November 28, 2014

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Fanfiction 101

Note: If you have not read either I Shall Believe or The Witness (see Complete: History), reading this page is going to give you some spoilers for both.

 

How’s that for alliteration my friends?

So first, what is pantsing? It’s the term writers use when we sit down and write without plotting. We just let the story go where it’s going to go. Fanfiction is known for that — the chapter by chapter nature of posting, the instant feedback from readers shaping the writing.  I began as a pantser, though just once very early in my career as a writer, I wrote out a story sketch, broke it down scene by scene, wrote key scenes, and then filled in the linking material. That was Jaded, which is probably why, of all my early 2002 stories, feels different. At least, it does to me.

I’d hate to pretend that there aren’t good things about pantsing, because it totally works and one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written was written in that fashion: The Witness. But another story of mine that is relatively popular, I Shall Believe, has some definite pitfalls from having been unplotted.

So, I’ll talk about how each developed as a concept and then break down what worked and what didn’t.

Concept: I Shall Believe

I Shall Believe began as a reaction to the Sonny shooting Carly in the head story. I was so angry he was going to get away with it, like it never happened. I think the reasoning was: He shot Lorenzo in self-defense, because he thought Lorenzo was hurting Carly, and Carly was an accident. Anyway, I wanted to work with that.

Of course I added in Jason/Elizabeth because that’s what I do, and you can’t tell a Sonny/Carly story without Jason. I’ve ranted before about the way GH writers often take the easier way out when it comes to developing conflict. Rebecca Herbst’s real life pregnancy in 2003 would have been so much more interesting if Zander were not the father. They had barely written for the character of Zander, and what they had written wasn’t that great.  I would have preferred the baby’s father be Ric, but since I’m a Liason fan, I went with Jason.

Which of course drew in Courtney, her new marriage to Jason and the relationship she was developing with Brian Beck (and what a travesty that turned into). I decided to try to really develop her as a main character. A lot of Liason fanfiction at that point kept making her the annoying, stupid, ditzy idiot or the straight villain. (I did this sometimes, too, guilty!) But I wanted to see if I could something more with her, the way I’m doing in The Best Thing.

Sage was added almost as an afterthought when I realized I was going to pair Carly and Lorenzo. If I could rewrite ISB (and I promise, I’m not going to), I would shift the earlier chapters to better deal with her character. But, ah, c’est la vie.

So that where I was before I sat down to write ISB. I knew nothing except the following things: Elizabeth was going to get knocked by up Jason, Courtney was going find out and divorce Jason, and Carly was going to get some damn spark back.

The Witness as a Concept

So The Witness was a challenge story — I was given a title by IsisIzabel and had to write a story based on that. Looking back, I can’t remember if  I thought much about it before I started to write the first chapter.  I think I’d had a vague concept of having Lucky go after Patrick and Elizabeth due to an affair, and then shooting Robin by accident. I just…wrote and somehow that story came out.

So yeah, it’s not much of a concept I just…wrote and wrote and wrote, haha. And it kept growing and getting out of hand in some ways. But as a concept, it was very simple. For the longest time, I didn’t even know if I would be able to use the title correctly. I knew nothing about the story until it appeared on screen. In fact, (spoiler alert!) for about eight chapters or so, I really intended Lucky to be the shooter.

Perils and Peaks

So why do I think The Witness turned out better than I Shall Believe, despite having a similar method of writing? Mostly the story structure, which I can point to in two ways.

1. The Use of Central Event and/or Theme

They are, of course, very different stories. ISB is a story driven by emotions and characters at crossroads, making choices. The Witness is a two-day action story with twists, cliffhangers, and red herrings. However, they both deal with a large cast of characters interacting with one another, with subplots and diverging points of view..

In ISB, I deal with the following stories:

– Jason and Courtney’s marriages collapses because she’s learned she wants different things
– Elizabeth is pregnant with Jason’s child.
– Carly, by not remembering her emotions, finds herself drifting towards Lorenzo.
– The fallout of Sonny shooting Carly and Lorenzo affects most of the cast
– Lorenzo’s niece Sage bonds with Carly and settles into Port Charles and the other teens.

Not a lot right? But it’s so muddled–I should have tied the story to the fallout of the shooting, rather having it as a side story. With the fallout being the main aspect, I could have explored Jason’s character more. Why did he agree to marry Courtney despite a one-night stand with Elizabeth? What does it mean for his loyalty to Sonny to take Carly’s side initially and to take over the business?  His marriage to Courtney? How does Carly deal with losing her emotions, but still knowing the history. There should have been more tug and pull over Sonny. Sonny should have been a larger part of the story.

With a central theme, the affected characters become more clear and interactions feel much less forced. (And God, the more I think about it, the more I want to rewrite it. Bad, Lissie, bad!)

With The Witness, while I deal with Robin’s shooting, the following stories are also addressed:

– Patrick and Robin’s relationship
– Carly and Robin’s rivalry
– The Spencer/Cassadine feud
– Dillon/Georgie/Lulu
– Maxie knowing the paternity of the baby
– Elizabeth and Lucky’s marriage collapses; his drug addiction
– Sam’s recovery after the surgery

And that’s just off the top of my head. I think there are several smaller things addressed: Sonny’s concerned for Robin as a callback to their history, Jason and Elizabeth’s friendship, the remnants of Sonny and Carly’s relationship, the old Jax/Sonny rivalry, Brenda and Robin, etc.

So there’s a ton going on in The Witness, but (at least in my opinion) at no point does it ever overwhelm the story because they all come back to this main event: How does Robin’s shooting affect the people in her life? Since Robin is a central character in PC because of her history, I could pull in most of the cast in one aspect or another and make their ongoing stories part of the larger picture. This was not possible with ISB, so some of the interaction feels forced (particularly in the Jason/Elizabeth section of the story)

2. No Inciting Incident Weakens Story Opening

What do I mean by structure? I generally write my stories using a Three Act Structure with an inciting incident, two turning points, a midpoint, a climax and a resolution. It ensures that a story is relatively well-paced.

The Witness

Act One, Inciting Incident:  Robin is shot. (Prologue-Chapter 1)

Act One, Turning Point One: Elizabeth learns that Lucky picked up Cameron hours ago. (Chapter 3)

Act Two, Midpoint: Carly is shot (Chapter 6)

Act Two, Turning Point Two: Luke confronts Stefan at Wyndemere (Chapter 10)

Act Three, Climax: Luke confronts Helena and Stefan with Dillon and Lulu in tow (Chapter 14)

Resolution: The epilogue in which Robin leaves the hospital and Lulu realizes they’ve left something unsolved.

 

I’m not even sure I can do the same thing for ISB because when I try to determine an inciting incident, it doesn’t really work. Why? It goes back to the definition of that term. An inciting incident is supposed to kick off the story–something that sets everything into motion. That’s not what happens in ISB.

Possible inciting incidents: Elizabeth discovers she’s pregnant. Why doesn’t this work? Let’s forget the fact that I wrote in the possibility of the kid being fathered by Ric, Zander, or Jason (yes, Virginia, I made my girl a Carly) and then promptly wrote it out in about five seconds.

The real reason this sucks as inciting incident is because it does nothing to affect Carly’s story. Yes, it does effect the Jason/Courtney arc, but it’s barely a blip on Carly’s radar.

What about Carly starting therapy with Cameron Lewis?  Does that work? It’s her inciting incident, so that’s why they’re both in the prologue. But it only affects one of characters

So the problems with story structure go back to point one. I had no central event to tie it together, so without that as an inciting event, the rest of the story falls apart.

ISB has pacing problems — entire characters disappear for some time, storylines stall for several chapters. I could go into a chapter-by-chapter, scene by scene break down on why it doesn’t work. I’m not going to do that here, but you can certainly see some of the points in the story where I’m just meandering.

3. Fanfiction in the Soap Opera Fandom

This is less about the pantsing aspect and more about the overal fandom and conept of fanfiction. I’m sure some people think: Well, you’re overthinking this. Soap operas don’t have general themes. There are always unrelated storylines happening, why does it matter if ISB doesn’t have a central arc?

This is the major difference between watching a soap opera on television and writing fanfiction for it. The written page has to capture your interest in a way the visuals don’t. You’ll watch day after day because of the performances.

The written word doesn’t have the advantage of Jason Thompson’s gorgeous dimples or Rebecca Herbst’s flawless delivery. I have to get your interest in the first chapter and keep it until the final words. You do that by writing a tightly-structured, well-paced story that doesn’t make you feel like you’re wasting your time.

We’ve all read books or fanfictions that meander, that drift from the point, that don’t hold our attention. Fanfiction has to be different than a soap opera, so you either write a concentrated story about one set of characters (A Few Words Too Many is a decent example of this) or you write an ensemble story that’s based around a central theme or event. If it doesn’t start that way, you have to have it emerge within the first few chapters.

