May 19, 2014

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series The Best Thing: Sanctuary

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all okay
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
– Hands, Jewel


Monday, December 27, 2004

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason pulled open the door and frowned when he saw his sister with a stroller. “You find that on the street?” he asked.

Emily rolled her eyes and pushed the blue stroller into the room. “Steven and I are splitting Cameron this week to give Audrey a break. Not that she wanted one, but Liz insisted. So I get him until New Year’s, and then Steven gets him after that.”

“Elizabeth went back to California?” Jason closed the door and glanced inside the stroller to see the infant was asleep. “When did she leave?”

“Last night. She didn’t want to have to wait much longer. She wanted to be settled by the art show in February.” Emily looked around. “You’ve changed the place since I was here.”

“Nora suggested a few things to make it more…” Jason shrugged. “I don’t know, easier. So we moved my desk into the maid’s room and put the playpen and swing here.” He indicated to where the objects in question were. “There was some talk of getting rid of the pool table.”

“Hmm…” Emily looked towards middle of the downstairs where the pool table remained. “I see that talk went almost nowhere.”

“We’re fine in the kitchen,” Jason said. “There’s a table. She has a booster seat and a high chair for when she gets bigger. What am I going to do with another table?”

Emily frowned. “I should find an argument for that, but I just can’t.” She smiled at Evie in her swing. “She’s napping. That’s a nice change.”

“Yeah, Sundays and Mondays are Nora’s days off, so I’m on my own today.” He crouched in front of his daughter and adjusted her blanket. “What brings you by?”

“Well, I was taking Cam to Kelly’s for lunch with Lucky and his new girlfriend, Leyla, but he called when I got off the launch. He was called into the PCPD for work, so since I had already lugged this guy on the launch, I figure I’d bring him over to meet you.” She frowned down at the little boy. “And then he fell asleep. So.”

“You had nowhere else to go but here,” Jason said, almost resigned. “Emily—”

“What?” She planted her hands on her hips. “You don’t want to meet Liz’s kid? That’s real nice, Jason. After she put up with Sonny Corinthos because she’s your friend.”

He sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face. “She told you about that.”

“No, but I got eyes, don’t I?” Emily pursed her lips. “Should I take off his coat? He’ll roast. But what if he wakes up. Jase, I don’t know anything about babies. What if he gets sick?”

Jason resisted the urge to roll his eyes and knelt in front of the stroller. “I’m going to lean him up. You hold his shoulders, I’ll take off the coat. If he wakes up, he wakes up. You’re right. You can’t leave him in the coat. He’ll get used to it, and then it won’t protect him when he goes back outside.”

Emily held his shoulders and Jason gingerly stripped the bright blue parka from the little boy. Cameron opened his eyes once, fastened his dark eyes on Jason’s and then closed them again with a yawn. He couldn’t help a grin. “Not a fan of being woken from a nap. Just like his mother.”

His sister took the coat Jason handed her and put it in the diaper bag. “When have you seen Elizabeth wake up from a nap?” she demanded. “Is there information about the two of you Elizabeth has neglected to tell me? She will hear about this.”

“Emily—”

“What did Sonny say to Elizabeth anyway?” Emily flopped on the sofa. “She refused to tell me, saying it wasn’t about her. But I saw her. He said something that made her go all pale. You got pissed, stepped between them and then took Elizabeth into the hallway. Either to apologize or give her time to calm down.”

“He just…” Jason sat next to her, angling so he could keep Evie and Cam in his view. “He was pushing me by attacking her. She’s right. It wasn’t about her, but it was…” He hesitated. “I don’t know what made him think he could talk to her like that. After everything she’s been through because of knowing me, of knowing Sonny…”

“Amen. Not least of all knowing the two of you sent Ric in her direction.” Emily pursed her lips. “Of course, she was charmed by him like Alexis was, but you know, I bet she regrets the hell out of that.”

He scowled, because he knew Ric had started dating Elizabeth to annoy him. It had worked, but he hadn’t been able to convince Elizabeth to abandon him. “You know Elizabeth doesn’t listen to anyone when they try to tell her what to do.”

“Don’t I know it.” Emily leaned back. “Did Sonny say something to her about marrying Ric again? After what he did to Carly? I know Carly still holds a grudge, but she probably remembers the name of the kid from sixth grade who tripped her on the playground—”

“No, it wasn’t…” Jason paused. “He told her that Zander was a bastard and that it was a blessing she’d miscarried her child with Ric.”

Emily narrowed her eyes and shot to her feet. “Is he home?”

Jason grabbed her arm as she started past him. “Emily—”

“I’m not one for violence, Jase, but I think I can make an exception—”

He tugged her back down. “I took care of it at the party, and I’m going to make it clear I’m not going to put up with him using her to get at me.”

“Still.” Emily huffed. “Did he explain himself? Did he have a good reason why he attacked my best friend who has never done a damn thing to him? He likes to forget the people who are nice to him. Liz used to defend him, you know? All the time. Said he was her friend. Sonny Corinthos has no friends. He has people he uses.”

“Emily—” Jason dipped his head. Because he wanted to say that wasn’t true. That wasn’t the man he knew, but he couldn’t make the words form.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt like Sonny was his friend. Once, he took his problems to him, looked for advice. To find the way forward.

He had not done that since….the night he’d been shot and found Sonny with Carly.

“Seriously, Jase. When was the last time you had anything in your life completely separate from him?” Emily demanded. She jabbed a finger at him. “And you’re not allowed to say Courtney. You forget, Courtney and I are friends. She told me that Sonny made you guard her, that Carly was always pushing the two of you together. Carly told her that she could get you to propose and then you did. So Courtney does not count.”

He scowled at the idea that Carly had somehow forced him into proposing to Courtney, though he knew he hadn’t considered it until Carly brought it up. “Emily—”

“You can’t even answer the question. Before Sam, before Evie, when was the last time you went against Sonny in your personal life? Never, right? Not since you came home—”

And then Jason knew the answer to the question. Because he had gone against Sonny, at least initially, when Elizabeth had been kidnapped. Sonny had questioned the methods Jason was using to find her—going to Taggart, to Edward. Had that really been more than two years ago?

“You deserve so much, Jason. You deserve better friends than Sonny or Carly. You deserve what I have with Nikolas.”

At those words, Jason focused on his sister and narrowed his eyes. “What did you just say about Carly pushing me and Courtney together? How is that different than what you’re doing right now?”

“What?” Emily demanded. “Am I demanding you tell me how you feel about Elizabeth? Did I even insinuate anything about her specifically? I didn’t tell you to ask her out—”

“You dragged her across the room to meet Evie.” Jason pressed the heel of his hand to his eye. “Emily, Elizabeth doesn’t need the crap in my life—”

“Yes, I dragged her across the room to meet your daughter,” Emily said. “But I did not make her appear on the docks the day you two talked and she made you tell me the truth. If you remember, I stayed with you two for five seconds at the party, and the two of you were the ones standing there and talking for a half hour. I have done literally nothing except introduce your daughter to someone you tell me is your friend. What is my crime, Jase?”

He hesitated, because she had a point. The fact that he was thinking about Elizabeth again, remembering the way she had laughed at him buying baby clothes or her smile as she stood on the docks, snow catching in her eyelashes, resting on her cheeks…had little to do with the fact Emily had introduced Elizabeth and Evie.

“Exactly.” Emily nodded. “I did nothing. I don’t plan to do anything.” She leaned forward. “Jase, I love you guys. If you guys are going to be anything other than friends, it is not going to because I play matchmaker. You guys became friends without me. In fact, I didn’t even know you knew each other until that Christmas party.” She frowned. “Which you know, now that I think about it, seems like a massive omission on her part for which I have never held her accountable.”

“Emily—”

“Just don’t…” She pursed her lips. “Just don’t turn it away, Jason. That’s the only meddling I’m going to do. I feel guilty that Cameron doesn’t have a father in his life. I didn’t make Zander do the things he did, but I didn’t help, either. I could have done that so much better, you know? So I want Elizabeth to be happy. And I want you to be happy. So if you have the opportunity to be happy together, well…would that suck so much?”

He just sighed. “Emily—”

“And don’t give me crap about what Elizabeth does or does not need in her life. You don’t get to make that decision for her.” She pointed at him. “You used to let people decide what they wanted from their own life. Be that guy again, Jason. He went after what he wanted.”

He barely remembered that anymore, but he nodded. “Fine. I won’t decide what Elizabeth needs. I don’t think there’s anything to get…we’re friends, Emily. We weren’t even that for years. So, I’m not pushing anything. I’m not in a place in my life where I can think about that.”

“That’s what I thought when I got cancer.” Emily shrugged and looked over at the babies sleeping near one another. “Just because you’re not looking for it, doesn’t mean it won’t bite you in the butt.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

General Hospital: Dr. Meadow’s Office

Carly Corinthos believed in having a plan. Always have a plan. Commit to a plan, see it through. Whatever the consequences.

She would have another child, preferably a girl to keep Sonny from thinking of the child he might have had with Sam. After the Christmas party, when Sonny had put himself on display for the entire damn town, she knew it was time to get down to business.

Sonny Corinthos thought he was fooling her. Thought he had pulled the wool over her eyes.

No one deceived Caroline Benson. She was a master of deception. And Carly Corinthos remembered she’d been that woman once. She would channel her and devote herself to her family.

She believed Sonny had picked their marriage over his bastard daughter. He had allowed the arrangement with Jason to stand—an arrangement Carly had never believed in.

Jason would never have broken his promises to Courtney. Not after the way he thought he had hurt prissy Robin Scorpio all those years ago by crawling into bed with Carly. Even if he had been attracted to Sam McCall, he would have resisted or ended things with Courtney.

Jason was protecting Carly and her boys, so she would see that his devotion to her was rewarded. She would make sure Sonny never went for the whore’s daughter. Jason could keep Evangeline. Carly would give Sonny another daughter. He would forget the baby across the hall and remember Michael and Morgan.

But watching Sonny badger Jason, overworking him to the point of exhaustion and using any excuse so that Carly was stuck watching the little bastard, she knew the guilt was choking him. She knew that if she didn’t take drastic measures, the constant reminder of Sam McCall would live with them one day.

A baby would fix everything. A daughter would replace the ones Sonny wasn’t raising—Evangeline and Kristina were not going to be part of Carly’s family.

She had nearly sacrificed everything for Lorenzo Alcazar, but he had shown his true colors. When she hadn’t snapped to, hadn’t abandoned her dreams, her marriage, everything she had fought for all these years, he had gone after Sonny once again.

Jason had done something to him over the summer, Carly didn’t particularly care. Either he was dead or elsewhere licking his wounds. He wasn’t here to gaslight Sonny anymore or make Sonny think twice about her loyalty. He had been an aberration. A detour.

Everything in her life had been leading her to Sonny, even her relationship with Jason. And she would not let go without a fight.

Whatever it took, she had told Courtney. Whatever Carly had to do, whoever she had to break. She would save her marriage.

Carly Corinthos believed in having a plan.

She sat across from her obstetrician, and pursed her lips. “I don’t understand. I was told I was healthy after the shooting.”

Lynn Meadows hesitated and then sighed. “You were. You are. But your body has been through a great deal of stress. With Morgan’s pregnancy, you fell in an icy lake, you were electrocuted, you were kidnapped and kept in close confinement, and then you were shot. Your blood pressure was all over the place.”

“That was a year ago,” Carly snapped. “What the hell does it have to do with today?”

“And sometimes, Carly, your body just doesn’t get pregnant,” Dr. Meadows replied, her voice remaining calm and steady. “Now, you’ve been actively trying for five months. Have you been monitoring your ovulation—”

“I know how to get pregnant.” Carly cracked her knuckles. How dare her body fail her in this? Hadn’t she always been fertile in the past? Hadn’t she been knocked up on both one-night stands? “I’ve been doing everything the books say.”

“Okay, well then, maybe it’s time we look at alternatives.” Dr. Meadows flipped a page in her file. “Let’s schedule you for an ultrasound. Let’s have a look at your uterus, the tubes. We’ll see if everything is in proper working order. I’d advise you to relax, but I highly doubt that’s going to be possible.”

Carly exhaled slowly. “All right. I’m sorry. I’m just…upset. I’ve never really had trouble getting pregnant before.”

“It happens to us all eventually,” the older woman murmured. “But you’re young still. Just barely in your thirties. If you can’t get pregnant naturally, there’s in vitro insemination. You’re a wealthy woman, perhaps a surrogate or adoption—”

“No.” Carly shook her head. “I want a natural child. One that’s biologically mine and Sonny’s.”

Dr. Meadows paused and looked at her. Carly tensed, because she didn’t like the judgmental bitch. So what if Carly didn’t want someone else’s bastard in her life? To remind Sonny that she couldn’t have children, that his biological child was across the hall? No.

Sonny loved Michael, but Carly didn’t know if she had the same capacity for generosity to love a child she hadn’t carried, hadn’t given birth to. She had barely latched onto Michael once he was born, and Morgan still seemed like a stranger sometimes. She loved them, but she didn’t think she would love a child who wasn’t hers.

She knew Kristina and Evangeline were Sonny’s biological daughters, but hell if she looked at them with any sign of softness. All she saw was Sonny’s betrayals.

“Money is no object,” Carly said. “If I need surgery or—”

“Let’s cross that bridge when we came to it.” Dr. Meadows reached for her appointment book. “Let’s schedule the ultrasound.”

Carly Corinthos had a plan. She would revise accordingly along the way, because really—a plan was about the goal. Whatever it took to achieve the goal was acceptable.

She would save her marriage.

Because if she wasn’t Carly Corinthos, who the hell was she?

Monday, January 3, 2005

Warehouse: Sonny’s Office

Sonny Corinthos leaned back in his chair as he watched Jason stride in his office and stand in front of the desk, his hands in the pockets of his ubiquitous leather jacket. It was the first time he and Jason had been in the same room since the Christmas Party.

He looked at this man whom he had always looked upon as a brother, and tried to remember why he had gone to talk to him at the party when Carly had suggested he avoid him. Why he had spoken to Elizabeth, a woman whom he was genuinely fond of, in such a demeaning way.

That he could not remember why he had done those things—only that he had—was troubling.

Sonny cleared his throat. “I’m sorry if I…dragged you away from anything.”

“It’s fine,” Jason said shortly. “You said it was important.”

“Yeah, uh…” Sonny rubbed his forehead. He felt hot, like his skin was boiling and he had a sudden urge to sweep the various files and folders from his desk.

This violent urge had come once or twice a day for the past several weeks, but Sonny merely took a deep breath. He would not give into the blackness.

He would stay away from the abyss. This time would be different.

“I know we’re…having difficulties,” Sonny said slowly, “but at the end of the day, the safety of our…” the word was sour in his mouth, but he forced himself to continue, “our families comes first, I hope you agree.”

“I do.” And now Jason lowered himself into the chair, and Sonny’s chest felt less tight. He could do this. He had made the right decision in November, for his family, and for his daughter.

He knew this.

He just had to live with it.

“I also…” Reflexively, he fisted his hands in his lap and took another deep breath. This was important. He had to make this one thing right. “I wanted to apologize. About the party. I-I like Elizabeth. I shouldn’t have—” He paused. “I’d like to apologize to her personally, but—”

“I’d prefer it if you’d stayed away from Elizabeth,” Jason interjected, his voice firm. “I don’t care if you regret it or not, Sonny. What you said…you had no right to attack Elizabeth to get to me.” His mouth was pressed into a thin, angry line. “You went after her because you knew it would piss me off. How is that different than what Sorel or Roscoe did to her?”

