Written in 62 minutes.
January 7, 2000
Elizabeth tossed up another table of orders and grabbed the bowls of chili DJ had set down. As she delivered them to another table, she heard the bell over the door jingle and braced herself. Her grandmother had just walked through the door.
Just because Audrey had been kind about the wedding a few days earlier, that didn’t mean Elizabeth could really trust it. Gram had a way of smiling and accepting who Elizabeth wanted to be, only to turn around and lay down conditions the next time they spoke.
“Hello, darling. I was hoping I could catch you after the lunch rush.” Audrey glanced around the diner which was starting to thin out a bit.
“More like I’m in between. There’s a shift change on the docks in about an hour, but I’ve got a minute.” Elizabeth went around the corner and waited for her grandmother to settle herself on one of the stools. “Tea?”
“Yes, thank you.” Audrey spooned some sugar in the tea as it steeped. “I was hoping you might ask Jason to join us for dinner one night this week.”
Elizabeth blinked. “Dinner?”
“Yes. If I’m to get to know him, we’ll need to spend a bit of time together.” Audrey carefully blew on the hot beverage, then sipped. “Or do you think he’ll be uncomfortable? We can do something else. What would you suggest?”
“I don’t know.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “I wasn’t really expecting—”
“I meant what I said, dear. Lila has been so gracious and warm about you joining her family. She knows you thanks to your friendship with Emily. I’d like the same opportunity. You’ve told me that Jason’s not who I think he is. I’d enjoy finding out for myself, I think.”
This felt like an episode of the X-Files, Elizabeth thought. Or one of the old Twilight Zone stories her grandfather had liked to watch. Her grandmother wanted to invite Jason for dinner. What would that even look like?
“We don’t have to—”
“No, I mean, I don’t know. I’ll ask Jason.” Jason would probably agree, Elizabeth thought. He felt so bad that she was being dragged into this reception thing—he’d probably see it as fair. They’d be even. Still — “I’ll call you and let you know know.”
“Wonderful.” Audrey beamed.
Not long after her grandmother had finished her tea and left, Elizabeth had another visitor — one that gave her nearly as much anxiety. In fact, she nearly tossed her apron and disappeared into the back when Emily came in.
“Hey.” Emily smiled nervously. She bit her lip and sat at the counter. “I, uh, went over to see Jason this morning. We had a really good talk.”
Elizabeth stared at her, uncertain. Had Jason told Emily why they’d married? He wouldn’t—would he—
“And he made me see that the way I’ve been acting since you told me, it was, uh, sending all the wrong messages. Like, I obviously don’t get to demand information from you. And you’re both right. I’m not entitled to know anything about your sex life.” Emily’s cheeks flushed. “I’m not asking about that, either. It’s just—it, um, really threw me. You were gonna stay with Jason because of the lock on your door and you said you were really nervous about how things were gonna go.”
And then three days later, Elizabeth had married Jason. “I guess I can understand how that would be strange,” she said slowly, “but—”
“And I didn’t say things, right, you know? It’s not that I don’t like the idea of you together. I like it even better after talking to Jason, by the way. Before, I was happy you weren’t Carly, but I couldn’t really see it. Like, it didn’t make sense.” Emily began to shred a napkin into long slivers. “But I also know my brother’s been a moron. He really hurt Robin, you know. You’re really too good for him.”
“Not that way either. Crap, I’m messing this up.” Emily met her eyes. “I never thought you getting married was weird because I didn’t think he’d marry you. Or that he’d be interested in you. I promise you, it was never that. It was just—I was scared you got in the middle of something with his job and I don’t want you hurt. So I pushed because I wanted to make sure you were okay. I just messed it up.”
Elizabeth’s chest felt looser now and she exhaled in a rush of breath. “That’s why you were saying it was weird.”
“Yeah. But then I went to Jason’s—to your place, too, now I guess. And I saw your wedding photo. And he’s wearing a ring.” Emily reached for her hand. “So are you. It’s real. And he looks—well, I think he’s happy. He’s hard to read.” She released Elizabeth’s hand. “Are you happy?”
“I’m—” Was she? Things were so up in the air, unsure and fragile. But — “Yes. You were right. That last time we talked before you went to New York. I talked to Jason about how I was scared, and he was kind.”
“And this isn’t me asking for details,” Emily said. “I just—I want you to be okay. And happy, but okay is different, you know?”