Think GH’s large sweeps stories during November and February–the ones that really worked. The February 2006 virus storyline is a particular favorite of mine. They were able to kill off characters, deepen relationships, continue the introduction of new characters, provide jump off points for future stories, and it worked because they had one story to wrap it all around. Ensemble fanfictions should take the format of a sweeps story: a major event that effects a big group of characters.

Conclusion

So what can you learn about writing without a plan by looking at The Witness and I Shall Believe?

(1) Keep story structure in mind. You have to have something happen every few chapters to keep the story moving forward.

(2) You either have to have one major story and one set of characters or a large ensemble cast tied to a central theme/event.

A Few Words is an example of the first type. The main story is Ric as a threat to Elizabeth and her child. Because Sonny is Ric’s brother and Jason is Elizabeth’s love interest, you can draw in the characters related to them, particularly Carly, Emily, Audrey, Courtney, and Nadine (whom I added in this).  Though Ric’s threat is the main story, the use of these characters allows for subplots that all tie into the major story.  One main throughline with subplots, all of which affect a small set of characters. The Best Thing also falls into this category. Jason has custody of Sam and Sonny’s daughter. How does this affect the people around him? 

Daughters is a close approximation of the second type, though it’s certainly not perfect. It has both an inciting incident (Robin returns to Port Charles after years of radio silence) and a central theme of family and relationships. I have four women: Robin, Elizabeth, Emily and Lulu, who are all intimately involved in one another’s lives. Even though they each have their own tragedy and story, they link together through their relationship to one another and their family.

So this is turned out to be less about pantsing, ha, because when you really break down the process of writing these two stories, their successes and pitfalls have nothing to do with the fact I didn’t know what the hell I was writing about from chapter to chapter, but that I forgot the cardinal rule of writing with ISB: Story Structure is king.

It’s also important to note that ISB was written in 2003-04, and The Witness in 2006-07, so that’s anothe factor in why the latter is better than the former. I had learned–from writing Mad World and ISB badly–to avoid similar mistakes.

Future Articles

With all my emphasis on story structure here, I suppose that would be a natural next story topic, probably with A Few Words Too Many as my case study. I was also considering some more on characterization. How to utilize a character’s history and biography to inform their actions, some resouces to do so. Thoughts? Requests?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Fanfiction 101

Introduction to Series: After many moons of writing fanfiction, I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t.  I thought, since I’ve been doing this for sixteen years, I could ramble about my process for a while and offer some insights. If anyone cares. Possibly, they don’t.

This is the only time I’ll publish this in the site news section as well. Once I’ve written another one, I’ll create a page for them. I hope they’re useful. I get bored.

Inspiration 

So I’ve written a lot of stories. I plan to write a lot more. Why? Because I keep getting ideas. It’s an issue. Where they come from? God. I wish I knew.

Seriously, they often come when I’m watching the show. I find myself thinking — what if that character had said this or did that? What would it take for this concept to work? What if instead of doing that, they had done this?  So it’s basically either a What If or a How Can I approach, which is why I mostly work in Alternate History.

For example, I’m currently working on The Best Thing, which as I remark on the story page, began as a completely different concept. Shortly after Lila Quartermaine’s death in the summer of 2004, I found myself wondering how GH would handle that? Or how should they? Would her family members return? So once you start with that aspect, you have to think about where to set it. For me, I didn’t want it so close to Lila’s death, so I picked the spring of 2005, which meant I had to fill in the background for the characters during the intervening ten months.

Which is where the concept of Sam’s death and Jason assuming custody of her daughter came from. At the time I began the development of the story, Jason had assumed the paternity of the baby. I suppose GH had always intended to kill the kid off and there was never any chance Kelly Monaco’s Sam character would be eliminated (though, wow, imagine the fun that would have been). But at that point, it was still in the future. So I opened the story in May 2005, with Jason and Elizabeth engaged and raising Cam and Sam’s daughter, who in that story was named Lila.

I wrote about six chapters back then, all of which were unposted for some reason. I had Sarah and Steven back in town, a large storyline planned for Elizabeth’s parents. Audrey’s biological son, Tom Hardy, would return with his son TJ and his ex-wife Simone, etc.  I had just started exploring the concept of Sonny and Carly looking to regain custody of the baby when my computer crashed.

So Rule #1: Always back up. Use Dropbox. Email your stories. Work from a thumb drive. Whatever has to happen for your stories to stay secure.

I let the story linger for a while, always kind of intending to return to it, but then I had my six year absence so all my stories fell off the radar.

When I returned, I found the old banner image I had once created for The Best Thing.

bestthing

So as you can see, I had intended for the story to be based on the Webbers. However, when I began to develop a new plan for it, I realized how much I had changed as a writer. I had never really tackled the hows and why of Jason having custody of the baby, which I knew would have to be in the story.

Characterization

Once I began to explore that, I began to see this as less of Elizabeth’s story and more of Jason’s journey. I think I can really count on one had how often I really put Jason at the forefront of my stories. Mostly, because I feel like I have the most trouble explaining him as a character. For a character to work on the page, you have to explain their motivations. Characters like Carly and Elizabeth are relatively easy to do this with. Carly is very different in The Best Thing than she is in A Few Words Too Many or even other stories on my site, because of the starting point on the show.

What drives Elizabeth? Why does she continually end up in relationships that are unequal? Why would she stay with Lucky so long or remarry Ric? Why would she have an affair with Nikolas? For me, explaining away these things goes back to her rape and that year with Lucky, where she started to piece herself back together only to shatter all over with Lucky. She’s based on that–never feeling quite right, always a bit damaged. Looking to save someone because it might save her.

For Carly, it’s all about insecurity about being abandoned and a belief that she is fundamentally entitled to more than what she has. It’s what drove her to seduce Tony, to drug AJ, to sleep with Sonny and even turn him into Feds. Straight up until her cover up of AJ’s murder. Carly, in her own head, will always be a trailer trash nobody who has to spend her entire life hoping no one sees that in her. But she trips up — she looks to protect herself before anyone else. And she always thinks about the short-game, not the long-game.

But Jason? The show hasn’t done as well keeping his character arc intact. Change in a character is fine. You want your character to change, to grow. It’s what allows soap operas to thrive for generations. But when Jason returned to the show in 2002, this began to falter. Initially, Jason’s accident left him with a clean slate. Emotions, looking to the future, basic human interactions, were all a myster to him and they had to be relearned. He once prased this beautifully in a conversation with Elizabeth in 1999 that I have referenced in several stories because it, to me, is what makes Jason essentially who is.

He tells Elizabeth that half of what he learned, he learned from Robin, and the rest from Sonny. He grew up in Sonny’s eyes, but not in Robin’s, which is why their relationship couldn’t work anymore. And it was such a fantastic expression of what went wrong with the J/R storyline. Robin, because she had always been in the role of teacher with Jason, believed she knew better and told the truth about Michael to AJ. She wanted to stop Carly from using Michael like a weapon. Jason never forgave her for that, not really. When they would share scenes together later after Robin’s return, their friendship was there, but Jason never saw her as anything more again. The pain was too fresh.

Jason’s character was a simple man — he didn’t lie about every day things, he didn’t see the point. He really only told the one lie about Michael’s paternity and his reasoning always seemed so right to me. I really believe had that situtation occured later in Jason’s life, in his development, with more distance from the Quartermaines to begin to see their true selves of being selfish yet incredibily loyal and loving as he would in later years–I can’t see him making those same choices.

But Michael’s paternity comes up at a time when the Quartermaines have done nothing but treat him as a brain damaged pale version of a man they loved so much more than Jason Morgan. Though most of the Qs came to value JM later in life, in those early years, there was such a deep desire to have JQ back that they drove Jason away. And Jason watched them torture each other the way they’re wont to do without understanding the core love they have for one another. (They can mess with each other, but an outsider better step off)  He tells Robin during that heartbreaking conversation regarding her telling the truth that he wanted Michael to belong to himself, to grow up and make his own choices about the Quartermaines.

So Jason, like Elizabeth and Carly, has this fundamental event that shapes who he is and how he responds to sitation. Not the accident itself, but rather what came after. The way he was treated by others. He shied away from anyone who saw him as less than whole, so the Qs and Keesha were out the door. Robin would eventually be discarded because she couldn’t see him for he thought he was. He never grew up for her–he would aways be a damaged man she had to take care of. This core of his character helps me understand why he’s so fiercely loyal to Sonny and Carly, despite all reasons not to be. And even why he gravitated towards Courtney in some ways. They look to him to fix their problems. Jason was never a damaged entity to them, but someone who could be relied upon. Someone they could trust.