Sonny exhaled slowly and nodded. “I-I know, Jason. I shouldn’t have…Elizabeth didn’t deserve what I said. Like I said, I would apologize to her, but I don’t know that she’d want to hear it from me. If at any point, you think it’s appropriate to pass it on, I would appreciate it.”

Jason offered a short nod. “You said there was business to deal with.”

“Yeah. Uh.” Sonny reached for a piece of paper on which he had jotted down some notes. He had resolved to write down what he wanted to say to Jason. If he planned it, if he stuck to what was written, he would be less likely to say something else.

To make this worse.

“Max reported in this morning. Cody contacted him to tell him he’d seen Johnny Zacchara at Luke’s.”

He let that news drop like the bombshell he believed it to be. For more than two months, they had had some minor troubles, nothing that couldn’t be resolved, but distractions and nuisances. A few shipments had been late, a bookie or two had refused to pay his percentage. There had been a whisper of a drug dealer that no one could find.

And now Sonny believed he knew what was behind it.

“Did you hear me?” Sonny asked, when Jason remained silent.

“Yeah. You told me that a guy who’s twenty-six years old was seen in a blues club.” Jason jerked a shoulder. “Luke’s is pretty popular for music. It’s always packed. Johnny lives an hour away. Not unlikely he would know about it. I mean, yeah, we should keep an eye on him, Sonny, but I don’t get the connection.”

Furious words rose in his throat, nearly spilled out of his mouth, but Sonny just closed his eyes. He hadn’t prepared for this. He had no words for this. He had assumed Jason would see his point, that he would not have to elaborate.

He was Sonny Corinthos. He could do this.

“The problems we’ve been having,” Sonny began.

“You’re worrying too much about them,” Jason interrupted, but his voice was only confident, not dismissive. “Shipments are late. Usually because the boats are avoiding the border authorities. They take other shipping lanes, slow down to avoid a patrol. Bookies are a pain in the ass, it’s why we prefer the casinos in Puerto Rico. And no one’s found anything other than rumor about this dealer. I don’t think Johnny Zacchara is a threat.”

He just didn’t get it. He didn’t see it. How could Jason just ignore the obvious? “His father is megalomaniac—”

“Who’s more content to annoy New York and Boston than he is to worry about us. Yeah, it’s been more tense since we learned about Ric’s connection to Trevor, but nothing more than some extra money in negotiations.” Jason shook his head. “I’m not saying we ignore his presence, but it’s probably nothing.”

There was sense in Jason’s words, and Sonny tried to focus on that. “I see what you’re saying,” he said slowly, “but I don’t think we should forget the problems we’ve been having.”

“No, it might be something,” Jason agreed, almost too easily and Sonny wondered if he was being patronized. Placated. The boiling in his gut sharpened and he forced it down. Jason didn’t placate or patronize. Not in business. His focus was why Sonny had made him partner. He trusted Jason to see what he couldn’t.

It had kept him alive until now, so just because there were…issues between them that had nothing to do with business…did not mean Sonny should ignore his words.

“So if it’s not Zacchara—”

“Maybe the Ruiz family out of Miami,” his partner offered. “They were aligned with Alcazar, and he’s been licking his wounds in South America. It might be his way of coming back after you.” Jason paused. “Maybe he didn’t like the parting bullet I put in his shoulder.”

“Should have been between the eyes,” Sonny growled.

“But you didn’t want that.”

He didn’t need a goddamn reminder. What did Jason think he was? A fucking child?”

No. Sonny took a deep breath. No. “It would have created problems we didn’t need. Carly had just stopped threatening to leave, I needed Alcazar neutralized but his death would have created more issues with the police, and God knows, Carly would have used it.” He cleared his throat. “She told me she didn’t want to be with him, that she was committed to our marriage, but I needed him gone.”

“I get it, Sonny.” Jason nodded. “I agreed with you then. And he’s been gone for months. I’m just saying—let’s not discount him aiming another family at us. We deal with Hector for Puerto Rico sometimes. Might be a good time to feel out the relationship between us—be sure it’s still amicable.”

“Might be.”

When Jason got to his feet, he paused for a moment. “How long is it gonna be like this?” the younger man asked quietly. “Are you going to keep punishing me?”

He had not expected that question.

He had no notes for that question.

Sonny was quiet for a long moment. “I don’t know,” he said, honestly. “I don’t…have a reason to. I…agreed to this situation. I am protecting my family. All of them. If I had contested Sam’s fraud, there’s no guarantee Carly wouldn’t have started to drag the boys into court.”

The sour taste was back in his mouth as he reflected on the difficult spring. “And you know that’s the type of divorce Carly and I would have. We would drag our kids in and out of a custody hearing once a year. She’d demand higher child support and alimony, and I would deny it just to needle her. We’d keep it going until we would not only destroy each other, but the boys as well.”

Jason exhaled slowly and nodded. “That’s probably true.”

“And even if Carly agreed to allow Evie into the family, how would she treat her?” Sonny rubbed his eyes, because he knew these reasons were right. He knew he had done the right thing. “She would always be Sam’s daughter. Always. She doesn’t know about the summer. If she did…”

“These were the reasons you listed in November when we agreed to let it stand,” Jason said. “But you don’t seem to accept them.”

“It’s…I saw Elizabeth standing there, holding my daughter…” Sonny swallowed the bile in his throat, because now he could remember why he’d gone after her. “And I knew she would love Evie the way you do. Regardless of blood. If you and her—”

“We were just talking, Sonny,” Jason said quietly. “But—”

“I know that,” Sonny snapped. “I got eyes. She’s been home five minutes. But it made me see red. Because you have that. You’ve always had Elizabeth and her unconditional support, even when you didn’t know it. And I have Carly.” He bit out those last words. “I got stuck with Carly because of a choice I made a thousand years ago, in another lifetime.”

What could Jason say to that? To this revelation that Sonny wanted out, that he barely loved his wife, that he couldn’t remember why he had loved her in the first place?

It was too late for regrets. He had children with her. The children must come first.

Evie came first in her own way. He removed her from the poison of his life and given her to a man who would love her as his own.

He knew he had made the right decision.

“I’m trying to do better,” Sonny said after a moment of silence. “I don’t know if it’s going to be like this. I…I try not to be bitter. To be angry. To look at you and not want to rip out your throat, because none of this is your fault. Not really. You only tried to help. You knew Carly and I were destroying each other, that it would be worse with Evie in the mix. Evie doesn’t deserve that. I can barely put Michael and Morgan first most of the time, but after what I did to Sam, I can do better by Evie.”

Jason took that in and nodded. “All right. We’ll get through this, I guess.” He hesitated. “But Sonny, if seeing me and Elizabeth talking is going to be a problem—”

Sonny lifted his brow, waiting for him to say he’d refrain from a friendship with Elizabeth to give Sonny some peace of mind.

“—you’re going to have to get over it. She and I are friends. I’m…I’m not going to walk away from that because it bothers you.”

But he hadn’t really expected any different, and for some reason this broke through the self-control he had managed to maintain for the majority of the meeting.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” he all but growled. “I don’t know why you bothered with Courtney. Barely divorced a year from my sister, Sam’s not even cold in the ground, and you’re already sniffing around Elizabeth.”

Jason just stared at him, but there was no change in his bland expression, which told Sonny he’d crossed a line that he’d been trying to avoid this entire time. “Don’t go near her, Sonny. You obviously think I’ve betrayed you in some way and you’re not going to take it out on her. She’s had enough to deal with this last year or so between Ric and Zander. She doesn’t need you.”

He turned and started for the door. Sonny rose from his seat. “When you gonna stop protecting her from her own mistakes? What did I say to her that was so goddamn wrong? That wasn’t true?”

Jason was already gone by the time Sonny had finished yelling after him.

He collapsed back into his seat and stared down at the useless notes he had made.

He knew he had made the right decision.

He just wasn’t sure he could live with it.

May 15, 2014

I added Chapters Twelve and Thirteen to Poisonous Dreams. I should have that finished sometime next week, depending on my interest in finishing it off.

I forgot when I decided on a Tues/Friday schedule that my Fridays are pretty much fricked for the next few weeks. Ha. A friend arrives tomorrow, I go home for a week on a Friday, next Friday, I’ll be coming back from Ireland, etc. So we’re switching back to a Mon/Thurs schedule that worked decently enough for FWTM in the beginning.

And since I wanted to concentrate on my dissertation the rest of the day and then finish preparing my room, I posted The Best ThingChapter Two early.

A Note about TBT:

So over all four sites I posted this at (RTN, CG, AON, and FF) I had a few people suggesting Elizabeth be in the live in nanny. In my original outline, I actually had Elizabeth as a student nurse at General Hospital being more involved and moving in for a while, but I kept getting stuck on how to get them to reconnect. I finally discarded that concept because I didn’t want it to feel like they’d had a faux family experience and fell in love that way.

I wanted to channel their original love story—coming together at crossroads in their lives, talking, and just being there for one another, which is how I wrote a version of the opening scene. Plus, I love the idea of Elizabeth finally making a living from her art. So she won’t need to be a live-in nanny, because our girl gets a massive art opening in Chapter Six that makes her comfortable. I mentioned that she sold art in California in the first chapter, and will build on more later how that enabled her to survive until her show.

Also, this story more than anything else is going to be Jason’s story. A Few Words was definitely Elizabeth’s journey, but since the major theme in this is Jason’s loyalty, you’ll get his voice more often, particularly in the later chapters when that takes off. It’s going to be a challenge for me, one I might not have done once but I think I can do it. Though this chapter is Elizabeth’s POV, since he was the narrator in the first one.

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series The Best Thing: Sanctuary

Still waiting for the snow to fall
It doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all
Those Christmas lights light up the street
Down where the sea and city meet
May all your troubles soon be gone
Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on
– Christmas Lights, Coldplay


Friday, December 24, 2004

General Hospital: Fifth Floor

The elevator doors slid open to reveal the brightly decorated floor of the hospital, where the children would soon gather around Alan Quartermaine to listen to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and receive presents from Santa Claus.

Elizabeth could remember visiting her grandparents at Christmas and watching her grandfather read to the children stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Alan was a wonderful successor, but she would always miss Steve Hardy most this time of year.

Audrey placed a hand on her shoulder. “I miss him, too,” she murmured.

Elizabeth adjusted Cameron in her arms and turned to smile at her grandmother. “He’ll always be with us. And I’ll tell Cameron all about the men he’s named for.” She looked down at her six month old son, with his dark hair and dark eyes like his father. “Cameron Steven Webber, grandson of doctors, and great-grandson of the best doctor and nurse team General Hospital ever saw.”

“And nephew of the new pediatric oncologist,” her brother teased from her side. “This kid is going to be quite helpful with ladies, Bits. They cannot resist a baby.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes with a smile and passed the baby to him. “Go. Flirt with the nurses. Be merry.”

She watched as Steven, Cameron in tow, walked towards a trio of nurses—a blonde, a redhead and a pretty dark-haired girl she recognized seeing Lucky with at Kelly’s. “I don’t think you’re getting great-grandkids from that one anytime soon, Gram.”

“Not likely,” Audrey agreed with a sigh. “Why don’t you go talk to Emily? She’s gesturing at you, and I’ll go talk to Monica and Alan.” She kissed Elizabeth’s cheek before heading away.

Emily stepped up to her and grabbed her hand. “I want you to meet someone!”

“Whoa!” Elizabeth said as Emily all but towed her across the reception room, around the nurse’s hub and towards the Christmas tree, where she saw Jason, holding an infant in a red velvet Christmas dress and a matching headband with a floppy bow.

She hadn’t seen him in the last two weeks, but she knew from Emily that they had talked, and Evie now had a nanny that she appeared to love. The fatigue was gone from Jason’s eyes, and he appeared less tense.

She was happy that she could help, even if it had just given him a small nudge to look to Emily for real support. She hadn’t had any illusions that their moment of closeness on the docks would be repeated with further confidences.

“Jason, I thought Elizabeth might want to meet Evie.” Emily almost skidded to a stop in front of her brother.

Jason arched a brow at his sister. “I figured that with the way you dragged her across the room, Em.”

“Geez,” Elizabeth said, rubbing her wrist. “You missed your calling as a linebacker. Seriously.” She rolled her eyes and looked at Jason. “She’s beautiful, Jason.”

“Do-do you want to hold her?” He lifted the infant from his chest and she nodded, holding out her arms.

“Oh, I just love little girls,” she murmured, smoothing her hand down Evie’s velvet dress. She glanced up to ask Emily a question and frowned when she saw her friend had disappeared and was already across the room with Nikolas, Lucky and the dark-haired nurse. “How did she…”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” Jason murmured, squinting across the room as Emily studiously avoided looking at them.

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “I do,” she said under her breath, but looked down at Evie, whose dark brown eyes were open and looking up at her. “She looks like Sam.” She vaguely remembered the woman she’d seen at Lila’s funeral and around town once or twice before she moved.

“That’s…what Emily tells me,” Jason said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I guess. She has the dark hair and dark eyes.”

“And you’re so quiet and peaceful,” Elizabeth said to Evie. “Cam’s a fusser. Never thrilled with being right where he is. Always wants to be on to the next thing.” She glanced up at Jason. “Please, make my day, and tell me you bought this dress.”

“Ah…” Jason blinked. “Emily brought it over this morning. Why?”

Elizabeth sighed. “Oh, well. I suppose I just enjoyed the image of big, bad Jason Morgan picking out delicate lacy baby girl clothes.” She smirked. “It’s different than raising a little boy, isn’t it?”

“You’re not kidding.” But he smiled at her words, so she was glad she hadn’t offended him. “It gets easier, doesn’t it?”

“Um…speaking as a former teen-aged girl…” Elizabeth winced. “Sorry. If she’s anything like I was…” She laughed when Evie wrapped her fist around Elizabeth’s pinky finger. “I stole my grandmother’s car, snuck into Sonny and Brenda’s wedding, framed my sister for cheating…”

Jason hesitated and his eyes were wide for a moment, because she supposed it was one thing to tell him those things when they were part of her past, but now she could see him looking at Evie and picturing her growing up and doing those same things.

“Oh, that’s not even the worst of it,” she teased. “One time, I went to a bar when I was only eighteen, and I picked up this guy.”

He scowled, but she continued. “Oh, yeah. He took me out on his bike all the time, and then I drove my grandmother crazy because I refused to stop seeing him.”

Jason laughed then and looked down. When he raised his head up, he was grinning. “You know, I’m starting to understand your grandmother a little more.”

“I know, right? It’s amazing how you figure your parents are overreacting until you think your kids will grow up to be just like you.” She bounced Evie lightly, and the baby smiled at her, and then gurgled. “I’d introduce you to Cam, but I think Steven’s using him right now.”

Using him?” Jason echoed. He looked around until he found her brother at the nurse’s station, holding the infant and talking to a blonde. “Ah.”

“Men and babies, it’s supposed to be irresistible.” She rolled her eyes, and then bit her lip because hadn’t she felt that flutter in her stomach seeing Jason in his leather jacket, holding an infant girl with her pretty Christmas dress.

That was not a pleasant development, no matter what Emily was clearly trying to do.

She cleared her throat. “So, Emily said you hired someone to help.”

