Flash Fiction: Chain Reaction – Part 13

This entry is part 13 of 28 in the Flash Fiction: Chain Reaction

Written in 59 minutes.


Kelly’s: Courtyard

It was with some pleasure that Jason watched Ric’s face flush, the raspy choked sound that only came from the desperate attempt to pull oxygen from somewhere. His fingers clawed uselessly at Jason’s hands, his feet dangling against the brick wall.

For every tear Carly had sobbed last spring, painfully admitting that she’d needed a paternity test because of what he’d done, for the nightmares Michael still suffered from watching his mother being carried off by a madman—for whatever Ric had done to land Elizabeth in that hospital bed, flatlining — dying in front of his eyes —

For every doubt and guilt Ric had introduced to Sonny’s fragile psyche already weighed by down by too many crimes —

There was nothing Jason wanted more than to watch the life slowly leave this man’s body. To be the reason he no longer walked around with that smug smile as if he’d done something special getting away with kidnapping and attempted murder.

“You know that feeling right now?” Jason asked. “Dizzy, right? Your brain is screaming for oxygen. I could crush your throat and put you out of your misery, make it quick. But we both know you don’t deserve that. Do you know how long it takes to choke a man? To suffocate him? Eleven pounds of pressure, and brain death is four minutes. Maybe five.” Jason squinted. “Maybe if I press a little harder—”

“Eliz—” The sound was barely audible, but Ric’s eyes were darting past Jason.

“Don’t let me stop you,” Elizabeth said, and Jason glanced behind him, watched her take a seat at one of the remaining tables. “Just clean up when you’re done.”

He knew she was only saying that because he’d never do this in front of her. Never make her part of it, but one day— Jason stepped back, slowly releasing Ric from his grasp. “The next time, you won’t be so lucky.”

Ric scowled, smoothed down his suit jacket. “Are you crazy?” he managed to push out his hoarse throat. “I’m a goddamn ADA—”

“Don’t remind me. Stay away from Elizabeth. That’s the only warning you get.”

“If Elizabeth didn’t want to see me,” Ric said, clearing his throat, “then she’d have called the cops. How many times have I been here? Eating breakfast, catching you at closing—”

Jason shifted so that he was standing between them, but could see Elizabeth’s unreadable expression.

“I did call the police, Ric.” She uncrossed her legs, then rose to her feet. “Last summer. When I woke up from the coma that you put me in. I can’t prove it, no, but we both know you did something. I called the police, Ric. I told them what you’d done. What I found in our walls. I saw Carly, I heard her screaming for help. But she wasn’t there when they went to look, so I guess—” Elizabeth tipped her head. “I called the police, Ric, and now you’re an ADA instead of waiting for trial. You work in the system now. What good would it do to report you for stalking—”

“Stalking—” Ric’s eyes darted to Jason who kept his hands fisted at his sides. Just give him a reason. Just one. “Don’t be ridiculous—”

“Every morning I opened, there you were. And as soon as I switched to the closing shift to get away from you, there were you were again. I’ve asked, Ric. You don’t come in on any other shifts. Just mine. I think I know where you’re getting my schedule,” she said, and Ric’s nostrils flared. “I suggest you tell your source that I’m done being pushed around.”

Jason frowned. “What source? Who’s telling him information about—” He swallowed hard, looked at Ric, who straightened his tie.

“I think you’d better go while you’re still able to walk,” Elizabeth said. “Because in thirty seconds, I’m going to go back inside and tell Don he can head out.” She flicked her eyes to Jason. “That work for you?”

“Sounds perfect,” Jason said, half-convinced she meant it this time.

Ric scowled. “You wouldn’t—” But Elizabeth was already turning towards the door, pulling the handle. “Fine. Fine. But this isn’t over.” He stalked out of the courtyard on that line, and Elizabeth sighed, rubbed her chest before looking at Jason.

“Can you—would you finish stacking these chairs? I need to go wash my face and tell Don he can go home.”

“Yeah. Yeah, sure.”

“Come inside when you’re done, and you can ask me that question.”

He’d have to, Jason thought, though it was the last thing he wanted to talk about. He folded up the last of the chairs, set the table to the side, then went inside the diner.

Elizabeth emerged from the kitchen a minute later with her coat and purse. She set them on a table, then pulled out a chair. She dragged a hand through her hair, then looked up at him expectantly. “Well?”

He sat across from her. “Courtney. That’s how Ric knew when you were working. That’s his source.”

“I don’t know for sure, but yeah.” Elizabeth plucked a napkin from the dispenser, kept her eyes down. “She’s been coming in pretty steadily on my shifts. And today? She planned that, but it’s not my regular shift. I only picked it up a few days ago. I can’t think of anyone else who might have a reason to want to cause trouble for me.”

“I’m—”

“Don’t apologize. What we did, that’s on us.” She looked at him now. “You went home, you didn’t lie to her about it, and she told you she wanted to try to work things out. And I didn’t do anything to stop you. I tried really hard to just step out of that because I wanted you to…to make the choice that was right for you.” Her voice faltered just a touch, but then she swallowed. Pulled it back. “We didn’t see each other for three weeks, Jason. I’m not blaming her for being angry. For hating me. I get that. But I do blame her for telling you that you could work things out and then dragging you here to make us both uncomfortable. To make you feel bad. And I sure as hell blame her for telling that psychopath my work schedule if that’s what she did.”