Which is the characterization I come to for The Best Thing. I work with that concept in my head — that Jason has always been a caretaker. Before the accident, he cared for AJ to his own detriment. Early on, Audrey refers to a conversation with Lila about Jason Morgan inheriting the worse of Jason Q’s traits — that he’ll look out for Sonny until it leads to his own destruction.

So when I started to redevelop TBT last spring, I began with why would Jason take on this responsibility? This heartbreak of raising another child who isn’t his? After the pain of Michael, it would have to be something really big to make that work. And once you ask that question, there’s a logical follow up. Why would Sonny allow it? So it has to go back to this caretaking role. Jason claimed paternity to protect Michael and Morgan, to protect Sonny and Carly. He kept it going because he wanted to take care of Sam and her wishes. And he’ll do it until he’s destroyed to take care of Evie.

So it’s not enough to have a good idea. You have to make it work for the characters. I read ideas for Liason stories all the time that I don’t feel speak to who these people are as characters. Deeply flawed and complex characters. They often come off as so one-note and superficial. And Jasn is a constant battle — so many stories have him saying and doing things without explaining why.

The most important principle of writing fanfiction is that with soap operas, you can do anything. The audience will suspend their belief. They will accept a lot of things. But you have to keep it in character. You can twist motivations to do a lot of things, but you have to begin with the core of that character and take them on a journey. Otherwise, it feels false.

Development

The Best Thing, in its original form–even in its secondary form–looks nothing like the story I’ve been writing for the last six months. There are lot of reasons why that happened. I had an initial vision of the story–one that ultized the 2004 concept. Elizabeth was a student nurse, Jason was a harried single father. She moves in for a while to help him out and their relationship developed from there.

I had planned to keep the opening in May 2005 with Audrey’s funeral, but I tend to write out the backstories for characters so I can have it fully visualized as I write. As I wrote the backstory, I realized that I had to tell the story of Sonny and Carly as well.  And how could I ignore them as part of the backstory? So the more I developed this aspect, the less it worked for me to keep that initial idea of opening it in May. So, it got moved back to December, to shortly after Evie’s birth.

I really wish I had retained the earlier plot sketches but they’ve been discarded. I had kept the Webbers in the story, plannig to have them as a complication to add conflict to Jason and Elizabeth’s relationship. Her mother would be suffering from an illness, Elizabeth would be guilted for not paying enough attention. I kept that for a while, but I couldn’t make a timeline work, and then I realized that I didn’t need a conflcit in the Liason relationship. It would be superficial and I couldn’t think of way to break it down by scene. It’s one thing to have an idea, it’s another to make it work on the screen.

So I eliminated the Webbers, and had to track back. I realized I didn’t want to kill off Audrey after all. I wanted her as a sounding board for Elizabeth. I also didn’t really like the concept of Elizabeth playing surrogate mother and nanny to Jason and Evie. I thought it would devalue Elizabeth as a character. So I had to rebuild her storyline. Which is how you get her, coming home from California after so many months to be with her grandmother and brother, to raise Cam among family.

And once I put Elizabeth in that position, it became blindingly obvious how I should tell the Liason story against the backdrop of Jason’s struggles with Sonny and Carly. They should meet at the crossroads in their lives and fall in love the way they did once before, back in 1999.

After that, I had completed an initial plot sketch which I sent to Cora, who serves as my beta reader and my savior. If you’re at all enjoying the Carly and Courtney aspects of this story (and by enjoying, I mean you find them useful and good additions to the story), she’s the reason. I realized that I had kept Courtney out as a service to myself because I was never much of a fan, but I had ignored the crucial aspect she could provide — to explain Carly’s motivations in a way that wouldn’t be a ton of info dump POV scenes. And her presence adds a great layer to the overall story because I can give closure to an aspect of Jason’s life, and even honor the budding friendship Elizabeth and Courtney once enjoyed.

And that’s how The Best Thing was inspired, characterized and developed as a story. I used that story as a case study for how I approach all my stories now. I used to be pantser — I Shall Believe was written without much forethought and man you can see it.

Why is it a good thing to know where you’re going in a story? To know the end of the journey? What are the detriments when you don’t? Maybe that should be the next article. The Perils and Peaks of Pantsing, using I Shall Believe and The Witness as case studies. If anyone actually reads this and wants to read more of my rambling.

November 27, 2014

So before I head over to my sister’s to spend this holiday with my family, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who visits this site or reads my stories on any site I post. I was away for a very long time (six years) but the fact that when I returned, people not only remembered me, but actually remembered my stories and looked forward to reading more, I was blown away.  I hope the second year of CG’s resurgence is as good as the first.

I had a great writing day yesterday — not only did I creep closer to my NaNoWriMo goal (and today, I made it to 46,685. Only 3300 words to go!), but I also wrote a ton of fanfiction. I completed The Best Thing Chapter Fifteen, All I Want For Christmas Part 3 and the first part of All We Are, my next posting project when TBT is closer to completion. All in all, it was about 10,000 words. Not a bad day at all.

So I’m taking today off to read some books that have piled up and to enjoy my holiday. If you’re interested, I have an old Thanksgiving story, Lizzie Does Thanksgiving, written and set in 2002.

Have a fantastic holday and I’ll see you guys December 1 with a new layout 🙂

 

November 26, 2014

I decided to post The Best Thing, Chapter 12 before I went to bed tonight because this process can often take almost a half hour (because I post simultaneously across four sites) and I want to get up tomorrow, take a shower and then write. I have NaNo to get caught up tomorrow because I’ve skipped the past two days, and I need to work on TBT and All I Want to stay on track.

So, yes, TBT is up and it’s probably the most important chapter so far for me, for those characters and I had a such a great time writing it so I hope you guys like it, too.

In other story news: All I Want For Christmas has an official posting schedule, which you can view using the new-spanking new Upcoming Schedule page. The link is located under “Readers” and the widget to the right on the sidebar shows my next three planned updates. So, All I Want will be simultaneously posted with TBT next Wednesday. Normally, I wouldn’t do that, but I wanted to end the story on December 31, and I worked backywards to post once every three or four days to keep the chapters regular.

So December 3, first chapter! Also, I posted the soundtrack link a week early to function as a preview.

In other news, I posted a new Story Status which gives you an idea where my stories on the coming soon page are in development. A story not yet on my Coming Soon page because it was not titled is actually likely to be posted after TBT is done — it’s the marriage of conveniece story which is a relatively straightforward story. By posting that (which ought to be written much more quickly) will give me some breathing room to continue developing the more complex stories. Also, it has a title now! All We Are, which means it’ll have a graphic soon. Because I suck.

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series The Best Thing: Redemption

Something about you now
I can’t quite figure out
Everything she does is beautiful
Everything she does is right
‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to lose
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you
– You and Me, Lifehouse


Friday, May 27, 2005

Wyndemere: Ballroom

This was the part Elizabeth had been looking forward to and dreading. The speech. Nothing like a room filled with Emily and Nikolas’s family, friends, and business colleagues to give a woman stage fright. As she listened to Lucky talk about his relationship with Nikolas and history with Emily, she glanced up from her notes to her grandmother’s table.

When Elizabeth had spied the seating arrangements, Emily had sheepishly admitted that putting Jason somewhere had been almost impossible but she thought he might not mind sitting with Audrey and Steve, as well as Steve’s date and a nurse from the hospital. It was jarring to see her grandmother smiling at Jason and pointing at a photo Jason was holding. Though Jason was not one for photographs, he did carry one of Evie because inevitably, he ran into Bobbie, Monica or someone else he actually liked who asked about her.

And he was sharing it with her grandmother.

At that moment, Jason glanced up and their eyes met. Feeling her cheeks flushed, Elizabeth returned the smile and looked back down at her notes. Since Cameron’s party earlier that month, she had all but abandoned any delusion that she and Jason were not traversing the same road they had a few years earlier. The only question that remained was the length of that journey and its final destination. She could not bring herself to hope for a happy ending.

And she could not stop herself from doing so.

She glanced over to find Lucky winding down his speech and raising his glass. After they had toasted and Lucky sat, she rose to her feet, flashing Emily a bright smile before looking at the crowd.

“What can I say about Emily Bowen-Quartermaine Cassadine?” Elizabeth began, raising her champagne glass. “We’ve been friends since high school and…well…” She arched a brow at the trio seated at the head table with her. “I suppose you could say Lucky and I know where all the dead bodies are buried.”