“Uh, yeah. Her name is Nora.” He slid his hands in the pockets of his jacket, as if restless. “Thanks…for pushing me to talk to Emily. I wish she felt like she could have asked on her own, but I know Evie’s better off with someone full-time, so when I can’t be there…”

“Well, Emily’s not nearly as pushy as I am.” Elizabeth frowned, and glanced at her friend who quickly looked away. She was going to have to talk to her about this. “You look better, though, so I guess you’re getting more sleep.”

“Yeah, ah, things have slowed down at work…” Jason trailed off and she turned to see what he was looking at. Until now, she hadn’t noticed the Corinthos family across the room by the elevators, and it hadn’t dawned on her that Jason was not standing with his best friends.

She wasn’t surprised—knowing that the custody situation must have made things difficult, but she was sad to see Jason’s shoulders tense at the sight of Sonny Corinthos crossing the room towards them. The teasing light in his eye had disappeared completely.

“Do…you want me to go?” Elizabeth asked softly. “I can—”

“No, I…” He exhaled in a rush a breath. “No, he won’t say anything in front of you or Evie.” But she could see he wasn’t as convinced of that as he’d liked to be.

“Elizabeth.” Sonny smiled at her, and she reflexively smiled back, but she saw that his expression didn’t reach his eyes. Those dark eyes were trained on the baby in her arms and she disliked the possessive way he was regarding Evie.

“Hey, Sonny. Merry Christmas,” she said, trying to keep the moment light but the tension was thick between these two and she felt like she was in the twilight zone. It was not so long ago that she had told Jason he would be loyal to Sonny above all else.

This wasn’t the way she wanted to be proved wrong.

“I saw you come in with your son,” Sonny said, but he still wasn’t looking at her. Now, he was looking at Jason, who was staring at his boss with an almost bland expression. “He’s beautiful.”

She cleared her throat and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, instinctively rocking Evie. She glanced down and saw that, despite the tension, the little girl was dozing in her arms. “Thank you, Sonny. Michael and Morgan…they’re getting so big.”

Elizabeth looked across the room where Carly and Courtney were talking to the young boys, who were laughing and pointing at something else. “Morgan just…turned one didn’t he?”

“Hmm….” Sonny nodded. “I can see your son is going to take after his father with his looks. What did you name him?”

Now he looked at her, and the hair on her arms stood up. This was not idle conversation. She tightened her arms around Evie, as if she thought Sonny might snatch her and run. “Cameron,” Elizabeth said. “I named him Cameron Steven, for my grandfather and for Zander’s father.”

“That’s nice. Cameron Lewis was a good man. Better to name your son for him than the bastard whose DNA he has in his veins.”

Elizabeth inhaled sharply and glanced at Jason, whose eyes were hard. “Sonny—” the enforcer began.

“But I suppose he’s better than the last piece of scum you picked as a father to your child.” Sonny tilted his head. “As sad as it was, Elizabeth, it was for the best you lost that child.”

The edges of her vision grayed, so she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I…I’m sure you didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” she began.

“Sonny—” Jason began again, his voice tight, the muscles in his neck bunching. “This isn’t—”

“You would have been tied to Ric forever, and it’s better that you’re not.” Sonny leaned forward, and Elizabeth forced herself to remain still, to not take a large step back. “You really do have terrible taste in men.”

Part of her wanted to walk away from this, to hand Evie to Jason and just disappear. But she knew this wasn’t about her. This was about Jason.

“Knock it off,” Jason growled, stepping between them slightly. “You have a problem with me, that’s clear. You don’t bring Elizabeth into it. You don’t say anything to her. Just walk away, Sonny.”


 

Across the room, Courtney Matthews watched her brother saunter over to her ex-husband and Elizabeth. As the trio exchanged tense words, she saw the way Jason’s hands fisted at his sides, and then watched him step between Sonny and Elizabeth.

She looked to Carly. “I thought you said things were better between Jason and Sonny. Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad?”

Carly followed her gaze, and her mouth tightened at the scene. “Well, you made your choice when you fled to New York instead of staying here and fighting for Jason. I figured you didn’t want to hear about him anymore.”

Courtney hesitated, because it was true that she had hastily decided to pack up and leave for the city in the wake of Jason and Sam’s shocking announcement they were expecting a child together, but she didn’t expect Carly to phrase it that way.

“Sonny is still my brother,” Courtney said. She handed Morgan a cookie and then watched as the toddler joined his brother in another group of children.

“Well, maybe they’re still not past the fact they were screwing the same woman,” Carly muttered. “Bound to put a damper on any friendship.”

Courtney arched a brow. “Didn’t seem to slow them down when you were the woman in question.”

Her sister-in-law scowled. “That’s not…it’s not the same thing.”

Of course it was, but Courtney didn’t push it. After all, Carly was probably the only one left in Port Charles who didn’t see the truth.

Courtney had not left because she believed Jason cheated on her before they’d filed for divorce, but because she didn’t want to watch him sacrifice his life and future on the altar of Sonny and Carly Corinthos. She loved them, but time and space from their nonstop drama had allowed her to see them clearly.

“So, Jason and Elizabeth are close again?” Courtney asked, as her brother sauntered away from the two of them and, instead of returning to his family, wandered down a hallway. “I thought she was living in California.”

“Why would you think I’d know?” Carly snipped. “I’m not a member of the Muffin Fan Club.”

Courtney sighed and wished she carried aspirin in her purse. More and more, her phone calls and visits with Carly were turning into obligations. Carly’s life had been on a roller coaster for more than a year, since the day of Courtney and Jason’s first failed wedding when Ric Lansing had kidnapped her.

At the thought of the smarmy attorney, she cast a dark glance at another spot in the room where Alexis and Ric stood with Kristina, talking to Ned Ashton and his daughter Brooke Lynn. How he still walked the Earth…

After escaping Ric and then Lorenzo Alcazar, Carly had been shoved out of her home when Sonny left her, and then shot in the head. After her coma, when she’d woken up, conflicted and lacking emotions to go with her memories, she and Sonny had continued to deteriorate until Carly turned to Alcazar and Sonny to Sam.

Their reconciliation the previous spring had not been for each other, but for their children. Not that Michael and Morgan seemed to be doing well. Michael threw tantrums and Morgan was sullen and withdrawn. She watched Michael take a toy from a smaller boy and sneer at him.

The way Sonny often sneered.

She had hoped things would improve with Carly believing Jason was the father of Sam’s child, but there was an edge to her sister-in-law now. She wasn’t just hard from a tough life, she was brittle, as if one more revelation would cause her to shatter.

And God knew, Carly Corinthos wasn’t the type to shatter into a million pieces of cotton and collapse into sobs or fits of depression.

When Carly broke apart, it would be into a million little jagged shards of glass that would rain down on those she loved and destroy them.

So Courtney played along with the lie, swallowed the perceived humiliation of her husband’s supposed affair because Evie was better off where she was. Jason was a good man who would love that little girl.

While Sonny and Carly were selfish creatures who were only mediocre parents at best—when they remembered they had children to begin with.

Courtney cleared her throat. “It would be nice if they were friends again,” she said. “I remember when they were.”

“If they’re friends again, she’s just going to sink her claws into him,” Carly retorted, her hand braced against the small of her back. “He’s barely recovering from Sam McCall, like I want him anywhere near Elizabeth Webber. He needs support from us, from his best friends, but Sonny’s punishing him.”

“It’s been months,” Courtney murmured, but maybe she shouldn’t be surprised. As far as her brother was concerned, Jason had stolen something from him. It didn’t matter that Sonny hadn’t raised a hand to get his daughter under his roof—that wouldn’t be the point.

“Sonny holds a grudge.” Carly huffed. “We’re trying to get pregnant, you know.”

Courtney snapped back to her, startled. “What? Why?”

“I saw Sonny when Sam was pregnant,” the other woman almost growled. “He wanted that baby. So if he wants a baby, I’ll give it to him. And he’ll remember how much he loves me, our boys. It’ll be okay again.”

Courtney pursed her lips. Morgan was barely a year old. If he and Michael weren’t enough for Sonny and Carly to get it together, then why would anyone think another baby would do it? But talking Carly out of something would be like trying to prevent the sun from rising.

“It was good that Sonny wasn’t Evie’s father,” Courtney said hesitantly, almost testing her. “It would…have been a complication no one needed. I mean, it would have been better if it had been Jax’s child, but—”

“If Evie had been Sonny’s,” Carly said slowly, and now there was something in Carly’s expression Courtney just didn’t trust, “it would have been even worse now. With Sam gone. Evie would be there. A constant reminder of his affair.”

“Sonny…it was a difficult time, Carly. With Lorenzo Alcazar—”

“I think Sonny was punishing me for waking up and not loving him,” Carly retorted. “And rather than give me time to sort things out, he kept pushing me to love him. As if the reason I was in that coma wasn’t his fault. He pushed me out the door and then he brought Sam right in. So you’re damn right it’s good Evie’s not his kid. Jason will raise her, and it’ll be fine.”

“Besides,” Courtney said softly, “I’m sure Jason loves Evie, even before she was born. It would…be horrible if he lost custody of her.”

“Why would he?” Carly demanded, her dark brown eyes boring into Courtney’s. “Sam’s dead. Jason’s her father. Sonny is nothing to her.”

“Exactly.” Courtney nodded and reached inside her purse for a stick of gum. “So you and Sonny…you’ll work it out eventually. You always do.”

“That’s right. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to save my marriage, Courtney.”

And the trouble about that the statement, Courtney thought, was that she believed Carly meant it.


 

When Sonny had finally disappeared down the hall, Jason gently steered Elizabeth away from everyone else and down a quiet corridor.

“I’m…sorry about that,” he told her. “I thought things were getting better with him.”

“It’s all right,” she murmured. She glanced down at Evie. “She slept through it so—”

“He had no right to say those things to you, especially about Cam or…” He hesitated. “Your first child.”

Because the thought of that tiny life that had been snuffed out after a few weeks still caused her stomach to turn, Elizabeth looked down. “It wasn’t about me, Jason. He just wanted to annoy you. And he knew which buttons to push.” She grimaced. “Though, I’m sure he actually thinks those things are true…about Ric and Zander. But I know they’re not.”

“Still.” He shook his head. “I can’t…he wasn’t like this before.”

“I know.” Elizabeth sighed. “I know, Jason. I used to think of Sonny as a friend, but that changed a long time ago. He’s not the man who was there the night Lucky died, who looked out for me when you were gone. It’s been a long time since I saw that man, but I know for you to be at odds with him, it’s difficult.”

“I don’t know when it started,” he said after a moment. “I just know I didn’t see it until this last year, until he and Carly made Michael’s life miserable. They kept dragging him into court, asking him who he should live with. He told the judge he wanted to live with me, so I’m sure Sam picking me over him for Evie must have reminded him of that.”

“I’m just…” She sighed. “I’m so sorry this is happening, and I can tell you don’t expect it to get better. Maybe less stressful, but you don’t see an exit for this.”

“Not one that doesn’t include Sonny taking custody of her,” Jason said quietly. “I-I know if he asked for her, I would have to give her up, but—”

“Why?” Elizabeth said, and then regretted it. She didn’t want to get between Jason and Sonny. If she encouraged Jason to go against Sonny now, any hopes for a friendship between them would be over when Jason did figure out how to fix this. “Never mind, it’s not my business—”

“He’s…her biological father,” Jason said slowly. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Blood.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “As if blood makes you a good parent. I haven’t seen my parents in seven years, Jason. You know that my grandmother isn’t my blood relative? That my father was Steve Hardy’s son by a woman he knew before he married Gram. But she has never let me feel like I’m not her granddaughter. My father says that she has always treated him as her own son. Blood doesn’t make a family. Why does it matter whose blood is in her veins? Does that make him the better man? When does Evie’s best interests come into it?”

When he just stared at her, she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I just…I remember you that day on the docks, watching AJ and Michael together. I don’t want you to have that look on your face again.” She stepped closer to him, only separated by the baby in her arms. “Jason, I don’t want you to live in nothing again. Because I remember what it’s like, and you deserve so much better.”

He dipped his head down and exhaled slowly. “I think about it every day,” he confessed. “About what it would be like for him to come and take her away. I can’t believe I’m in this situation again. I don’t even know how I got here.”

“Because you’re a good person who tries so hard to protect the people important to him. You wanted to protect Michael and Morgan, and maybe even Carly. And now you want to keep your promise to Sam, who saw what most of us always knew.” She lifted Evie and carefully handed the little girl back to her father. “That you were always the better man.”

Their eyes met and held for a long moment before she looked away, her stomach rolled again. “I should…get back to my grandmother. And maybe find my son before Steven promises him to some willing nurse.”

They started down the hallway, towards the reception area. “I’m going back to California for a few days after the holidays,” she told him. “To pack up our apartment, tie up some loose ends. Maybe…”

She trailed off when they stepped back into the crowded room. Emily was standing there, blocking their further progress. “Hey, I was wondering where you two went!”

“Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you,” Elizabeth replied, her brow arched. Emily raised hers in return.

“And look at your amazing placement.” Emily jabbed a finger in the air, and Elizabeth glanced up, realizing why Emily had stopped them in this precise place.

The mistletoe hanging in the doorway between the reception and hallway.

She glared at her friend, sending her a mental message she knew the brunette understood. You’re about as subtle as a train wreck.

Emily just quirked her lips, and Elizabeth could picture the words. Suck it, Webber.

She looked at Jason, who had also been giving his sister an annoyed look. “Just ignore her, I think she’s had one too many batches of eggnog.”

“It’s fine.” Jason leaned down and brushed his lips across her cheek, and then stepped back. “I’m glad you’re home.”

Hell. She really thought she had outgrown this.

Elizabeth smiled. “Thanks.” She stabbed a finger at her friend. “We’ll discuss this later, Quartermaine.” She started across the room, but then turned back, feeling playful.

“You know, all in all, it’s turning out to be better than the last Christmas party we were at together.” He grinned at the reminder and she continued on her way.

When Elizabeth was across the room and taking her son from her brother, Jason just looked at his sister. “Emily.”

“Opportunity creator,” she said, as if this was something that ought to mean something to him. “I’m so ecstatic she’s home, Jase. And just in time for Christmas and her art showing. She’s finally showing the world how awesome she is.” She wrapped her arm around his bicep and beamed up at him. “But we always knew, right?”

“Emily.”

“Let’s go take Evie to see Mom so she can stop sending you sad looks.”

Jason just sighed and followed his sister as she towed him closer to the Quartermaines. What did it say about his frame of mind when he preferred the blustering of his grandfather and the snide remarks of his aunt to the accusations of his best friend?

He glanced over his shoulder once more to find Elizabeth standing with Nikolas and Lucky, as the former was holding Cameron. Elizabeth laughed and punched Lucky in the shoulder.

It really was nice to have her home, to talk to her again.

But that didn’t mean his sister’s plans were going to work.

This entry is part 14 of 23 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Poisonous Dreams #2

August 20, 2003

Harborview Towers: Hallway

Carly stepped off the elevator and moved towards Jason’s penthouse. As soon as she told her best friend that Elizabeth’s guard hadn’t shown up, there’d be hell to pay and she quite frankly preferred Jason spend his evening dealing with it while Sonny made her dinner.

Besides, Jason was still Elizabeth’s husband—therefore this was his area.

She opened the door—not caring what she walked in on. “Jase!” she called.

Jason stepped in from the balcony. “Hey—what’s up?”

