Written in 66 minutes.
Monday, January 10, 2000
Quartermaine Mansion: Family Room
Carly’s palms were sweating as she followed AJ into the family room that morning. This was too soon, she told herself. What if Jason heard and had questions? What if he told Sonny and demanded a paternity test? What was AJ thinking? If they could just wait a few more weeks to give them all time and space—
“It’ll be fine,” AJ told her before turning to his family scattered between the breakfast table and the sofa where Lila was sipping her tea and Edward was reading a newspaper. “Good morning—”
“Hardly,” Edward muttered. “Did you see the stock market? I’ll be making some calls—”
“Don’t call Moynihan again,” Ned complained from the table. “We need him for actually important things—”
“Don’t tell me—”
Lila ignored her husband and grandson and offered AJ a warm smile. Though it cooled just a touch when she met Carly’s eyes, it was still less hostile than the rest of the family. “Good morning, darling. How lucky we are to have you both join us.”
“Lucky isn’t the word I’d use,” Alan muttered and Monica elbowed him.
Carly folded her arms, looked at AJ. “I told you,” she muttered, but he didn’t indicate that he’d heard her.
Instead, he raised his voice, “Carly and I have something to tell everyone.”
The conversations dimmed and now they were all looking at AJ and Carly. Oh, man, he was doing this to torture her, wasn’t he? This was terrible. This was stupid. Why had she agreed to this—
“Do you?” Monica asked. She twisted in the chair and arched a brow. “Go on.”
“Michael is going to be a big brother soon,” AJ declared, sliding an arm around Carly’s waist. He pinched her and she forced a smile. “Carly’s pregnant.”
“Oh, how lovely,” Lila said with a smile that actually looked genuine. Monica pursed her lips and Alan picked up his coffee. “Another baby—”
“Not that we got to enjoy the last one as an infant,” Edward muttered.
“When are you due?” Ned asked, rising to his feet. “I didn’t realize you were thinking of expanding the family.”
“It was a bit of a surprise,” AJ said. He turned to Carly. “When did you say were due?”
Ned was only asking to check conception dates, and Carly bristled at it. What, was he going to count back forty weeks and see if AJ was in town? If he could prove they could have been together?
“September 10,” Carly said. “Give or take a week or two. You know how inaccurate they can be. Michael wasn’t due until January—”
“No, that’s certainly true.” Monica rose. “Well, congratulations.” She kissed her son on the cheek, ignored Carly. “You’ll have to excuse your father and I. We have a meeting at the hospital.”
Alan’s brows drew together slightly, the only indication that he hadn’t heard of this meeting before now. Still, he set aside his coffee. “Of course.” He shook AJ’s hand and kissed Carly’s cheek. “Michael will be an excellent big brother.”
Carly managed a weak smile. Either they didn’t think AJ was the father of this child or they were all horrified that Carly would have a second claim on the Quartermaine fortune and name. Indignation flooded her veins. She was good enough for their son to marry but not have another child with? It didn’t matter that the baby wasn’t a Quartermaine by blood—neither was that stupid bitch, Emily, but this baby would be born in wedlock.
These bastards were going to pay for this.
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Alexis said, dropping a contract in front of Sonny. “And you updating your will doesn’t make me feel better.”
Sonny made a face, then scanned the changes in the document. “I’ll be fine. Jason updated his, too, didn’t he?”
“He did, but that was because he got married,” Alexis said dryly. “And let me tell you how pissed off Elizabeth is going to be when she finds out who the primary beneficiary is.” Her mouth pursed. “And what do you think Jason is going to say when he finds out who you’re leaving everything to?”
“Tell her to donate it to charity if it makes her so angry.” Sonny nodded. “This is good. Go get Max and we’ll get it taken care of.”
Once Alexis and Sonny had signed it, and Max had written himself down as a witness, Alexis sat at the table with a cup of coffee. “Can I ask why you’re insisting on this dinner on Friday?”
“You can but I thought you wanted plausible deniability.”
Alexis just stared at him, and he sighed. “There’s a way to do things—”
“I’m a Cassadine,” she interrupted. “And I’ve seen the Godfather.” She tipped her head. “Is that why you started going by Sonny?”
“No.” Sonny wiggled his shoulders. “It’s just a coincidence,” he muttered.
“Uh huh, well, as long as you don’t plan to have the same fate as your namesake—”
“Are you just gonna crack jokes, or—”
“Sorry.” She leaned back. “Go on. Explain to me why you need an elaborate reception so you can deal with this guy when the lake is right there.”
Sonny’s scowl deepened and he shoved away from the table. “Have you talked to Jason or something?”