Laughter rang out in the large room, but Emily just rolled her eyes because she knew Elizabeth was talking about the actual dead body of Ted Wilson. In the audience, Jason just lightly shook his head. Elizabeth shrugged and continued. “I’ve known Nikolas about the same time as Emily, but he and I did not see eye to eye when I moved here.” She grinned at Nikolas. “I think…I may have given you some decent reasons to view me as your girlfriend’s bratty little sister.”

Nikolas coughed lightly with a word that sounded suspiciously like condoms and Lucky choked on his champagne.

“But despite the first impressions, I grew to love you both…” Her voice tightened. “So…much. When we thought Lucky had died, I could not have survived those first few months without the two of you. There’s not a word for what’s between us. It’s not just friendship, and it’s not just family. You…” She hesitated. “You’re my people, and I can’t…really think of a better way to say it.”

Emily reached over and took Elizabeth’s free hand in her own. “That works,” she said softly.

“I watched you almost two years ago, when we thought we’d lose you, Em. Thank God you pulled through.” A tear slid down Elizabeth’s cheek. “And even though the road was filled with so many obstacles, it seemed almost impossible to keep going. Here the two of you sit, living the fairy tale. Watching the two of you exchange vows today…it gives me hope for myself. For the rest of us. That maybe if we don’t give up, we can have the happy ending, too.”

She raised her glass higher. “To Nikolas and Emily,” she toasted. “And their happiness.”

As she sat down, she caught Jason’s eye and smiled.

Later, after dinner had been served and the dancing had begun, Emily sighed from the circle of her new husband’s arms, causing him to frown.

“That was not a happy sigh,” he admonished and spun her slightly so he could follow the line of her eyes. Unsurprisingly, he spied Jason and Elizabeth standing near the edge of the dance floor, Elizabeth with a glass of wine in her hand and Jason with a pint of beer. “What now?”

“Nothing. I suppose I just wish I could get them to dance, but…” She lightly lifted one shoulder. “C’est la vie. I’ve done all that I can, I suppose.”

“Elizabeth’s toast leaves me to believe that she is quite open to the next step,” Nikolas said. Other men might be annoyed with Emily’s concentration on her brother and best friend on their wedding day, but he saw it for what it was—the overflow of her own happiness driving her to want it for those she loved best. Rather than perceiving it as a distraction from their day, it was an extension of it. “Emily—”

“I know, I know. Worry about the things I can control. I guess I can’t help but wish I could create one more opportunity for them.” She peered at him curiously. “How’s your aim?”

And because he knew her so well, he lifted his eyes to the high ceiling of the ball room. “Considering I was fencing in Greece when other boys were learning to throw a ball, unspectacular. I suppose you intend to engineer a bouquet and garter opportunity. Emily, even if you could, they’d both hate it. Having to put a garter on her in front—”

“Oh, no, no.” Emily shook her head. “He would loathe it, and she’d be mortified. No, I thought…giving them a choice of a dance. They can stand next to each other all night and talk, but a dance? A waltz in the arms of your perfect person?” Emily’s fingertips danced on his shoulder. “That could be the crowning opportunity of my career, you know. I could bow out gracefully from their lives then.”

Nikolas pursed his lips and looked back over at his old friend. Elizabeth was resting her arm on Jason’s forearm with a smirk on her face, and Jason’s expression was open amusement. Even he, who had once detested the concept of their relationship, could see the spark. The potential.

And he wanted Elizabeth to be happy. Not to mention his own wife.

He looked back at Emily. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I will do what I can.”

“You are ridiculously fantastic.” Emily broke their dance pose to lean up on her toes and kissed him fervently. The ballroom exploded in laughter and cheers.

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose as she recognized the martial light in her friend’s eyes as Emily headed towards them. “I think your sister is about to throw the bouquet.”

“Which would explain why she’s coming over here.” Jason nodded and took Elizabeth’s wine glass from her. “She’s just going to start dragging you to the others,” he said when she arched a brow. “I don’t want you to spill the wine.”

“Not like I’ll be wearing this again.” She smoothed a hand down the short chiffon gown. “But I take your point.” She pointed a finger at him. “If I have to do this, you have to do the garter toss. It’s only fair.”

“I don’t see how.” Jason shook his head, his mouth curved into that half smile she just wanted to press her lips against.

She sniffed. “It just is.”

“Elizabeth! Time for all the single ladies!” Emily chirped. She grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, and as Jason had predicted, did not wait for an answer.

“If you aim at me, Emily, I’m going to make Nikolas a widower,” Elizabeth threatened as Emily deposited her next to Bobbie, Georgie and Maxie.

“Oh, don’t be a spoil sport,” Maxie chirped, her lithe body clad in a short black satin confection. “Just stand there and don’t move. I’ll take care of this.”

“Shut up, Maxie,” Georgie elbowed her. “Liz is going to get married before you ever find anyone deluded enough.” She flashed Elizabeth a shy smile. “Maxie’s a brat.”

“Bite me, Georgie,” the blonde snipped, tossing her blonde hair out of her eyes. “Let the professionals handle this—”

“I seem to remember,” Bobbie began with a smile, “Mac and Felicia’s wedding.” She looked at Elizabeth. “Do you?”

“Oh, God…” Elizabeth laughed, pressing a hand to her mouth. “I ended up with most of the flowers in my hair, but yes, I do. Wow, that…seems like another life.”

“All right!” Emily clapped her hands from the front of the room. “Let’s get this going. Ladies, try not to murder each other.” She cast one more long look at the group assembled, and Elizabeth saw her narrow her eyes at Elizabeth’s position. Little brat.

As soon as Emily had turned her back, Elizabeth took one long step to the left to avoid Emily’s aim.

Though why she was surprised when Emily released the bouquet of roses and tulips with a decidedly crooked curve towards her, she couldn’t say.

Emily had always known her better than anyone else.

Leaving a pouting Maxie and laughing Georgie behind with their aunt Bobbie to commiserate, Elizabeth returned to Jason’s side, the bridal bouquet tucked in the crook of her elbow. “I could learn to hate your sister.” She sniffed. “In fact, I’m going to ask you not to go for the garter. It’s about time we turned the tables on her. I am not some trained little puppy she can push around.”

Jason frowned and shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, please. Emily’s as transparent as the brain cells in Maxie Jones’ head.” Elizabeth huffed and glared at the bouquet in her arms. “How many times have we asked her to lay off? But does she? Nope. Just keeps pushing. We can’t let her keep having her way.”

“Okay,” he said, drawing out the word as if to indicate he had lost the thread of the conversation. And then he shifted his feet and his uncertain blue eyes met hers. “W-would it be so…bad?”

“Oh.” Elizabeth pressed her lips together. “No. No, that’s not—shoot.” Behind her, she saw Nikolas and Emily setting up for the garter toss, but she focused on the man in front of her, hoping she hadn’t, in her annoyance with Emily’s overbearing ways, derailed things between them. They had not really verbalized what was happening between them, but…she knew.

“No, I’m just…” She lifted the bouquet into the air slightly. “I don’t want you…to feel like you…” Her cheeks flushed and she looked away. “I mean, I just want it to…be our…choice.” Her tongue felt several sizes too big for her mouth and the mortification was rising from her cheeks to the top of her head. Christ, was this really the place for this conversation?

“It is,” Jason told her. He lifted his hand, perhaps to reach out for her and then a silky blue garter landed in his palm. They both stared down at it, and then turned towards the dance floor.

The group of single men had parted to give them a clear view of Nikolas throwing his triumphant fist in the air and Emily bouncing up and down like a five year old.

“We’ve been double-teamed!” Elizabeth gasped, indignantly.

Emily swanned her way over to them, her hands clasped behind her back, with an innocent smile. “So. That happened.”

“Emily Paige Bowen-Quartermaine,” Elizabeth began, “if you think I am sitting on the chair and letting Jason feel me up in front of a hundred people—”

“Wait, what?” Jason interrupted. “Em—”

“Relax.” Emily waved a dismissive hand. “I have the sense God gave a mule—”

“I’ve seen no indication of this—” Elizabeth shot back.

“I have decided to alter that particular tradition,” Emily sniffed. “Instead, I just ask that you join the rest of the world on the dance floor for one dance.”

“Em, can we talk for a minute—”

Emily cut her off with another wave of the hand. “Listen, I’ve decided to bow out of my position as opportunity creator for you guys since you don’t need me—”

“—never needed—”

“Opportunity creator?” Jason repeated at the same time.

But Emily ignored them both. “You don’t need to thank me, just…enjoy what I’ve given you.” She flashed a smile. “Now, it’s my wedding day, I’m the bride, and you do what I say. Dance.” She took the garter and bouquet from them. “I’ll make sure you get these back, but—”

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes, but rather than give into the desire to poke her best friend, she merely sniffed and turned to Jason. “If she’s really going to retire from constantly butting in—”

“Ha!”

