Flash Fiction: Warning Shots – Part 15

This entry is part 15 of 26 in the Flash Fiction: Warning Shots

Written in 101 minutes. I went WAY over but I had to finish Spring Break, lol!


March 2000

He should have just let her go inside because now that he had Elizabeth’s attention, now that she’d turned to face him, looking at him with those questioning eyes, his mouth dried up and he didn’t know what to say. Her hand was in his, and all he could remember now was how it held felt to have her behind him on the bike, pressed against him, her arms wrapped around his torso—it hadn’t felt like that in Port Charles, not with their coats providing extra layers.

She wasn’t dressed in the sweater and jeans that he was used to, but for the hot, humid air of the Caribbean, with tiny shorts that showed off how long her legs were and a tank top that dipped low over her chest with one strap that had already slid off her shoulder. Tendrils of her hair had escaped whatever she’d secured it with on top her head and curled up around her face. And he’d seen the way she’d looked at him before she’d stood up, the flick of her tongue sweeping across her full bottom lip when she’d dragged her eyes up to his face, a slight flush in her cheeks.

He didn’t know how long he’d been standing here, staring at her, hoping for words to come back to him, to remember why he’d grabbed her hand and stopped her from escaping inside. “I’m sorry,” he said, roughly, as if the words had to be forced out. “I handled all of this wrong, especially if you feel like you have to hide out in your room.”

“It’s okay—”

“It’s not,” he said, cutting her off. “I would hate it if we went home in a few days with you still thinking I give a damn about you slugging some asshole in a bar fight or getting in trouble with the cops. I’d be a hypocrite,” he added, “because I’ve done the same things. I’m glad you protected yourself. I just—” He shook his head, looked down at her hand, still in his. It was soft and paler than his, her nails worn short with red nail polish that had started to chip. “I can’t stand that we live in a world where you’re not safe even walking into a bar on an island Sonny practically controls.” He lifted his gaze to hers again. “I’m angry that you had a single minute of fear. I’m angry at myself, the situation, at men in general. But never you.”

Her lips curved into a slight smile. “It really is okay. I get it — you think you’ve let your sister and me come to this place that your friend basically runs and something bad still happened. Maybe Sonny gets a say in who owns what what or who’s in power, but humans are still humans. Some of them are terrible, but most of them are okay.” She shrugged one shoulder, then looked down at their hands. “It took a while for me to get back to believing that, but I’m not going to let that one guy ruin that for me. People are generally good if you give them a chance to show it.”

“I don’t know about that—”

“Look at you,” she said, and he closed his mouth. “Almost from the moment I came to Port Charles, I’ve heard people say the most awful things about you. Detective Taggert—you know, he was really kind to me when he investigated my case, but I know how he talks to you. About you. But that’s not who you are.”

“They’re not wrong—”

“You’d never hurt me, and that’s all that matters,” she said. She stepped just a little closer. “You can’t stop the world from being what it is. All you can do is find a way to live in it. Last night—that wasn’t my fault. But that doesn’t mean it was yours, either. And ” Her eyes searched his. “I really hope you know that.”

He swallowed hard, but couldn’t look away. He felt another droplet of water fall from his hair, slide down his neck to his chest. Her eyes dropped down, and so did his. And then, with the hand he wasn’t holding, Elizabeth touched him, just with one fingertip, the droplet absorbed by her skin. He exhaled slowly, then, almost as in a trance, with his free hand, he covered hers, flattening it against his chest, a shiver sliding across his skin.

He looked up, and a moment later, her eyes lifted to his. She licked her lips, and he leaned in—

And a light flashed behind them, jerking them apart—Elizabeth backing up almost the terrace, her eyes wide. They stared at each other, almost in horror. Because what the hell had almost happened?

“Hey,” Emily said, stepping onto the terrace. She furrowed her brow. “Were you down at the beach?”

“Yeah.” Jason cleared his throat, crouched down for the towel he’d dropped at some point. “I thought you went to bed.”

“I tried. But I can’t sleep. I thought I’d come out and watch a movie.” Emily hesitated, looked at Elizabeth. “But if you’re, like, talking or sketching or whatever, I can go—”

“No. No, it’s—I got, um, I got what I needed.” Elizabeth grabbed her sketchpad and pencil case. “Let’s go find something to watch.” She followed Emily inside, and Jason lingered on the terrace for another minute, wondering if he should just go throw himself in the ocean.

