Written in 69 minutes. Needed the ending to be perfect so I took extra time.
The large, sprawling estates lining Harborview Road might as well as have been located in another world from the dingy and disreputable Port Charles waterfront, but it was a matter of miles and maybe ten minutes separating Luke’s from the Quartermaine compound, which curved around their own man-made lake. There were tennis courts, a boat house, the family’s own private mauseoleum, an outdoor pool (as well as a heated indoor), the gate house down by the entrance, and the L-shaped main house where you really could get lost if you’d never been there before.
The Quartermaines had been the leaders of Port Charles almost before there had been a town to rule over, and its current patriarch, Edward, had no intention of losing a single battle in the war to maintain his family’s position. He was an imposing man, though he lacked height or stature — it was in the set of shoulders, the look in his eye, the expression in his face —
No one wanted to face the wrath of Edward Louis Quartermaine, and very few ever went directly to wars against him. Including his own son, Alan, who had chosen his few battles carefully, plotting meticulously to find a way in which he could win while not letting Edward know that he’d lost.
It was that long history of combat that Alan was thinking about as he approached his father’s study very carefully, writing the conversation in his head and attempting to account for all possible tangents his father might cease upon.
“Father?” Alan knocked lightly on the door. “Do you have a moment?”
“Barely,” Edward muttered, but set down the gold-plated pen and raised his white head until his piercing blue eyes pinned Alan directly. “What is it?”
“A friend went to Luke’s last night — the jazz club?” Alan added when his father furrowed his brow. “And he thought I might be interested in knowing they’ve hired a new bartender. Jason.”
“Jason—” Edward scowled. “Those damned reprobrates—” He rose from his desk. “I knew we should have moved faster against that woman,” he muttered as he paced towards the large bay window overlooking the gardens. “She’s sniffing around him, isn’t she?”
Alan hesitated. Edward was almost unhinged on this topic — he’d never quite come to terms with Jason’s rebellious relationship and marriage, and that hadn’t improved in the last few months. “I think it’s safe to say that Luke Spencer and Sonny Corinthos didn’t reach out to Jason out of the goodness of the hearts, so yes, I think Elizabeth has learned Jason views us as the enemy and is planning to use that.”
Edward stroked his chin. “I’d almost admire it,” he admitted, “if I wasn’t so furious. She certainly has more patience with which we’ve credited her. It’s the first sign she’s displayed she might actually share some genetic material with her grandfather. Steve would be appalled at how she’s wasted her life. And she thinks she’s going to get her claws back into my grandson, does she?”
“She certainly has a side of the story that makes us into the bad guys,” Alan admitted. “And, honestly, Father, we handed it to her on a silver platter. We ought to have let her into the hospital. Jason has rejected nearly everyone connected to his previous life—”
“Except for Lila and Emily,” Edward muttered, likely still smarting that his beloved wife had refused to help their side at all. And Emily was a traitor in her own way, having been best friends with the Webber girl since childhood. “You may have a point,” he said gruffly. “We’ve allowed her the chance to think, to write her own version of events. The poor, grief-stricken wife kept from her husband, deprived of his presence—”
“And trust fund,” Alan said. One of their early victories had been cutting off the little gold digger from Jason’s financial resources.
“Well, what do we do now?” Edward demanded. “It was one thing to blacklist him from every hotel or motel in the city. To keep him from gainful employment in most places. But Spencer and Corinthos don’t take orders from anyone.”
“I think we should let this play out until our next court date,” Alan said, and Edward scowled. “If we take any immediate action, Father, we risk the rest of the family finding out exactly how we kept Elizabeth out of the hospital. As it is—” He winced. “Monica is starting to waver. She’s grown desperate to hold on to any piece of Jason, and like it or not, Elizabeth is a connection to that life.” His voice dipped. “A connection to everything that was lost—”
“I don’t want to talk about any of that,” Edward cut in sharply. “It’s history. It’s over. And that girl is the reason it’s over. I don’t care a whit for any of her grief or tears. She caused it for all of us. And now she thinks she’ll get a second crack of dragging my grandson down with her—no. I don’t think we can wait—”
“Elizabeth will be served with the eviction notice, Father. And we’ll make another settlement offer. At this point, there’s also the chance that Jason will be furious with her for not telling him about everything. Particularly if she’s lured him into the club under false pretenses. I’m suggesting, Father, that we see how things go for the moment.” He waited, held his breath.
“Fine. We’ll try it your way this once. But everything else goes forward, do you understand? Before Jason can get a chance to stop it. How much longer before it’s finalized?”
“The next court date is to dismiss Elizabeth’s objection. She can’t afford to pay her attorneys much longer. After that, it’s maybe thirty days.”