“Marco wasn’t on Elizabeth’s door when we got back—did she call up here yet to ask you about it?”

He frowned and stepped towards the phone. “No—and he’s supposed to be there by now. Andrew’s shift is over.” He picked up the receiver and started dialing. “Is he still with her?”

“Well—no—he went home already.”

Jason’s frown deepened. “She’s down there alone?” Someone on the other end picked up. “It’s Morgan—anything odd showing up on the security tapes for my wife’s apartment?” he said briskly.

The blood drained from his face and he dropped the receiver—bolting for the door.

Alarmed, Carly put the phone to her ear. “This is Mrs. Corinthos—repeat to me what you just told Jason.”

“Mrs. Morgan is struggling in her apartment with someone,” the man repeated. “Wait—Oh, Jesus—the door just shot open and Mrs. Morgan has run out—he’s following her!”

“Get men to that floor now!” Carly ordered. She dropped the phone and rushed out of the apartment. “Sonny!” she bellowed. “Sonny!”

Her husband was in the hallway a split second later. “What? Is it the baby?”

“No—Elizabeth—someone was in her apartment—she’s running from them—”

The door to the stairs flew open and Elizabeth stumbled out. She went sprawling and would have ended up on her face but Sonny acted quickly and kept her on her feet. “What’s going on?”

“Ric!” she choked out. “He was in my apartment!”

“What?” Sonny asked, incredulously. “Are you sure?”

“He—he said Hello Beautiful in my ear,” Elizabeth cried, nearly hysterical. Her eyes darted to Jason’s open door. “W-Where’s Jason?”

“He was told that your apartment was black—he went to check on you.”

“No—” Elizabeth gripped Sonny’s shirt. “Ric will kill him—he had a gun—a-and a knife. You have to get him—”

The door to the stairwell swung open again and Jason stepped out, tucking his gun into his back pocket. “Whoever it was—I couldn’t catch up with them. Men are searching the building and Petersen’s sending up the security tapes.” He turned to Elizabeth who was still breathing heavily from her flight up the stairs. “You need to sit down—catch your breath.”

She shook her head. “Jason—it was Ric.”

“Ric?” Jason repeated. “Are you sure?”

“I saw him—I talked to him,” Elizabeth said. She gripped Sonny’s shirt tightly. “I need—I need some water.”

Jason moved to her side and wrapped an arm her waist. “Okay, okay, let’s get you inside. Sonny—maybe Carly should get back in the other penthouse.”

Carly narrowed her eyes. “Listen here—”

“Go, Carly,” Elizabeth said softly. “You need to take care of yourself and make sure Michael doesn’t hear anything that’s going on.”

Carly hesitated and nodded. “Fine. But—I think I deserve to know what’s going on when you know.”

“Yeah, yeah—just go.”

Morgan Penthouse

It took twenty minutes and a glass of water before Elizabeth’s breathing had returned to normal and the color had returned to her face.

“Carly and I came back and noticed that Marco wasn’t by the door,” Elizabeth began. “We thought it was odd since Andrew had called him right before we came up on the elevator to be sure he was at the door. When he got confirmation of that fact, he went home for the night.”

“So when you saw he wasn’t outside, what did you do?”

“I told Carly to go home—that I’d call Jason when I got into the apartment and see what was up,” Elizabeth said. “I went in and tried to turn on the light—but it didn’t turn on—a-and then he grabbed me.”

“Did he saying anything?” Sonny asked.

“He—he held a knife to my stomach.” Elizabeth’s hands curled protectively over her baby. “And he said if I struggled…he’d kill my baby.”

Jason covered her hands with his own—not surprised to find them icy to the touch. “Laura’s safe,” he told her quietly. “She’s safe.”

“He wrapped his around my neck and kept the other hand on the knife—” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “He said some things—but the important things were that they’d faked their deaths. They’d had help from the inside.”

Sonny pressed his lips together and looked away. “What else?” he said quietly.

“He was only going to keep me alive until he had the baby.” Elizabeth looked from Jason to Sonny. “He only wants the baby.”

“He’s not going to get her,” Jason promised. “He won’t.”

“How’d you get away?” Sonny asked.

“I kneed him,” she admitted. “And when he was caught off guard, I smashed a vase over his head. I ran into the stairwell a-and he followed me. He nearly tripped me but I kept my balance. The next thing I knew, I was up here,” Elizabeth finished.

There was a knock on the door then and a man walked in, carrying some video tapes. “Here are the tapes from the security room,” he said. “We found Marco unconscious in Mrs. Morgan’s apartment. He’d been hit over the head, tied and gagged.”

“Then he didn’t let Ric in.” Sonny nodded. “Thanks, Petersen. Get back to the security room. Are the men finished searching the building?”

“Not yet, sir. You’ll be the first to know.” He handed the tapes to Sonny and left.

Sonny opened one and stood to fiddle with the VCR. “We’ll watch them in order,” he murmured. “Hallway, apartment, stairwell.”

“Apartment?” Elizabeth repeated. Her eyes widened. “There’s a camera in there?”

“Security reasons. It’s only in the living room,” Jason told her. “We didn’t want to take any chances.”

Sonny grabbed the remote and stood next to the couch. He pressed play and the tape began playing.

Elizabeth watched as Marco stepped off the elevators—he was on his cell phone. He stood in front of the apartment door. A few moments later, the door opened and before Marco could pull his weapon, a baseball cracked into his head.

“He was already in the apartment,” Jason remarked. “How long were you and Carly gone?”

“An hour. He wasn’t there before—I know it. Carly was helping me unpack and we were in and out of all the rooms. We would have seen something,” Elizabeth informed him.

Sonny rewound the tape until he found the part where Ric walked off the elevator and picked the lock on the apartment door. He’d entered the apartment ten minutes after Carly and Elizabeth had left.

“He just waltzed right the fuck in,” Sonny snarled. He shut the tape off and moved to put the next one in. “Son of bitch.”

“S-Sonny, do we have to watch this?” Elizabeth asked softly.

Sonny slid the tape in. “I want to make sure we’ve got it all. Are you okay?”

Her cheeks were flushed and she stared at the floor. “Yeah…yeah, I’m fine.”

He pressed play.

Elizabeth walked into the dark apartment. Her arm fumbled for the light switch. Something in the shadows moved and an arm shot out, covering her startled cry.

Ric pressed his mouth to his ear—they could see it moving but did not hear the words.

“He said Hello Beautiful,” Elizabeth whispered. “He used—he used to call me that.”

Ric pressed the dull edge of the knife into her abdomen. “One move and you have a miscarriage,” he snarled.

“Ric—please let me go—” his other hand clamped around her neck.

“You know—if you’d just listened that day in my apartment…” Ric shook his head, his tone almost amused. “We wouldn’t be in this situation, would we Elizabeth? No—you have to go running to my brother and your ever-present white knight.” He snorted. “You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to fool those idiots. A couple of bodies and a few insiders to help…almost too easy.”

“Just go—I won’t tell anyone you were here,” Elizabeth choked out.

“Right, sweetheart. No, you’ll go running to Jason just like you always do.” He pressed the knife a little harder. “I could almost forgive that, Beautiful. Almost forgive you for marrying him, letting him claim what’s mine—”

“The adoption’s not final,” Elizabeth lied desperately.

“I’m not talking about the baby,” Ric snarled. “You’re mine, you little bitch. And you let him put his hands on you.”

“No—”

“Well—maybe not now. You’re packing on a little extra weight, there aren’t you?” He stepped closer to her and the let the knife slide up her torso, shifting his grip on it so he could cup her right breast.. “No man’s going to want to touch that, not even your precious Jason.” Ric leaned even closer and pressed his lips against his ear. But he did not whisper. “When I’m through with you, you’re going to wish you’d stayed in those bushes that night. But that’ll have to wait until you deliver the child—you see, that’s all I want from you now. And after that—you’ll hold no use for me.”

That’s when she kneed him. Startled, Ric moved away from her enough that she grabbed a coral vase from the table and smashed it over his head. Then she ran.

Sonny switched off the video and set the remote down, not surprised to find his hands shaking. “Elizabeth…if I’d known what was on that tape—”

“It d-doesn’t matter.” She closed her eyes. “It’s over. I got away and Laura’s safe.”

He nodded and moved to put in the last tape. This one was the stairwell. They watched as Elizabeth stumbled into the stairwell and screamed Jason’s name. Then Sonny’s. She moved towards the steps and was halfway up them when Ric barreled after her. She screamed when he caught her foot and kicked at him—knocking him right in the head.

She screamed Jason’s name again and continued up the stairs. Ric took off towards the bottom levels.

“I’m sorry—I took the elevator.” Jason sighed and rubbed his eyes. “When the doors opened on your floor, the door to the stairwell was swinging open. I didn’t know what was going on but I heard the door upstairs open and went after that.”

“If I’d taken the stairs, I could have gotten him.” He exhaled slowly. “I’m so sorry, Elizabeth.”

She shook her head. “I’m okay. We couldn’t have known—we thought they were dead.”

“This inside help had to be close,” Sonny murmured. “Your security is top priority, Elizabeth. Not everyone knows your apartment, that Andrew is your guard. Ric had to know you were out of the building and your door was unguarded. This person had to know your schedule. The truth is, almost no one in this organization knows we’ve filed the annulment papers.”

“We’ll have to stop the annulment,” Jason said. “And inform the Families that Ric and Faith are still alive. We need to do the first one before the second though. I don’t want them thinking for one second Elizabeth’s open for attack.”

“I’ll call Dara in the morning and get it started. Elizabeth, you’ll have to move back in here.”

“I don’t want to ever go back to that apartment again,” she murmured. “I’d—I’d like to go to sleep now, if that’s okay.”

“It’s fine. Jason—I’ll take care of things from this end. Ric’s out of the building or we would have found him already.”

Sonny kissed Elizabeth’s forehead. “I’m sorry,” he said softly.

“I don’t blame you.”

Sonny sighed and left the penthouse. Elizabeth glanced at Jason before fixing her gaze on her hands.

“I’ll get you something to sleep in,” Jason told her. He stood from the couch and held out his hand.

She let him pull her to her feet and noticed he, too, still wore his wedding ring. “You still have this on.”

He looked down at the gold band and shrugged a little. “Didn’t feel right to take it off—we are still married after all.”

“Right.”

He put an arm around her waist to support her to the stairs. She might have shaken it off under other circumstances—but tonight she did not pretend she didn’t need his support.

“I’m going to have someone come by and see you tomorrow,” Jason told her. “Just a doctor who works for Sonny. To take your blood pressure—and just make sure the baby’s okay.”

Elizabeth nodded. “I don’t know how I’d explain tonight to Dr. Meadows anyway.” She closed her eyes. “We should have known it was too easy—that they couldn’t be dead.”

“We wanted it to be over. But now that we know it’s not—security will be tripled. He won’t get to you again, Elizabeth,” Jason vowed.

“I really wish I could believe that,” she sighed.

This entry is part 13 of 23 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Poisonous Dreams #2

August 16, 2003

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“Hey—where’s Elizabeth? We’re supposed to go shopping this morning,” Carly said, entering without knocking as usual.

Jason stood up from the couch and rubbed his eyes. “She’s at the Spencers. She called last night to let me know she was staying the night. I don’t think she plans on coming back here.”

“At all?” Carly frowned. “Well—that seems a bit odd. I could have sworn…” she trailed off. “Did you call Dara?”

“Not yet.”

“Courtney?”

Jason glanced up. “No—that—I didn’t even think about that. We haven’t talked since—since I told her about the adoption.”

“Uh huh.” Carly leaned against his desk and watched him cross the room, not missing the way he reached into his pocket and withdrew the wedding ring Elizabeth had taken off. “She’d probably forgive you, you know.”

He turned and looked at her strangely. “Forgive me for what?”

Carly smirked. “Yeah—you didn’t do anything wrong. Except—you know, marry an ex-girlfriend that you weren’t completely over but that’s neither here nor there. I’m just saying she’d want to get back together.”

Jason frowned, unsure which part to address first. He settled for the easiest one. “I don’t want to get back together with Courtney. She—she and I wouldn’t have worked in the long run.”

“Right, because you were still in love with Elizabeth, but, hey those are the breaks.” She shrugged. “Too bad this whole thing didn’t last a little longer considering Liz was my dealer.”

“Dealer?” Jason questioned, deciding to ignore the other remark.

“Junk food,” Carly replied. “So is she going to be at the Spencers indefinitely? Is she going back to the studio or what?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t ironed out all the details.”

“How long are you going to keep that ring in your pocket?” Carly asked.

“What ring?” Jason asked with a frown, sliding his hand in his front pocket—wondering how she’d known.

“Okay, we’ll play dumb. If she calls, tell her to call me because she and I got a few things to iron out ourselves. I knew she was a wussy.”

“A wussy?” Jason questioned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well—I mean, she had what she wanted right in her grasp. I thought she—you know—loved you or whatever. She certainly acted like it. She was married to you, in the perfect position to convince you to stay married to her—what with your breakup with Courtney and her pregnancy.”

Jason stared at her for a moment. “Elizabeth would never try to trap me with the baby. She knows I wanted to be Laura’s father. She’s the one who changed her mind.”

“Whoa, whoa—I didn’t think you guys had actually discussed that. When did you tell her that?”

“Yesterday, at the ultrasound,” he mumbled. He leaned against the pool table and sighed. “We were looking at the picture on the screen and I guess the whole thing just really sank into her and she looked at me and just blurted it out. Just asked me to be the father and she no sooner got through asking me than I agreed.”

“Well—that’s great—how did she change her—” Carly stopped and nodded. “Right. When Sonny mentioned the adoption papers, she said there was no need. Well—to be fair, she might have thought you agreed because you were already married and would be for the foreseeable future. You two should talk about this—”

“I can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do—”

Carly narrowed her eyes. “Listen here—”

Whatever she was about to rant about was cut off by the sound of the door opening. Elizabeth stepped in and closed it behind her. “Hey.”

“Good. You’re here. Let me tell you something, Miss Elizabeth,” Carly began hotly. Jason stepped up behind her and clamped his hand over her mouth.

Elizabeth frowned. “What’s wrong, Carly? I thought we were supposed to go shopping—I just need to shower—”

Carly bit hard on Jason’s fingers and he hissed in pain. “Tell Jase you want him to be Laura’s father so he can stop moping already.”

“Carly,” Jason muttered, closing his eyes.

Elizabeth looked at him sharply. “You—you still want her?” she asked softly.

Carly rolled her eyes. “Good God, the two of you are enough to give me a headache. I’m going to leave before I get a full blown migraine.” She pushed past Elizabeth and left.

“You’re the one who said that the adoption wasn’t necessary anymore,” Jason pointed out.

“Well, you brought up the annulment five seconds after we found out Ric and Faith were dead,” Elizabeth protested.

“What does us being married have to do with Laura?” Jason asked, confused.

“I—you didn’t answer Sonny when he said the adoption wasn’t necessary,” Elizabeth argued.

He sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Elizabeth—do you want me to be her father or not?”

“Of course—I asked you remember?” Elizabeth asked. She sighed and looked away. “I meant what I said yesterday. That if I sat down and thought of the best father I could give her, you’d be first choice all the way. I just didn’t feel comfortable asking you—I mean, we were barely friends before all this started and I don’t feel like we’ve made a lot of progress since.”

