Written in 53 minutes. Did a spellcheck but did not read for typos.
December 31, 1999
Elizabeth could really get used to starting her day like this, she thought as she tugged open her studio door and beamed at Jason framed in the doorway, clad in his leather jacket and dark blue jeans. He was so pretty—
“Good morning,” he murmured, then leaned down to kiss her. It might have been meant to be a brief greeting, a brush of their mouths against one another, but Elizabeth decided that she was going to go all in for as long as this lasted—
She wrapped her arms around her neck and pressed her body against his, trying out the move he’d used on her day before—where she gently nibbled at his bottom lip and he opened his mouth—oh, it was just as good as when he’d done it—
Surprised, Jason stumbled back just a step, leaning against the door jamb, tightening his arms around her waist, lifting her off her feet so that their bodies lined up just right—
“Don’t you have to work?” he managed some time later, lifting his head.
“Yeah.” She wrinkled her nose and released her grip, then was pleasantly surprised when he still held her close. “I just missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Jason said, dipping down to kiss her again. It took maybe another minute before she finally pulled back and he set her back on her feet.
“I gotta go or Tammy’s going to make stay until midnight.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why she’s bothering to stay open — no one is going to Kelly’s on New Year’s Eve.”
“I would if you were working,” Jason said with a grin as she grabbed her purse and locked the door. He narrowed his eyes, some of the amusement fading. “I don’t like that lock.”
“I know. You said so a thousand times when you were staying here.” She shrugged as they started down the hallway. “I asked the landlord and he told me I could change it, but I’d have to pay for it.”
Jason opened his mouth and she stabbed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare offer—”
“I wasn’t—” he stopped. “Okay, I was, but even if this were a safer area—”
“Ugh, you sound like Gram—”
“It’s different now,” he finished and she frowned at him. “Because people know. About us, I mean.”
“Oh.” She hadn’t thought of that angle. She looked back at her door, accepting for the first time that it wasn’t just her lock that wasn’t so great—it was also the door itself with the window. Wasn’t that how Nikolas—and Carly—had known he was there? And her grandmother—
“Okay. You can do what you want to the lock.” Before he could open his mouth. “And the door,” she added.
“Thanks.” He pushed open the door to the alleyway, scowling at the condition that, too. Was there anything in the studio he didn’t hate, she wondered idly? “I might not be able to get it done for a day or two. The holidays, I mean.”
“That’s okay. I wasn’t going to be able to do anything until I got my tax refund in a few months.” She took the helmet he offered—but then he didn’t release his grip. “What?”
“The security on the whole building is bad,” he told her because apparently he’d sensed his opening.
“Well, you get what you pay for,” she quipped, uncomfortable. “I mean, look, I’m sorry. I wasn’t planning to live here when I rented the place, you know? I was just gonna use it to paint. But it’s cheap and close to work—”
“Yeah, I just—” Jason paused. “Would you stay at my place until I get the lock replaced?” he asked.
“At your—” Her mouth dried up. In the penthouse? Across from Sonny? What did that mean? At his place? What did stay mean? Did it mean the couch or guest room—
“It’s my fault you’re living here,” he continued, obviously oblivious to full on anxiety attack she was going through in her head. “I just want you to be safe.”
“Well, it’s my grandmother’s for being unreasonable,” Elizabeth managed. She cleared her throat. Hadn’t she told herself she’d be all in? She knew Jason was wildly out of her league, especially in experience. How long would he put up with her being a stupid, scared kid?
“Yeah, that’s fine,'” she finished. “Um, we should get going before I’m late.”
Halfway through her shift, she took a tub of dishes back to the sink, still obsessing over what Jason’s offer had meant.
Would he expect her to share the same room with him? Why wouldn’t he? She’d slept less than a foot from him when he’d been at the studio—sharing a bed was basically the same thing—
And if they were sharing a bed, did that mean Jason thought they’d have sex? Was she ready for that? What if she wasn’t? And what did it even mean to be ready? How did you know you were ready? Was there a memo or like an alert signal from your brain—
“Lizzie, you good?”
