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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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,” 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.