“No. I’m just a study of human nature. I was over at his place before this taking care of his paperwork,” Alexis said. “And I definitely got the impression he’s not wild about any of this. So, again, is there something I should know?”
“There were two ways I could have dealt with Sorel.” He went over to refill his cup. “One was quick and painless for everyone. And the other…” He raised his head and caught his reflection in the mirror. He looked away. “The other way served my long-term goals.”
“Ah.” Alexis cleared her throat. “Your partnership agreement with Jason is coming up for renewal next month.” He frowned at her. “The coffee warehouse,” she clarified. “You’re fifty-fifty parters and it requires annual renewal.”
“So?” Alexis tapped the paperwork on the table. “This is the last piece of legal work I’ll be able to do on your behalf due to conflict of interest.”
Sonny’s mouth felt dry as he forced out the next words. “Conflict of interest. That means Jason is thinking of selling out and you can’t represent the both of us.”
“Not ethically, and he’s the one that retained me.” She paused. “Whatever you’re planning on Friday, Sonny, I really hope it’s worth it.”
Wednesday, January 12, 2000
Hardy Home: Dining Room
Dinner with Elizabeth’s grandmother was every bit as awkward as Jason thought it was going to be, but he was determined to get through it without showing his unease. Audrey Hardy didn’t like him, but she clearly loved her granddaughter.
Elizabeth had spent most of the evening searching for topics they could talk about safely, but they really didn’t have much to work with. Jason didn’t have a lot of interests, and Audrey had bitten her tongue more than once to avoid talking about what he did for a living.
“You know, my grandmother used to be a flight attendant,” Elizabeth said to Jason about halfway through the meal of pot roast and potatoes. “Jason has a whole book shelf of travel books,” she told Audrey.”
“Really?” Audrey cleared her throat. “Do you enjoy travelling?”
“I haven’t really—” Jason saw Elizabeth’s hopeful expression because she was clearly grasping at anything she could find. “I haven’t traveled much,” he continued. “I think—I think I did before the accident. Uh, maybe I’ve been to Paris, but I don’t remember.”
“Oh, well—” Audrey’s eyes softened a bit. “I do recall you traveled often during the summers. You did a lot of internships and programs that took you everywhere. Maybe…well, maybe there’s a piece of you that does remember that.”
He hadn’t known that, but— “Maybe,” he allowed. “I remembered some of the medical things I studied. That make sense.” He didn’t like talking about his accident. “So you weren’t always a nurse.”
“Well, I had completed my studies,” Audrey said, “but rather than going to work in the field, I decided I wanted to see more of the world. Lucille thought I was wasting my life. My older sister,” she clarified when Jason frowned. “But I thought the world was much bigger than Port Charles and I was determined to see it.”
Jason nodded. He could understand that. Sometimes he wondered about the world outside, and wanted to see the places in the books he’d read. “What made you change your mind?”
Audrey smiled at Elizabeth, before looking at Jason again. “Well, I came home to visit Lucille, and I went to General Hospital. The emergency room had just opened the year before,” she said, “and they were looking for nurses. Lucille was trying to get me to apply—to make something of myself—and I was refusing. And then—”
“And then you saw Gramps,” Elizabeth said, putting her chin on her fist, her eyes shining. She’d heard this story before. “Right?”
“It seems silly to me now that I changed everything, but I just felt something click.” Audrey’s fingers rested on her fingers. “Of course, Steve and I didn’t quite manage to get it right, and I ended up leaving. I worked in Vietnam during the war,” she told Jason. “But the few years I lived here working as a nurse, it became clear to me that was what I was meant to do. But I’m so glad I took the chance and saw the world first. Oh, flying was so different then! Pilots and stewardesses were treated like traveling VIPs, and I was so lucky to be given an international route. I was able to see London and Paris, and for a time, I worked on the Barcelona tour, and I flew to Cairo—”
“You’ve been to Egypt?” Jason interrupted. “Did you see the pyramids?” He’d read about them, but the pictures didn’t feel right, and he’d wondered about them ever since.
“Oh, of course. Giza is just outside of Cairo, and I couldn’t pass the chance. Have you?”
“No, but I—” Jason paused. “No, but I read about Egypt a lot. A lot of the books are about Africa,” he added. “The Egypt ones are my favorite. I like the history.” It had appealed to him, all that long history, maybe because he hadn’t any of his own. “And—” His throat tightened. “Michael liked hearing about the animals.”
“I always wanted to go back,” Audrey said. “To see the animals. To do a safari. Steve and I—” Her voice faltered. “We talked about traveling when we retired, but—”
Jason remembered now that Steve Hardy had died in his office at GH—that he had never retired. And he knew Audrey still worked. They’d never had that chance. “I’m sorry. Dr. Hardy was a good doctor.”