“—then we might as well do this.”

Jason sighed and looked at his sister. “Emily.”

She stared at him, blandly. “It’s my wedding day,” she repeated. She pointed at herself. “Bride.”

He held out a hand to Elizabeth. “She’s right.”

And Elizabeth had decided to stop protesting because she wanted to dance with Jason after all. They’d only danced once before and it barely qualified as she’d been pretending he was Lucky.

Used to be that I believed in something
Used to be that I believed in love

They stood in front of one another for a moment before Elizabeth raised her hands to his shoulders and he gingerly grasped her waist, the heat of his hands burning through the thin layers of chiffon to her skin.

Trying to ignore the fact that she knew people were staring at them, she pitched her voice low. “Jason, I just…don’t want you to feel forced into anything. Emily thinks she knows best, but she doesn’t—”

“Forget about Emily,” Jason responded, his voice low and almost raspy. “It’s just you and me here.”

“Right.” And just like that, Elizabeth did forget about the rest of world. She slid one hand closer to his neck, lacing her fingers through the short blond hair at his nap, the other hand resting just above his heart. “That’s usually the way it works best,” she murmured, her eyes catching his.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling

He exhaled slowly, and drew her closer. “Elizabeth—”

I could love someone

“No, I’m sorry.” She shook her head, not wanting to disrupt the status quo, realizing too late that this was why she had procrastinated in moving to the next step.

I could trust someone

Admitting they wanted more had been the stumbling block for years, tripping up their friendship and derailing any chance of that intangible something more. She wanted his friendship almost as much as she wanted more. And if they tried for that next step and failed again…

She just knew it would be the last time they would be in this place.

I said I’d never let nobody near my heart again darlin’

“We…have to talk,” Jason said, his thumb moving along the base of her spine. “There…are things I want to say to you. Things you deserve to hear.”

I said I’d never let nobody in

She bit her lip and dropped her eyes to look at the collar of his tuxedo. “I…want to hear them,” she confessed, her heart pounding so loudly that she could barely hear the strains of the ballad to which they danced. “I’m…just…I’m scared, Jason.”

But if you asked me to

“I know.” And though his voice was uncertain, his grip remained strong. He pressed lips together for a moment. “Let’s…do you know the garden? Is there some place…”

“Yeah.” Feeling as though her heart had climbed into her throat, she nodded and gestured towards the doors that opened onto the terrace. “Let’s…go…out there.”

Wyndemere: Gardens

Neither spoke as Elizabeth silently led him through the vast and elaborate English-styled gardens of Nikolas’s estate. She stopped in front of bench tucked into the shadows, away from the light and sounds of other guests in the gardens, the strains of music just barely audible from the house.

Was he ready to do this? To take that next step? It would be a major change, and to his chagrin, Jason couldn’t remember the last time he’d set out to do something with deliberation and thought.

I just might change my mind

For weeks now, he had weight the possibility of asking for more, asking her to stand by him but his troubles with Sonny and the pressures of his life choices had continued to hold him back.

And let you in my life forever

But tonight, he had seen the uncertainty in her beautiful eyes and he knew that the more he held back, the less sure she was of how he felt, and for the first time in years, he wanted to tell her what she meant to him.

To try to put into words her place in his life and the way she lit it up.

If you asked me to

“Elizabeth…” And then he faltered. Because one thing had remained the same despite the passage of nearly five years.

He still didn’t have the words.

She smiled hesitantly and turned slightly on the bench. Her shoulders shook, and belatedly he realized that her short strapless dress did not offer much protection against the chilly spring night of upstate New York. He drew off his tuxedo jacket and tucked it around her shoulders. “Is that better?”

“Thanks.” Twisting her fingers in her lap, she cleared her throat. “It’s…so hard to know what to say, isn’t it?” she confessed, her voice barely above a whisper.

I just might give my heart

“These last few months…” Jason hesitated again. “You…with Sonny and Evie…” He shook his head, frustrated, wishing for the first time in his life he was more like other people with charm and smooth words. She deserved those pretty words, deserved them from someone who meant them. “I don’t know where I’d be without you.”

“All I did was listen,” she murmured. Her eyes left her lap, but he couldn’t quite see them in the shadows.

“Not just that…” He looked away then, towards the garden path. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out…with Evie. With my job.”

He looked back at her. “And sometimes…it seems unfair to ask…to even think about asking you…with everything that’s going on.” Again, he shook his head. He used to be a man of few words, used to saying what he thought, going after what he wanted.

When had that changed?

And stay here in your arms forever

“Jason…” She leaned forward and covered his hand with her own, her cold fingers wrapping around his larger ones. “None of that matters to me. I mean, yes, it does in that sense that I hate that you have to go through it, but it would never be a reason I would step back.”
If you asked me to

“I know.” And he did—he knew the reasons he would hesitate to step forward would not matter to her, but for the first time, he wondered if she harbored any doubts, if the uncertainty he felt was his alone.

“Jason…” As if reading his mind, she squared her shoulders. “I know that our…that…I’m an issue for Sonny.” Her tongue swept across her top lip before she drew the bottom one to nibble it on. “If I…agitate Sonny, and I suppose Carly by extension…what does that mean when things…are different?”

If you asked me to

He shook his head. “I-I don’t know what you mean. And you don’t…agitate Sonny.” Jason hesitated. “It’s not even you. It’s just…he resents anyone in Evie’s life that isn’t him. He just…when he gets into one of those moods, when he’s not in control, when he wants to lash out at me, he uses you. Because he knows it’s…” He shifted. “It’s the best way to get a rise out of me.”

“I suppose that wouldn’t change even if we didn’t…” She looked down again. “Sonny and Carly have always been at the center of your life, Jason. And I would be lying if I didn’t wonder…if we were reconnecting because they’re not in your life the way they were.”

“I…don’t know the answer to that.” After a moment, he continued. “Would that matter? They’re…not in my life. We’re not close anymore.”

Somehow ever since I’ve been around you

“But you’ve been on the outs with Sonny before,” Elizabeth continued. “I don’t want to wake up one day and…” A tear slid down her cheek. “And be alone. Like I was every day in the penthouse. You chose Sonny’s stability before. I understand why,” she said quickly when he opened his mouth to protest. “It was a dangerous time, and I don’t…I want you to know that I understood. I even accept it. But…I can’t pretend I don’t worry about it happening again.”

Can’t go back to being on my own

He dipped his head, because he didn’t know what to tell her. He had deliberately chosen to lie to her in order to preserve Sonny’s sense of peace, in order to prove his loyalty.

Could he really promise he wouldn’t do that again?

Can’t help feeling darling since I’ve found you

“You won’t have to because I already chose you,” he said finally. She frowned and shook her head, and he knew he would have to admit just how damaged his relationship with Sonny was.

That I’ve found my home

“Jason—”

“Sonny has made it clear during those bad moments that he believes I’m not loyal to him, that I would rather have you in my life than placate him.” He hesitated, because it felt unfair to his partner to paint in him that light. “But in his clearer moments, Elizabeth, when he’s the Sonny I remember, he doesn’t see it that way. He worried for your protection when he found out Johnny Zacchara was at your showing.”

That I’m finally home

“I know that something isn’t right with Sonny,” Elizabeth murmured. “And I know how difficult it must be for you, even for Carly and the boys, when he hasn’t been stable in months. I suppose…I just…” She sighed, her breath shaky, as she turned her eyes away and looked towards the garden path.

“I spent most of last year putting myself back together after several terrible years of bad choices and devastation,” Elizabeth said. “And while I won’t lie to you and tell you I didn’t love Ric…it wasn’t…” She pursed her lips. “He didn’t…it’s not like it is with you.” She slid closer. “You and I have been in each other’s lives so much longer than we’ve been friends. We have a history, Jason, and we’ve already…lost each other more than once. I’m afraid that if open myself up…I’ll just lose again. Like I always do.”
I said I’d never let nobody get too close to me darling

Jason opened his mouth, but then closed it because he didn’t know what to say. How could he promise her anything concrete when he didn’t know what would happen? He had also experienced a bad marriage, had buried a friend and his grandmother, watched two of his most important friendships crumble in front of his eyes.

Nothing was guaranteed.

“But,” Elizabeth continued, “I know that we would never be sitting in this moment if you didn’t…” Her fingers tightened around his. “Things have been difficult with Sonny for months, and even though it would be easier for you to step back, you didn’t. So I have to trust that. It’s just…it’s hard, Jason, to open that door when I can’t be sure what’s on the other side.”

“I know it is, and I can’t promise I won’t ever hurt you. I can try not to, but—”

“Life happens.” She was closer now, and though her eyes were wet with tears, they were shining. Her lips were curved into a small smile. “We can…we can promise to try.”