Elizabeth broke out of the new spiral of anxiety to blink at DJ staring at her quizzically, the spatula in his hand. “What?”
“You’ve been staring at nothing for a minute. You good?”
“Yes. Yeah. Um, I’m great.” She forced a smile. She was good. She was absolutely perfect. She had managed to snag the attention of a kind, decent guy who knew how to listen and filled out a pair of jeans better than anyone else in the universe—
She squared her shoulders. “I’m fine,” she repeated. With that mantra firmly affixed, she left the kitchen, then stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Emily sitting at the counter.
“Hey.” Emily offered her a weak smile. “I was hoping we could talk.”
“Talk or yell?” Elizabeth said, walking behind the counter. She reached for the kettle of boiling water and filled Emily’s cup. She set Emily’s preferred tea bags down next to it. “The last time—”
“The last time I was still kind of, um, adjusting. I didn’t—I don’t know—I wasn’t ready to hear you and my brother were a thing.” Emily tossed some sugar into her tea, then stared at the steeping liquid. “I guess I always figured you’d tell me when you were ready to move on. Or, um, you know, take that step.”
“What step—” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose.
“You know. Nikolas said you were sleeping together, and I know you were, like, scared of that—”
Elizabeth hesitated. “Does that still bother you? The idea of me and Jason—”
“No, no, once I calmed down and, like, thought about it, it makes sense, you know?” Emily brightened. “You’re better than Carly, of course. And I knew Jason listened to you. I knew you were friends. I just didn’t realize you were friends.”
“Oh, well, that part is new. Nikolas—he just—he was irritating me,” Elizabeth admitted. “And you know how I am. I kind of—I lied to him. Jason and I—it’s happening, but that, uh, hasn’t happened.”
“Oh. Okay. I mean, you were right. It’s not my business, but I just—” Emily paused. “I don’t know. I guess it wasn’t so much I was thinking about wanting to know your sex life,” she continued, her cheeks flaming, “but that I wanted to know you were okay. And, like, being able to do that—it means you’re okay. Not that you weren’t okay—”
“I know what you mean.” And because Elizabeth could see the concern and hope in Emily’s eyes, she sighed. “For a long time, even with Lucky, I didn’t think I could. I’m still—” She twisted a napkin. “I’m still not sure if I can. Or if I’m ready to find out.”
“Oh.” Emily furrowed her brow. “Well, that’s okay, too. You said it was new with Jason, and, like, if it can’t be Lucky who would have been good, I mean—shoot—” She scrubbed her hands over her face. “This is ridiculous. We are adults,” she told Elizabeth. “We can talk about sex.”
“I wish Lucky was alive,” Emily continued, “and we both know he would have taken care of you and been as patient as you need him to be. But since it can’t be him—” She took a deep breath. “Oh man, sometimes it just hits me, you know?”
“Yeah. It still hits me, too, Em. I wish he could be here. Sometimes I still think he’ll walk through the door. But I can’t—”
“You can’t put your life on hold. And it has been almost a year,” Emily continued. “Lucky would be the first person to tell you that he wanted to you be happy. He’d never want you to mope around. He liked Jason, too. Plus, I know Jason will be just as patient as you need him to be. I overheard Robin talking to Brenda how kind he was to her—she had a lot of anxiety with everything because of the HIV.”
Elizabeth hadn’t thought about any of that. “I’ve been kind of worried about it,” she admitted. “I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to. Because I do. He’s—well, I know he’s your brother—”
“I can be objective,” Emily assured her. “You think he’s hot. He is.”
“And I’m not thinking about what—I’m not thinking about anything else when he kisses me,” Elizabeth admitted. “I’m just—I’m scared that I’ll have a flash or I’ll freak out, and it’ll mess things up.”
“You should talk to him. You know he’d understand.”
“Absolutely. Why wouldn’t he?”