“All right.” Edward returned to his seat. “I’ll make a few calls to be sure they intend to dismiss her ridiculous petition. As if she should have any say in how I look after my grandson, who is clearly too injured to take care of himself. But you will keep your eye on the situation. If there’s even a hint of her luring him in again, we’ll have no choice but to act.”
“Yes, Father. I’ll see it done.”
Elizabeth had always known this day would come, though she could also admit a small part of her hoped that she’d battle it out in court, win, and then somehow walk off into the sunset with her dignity intact—
And somehow, she’d be able to do all of that without ever looking her husband in the eye again.
“There you go again, Lizzie,” she murmured, stepping behind the bar and flipping through the packet of mail she’d grabbed on her way to work. “Dreaming. When will you learn?”
“Did you say something?”
Startled, Elizabeth jumped, the envelopes and magazines sliding from her hands to the rubber mat laid out behind the bar to protect the hardwood from spills. Behind her, in the archway that led towards the stairs to the second story, stood Jason. Her husband.
Except he wasn’t anymore, not in anyway except the legal — which he had no idea existed. She swallowed hard, then crouched down to hurriedly gather the mail back into her tote bag, her heart pounding. Oh, God, she’d grabbed her mail as part of her routine, but it was not just her mail but his, too. And her name was all over it.
Her full, legal name.
Jason came forward, started to bend down to help, but Elizabeth had it all gathered before he could touch any of it. She clutched the tote bag in her arms, sure that she must look like an insane person, but what if he saw the Sports Illustrated magazine with Jason Quartermaine’s name emblazoned on the address label? Or her Cosmopolitan addressed to Elizabeth Quartermaine—
No. No. That couldn’t be the way they had this conversation.
She didn’t want to have the conversation at all.
“I’ve got it, thanks. Sorry, you just—” Elizabeth licked her lips, turned away and shoved the bag and her purse into the basket under the bar where she always kept her things during a shift. “You surprised me.”
“Uh, okay.” Jason’s tone was bewildered, which of course it was. She’d acted like a lunatic since the moment he’d met her—they’d worked together last night and every time he’d so much as looked at her, she’d fumbled something—
Thank God Luke had stayed on last night to help, pretending he was training Jason, but he’d really just been a buffer between Elizabeth and reality.
Because reality was standing in front of her — something she’d been ignoring for months. Her fingers trembled as she flipped through the club’s inventory list. He didn’t even look like Jason anymore, not really. The long hair had been shaved in the hospital due to his injuries, and Jason had kept it short—nearly a buzzcut. He’d also lost weight since the accident, causing him to look almost lanky, like high school again.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Okay. Okay. You either tell him the truth right now and get it over with or you get your shit together.
“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, um, so I’m little…off.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, forced a smile as Jason moved around to the front of the bar, his eyes scanning the rest of the club. “And sorry I didn’t really do a better job last night training you. I, um—”
“Sonny said you were dealing with something personal.” Jason turned back to her. “It’s fine. I don’t like surprises either.”
“No, I guess not.” Elizabeth winced when he frowned. “I mean, I just, um, I know you lost your memory,” she said almost weakly. She picked up the clipboard, pretended to study the back of the bar, counting liquor bottles, taking mental notes of what was low, and what they’d need to keep on hand for tonight.
“Lost my memory. Sure. That’s one way to put it.” Jason’s voice came closer, and she knew he’d walked around the other side of the bar again. “Luke and Sonny said I used to come here before the accident. I guess you knew me.”
It was just unfortunate that as he said those words, the ring on her finger — the little diamond he’d bought a year ago when he’d asked her to marry him — it caught the light. “Yes,” Elizabeth said softly. “I knew you.” She looked at him. “Emily and I are the same age. She’s been my best friend since…well, since the sandbox.” She set the clipboard down, curled her hand into a fist to keep from looking at it again. “But, um, she said you weren’t…that you didn’t really want to know anything about before.”
That it made him furious. That he’d been angry, hostile, even viciously rude to anyone who brought it up. “He was even rude to Grandmother,” Emily had told her with wide brown eyes. And since no one on the planet was rude to Lila Quartermaine, Elizabeth had decided maybe it was for the best she was being blocked from Jason right now.
“Not from those people,” Jason bit out. “They keep telling me they’re my family, but all they want is to tell me what to do. So I left.” He cleared his throat. “So, no, I don’t really care about a life I don’t remember.”
Elizabeth nodded, turned away. “Yeah. I can understand that. The, um, Quartermaines…they’re a lot to take. Even under the best circumstances. Emily’s adopted, so that probably helps. And Lila’s not biologically related, either, so that explains a lot.” She picked up her pencil, returned to the inventory.
