Written in 60 minutes.
Corinthos Coffee: Office
Sonny scribbled a few notes, then handed it to Bernie before turning his attention to Jason. “Good to have you back.”
“Yeah.” Jason slid his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I’ll take care of the shipment tonight, but, uh—” He paused. “I need to make sure things stay flexible. I know that’s a lot to ask when I’ve been gone for a few months—”
“We’ve got it handled—” Sonny tipped his head. “What’s up? Is it Jake? I figured since Elizabeth came clean—”
“No. I mean, yeah, but I’m not the one with the issues. I don’t think so anyway,” Jason added. “Diane is meeting with us both today—but the way Alexis explained things back during the custody fight over Michael—all I have to do is file for paternity and get declared Jake’s legal father. Lucky can fight it, but—”
“But he wouldn’t win. So what’s the problem?” Sonny flipped through some paperwork.
“Lucky told Emily that he doesn’t want custody of Cameron if he can’t get visitation with Jake, too.” A statement that didn’t make any more sense today than it had the day before when Elizabeth had told him.
Sonny scowled, his full attention back on the conversation. “What kind of bullshit is that? They’ve been together for years—I know he’s not the biological father, but—”
“But he’s the only father Cameron knows,” Jason finished. “Yeah. Elizabeth thinks he’s trying to force her into a custody agreement—to push me out and let Lucky stay in.”
“What the hell happened to that kid?” Sonny wanted to know. He got to his feet, rounded the desk. “I get that he’s angry, okay. And you know my feelings on this whole paternity crap. She never should have lied—”
Jason clenched his jaw. “Sonny—”
“But at the end of the day, the truth is the truth. And it’s only been a few months.”
“What Diane say about all of this?”
“I don’t know,” Jason said. “That’s why we’re meeting with her today. I don’t know if she can represent us both, but I can find another lawyer to handle my side of it. I want Elizabeth to have the best representation. So I need to make sure things are flexible.”
“I’ll do you one better.” Sonny reached for the phone. “I’ll get Francis up from the island. He’ll handle the shipments. Until this custody crap is done, you stay on this side of the law. Lucky’s going to throw the murder trial at you, but you’ve been acquitted. The only way to get you now is new crimes—and financial ones which are federal and none of the PCPD’s business.”
“You don’t have to—”
“Are you kidding? This pathetic excuse for a father is threatening to abandon his kid because he can’t have what he wants. Stomping his feet like the toddler he’s shoving out—” Sonny dialed. “You need to be as clean as possible.”
“Thanks. I’ll take care of tonight—”
“No, I’ll get it—hey, Mickey. I need Francis in town. Yeah. Thanks. Appreciate it.” Sonny hung up, looked at Jason. “It’s done. Go get your kid.”
Hardy House: Living Room
“Um, thanks—” Elizabeth stepped back so that Nikolas could step inside the house. “I appreciate you coming by. I would have come to you—”
“But Lucky is currently staying with me. Even though you’re out of the house,” he told her. “I think being alone would be a bad idea.”
“Yeah. No, that makes sense. And I’m glad that he’s doing that. I want him to be okay, Nikolas—”
“Do you?” he asked, almost pleasantly. She closed her mouth, stared at him. “I mean, look, obviously, it’s a good thing that the truth is out there. And, of course, I get why you did it. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I’m on your side.”
“I never thought—”
“I’m not exactly on his side either,” Nikolas admitted. “But I think he’s got more of a right to be angry than you do. You could have told me the truth, Liz. We would have a figured out a way to make this okay. Emily and I were right there with you last year. I loaned you the money the divorce attorney—”
“Loaned,” Elizabeth said, then nodded. “Yeah, okay. At the time it was a gift, but now it’s a loan. I didn’t just lie to Lucky, I lied to Jason. Telling you, telling anyone meant it would come out to the world—”
“You’re the one who slept with Jason Morgan, so that makes it your problem. You decided to make it Lucky’s—”
Elizabeth held up her hands, her eyes burning. “Just stop. Stop. I didn’t ask you here so you could attack me. I know I made a mistake—”
“I don’t want to fight with you, Liz, but what do you expect? He got blindsided in that court room — not only did you have an affair with a criminal on trial for murder, but you had his child and made Lucky responsible for it—you let him fall in love with that little boy, and now you’re telling him that’s over. Just like that. He has to stop being Jake’s father. And you think he’s the bad guy in this?”
“No. When it comes to Jake, I understand. I do.” She swiped at her tears. “I hate that this is happening. I wasn’t even going to lie. I wasn’t,” she insisted when Nikolas scoffed. “I had the test done, didn’t I? If I wanted Lucky to be the baby’s father, I could have just ignored the possibility of Jason all together. It just kept going wrong. Lucky checked into rehab because of the baby, and then Ric went after Jason, and Carly thought she knew the results, so she told Jason Lucky was the father, and Jason—” She closed her eyes. “He said it was for the best. That it was better this way.”