The next morning, Jason was determined to put all of that behind him. He’d cleared the air with Elizabeth, who knew he wasn’t actually angry with her. All the rest of it—it was proximity, he decided. She was a beautiful woman who listened when he talked, and he liked her—but that had to be the end of it. She was just starting out her life with dreams of being an artist. The last thing she needed was her best friend’s older brother dragging her into his world.

He went into the kitchen and brewed some coffee, while tossing together a breakfast for Emily and Elizabeth. His sister came out first, looking restored to her natural health and energy.

“I’m so glad you’re sticking around for the rest of the trip,” Emily told him, accepting the orange juice he handed her. “Liz and I can’t cook anything that doesn’t come out of a box, and you can—” She grinned at him. “You’re really the best of brothers.”

“What do you want?” Jason asked, slightly suspicious. He slid the omelet onto her plate, then leaned back against the counter to sip his coffee. “I know that tone.”

“Why do I have to want something?” Emily pouted, twirled her fork. “Maybe I just appreciate a good sibling. AJ’s not terrible, but you’re always the first person I call, and I shouldn’t take it for granted. Plus, I actually like you as a person,” she told him. “Not just as a family member. That is incredibly rare. Take Liz, for example — she has one of each and they’re both useless.” She beamed at him. “Not my brother.”

“What do you want?” Jason repeated.

“Well, I was thinking that we only have two more days of this trip,” Emily said. “I plan on spending them on the beach, perfecting my tan, you know. But on Saturday night, Liz and I tried to get reservations at that really swanky restaurant we told you about, but I don’t know if the hostess didn’t care that you’re my brother—”

“I’ll take care of it.” He sipped his coffee. “But that’s not what you wanted. Or at least, that’s not all.”

“You know, I’m very lucky to have such a smart brother—”

“Emily.”

She wrinkled her nose. “You know, most people want to be flattered before they hit up for a favor. I just wanted you to know how much I love you and how much I love spending time with you away from all the idiots in Port Charles—”

Jason set down his coffee, getting his first sense of what Emily was going to ask. “No.”

“You didn’t even let me finish buttering you up. Come on. Come to dinner with us. We haven’t gone out, you and me, in like ages. You remember that one time, like two years ago, I tricked you into having lunch with me and AJ. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

It had been before Michael — when Jason and AJ had been on decent terms. He looked away, dragged his hand down his cheek. “You really want me to go?”

“I do. I think you spend too much time on your own, and I’m determined to get you back into the world. Baby steps. Here where no one knows you,” Emily added. “I know you get worried sometimes about who else is watching. But that’s not a problem here, is it?”

“No. No, it’s not. I’ll call and make sure they put your name down,” Jason said, resigned. He really didn’t know how to say no to his little sister. It was starting to be a problem.

“Awesome. Sincerely the best news all day—”

“You’ve only been up for a few hours,” Elizabeth teased, emerging from the hallway leading down to the bedrooms. She studiously avoided his gaze and slid onto the stool next to Emily. “Maybe this news won’t even be top five by noon.”

“No, Jason’s going to get us reservations at that restaurant, and he’s agreed to go dinner, too.” Emily stabbed her fork in her omelet, chewed.

“Oh. That’s great. Um, thanks,” Elizabeth said when Jason held out a glass of juice. She carefully took it, making sure their fingers didn’t touch. Good. She clearly felt the same way he did. “You guys should have a lot of fun. The menu looks great.”

“Hey, doofus, you’re coming, too,” Emily said. “It’s still our vacation—”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to get in the way—you were just telling me the other day you wish you got to spend more time with your brother,” Elizabeth said. “Really, it’s not an issue—”

“Oh,  well, yeah, but that doesn’t change if you come. Plus, you and me are basically family,” Emily said. She looked at Jason. “Tell her, Jason.  She’s not getting in our way.”

“I think I’m actually getting in your way,” Jason said, a bit hesitantly. Elizabeth finally looked at him. “Besides, Emily needs someone to talk to other than me all night or I might run screaming in the opposite direction.”

Emily gasped in mock outrage. “I am amazing. How very dare you—”

“Fine, fine. I’ll go. But I need to get back to work. The light here is amazing,” Elizabeth said, sliding off the stool, taking her juice and a banana from the bowl. “And I want to get as much as I can before I have to go back to the gray skies of upstate New York.” She disappeared down the hall.

Emily wrinkled her nose. “She works too much. School, Kelly’s, art. I’m glad you came down and at least got her out of the house on the bike. Other than the bar which was not a smashing success, I’ve barely pried her away from those sketchpads. I think she needs to start dating again, what do you think?” she asked Jason.