“If you don’t think we’re friends, why would you ask me to be the father of your daughter?” Jason asked a little baffled. “Why would you want that kind of tie to me? To this life?”

“Because there aren’t many men who wouldn’t think about her real father. If she’d been a boy…everyone who knows the paternity—they’d look at him differently and I think she might still get that kind of treatment and certainly any other man would hold it against her.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “But I know—that when you look at her, you won’t see Ric Lansing’s genes in her. You won’t see Ric Lansing’s daughter. You’ll see Laura.”

“And that’s important to you,” Jason said simply. “That no one sees Ric in her.”

“No—I’m not saying that they’ll see him in her—I’m saying that no one would see anything but who she is—who her father is. But you wouldn’t care about that—you’d love her for who she is but I know that it’s too much to ask of you—and now that this is over, you’ll probably want to forget it ever happened—”

“Elizabeth, I’d be honored if you’d allow me to be in her life—as her father or anything else,” Jason assured her. “I just didn’t think you’d still want it. You walked away from this life once and this is your chance to leave it behind completely.”

“I didn’t walk away from this life,” Elizabeth said firmly. “I walked away from you.”

“And this is my life—walking away from me was walking away from the life—”

“No—it was walking away from you—it was never about your job or those things—it was about trust. You trusted Carly with this plan—but not me. Carly—who I will admit has her good points and pulled it off perfectly—but since when did she become more worthy of your trust than me?” Elizabeth asked pointedly. “I would have told you this a long time ago but I didn’t think you cared anymore.”

“I always cared, Elizabeth…I just didn’t think you’d want me to come after you.”

A long silence followed his statement and she cleared her throat. “I guess you’d better call Dara and tell her we’re ready to sign the adoption papers.”

He nodded. “Yeah—we can sign the annulment papers after the adoption’s finalized so that nothing is called into question.”

“So—where do I go?” Elizabeth asked. “Laura offered me a room at the Spencers but that’s not a good long term plan and I had to give up my studio and with the way things are with my grandmother, I can’t live with her and I can’t go back to work—Bobbie won’t let me until after Laura’s born.”

“There’s an apartment on the floor below us—Sonny owns the floor under and above this one for security reasons and those apartments are empty,” Jason replied. “So there’d be no rent or anything and—anything you’d need—I hope you’d let me take care of it—think of it as me providing for Laura. I know you hate taking things from people but I really don’t see an alternative.”

“I do hate charity and having to be in this position where I’m depending on you and Sonny for everything but…” Elizabeth smiled at him weakly and shrugged. “I love my baby more and truth be told, I’d rather live in an apartment with an actual bedroom and bathroom than my studio.”

“All right—I’ll talk to Sonny and get started on it.” He pulled her wedding ring out of his pocket and held it out to her. “I thought you might like this back.”

She stared at it for a moment before raising her eyes to his. “Why?” she asked faintly. She belatedly realized that he was still wearing his and her heart leapt into her throat.

“It’s yours.” He extended his hand out further. “It’ll just sit in my desk gathering dust—why should it?”

“Right.” Elizabeth took it from her hands and glanced it at briefly before closing her fist around it. “Thanks—I’ll—I’ll start packing then.”

August 20, 2003

Elizabeth’s New Apartment

Carly held up a package of curtains. “I couldn’t decide which color I liked so I got four of them.”

Elizabeth smirked and reached for another package. “Well—the cream would go okay in here and the pink would work in the nursery, I guess.”

“This place isn’t so bad…” Carly moved to the windows. “You have the same view we do upstairs so I guess that means you’re under us, huh?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring around her finger. Once she’d put it back on, she hadn’t had the heart to take it back off. Maybe she’d be able to after the annulment was signed and she’d become Elizabeth Webber again.

“Did you sign the adoption papers yet?” Carly asked curiously.

“Yeah, on Monday. It’s finalized so Dara filed the annulment papers yesterday,” Elizabeth said softly.

“I thought so—Courtney’s flying back from the island next week—just an FYI.” Carly ripped open the cream-colored curtain package and tossed the plastic on the couch. “You didn’t take too long to unpack here.”

“Nope, didn’t have more than some clothes and a few other things. I lived in a one-room studio so I didn’t exactly have the room to collect anything more.” She sighed. “She’s coming back, huh?”

“Yeah—she’s staying with us at first. I think she’s hoping Jason will come to his senses—well actually, what she told me was—I know Jason will understand that I was just upset and I’m sure we can work out a compromise.” Carly shook her head. “Her idea of a compromise is that Jason does whatever she wants and what she wants is you out of their lives.”

“Well—the adoption’s final—there’s not much Courtney can do to change that. I mean, if Jason wants to pull out, I’ll deal with it, but—”

“He’s not going to pull out and as soon as Courtney realizes that, all hell will really break loose so the next few weeks ought to be interesting.” Carly tossed the curtains aside. “I think I’m in the mood for ice cream.”

“How are you going to get that past the guards?” Elizabeth asked pointedly. “You know Andrew will just tell Sonny.”

“Ah—so much I have to teach you about the art of being guarded and getting away with things. C’mon, let’s go.”

Quartermaine Estate: Emily’s Bedroom

Emily toyed with the hem of her tank top. “Zander—did you ever do something you wished you could take back?”

Zander glanced up from his magazine with a smirk. “Constantly. Why?”

“I—” Emily hesitated. She shook her head. “Never mind.”

Harborview Towers: Hallway

Carly frowned when she and Elizabeth returned to Elizabeth’s apartment after getting some ice cream at Kelly’s. Andrew’s shift had been over and he’d been assured that Marco was on Elizabeth’s door, waiting for them.

But there was no one. “I wonder where Marco is,” Carly murmured.

“Probably got some wires crossed. I’ll call Jason when I get inside.” She held up her sundae. “You’d better finish yours on the elevator.”

“Yeah—and stuff the trash in my purse. Not that Andrew won’t tell Sonny. Oh well—too late for him to stop me.” Carly ate another bite with a mischievous grin. “I’ll call you tomorrow about finishing up the nursery.”

“Okay.” She waited until Carly was safe on the elevator before unlocking her apartment door and stepping inside. She closed the door and reached over to flick the light switch on.

When the overheard light failed to come on, Elizabeth frowned and flicked the switch again. A second later an arm shot out in the inky darkness and clamped over her mouth. Startled, Elizabeth tried to cry out but no sound was heard.

Her attacker swung her around so that her back was pressed into his front. He placed his mouth near her ear—his heavy breathe echoing loudly. “Hello, Beautiful.”

May 13, 2014

I posted on Facebook last night that I was going to post The Best Thing on Thursday, but then I went and wrote all of Chapter Six in about two hours, because sometimes a story just works. I’ll be posting two chapters a week, so I’ve got a decent buffer to keep the chapters flowing. The next chapter is due on Friday (or possibly very late Thursday for me). So…Chapter One is finally online!

I also added two chapters of Poisonous Dreams yesterday.

I continue to hear from you guys that your updates are starting to arrive. I think I’ve removed everyone that has contacted me, but please don’t hesitate to yell at me if I missed you 😛

I know I’m overdue to add Damaged, Episode 004 and I am really sorry. I’m going to finish up TBT 7 this week and hopefully have Damaged 4 out this weekend, but next week is going to be rough. I have a friend staying with me starting Friday, and then leaving for Ireland next Tuesday for three days, and then a dissertation conference right after that.

Edit: For some reason, Microsoft Word pretended I didn’t spend a half hour going over the beta copy Cora sent me and because I thought it had…you know..believed me when I accepted her changes, I just went ahead and posted without rereading the chapter. Technology, I smite thee. Anyway, I put off fixing it because I posted this bastard in four places and it didn’t seem fair not to fix it in all places. So that’s all done now.

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series The Best Thing: Sanctuary

Part One: Sanctuary

“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life


Chapter One

You can count on me
When you cannot see
Let me spell it out
Plain and simple now
When your numbers called
Backs against the wall
Pick you up when you fall
Be there when you call
– Count on Me, Mat Kearney


Monday, December 6, 2004

Elm Street Pier

He wished he could feel the cold. He wished that the bitter winds of an upstate New York winter would seep through his leather jacket and into his bones, leaving him numb.

If his body were numb, it might lessen the fatigue in his muscles, in his eyes. He could not remember this level of exhaustion—even though during the various problems created by his life, when people he loved had been kidnapped or hurt, he had not slept.

But Jason Morgan realized maybe the adrenaline in those situations had staved off the worst of the effects, just long enough to resolve the situation, and then he would sleep for a day.

There was no adrenaline now. No sense that anything would be resolved.

For a month, he had been a single father to a little girl that was not his, while her biological father lived across the hall, swimming in his own guilt.

Jason knew every time Sonny called in the middle of the night to talk to someone, to run a shipment, to check on something at the warehouse, forcing him to wake the baby and take her to the other penthouse, he was being punished for taking Sam’s side in this whole mess.

As if it had been as simple as taking sides.

He was not a man who thought in pictures or dreamed, but he had a memory for faces and voices. And the sound of Sam’s cries, her pleas for him to raise her daughter, to keep Sam alive as a memory for her, to keep her away from Sonny…Jason had been unable to ignore her. He could hear those words, remember her grief as a doctor told them they couldn’t stop the bleeding.

Sam had only lived a half hour after giving birth to her daughter, the result of a complication in childbirth. She’d held her daughter, made Jason promise to love her the way she would have, to remember her, and then she died.

And Jason had kept his promise.

He didn’t hear her footsteps until she called his name.

“Jason?”

He looked up, through the snowflakes sliding gently to the ground and saw Elizabeth Webber standing at the bottom of the stairs, her hands wrapped around a cup from Kelly’s. Filled with hot chocolate, he was sure.

He cleared his throat. “Elizabeth.” Jason got to his feet. He hadn’t seen her in months, save for a brief moment at his grandmother’s funeral earlier that summer. Emily had told him she’d flown in for a few days then, and he almost remembered seeing another baby at Wyndemere when he’d been there an hour ago to drop off his daughter.

“Hey.” A hesitant smile spread across her face, and she stepped forward. “I was on my way to the island to pick up Cam.” She glanced out over the harbor, where Spoon Island was hidden through the snowflakes and mists.

He nodded, and sat back on the bench, gesturing to one side. She smiled again, less hesitant and sat next to him. “Emily said you were coming home for Christmas.”

“Mmmhmm…” She nodded and sipped her drink. “After growing up in Boulder and then spending all those years in Port Charles…” Elizabeth tilted her head back, and a few flakes were caught in her eyelashes and her long dark brown hair. “It didn’t feel right not to have snow.”

“You…uh…” He rubbed the back of his neck and searched his memory for what Emily had told him about Elizabeth the last few months. His mouth felt sour, realizing far apart they were now. Once, he would have been aware of her movements, of her life. Even when he’d been gone, out of town, he’d kept in touch with Sonny and Emily about her. “Emily said you’d moved to California. Do-do you like it?”

“I do.” Elizabeth nodded again. “I’m living in San Francisco. I had family on my mother’s side there, so it seemed like a good idea.” She glanced at him. “Have you been to San Francisco?”

“Yeah.” He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his thighs, clasping his hands between his knees. “Once. When I…left town that first time. I wanted to see Alcatraz.”

A full-fledged grin appeared now, and he smiled in response. She seemed so happy, so settled, so different than she’d been eight months earlier when she’d left her husband, left town. “You, on what most people would call a vacation, went to a prison?” A small chuckle emerged from her lips, and he saw the humor in it. He smile spread even further, and he knew he’d forgotten this about her. About sitting here, talking about nothing and feeling…light. Feeling unburdened.

He’d missed her.

“I saw you when I came home in July,” she said after a moment. Her fingers tapped restlessly against the side of her cardboard cup. “I…wanted to go to you, to tell you how sorry I was, but…” Her bottom lip was pulled between her teeth and she shrugged a shoulder. “I didn’t know if I should.”

“I…” He cleared his throat and leaned back against the bench. “I saw you, too. With Ric.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah. I—we were finalizing our divorce. He married Alexis in October, so I guess that explains why he was so amicable.” He glanced at her, but saw no unhappiness in her eyes at her ex-husband’s hasty remarriage. Instead, she was worrying her lip again. “Jason…I am sorry about Sam.”

His shoulders tensed, as they often did when someone offered their condolences for Sam. They thought he’d been in love with her, and he could understand that. She’d lived with him for her pregnancy—he’d claimed her child. He’d genuinely liked her, thought of her as a friend, and did grieve for her, but he didn’t want to accept comfort from Elizabeth over a loss he didn’t feel the way people thought he did.

Hadn’t that been the start of everything that had gone wrong in their friendship?

“Thanks,” Jason said finally.

She was quiet again, but almost contemplative. “Anyway, I was picking up Cameron. Emily wanted to baby-sit him, and I never turn down an opportunity to have some alone time. It’s a precious commodity for single parents.”

He knew that to be true. “She’s watching Evie now,” he told her. “She said almost the same thing to me.”

Elizabeth smiled. “When Emily told me last month you were naming her Evangeline, and calling her Evie, I thought it was such a pretty name.” She flicked her gaze out over the water. “That’s when I knew how much had really changed between us. It seems silly, because I should have known it long before then. I mean, when I found out both times I was having a child, you were not the first person I called, but I guess…” She hesitated. “To hear about your daughter from Emily, and to know that the only things you know about my son come from your sister as well, it makes me…” She sighed. “Sad.”

He knew what she meant. He could remember sitting here, on a park bench, on a sofa in her studio,  or at a table at Jake’s, and telling her things about Michael, Robin, and Sonny that he’d never told anyone else.

“I know,” Jason said, because he wanted to acknowledge what she was saying, but he didn’t know what to say. How did they turn the clock back two years to stop their friendship from being sacrificed? Forget a relationship, their friendship had always been important, too.

“It’s mostly my fault,” she told, meeting his eyes again. “I was so angry. And I kept being angry, long past when it was of any use. By the time I stopped being angry…it was just….too late. Too much had changed. I thought…we had damaged too much to go back.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders. “But I’m working through all of that, you know?”

After a brief moment while she sipped her hot chocolate, she said, “I’m moving back. I stepped off the plane at the airport, came through the gate and I saw my grandmother. She looks…old.” She glanced down. “I want my son to know her. And I had been thinking about coming home for months, because it’d be easier…” Her lips curved into a half smile. “I sold some art in California, and I’m having a show at a gallery in New York in February.”

He grinned because he knew what this meant to her. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been an artist, but was always forced to put her passion on the back burner. “That’s…really great, Elizabeth. You must be excited.”

“I am. I’m terrified, too,” she admitted. “But it came at the right time, because Gram had almost talked me into enrolling into the nurse’s program so I could have a stable job and stop using alimony from Ric.” She grimaced. “I only agreed to accept it for a year, so the show in February will hopefully give me some breathing room.”

Her cup was empty so she set it on the bench between them. “Jason…you look so tired. I mean, I remember how I felt when Cam was…Evie’s age, but…is everything all right?”

Because he suddenly wanted to tell her everything for some reason and he knew what a mistake that would be, Jason cleared his throat. “Fine. Just adjusting to everything.” He tugged on his ear and looked away. “So you named your son Cameron.”

He saw Elizabeth draw back and felt guilty that he’d brushed her off that way, she deserved better from him. But then she pressed her lips together and nodded, as if accepting the limits he was putting on the conversation. “I thought about naming him Alexander,” she said. “But I don’t know that Zander would have wanted him to be saddled with that, so I named him for Zander’s father.” She smiled. “So I can tell him his grandfather was a kind and gentle man who gave his life during the fire to help others.”