And he recognized the old words from the last time they had been in this moment.

I said I needed, needed to be free

 “I can promise that,” he murmured, cupping her cheek gently.

“You know, we keep ending up in this moment,” she murmured, their lips mere inches apart. “If I believed in fate, I’d say it’s trying to tell us something.”

If you asked me to

“What do you think that is?” he asked, his thumb brushing her bottom lip.

Her smile broadened and in her eyes, something lit up.

I give you my world

“To stop talking,” she said, fisting her hand in his tuxedo shirt and closing the distance between their mouths.

Everything, everything

Her lips were warm and sweet against his. Jason slid his hand into her loose curls, pressing her closer. His tongue traced the fullness of her lip before dipping inside to deepen the kiss and finally taste her the way he had wanted to for years.

If you asked me to

He drew back slightly after a long moment, her breath heavy against his lips. “I never thought we could be back here,” he murmured. “Thank you for coming home last year.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, nipping at his lower lip. “For giving me a ride home five years ago.”

Just ask me to

November 25, 2014

Another month, anothe set of priorities. This post is organized by where the stories are listed

In Progress Stories

1. The Best Thing – We’re finally rolling forward on this. Part 2 ends after Chapter 19 about half through January. I’m really hoping to pick up on the writing at that point so that by January, I’m posting two chapters a week. However, I’m also trying to get my next story to post ready. Not completely positive which will that will be, as I have several in the works regarding outlines.

2. All I Want For Christmas – Posting schedule set up to begin December 3 and finish up December 31, the small story kinks are mostly worked out. I really like the story world I’ve built for this alternate universe, so if there’s a demand for it, I’d write a sequel.  I’m about halfway through the story now.

3. Turning Points – I’m playing around with the next part, but it’s a whenever I get around to it type of story. I’ll be looking to wrap it up relatively soon.

4. Life For Rent – A recent addition to the in progress page. The second and third entries in this story were plotted in 2006, so I’ll be looking at these soon to either update or adjust.

5. Inside Your Fear – A short story that’s a rewrite of something I wrote in 2003. I’ve changed the story so it’s a Courtney POV. I play with every once in a while, but it never quite hits me. Eventually, I get the right mood in my head to finish it up.

6. Come On Eileen – Really planning to finish this off before the end of the year.

Coming Soon Stories (organized chronological order)

1. Counting Stars – I had this storyboarded and ready to go, but I realized some of the angles were a bit superficial. I’m revisiting it to deepen it, and still playing with the timeline.

2. Mad World – I have most of the story plotted, but  it’s going to deal with a serial rapist. I want it to be part mystery, part drama so I want to get the details just right.

3. Fallen From Grace – Revisiting the outline soon,  but it’s low on my list of priorities.

4. For the Broken Girl – Still in the outlining stages as it deals with drug abuse and domestic violence, so like most of my planned stories, trying to get the details and emotions just right. Also, while the middle of the story is relatively solid in my head, the beginning and the end are still a little murky.

5. Collision – Ah. The story that stays in my head, but has never made it far. I still play with it occasionally and I’m reluctant to eliminate it because the main plot is so good, but it was supposed to be a huge ensemble story which is always tricky.

6. Burn in Heaven – I started playing with the outline a bit, have some good ideas on how to play it out, but the details are still getting stuck in my head.

7. These Small Hours – I made a major story shift change. It used to be more Johnny/Nadine in nature, but Jason/Elizabeth’s side of it needed to be more in focus since Sonny ends up living. I have the outline somewhat figured out, but there’s gaps and whatnot to work with.

8. Slide – Though I am still planning to write it and have some vague ideas on what to do. I honestly haven’t looked at it more than that, though I should soon since it’s been ten years since the original.

9. Heaven Forbid — Permanently shelved. The original plan for the story has been discarded, but I’d like to do a Jason return storyline at some point.

10. Illusions – the Alternate Universe. I like what I wrote so far, so I’d like to do more, but it’s just not happening for me at the moment.

11. Untitled Marriage of Convenience Story – Likely to be my next project if I can just manage to give it a title.

12. Feels Like Home (Tangled rewrite) – Played with a bit over the weekend. Will shuffle it into my writing schedule as I can.

November 24, 2014

Your favorite kind 🙂

siteFirst things first: I added a FAQ page. I get questions sometimes on various pages, which I reply to but I’m never sure if someone has read gone back to see those answers. Plus, some questions get asked a few times, so I figured it was easier to add a page for all questions. Please feel free to ask any questions on that page using the comments.  I’m going through the comments to weed out questions posted by users, but if you have a question you’ve asked before, please ask it again so I get get the answer up faster.

Just an FYI. I’ll be doing some site work over the next few weeks, finishing up the process I began earlier this year. Some of the stories that are currently in Novels and Novellas ought to be in Short Stories, so I’ll be cleaning that up. It’s not a big deal except that those of you subscribed to updates for all posts will receive more than usual over the next few weeks.

Plus, NaNo is over after this week. I have just under 10,000 words to finish off and then I won’t be forced to juggle both. I’ll still be doing various projects, but NaNo creates this pressure to write, write, write, which is great, but it’s exhausting by the time you reach the fourth week.

I’m also juggling in my Christmas story, which has moved from outlining to storyboarding. I did already start writing just because scenes are in your head, so you have to do it.
christmas
So, lots on my plate and even better — I finally cracked the color code so I can change the backgroud of the whole page from white to something else (which is why it appears to be greyer, because I was playing with it) so that new layout is coming the same day I launch the Christmas story on December…ish. Haven’t settled on a premiere date.

I’ve put up the story page for my Christmas story, All I Want For Christmas. Should begin posting in the first week of December. More information is located there.

bestthingA status update for The Best Thing: I’ve personally written through Chapter 14, which means I have enough chapters to post through December 10. So finished TBT 14, opened up TBT 15 to start work and realized some how…my planned scenes for the rest of Part 2 (Chapters 8-20) are…somehow wrong. Now I have to restructure it a bit, haha. S’okay. We’re in the meat of the story and I’m so freaking excited for it.

November 20, 2014

So I didn’t quite like my first pass at a redesign for The Best Thing graphic package (which is the story and the featured banner). I used the same photos and same concept for the most part for a third try. However, just because I was not overly fond of the first go around, doesn’t mean that’s not the public prerference. (and maybe you don’t care — I have issues, this is not news).

The first banner was really a place holder until I got my Liason DVDs to get better screencaps. I couldn’t find the right tagline, but the graphic itself is not awful. The second banner, for me, ended up with too much emphasis on Elizabeth, instead of Jason. So I used the same concept and pulled back the coloring on Liz to focus more on Jason. The amount of overthinking I do on graphics is astonishing, isn’t it? Oy.

So Poll #1: The Best Thing banner. Here are your choices:

Banner #1

bestthing

Banner #2

bestthing2

Banner #3

bestthing3

 

 

And second piece of business for the day: Christmas layout! I mostly want to change the layout because this has been up for ages, but I can’t choose which one I want to do.

November 19, 2014

I added Chapter Eleven to The Best Thing.  I’ve been writing the last few days, so updates to other things have mostly fallen off the priority list. Right now, I’m managing to juggle both NaNoWriMo and The Best Thing, so once November is over, I’ll be able to get back to some of the site plans I have.

Still working on the marriage of convenience story, which looks like it might shape up to be the next story I work on. All my other planned stories have some aspect of difficult research (drug abuse, domestic violence, serial rapist, etc.) as well as elements of ensemble, so that would be more straightforward.

If I could just settle on a title 😛

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series The Best Thing: Redemption

But with you, you, you
I can see what I need
I can dream realistically
I knew that this was different from the start
And it seems that every time
We’re eye to eye
I can find another piece of you
That I don’t wanna lose

– Fine By Me, Andy Grammer


Saturday, May 7, 2005

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Carly sighed in relief as her sister-in-law took a seat across from her. She had been so worried she’d burned her bridges with Courtney the month before. She’d been frustrated, impatient, and angry and had moved too quickly.

Of course Courtney would not leap to break Jason’s heart. Why should she find it easy when Carly couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger? She knew it would relatively simple—tell Sonny she knew, that she wanted Evie with them.

And maybe Jason would resist at first, but he’d see the rightness of it. He’d sign over guardianship and Sonny would be okay again. It’d be difficult for Jason, Carly wasn’t naive, but he was all but dating Elizabeth. She had a son. She would see Jason through it.

And Jason should want to help Carly in this, because a stable and conflict-free Sonny made everyone’s life better. Keeping Evie was just making the situation worse, but Carly did not blame her best friend.