“I think that’s my cue to go do something else,” he said, picking up his coffee. “Don’t fall asleep on the beach and burn yourself.”

“Our reservation is in a half hour,” Jason called down the hallway. “And it takes twenty minutes to get there—”

“Not the way you drive!” his sister’s voice floated down the hallway. “Relax!”

“Ten minutes and I’m leaving with or without you—”

“You wouldn’t—”

“Better not test him,” Elizabeth said, calling over her shoulder as she emerged from the hallway. “I don’t think he’s bluffing.” She turned back to him, smiling. “You should go close the door loud enough for her to hear it in about five minutes.”

Jason shoved his hands in the pockets of his khaki pants, suddenly unsure what to do with them — or maybe afraid of what he would do with them with Elizabeth standing in front of him in a cherry red strapless dress that fell a few inches above her knees. Her skin had darkened a few shades to a pale gold, and her eyes sparkled with mischief when they met his. He really just wanted to brush her hair from her bare shoulders, tuck it behind her ear—and that was why his hands were staying in his pockets.

“Don’t tempt me,” Jason said finally, then he fought the urge to wince when she bit her lip, looked away. Because of course, he’d meant for that to sound like a response to her statement — but it had somehow come out more serious, and he knew he meant it literally. He hoped she didn’t.

“You clean up nice,” Elizabeth said finally, looking back, gesturing at the white button down shirt he wore. “I hope you didn’t have to go to any trouble since you weren’t planning to be here—”

“I always keep some things here. Sonny’s always making me get dressed up,” Jason said, almost as a mutter, and she laughed.

“Well, sorry, but Emily had her heart set on this place, and there was no chance you were getting out of it.” Her eyes softened. “It really is nice that you’re doing this for her. She’s lucky to have a brother who shows up for her.”

“I know you said you don’t talk to yours. I’m sorry.”

“Eh, I’d rather not have someone obligated to like me because we’re family.” Elizabeth scrunched her nose. “That’s all it is with me, Steven, and Sarah. Steven and Sarah don’t even really like each other. I appreciate that we’re honest about what we’re not, you know? No pretending to be the Bradys.” He must have looked confused, because she went on, “You know, having the big holidays like we’re one big happy family. We don’t even send cards now.”

“I’m sorry—”

“It’s okay. Family isn’t always the blood one you were born into.” Elizabeth smiled. “Sometimes you get to choose your people. And I got really lucky when Emily and I chose each other. She and Gram, they’re all the family I need right now.”

Jason opened his mouth to respond, but was mercifully saved when Emily find came out. “It’s about time,” he said.

“Relax, I still had two minutes of my ten.” Emily wrapped her arms through one of his. “How’s my favorite, most handsome big brother?”

“I’m already dressed and going, so you don’t have to keep this up,” Jason said dryly. He grabbed his keys from the table. “Let’s go.”

It was almost back to normal, Elizabeth thought with some relief. She and Jason were able to talk, and neither one of them had brought up that strange moment on the terrace. She couldn’t explain what the hell she’d been thinking, and she was sure that Jason was probably as mystified as she was.

No, it was so much better this way, she thought, sipping her margarita, and smiling across the table at Emily teasing her brother again. Back in the realm of friendship, where it was safe. If she’d done something insane like kiss her best friend’s brother, it would have been…insane. Stupid. Reckless. And what if she’d been misreading all of this, and he just looked at her with pity—

No, no, better not to believe her rusty to the point of nonexistent skills at reading men. Better to wonder and not know for sure, when the answer was almost definitely no.

“Liz? Earth to Liz—” Emily waved her hand in front of Elizabeth’s face and she blinked.

“What, sorry, did you say something?” She forced a smile. “I was distracted by the view—of the water,” she added hastily when Jason—seated directly across from her—just looked at her. “What did you ask?”

“I asked how your work for the show was coming along since you’ve been drawing the whole time,” Emily said. She picked up her own drink. “Jason, you know about this, right? Elizabeth is one of like five artists in the entire program to have an exhibit at the campus showcase in like two months.”

“I knew you’d been picked, but you didn’t say it was only five other people. That’s great,” Jason said.

“It’s amazing,” Emily said before Elizabeth could say anything. “She’ll tell you it was just luck, but I know it wasn’t. I saw the piece she won with, so I can’t wait to see it expanded. You said you’re doing it in oil?”

“Um, yeah. Yeah. That’s going to be one of the four pieces I’m doing. It’s already done. I have to do three more. I think I have some ideas what they’re going to be, but I won’t know until I get back to Port Charles and book some time in the art studio. I wish I had a place of my own,” she admitted with a sigh. “But for right now, this will be good enough.”