He thought she might say her goodbyes then and head away, but instead, she leaned back against the arm of the bench and smiled, looking up at the gray skies with the snow still falling. “I wanted to thank you.”

His brows drew together, and he tilted his head. “For what?”

“For last winter.” Her purse was in her lap, and she was toying with the string. “Being a mother is everything I never knew I wanted, you know? I always thought maybe I’d have kids one day, but it was this abstract concept. Even though I only knew about the first baby for maybe a week, it made me think…this is something I really want.” Her smile was sad. “But having Cameron, being his mother, it’s made everything better. Brighter. Worth it. And you helped make it possible when you went to the PCPD last year with that statement.”

He shrugged and looked away. “You ended up not needing it—”

“But it meant a lot to me. It made me realize, that…” She leaned forward and placed a hand on his forearm, so he’d meet her eyes. “Despite everything, you’ve always been there when I needed you. I know a lot of time has passed since we were really friends, but maybe…” She hesitated and licked her lips. “Maybe that doesn’t need to matter. We’ve gone a year without speaking before, even had fights. But we were still friends. I’d like it if we could be friends again.”

“We are…” He stopped, because it was almost a platitude to tell her that they were always friends, because he knew what she meant. And now he really wanted to tell her everything, because maybe Elizabeth could help him decide if he was making the right decisions, if keeping this promise was worth the destruction it was going to cause.

But she was happier now and she was away from the chaos of his life, of her life before Cameron. He didn’t want to burden her with his secrets.

“I missed you,” he said after a moment. “Just…this last…half hour…has been better than most of the last month. I don’t feel as tired, or…” He hesitated, but wanted to offer her this at least. “It’s been tough, but I don’t feel that way right now.”

“Good.” She leaned back, and removed her hand. “It was always the reverse when we were…friends before. Especially the first time around.” Her laugh was rueful, and her teeth bit into her lip again. “I used to drive you crazy, I’m sure, with talks about Lucky and my paintings, and my ridiculous life—”

“No.” He shook his head, and this time and he reached for her hand. “You…you were the only person I could talk to about Michael.”

He watched her eyes change, as sadness crept into them. She took a deep breath and seemed to come to some sort of inner decision. “Are you afraid it’s going to happen again?”

His hand tightened reflexively around hers, as if he knew what she was asking. He cleared his throat. “What?”

“That you’re going to fall in love with this child whose biological father will come for her later?” Elizabeth pressed, and tightened her own grip when he would have pulled away. “Jason, I’m not going to push you, but I can’t…” She pursed her lips. “I can’t sit by and watch you struggle like this. Emily has always suspected, and I did as well even before she told me her own thoughts. Who else would Emily talk to about you?”

He exhaled slowly, and realized he only felt…relief. His sister knew. Elizabeth already knew. He didn’t have to lie to them anymore. “I’m surprised Emily didn’t say anything.”

“She loves you so much, Jason, and she just wants to support you.” She released his hand. “You should let her. She offered to help you hire someone to help out. Let her. You cannot do this alone. I don’t…” She closed her eyes. “I don’t care if you don’t talk to me about it, but you should talk to Emily.”

“I’ll…think about it.” Jason hesitated. “Thank you, it’s…a relief to know I don’t have to…”

“Lie?” she offered with a wistful smile. “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but you know me, I’m pushy.” She stood. “I really have to pick up Cam now.” She stepped away from the bench. “Don’t be a stranger.”

“I won’t.”

She was almost at the launch when she turned back, a mischievous smile spread across her delicate features. “You know the best thing about being home for Christmas?”

“What?”

“The smell of snow.”

He laughed, remembering that conversation in her studio all those Decembers ago. “Snow doesn’t smell,” he teased.

She arched an eyebrow and stepped onto the waiting launch. “Yes, it does.”

He got to his feet, feeling lighter than he had in weeks as he watched the launch disappear into the mists towards Spoon Island. “Welcome home,” he murmured.

Wyndemere: Family Room

He thought about Elizabeth’s words for the rest of the day, as he struggled to get through the paperwork that seemed to be part of his job description now. He’d always balanced the books for their legitimate businesses, had always enjoyed the solid certainty of numbers.

Lately, however, he was somehow in charge of shipments of actual coffee and dealing with vendors as well. Sonny had let go of an assistant who had handled it in the past, and asked Jason to deal with it, since he liked numbers.

Not wanting to rock the boat, Jason had agreed but it was just one more sign that Sonny was dissatisfied with the agreement they’d made the month before. If Sonny wasn’t still protecting his marriage, wasn’t still keeping Carly in the dark about Evie’s paternity, he knew things would be different.

Jason had assumed things would be different in those first hours after Sam’s death. Until Diane Miller showed up at the hospital with Sam’s will and a sheaf of paperwork the redhead had filed on the mother’s behalf.

And part of Jason had admired the lengths Sam had gone to protect her daughter from Sonny—from his inability to walk away from Carly, from being just another possession.

Sam McCall had pulled one final con on the biological father of her child and tricked him into terminating his parental rights.

She’d left Jason a letter explaining that Sonny had thought he was setting up a trust for the baby, but Sam had substituted the other papers at the last moment, leaving Sonny without any leg to stand on in regards to the baby.

And Diane informed him that Sam had left him guardianship. Legally, Evie was his.

Morally…that was something Jason still struggled with. But Sonny hadn’t wanted to rock the boat, to contest the guardianship and termination in court. He knew Carly would walk out with the boys.

So the lie had stood.

He had not told Emily this. He had kept his sister in the dark for months, since the beginning of this disaster. He had lied to his ex-wife, and regretfully allowed Courtney to believe that he had broken their marriage vows before they’d ended it for good. Courtney had taken the news in silence, and then packed her foundation up to head for New York.

He had not told his grandmother, who’d been happy for him at the end of her life. He had not told Monica.

But he wondered if anyone of them had bought the con he and Sam tried to pull. If Emily had always suspected, if she and Elizabeth had discussed it, he wondered why she hadn’t asked him.

Emily smiled at him as he entered the family room of the mansion, a room she decorated herself with bright colors and soft furniture. It looked different from the rest of the mausoleum, and he could see his sister being happy here.

“Hey, you!” She embraced him. “Elizabeth said she ran into you on the docks when she picked up Cam earlier this afternoon.” She stepped back to gesture at the portable crib in the corner, near the window that overlooked a bare winter garden. “Evie’s still napping.”

Jason glanced at the little girl that he had tried very hard not to love, not to consider his own, but he had watched her be born, watched as her mother struggled to hold her just once…had seen her eyes open and latch onto his.

Sam had asked him to love and raise her as his own, to tell Evie about her, and he had agreed. For better or for worse, Evie was his daughter, which only made the situation that much more precarious.

Elizabeth was right. He couldn’t do this alone.

“Did Elizabeth tell you what we talked about?”

“Mmm…” Emily picked up a stuffed animal and tossed it into the playpen Cameron must have used. “She said you guys caught up a little. Talked about San Francisco. Isn’t it awesome she’s moving home? I went to see her in August, but it’s just not the same not having her here—”

“So she didn’t tell you that she asked me about Evie and Sonny?” Jason interrupted, because he knew his sister’s chatter was nervous.

“She…um…” Emily smiled weakly. “Mentioned it. But I told her I wouldn’t say a word unless you asked me, or said anything. Um….” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Are you mad at me?”

“Why?” Jason lowered himself onto the sofa and stripped his leather jacket off to place across his lap. Evie slept so fitfully at home, he wasn’t going to wake her now.

“Because I didn’t ask you.” Emily sat down, curling one leg underneath her as she faced him on the sofa. “Because I talked to Elizabeth. I didn’t tell her anything she wasn’t already thinking. You know she’s always known you pretty well. She thought you were trying to do something for Michael or Morgan.”

“She said I should talk to you.” Jason stared down at the floor. “That I should stop trying to do this on my own.” He met his sister’s concerned eyes. “She was right. No, Em, I’m not mad. You and Elizabeth are best friends, and you both…you’re both in my life. I’m not surprised you talked to each other about this.”

“It’s true, isn’t it?” Emily murmured. “Jason, if Evie is Sonny’s daughter, then…why?” She glanced at the crib. “I love her anyway, you know it doesn’t matter to me. But why do you still have her? Why did Sonny let her go?”

“Carly thinks she’s my daughter,” Jason admitted. “She told Sonny if the baby was his, she would take the boys and walk. He believed her. When I changed the results, I just…I couldn’t let Jax raise her, because if he found out the truth…” He shook his head. “It just…I wasn’t thinking it through.”

“Clearly.” Emily arched a brow. “Did Sonny know about this beforehand?”

“No.” Jason shook his head. “He was angry. Really angry. But I told him that I was protecting Michael and Morgan. And he agreed to let it stand. Sam was angry, too, but she thought Sonny would change his mind. Would leave Carly for her.”

“She really loved him,” she murmured. “I could see it sometimes, but she tried to hide it, you know. Tried to sell you guys. I still don’t understand—”

“They had another affair last summer,” Jason cut in. “For almost two months. I didn’t…know about it right away, but I guess I suspected. I didn’t know what to do about it. If Sonny wanted to be with Sam, I would’ve tried to help him figure out the fall out with the kids—”

“Why does that need to be your job?” Emily muttered.

“But Sonny never intended to leave Carly. He offered to send Sam to the island, to anywhere and set her up…like a mistress. They could be a family.”

“A secret family.” Emily pressed her lips together and nodded. “That sounds like the man Sonny has become. I can’t imagine Sam took that well.”

“She told him okay,” Jason said. “And then she went to a lawyer, pretended to draw up trust paperwork, only she tricked Sonny into terminating his parental rights. She was going to raise Evie herself, but I guess the lawyer suggested she make out a will to keep Sonny away in the event anything happened.”

“And she left you guardianship.” Emily sighed. “Well, I can’t say I don’t understand Sam’s thinking, but did you know all of this then?”

“No. I-I didn’t know anything until Sam…was dying.” He swallowed. “She begged me to keep her daughter away from Sonny and Carly. They would never tell Evie about her, Em. You know that. You’ve seen what they did to Michael with AJ. They tell him AJ is a bad person who’ll hurt him.”

“I know.” Emily sighed. “AJ’s not perfect, but he wasn’t so bad at fatherhood. No one ever gave him a chance.” She met his eyes. “Including you. It’s ironic that Sonny was tricked into giving up his daughter, since he did the same to AJ when he hung him on a meat hook and threatened to leave him to die in a freezer.”

“I’m not proud of the things I did back then,” Jason said quietly. “Watching Sam’s fear that she’d be forgotten, or worse, talked about like she was trash to her own daughter, I could understand, for the first time, how AJ must have felt when Michael looked at him like a stranger.”

“So you promised Sam you’d raise her daughter, and she gave you the tools to do so.” Emily nodded. “Okay. Okay, Jase. I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t trust me—”

“It wasn’t that,” Jason interrupted. “Never that. I know I can trust you. You and Elizabeth, I just didn’t want to lay my problems on you guys. I thought about telling her while we were talking, because I hate lying to her, but I just…you guys don’t need the chaos of my life.”

“She pushed you, she said, because you needed someone in your corner.” Emily leaned forward. “Well, that can be me, Jase. Or it can be Elizabeth. As long as it’s someone.” She hesitated. “Jason, I’m not saying you should…turn your back on Sam’s promise, but this is Michael’s paternity all over again, except this time it’s with Sonny’s permission. This is still going to blow up. Sonny might change his mind, or he might keep punishing you with all this extra work. Are you sure that you want to do this?”

He asked himself that every day when he woke up after an hour or so of restless sleep. Every morning, when he went into Evie’s nursery, so carefully decorated by her mother, and saw her crying for food, or sometimes just looking up at him with those dark eyes like her mother’s he’d question himself.

He knew that he and Sonny would never be close again, and he would always have to hold Carly at arm’s length to preserve this secret. He knew the moment he changed the results he had changed the way things would work. When he’d looked Sonny in the eye after Sam’s death and told him that he had custody of the baby, that Sam had not wanted Sonny anywhere near their daughter…Jason knew he was making a choice.

He couldn’t take that moment back. Even if he relinquished custody of Evie to Sonny today, a month from now, a year, there would always be that moment in which he’d had the chance to prove to the world he was loyal to Sonny more than himself and instead, Jason chose himself. He’d chosen a promise to a woman who’d become a friend to him, who trusted him.

“I can’t go back now,” Jason said, finally. “I promised Sam, Emily. As she laid dying, begging me to keep her daughter from a man who refused to claim her in life because it complicated his life. I promised her, and I promised myself I wouldn’t put another child through what Michael and Morgan go through every day. So, I guess I’m going to have to figure out what to do next.”

“Well, I don’t know about what to do next in the whole big picture, but we are hiring you a nanny so Evie can sleep and you are going to figure out a way to get Sonny to relax his demands.” Emily lifted his chin. “Use what Sonny Corinthos seems to understand best. Guilt. About what he did to Sam, what he’s doing to his family every day he lies to Carly about being in their marriage one hundred percent. Carly doesn’t know about the paternity switch, and she sure as hell doesn’t know about the second affair because the world would have known.”

She paused and held his chin between her fingers so he was forced to look her in the eye. “So use that guilt, Jase. For once in your life, use the things Sonny and Carly use against you every day of the week and carve out time for yourself. Because all the nannies, friends and sisters in the world aren’t going to be able to help you if you can’t figure out how to do your job and be Evie’s father at the same time.”

Wyndemere: Study

Emily perched on the edge of her fiancé’s desk and smiled down at him as he sorted through a stack of papers. “Guess what?”

“What?” He didn’t glance up from his work, and she would have pouted except she knew how much damage had been done during those long months Nikolas had not known who he was. He had only regained his memories at the end of July, and he was still undoing the neglect.

So she crossed her legs and dangled her bare foot in the air, examining her purple toe polish. “Jason told me the truth today.”

She heard the rustle of papers behind him, indicating Nikolas had set aside what he was doing. “About time,” he grumbled. He stood and rounded the desk to stand in front of her. “Did you finally ask?”

“Nope.” Emily smiled. “Elizabeth did.”

“Elizabeth—” Nikolas frowned. “She’s been back two days. How did she manage to do what you couldn’t in six months?”

“Well, she actually asked him, which I decided I wouldn’t do because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the truth.” Emily leaned back on her hands. “It’s better this way. Elizabeth told me she hadn’t intended to ask, but he looked so tired. You know what I mean. Sonny’s been dragging him out at all hours of the night, forcing Jason to leave Evie with them, and I knew he wasn’t telling Sonny no because of the situation.”

“If Jason pushes back too much, then Sonny will take custody.” He nodded and leaned against the armchair. “Em, wouldn’t that be for the best?”

“You think putting a defenseless child with Sonny and Carly over my brother would be best?” Emily asked, raising her eyebrows. “Seriously, Nikolas? Your aunt won’t tell him the truth and you’re not suggesting she do it.”

He scowled. “Alexis almost had to when they thought Kristina was sick in October. It was the only reason she told me. She didn’t want her daughter to be treated the way Michael and Morgan have been. Ric promised her he could protect Kristina.”

“Hmm…well, if it’s reason enough for Alexis not to want her daughter around him, then it’s good enough for Sam. Jason’s loyal to Sonny, but it only goes so far. He loves Michael so much, Nikolas. It kills him to see Sonny and Carly destroying his childhood. He can’t fix that, but he can save Evie.”