“I’m okay,” Elizabeth promised her. “Better than.”
“Good. Good. I never in a million years would have put you guys together,” Emily told her, “but then again, maybe I would have. I remember when I was gonna run away with Juan last September, and you got Jason to help us. And he didn’t even yell at me or anything. He listens to you. I could see it then. And I’m glad. I hope you guys are really happy together.” Her face brightened. “And hey, we’re sisters now.”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are.” And it felt so good to be back on the same page with Emily. She might have lost Nikolas, but Emily really had been her best friend. It had been hard to be at odds with her.
Maybe things were looking up.
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
“Hey.” Jason folded his arms as Max pulled the door closed behind him. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Um—” Sonny scratched the back of his neck. “I wanted to let you know that I finalized some of the details for the reception.”
Sonny winced at the short, clipped reply but forged ahead. “It’s, uh, this Thursday at the No Name. We’ll take the limo,” he continued. “There’s gonna be some dinner and dancing. Vega wants to say some nice things, and then there’s the favors part—”
“Favors?” Jason echoed. “Why—”
“They feel as though I didn’t deliver on my part—” Sonny closed his eyes. “When I married Lily. I was supposed to make up for it later, but—”
But he’d walked away, leaving Brenda at the altar. He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t think of it. The tragedy, the pain of her death still felt too raw. “But this is why Sorel is on board. Why he’s buying it, because I owe this. I’ll grant a couple of requests. Elizabeth will spend some time with Vega’s wife and, uh, I think his daughter. Tagliatti is between wives—”
“And then we leave,” Jason said. “I don’t want to be there more than two hours—”
“Yeah, yeah. You and Elizabeth will take the limo home, and it’ll come back for me. I’ll head out after another hour or so, and when Sorel goes, there’ll be the shooting. But that’s the deal. The three of us are out of range.”
“And you think Sorel doesn’t see this coming?” Jason demanded. “So close to the rest of it—”
“He’ll be suspicious,” Sonny admitted, “but he knows I’ve got tension with the others because these last two years. It’s me getting in good with the rest of them. And he wasn’t invited at first. They let it slip in conversation to him, and he forced his way in.”
Jason didn’t like that, though he understood why it made sense. “Fine.”
“The only time you won’t be by her side is during the favors when she’s with the women and during some of the dancing. Vega’s calling for the dance, and she’ll be safe with him,” Sonny added when Jason scowled. “He’s old school. You know that. He helped broker your deal with Moreno.”
Jason exhaled slowly. “I remember. He was angry that Mac had been hurt and that Michael and Robin were in the line of fire.”
“If there were another way—”
“There’s always another way,” Jason bit out. “This is helping you, not me. Not Elizabeth. You said it yourself. You made these guys angry as hell when you dipped out of town and left everything to me. You need to get back in with them. If this was really about getting rid of Sorel, I’d just go stake him out and bullet in his head. You assholes want the circus.”
“I told you. We’ll do this, but don’t expect me to be happy about it. You didn’t give me a choice.”
Jason didn’t slam the door as he left, but Sonny flinched all the same. Putting Elizabeth in even slight danger had been the final crack to their friendship, and Jason was right. Sonny had seized this opportunity, telling himself it was the only way. He’d agreed too quickly, seeing the benefits to them all.
But if he’d taken even a minute, he’d have known Jason wouldn’t agree. Not under these circumstances. Not after he’d torn his hands apart to get to Elizabeth on New Year’s, and she’d still been shaking when he’d brought her to the Towers. They might never know if Sorel had screwed up the bomb or had just wanted her terrified.
Sonny had, once again, thought more of himself than anyone else, and just like always—he’d be the one left alone in the end.
And he would deserve it.
Quartermaine Mansion: AJ & Carly’s Suite
Carly leaned over the toilet, her stomach pitching and rolling, and she heaved, coughing and nearly choking. She’d already puked her guts out, and now it was just dry heaves, her wretched body putting her through the exhaustion of vomiting without the mess.
She finally leaned back against the cool tiled wall, her sweaty hair sticking to her forehand, hanging limply around her shoulders. It had been hell hiding her nausea from everyone, from AJ, but it would be nearly a month before she could safely tell AJ she was pregnant.
He’d never believe it now. Before last week, they hadn’t been together in months, and he was already feeling terrible about her mother’s visit earlier that day. He’d gone into the office, and Carly had headed straight for the stairs.