“I—I don’t know how to handle that. What Ric did to Carly, to Michael, I mean he kidnapped Courtney, too—” He shook his head. “But you’re right. He had to know you changed shifts. Mike never would have told him.”

“He wanted me to call you and Sonny when he found out Ric was coming in,” Elizabeth said, a half smile. “I can’t see him telling anyone, no. Look, it is what it is, and if you’re here to apologize for this afternoon, don’t. I know it wasn’t your idea. I just—” She made a face. “Don’t let her keep making you feel guilty, okay? I know—I know how easy it is to take on that kind of guilt and let it drown you—”

“I couldn’t understand why you’d choose something that made you unhappy over…anything else,” Jason admitted. “I do now. I stayed because…”

“Because you made her a promise, Jason. I know you take those seriously. And you loved her—”

“I—” Jason leaned back. “I don’t know. I thought I did. It felt like I did for a while, but maybe—” He looked past Elizabeth, squinting. “Maybe I was just lying to myself. I wanted to love her. To be happy. So I told myself I was.” He focused on her again. “And I’ve known her a year. I don’t think I ever let myself understand how hard it would have been for you to turn your back on Lucky at that point. I just—I thought you were unhappy, there was a chance maybe you could be happy with me, why wouldn’t you…” He trailed off.

“How do you reject a miracle? When he’s telling you he loved you all along, and he thought about you all the time, and that’s how he knew he’d make it—that our love kept him alive. Even when he was being brainwashed—” Her smile was wry. “A piece of him still knew I was out there waiting for him. And you know, I think he was telling me the truth. I really think that’s how it was for him. But me?” She made a face, looked away. “I thought he was dead, so I moved on. I let him go. And then when he came home, he didn’t want me. You know when he really started to get angry about it? When you came home. When he saw how I was around you.”

“I’m sorry—”

“It doesn’t really do any good to think about any of that now, I guess. Only that, yeah, it was hard to say no to a miracle. I kept him alive, he says. So how do I say, well, that’s great but I really think I want to kiss this other guy and see if maybe that’s better, so—” Elizabeth raised a shoulder. “Anyway. I get it. You make promises, and you care about people. And that’s how obligations and guilt start pushing you down until you’re drowning and you forget who you are. What you want to be. You don’t even exist anymore. Not as individual.”

Jason nodded, looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry. That I didn’t see it then. That I made that harder on you. I know I was angry and frustrated with you at the end—”

“You always do this,” Elizabeth interrupted, and he broke off, looked at her. She was leaning forward, resting her chin on her fist, her eyes soft. “Twist and turn the subject until somehow you’re reassuring me, apologizing to me.”

“I don’t like when you’re down on yourself,” Jason said after a moment. “You’re always taking on the blame for what other people do. Even now — you think there’s a chance Courtney is the reason your ex-husband is stalking you, and you can’t even hold that against me—”

“Because she’d have done that whether you stayed or not, Jason. It’s not about you. It’s about me. She thinks I’m trying to steal you, trying to tempt you away, and instead of focusing on you, she’s focused on me. Siccing Ric on me, coming in here to flash that ring, talking about the wedding—”

Jason grimaced, muttered under his breath. “I told her over and over again that I didn’t want to talk about that—” He dragged a hand down his face. “And if she’s doing this, I don’t even know how I can look at her. You and Carly don’t get along, but you didn’t even hesitate to report the panic room. Carly said you were trying to get the phone, trying to get her out when you collapsed. It would never occur to you do something like this—” He cleared his throat. “I came here to apologize for all of that, and now there’s just more I have to deal with—”

“I can respect if you want to deal with Courtney on that because Ric isn’t exactly just my ex-husband, but don’t take it on, Jason. I know you’re dealing with so much. With Carly, Michael, and Sonny. I don’t know if things are better — I hope they are. But I don’t want to be someone you worry about —”

“You’re not. I mean, I worry about you,” Jason added quickly, with a wince. “I think about you too much,” he confessed.

Elizabeth scooted her chair back. “We should—we should probably go. Before we start talking about things we promised we wouldn’t. Thank you for getting rid of Ric for me—”

Jason stood, stopped her from picking up her purse. “I came here to apologize, yeah, but also because something else happened today.”

“Jason—” she looked at him, and her eyes glimmered. “I’m tired. I want to be there for you, the way you’ve always been for me, I really do. A-nd I’ll be mad at myself later, but I don’t know if I can do this tonight and then have you go back to her—”

“I’m not,” Jason said. He caught her hand as it reached for the purse, held it. Her skin was so soft. He hadn’t touched her in nearly a month, and now he stared down at her fingers, so soft, paler against his darker skin, roughened from being outside and the warehouse. “I realized today when she told me she forgave me that I never asked her to. I’m not sorry about that night. Any of it.”