Jason thought he was protecting Carly and the boys. Soon, she would let him off the hook. He shouldn’t be raising someone else’s child—not like this. Elizabeth’s bastard didn’t have a father. It was the perfect solution.

But the time was not yet ripe.

“Carly,” Courtney said, her voice, the set of her shoulders—everything about her screamed uncomfortable. “I wasn’t expecting you to ask me to lunch.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here.” Carly spooned some sugar into her iced tea and stirred it. “Michael and Morgan are so excited to spend the afternoon with you—Rocco is bringing them by later. I wanted to…I wanted to apologize.”

“Okay.” Courtney set her tote down. “For what?”

“For the last time we spoke.” Carly bit her lip, trying to appear contrite. “I…I’ve just been frustrated and I haven’t really been listening to anyone else. I know you only have my best interests at heart. The boys’ best interest, even Sonny. Of course… the situation being what it is, it makes sense for Evie to stay where she is.”

Courtney frowned and Carly could see the other woman wasn’t buying it. Not all of it. “The truth is, Courtney, I know this is mostly my fault. I mean, yes, Sonny was wrong to lie to me, but I could…I could have made so many things easier last year.”

Which was partially true. If she had just waited until the paternity test results came in to tell Sonny she was going to rake him over the coals in divorce court, Jason wouldn’t have felt the need to step in. To help.

“Okay,” Courtney said. She glanced up as Georgie Jones emerged and asked for a soda and a plate of fries. “So…you’re not going to ask Jason to give up custody.”

“No, no.” Carly sighed. “It would solve so many problems in the short-term, but they would create them too. It certainly would not make Jason and Sonny’s relationship any better, Jason would probably resent the both of us. Particularly me, if he found out I never believed the lie.”

“And let him fall in love with another child you planned to take away.”

Carly narrowed her eyes at Courtney’s icy words and clenched her hands in her lap. “I suppose he may…consider it from that point of view,” she said, her teeth clenched. “But it was not my intention. It’s not like Sonny discussed any of this with me.”

“No.” Courtney’s shoulders sagged and she leaned back in her chair. “No. They both just…assumed your position would remain the same even once Sam had passed away. It should have been brought out into the open.”

“Exactly.” Carly nodded. “I’m just not sure what to do next. It can’t stay like this forever.”

“No.” Courtney sighed. “No, I don’t suppose it can. I just…don’t know what should happen. After all these months, Evie believes Jason is her father—”

This was the least of Carly’s worries. Evie was six months old. Michael had adjusted after over a year of having Jason in his life as a father. The little boy barely remembered those days, and as it was, Jason was barely a blip in Michael’s life now. Evie was not her concern. “I think that any change, honestly, has to come from Jason.”

Courtney blinked, surprise in her blue eyes. “You mean, Jason has to suggest changing things—to sign away his rights.”

“Yes. Sonny’s racked with guilt—in his less…stable moments, it’s about abandoning his daughter. When he’s in control? He knows what taking Evie away will do to Jason. What this tension is already doing. So, you know, he’s paralyzed.” She sipped her tea. “Jason’s going to have to make the first move.”

“I suppose…that makes sense,” Courtney murmured, “but what if he doesn’t? I mean, you don’t know what he and Sam discussed. Maybe Jason promised Sam he would keep Evie—”

Carly waved away that concern. “She’s dead. Who gives a crap what she wanted?” It was that little whore’s fault in the first place. “Jason loves Sonny like a brother. He’ll come around. He always does, you know that.”

“I do.” Courtney thanked Georgie as the waitress set her order down. “So, what should I do with Michael and Morgan this afternoon? Anything happening in Port Charles?”

“Well.” Carly sat back and smiled. Sometimes opportunities just fell into your lap. “It’s a beautiful day. Maybe you should take them to the park.”

Port Charles Park: Gazebo

Emily removed the plastic cover from a tray of pastries. “A gift from Cook,” she told Elizabeth as she set it on the picnic table.

“Mmmm, they look delicious.” Elizabeth looked over to where Lucas and Steven were hanging some streamers from the gazebo. “Not too much. He’s only one.”

“Yeah, more than three streamers is so passé,” Lucas told Steven with a straight face.

“Boys.” Maxie huffed as she set down her mother’s gift to Cameron. “Let me do this. I swear, if you want anything nice, you have to do it yourself.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes as the blonde teenager took over the decorating duties. “I’m not sure why she cares. She only came for Bobbie.”

“It’s the principle,” Emily told her seriously. She glanced around. Georgie and Dillon were helping Felicia and Bobbie set up the rest of the food and beverages. Audrey was chatting with Monica near the gift table while Nikolas and Alexis were keeping an eye on Cameron and Kristina playing with toys. “It’s a nice gathering. Practically everyone you know.” She paused. “You’re missing some people.”

“I invited Lucky and Leyla but they’re in New York for the weekend,” Elizabeth replied blandly, setting down a blue paper plate.

“Webber.”

“Quartermaine.”

Emily huffed. “Whatever. I don’t even like you.” She held up the stuffed giraffe. “Where you do want the centerpiece?”

“Uh, duh, the center.” Maxie stepped up to them and grabbed said giraffe. “Honestly, Emily.”

“Hey, who died and made you party planner?” Georgie demanded, yanking the giraffe back. “You don’t even like kids.”

“Yes, but I like parties.” Maxie reached for the animal again.

“Just think, Elizabeth. One day you’ll have a teenager, too.” Felicia stepped between her daughters, retrieved the animal and handed it back to Emily. “To your corners.”

As both girls separated, Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. “They weren’t bothering me. And considering the placement of the decorations, it’s clear Maxie has a better eye than I do.”

“Still, you have to set boundaries or they’ll try to take over the world.” Felicia smiled and returned to Bobbie.

Emily set the giraffe in the middle of the table. “Anyway. Did you invite my brother?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, setting out the last plate. “He said he’d bring Evie, but she usually naps this time of the afternoon, so I’m sure he’s waiting until she’s awake.”

“You know when Evie naps?” Emily said.

“Don’t start.”

“That’s…it’s really cute.”

“I will ruin your life.”

“I mean, it’s sweet.”

“Go over there and annoy your fiancé.”

Garden Path Near the Playground

“Uncle Jason!”

At the sound of Michael’s voice, Jason straightened up from fastening Evie into her carriage. He exhaled slowly as he saw Michael running towards him and following behind, Courtney with Morgan in her arms.

“Hey, kiddo.” He knelt down to receive a hug from Michael. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s Aunt Courtney day,” the seven-year-old told him very seriously. “So we’re in the park to play. I’m gonna show Morgan the swings.”

“I’m…” Courtney set Morgan on his feet and watched the toddler follow on unsteady feet after Michael who darted towards the slide. “Michael, watch your brother!” Turning back to Jason, she twisted her fingers in front of her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…I guess I should have because Carly suggested I bring the boys here—” She coughed. “We can go—”

“I’m not…” Jason dipped his head and took a deep breath. “I’m not going to be at the playground. Elizabeth’s son Cameron is…he’s having a birthday party today.”

“Oh.” Her mouth closed, and Jason wondered why she looked hurt. “I…saw you two at the Christmas Party, and I guess…things are going well.”

And now he understood. He opened his mouth to deny it, but then stopped. Because he knew she wouldn’t believe it, and it wasn’t as if it weren’t partially true.

“And look at Evie,” Courtney said, stepping forward. “So much change since I saw her at Christmas. She looks…” Her voice faltered. “She looks so much like Sam,” she finished finally.

He stopped himself from saying that Elizabeth had remarked on that just a few days ago. He stood there, uncomfortable. This was the woman he had promised to love forever, had married.

And divorced.

Who thought he violated their marriage vows by conceiving the baby in the carriage between them.

“I’m sorry, this is weird, isn’t it?” Courtney said finally. “I’m not…” She hesitated. “I don’t want it to be weird, Jason. You…were very good to me and I… know things are difficult for you right now. I don’t want to be someone else who makes life difficult.”

He blinked at her and that something weird in her eyes—that reminded him of Carly—it was there when she looked back at him.

“You’re not,” he said finally. “I’m sorry for what happened last year. For…putting you through it.”

“I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.” She glanced over at the playground where Michael was dumping sand on his brother. “I should be with the boys.” Still facing Jason, she stepped backwards toward the playground. “Jason, for what it’s worth, I want us both to be happy. I mean, it just…wasn’t right. I…I really am okay with it.”

“Okay.” Jason gripped the handle of Evie’s carriage. “Are…are you happy in New York?”

“I am.” Courtney nodded, glancing over her shoulder again to make sure the boys were okay. “I really, really am. The foundation is…helping so many people, and I’ve made some friends.” She smiled. “You should get to your party.”

“Yeah…” Jason waited another moment. “I’ll see you later.”