“I’m not saying I think Sonny is the better father, but he is the biological father—”

“You know better than most that blood doesn’t matter.” She leaned towards him. “Why does his DNA make him better suited for Evie? My brother is a wonderful father. I wish he could have children of his own, but it hasn’t been in the cards. Sam recognized what we all saw—the better man. Sonny isn’t a good man. Not anymore.”

“Not ever,” he muttered. He sighed. “I don’t…I get it, Emily. I do, I just…you know this isn’t going to end well.”

“I do,” Emily admitted. “I know that Sonny and Jason are going to be at odds over this forever, but he made his choice.” Briefly she explained Sam’s termination trick and the fact Sonny had allowed it to stand. “He could have fought it, but it would have meant Carly learning the truth.”

“It doesn’t speak well of him.” Nikolas sighed. “Well, I’m glad he told you, Em. He looked like death warmed over when he dropped Evie off earlier today.”

“I’m going to make this better for him,” Emily told him. “I’m going help him find a live-in nanny, so Evie doesn’t have to go to the penthouse when he’s called away at night. And even better…” She grinned. “I’m going to find him a nice woman who will love him.”

“Oh…my head hurts already.” Nikolas was in the process of dragging his hand over his face, when he paused and let it slide away. “Emily, don’t—”

“Don’t you think it’s wonderful that five minutes after Elizabeth saw him again for the first time, she convinced him to tell me the truth and basically poured his heart out to her?”

“I doubt that’s how it happened—”

“And she’s a single mother, so you know she’d understand his struggles.” Her smile broadened as she pictured it. “She’s no fan of Sonny, not after the last few years. She’s just the woman for him.”

“So, what? You’re going to play matchmaker?” He closed his eyes. “Emily—”

“I’m not going to play matchmaker.” Emily wrinkled her nose. “I don’t need to, my friend, the match has been made. I’m going to be an opportunity creator.”

He frowned. “I fail to see the distinction.”

“A matchmaker picks two strangers or two acquaintances to be together,” Emily said. “I already know this is going to work. Jason needs someone strong on his side right now. Someone who gets him. She always has. And you know he’s always had a soft spot for her. He was in love with her once, he can be again—”

“Emily—”

“So I’ll just make sure they’re in the same room as often as possible. Believe me, Nikolas, if she can get him to open up to her, to get him to tell me what’s really going on, I won’t need to do any work. They just…need to be in each other’s spheres.” Emily hopped off the desk. “And I know he’d be good for her.”

“How so?” he asked, almost sourly.

“He’s always believed in her.” Emily pursed her lips. “We haven’t always been good friends to Elizabeth, Nikolas. And you know we discussed being better at it. Being there for her with Cameron, because we love her, and we know what we did to Zander. I want Cameron to know the good things about the man who created him. I want to make what we did right.”

“Em—”

“I can’t ever go back,” she said. She pressed her fist to her chest. “I can’t ever go back and not lead him on, not marry him and then have an affair with you. I love you, I’m so happy we’re together and getting married, but I wish I didn’t destroy him to do it—”

“I know.” He sighed heavily and leaned his head back. “But Emily, pushing Elizabeth towards your brother doesn’t erase it—”

“I’m not pushing. That connection has always been there. Nikolas, he lied to the cops last winter to make sure she didn’t get in trouble for hitting Zander with that pipe. He hates the cops—”

“Which is why it’s not a surprise that he lied to them.”

“He did it for her.” Emily closed the short distance between them. “I think they’ve danced around each other for years, coming right to the edge of something incredible, but they keep getting in their own way. I don’t know if I can get them to take that final step, but you have to admit—there’s always been something there.”

“I cannot deny that as much as I would like to.” He scratched his chin. “You wouldn’t…push them hard, would you? They’re not the same people they were when he came home.”

“I just…want to make sure they have contact. Jason needs someone who loves him unconditionally. I mean, I can do what I can as a sister, but it’s not the same.” She placed her hands on his thighs and leaned in to him. “You have Lucky, but you know the relationship you and I have is different. Is it so awful that I want that for them? I think they can find it together.”

“What do you want from me?” he asked, resigned and she beamed.

“Well, as my co-opportunity creator, you just have to support me. I’ll do the hard work.” She pointed a finger at him. “No harassing Elizabeth about it. I know you didn’t support her with Jason before—”

“That was different,” he said swiftly. “She was mourning Lucky, and he took advantage—” Nikolas closed his mouth at her mutinous glare. “Okay. Well, I might have had a thing for her then that colored my perception. I do know that she was struggling with Lucky’s…death…in a way that we couldn’t help her with.”

“She told me he was her safe place,” Emily said softly. “And I think they can be that for each other again. So, you’ll be supportive if it develops into something?”

“If that’s all that’s required of me.” Nikolas nodded. “I like your brother most of the time, Em. I may…distrust his line of work, but hell, I’m a Cassadine. It’s not like that hasn’t almost killed Elizabeth a dozen or so times, so what right do I have to complain?”

“That’s the best thing about you,” she said, offering a quick peck to his lips. “You’re always ready to admit when you’re wrong.”

“I never said that.”

May 12, 2014

This entry is part 12 of 23 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Poisonous Dreams #2

August 15, 2003

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

“What time is your appointment?” Laura asked handing Elizabeth a cup of herbal tea.

“In an hour. You didn’t have to make this,” Elizabeth protested.

“Nonsense. You’re not supposed to exert yourself. I’m surprised Jason let me in this morning,” Laura laughed as she sat in the arm chair. “Have you even left this penthouse in the last three weeks?”

“I’ve been to the park. Under heavy guard, of course,” Elizabeth told her. “In the last week, I’ve been going on daily walks but no, not other than that. Jason’s trying to keep me from anyone and anything that might give me stress.”

“Smart man. If I ever see that social worker, I’ll skin her alive,” Laura muttered into her glass of iced tea. She set the glass down on the coffee table. “So, Sonny told Luke that Courtney called, complaining that Jason had broken up with her.”

“Yeah—Carly told me that, too. Seems she wasn’t too keen on the idea of Jason adopting the baby and told him it was over if he did.” She sighed. “I wish he’d have told me about it. We could have come up with another option—”

“If there had been another option, you would have taken it before agreeing on adoption. Courtney is a spoiled selfish little brat who thinks everything should revolve around her. She’s getting what she deserves.”

Elizabeth rested her hands on the bulge in her abdomen. “I can’t believe how big I’ve gotten. Once second I was tiny and the next—boom.”

“Fifth month does that. You start to notice in the fourth month that you’re getting fatter but the fifth month, the baby is just there.” Laura smiled. “You’ll be sure to get ultrasound photos right? And bring home the video so I can see my honorary granddaughter?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth sighed. “Gram still hasn’t called since that last time. And Jason has pretty much done everything except flat out forbid me to call her again. I guess he’s right—every time we talked, I just got angry and with that last scare, I don’t need it.”

“Just wait until she sees her great-granddaughter. She’ll change her mind, I promise. You can’t resist a baby.” Laura shifted. “Have you talked to Jason about a custody arrangement?”

“There are times when I start to bring it up but I don’t. I don’t know how to broach it, you know? How do you ask someone if they want to be the father of your child? I mean—I don’t want to be a Carly in his life. It almost destroyed him to lose Michael.”

“You wouldn’t be a Carly simply because you wouldn’t take a child from him. You love him too much to do that.”

“Laura—” Elizabeth sighed and sat up, setting her tea cup on the table. “It’s not that simple.”

“I know it’s not. Have you started on the mural for the nursery?”

“No, I decided against doing one. There’s no way of knowing if I’ll be here for the baby’s birth and I don’t want to do all that work only to have to do it somewhere else.” Elizabeth rubbed her eyes.

Laura nodded and dropped the subject. “Have you talked to Emily?”

“No,” Elizabeth said flatly. “She hasn’t called and I’m not calling her. I don’t know why she’s so angry at me but—it’s like she’s completely certain that I’ll hurt Jason. It’s like she doesn’t even know me.”

“I’m sorry, honey.” Laura sighed. “I wish there was something I could do.”

“You’re doing it,” Elizabeth said. “You’re supporting me and being there for me and I don’t think I could ask for more.”

General Hospital: Dr. Meadow’s Office

“She’ll be with you in a just a moment,” the nurse told them before walking away.

“You don’t have to be here, you know,” Elizabeth told Jason as she slid her purse strap higher on her shoulder. “I mean—”

“Do you want me to leave?” Jason asked.

“Well, no, but—”

“Then I’m staying.”

“Mr. Morgan, so glad to see you here,” Dr. Meadows said with a big smile. “Elizabeth, how are we feeling today?”

“Fine, completely calm and collected,” Elizabeth answered.

“Great. Step into my office and we’ll get this started.”

After the routine checkup and weigh in, Dr. Meadows led her into the ultrasound room. “You’re coming right along, honey. I think we’ll be able to see the baby’s gender this month.”

Jason helped Elizabeth into the chair and watched as Dr. Meadows pushed her gown up to reveal the bulging bump. He’d noticed her getting bigger but she’d been wearing baggy clothes and until this moment, he didn’t realize just how big she was.

“It’s hard to imagine that there’s a baby in there,” he said softly.

Elizabeth looked up and smiled at him. “Yeah, I know. How small she must be—” she hesitated and looked back at Dr. Meadows, “I want a girl,” she admitted.

Dr. Meadows smiled and spread the cold jelly on the side of Elizabeth’s abdomen, causing Elizabeth to shiver a little and tighten her hand around Jason’s. “Well, if you give me a moment or two…”

An image appeared on the screen and Elizabeth leaned forward a little, a large smile spreading across her face. “There’s my baby,” she said in a hushed voice.

Jason couldn’t see anything but some colors on the screen but he could appreciate that she’d see a baby in all of that. He squinted, trying to see it himself.

Almost as if she could sense his slight frustration, Elizabeth pointed with her free hand. “Look, Jason, there’s her head—oh and her little hands and her feet…”

“And there are her genitals,” Dr. Meadows remarked. “And boy, I hope you have a name picked out for your daughter.”

“She’s really a girl?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you sure?”

“Well, if she’s not, we’re going to have some issues if you want grandchildren,” Dr. Meadows laughed. “You want pictures and a video, right?”

“Right.”

“I’ll be right back.” Dr. Meadows left the room.

“Can you see her, Jason?” Elizabeth asked hopefully.

“Yeah, I can see her when you point her out,” Jason admitted. “She’s so small, though.”

“Laura. That’s what her name is.” Elizabeth swiped at her eyes, a few tears streaking down her cheeks. “Look how beautiful she is. I can’t wait to feel her kicking and I can’t wait to hold her.”

He instinctively leaned down and kissed her forehead. “You’re going to make an incredible mother,” Jason said softly.

Elizabeth wrapped her free hand around their joined ones. “Be her father,” she blurted.

“What?” Jason asked, stunned.

“She needs a father a-and I know it’s not fair to ask but if I sat down and thought of the best father I could give my little girl, you’d be the top of every list, Jason—I know it’s the worst thing I could ask you after everything you’ve given up for me but I’ve been thinking about it constantly and even Carly said I should ask you—”

“Yes,” Jason interrupted. “Yes,” he repeated.

“Really?” she replied, surprised by his quick agreement.

“Sonny—he brought it up a few weeks ago and Laura even said something about to me and I’ve been thinking about it too,” Jason admitted. “I just—I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up. I mean, you didn’t even want me to adopt her—how could I ask you to let me…” he shook his head. “I’d be honored, Elizabeth.”

“Okay, I have your video ready,” Dr. Meadows said, re-entering the room. “And your pictures. We’ll make another appointment for next month—I assume you’ll be coming again?” she asked Jason.

“I’ll be coming to all of her appointments,” Jason informed Dr. Meadows.

The doctor laughed. “It’s the ultrasound—works every time.”
Harborview Towers: Hallway

“We can get Dara to draw up a custody agreement if you want,'” Elizabeth was saying as she and Jason stepped off the elevator.

He opened his mouth to reply but found himself face to face with Sonny. “Hey—is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure. We need to talk.”

Elizabeth hesitated. “Well—I’ll just go call Laura—”

“No, Elizabeth, this concerns you, too. Why don’t you both come over to my place and I’ll let you know what’s going on.”

They followed Sonny into the penthouse to find a pensive Carly sitting on the sofa. She stood and smiled weakly. “Did you tell them?”

“Tell us what?” Jason asked suspiciously. “Sonny—”

“We had a call from Spain,” Sonny interrupted. “There was a farmhouse there registered to one of Faith’s aliases. There were some bodies inside and we’re just waiting for confirmation.”

Elizabeth blinked. “C-confirmation?” she repeated. “You mean you think Faith and Ric were inside?”

Sonny nodded. “They were identified by one of my men but I contacted Johnny and Francis. They were in France, following up another lead. I’m just waiting to hear from them.”

“Bodies…meaning that they were dead,” Jason said slowly. “Any word on how?”

“Not yet but we’re looking into it.”

“So—this is—this is almost over,” Carly said softly. “We can get back to our normal lives.”

“How soon will you know?” Elizabeth asked.

“We heard this an hour ago—I don’t know how quick they’ll get there. But they’ve got my plane. It could—it could be any second now.”

“Uh…so, how did the ultrasound go?” Carly asked. She crossed to Elizabeth. “Did you find out the gender?”

“Girl,” Elizabeth said faintly. “Everything’s healthy and my blood pressure is right where it should be.”

“Well, that’s great news,” Sonny said, smiling warmly. “Are you hungry?”

“No, I—”

The phone rang and Elizabeth snapped her mouth shut. She stared down at her left hand—at the wedding ring that would be taken from her fingers in a matter of days if this phone call gave them the news they thought it would.

It rang again and finally Sonny leaned over to retrieve it. “Corinthos.”

A moment passed—all eyes were locked on Sonny. He closed his eyes and nodded. “You’re sure? Okay…okay, well then—yeah, stay there. Look into it. Call me when you know more.” Sonny set the phone down softly and met Elizabeth’s eyes first. “Positive confirmation. Ric and Faith are dead.”

Elizabeth’s shoulders sagged and she closed her eyes, relief mixed with bitter sorrow. “They’re positive?” she asked.

“Johnny saw them himself. They’re gonna stick around the area for a while and figure out what’s up and how they died but—well, as soon as the families give me the word—you’re officially safe.”

Carly touched Elizabeth’s shoulder. “You okay? You’re—you’re not as happy as I thought you’d be.”

“It’s hard to be happy about something like this—I mean I thought I’d be ecstatic but…” Elizabeth sighed and avoided Jason’s eyes. Surely he’d withdraw his agreement to be Laura’s father. Now that this was over—there was no reason for the adoption to go through, no reason for their marriage to continue. She’d be out of his life. “I guess I feel numb—it’ll take some time to sink in.”

Jason cleared his throat and slid his hands in his pockets. “I’ll call Dara tomorrow and tell her to start the annulment process.”

“Yeah.” Sonny frowned—surprised that Jason had been the one to bring it up. “She called while you were at the appointment. The adoption papers are ready to be signed but I guess there’s no point in doing that now, huh?”

“Well—” Jason hesitated and glanced at Elizabeth. Would she still want him even though the danger was passed? Or would she relish the opportunity to get out of this life for good?

