jacket was somewhere—but the purse was all that mattered.
Her mind made up, Elizabeth headed for the entrance.
“Fashionably late,” Luke said as Jason made his way to the entrance, Reinaldo trailing behind him. “Didn’t think you were coming.”
“Had to wait for the right time,” Jason grunted, looking out over the parking lot. For a few weeks, he’d parked cars out here. And now he owned shares in the club. No, Sonny owned them, he thought. Jason was just looking after them for a while.
Sonny would be back just as soon as it was safe to return. Jason was sure of it.
“You, ah, send that message we talked about?” Luke asked. “Because I got a call from one of my old friends down on Courtland. There’s some chatter Moreno’s planning something big.”
Jason furrowed his brow. “No, that’s—” That’s why he was here now. So he’d have an alibi when the body of the messenger showed up at the Oasis tonight. He clenched his jaw, swept his eyes over the parking lot again. He saw Luke’s stepson, Nikolas Cassadine, about twenty feet away, by a gray Jaguar. But no one else.
“First you’re hearing about it?” Luke asked, drawing Jason’s attention back to him. “That’s not good.”
“No, it’s not. Your guy, will he talk to—”
Behind them, the front door to the club lurched open and a brunette emerged, almost at a sprint. She leaned against the closed door, closing her eyes. “Never again.”
“Lizzie?” Luke said, arching his brows. “You okay, kid?”
The woman—Lizzie—straightened, the strap of her black purse falling down her shoulder—her bare shoulder, Jason noticed. No coat covering the dress, which only fell to mid-thigh. Her brown hair looked as if she’d been running, half of it sliding down her neck.
“Oh. No. Yes, I mean.” She made a face. “And I hate that name, you know that, Luke.”
Luke grinned. “I know that. It’s just funny—” His smile faded. “You’re missing a coat. What happened?”
“Private parties,” Elizabeth bit out. “You’d think they’d cap the guest list. You can’t breath in there—” She flicked her eyes to Jason, seeming to notice him for the first time. “Oh, you’re—I’m interrupting something.”
“Listen—” Luke started to take off his jacket, but he stopped, turning back to the parking lot, his eyes suddenly alert. “Did you—”
Jason heard it just a moment before the Cadillac swung into the parking lot, and the window rolled down. The first gun shots rang out as Jason grabbed Elizabeth by the arm and shoved her down to the ground, covering her body as bullets pierced the side of the building just centimeters from where she’d been standing.