Port Charles Park: Gazebo

Cameron was sobbing by the time Elizabeth placed the small personal cake in front of him with a burning bright green candle in the shape of a number one. The crowd of people singing Happy Birthday was not going over well.

“They all do that,” Felicia said with a laugh and a pat on Elizabeth’s arm.

“Look, he doesn’t even know he’s supposed to make a mess.” Emily laughed and took one of Cameron’s arms to plop it into his cake. “C’mon, little man!”

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to make a mess,” Nikolas said dryly as he flicked an imaginary piece of lint from his linen shirt.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and plopped Cameron’s other hand into the cake, smearing it a little. The boy looked at her with what could only be described as incredulous expression, then gingerly raised the cake covered fist to his mouth.

“Where does this caution come from?” Emily asked. “Your mother is the most impulsive woman I’ve ever met.” Elizabeth saw her glance at Jason, seated at the end of the picnic table. “Must be the company she keeps.”

The crowd gathered snickered while Jason just offered a bland stare.

“First, I cannot believe you think I’m more impulsive than you are,” Elizabeth said. “Second, I taught my kid manners. So bite me.”

“Anyway,” Bobbie drawled. “I remember that Lucas needed a bit of encouragement to start as well, and it looks like Cameron has the right idea.”

The newly minted one-year-old was demolishing the cake now, with pieces of frosting tangled in his brown curls. He grinned at his mother and held out a chunk of chocolate cake.

“No, thanks, baby.” Elizabeth batted it away and reached for a napkin. “Thanks so much for coming everyone, I know Cameron isn’t going to remember it, but I will. It means a lot.”

“Well, if you need a baby sitter,” Georgie began but her sister rolled her eyes.

“You are such a suck up.”

“Shut up, Maxie.”

“Quiet, heathens,” Felicia cut them both off. “Why don’t you help Lucas put some of those presents in Elizabeth’s car—”

“Oh, no, Felicia, it’s not necessary,” Elizabeth began, but the blonde woman just waved her away.

“You’ll learn soon enough, Elizabeth, that the only good thing about having teenagers is putting them to work.” Felicia stood up. “And then you can take down the decorations.”

“I feel like I’m being punished,” Maxie complained as her mother herded the trio towards the table of presents.

“I’m sorry if they’re a pain,” Bobbie began.

“No, no.” Elizabeth shook her head. “They’re good kids, and I know Georgie would be a great baby sitter.” She blinked as the flash from Emily’s camera all but blinded her. “Whoa, Em. What the—”

“Sorry, sorry. I forgot to switch it off.” Emily set the digital camera down. “Just wanted a few shots of my godson enjoying his first birthday cake.”

“Gram,” Steven said. “What do you say we take Cameron over to get cleaned up and he can play with Kristina and Evie a bit more.” He climbed out from the picnic table.

“All right. Bobbie?”

“Sure.” The redhead smiled at them and followed Steven and her grandmother to the table where Cameron’s bag was kept so they could fish out the wipes.

“I’ll get the streamers, Liz,” Nikolas told her. “Did you want to save any?”

“No.” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes as Emily followed her fiancé, leaving her alone at the table with Jason. “Do you ever think you’re the subject of a massive conspiracy?”

“No.” Jason sighed and slid down the table so he was across from her. “But I’m starting to. Wasn’t Alexis here earlier?”

“Mmm…” Elizabeth nodded as she started to pile the empty plates together. “But she was called in with one her clients before you got here.” She paused. “Thanks for coming, I know you hate this kind of thing.”

“I do,” Jason admitted. He slid out of the table, and reached for an open trash bag to help her clean up. “I’ve never really understood birthdays or the point of celebrating them especially when the kids are this young, but I guess it’s not really about that.”

“It’s about starting a tradition,” Elizabeth said. “I remember birthday parties as being one of the highlights in the Webber household. We used to go to amusement parks or really nice restaurants when we were a bit older.” She chuckled as she wrapped plastic around what was left of some hummus dip. “Of course, you had to behave to get those special meals, so I rarely got it.” She glanced over to where Cam was toddling after Kristina. “I want something different for my kids. I don’t want Cam to ever feel like he has to earn my love.”

“I’m sure he already feels that,” Jason said. “You’re a good mother.”

“I’m trying to be.” She stacked what was left of the plastic cups on top of each other. “You seemed…quiet when you got here. Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” But he hesitated a moment. “I saw Courtney with the boys in the playground on my way here.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth stopped, her hands frozen around a dish of ambrosia. “I guess you don’t see her much.”

“No.” Jason tossed the last stack of plates into the trash. “Not since the Christmas party. She comes up a few times a month to see Michael and Morgan, but she usually takes them places. I make a conscious effort to avoid her. It’s…I don’t like bringing Evie around her.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “Is she…angry?”

“No, she’s…” Jason shook his head. “Like everyone else, apparently. Never really thought it was true, but I know it hurt her the way I did things. That Sam moved in with me, and even if people don’t think Evie is my daughter, they thought Sam and I…” he trailed off and shrugged, uncomfortable.

“I get it. I’ve…been in that position,” Elizabeth admitted. “Feeling stuck when it looks the other person has moved on, the whole world looking at you like you did something wrong, like you weren’t enough.” She blinked. “I’m not talking about you…with Courtney. I’m…when I came home last year for Lila’s funeral, I ran into Alexis and Ric in the park.”

“That must have been…difficult.” Jason leaned against the table and glanced over to see that Nikolas and Emily had joined the trio watching the children. Emily had Evie perched on her hip and gesturing widely with her other hand as she said something to Audrey and Bobbie.

“I guess. Our divorce was final by that point, so I don’t know why it felt so…fast. But they’re married now, so I guess maybe she’s able to give him something I just couldn’t. Anyway, I’m glad Courtney isn’t making this difficult.”

“She said she was happy in New York.”

Elizabeth took the garbage bag from him and tightened the twist tie around the top of it. “What about the boys? Was it good seeing them?”

“Yeah. Michael looks good. I—Sonny told me a few weeks ago there’s been some behavior issues, but he seemed okay today.” Jason stared at his hands. “He ran to me and hugged me.”

“You don’t see them much anymore, do you?”

“No,” he said. “To see them, I have to be around Sonny and Carly, and it just…seemed easier not to be.”

“I figured.” Elizabeth shook her head. “It seems unfair. You started this to protect them and now they’re not even in your life. You’re probably the only stable thing in their life—”

“Bobbie does what she can,” Jason said. “And they still have Leticia. She’s been there since they were babies. I know Morgan is closer to Courtney than maybe to his own mother, because she took care of him so much the first few months.” He glanced up at the blue sky. “They’ll be okay.”

“Maybe. As long as Sonny keeps it together.” She paused, because sometimes it felt like when she asked about Sonny, she was broaching territory that dealt with their business and the last thing she wanted was to be shut down because she wasn’t supposed to know.

“I know what you’re going to ask,” Jason said when she offered nothing more. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “And things are okay. This week,” he added almost as an afterthought. “It was a bad fight last week, which usually means Sonny draws back and gets things under control.”

“Is it a good thing that he seems to recognize when he’s gone too far?” Elizabeth asked. “That he’s able to control it?”

“I’m not sure. It’s never been like this before. The slide doesn’t last for months, usually weeks. He crashes, and then it’s…over. I’ve never…I’ve never seen him control it like this before, but I don’t know. The…breaks are coming closer together,” he admitted.

“Almost like a contraction,” she said. “Coming closer and closer together.”

“Yeah,” he confirmed after a moment. “It’s a lot like that. I just…I have to keep it together. Once he crashes, once he’s past that, I know I can make it better. I always do.”

If they had been anywhere but the middle of the park, with members of their families and friends gathered only twenty feet away, trying their best not to look in their direction very often, Elizabeth might have reached for his hand or rested her head on his shoulder—offered him some sort of physical comfort. But she did not want to give Emily any ammunition for her snarks.

And she knew that his belief that once Sonny had fallen over that dark edge, Jason could pull it all back together and cobble together a solution they could all live with—she knew that belief was keeping him from making a move at the moment. He wasn’t quite sticking his head in the sand, but it wasn’t far off.

“What are you doing later?” she asked, wanting to lighten the subject and bring some of the fun back to the day. “Are you busy?”

“No.” He eyed her. “You want to take a ride?”

She snorted. “Like you have to ask. Maybe I can hit Georgie up for that baby-sitting she was offering earlier.”

“That….sounds like a great idea.” And this time he reached for her hand, letting his fingers wrap around her palm.

Looking into his eyes at this moment, and knowing that he had sat through this afternoon despite the knowing looks and leading questions about the relationship, she could almost believe…

That this time would be different.