“She’s amazing, really,” Emily told Jason. “The sketch she won with, it just messes you up. Sorry, should I talk about that?” she asked Elizabeth hesitantly. “I don’t know if Jason knows what you did—”

“He knows the topic,” Elizabeth said, twisting her glass back and forth, looking at Jason for a moment before looking back at her best friend. “I told you. Jason’s the one that gave me the encouragement to sketch it.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot. You’re like her muse,” Emily said.

Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed because well, Jason had sort of been her muse over the last few days, but — “No, I wouldn’t go that far, um, it’s just—he said something that made me think about how I was approaching all of my projects, and I switched things up. And I can honestly—I feel the difference. Even now. So—”

“I don’t deserve any credit. Really. You’re the one doing the work,” Jason told her. He held his beer in his hand — he’d been nursing just the one all throughout dinner since he was driving. “I’m glad the trip’s helped.”

“I can’t wait to see what you get from her. It sucks you can’t really see her art,” Emily told her brother, and Jason dropped his gaze, looking down at the table cloth. “Because it just hits you, you know, but you said with the accident, art’s not really something you understand.”

“Yeah, well,” Jason shifted in his seat, but kept his eyes down, and Elizabeth realized he was embarrassed, like he had been after that scene at the bar.

“Art’s for everyone, you know? It doesn’t matter what people see or don’t see, what they understand or don’t. It’s just about the way you feel when you look at it.” Elizabeth paused. “And sometimes you don’t feel anything. Like, we went to the modern art museum in New York last year, and can I just tell you how much I don’t understand half of that? There was a bathroom mirror on one of the walls — you know the ones that look like medicine cabinets? That was supposed to be an art piece.”

Jason looked up at her, squinted. “A bathroom mirror?” he repeated.

“Right? Some sort of comment on the intersection of capitalism and beauty standards. Whatever. I got weird looks when I checked my teeth for pieces of the salad I’d had for lunch.”

Emily laughed, picked up her margarita. “Oh, yeah, for sure. And sometimes it all looks like scribbles, and you’ve got people standing in front of this drawing a first-grader could do, nodding sagely like they get it. That’s why I like your stuff, Liz. I don’t have to be, like, insane to get it. Anyway, it’s going to be a great night and I’m so insanely proud of you. Maybe I should throw you a party—”

“No, please don’t,” Elizabeth said, but Emily was already off and running. Jason met Elizabeth’s eyes across the table with a flash of gratitude for having diverted his sister’s conversation from talking about his accident.

It was late when they got back to the house, and knowing they’d have to leave early in the morning, Elizabeth went straight to her room, making sure she’d packed everything. But she felt restless and not tired at all. She padded down the dark hallway to the terrace, hoping a walk on the beach would help settle her down.

And it looked like she wasn’t the only one with that thought — she ran into Jason, his feet bare, and the bottom of his pants rolled up. He’d tugged the shirt out of the pants and unbuttoned the top few buttons.

She stopped at the terrace entrance, bit her lip. “Oh, are you just coming back in?”

“No, I was going to take a walk.” Jason hesitated and their eyes met across the terrace, both remembering the last time they’d been here. Or maybe he was wondering why his sister’s roommate was looking at him like she’d jump him at the first opportunity.

Determined to keep things back to normal and to prove things hadn’t really changed, Elizabeth took a deep breath. “So was I. Unless you want to be alone…because I could wait.”

Say yes. Say yes. She’d given him an out, just like she’d done at dinner earlier, and he needed to take it. Say yes.

But Jason didn’t. “No, no, that’s fine. We could—we could go together.”

She smiled hesitantly, kicked off her sandals and crossed the terrace. Wordlessly, they walked down the short distance to the water until they were just at the edge, waves washing across their feet as they started to walk along the waterline.

The silence continued for a few more minutes, just the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the only light from the moon and the house nearby.

Finally, Elizabeth spoke. “I’m really glad I stopped arguing with Emily and came down here. I know she thinks all I’ve done is work down here, but I’ve, um, really been able to relax. It’s…restful here, you know?”

“Yeah.” He looked straight ahead, keeping his unruly hands in his pockets. Their shoulders brushed occasionally as they walked over the uneven sand. “I wish I came down more.”

“Why don’t you?”

Her question was soft, nearly lost in the dull roar of the ocean, and he could have pretended not to hear it. But he had, so he answered. “I brought Michael here. He…really liked the water.”