Nikolas exhaled slowly. “You thought Jason didn’t want the baby.”
“I thought he’d…I don’t know. I knew he’d love the baby, but maybe he’d resent it or me one day because it would mess things up with Sam, and then Lucky would be back on pills, and I just—I just—I didn’t really lie, Nikolas. Everyone decided they knew the truth, so I just went along with it.”
“For months. I get it in those first few weeks, but it’s been almost a year—”
“I know! Don’t you think I know how terrible I am?” Elizabeth dragged her hands through her hair. “I kept making mistakes, kept choosing the wrong things, and the lies just kept getting out of control, but it was like an avalanche—I didn’t know how to turn it back. I didn’t know how to make it stop.” She sucked in a sob. “And then Ric asked me point blank. Which no one ever had. Maybe I would have told the truth all along if someone had just asked me—”
“Still blaming everyone else—”
“You don’t get to sit in judgment of me like you’ve done nothing wrong in your life—” Elizabeth whirled around. “I am not blaming Lucky. Or Jason. Or, God, even Sonny or Carly for making me feel like my son would be a burden. I blame me for giving a damn what anyone else thought. I blame me for being scared and weak—” She took a deep breath. “I blame me. At the end of the day. For lying about Jake. For hurting Lucky. And for hurting Jason. But tell me how I stop this, Nikolas, without hurting one of them. Do I let Lucky stay Jake’s father and keep Jason out? When he never did anything to deserve that? How do I end this lie, this terrible thing I’ve done—you have so many damn answers, Nikolas, how do I fix this so that I’m the only one who gets damaged?”
Nikolas grimace, looked away. “I’m just trying—”
“Maybe I’m the one who should lose. Maybe I should give my sons to Lucky and Jason, and let them split custody. Right? Would that solve everyone’s problems if I just disappear—”
“No. No,” Nikolas repeated. “Of course not. I know there’s no easy way out of this. I just—you wanted me to help with Lucky and custody, and I’m telling you I can’t.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. “He’s going to lose custody of Jake. He just is. Jason’s going to file for paternity, and the court favors blood relatives. I haven’t met with my lawyer yet, but I can’t imagine it’ll go another way. Maybe he’ll get visitation, but it won’t be as his father.”
“I’ve tried to tell him that—”
“I am so tired of Cameron not mattering to him.”
Nikolas closed his mouth. “He loves that little boy—”
“Not enough. Never enough. He didn’t check into rehab for me. He didn’t do it for Cameron. He didn’t love us enough to get clean, to stop screwing around with Maxie. He did it for this baby. For his own child. Because he might love Cameron, and Cameron might call him Daddy, but in his heart—” The truth was so hard to say, but it had to be done. “Lucky never saw him as his own. He couldn’t have. He wouldn’t be threatening to walk away if he did.”
“I don’t know how to make this okay for you and the boys. I’m glad you ended the lie, Elizabeth,” Nikolas told her. “But you don’t get to walk away from the damage you’ve done. You want to be angry that Lucky doesn’t see Cameron as his son? You’re the one that took Cam from him last year. How much did he get to see him while you were separated? You made it clear that was your son, and Lucky was along for the ride.”
Elizabeth went over to the door, opened it. “Lucky was high on pills most of the time last year. He was screwing Maxie wherever he could, and I don’t know what he’s told you, but he never asked to see Cameron. If I hadn’t been pregnant, we both know Lucky wouldn’t have tried so damn hard to make things work. But you knew all of that. You just don’t care. Go ahead and take Lucky’s side. Pay for his lawyers. I’ll be sure to drop a check in the mail for last year’s help—”
“I didn’t mean it that way—”
“You did, Nikolas. It’s always been Lucky first with you. As soon as I get back to work, Nikolas, I’ll pay you back. And then you and I are done. Get out.”
“Mom means well,” Sam said, sipping her milkshake. “But you can still win the case.”
“I know.” Lucky picked up a French fry but used it to push others around the plate. “It’ll just be hard. I guess I just have to decide if I want to fight.”
“Mom did give you one piece of advice, right?” Sam set the shake down, leaned forward. “If Jason’s not in question, then you get to stay Jake’s father.”
“Am I supposed to kill him or something?” Lucky said weakly. “He’s here—”
“Make him disappear from the custody suit. If he were still on trial for murder, he wouldn’t be filing for paternity. It’s why he lied so long, Lucky. Because I couldn’t have kids, and he didn’t think he’d around to watch you raise Jake. He thought he was going to jail. He’s not, so he’s coming for Jake. But that doesn’t change the fact that if we put our minds to it, we can make him look like an unfit father.” Sam sat back. “And if you go after Elizabeth, you’ve got an even better chance—”
Lucky winced. “I don’t know. I mean, Jason was exonerated. And he’s always had a good reputation with kids. How do I make him look unfit? And Elizabeth—whatever my problems are with her—” He crumbled up a napkin. “She’s not a bad mother.”