“They’re all right,” Jason said, almost begrudgingly. “But the rest of them — they can’t handle being told no. And all they did was tell me what to do, how to act, what to say—” He broke off. “You don’t care about any of that. Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Her heart ached for him, fighting all the same battles he’d already won in another lifetime. The Quartermaines had controlled every piece of his life, and had been furious every time Jason stepped out of line. He’d come home from Stanford — the college Alan and Edward had picked out, and then refused to return there for medical school. He’d chosen to stay local — the first time he’d really pushed back, and they’d never forgiven him for it.
And he’d done that for her. Elizabeth was the reason Jason had fought those battles before the accident — and now —
God, it was her fault now, wasn’t it? It would always be her fault. All of it. And suddenly, she understood why Luke had pushed all of this. Why he’d reminded her of the simple fact. Jason hadn’t done anything to deserve the last three months. The last six months. The last two years.
No, Jason had done nothing but come home from college and fall in love with her, and every moment after that was on Elizabeth for blindly thinking love would conquer everything. She exhaled slowly, looked down at the ring again, then at the slim gold bracelet she wore on the same hand. He’d given her both on the happiest days of her life. She’d do this, she’d tell the truth now so that Jason could be free.
And so that he was armed for the battles to come — especially the ones he didn’t even know about.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to tell him the truth, turning as she did so — only to see him crouching down to extract a white envelope that she’d missed earlier. It had slid partially under the bar—
“You dropped this earlier—” Jason said, extending his hand. She reached for it, intending to snatch the piece of mail, but it seemed to happen in slow-motion—
Like a goddamn horror movie.
His eyes dropped and she actually saw it in his eyes — the bewilderment and curiosity swirling as he looked back up, pulling his hand back so that he could fully read the name on the address label.
“What is this?” Jason looked back up, and now she realized there was something worse than having him look at her without knowing her.
It was the fury and betrayal. It was the way he looked just like his grandfather —
“What is this?” he repeated, stepping towards her and shoving the envelope back at her. “What does this mean?”
Elizabeth took it, holding it with both hands. It was a bill for their telephone, of course, she thought almost in a daze. The one bill in both their names. The apartment lease? That was his. Utilities included. Except for the phone.
The one piece of mail addressed to Jason and Elizabeth Quartermaine. Of course she’d missed this envelope.
She’d been so giddy the first time it had arrived in the mail—their first piece of mail as a married couple, she’d said with a beaming smile. Jason had laughed, tugged it from her hand, and kissed her.
“Damn it—” Jason began, his expression twisted in anger she’d never seen directed at her.
“You asked if I knew you,” Elizabeth said finally, as a strange calm settled on her. For three months, she’d craved this moment. She’d dreaded it. She’d run from it. But now it was here. “You never…you never let me finish telling you.”
“Then tell me now.” The words were bit out with the bitterness of a man who’d had nothing but lies and half-truths thrown at him, and she couldn’t even be angry.
“A year ago, last April 15,” Elizabeth said, her eyes locked on his. “That became my legal name. Because we’re married. I’m…I’m your wife.” She licked her lips. “Do you—do you want the rest of it or—”
“How can there be more?” Jason retorted. “What else is everyone lying about?”
“Is it a lie if no one asks?” she asked, almost idly. She held up her wrist, her fingers tracing the little square identification plate on her bracelet, with the elegant letters enscribed into it. “No one asked me. So I didn’t say anything.”
“Playing games, like the Quartermaines do?”
“No. Just trying to survive. This was a gift from you,” she said. A tear slid down her cheek—she didn’t mean it—didn’t want him to think she was going to use the grief they no longer shared. Because she was the only one who carried it now. “On the day our daughter was born.”
“Our—” Jason’s face was bone white. “What the hell—”
“Six weeks later, I threw it away, and it was lost.” Her lips trembled. “I found it after the accident. I guess maybe the universe thought I deserved a break. We don’t have a daughter anymore.”
He closed his mouth, opened it again, but nothing escaped. What could you say?
“She was only six weeks old when the drunk driver hit us. I—I don’t know what happened after that. I never asked you. I just knew she never made it to the hospital. And that I almost didn’t either.” Elizabeth’s lips curved into a sad smile. “Or didn’t you ask why you got into a car with your brother? With an intoxicated alcoholic? You didn’t wonder?”
“I thought I was an idiot,” Jason said faintly.
“Well, yeah, that, too. But you knew what a drunk driver could do behind the wheel, and I think you were trying to stop him from destroying another family. Joke’s on us, I guess. Because I didn’t know there was much left to destroy.” Another tear escaped. “So now you know. We were married. We had a daughter. And now I’m the only one who remembers.”