She didn’t want to disappoint Bobbie—she’d tried so hard to be a good daughter, but Bobbie would never, ever forget who she’d been once. There would always be that small kernel of distrust and hatred inside.
Elizabeth Webber, Carly thought bitterly. That’s what had made Bobbie so angry. Not just that Carly might have had to snitch on Bobbie, but that Elizabeth had actively been in trouble. Why did everyone want to protect that stupid little girl?
Lost in her own misery, she didn’t hear the bathroom door open — but she did hear the soft click of shoes on the tiles. She twisted her head to the side and watched in a sort of detached horror as AJ knelt down beside her, his head tipped to the side.
“Food poisoning,” she managed. “Something I ate—”
“Must have been hell,” AJ murmured, “finding out you were pregnant after Jason married someone else.”
She drew her brows together, confused by this opening. “What?”
“Before that,” he continued, conversationally, as if he hadn’t just caught her, basically red-handed in her infidelity, “you probably could have guilted him into finding you a way out of the prenup.”
She cleared her throat. “I—”
“You could still tell him,” AJ said, “but I bet he wouldn’t help you the same way now. He’d just give you child support and ask for visitation. And you’d lose Michael and all of my money, too. Not exactly what you’d want, huh?”
She couldn’t fight back. Couldn’t argue. And what would she even say? He was right. Even if the truth was out, Sonny would just take the baby from her. And she’d lose everything.
“I can explain—”
“Michael is not going to lose his family,” AJ said. He looped a nearly boneless arm over his shoulder and lifted Carly into his arms, taking care not to jostle her. “He loves you and you’re an okay mother.”
She wanted to slap at him, tell him to stop saying words, she was an amazing mother—
“And I think you and I have an understanding now,” AJ continued. He set her down on the bed, tugging off her shoes. “Jason’s not an option for you. He never will be again. And if you told him now, you’d just make him unhappy.” His face tightened. “He’d never be rid of you.”
She closed her eyes, the tears slipping down her cheeks. If this had been Jason’s baby, AJ would be right. Jason would be miserable and trapped with her. He hated her now, and he’d never stay with her for the baby. That bitch had ruined everything. Why hadn’t she gone away? Why couldn’t Carly get rid of her the way she’d chased away Robin?
“And he owes me for what he stole from me. What he put me through,” AJ continued. “This is my child, Carly. We’ll raise it together, and Michael will get to keep his parents together. He’ll be a good brother, and I’ll be a good father. Do you understand?”
“Y-Yes,” she managed. “Yes. I understand.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
“I smell like grease,” Elizabeth grumbled when Jason leaned in to kiss her that evening. She flattened her hands against his chest to hold him back slightly. “Some kid threw a plate of fries at me just before my shift ended—”
“I like fries,” he reminded her, and kissed her anyway. “Work was okay, then?”
“As good as it ever gets.” Elizabeth unzipped her jacket and tossed it over the desk chair. She kicked off her shoes and wandered over to the sofa. Behind her, Jason used his foot to push her shoes closer to the desk, then hung up her coat. “Tips are good.” She flashed him a grin. “I think they’re worried if they stiff me, I’ll complain to you.”
“Happy to be useful.” He sat down and lifted one of her feet in his lap, rubbing a thumb over an arch. Her eyes fluttered closed and she sighed happily. He hated to mess this moment up, but— “The reception is set for Thursday,” he told her.
She opened her eyes and sat up, bracing herself on her elbows. “Oh. Okay.”
“We can go over the rest of it later,” he told her. “But in case you need to get off work—”
“Yeah, I can. Um, if we’re talking about dinner plans then—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Gram came by the diner. She wants to have us for dinner this week. Should I tell her maybe another week will be better?”
He was nervous about this reception, but the thought of sharing a meal with Elizabeth’s grandmother who thought dirt on her shoe was better than him was more intimidating, he realized. But—
“No, we can do it this week. Um, pick the night,” he told her. “Whenever.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “You’re doing something for my—” He squinted. “My side,” he said finally. “I should do it for you, too, right? And I…like your grandmother.”
“She’s trying, isn’t she?” Jason pointed out. “Maybe it’ll be a disaster,” he continued and she sighed. “But maybe it won’t be. We’ll see what happens.”
“All right.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “This is going to be a really weird week.”