“Not a bad mother? Really? She hangs out with Jason, doesn’t she? She lied repeatedly to go to see him. Didn’t she steal your badge to do it? And the kidnapping—she didn’t tell you about Jason. What if you’ve started to look at Jason’s life? Maybe you would have found Maureen Harper faster.”
Sam stared at her lap, dismissing the spiral of guilt that twisted through her. She could have stopped all of that, she could have told the truth—but it would have just made everything end faster.
It was over. Now it was her turn for revenge.
“She didn’t, no,” Lucky murmured. “She protected Jason and herself. Her lies. While she was judging me, angry with me, because I had to investigate the possibility she’d done something.”
“Good mothers don’t lie when their babies are missing. You deserve your boys, Lucky. I promised you I’d help you get them. This is how we can do it—”
“Can I get the check for you?”
Surprised, they looked up to find Georgie standing there, an empty tray perched against her hip. “What?”
“The check,” Georgie repeated, gesturing at Sam’s nearly empty shake, and Lucky’s mostly eaten plate. “Or did you want something else?”
“No. No. The check is fine. Thanks, Georgie.”
“Be right back.” Georgie went inside the diner, glancing at the duo over her shoulder, then went to ring them up. Her hands were shaking as she considered the conversation she’d overheard.
No one ever noticed the waitresses.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“Thank you for meeting with me at the same time,” Diane said, setting her brief case on the table, her smile softening as she saw Jake cradled in Jason’s arms, dozing lightly. “And I guess I don’t have to ask if Jason wants visitation.”
“We can draw something up,” Elizabeth said immediately. “I offered, but—”
“This is working right now, and I don’t see a reason to make things legal if we don’t.” Jason went to set Jake down in a bassinet that had magically appeared that morning — another one of Spinelli’s surprises, obviously.
“We can revisit that later. I wanted to meet with you both because I think the best chance for each of your cases is to provide a united front. Lucky’s lawyer might argue a conflict of interest, but it’s going to be crucial to drive home the fact that your interests are intertwined.”
“That’s what I thought,” Jason said.
Elizabeth folded her arms. “Neither one of us have filed. Is it better if one of us files first or—”
“If it were just a custody and divorce issue, I’d say we wait for other party. To see what their argument is. However, I’m suggesting a two-pronged approach. Jason will file a paternity suit in family court, asking to be declared Jake’s legal father and terminate Lucky’s rights. That will give us leverage in a custody case. A judge might hear the cases together, but it still gives you—” Diane said, pointing at Elizabeth, “—a stronger argument. You’re going to take the hit on lying—”
“But as you explained on the phone, things were difficult last year. You didn’t plan a pregnancy, you used protection. You were separated from Lucky at the time, and he was the one having an affair during the marriage. He had a drug addiction which is on the record. All of these things will help a judge understand how we got here. And the fact you came clean to avoid perjury—this helps your credibility.” She looked a Jason. “And you need to keep your nose clean while this is going on. Your arrest record can be used against you in family court, but without a conviction it doesn’t get you far. You get dragged in again—”
“That won’t be a be a problem,” Jason said.
“Can I win?” Elizabeth wanted to know. “If we do it this way—”
“I might have said Lucky might get some measure of visitation with Jake but you’ve told me he’s doing an all or nothing approach. I can tell you that a family court judge is not going to look on Lucky with kindness for leveraging custody of one child against another. Particularly a child without another legal father ready, willing, and able to step up.”
Jason opened his mouth, then closed it. This was not the time to suggest to Diane that Cameron did have someone ready to step up if Lucky took a walk. He hadn’t even thought his mind was drifting that way until Diane had said those words, and they’d felt like a lie.
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “It could backfire then,” she said softly.
“Lucky will be seen as a vindictive parent punishing you for a lie where you’re going to have the sympathy. You had a cheating husband addicted to pain pills who had refused to get clean until you turned up pregnant. You felt the pressure to keep him clean and thought learning the truth would cause a relapse. I could win this case in my sleep,” Diane told her. “However, if by the time Lucky files, he’s dropped that argument—well, we might have a different fight on our hands. So I think we go first. I’ll file for paternity on Jason’s behalf, and then the divorce, with a custody agreement only mentioning Cameron.”
“Which will mean he has to either file for both boys, or just Cameron.” Elizabeth nodded. “All right, I guess that works.”
“We’re going to call his bluff,” Diane said, picking up the briefcase. “I’ll get the paperwork started. Let’s see if he has the guts to tell a family court judge that if he doesn’t get both boys, he’s going to walk away.”