“The best.” Audrey took another deep breath. “Well, Elizabeth has also talked often about traveling. There are so many museums she wants to see.”
Elizabeth cleared her throat when they both looked at her. “Um, yeah, I guess. I took an art history class last semester and I knew some of it, but the Renaissance really—I want to see Italy,” she added. “And definitely France. There’s some really amazing architecture and beautiful buildings. But I don’t really have the time for traveling right now with school and work.”
Audrey tilted her head. “You’re still at Kelly’s? I would have thought—”
Elizabeth made a face. “Gram.”
Whatever Audrey had intended to say, she dropped it. Instead she smiled, “Summer will be here before you know it,” she told her granddaughter. “I can understand not taking a honeymoon right now with classes starting in a week, but—”
“Gram—” Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed, and she shoved her hair behind her ears. “We haven’t talked about that—”
“But we could,” Jason said, and Audrey smiled at him. A genuine one with warmth and softness. They’d taken a turn there during the dinner, even though he wasn’t really sure where. He was just glad it had happened, and that Elizabeth was smiling even as her cheeks were still stained with the flush of embarrassment. She met his eyes as she sipped her water and smiled at him. Maybe she would go with him this summer. He could take her Italy, couldn’t he? And she could see the pyramids with him in Egypt. Why not?
Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Elizabeth switched off the bathroom light and crawled into bed next to Jason who had one of his travel books in his hands. She curled on her side, watching him read for a while before she realized the cover was the Piazza del Marco from Venice.
“You’re reading about Italy?”
Jason laid the book on his chest. “Yeah. I have a few that I didn’t get to—” Because he often reread his favorites, she knew, and Egypt was sitting on his nightstand. His usual go to night reading. “It was nice, talking to your grandmother about the places she’d been.”
“Yeah. Sometimes I forget what a full life she’s lived. I’ve always known her as the upright and steady nurse who took on her husband’s grandchildren and loved them like her own. She’s not my biological grandmother,” she added. “And she didn’t even raise my dad, but I’ve never once felt that way.”
“You’d never know it,” Jason said. He paused. “Monica’s not my biological mother, either,” he said. “But I know she raised me like I was.”
“That must have been strange after the accident,” Elizabeth said, “learning about all the secrets and craziness from when you were a kid.”
“Not really,” Jason said. “Monica used it to try to explain that even if I didn’t remember her, that it wouldn’t change anything. Blood didn’t make a family.” He stared at the ceiling for a moment. “It’s always been easier with her. Not as easy as Emily or my grandmother, but more than anyone else.”
“I’m sorry if Gram brought back any sore spots with the accident—”
He shook his head. “It’s fine. It’s—” He frowned. “It’s interesting, I guess, what stayed the same. I used to think of myself as a different person but the more time that passes, I can hear about him now. Or myself. I still know some medical things, and the traveling—I didn’t know I’d been a lot of places.”
“You spent a summer with my parents,” Elizabeth told him, and he blinked at her. “Doctors Without Borders. Before they joined it permanently a few years ago, they did a stint that summer, and you applied to the program, I think, your freshman year. You were in Sarajevo.”
“I didn’t—” He exhaled slowly. “Sarajevo, my freshman year. 1992. That would have been when things were getting bad.”
“Yeah. It’s one of the reasons Mom and Dad kept going back, and why they just…made it their life’s mission. They’re terrible parents, but amazing doctors. The world’s lucky to have them.” Elizabeth reached for the book laying on his chest. “You always read about all these places. Why haven’t you gone?”
“Never seemed like a good time,” Jason told her. “First I didn’t have the money, and then I was working for Sonny, and I went to Paris to see Robin,” he added. “But Sonny left, and there was Michael—” He shook his head. “But you told me about your art history class before. You should see the museums—”
“Oh, don’t let my grandmother think—”
“You don’t have to work at Kelly’s,” Jason said, and she frowned at him. “I mean, you can. I know you like it. But you should have more time for your art. I just…if you wanted to.”
Elizabeth sat up, thumbed through the pages of the book, sliding her fingers over the pictures. “Tammy said the same thing,” she murmured. “She said I’d always have a place there, but when classes start, I won’t have much time. Last semester, I felt like I always working and going to class. Maybe that’s why my work wasn’t as good. I was so tired.” She looked at him. “I’ve heard the light in Italy isn’t like anywhere else in the world. That’s amazing for artists and why so many important works are from there.”
“We could find out. After your semester is over,” he added. “But—”
“We could,” Elizabeth said. She handed him back the book. “One condition. We go to Egypt first.”
He grinned, tossed the book aside and reached for her. “Anything you want,” he murmured against her mouth.
“I’ve got everything I want right here.”