“I’m sorry,” she said after a moment. She was quiet for a beat, then said, “I can’t really imagine what it would be like to have that kind of love in your life and lose it. I’m sorry,” she repeated.

Jason shook his head, not wanting to accept the pity. “I have no right to complain. I told Carly I’d step in as his father. I did this to myself.”

“Yeah, but—” Elizabeth stopped, and he walked another few steps before realizing it. He turned to face her, her expression mostly in shadows. “You didn’t know the scope of what you were agreeing to. You couldn’t see the future. Had you ever been a dad before?”

Jason grimaced, then sighed. “No.  I didn’t.” And he hadn’t thought much of fatherhood at all, thinking that all a father was good for was being disappointed that you hadn’t lived up to the person they wanted you to be. “I didn’t know—I didn’t know you could love like that,” he admitted finally. He looked past her, at the house. “Without boundaries. Willing to sacrifice anything to keep him, turning yourself inside out until you didn’t even know who you were anymore.”

“Exactly,” she said, then started to walk again. He fell into step next to her. “So you get to be sad about what you lost.”

“Maybe. But—I made the right decision,” he said with a sigh. “To stop the visits. I was never going to be his father again. Staying involved — the way I was — it was only going to confuse him. It would never be enough for me. And it just made me angry. I don’t like being angry,” he muttered. “I don’t like when people see me that way.”

“Like the other day at the bar,” she said softly, and he nodded. He stopped, and they were facing each other again. “Why? Do you think you’re not allowed to have feelings?”

“No, no, it’s just—” He hesitated, considered how to put it into words. “I used to be like that after the accident. Angry, all the time. I’d lash out at anyone and everyone. At my grandmother, Emily. They didn’t deserve that, but I couldn’t stop it. I worked hard to stop being that way. To be in control.” He looked down at her, and she was looking at him. “I don’t want anyone to see me that way. Not Michael. Not you.”

“I thought we settled all of that,” Elizabeth said. “You’re not mad at me, and I’m not mad at you, remember?” she said, then dipped her head down, looked out over the water, because he did, indeed, remember when they’d settled it, and she’d touched him. He swallowed hard.

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Good,” she said, her voice just a bit shaky. “Because you’re not perfect and neither am I.” She fell silent, and he followed her gaze as the moon rose high over the water, the reflection flickering across the horizon, but the rest of the world inky dark. “It’s really beautiful here, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Jason looked at her as she continued to look at the moon, and wished he were anyone else, someone more deserving. “Yeah, it is.”

Comments

  • Stop being noble and just kiss her already!! Haha great update. Can’t wait for some lip action

    According to Stephanie on June 14, 2024
  • Not me screaming “Now kiss!!” the entire chapter. I love these 2 idiots and their complete inability to believe that the other could want them. They are both so open and honest with each other. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    According to Beth on June 14, 2024
  • They are so sweet together. I hope that (without the complication of Elizabeth grieving for Lucky like in the show) Jason will be a bit bolder in this story. He was too careful with her for my sanity sometimes.

    According to LilaB on June 14, 2024
  • I’m usually really impatient for the physical romance but I’m really loving the slow burning build here, just like we had with the original, but maybe it’s a little faster with Lucky out of the way. They need to keep getting to know each other, both keep teaching each other they are good enough. That said, some kissing would be awesome, lol! But really, slow build. With kissing! hah …

    According to Jill on June 14, 2024
  • Oh my goodness, I just want them to kiss already. Emily has the worst timing. But, she was completely adorable in this chapter and the Elizabeth and Jason scenes were spectacular.

    According to nanci on June 14, 2024
  • These two are killing me. I love it so much. I stand by my cliffhanger rant.

    According to Mariah on June 14, 2024
  • God, they like to play around with their feelings. I can’t wait for them to kiss or say something to each other.

    According to Shelly Samuel on June 14, 2024
  • I’m loving them! Their last two encounters brought to mind The Little Mermaid and “You know you want to kiss the girl” which made me smile. Great writing!

    According to Felicia on June 14, 2024
  • You have no idea how much I needed these chapters this week. Just the right amount of fluffy perfect tension to offset a insanely tense week of work. Congrats on finishing another school year. Can’t wait to see what this summer brings!

    According to LivingLiason on June 14, 2024
  • Oh, these two! You’re doing such an excellent job!

    According to Shawna on June 14, 2024
  • I am glad they are getting past the awkward stage. I really thought the night would in a kiss.

    According to Carla P on June 15, 2024