“Jason—” His name was barely audible, just really an exhale of breath between her parted lips. “Don’t—”

“I’m not sorry,” he repeated. “The only mistake I made was going home and not keeping my promise to you. I kept the wrong promise, and for that, I am sorry.”

She squeezed her eyes closed, her dark lashes against her cheeks. “I tried to do the right thing, you know. To send you away with my good wishes. Be happy, I told you, and I didn’t want to do that. You know that, right?” Her lashes fluttered again and her eyes locked on his, a little desperate. “I know I’m awful at telling you how I feel and where you stand, and I’m never clear or I’m too clear at the wrong times and we keep messing that up. I’m sorry for that. I didn’t want to use that. I didn’t want to use the regret and the maybes but I knew I could have. I did the right thing. We both did.”

“The right thing for who?” Jason wanted to know. He pressed their joined hands against his chest, tugging her forward just an inch. “It wasn’t the right thing for me.”

“You thought it was—a-nd I wanted to be what you needed — the way you always were for me, you never fought me—”

“I fought you all the time,” Jason said, with an almost exasperated laugh, and she looked at him, startled. “You’re remembering some martyr that never existed. I got angry with you, Elizabeth, didn’t I?”

“You—” She licked her lips. “Yeah. But—”

“Because I could feel this—” He cupped her jaw with his other hand, caught one of her tears with the pad of his thumb. “I knew what this was, what it could be, and I knew you felt it, too, and it drove me crazy that you couldn’t admit it. It was all I could do not to take you by the shoulders and shake you.”

“God, I wish you had,” she muttered, then bit her lip, looked at him. “Okay. So maybe I took the wrong lessons from two years ago—”

“Why are either of us thinking about the mistakes we made? I should have kissed you.”

“I should have taken your hand and never looked back.” Elizabeth looked at the joined hands still against his chest, traced the back of his hand with her index finger. “We did the right thing back then, too. I stayed and you went away. Why didn’t I think of that? Why—” She laughed, looked up at him now with bewildered amusement in her beautiful eyes. “Why didn’t I remember how it all turned out? Because here we are. Exactly where we always end up.”

“This time,” Jason promised her, “it’ll be different.” He slid his hand from her jaw to the nape of her neck, then kissed her.


*cackles* see you friday. 

Comments

  • Ric needs to go away or pay for his crimes. He doesn’t know that his time is running out. I can’t stand Courtney. Her manipulations failed. She should have been all about Jason and not Elizabeth. Jason better do more than try. Elizabeth, too. These two make me so crazy but I still love them!!! I would love to have watched this on GH.

    According to arcoiris0502 on May 7, 2024
  • Oh that was so good. I hope they follow through on working to become a couple before they find out they are pregnant (if that is where you are going) it will be that much sweeter. Absolutely loved that Elizabeth didn’t lift a finger to try and get Jason to let Rick go and even said just clean up the mess. Perfection and good Courtney going to get busted. Now, will Carly and Sonny start baying at the moon because Jason wants to be with someone they don’t hand pick? Great update. Friday will be spectacular, I am sure.

    According to nanci on May 7, 2024
  • Sometimes I think you get a little too much pleasure out of torturing your readers with cliffhangers like this. If I didn’t think you deserve everything good for sharing your talents with us, I would think it was almost evil.

    So many ways the show could have been written that were 1000x better than what played out on screen. Grateful you give us these escapes to the past that should have been. And, while I desperately want to believe this twist and turn will bring and keep our couple together, I’m bracing myself for the turmoil I know is just around the corner waiting to tear them apart again. Will it be Sonny’s paranoia extending to Jason that makes it impossible to leave Courtney? Will it be semi-true to what played out on screen? Will Sonny shoot Carly? Will it be Courtney hitting Elizabeth with a car (no drugs this time)? Because I know you too well to believe this is it, particularly when you warned us we were in for a journey full of angst. Enjoy the game!

    According to LivingLiason@gmail.com on May 7, 2024
  • VICTORY SCREECH!!!

    I know we are no where close to them being over the drama and together but I am so happy!

    According to Beth on May 7, 2024
  • Why do I have a feeling Ric is lurking around the corner watching Jason and Elizabeth. I’m glad it’s Jason who goes to Elizabeth.

    According to Carla Pettenger on May 7, 2024
  • “Cackles” RUDE lol. I loved the ending. I thought it was great. even loved Liz allowing Jason to suffocate Ric. That was a bonus even if he didn’t die.

    According to Brittany on May 7, 2024
  • Ric needs to die a slow and painful death. I a happy that Jason and Liz are speaking with each other and trying to figure out what they want from each other.

    According to Shelly Samuel on May 7, 2024
  • Another awesome Chapter! Love Liason and Ric in the courtyard LOL

    According to Tammy on May 8, 2024
  • Sometimes the martyr shit is annoying and it is laid on pretty thick here. These moments remind why I was so happy Jason went together with Courtney on the show. She was so wishy washy. Hated Liz a lot of the time.

    According to Jamie on May 8, 2024
  • Loved this chapter
    Ric stepped in it this time and I hope he gets dumped in the Lake.
    Glad they talked and the kiss was great
    Hope he stays the course

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on May 9, 2024