Deciding that Jason’s hedging answer and his hurry to get their marriage annulled confirmed her suspicions, Elizabeth nodded. “I guess not.” She stared at her wedding ring again and slowly slid it off her finger. She set it on Sonny’s desk. “I’m—I’m gonna go to the Spencers. Give Luke and Laura the good news.”

Sonny nodded. “Take Andrew with you. The families don’t know about Ric yet—and we just want to be careful.”

Elizabeth nodded and left the penthouse as quickly as possible not even sparing a glance at Jason.

When the door had clicked shut, Carly exhaled slowly. “I—well, I’m sure you have things to talk about so I’ll grab Marco and go see my mother at the hospital. Michael’s upstairs watching cartoons in his room.” She kissed her husband’s cheek and gave Jason a supporting hug before leaving the room.

“When you came off the elevator, Elizabeth was saying something about a custody arrangement,” Sonny said slowly. “What was that about?”

“She asked me to be Laura’s father,” Jason said softly. He picked Elizabeth’s ring off the desk and held it between his thumb and index fingers. It was so tiny it probably wouldn’t fit over his pinky. “But—I guess that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Sonny frowned. “Why wouldn’t it?”

“You heard her. No point in finalizing the adoption. She’s free and she gets to leave this life behind—for good this time.”

“You shouldn’t assume—Jason, there is no guarantee that she’s safe right now. Until the families formally call off the hit on Ric—”

“Which they will as soon as they find out he’s dead. It’s over Sonny, why are you trying to tell me it’s not?” Jason demanded. “We all knew this was a temporary solution. Elizabeth needed to be protected and I was in a position to do it. It’s over.”

August 16, 2003

Quartermaine Estate: Emily’s Bedroom

“It’s done, sweet pea. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were filing for divorce right now.”

Emily picked at her bedspread. “You’ll leave them alone from now on right?” she demanded. “It’s over isn’t it?”

Faith laughed. “Oh, honey—that wasn’t part of the deal. You said I couldn’t hurt them while trying to separate them. And in return—you fill me in on anything I needed to know. Silly little girl. You should know better.”

“Wait a second—you said—”

“I kept my end of it. They think we’re dead. Ingenious really. Now Sonny and Jason won’t even see us coming.” She laughed again. “And the beauty is you’re the only one who knows differently. You won’t be saying a word or your precious brother finds out who betrayed him.”

Emily’s protest was heard only by a dial tone. She stared at the receiver in naked horror. What had she done?

This entry is part 11 of 23 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Poisonous Dreams #2

July 26, 2003

General Hospital

Sonny and Carly emerged from the elevators to find Jason pacing outside of Elizabeth’s hospital room. “Hey, any news?” Sonny asked.

Jason shook his head. “We were in the emergency room for about a half hour and she still—she still couldn’t catch her breath. Dr. Meadows had her admitted and they’ve been in there for twenty minutes and no one’s telling me anything.”

“Well, what the hell happened? You said something about a social worker?” Carly asked. She crossed her arms. “What did she say?”

“The social worker told us that in addition to not recommending me for adoption, she’s going to make a note that Elizabeth should be investigated for her fitness as a mother.” Jason shook his head. “Elizabeth just exploded.”

“Well, of course. She defends you to everyone, even me.” Carly sighed. “People just don’t know any better. Never argue with a pregnant woman.”

“We can get it pushed through,” Sonny told him quietly. “Cut through the red tape so to speak.”

“That’s fine. Whatever gets this over with and causes her the least amount of stress.”

Elizabeth’s door slid open and Dr. Meadows stepped out. “Mr. Morgan?”

“How is she?” Jason asked immediately. “Is she okay?”

“Her blood pressure sky rocketed which concerns me because we only just got it back under control. She cannot have stress,” Dr. Meadows said firmly. “She’s stabilized now and the baby’s all right. I want to keep her overnight for observation but she can go home in the morning.”

“Well, that’s good news,” Carly nodded.

“She needs to avoid stress at all costs,” Dr. Meadows reminded Jason. “No arguments, no fighting, nothing. I don’t want her to develop hypertension.”

“She won’t have any more stress,” Jason promised. “Can I see her?”

“Sure. Oh, Mr. Morgan, Elizabeth mentioned that you weren’t planning on attending her next doctor’s appointment and I just wanted to let you know that I’m performing the first ultrasound in case that changes your mind.” She patted his arm and walked away.

“Why don’t you guys go home?” Jason said before Sonny could once again tell him to talk to Elizabeth about custody. “There’s really nothing you can do here.”

“Okay, look I’ll get started on the adoption. Let Elizabeth know about it in case she has issues or whatever.” Sonny patted him on the shoulder and Carly kissed him goodbye.

When they were on the elevator, Jason turned and entered Elizabeth’s hospital room. Though it was still day light outside, the shades were drawn and the room was dark.

Elizabeth was lying on the bed, her arms wrapped around herself, her face pale. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?” he asked, taking a seat next to the bed.

“You told me to calm down and I didn’t. I just kept going…” she shook her head.

“Hey, that woman was attacking you, questioning your ability to be a mother purely because you married me.” He pushed her hair off her forehead, rubbing his thumb over the skin. “It’s not your fault.”

“What if I’d lost the baby?” Elizabeth whispered. Tears slid silently down her cheeks.

“You didn’t. Your blood pressure just went up too high and I’m going to do anything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore. Sonny’s going to pull some strings and cut through the red tape so you don’t want to worry about the petition or the adoption anymore, okay?”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. All he has to do is make a few calls and it’ll be over in a matter of weeks,” Jason promised her. “Dr. Meadows told you she’s keeping overnight for observation, right?”

“Yeah.” She shifted. “When are you going down to the island?” Elizabeth asked.

Jason hesitated. He couldn’t leave her right now. Not while Sonny was pulling strings to get the adoption to go through and with Elizabeth’s health so precarious. But how much longer could he put off telling Courtney the changes to the plan? He’d wanted to discuss with her the possibility of him really adopting the baby—to get her view on it before he broached the subject to Elizabeth. He had to know if she’d support him.

Finally, he sighed. “I’m not going. I’ll call her instead.”

“Jason—you have to go down there. You can’t tell her this over the phone,” Elizabeth protested.

He shook his head. “She won’t react well whether I tell her in person or on the phone. I’ll save time this way. And I can’t leave you alone right now.”

“I’m not an obligation,” she told him softly. “I’ll be fine for a few days.”

“I know. There are guards and we’ve taken every security precaution we can think of. But—” Jason hesitated. “You’re not an obligation, Elizabeth. I just—I’d feel better if I were here with you instead of trusting someone else.”

She stared at him for a long moment before looking away. “Okay,” she said finally.

He stood and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Why don’t you get some sleep? I’ll be back in a little while.”

She nodded, fully expecting not to see him again until the next morning.

Quartermaine Mansion: Emily’s Bedroom

“Is she okay?” Emily asked softly, twining the phone cord in her fingers.

On the other end of the line, Zander sighed. “Yeah. As far as Lucky said. He got it second hand from Bobbie who heard it from Elizabeth’s doctor. They were in a meeting with the social worker and the woman said something to Liz and she started arguing. Bobbie thought it might have been about Jason, you know she’s always defending him—”

“Why were they meeting with a social worker?” Emily asked curiously.

“Oh. You don’t know. Jason—he’s adopting the baby,” Zander informed her. “Now, don’t get angry—”

Emily closed her eyes. “Why is he doing that?” she asked carefully.

“Because the families threatened Elizabeth again. Once the kid’s born, since it’s not Jason’s biological child, and therefore not under his protection, it’s open season. Jason’s going to adopt the baby so that it can be protected.”

“So it’s not like he’s going to play daddy?” Emily asked. “I mean—Elizabeth is not Carly, I know that much. But I also know that Jason is going to feel responsible—”

“Emily, why can’t you just respect that what goes on between them is their own business?” Zander asked. “Elizabeth cares about him. She’s not going to do anything to hurt him and if you knew her at all, you’d know that. She’s in the hospital overnight for observation. Dr. Meadows is worried about the blood pressure. It’s twice now that’s it’s spiked so high. You should go visit her.”

Emily opened her mouth to reply but was left with the sound of a dial tone in her ear. She gently placed it on the receiver and sighed. It was unfair for her to be holding the night with Zander against Elizabeth without even telling her so. And maybe Elizabeth had an explanation.

And Zander was right. Elizabeth wouldn’t set out to hurt Jason. But she’d do it without meaning to, Emily knew that, too. Because Jason still had a soft spot for her. More than soft spot. If Emily didn’t know any better, she’d say her brother was still in love with her and that was all the more dangerous. Because Elizabeth would leave him again and Jason would be crushed.

How did she protect her brother from being hurt without losing her best friend?

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Jason set the overnight bag on the desk and stared at the phone. The sooner he got this over with, the better off they would all be.

He picked it up and dialed the number for Courtney’s cottage.

“Hello?” a slightly-out-of-breath voice answered.

“Hey, it’s me,” Jason said hesitantly.

“Jason!” Courtney exclaimed. “Hey, I thought you were coming down this week, Sonny called and told me—”

“There’s been a change in plans. I can’t come right now.” He exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth’s in the hospital and I can’t leave her.”

“Oh.” In a small voice, she asked, “Why haven’t you called before now?”

“A lot’s been happening,” Jason told her. “Listen—there’s some things I need to tell you—and something I have to ask you about.”

“Okay.” She took a deep breath. “What’s going on?”

“The day of the wedding, the families threatened the baby after it’s born and in order to ensure protection until Ric and Faith are found…I’m adopting the baby so it’ll have my name.”

There was complete silence on the other end of the phone for a long while. But he could hear her breathing.

Finally, “Adopting?” Courtney echoed. “That’s—that’s impossible, Jason. You can’t do it. I won’t let you.”

“It’s already done,” he informed her. “Courtney—”

“No,” she interrupted. “For once, you’re going to let me talk. I think I’ve been very supportive. I barely batted an eyelash when you told me you had to marry Elizabeth. Even though she’s an old girlfriend—even though I think you might be still in love with her a little. I trusted you, I let it go. But I have to draw the line now, Jason. You cannot adopt that baby. Even if it’s name only. Because it won’t always be that way. You aren’t the kind of person who does things in name only. And I think part of you wanted all of this.”

He blinked. “Excuse me?” he demanded. “What the hell does that mean?”

“I think you were looking for an excuse to get her back and now that you’ve got her, you’re thinking of ways to keep her in your life. Well, damn it, Jason, wake up. She doesn’t want you anymore. She walked out on you. And as soon as this is all over, she’ll walk out again. And if you want to adopt her baby, then fine. But I won’t be waiting for you come back. If you do this, we are through.”

He only hesitated a moment. “I’m sorry, Courtney.”

Jason hung up the phone quietly and picked up the bag to return to the hospital.

July 27, 2003

General Hospital: Elizabeth’s Room

Elizabeth blinked her eyes blearily and looked over at the nurse who was taking her vitals. “What time is it?” she asked.

“It’s seven,” the nurse whispered. She finished taking her blood pressure. “Will you be wanting breakfast?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No. How soon can I be discharged? I need to call my husband and let him know.”

The nurse frowned. “Well—your husband is here. He returned around nine last night, but you were already asleep. Around two, we finally convinced him to let us bring in a cot.”

She gestured towards the other end of the room and Elizabeth turned to see Jason was, indeed, sleeping on a cot. “He stayed all night?” she asked, surprised.

“He’s a very devoted husband,” the nurse smiled. “I’ll see if Dr. Meadows in yet and she’ll be able to discharge you.”

The click of the door when she left woke Jason and he sat up. “Hey—what time is it?”

“It’s seven.” Elizabeth sat up and ran her hands through her hair. “You didn’t have to stay.”

“Yeah…yeah, I did.” Jason stood and crossed to the chair next to her bed. “You feel better?”

She nodded. “I’ll probably feel better once I’m in my own bed,” she laughed. “Was there any news about the petition or anything?”

Jason shook his head. “Not yet.”

Dr. Meadows entered the room, Elizabeth’s file in her hand. “Good morning, Elizabeth, Mr. Morgan. I’ve just taken a look at your recent vitals and I’m pleased to let you know that everything looks normal again.”

“Thank God,” Elizabeth replied, exhaling in relief. “The baby’s okay?”

“Baby’s perfect,” Dr. Meadows assured her with a smile. “However…you need to take it easy. I’m ordering you to take two weeks bed rest. You can move around—you don’t have to stay in bed all the time but the majority of the time, I’d like you to take it easy.” She looked at Jason. “Mr. Morgan, I know you haven’t taken an active role in the pregnancy but I’m depending on you to make sure Elizabeth doesn’t exert herself for a while.”

Jason nodded. “You have my word.”

“Did you give any more thought about attending the ultrasound next month?” Dr. Meadows asked. “A lot of first time fathers find it one of the most exciting moments in the pregnancy. It’s the first time you can actually visualize the idea of the baby.”

Elizabeth looked at her doctor curiously. “I thought I already told you Jason wouldn’t be able to come.”

“I just think it’s a shame,” Dr. Meadows sighed. “Well it’s up to you—”

“I’ll be there,” Jason blurted out. He looked at Elizabeth. “If that’s okay with you.”

She stared at him. “If—if that’s what you want. Okay, sure.”

“Great,” Dr. Meadows said, smiling brightly. “Well, I’ll just sign your discharge papers and you can be out of here.”

Quartermaine Estate: Pool House

Emily slid the door open hesitantly and stepped inside the cavernous room. “I’m here.”

A woman stepped out of the corner and smiled coldly. “Well, it’s about time, Emmie,” she cooed. “The accommodations are less than stellar.”

“I want you out of town by the end of the day,” Emily said firmly. “I’ve done my part and I want you out of here and not to come back or I’ll tell my brother—”

“Oh, you’ll tell no one, sweet pea. You wouldn’t want anyone to know you were involved.” Faith Roscoe slid a long red fingernail down Emily’s cheek. “You just remember our deal, brat.”

“Oh, I’ll remember,” Emily said coolly. “But you remember your end of it, too. Elizabeth and Jason are not to be harmed, do you understand? I don’t care what you have to do to separate them but I don’t want them hurt.”

“Whatever you say, baby.” Faith smiled again. “I think this is the beginning of a very beautiful friendship.”

May 10, 2014

Hey, so in addition to updating Poisonous Dreams with Chapter 9, I’ve become aware that the plugin I use to send users an activation code for their accounts may not be compatible with the version of WordPress. I am happy send anyone their activation codes by email, so just let me know.

Thanks for letting me know when your updates are being sent by the site. I still haven’t heard from the vast majority of you, so either you just ignore these emails altogether, or you’re not receiving it. At least 20 people have been in touch with me, so that’s something. I am happy to continue manual updates even if a handful of you end up not getting the newsletter. As I’ve told several of you, if you care enough to get updates, I’ll do what I can to see that you get updated.

No ETA on posting The Best Thing quite yet. The first three chaptes are with my beta, and I won’t post until I’ve finished through chapter seven. I’m partway through chapter five, so that’s something.

I also, hah, spent some time sketching plots for some other ideas I had while watching my 2006 DVDs. I really enjoyed that year on GH, even though I spend so much time rewritng certain aspects. I think it had a great mix of characters and interactions that set up some great things, so even though I may rewrite it, I’m still happy with that year — until the great paternity debacle that screwed the next eight years up. (My God, how was it eight years ago? Where does the time go?)