And of course, once Emily said that, Elizabeth knew she was right. She was probably the one putting all the pressure onto things. Jason would never want her to do anything she wasn’t ready for.
“Thanks, Em. I’m glad you’re with me on this.”
“Well, like I said, I’m ready for him to be done with Carly, and you’re my favorite person in the world. Why wouldn’t I want the best for my brother?” Emily beamed at her. “Thank you for not being Carly.”
“Uh, you’re welcome?”
Elm Street Pier
Jason scowled when he saw Carly waiting for him on the bench when he stepped up from Bannister’s Wharf.
“Don’t walk away—” Carly called as he turned to do exactly that. “You have to listen to me—”
“There’s nothing I need from you—”
“You sure about that?”
And there was something in her tone that made the hair on his neck stand up. Jason slowly turned to face the blonde and walked towards her. “Fine. Say what you want to say, and then I’m going.”
“We’ll see about that.” Carly folded her arms. “I was at my mother’s and Taggert was complaining to her about you and the little brat—”
“I wouldn’t if you want to keep the angel out of the slammer.”
His shoulders tensed. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I know she’s your alibi for the night Moreno died,” Carly retorted. “I know everyone thinks the two of you were shacked up in her crappy studio. I wonder if Taggert would be interested in finding out you were recovering from a gun shot wound.” She tapped her chin. “Now, correct me if I’m wrong, if Elizabeth helped hide you while you recovered, that makes her part of it right? What’s the word—”
Jason stared at her for a long moment, then shook his head. “You’re not going to say thing. Bobbie was there—”
“Don’t you think that would give me more credibility?” Carly said coolly. “I must be telling the truth if I’m willing to incriminate my own mother. What will Taggert say if I told him Elizabeth was hiding you and my mother helped you?”
“Bobbie could lose her license—”
“She could. It would be a shame,” Carly continued. “She’s a great nurse, and the hospital is lucky to have her—”
“What do you want?” Jason bit out. Carly was right — if she told the PCPD that Bobbie was involved, they’d drag Bobbie in for questioning. Elizabeth’s grandmother might think more closely about how Jason had looked when she’d seen him—Nikolas would probably back all of it up—
“I need to get out of town,” Carly said. “I need to get out of my marriage. You’re going to take me and Michael, and we’re going to leave.”
“I’ll get you out,” he told her. “But I’m not going with you—”
“No, that’s the deal. You go with us.” She sauntered towards him, softening her eyes. “Michael misses you. We both miss you—”
“I’m not yours to miss, and he’s not—” Saying the words still twisted at him. “Michael’s not my son. I’m not leaving town, Carly—”
“You’re staying for that simpering little nothing—”
“I’m not leaving town with you,” Jason retorted. “I wouldn’t go to the end of the block with you. Not ever again.”
“You’re never going to forgive me—”
“I’ve put up with a lot from you,” he cut in sharply. “More than I should have. You had me arrested last year, Carly. You treated Robin like garbage. I let that go—”
“You loved me—you said you did!”
“I was wrong. You married my brother and had me arrested for kidnapping,” he repeated. “And then you slept with my best friend because you saw me with someone else? And if that wasn’t enough—you’re threatening Bobbie and Elizabeth with arrests for saving my life—”
Carly pressed her lips together. “I did all of that because I’m miserable! Okay? I just—you need to help me, Jason. Please. Please. I love you. You know you love me. Give me one more chance—”
“You’ve had all the chances. Don’t go after Bobbie or Elizabeth. You’ll regret it.”
He left her standing on the pier, his hands nearly shaking with rage—and worry. If the only way to get Carly to back off from her threats was to leave town with her—
What the hell was he going to do?
Carly scowled after him, then stalked off in the opposite direction, the heels of her boots clacking against the wooden pier. When she’d disappeared, a man stepped out from a corner at the top of the stairs. He took out his cell phone and pressed one of the speed dials. “Yeah? Tony—get me Sorel. No, following the dumb blonde finally paid off. I got something he might be interested in.”